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 July 22 - 31, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Little Giant Power Hammer: Arthur, This is normal for a Little Giant if you do not retrofit a brake. If it runs a LOT afterward or continously slow without pressing the peddle the clutch is sticking. Contrary to what you would think a Little Giant clutch needs to be heavily oiled. It is used to control the speed of the hammer by slipping and does so quite well with lots of oil. If dry they grab, are hard to control and do not disengage well.

Little Giants need to be oiled with every use. There are places with oil holes (such as on the main bearings and ram), notches (such as on the outer toggle pins - some models) but others that you just oil from the running fit like the crank pin, guides and clutch. Anything that rotates, slides or pivots (including the treadle linkage) should be oiled.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/21/09 18:17:36 EDT

This is probably an elementary question, but when do you need to use a dressing stick on grind rocks ? I have used my gringing rocks for grinding carbon steel. Do these dressing sticks remove debris from the wheel or reshape the wheel or both ?
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 07/22/09 00:52:27 EDT

Mortality and End Plans:

Well, in the Viking Age, you could just take it all with you! ;-)


Fortunately, most of my stuff is divisible into three useable setups, so my three tool-using children can work it out between them, and redundant pieces can go to friends.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 07/22/09 08:05:08 EDT

Dressing grinding wheels:

The surface of your grinding wheels should run true be smooth and new looking, not rough, shiny, or covered with bits of stuck on metal. Glazing (being shiny) is metal stuck or melted to the surface of the wheel OR sometime the grit worn smooth so it will not cut.

There are three types of wheel dressing tools. 1) An industrial diamond, 2) Star wheel dresser, 3) Composite abrasive sticks. The last are usually square and have different abrasives to match different wheel types.

Depending on the type of wheel and its operating speed one of these will work better than the other. The industrial diamond generally works on all wheels other than diamond. They will work best on wheels for hard materials and can be used hand held or in a fixture.

Star wheels are economical and work on all but diamond wheels. They do not create as smooth a surface as a diamond but are fast an easy to use. If you have a lot to take off this is the way to go.

Composite dressing blocks or sticks are the cheapest dresser and used on all types of wheels and must match the wheel type. They will remove glazing but do not reshape wheels well in my experience.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/22/09 09:07:43 EDT

Oops! Sorry Dave (Boyer), I just assumed so because yer a fellow PA-ian.

Hey Jock, any thoughts on the rubber blocks used to dress up and clean sanding belts? I got one (cheap) from HF, use it after every job on a sander and it really cleans the crap out of the abrasive.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 07/22/09 09:41:47 EDT

Thanks Guru,

I will get a star wheel.

   Mike T. - Wednesday, 07/22/09 09:50:29 EDT

Pet peeves in a student shop.

Talking about grinding wheel dressing reminded me of some pet peeves I have as a teacher. One is where a student removes one corner of the grinding wheel or sharpens a small tool and puts a groove in the middle of the wheel. In either case, the dresser has a lot to remove to get a flat, 90º face again. Also,I have a SCOTCH BRITE sign next to the Scotch Brite wheel, yet I find that a student will occasionally use it like a grinding wheel. That really gets to ya!

I'm on a roll here. Another annoyance is that tools are not put away. Sometimes, we see shop signs that say, "Your mummy doesn't work here, so put your tools away and clean up!" This includes twist drills which are often left in the chuck or work that is left in the tightened vise jaws. Action yields reaction. On the subject of vise use, when a guy finishes with one, the moveable jaw should be moved to within 1/8" - 1/4" of the fixed jaw and the handle should be left vertical.

You would think grown people would also know how to use garbage cans. Yet I find plastic water bottles and food wrappers on the floor and/or outside.

Then there's the matter of losing small items as though they were throwaways, such as scribers, twist drills, and center punches. They wind up behind work benches and shelves.

One more. A guy will sometimes come up holding a length of steel, and ask me whether it is 5/8" square. Yet there are measuring tools in the shop. Whoa Nelly!
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 07/22/09 09:55:39 EDT

Frank, Thanks for being there and helping so many. It must get harder the longer you do it and the older you get. We do appreciate you. Remember, some people never had a father to help them along like we have.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 07/22/09 10:33:43 EDT

Frank, Do you use a tool rest and guard on the Scotch Bright wheel?
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 07/22/09 10:36:16 EDT

Mr. Turley,

The teacher said, Pi r square
and I said, your wrong !
pie is round, cornbread are square
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 07/22/09 10:39:20 EDT

The scotch brite is on one shaft, and the buff is on the other (attached taper spindle) of the same motor. You're supposed to hold the work toward the bottom of the wheel, so the pull is away from you. No tool rest. This gets explained and face masks are talked about, but sometimes safety talks go in one ear and out the other.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 07/22/09 11:04:36 EDT

Diamond Dressers: Industrial diamonds are amazingly affordable. Single stones mounted in short steel holder sell for as little as $25-$30 US.

Gum Sanding Belt Restorers: I've never used one but I understand they work well. These clean the swarf off grinding belts and do a lot to remove burned on sappy wood and some types of metal glazing.

Bench Grinders: I reserve mine specifically for grinding tools and small work. Grinding torch cut work on the bench grinder is verboten. But some idiot does it anyway. . . the last shop I ran one of the guys managed to bend the shaft on the small bench grinder we had bought to sharpen drill bits . . . I let them try to sharpen bits on it for a while. . .

PEEVES: My biggest pet peeve is folks that break things and don't own up to it. I had an "apprentice" that dropped something on my portable air compressor and broke the manifold off the tank AND broke the manifold in two. I didn't find out until 6 months later when I needed the portable to fill a tire out in the driveway. . . He also broke several other tools and stuffed them back in the drawer. . . Most recently we had one of the grandchildren break a brand new hammer handle then hide it. . . No more shop privileges for that one.

But the biggest problem is anyone in the shop that treats your tools as "public" tools. Things you would think unbreakable get broken by gross unthinking abuse. How do you think all those anvils out there got torch notches in them? It wasn't the OWNERS that did that.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/22/09 15:27:36 EDT

For standard wheel on grinders I prefer the star wheel dressers. Note that they are loud, and create a large cloud of dust. Bad to breathe. But quick and make a good sharp wheel.

Pet peeves:
leaving the chuck key in the chuck. Got hit in the lip by a key left in a drill press chuck by another, and a third person started the press and I was hit about 6' away.

Not throwing the disconnect, just hitting the stop button when done with a machine.

using a struck tool that is mushroomed. Don't use as is FIX it.

People that know better, working without safety glasses ETC when young new to the trade folks are watching learning.

Folks who explain doing unsafe acts, "I have done this for X years and never got hurt Yet.
   ptree - Wednesday, 07/22/09 18:24:33 EDT

The "Got Away With IT" Factor: That is the one I hate. Those that explain how they did something that conventional wisdom says is impossible or dangerous. Yep, they were lucky and didn't blow them selves up or ruin the item they were trying to repair. This is ESPECIALLY bad when grizzled old fart is telling some newbie who has no skills how to do something. The old fart probably got away with his method due to a certain level of skill OR luck that the newbie doesn't have and may not live to have.

The chuck key rule is probably one of the most dangerous broken rules in the shop. My rule is you never take your hand off it unless it is OUT/OFF the chuck. I don't care if it is for 2 seconds to check something or make an adjustment you JUST DON'T DO IT. Chuck keys small and large (lathe chuck keys are often more than a foot long) can fly like missles, crash into ways, snag sleeves, or a combination of things.

It does not matter if you are "only" changing bits, putting in a cutter or piece of stock, tweaking a dial indicator. If you do it for ANY operation no matter how simple or arguably safe then you will forget and do it at other times and forget it. So I make it an absolute rule. NO exceptions, not for a moment.

We had a new worker who was trained on all the general machines but insisted he was a "mill hand" leave a 10" long T handled key in the chuck of a brand new lathe. He then hit the switch to bump it. . . the key hit the ways bending it, then flew out and hit the wall above another worker's head and land on the ways of the machine HE was operating. There were two others standing near by. . . First day at work. Second day the machine was in operation. . . It could have been the last for either OR the others near by. A two pound piece of steel that shape striking someone in the head at that velocity could easily be fatal.

So my rule is keys never leaves your hand while in/on the chuck EVER. Then you don't slip into bad habits
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/22/09 19:14:48 EDT

Guru, your rule matches the rule I learned way long ago, and is the rule I taught all my lab help, and the kids at home. The chuck key is welded to your hand as long as it is in the chuck.
   ptree - Wednesday, 07/22/09 20:29:10 EDT

Wheel Dresser: The best one I ever used has many, many small diamond chips imbeded in a matrix, the working surface being about 1" wide x 3/8" high. It is on a steel shaft with a handle like a screw driver. This makes sharp wheels with flat true running surfaces, essential for sharpening small drills, lathe shaper tools & etc. I have no idea what it cost,or where it came from, it was My Grandfathers. We had similar multi diamond dressers for surface grinders in industry, the working surface was about 3/8" diameter.

For coarse work, the star wheels are effective and leave a really agressive wheel surface.

The abrasive sticks are made from silicon carbide, an abrasive a bit harder and more friable than aluminum oxide used in grinding wheels for steel. While thase can improve a nasty wheel surface, thay leave the weel's grits dull.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 07/22/09 21:35:12 EDT

My pet peeve is people who think that my tools are available like books in a lending library and that I shouldn't refuse to let them use anything they might want. Parasites and leeches, most of them.

If I do relent and let one of them use a tool, it invariably returns needing fixing or tuning. I now keep a few crappy tools on hand as "loaners" in the hope that they will be so unsatisfactory that those who borrow them will decide that my stuff isn't worth using. I'm good with that!

Strangely enough, I make my living, such as it is, with these tools and simply cannot afford to have any of them "away" when I need them. It costs me time, which costs me money. Yet these leeches fail to grasp that concept even when I explain it to them in one-syllable words. Agggggh!

On the other hand, I have a couple of friends who are on the "A" list and are welcome to use my tools almost any time. They're the ones who always bring a tool back in better condition than they got it, and on one or two occasions have returned a brand new tool when the one they borrowed died, albeit that it was decades old and decrepit when it left my shop. These people are craftsmen of the first water and real friends. They make it all worthwhile.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 07/22/09 22:38:17 EDT

Dave, McMaster Carr lists 3 different abrasive blocks for different purposes. Using the wrong one or grit might dull rather than dress the wheel. I'd have to do more research as to what is recommended grit wise.

Silicon Carbide (80-320 grit) use on metal bonded diamond wheels. Extra Coarse 24 grit is used on vitrified wheels.
Aluminum Oxide use on diamond and CBN wheels.
Boron Carbide use on vitrified wheels.

I use the star dresser when things are rough and the single point diamond after, or for light dressing and when corners are needed. This is on small (up to 1" wide" wheels. Larger ones need more diamonds.

On the surface grinder I use one block mounted diamond to dress the wheel but feeding in and out across it. The wheels are quite soft and only require one diamond.

If you have a bench grinder you must have one or more dresser types to keep the wheels in prime condition. When sharpening cutters or drill bits it really helps to dress the wheel immediately prior to use.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/22/09 22:41:03 EDT

It is good to hear that other people have the same problems I have with newbies,although it applies to a lot of so called journeymen also(I am not sure how some of these people got their tickets!)
Had the chuck key stunt happen in one shop I work in too. The key was attached by a leather lace for conveinence and the leather lace was tied to the bottom section of a gooseneck lamp which was clamped onto the drill press column. Well Buddy takes out a dull bit and sticks a fresh one in then steps on the foot control to snug it up and you guessed it-key was still in the chuck! That gooseneck lamp came down and kissed Buddy upside the head just as neat as you please! Left a cresent shaped cut from his forehead to his chin from the shade and a nice burn on his cheek from the incandescent bulb(100watt).Needless to say the ribbing he got was way worse than the injuries,but the lesson was learned by everyone else in the shop too.

On the subject of rubber blocks for cleaning the sanding belts,this is the first I have heard of them,I have always used a worn out wire brush to clean the crap out. I am going to check them out. Thanks Nippulini
   Amos Culham - Thursday, 07/23/09 00:48:45 EDT

Hi, guys. I used to pop up once in a while several years back, but hung out more on the Virtual Junkyard. Good to see many of the old names are still around.

I never have stopped blacksmithing even if I've drifted away from the old forums as I've expanded research into more areas. I'm actually making my living blacksmithing in a couple of shops here in San Antonio and am finally starting to get a few commissions for my work, mostly knives.

I'm at a point where I need to move to the next level of forging equipment to up my ability to productively work on my own stuff. At the same time, I'm very poor. So, I have to do things the poor boy way. Which means I'm doing research on building my own Junkyard Hammer.

I'm looking at doing a heavy-duty version of the Rusty hammer, i.e. a helve hammer with the spring integral to the helve and a linear motion to the ram. I have most of the materials I need and can obtain most of the rest fairly easily. I have some pretty thick truck springs (like semi-tractor, not pickup truck) for the helve, railroad track to form the anvil post from, heavy channel iron for the central pivot post, and access to free 3 hp and 7 hp three phase motors.

My basic design thoughts so far are as follows:

I'd like a 75 to 100 lb ram if possible. I know this is heavier than most of the Rusty hammers, but I've got bigger springs and motors than most of the Rustys. The helve would be made of three of the leaves, with the main leaf being in the center. The anvil will be four sections of railroad track welded together back-to-back to form a solid post, then capped with a 1" or thicker piece of plate. The drive system will be similar to the original Tire Hammer with a swivelling motor engaging a spare tire as the clutch. The 3 hp motor will probably be my power source, and I've heard that the other 3 phase can be used to convert 1 phase power to 3 phase so I can use it on a regular residential electrical source. The pivot point for the helve will have bearings and the slide for the ram will have wheel rollers to cut down on friction and slop. I'd like a quick change die system.

One problem I'm facing is that I don't have a permanent shop, i.e. no place to put down a foundation to attach this to. I've seen Tom Clark (R.I.P.) demo one of his hammers with a massive timber under it and it seemed to do just fine. For mine, I'm thinking a cast cement base that flares out would give enough weight and footprint area to make it nice and stable. It would be cast directly to the base plate with plenty of reinforcement, and be probably two feet thick at least.

So here are my questions of the moment:

1. Most of the Rusty hammers I've seen had the leaves straightened, and I think I know the reason why (to reduce the amount of arc in the pivot as it runs in and out of the rollers), but have seen a few like this one: http://www.appaltree.net/rusty/association/dan_brazzell.htm where the springs are still arched. Can I leave my springs arched and have it work decently without having to significantly change the roller setup? It seems like possibly if I change the angle that the spring sits at when at rest so that the end running the ram sits practically flat and put a longer linkage from the tire/flywheel, it will work fine. Am I right?

2. Is the bolted-on die the best quick-change system? Like so: http://www.appaltree.net/rusty/association/robert_seipp.htm

A variation on the Costa Rica JYH cam lock system intrigues me, but I need to throw some more thought at it.

3. How thick of a baseplate should I aim at? With my cast cement bast can I reasonalby do under 1" thick, or not?

Ummmm, that's all my tired brain can come up with at the moment, though there is probably more.

Thanks, guys!
   - Stormcrow - Thursday, 07/23/09 02:09:37 EDT

Stormcrow, I built a 32# rusty, then redid to 45#. I used a spare tire drive on the rebuild and found it a great improvement over belt drive. Pay close attention to the bearing points in the pitman and helve pivots. You want good fits and the ability to grease. I would avoid ball bearings in these locations, since the balls will brinnel the races with all the shock. I have tried arched and also straightened springs, and find the straightened springs seem to work better. Remember that the springs will take an S shape when running, storing energy for that Slap that gives the hammer a good action. Plan the slides for quite a bit more travel than just what the crank offset yeilds, my 45# will go 2" past the 7" of total crank throw on both ends. Think hard about size on the turnbuckle used in the pitman to get adjustment in daylight. At 100# you need a big turnbuckle.
I compact spare, with a mini van rear bearing hub assy works well on mine, but at 100# ram, I would be looking at a pick-up front spindle and probably a full size tire, for stronger spindle, bigger bearings and more flywheel weight. The spare on mine greatly improved smoothness when running from the increased flywheel weight.
Need more?
E-mail me. Just click on the ptree at the bottom of the post.
Good luck with your build
   Ptree - Thursday, 07/23/09 06:38:54 EDT

With as big as this hammer is going to be, should I upgrade to a 2-ton truck or semi-tractor wheel? I probably know where I can get such...

Ptree, what kind of bearings do you recommend at these points?

More questions as I go, I'm sure.
   - Stormcrow - Thursday, 07/23/09 09:58:20 EDT

I would suggest plain bearings, IE pin in solid bearings. I would suggest greasable.
The Gran Caravan hab assy I used works well at 45#. I would guess a nice Chevy 3/4 ton front spindle with a nice 16.5" wheel and tire would work well. Could also use the disc brake. I don't have or need a brake on mine.
   Ptree - Thursday, 07/23/09 10:07:21 EDT

Hammer Design:

1) The problem with a larger tire is the total reduction. The small spares require a 4" dia. or larger pulley to get the right speed. DO THE MATH. We are mounting ours on pillow blocks and a 1.5" shaft.

2) Anvil mass is the commonly shorted thing on DIY hammers. The less you have the more abuse the floor takes and the more inefficient the hammer. Aim for a minimum of 10:1 or an optimum of 15:1. See our JYH page on pieced anvils. We have built a 10x10x32 pieced anvil @900 pounds and have another round with additions that will be similar.

3) Concrete is less than 1/3 as dense as steel and 1/100 as strong. A base/body made of concrete should be enclosed in a steel frame of angle iron and or plate. Anchors, flanges and pivot points should be made integral to the frame and well anchored into the concrete with rebar. Any steel added to the system such as rebar increases the average density and thus the weight. This could be a good place to get rid of a lot of scrap. Parts like the anvil should have a flange on top of the concrete with a matching flange in the concrete (with anchors and ribs). You should be able to assemble the hammer on the base as a test prior to filling with concrete, then disassemble, attach form boards and fill (usually from the bottom). Allow a week or more for the concrete to cure. The longer the better.

4) Dies should be changeable but adds a lot of complexity to a JYH. Bolt on is the easiest but takes room on the top die that is hard to fit. The Seipp hammer you pointed out has short guides and a LOT of overhang. The result will be lots of wobble in the ram which reduces control for doing fine work. If you want to do fine work the ram needs to be close to the guides and very snug. This requires that the die and die holder pass up into the guides. The optimum design requires some difficult machining on the end of the ram. We opted for using BigBLU holders and dies. However, it would have been much better to machine a dovetail into the ram and gain that couple inches more support. Optimizing this kind of thing is difficult and the answers are often expensive. On the Costa Rica hammer they used the ram as top die. While there are many disadvantages to this there are also many advantages including very good support close to the work. With a simple ram design it might be just as economical when looking at the overall picture to have removable rams. A plain piece of CF bar with a bused bore on one end and the die carved into the other. . . replace the labor cost with steel. Just an idea. .
   - guru - Thursday, 07/23/09 10:31:33 EDT

Those rubber belt cleaning blocks are great! They won't sharpen a dull belt, but they do clean out the crap enough to help with things, especially if you're getting aggressive with wood.

I taught myself my own lesson with lathes and chuck keys, I'm just lucky it was a small lathe, running at 450rpm. Still, taking a three-inch-long chunk of steel weighing in at about four onces dead center on the breastbone was not fun. Dial indicator distraction was the culprit, plus trying to do a three-handed job with two hands. If I'd had the speed above 100rpm I feel sure I'd have gotten more damage than just a t-shaped bruise.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 07/23/09 10:53:48 EDT

The above speed reference should have been 1000 rpm, not 100. D'oh!
   Alan-L - Thursday, 07/23/09 10:55:08 EDT

Pet peeves: My dog keeps pooping on my new deck (she's angry that we got a pot bellied pig). Other than that, I am SOOO glad that I work alone in my shop. Reading all these complaints, I'm surprised no one was killed (by the shop owner, not the Darwin effect).
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 07/23/09 12:47:15 EDT


Good to hear from you! I was just wondering "whatever became of..." the other day.

Do you have a website where we can take a look at some of your work?

Cloudy and fixin' to rain on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 07/23/09 12:54:48 EDT

My hammer uses a roughly 2" od drive wheel against the compact spare. Works perfectly. I built the drive while working at the axle shop, so it is a drop from the bar shear, of 1541H, and was quickly and roughly machined, leaving a roughly 150 to 250 RMS finish.

My hammer started at about 300# anvil against a 32# ram. The reworked version is a 45# ram against a roughly 500# anvil. The machine was not effective with the 45# ram until I added the scabbed on exra mass to the anvil.

My column is a 6" x 6" square tube filled with an additional 680# or so of steel shot/scale. My machine makes NO frame ring noise, little other noise considering, and sits on a 32" deep foundation that sits on Hardpan. (weathered limestone) I used a 1/4" think urathane conveyor belt remmant as a pad.

Other than a better guide for the ram, I am very sastisfied with this hammer. Especially considering that even with a purchased, New, surplus 5Hp motor, I am just under $200 including the foundation. I am somewhat know as a scrounger:)
   Ptree - Thursday, 07/23/09 13:18:56 EDT

A friend of mine plasma cut a worn-out 14" diamond wheel for a brick saw like a pizza (okay, like a pizza at a weight watchers meeting). He gave me a slice. Apparently, those wheels get changed out because the diamonds on the cutting edge go, but there are still plenty left where they wrap around onto the side of the wheel. The idea is to hold the narrow end of the slice above a grinding wheel so the end with the diamonds is tangent to the face. I find it works great for wheel dressing.

At a summer job one time, I pulled the key out of a drill press chuck and set it on the bench. Hit the on switch, and heard something bounce off the back wall. Turned out there was a spring loaded collar around the pin so the key wouldn't stay in the chuck. The spring pushed the collar against a shoulder on the pin itself. The pin was pressed into the body of the chuck, but obviously the fit wasn't tight enough -- the spring pushed the whole shebang out. Guess I wasn't paying close enough attention, but it still shouldn't have happened.

Good to hear from you, Stormcrow.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 07/23/09 13:52:07 EDT

You have me interested in the rusty hammer, where can a person get drawings of one ? Remember the drawing of the hydraulic press with the threaded rod ( four corner press )? How would that set up be with springs on top holding the top plate 1 to 2 inches above the bottom plate,
putting the hot work betwwen plates and hitting with a heavy hammer. Both plates could even be modified to hold different swages. Just a thought.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/23/09 14:36:10 EDT

Pulley Diameters: Note that "compact spares" vary in diameter from 18 to 26". A big difference.

Paw-Paw's NC-JYH had about a 2" pulley running against a 21.5" OD tire for 167 RPM max. It was much too slow for the type of hammer.

We are using a 3.5" pulley on the same size tire for just a little less than 300 RPM on a 95# hammer. This is faster than a Little Giant but slower than than a Fairbanks for its size. Like the Fairbanks we have an adjustable stroke from 2.5" to 4.5" at the crank. At the short stroke you can run faster than the long stroke.

For constant slipping speed control a flat belt drive is still better than the tire hammer. But this takes hard to come by flat belt pulleys with edge guides.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/23/09 14:49:02 EDT

Mike, see our Power-Hammer Page JYH Gallery. There is a link to where the plans page.

Guided hammer fixtures do not work very well. For single blow work a treadle hammer works much better.

Chuck Key Safetys: Many chuck keys are made with spring ejectors. The problem with those I've seen is that they make the keys difficult or impossible to use. On all types it forces the user to press IN hard while rotating the key. This can force one to use two hands to keep the key seated properly. Until we have a three hands this does not work for installing bits and stock.

I too have had the drill chuck type fail. Then the key no longer fits.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/23/09 15:28:50 EDT

I can measure the OD of my compact spare. The Rusty hammers, using a nonm-Dupont mechanism want to run a bit slower than those using the Dupont. The long somewhat limber sping used in the Rusty takes a lot of deflection at top of ram stroke. Run them too fast and you get double taps. I find that I like the slightly slower speed, giving more control in my eyes. Mine used to run faster when belt driven. The current configeration is the best so far.
Best $200 powerhammer I heave tried:)
   ptree - Thursday, 07/23/09 18:13:28 EDT

Some more Blacksmith porn from Shorpy.com

   - Hudson - Thursday, 07/23/09 18:45:55 EDT

gosh i hate you guys!!!!!!!!! :D you have power hammers. some of us have to settle for a hand hammer and lots of time. oh well. on another note has anyone re built a champion blower? mine just siezed up and i could use some help (from someone other than a smith i found in my area who i already annoy too much:) thanks for the help
   bigfoot - Thursday, 07/23/09 21:00:17 EDT

Wheel dresser continued: Boron carbide, the "Norbide stick" is a wheel "dresser" used for clearing off excess areas of a wheel that are in the way when form grinding, thinning out the edge of a cup wheel in tool & cutter sharpening and other uses where You need to remove wheel surface but don't need it true or sharp. These are incredibly hard and last a LONG time, showing only minimal wear from wheel contact.

The other (2) products You mentioned, other than the 24 grit silicon carbide, are for removing accumulated crap that tends to clog dimond wheels and exposing fresh abrasive. The aluminum oxide is used on resin bonded diamond & CBN wheels, it exposes fresh abrasive by wearing away the bond. The fine grades of silicon carbide do the same on plated matrix wheels, but are not usefull if they are only plated 1 layer thick like a Drill Dr. or a jig grinding pin.

The 24 grit silicon carbide is the old fashoned dressing stick that started this conversation.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 07/23/09 21:25:42 EDT

I'm looking around for a waterjet cutter and thought I'd ask for recomendations here. If one of you operates one, I'd rather send my cash to a fellow blacksmith than a stranger.

While I live in central Ohio, the materials come from washington state, so I'm open to routing them through just about anywhere in the lower 48 on their way to me.

I have flat bars, 0.250" thick, 3" wide, from 34-49" long. the material is 5160 steel at 52 Rockwell C. I believe my last cutter said he was using "synthetic ruby" to cut, but I'm not particular as long as the material gets to me in the pieces I want.

I can supply the shapes in a .dxf file. I would probably be getting 5-15 bars cut per year.

If you have a recomendation for someone with these capabilities, please email me directly.

   Mike/Marco - Thursday, 07/23/09 22:55:12 EDT

Diamond Wheel Dressing: Last but not the least used method is to machine a diamond wheel. It is done in a lathe using HSS cutter bits and the lathe turning relatively slow. Diamond wheels vary from rubber or plastic embedded with diamond dust to sintered bronze. I have not machined a bronze wheel but the hard rubber ones machine quite easily. You just have to avoid taking off any more than necessary.

While diamond wheels may sound exotic to most of you they are quite common on tool grinders used for carbides. The low end machines are just a little more than a fancy bench grinder and cost about double. If you use a lot of carbide tooling they are a necessity. Most have diamond and the green wheels used on carbide. They should be setup next to a common bench grinder where soft holder material is ground off so that it does not clog the wheels used on hard material.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/23/09 23:03:27 EDT

Thanks, Bruce and Mike!

I have no website yet, but hopefully soon. Of course, it was hopefully soon back before Christmas... It's mostly been blade work.

Ptree - Got a picture you can direct me to for these pin in solid bearings? What about a picture of your hammer? Do I need to e-mail you for those, or do you already have them up on the Internet somewhere?

What the heck is a Dupont mechanism?

Guru - What about a ram that is offset outside the guide? It could move the dies up past the bottom of the guide without impacting anything. I'm pretty sure I have a good idea of a setup to do so. Seems like I actually saw something along those lines years ago on an early JYH sketch.

I'd rather have control and reliability than speed. I mess things up when I go too fast. I'd rather take an extra heat to get it done. If I run a standard 1957 Chevy pickup six lug wheel left over from a vehicle project, how big of a contact pulley on the motor would I need to achieve about two hits a second running flat out?

Since this is going to be a beefier hammer and will have more whip to it than some other designs, what if rather than having a turnbuckle in the linkage from the drive wheel to the helve I have a linkage with a series of attachment holes? For a shorter stroke, I pull the ram up and hook the other end of the helve to a hole closer to the drive tire.

And finally, with a well-reinforced two foot thick cement base, well-braced 850 pound anvil and a 70-75 lb ram, how thick of a base plate should I use? I know the thicker the better, but remember: poor boy.

This sucker should be more machine than I need, but that just means that it can do anything I need it to and allows room for doing bigger stuff if I need to down the road.

Thanks, everyone!
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 07/24/09 00:53:41 EDT

Stormcrow, in somewhat of an order:
there are photos on the powerhammer page here on Anvilfire, look at the navigate button above. Go to Powerhammer page, catalog of owner built hammers. This is the 32#.
Iforgeiron.com has a blueprint of my machine. E-mail me for more photos.
The pin in plain bearing is a "Plain bearing" ie just like the mains on you car engine. No ball bearings, or roller bearings, just a solid inner rotating on a solid outer.
On my hammer I used hydraulic cylinder rod clevis's and the rear cap from a hydraulic cylinder with a pivot as the helve pivot. These have precision fits, and are available as scrap parts. I cross drilled every pivot point on my hammer and installed grease zerks and use lots of moly grease. None of the pivots show where as yet. The slides on my hammer are plain hot rolled, and due to velocity and undersized construction, are showing wear, even greased.
The dupont mechanism if the toggle and spring system used on the Little Giant hammer as well as the "Tire Hammer"
You don't say where you are located, but if in the US, near any big city, try looking for big, scrap Hydraulic cylinders for those rear pivots.
I think a bolted adjustment on the pittman would work, but be a pain to adjust. On my hammer by trial and error, I found the I need a first finger on my right hand thickness of daylight above the stock thickness for best hammer action. Too little daylight and I get double taps. Too much and the helve has changed direction at the hit and is a weak hit. I have probably half a finger thickness+/- for effective forging. So I crank that turnbuckle pretty often when working large stock down. If set for 1/2" stock of below, I never touch the adjustment.
I think I have figured my hammer wide open at about 180 strokes per minute. I almost never run wide open, and would guess, I am usually at about 120-150 for heavy forging. You need the sizes of the parts in the drive to figure. Take 3.14 x the diameter of the driving pulley on the motor, that is the circumfrenece. Then do the 3.14 x tire od. The small circumfrence devided by the large is the reduction ratio, multply the rpm by the ratio and you have a "No slip, full speed rpm of the tire. Then figure a hit per rpm. You will always have some slip, but this will be very close to wide open rate.
You are welcome to e-mail me for detail.
   Ptree - Friday, 07/24/09 06:55:00 EDT

Bigfoot: Note that most of the power hammers we are talking about are home-made "junkyard" hammers. No cause for envy, just an exercise in ingenuity, patience and hard work. They had treadle operated “Oliver” hammers in the later 19th century, so that would serve you as an intermediate step in your demonstrations.

Waiting for the tea to kick in on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 07/24/09 07:45:09 EDT

Mr. Blackstone that is true and i was trying to make a joke (it failed) and i do not have the tools to make a power hammer (yet). honestly i am limited to making my own tools. noted this is fun and worth a challenge. does anyone have advice on a champion blower refurb? mine kinda dies last week :(
   bigfoot - Friday, 07/24/09 09:03:13 EDT

Blacksmith porn: The caption on the photo says its from 1943? No way, must be a typo. Anyway, check out the foot of the anvil. Notice anything? It's that ubiquitous unknown slot in the middle I was talking about a few weeks ago.

Serious question: What does it take to make good working lighting rods? My folks house has been hit twice in two years. One more hit and the ins. co. will force them to buy rods at $1,000 each!
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/24/09 09:54:01 EDT

Power hammer Base plate thickness: This can be as little as 1/2" or as much as 2" (13 to 50mm). A heavy plate becomes part of your anvil mass, a thin plate requires that your anvil and frame be anchored together well. If you use all welded construction it can be fairly thin. If you use bolted construction then it should be 1" (25mm) or greater.

Guide Systems: These vary depending on the hammer style and available materials. In some cases a behind the ram guide system works with the mechanical arrangement and some it does not. These do have the advantage that the material used can be precision plate (flat bar) and the ram rough.

The guide system to avoid is the tube in tube with wear pads. This non-adjustable system is difficult to get a good fit to start then wears rapidly. It is a major failing on the current "tire hammer" design.

Guide systems need to have fairly fine adjustments (shimming is acceptable) in order to do fine forging. If all you want to do is heavy drawing or texturing then you can get away with a loose guide system. However, a loose system wears rapidly.

A friend of mine has a system that is "self adjusting" to just the oil film. It is amazing how clean and precise a forging can be made when the guides are perfect. I would say more except the system is the subject of a patent application.

We built a heavy fully adjustable guide system for a couple hammers we are building and it was a LOT of work. Many drilled and tapped holes. But it is a key part of a good hammer and one of the most difficult to design well.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 10:16:03 EDT

Blower Rebuilds: Bigfoot, Most of the failures on these is worn gears or worn bearings. Neither of which is available as new parts. I had a contact that rebuilt these but it took a small machine shop to make the parts. The fellow made everything from modified bearings to gears. It was also NOT a cheap process.

One thing you MIGHT check if the blower just locked up after operating properly it may be the bearing backlash adjustments have gotten over tightened. These have a locking mechanism that if loose the adjustment can self tighten. I believe the fan threads on and has a lock nut. There should also be a double nut on the crank bearing.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 10:44:01 EDT

Nip, why don't you think that photo is from 1943? Nothing out of period that I can see. As for the anvil, are you talking about the little handling hole in the center of the front foot? My old PW had one of those, front only. I think they were for holding on to the thing while the face was being ground, but I don't know for sure.
   Alan-L - Friday, 07/24/09 11:01:20 EDT

blowers rebuilds: the guy who gave me this blower has agreed to make me new bearings (i have to make him something as i cannot pay oh well). so basically i should crack it open and make sure that everything is loose enough to work but tight enough to stay together?
   bigfoot - Friday, 07/24/09 11:32:15 EDT

Lightening Rods: Nip, Sorry I missed this one.

Lightening rods are very pointed and the points best made of copper or brass (to resist rust). Lightening attracted to (disapates from) sharp points. They are mounted on insulators (those nice glass balls) and attached to a heavy ground wire which goes to a good ground (often a series of ground rods).

I have an old lightening rod a friend gave me as a "guru's staff". The top is a brass ring with a star like arrangement of long very sharp points. This was mounted on a 5 foot long twisted bar with a thin "X" cross section. The brass fittings on both ends were braze welded onto the wrought.

One system I saw on a very old house had the heavy ground cable run down the chimney in steel loops anchored in the masonry. From what I understand about heavy currents the loops should not be closed or they act as a choke point due to the magnetic field that forms.

That is all I know about lightening rods.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 12:01:22 EDT

The bearing backlash should be only a few thousandths, free but not tight.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 12:05:40 EDT

I was wondering about your collective opinions as to whether I should purchase new double cut files or not. The ones I have are rather old and dull, and seem to gall the work unless I use minimal pressure. I never did use them when they were brand new but they seemed to be in good shape before I started using them. Anyhow, their condition seems to have deteriorated rapidly. I have learned how to draw file properly since then using a new single cut mill file. So I suppose my question is essentially "Can good work be done with files that have dull and broken teeth?" and "If I have bad technique will I keep damaging files to the point where it is simply cost effective to just work with what I have until I perfect my technique using beat up worn out files?".

P.S. I am currently using them to finish the distal taper and true up the edge geometry on a 20 inch by 3 inch bowie knife and I dont have the skill to get truly flat surfaces using an angle grinder, nor do I have an adequate belt grinder (only a belt sander which wont work for this project, I tried) so files are really my best option.

P.P.S. I just want to say hi again to all of you fellows who post on this board. Its been a while, and I am glad to see you're still helping out the metalworking community as much or more than you always have. Thanks again for selflessly giving me the information I needed to begin enjoying the most wonderful hobby I could imagine.
   Matt M - Friday, 07/24/09 12:12:51 EDT

I've learned to have a set of "loaner" tools as well. Usually fleamarket finds waiting to be made into something else. Worst of all in my experience is tent stake drivers. Had one come into my camp when I wasn't there, "borrow" a polished head hammer for non-ferrous forging to drive torch cut rebar stakes in. Didn't understand when I told him he had ruined the hammer that I had brought for a specific project to be done at that event.

OTOH I had a friend in a bind ask to borrow the most expensive tool in my shop, my bader belt grinder. He used it and wore out one of the contact wheels. When he returned it he profusely apologized and had already ordered the OEM replacement for it to be shipped directly to me. *He* still has tool borrowing rights.

If someone breaks a hand tool, tells me about it and offers to replace it I will often tell them to pay me my replacement cost usually half or less what they would pay as I get them from the fleamarkets.

If someone breaks a hand tool and doesn't tell me about it and I find out about it. I usually would rather see the back of them more than any money!

   Thomas P - Friday, 07/24/09 12:29:57 EDT

I have an 80 gallon galvanized pressure tank that is the perfect size and shape for a nice grill/smoker. I believe I have successfully used muriatic acid to remove the galvanization. Will it be safe to use for cooking?
   brian - Friday, 07/24/09 17:56:51 EDT

Brian, A smoker generally does not get hot enough to effect the zinc galvanizing. You would have been better off leaving the zinc on. The only time galvanizing is a problem is above about 900°F and in direct contact with food. Even in the fire-pit area it is unlikely to get hot enough to burn off the zinc and the little that might should not be a problem. At a red glow zinc starts to melt then burn above that. Most things, even wood stoves rarely get that hot.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 18:49:20 EDT

NOTE, For cutting and welding on that tank you will need to take a grinder to the surface to remove all the zinc. This will need to be done to prevent fumes and so welds will stick properly.
   - guru - Friday, 07/24/09 19:02:32 EDT

Nip - Lightening Rods: The "air terminal" I have on the top of My sailboat mast looks like an overgrown gun cleaning brush. It is about 1 1/2" in diameter and about 8" long. The idea is that there are thousands of pointy ends to disapate the charge, so hopefully lightening doesn't strike there.

The ground conductor I have seen in modern home protection systems is a loosely braided aluminum wire, the strands were about 1/16" diameter, perhaps 15 or 20 of them, the overall diameter was about 1/2"

Old ground conductors I have seen on old barns were about 1/2"-5/8" square copper clad iron rods.

Lightening is high voltage, high frequency energy, this travels over the outside of a conductor, so surface area is important.

The insurance company will probably require commercially made components.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 07/24/09 21:55:18 EDT

Matt M,

There is a proper technique to using files and failure to follow it will ruin the files in short order. You may be doing it wrong, or you may just be experiencing the wear that comes from filing scale. Scale is very abrasive and will dull a new file in short order. When I plan to do file work on a piece, I remove the scale first by pickling, grinding or sanding first, so that my files only see raw steel. *Annealed* raw steel, I should add. On some alloys, normalized can still be tough enough to wear a file, so I anneal before filing. Normalizing is sufficient for A-36 most of the time, though some batches can have hard spots I've noticed a few times.

When using a file, apply downward pressure only on the cutting stroke, and lift the file off the work surface for the return stroke. Dragging a file backwards across the work will dull the teeth and increase pinning (the little bits that get jammed in the teeth and gall your work). Double cut files work best when pushed at a slight angle from straight ahead, maybe 10 degrees off in the direction of the angle of the teeth. This leaves a smoother surface as the rows of teeth are then staggered and overlap each other instead of cutting little tiny trenches.

A bit of talcum powder or chalk applied to the file teeth before you start and periodically while working will reduce pinning. On some metals, I sometimes use a cutting lubricant, either liquid or stick. You have to experiment a bit to see what is best for the particular metal you're filing. Some lubricants can cause more problems than they solve, by holding chips in the teeth, so if you do use an oil lube, be sure to clean it off with brake cleaner before using the file on other work.

Another thing that greatly affects the wear of files is the manufacturer. Good files outlast cheap ones ten to one or better. I buy primarily Grobet or Vallorbe files, or Pferd as a second choice, and only use Nicholsen or Simmonds files when that's all I can get. Anything less than Nicholsen or Simmonds is just a frustration looking for a place to happen, in my opinion. Chinese files are only useful as shims or bootscrapers. Yes, the price of Grobet files will make you blanch the first time, but after using one you will quickly realize they are worth the price if you value your time at all. They also make dozens of different patterns, unlike the ridiculously limited choices available from Nicholsen and others. Good files are not expensive, they're priceless.

File storage methods are responsible for at least 40% of all damage to files. People toss them in a drawer or on the bench, letting them rattle against each other. THis ruins the teeth immediately. The proper way to store files is in a wooden drawer in individual slots where they cannot contact each other. Metal drawers encourage condensation which means rust. Wood is much less prone to this. A bit of camphor in the drawer will inhibit rust without putting anything on the files that might attract dust or chips. One cheap and good alternative to a dedicated drawer is to sew up a "tool roll" from old Levi's legs so that each file has it's own pocket. The whole thing can be rolled and tied for easy transportation and to keep the files from being banged around against each other.

One last thing: Make it a point to observe your ergonomics when filing to ensure that your file strokes are uniform, flat and straight. Watch your posture and joint movements. Filing is repetitive work and, if done incorrectly, can lead to repetitive stress injuries and permanent problems. Once you establish a proper technique, filing can be a very relaxing, Zen-like experience.

Hope this helps,

   vicopper - Saturday, 07/25/09 00:10:21 EDT

And golf balls make great file handles...
   - Arthur - Saturday, 07/25/09 00:20:00 EDT

On lightning rods:

As Dave noted, this is high voltage "skin" current that travels on the surface of the conductor more than the core. That's why stranded or braided conductors are used. You do need a pretty substantial conductor to carry a charge to ground, so people have used aluminum instead of copper to save money. This is not a particularly good plan however, since aluminum oxidizes very rapidly and aluminum oxide is a poor conductor. You can get away with aluminum for core current but not for skin current. Stick with copper.

The biggest virtue of lighting rods is that they allow static charges to bleed off into the atmosphere, reducing the likelihood of a strike. Thus the pointy ends and multiple spikes; more places for the charge to dissipate.

Glass is the traditional material for the insulator, but I'd think that some of the new plastic and composite materials would probably work quite well and be much stronger. I would imagine this has already been tested if one checks around.

I don't have lightning rods on the structures here, but I probably should think about it. I've been struck twice by lightning, so I seem to be a lightning rod, but I didn't really enjoy the experiences and don't wish to repeat them. :-)
   vicopper - Saturday, 07/25/09 00:25:13 EDT


Thanks for mentioning that! I completely neglected to discuss handles, and that is an important part of file use.

A good handle on a file is not only more comfortable and allows better control, it can save you a disastrous injury. When filing on a piece in a lathe, there is a danger that the piece may catch the file and shove it violently back at you. If you don't have a proper file handle, that tang can impale you in a split second.

As Arthur noted, golf balls ( the ones without the liquid centers) make dandy handles for smaller files. For the larger ones, I really prefer the store-bought plastic ones without the little thread insert. Those threaded inserts seem like a good idea, but the file is rarely held completely rigidly and this impairs good filing. When using a plastic handle without any insert, just warm up the tang of the file enough to soften the plastic and push it firmly into the handle. It will melt its way in and make a perfect fit. The same technique works with wood handles, you just need to have the tang a bit hotter to burn it in. If the handle gets loose, a drop of regular wood glue will snug it right up.

Deer antler also makes nice file handles for those who want something with a bit more class than plain wood or old golf balls. :-)

One other advantage of having handles on all your files is that the handle will keep the file teeth from coming in contact with the benchtop when you set it down. If you insist on putting your files all together in a drawer, at least alternate the handles and tips so they protect each other somewhat. Better to make some dividers, though.
   vicopper - Saturday, 07/25/09 00:35:50 EDT

Matt M, the short answer to your question of "Can good work be done with bad files?" NO.
Hand fileing is a precision operation requireing precision tools. I have a pile of worn out files all waiting to be made into something else.
If you have a file that has some bad teeth in it you may be able to get away with not useing that section of the file but, you shouldn't "just use it that way"
I'm glad you found that a single cut file is for draw fileing. Too many just assume you can use any old thing for draw fileing and then they blame the file for poor quality work.
I have at least a dozen 14" single cuts of various type and make that I use and then some smaller ones for lighter work, a whole drawer of different die sinkers, riflers, and pattern files. At work and at home my files are one of the tools I never lend out to people as they are one of the least understood and most missused.
I was going to bring this up about files, that I have noticed that the last box of Nicholson files we got at work (12" bastard cut) they were noticably thiner then my older Nicholsons of the same size and type and, they were ALL uniformly twisted so that none of them could be used for flat fileing.
Nobody but me at work probably cares but, it gives me consern that one will not be able to get good files any more.
Anyone else have this problem?

I also wanted to metion to you Matt, that if you're working on material that is too close to the file hardness it will quickly wear the file and chip the teeth.
The tips of the teeth should be so sharp that they do not reflect the light, as they would do if they had minor flats on them.
A file should allways be kept clean and NEVER OILED. If you keep one in a tool box make a light wooden sheath for it so it doesn't get dinged or wrap it in the paper from a grocery bag that has a little oil blotted on it (not dripping with oil)
If you carry a file , carry a file card or a small SST wire brush to clean it with and, clean it often while in use. I like to use a piece of plain white, side walk chalk rubbed in the teeth to help prevent galling but, if you don't keep the theeth cleaned out constantly nothing will prevent it.
To do a good job of fileing takes a while to learn. Your eye and hand co-ordination must be developed and your muscels trained to know what they are doing.
Give yourself time to learn but, get some good files and then just take care of them and you'll be fine.
   - merl - Saturday, 07/25/09 00:56:27 EDT

Vicopper I didn't see your advise to Matt about files until after my post to him but it's all good advise none the less.
The one thing I have to disagree with you and Arthur about is the use of a golf ball for a file handle.
To use anything for a handle that encourages you to push with the palm of your hand will only speed up the onset of carpel tunnel syndrom.
The standard wooden handle can be fitted to the hand of the user if too fat.
The work should be set at a hight so that the for arm of the pushing hand is slightly higher than the hand its self and, the file grasped between the thumb and for finger and the handle held firmly in the grip of the remaining fingers.
The for end of the file is lightly pinched between the thumb and for finger of the opposite hand and provides only a third or less of the required down pressure so as to prevent chattering in the cut. A lighter pressure from the off hand will also reduce flexing of the file when you are flat fileing.
Directing or steering the file across the work in a cut is a combination of both hands.
As Vicopper mentions it, I also use a stick wax cutting lube some times or even a plain wax candle works well.
   - merl - Saturday, 07/25/09 01:26:54 EDT


I only use and/or recommend golf balls as handles for small files under about 8" - like some of my jeweler's files and my chainsaw files. I agree that pushing with the palm of the hand is a prescription for carpal tunnel syndrome and is to be avoided. Using a golf ball for a handle doesn't have to mean pushing with the palm, though. I hold it just as I would a cylindrical handle, but the golf ball allows me to get a decent degree of control using only my thumb and two fingers, leaving the other two fingers free to steady my hand on the bench, vise or tool rest.

As I said earlier, my preference is for plastic or wood handles properly seated and fitted to my hand and the file. Golf balls do make pretty darn good handles for gravers, I've found, though they're a bit on the large side for small work. Nice texture, though. It would be perfect on a regular-shaped plastic handle, I think.

You pointed up some very good things on filing technique regarding holding the file properly. Most people have little idea how important that is to getting a good result and preventing RSS.

I too have noticed a decline in the quality of Nicholsen files. I heard somewhere, though I cannot verify it, that they are now being made elsewhere, which may account for the drop in quality control. Pferd files seem to be better, and Grobet are the top of the line, bar none.

If you can stand the mess ( I can), flake graphite makes a pretty darn good file lube. The little squirt bottles sold for use in locks deliver just about right amount. A very little goes a long way, especially towards making a horrible mess. (grin)
   vicopper - Saturday, 07/25/09 02:35:24 EDT

RE: McDonald Rolling mill. I am studying the drawings, planning the stock I need and the parts that have to be machined. What is the reason that the foot pedal uses a cam-follower rather than a simple pivot joint? The amount of work going into turning the off center cam is considerable for an amateur.
   jlw50 - Saturday, 07/25/09 09:31:40 EDT

   - grant - Saturday, 07/25/09 09:31:42 EDT

True "draw" filing requires putting the handle in your left hand, placing the file 90 degrees to the work and "drawing" it toward you (like a "draw" knife). One draw, clean the file, one draw, clean the file. As the name implies, cutting is done on the pull stroke, so you have to have the teeth going the right way. I get a lot of argument on that until people try it.

Dave Boyer: I don't believe it could be "high frequency" as it is DC not AC. There is no frequency to natural DC.
   - grant - Saturday, 07/25/09 09:32:31 EDT


When I was a boy, my grandpa raised cotton, and he had hands in the field chopping cotton for him. I would watch him sharpen the hoes on the tailgate of his truck and he used the exact method you described above. He would use both hands and pull the file all the way down in one stroke. The hoes would be sharp enough to cut a toe off. Being a bare footed boy, I know first hand, I've chopped my toes several times. :)
   Mike T. - Saturday, 07/25/09 10:06:26 EDT

Altho' called draw filing, there is nothing wrong with putting the handle in the right hand and pushing the file. The file is at right angles to the work.

Re cutting toes, a good ole boy told me once that "Hand adzes, you cut your hand with, and foot adzes, you cut your foot with."
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 07/25/09 11:16:16 EDT

Draw filling.
I have used both push and pull methods where needed. When in Europe in the mid 70's I was working with a German Master jewler, and needed to dress the end of a casting flask. I set the flask up in a vise and began to drw file it. The master looked as if he would have a stroke, and asked what th I thought I was doing. I explained and he watched a bit and was impressed with the results. I think he had never seen the technique.
   ptree - Saturday, 07/25/09 12:31:03 EDT

McDonald Mill: jlw, The little eccentric (crank or eccentric not "cam-follower") is used to create a high force when applying the lever or peddle. The reason for turning it is that a lever is difficult to make with the center of rotation so close to the connection point. It is a simple part to machine if you have the capacity to bore the solid bearing blocks in the plans. I believe the rollers are also turned in a lathe. All the turned parts can be made using a 6" or 8" bench lathe.

   - guru - Saturday, 07/25/09 13:17:43 EDT

File Handles: I use commercial handles as well as hand made wood handles depending on my mood and availability at the moment. The screw on handles are reusable and once you have a number they can migrate from old files to new.

One "old-timey" file handle is dried corn cob. While looking a little "Depression Era" they are in fact comfortable and durable.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/25/09 13:22:12 EDT

Thanks, that makes sense to me. I was pretty sure that there is nothing in the plans that is not necessary but I just had to ask. I have my framing now ready to cut now. I just have to scavenge the bearings and turn the rollers and round pieces.
   jlw50 - Saturday, 07/25/09 15:41:23 EDT

i have started in light smithing about 3 years ago, and never did any big jobs for anyone, but today i was asked to build an arched gateway for a very high-end country club in my town, thay have had previous work done, they had a railing put in, and asked me to match the design. this is all simple but i dont know how to figure a quote. the design is 8 feet tall, 5 feet wide, very basic forging, but they wat it all out of 2" square stock. with a few twists. please help me to find a way to charge.
very much appreciated.
   Bowen Hebel - Saturday, 07/25/09 18:16:47 EDT

NIP Re Grounding for lightning rods. When I was MUCH younger as an estimator for a construction company we put in a bid on a steel observation tower in Grant Park in Atlanta and the plans called for a trench dug around the perimiter of the tower base and salt to be filled in the bottom and a heavy copper wire placed on top of that to be connected to the lightning rods, then the trench backfilled tp ground level. I thought at the time it ought to be effective grounding, but I wondered about plantings in the area.
   - John M - Saturday, 07/25/09 19:11:24 EDT

Bowen- Here's how I do it. I'm sure others have better ideas or a different approach.

The first step is to study or make a fully detailed scaled architectural drawing of the project and the space it will fit into. This may require a site visit for accurate survey/measuring. Presumably this will be shown to the clients at some point so make it nice.

Once you have that, you can figure the stock needed, count joints and elements, and make an exact list of how long it will take to make each and every part. Then estimate how long it will take to join all the parts. Then how long/how much for sandblasting and painting, or whatever finish is required. Some phone time to subcontractors may be needed at this point. Note that many aspects of architectural blacksmithing are indistinguishable from fabrication, be sure your welding and assembly skills are good enough.

Don't forget to add up the cost of installation- some general contractor/carpenter skills would be nice to know what generally accepted practices are. You may need to hire someone to help with this, or the basic grunt work of the install. How heavy will the gate be? Do you need a crane or just 3 or 4 stout friends? Don't forget there will be some time spent on site clean-up and finish re-touching after the fact. Get some photos too.

Now total up all of the above estimates of how long each step will take. Multiply the total by your hourly shop rate. Then, if you want to actually make a profit, DOUBLE OR TRIPLE that number because for sure you will underestimate quite a few things.
   Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 07/25/09 19:31:13 EDT

Yeah, Vicopper, I have been noticing the gradual declien of Nicholsen files but, they were still a servicable file. Now this comes along and I guess I'll have to switch to something else as I am down to my last two 14" files(brand new) and many of the smaller ones are starting to show some age.
I have a couple of 8" Oberg files that are fantastic but, I havn't seen any new ones in a long time.
Where does one get the Pferd and Grobet files you rate so highly?
I have a fairly large bottle of powderd graphite that came with my corn burner stove. Supposed to be for the feed auger but I have never needed it so, I'll try it at the file bench.
The antique power club I belong to is having its annual show next weekend and we are planning to hammer forge a gun barrel over a mandrel, amoung other things. Would the powderd graphite work better than coal dust to lube the mandrel?
The process being to heat a piece of round stock that is 1.5"dia with a .5" hole drilled through it and about 4-6" long. Draw that out over the .5 " rod polished down to about .495 taking it in several heats and using the powderd graphite, unless someone advises against it...
   - merl - Saturday, 07/25/09 20:49:49 EDT

I usually fix rivets cold. It is easier that way and the effect is fine. I do this in my shop where use a Blacksmiths Depot bucking block most of the time or my swage block for bigger headed rivets. I now, however, need to do some riveting on site. How can I do this?
   philip in china - Saturday, 07/25/09 22:06:26 EDT

Grant: A lightening strike is not as simple as a one way one time transfer of energy.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 07/25/09 22:14:03 EDT

Meril: Tell Us how the gun barrel comes out.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 07/25/09 22:22:49 EDT

Yes Dave, I certainly will. We're going to try two different methods of drawing the barrel out. One will be in the swage block with the various size top tools and, at the power hammer with a V block for the bottom swage and the afor mentioned top tools.
I think, as long as we don't get the mandrel stuck, it will turn out well for both methods.
As this is just going to be a chunk of hot rolled steel we won't be shooting it but, will try to ream it at the show if there is time.
   - merl - Saturday, 07/25/09 23:19:05 EDT


The powdered graphite should work okay. My favorite lube is the Seal Release stuff I got from Ptree, but I don't think it's available anymore.
I get my Grobet files from Rio Grande Supply and/or a European dealer whose name won't come to mind right now. Lately I've used a few Pferd files (www.pferdusa.com) and they seem to be much better than the newer Nicholsens and available in a much, much wider variety of sizes and styles. Check them out, you may like them.
   vicopper - Sunday, 07/26/09 02:11:40 EDT

TGN - ref:lightening rods, e-mail sent through your web site.

   Don Shears - Sunday, 07/26/09 02:35:59 EDT

Grobet files,
These are indeed available from Rio Grande, and also Hagemeyer NA.

The seal release forge lube is indeed no longer available. The Henkle lube that is almost as good is available, "Forgeeze P3Forge P185" I inquired and I can buy that lube, but must buy by the drum. I don't think with the Henkle price, and shipping that I could sell it for less the $50/gallon. The polymer based alkaline salt lubes are the very best, but only if a friendlt distributer is willing to sell small batches to help the trade. Henkle wants to sell in 350 gallon totes or truck tanker loads, and to them a 55 gal drum is a special bother, and they priced it to make it unatractive. Shame.
   ptree - Sunday, 07/26/09 08:52:41 EDT

I don't understand the process you're using. I've made two barrels of wrought iron by forge welding a folded and butted skelp; no scarf. The tapered mandrel (mine was tapered H13) was quickly inserted by a helper while the hammer weld was taking place. After each weld, the mandrel was tapped with the hammer to loosen it, and it was withdrawn. We didn't use lube, but we did keep the mandrel with a bare metal finish, which helps.I pretty much followed the method shown in the video, "The Gunsmith of Williamsburg."

If a guy wasn't going to forge weld it, he would probably obtain a barrel from a boring mill, already bored to size.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 07/26/09 09:59:49 EDT

Phil, it depends...
if I couldn't figure some way to brace the bucking block, I'd make a heavier one and find a stout helper to hold it in place and use a torch to heat the rivet head up. You also might have to make a tool with a cup in the end of it to form the rivet head if you don't have room to swing a hammer proper. As far as I know there's no one size fits all way to do this.
   JimG - Sunday, 07/26/09 10:10:33 EDT

Thanks everyone for the help with the lightning rods. I'll wait to see what my folks plan on doing.

BTW, the "blacksmith porn" pic... I said I thought it was fake because unless Ted Turner helped with the pic, I'm pretty sure there was no high resolution full color photography in 1943. Other than that, I'd say it's hard to tell what year a photo was taken based on the anvil.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 07/26/09 10:20:54 EDT

Philip- If it's a situation where you are riveting a tenon on the end of a bar, one trick I've used is to decouple one of your post vices from it's stand or table, carry it over to the workpiece and clamp it on. The jaws of the vice grab the bar, the mass of the vice acts as the "back up". Hope this helps.
   Judson Yaggy - Sunday, 07/26/09 12:34:54 EDT

look up Kodachrome. Full color, non-grainy, high resolution color. And available then.
   ptree - Sunday, 07/26/09 12:57:04 EDT

Anyone here have a waterjet?

I'm looking around for a waterjet cutter and thought I'd ask for recomendations here. If one of you operates one, I'd rather send my cash to a fellow blacksmith than a stranger.

While I live in central Ohio, the materials come from washington state, so I'm open to routing them through just about anywhere in the lower 48 on their way to me.

I have flat bars, 0.250" thick, 3" wide, from 34-49" long. the material is 5160 steel at 52 Rockwell C. I believe my last cutter said he was using "synthetic ruby" to cut, but I'm not particular as long as the material gets to me in the pieces I want.

I can supply the shapes in a .dxf file. I would probably be getting 5-15 bars cut per year.

If you have a recomendation for someone with these capabilities, please email me directly.

   Mike/Marco - Sunday, 07/26/09 13:39:49 EDT

mike/marco- you might try randy mcdaniels- he is a blacksmith who also runs a laser cutting company. So he gets it.
his website is www.drgnfly4g.com

depends on your material- I would think your quarter inch stock would laser cut ok, but some things will, and some things wont. So you would have to ask him.
He is in Reading PA, which is a lot closer to Ohio than Washington State is.
   - ries - Sunday, 07/26/09 14:21:13 EDT

Ries, thanks for the referral, but I need water, as the material's already heat treated.
   Mike/Marco - Sunday, 07/26/09 14:37:21 EDT

Nip. Ptree got it. In a former life as a professional photographer I found that large-format kodachrome like the pic says was used can be enlarged enormously and still hold fine detail. Think about a regular 35mm slide. Those get projected up to eight by ten feet with no loss of resolution or grain showing. Then think about the fact that pic was taken on 4x5 INCH sheet film. You could probably print that as a wall-sized mural and think you could walk right in and ask the guy what he's up to.

Kodachrome was introduced in 1935, by the way. When I was asked on occasion to make a large-format color transparency (pulishers like those because of the grainless detail) I tended to use Kodak Lumiere E100S, as it was just as brilliant but far cheaper to process. I still have the 4x5 camera, too bad a digital back for it is around $10K. Sigh...

And yep, anvils are not a good date referencing tool. (grin!) I thought maybe you were surprised by the gas forge. Those were in use industrially by the late 1800s, btw.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 07/26/09 15:18:08 EDT

Mike/Marco, if you can't find a blacksmith, Great Lakes Waterjet (www.geatlakeswaterjetinc.com) is highly recommended, particularly for knifelike objects. No minimum, will work from any CAD format. I haven't used them myself, but the knife guys seem to think very well of them.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 07/26/09 15:23:09 EDT

Kodachrome, the finest and industry standard color film sadly, no longer available after this year. The digital camera has killed it and many other film stocks. If you see it in photo stores it is old inventory.

Large format: One reason Ansel Adams landscape photos are so beautifully crisp is that we usually see them REDUCED from the negative in books and only enlarged about 4 to 6x in posters. . . We have a 1908 18 x 22" B&W photo of my great grandparents and their children that is a contact print (same size as the negative!). Think of a photographer with a rig on a horse drawn wagon like Mathew Brady the famous Civil War photographer, going door to door out in the country taking family portraits with a huge glass plate view camera.

The Gas Forge in the Photo: This is one you would not likely see operating today because it runs on compressed air. These were common at one time but compressed air is very expensive to use in this application and it takes a LOT of it. Small fans are much cheaper.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/26/09 16:14:00 EDT

Job Quote, 2" stock: Bowen, 2" is SERIOUS stock to work. If that frame is one piece you will be handling 230 pounds. Even if three parts they will weight about 80 pounds each. AND even hot it is tough to twist 2" square. . .

There are lots of ways to figure quotes. Shops with experience use rules of thumb with per-foot rates and per-job minimums. Others use materials (always include the total minimum purchase) plus handling plus estimated labor.

When I have a job that is an unknown quantity I like to analyze it step by step including an estimated time for EVERY step. EXAMPLE:

Order steel - 15 min on phone
Pickup steel - 3 hr in truck
Unload steel - 10 min.
Measure pieces - 10 min (3 pieces)
Cut steel - 30 min. (10 min each with handling)
Deburr steel - 30 min.
Build large fire and adjust stock supports 30 min.

The finer your steps (down to seconds sometimes) the more accurate the time estimate. While this seems to be an anal way to quote a job it WILL give you an idea of actual time. BE honest. Allow for breaks and shop inefficiencies (undersized tooling, saw blade replacement).

THEN be sure you apply the proper shop rate. If not $100/hr or more I hope you are living in a third world county. . .

On some work I consider the materials to be no more than 10% of the final product price (when hand forged). It should probably be less on architectural work.

Then there are questions such as, are you the installer? Do you need a license, insurance or bonding to work on the premises?
   - guru - Sunday, 07/26/09 16:42:11 EDT

I grew up in Blue Island and am sort of familiar with local history. That photo has been around for a while and I expect it is the real deal. Blue Island was a big RR town had a Rock Island yard with shops and round house. (Us Cub Scouts got a tour in the mid 1950's and they let us climb all over an old hand-fed retired steamer. Are those days really gone? Seems like just yesterday.) Also was a junction for the B&O, Grand Trunk, and Illinois Central. Probably authentic photo.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 07/26/09 16:45:48 EDT

Hmm I had thought that Stormy had moved to Hollywood to become an action hero after being featured in the online comics for a while. Welp musta been some other fella, Charles...charley chuck..yeah chuck somethin or other.
   - Mills - Sunday, 07/26/09 16:58:07 EDT

anvilfire Anvil Image Gallery

Something new for you to enjoy. This has taken over a month of long hours to process all the images and setup the pages. There are some 40 plus anvil images and when complete there will be over 100. Many are rare images of anvils never seen anywhere else.

Currently all the detail pages are setup for the main galleries but many details such as dimensions are still in the works. Being a significant new feature there will be links to fix and some design changes to make it easier to navigate. More to come. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 07/26/09 17:22:44 EDT

Having worked around both I would say that it's not a gas forge, it's a fuel oil forge. Look at the controls and at the white flame, for sure. Very common on oil forges to use compressed air.
   - grant - Sunday, 07/26/09 18:08:09 EDT

File Handles,
I'll use screwdriver handles on many of my files.
I've always got a supply of junked screwdrivers so I'll pull out the screwdriver blade then press in the file tang. Sometimes I'll heat up the tang to melt it's self to fit...
   - Mike - Sunday, 07/26/09 20:42:58 EDT

The smith in charge at our club shop makes his own barrels from 1/2" wall seamless tubing with a .5 bore. He then does the turning work and draw files the octagon profile but, during some research on barrel making methods from the Civil War era he found an account of a small shop that used a then new method of roll forging over a mandrel in a few progressive steps.
So we decided to try and mimic the process but, with the swaging tools we have on hand. Just an experiment really.
Call it "eye candy" for the masses, if it works.
He has made several blackpowder muskets completly from scratch ( except for the barrel and breach plug) with all hand forged hardware and hand hewn stocks.
   - merl - Sunday, 07/26/09 22:13:38 EDT

Phillip in China,

Sorry I forgot to post this the other night. For riveting and setting tenons on job sites and/or in places where it is just plain a nuisance to do it, I generally use my muffler gun. You can get or make rivet setter heads (check aircraft supply places) and also larger "planishing" heads about an inch in diameter. I make a wide range of .401"-shanked tools for the rivet gun and get a lot of use out of it. You'll need a compressor of course, but a reasonably-sized one will run a muffler gun.
   vicopper - Sunday, 07/26/09 22:30:12 EDT

Recyling Screw Drivers: I have too many uses for old screw drivers to scrap them for the handles. . . All kinds of special tools.
  • Handled tire iron for small tires (bicycles and wheelbarrows)
  • Super extended screw drivers (weld one on to another)
  • Specialty key/wrenches
  • Small wood chisels
  • Soft metal hand repousse' punches

Some of this has to do with the fact that I've used nothing except the 1970's style Craftsman screw drivers. They are the only ones I bought or used for 40 years. The handles are the perfect design and DO NOT come off without lots of heat. The ball end lets you push hard without hurting your palm. The grip is smooth cornered and will take all the torque that you can apply by hand and the flared end is an ideal hand held bearing for spinning the tool. Many others have tried to replace this design and failed. I noticed Sears is still carrying them but their #1 line is some artsy line that is lousy. This is a case where change is STUPID. I guess I should stock up.

The only other top line screw drivers I've bought were some Snap-on clutch-bit drivers. They had the squarish oblate black handles. The plastic on them is failing. I went to clean the set recently and the plastic had boils and warty like places on them that cracked and flaked off. . . I've got Craftsman drivers a decade older stored in the same cabinet that are in perfect condition. I'm pissed that nearly unused high price tools properly stored are falling apart. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 07/26/09 22:34:43 EDT

On the above posts hammer forging,drawing out a gun barrel, I have an old wire twist double barrel shotgun that belonged to my great grandfather. Although, the metal is flat and smooth, you can still see the twist pattern as it runs down the barrel. Shotgun shell boxes used to have a warning on them not to shoot in wire twist barrels. However, when I was a young boy I did see my kinfolks shoot modern field loads in it.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/26/09 23:22:31 EDT

Ptree - Ok, I saw your hammer and actually filed away that pivot idea, then thought that maybe it wouldn't be as good as ball bearings. But I've been looking at a lot of hammer designs lately. :-)

I'm now thinking that maybe a pieced anvil with a large solid central shaft surrounded by firescale and scrap metal fill might be the way to go. As long as the fill is packed in tightly, it should work, right? I know where I can maybe get a 55 gallon barrel full of scale. I did a little pricing on buying new steel for the anvil, and it is mucho expensivo.

Mills - Nope, I'm living the simple life of a struggling workerbee, trying hard to make rent every month. The thrills and excitement!
   - Stormcrow - Sunday, 07/26/09 23:54:44 EDT

I am a part time knifemaker going on 5 yrs.I have made damascus blades by stacking the variuos metal and had good results . I do this all by hand with a hammer and 20 ton hydraulic press I operate by hand.Is it possible to forge mosaic damascus this way and what is the best cotainer
   mike krantz - Monday, 07/27/09 00:12:30 EDT

Mike, Mosaic billets need to keep their shape. If square they are forged square. Generally the process is to start fairly large and short then draw out to make the detail finer but keeping the shape the same. I would use stainless foil wrap and discard it as soon as the weld is completed and the foil starts to break down.

After the mosaic pieces are sawed into slabs they are laid on a flat bar and the joints between the slabs welded by their swelling. This is good work for a press.

The advantage of using stainless foil is that it can be fit tightly to the billet to hold it assembled. You also do not need every billet to be the same size as you do using tubular containers. The foil is also not additional material to have to form to shape when forging or pressing.
   - guru - Monday, 07/27/09 00:40:34 EDT

I do all my Damascus with a 24 ton press,,For designs like checkerboards , I just stack the pieces and forge weld,for container billets I found some 1/16 walled steel tubing and I weld up one end and fill it with the steel I want and fill the voids with 1084 powder and weld it all shut ..forge real hot and keep it soaking,when I forge with the press the tubing sort of flakes off...To open the design I have trouble with the accordian cut so I slice the Billet up like the Guru described but I cut at a 45* angle and inter lock the pieces as I weld them to the bar....This is what works for me...Hope it helps
   - arthur - Monday, 07/27/09 01:43:11 EDT

Stormcrow, The anvil needs to be solid steel I think. Use the scale in the frame if you use tube for the frame. I used two lenghts of scrap 4" x 4" set verticaly and welded together. I then welded a sow block on top of that. When I added to the anvil, I had found some 8" wide drops of a 1" plate. I welded three pieces of that all vertical as well. There is lots of scrap that can work. Avoid stacks of plate one on top of the other, try for long pieces set vertical. easy to weld as they don't have to be a full penetration weld at every joint. If you use a sow block, that needs the full penetration joint.
   Ptree - Monday, 07/27/09 06:42:42 EDT

Snap On tools: guru, I believe Snap On tools carry a lifetime warranty. If you stop by a garage or dealership, chances are they have a Snap On vendor who comes by regularly to replace all the broken tools. Maybe they would let you stop by on the appointed day and swap your screwdrivers. If you think about it, they really don't expect them to live forever. They actually force you to buy three or four of the same tools in advance so they can deliver new replacements to you when the tool breaks. My son just graduated from Auto Tech school and we bought him a set of Snap On tools: $1700 and it all fits in one small tool box.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 07/27/09 07:43:09 EDT

Mechanics Tools: While Snap-On is good I was never crazy about some of their tool designs and preferred Craftsman but that was back in the 70's. Each had things they did better. The problem with these handles is they LOOK like they have been in a fire. . which they have not. The smallest is actually slumped to one side. I also bought a set of Whitworth British Standard wrenches and sockets through Snap-On and they are rusting under the same storage conditions as the screw drivers.

The Craftsman tools that drove me away from Sears in the 70's were the electric hand tools that would not hold up more than a few hours under light use. The "Professional" angle grinder I bought from them that was replaced 3 times and never wore out the first wheel. . . The router that cut 4 feet of dovetail when the armature blew up. Most of the mechanics tools were pretty good but I had to scrap the snap action torque wrench after several replacements. . It often would not snap or click until way over torque and resulted in a bunch of stripped studs. I replaced it with a Snap-On.

My biggest problem with Snap-On is that unless you are in the right place and there is a good dealer then you are stuck. Special orders are also a problem if you are not a regular or do not have an account. We had to beg to get one to come by our shop and after a year he retired and there was no replacement for a couple years. . . Another brand of shop to shop tools sales (Rex?) took over in our area and Snap-On never came back strong.
   - guru - Monday, 07/27/09 08:49:30 EDT

Ptree - I see now. I was misinterpreting that you had the steel shot in your anvil. Problem on my side.

Hmmm, semi truck axles perhaps... Must visit a scrapyard soon.
   - Stormcrow - Monday, 07/27/09 09:27:39 EDT

GURU, Hagemeyer is a Snap-on Vender.
   Ptree - Monday, 07/27/09 09:49:52 EDT

Grant, I think you're right. Oil it is.
   Alan-L - Monday, 07/27/09 10:01:44 EDT

Found another neato 1943 Kodachrome on that site, this one showing a railroad smith in New Mexico using a big double-frame steam hammer to forge a chunk of what looks like 8 or 9 inch round bar into a square bar.

   Alan-L - Monday, 07/27/09 10:14:35 EDT

I've seen that one several times. Great photo. Forging fun.
   - guru - Monday, 07/27/09 10:40:22 EDT

More blacksmith porn, this time from Fortune magazine.

   - Hudson - Monday, 07/27/09 12:49:35 EDT

2nd try

More Blacksmith porn, this time from Fortune Magazine

   - Hudson - Monday, 07/27/09 12:50:47 EDT

Well. . A warranty does me no good since it appears that they no longer make the same handled clutch bit drivers. Everything has gone to bits and holders. . .
   - guru - Monday, 07/27/09 12:51:30 EDT

Another thing I've heard about Snap-On (and the other similiar tool dealers) is that they finance purchases "interest free" if you have an account. Of course, what that really means is that the finance cost is built into the price, so you're paying the interest even if you pay cash.
   Mike BR - Monday, 07/27/09 17:27:28 EDT

Mike, When I was sealing with our local Snap-On guy he discounted for cash sales.. . About 10% I believe. But a lot of guys end up in debt and pay a little every week forever. . . This is due to paying a little and buying more tools as they go. . I was used to paying cash for tools and only ran some credit one time when I was in a bind. I'd had some tools stolen and had to replace them immediately.

But as a mechanic or machinist you can run up a huge debt on tools. The storage chests can easily run you several thousand (from Snap-On) before you put anything in them. Many "sets" of tools don't do the job as you often find you need two of the same wrench, more than one universal joint, three dial indicators. . .

I think my Craftsman tool chests totaled $500 back in the early 70's when I bought them on sale. I've got more than that invested in a Kennedy top chest and two riser units. I need a cabinet to get the chest off the bench and store the rest of the tools that are laying out and constantly being moved. A matching chest is some $700. They can be gotten cheaper but you get what you pay for.

Last year I bought $700 worth of shelving and I need another $700 more.

Folks often overlook old beat up greasy tool chests at sales but if the price is right (often $5 to $15) I'll buy them, clean, straighten and repaint. The labor is often worth the $75-$100 many of the better chests cost.

It is easy to look at tool costs and forget the need for benches, shelves, cabinets and tool chests. It is a surprising cost that needs to be budgeted and planned for.
   - guru - Monday, 07/27/09 20:19:32 EDT

Ive been looking at building a propane forge and have almost all things figured out except for the linings. I dont know if i should go with ITC coated inswool/kaowool, Hard brick? Softbrick? or castable refractory? I know it varies for purpose so i want to do normal work and welding. General stock size 1x1 to .125x.125 not including flat or round but not much difference.
going with a blown burner or 2 homemade.
   - Marshall - Tuesday, 07/28/09 00:00:49 EDT

I saw something interesting here today. Some of the locals use a steel pipe hammer handle. I don't recommend that for anybody but if you are doing only a tiny bit of hammering, like these guys, it is probably OK. They were installing masonry anchor bolts. The interesting point is that in the base of the tube handle they have welded the correct size socket for the nut on the anchor bolt. Tap it in, turn the hammer round and use the head as a handle to cinch up the nut.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 07/28/09 00:09:25 EDT

Marshall, You have a lot of variables and they each have their pros and cons.

1) Light weight refractories are easy to use and the end result is a light weight portable and efficient forge. They heat up quickly and and are best for short periods of use but also work well for long.

2) Hard refractories are not so easy to work with and are very dense making a very heavy forge. The weight reduces efficiency but is very durable. However, the slow heat up rate is somewhat balanced by the heat storage which makes for a more consistent heat. When you put large pieces in the forge it does not cool so much.

3) Castables are usually the cheap rout to go but make a heavy furnace that is likely to have cracking and crumbling problems. Castable refractory is not nearly as strong as fired brick. It also results in a heavy forge or furnace.

Blanket and soft refractories are most susceptible to damage from flux and scale. Hard refractories more resistant. All benefit from coating with ITC-100 and ITC-296A. Those that do heavy welding like to use refractory cement to coat the lining creating a more durable hard shell.

Gas forges are best (most efficient) for one size work. The heavier the work the bigger the forge. However, a large forge cannot be turned down a great deal for small work. So gas forges are size critical if you are concerned about fuel efficiency.

Blower burners are generally more fool proof and run hotter than venturi type.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 00:34:52 EDT

I'm a pretty thrifty (read, cheap) guy when it comes to tools. I love to find defunct ones at the dumpster and fix them up and use them. My latest, the Lincoln tombstone welder, is as good as new now that I faked the faceplate and put a little paint on it. My Three Kennedy chests were all obtained as scrap and just repainted - wrinkle brown, of course. Likewise a large Sears rollaway and top chest. The best bargain though, is the many cast-off government Steelcase office desks I reclaimed.

About fifteen or twenty of them, judiciously reassembled in new configurations, yielded two 5' tall stacks of nothing but the little 2-1/2" deep drawers, two machine tool stands with two drawers each and four kneehole drawers mounted under the welding bench. The stacks of little drawers hold all my files and punches and most of my silversmithing stakes, and all my tap and die sets. The two-drawer machine stands are just right for my mill drill and a small lathe, allowing me to keep all the tooling immediately at hand and protected. The drawers under the welding table have been a godsend for organizing my layout tools, small clamps and welding consumables. While I was salvaging those desks, I picked up four tall storage cabinets, too. All in all, a great day's scrounging. My only worry is that if a band passes playing the VI anthem, half my shop may get up and march out after it. :-)

It is astonishing to me how much stuff gets tossed in the dump that could easily be reclaimed or adapted to be useful once again. I've save3d tens of thousands of dollars by doing my "shopping" at the dumpster.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 07/28/09 00:59:06 EDT

Stormcrow- I am in the process of building a power hammer right now(well I am collecting all the parts needed right now).At my local scrapyard I found a 800 lb.railcar axle that I think will work good for the anvil base once it is cut down to size.I was hoping for something a bit thicker(this is only 8inches at the thickest but beggars can be choosers right?)It will be about 300-350lbs.when cut to proper length and I have some other solid stock to weld along side all around to add more mass to it.Also for the actual machine base I got a double 120 sprocket with a 38 inch diameter(36inch with the teeth cut off).I am hoping that the big surface will cut down the impact area on the cement floor while adding a lot of stability also. I am thinking too that if the space between the sprockets is shot full of spray insulation it should help with impact absorption also.This is going to be a air hammer with I figure a 50 to 75 pound hammer so I have 2 pieces of 6x6 heavy walled tube to sew together for the column.

Guru-Same thing with me-all Craftsman screwdriver sets starting in the early '70s and still going strong whether original or modified(quite a few modified).I always keep an eye out for them at every garage sale or auction I hit cuz the new stuff is crap.
Nice job on the anvil page-look forward to more!
   Amos Culham - Tuesday, 07/28/09 01:26:02 EDT

I'm not mechanically minded, but I have a couple of thoughts on a power hammer. Have big truck wheel cylinders on each side which would lift the hammer, having a device that would pump the master cylinder then releasing the fluid pressure at the top stroke. Maybe having a cam turned by an electric motor pumping and then releasing the fluid pressure. Actually two wheel cylinders could be placed on each side.

A hydraulic press with a big truck rack and pinion on each side, the pinion doing the lifting and then pressing. Have a motor turning the power steering pump. This is the main idea, need some of yall to refine it.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 07/28/09 05:58:08 EDT

Mike, Brakes, Even very large ones are too small with very short stroke for significant power hammer use.

A rack and pinion is what is used on an arbor press. While the gears do multiply the force a little most of the advantage is in the length of the lever. Huge arbor presses are only a few tons in force. They are nothing compared to an inertia machine like a flypress or power hammer.

While you have some great ideas that can be applied to many things in the shop like work holding or light pressing a power hammer or hydraulic press for forging are different animals. The simplest forging devices are high inertia such as power hammers. Presses can be made as well but controls are not so simple and for significant general use you need a LOT of HP.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 08:33:47 EDT

Craftsman screwdriver Sets The amazing thing about these is that for years you could find the 13 piece set on sale for just less than $20. Today they has a sale on a 26 piece set that is about $1 each. While the set has some small items of low use (key chain screw driver tool) it is still a bargain.

In recent years when many of my tools have sat unused for long periods I have noticed that I get a black moldy looking deposit on the handles of the Craftsman screw drivers. I suspect some type of plasticizers gassing off and maybe mold to boot. However, since I noticed this problem I have been washing them with dishwashing detergent instead of wiping them with WD-40. But it doesn't seem to make a difference. . . Anyone else notice this?

It does not seem to damage the handles. They may be getting more brittle but I haven't noticed. The black Snap-On handles had a slight white dusty deposit but looked like they had been exposed to a fire. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 09:13:09 EDT

Speaking of unusual handles, over at the RR Museum, the track crew has a rail bolt punch with a handle made of 3/4 in. cable, 3 feet long, saves a lot of wear and tear when the weekend warriors miss the head of the punch with the sledge hammer half the time.
   - Hudson - Tuesday, 07/28/09 09:22:57 EDT

Office Furniture. I have been using commercial office filing cabinets for tool storage. They look good, and ones about 5'tall usually go for $10-15 at garage sales [got a couple free, the best price]. But you need to use the commercial type, the homeowner models will not carry the load.
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 07/28/09 09:32:36 EDT

Well Vic, since you mention it. I do, or have done, quite alot of "reclaiming" myself.
My short list of highlites from our town dump include,
3 working air compressors of good make and size only needing minor repair.
A 10" table saw on a stand in nearly new condition.
In fact who ever threw it out had been using it and popped the thermal breaker on the side of the motor and didn't know it."Huh, the dam thing must be broken..." When I picked it up it I only wanted the brand new carbide tooth blade I didn't think the saw would actualy be any good.
Got it home, pluged it in, fliped the switch, then reset the motor breaker and fliped the switch again, WOW! I just saved my self $400.
The list also includes a very nice all steel work bench made by Lista, several push mowers in working order. The push mowers save me the most money. We have some side hills and the road ditch that eat up mowers so when I get one from the dump that works I use it untill it is junk and then take it back (after taking the blade and wheels off)
My latest big find is a bench top power hack saw, like the one that Craftsman used to sell.
I'll have to put some of it back together and it's missing part of the blade tensioner but, I have a bigger Racine saw that I can copy it from so... a good winter progect.
I have a pile of old lawn mower blades that would choak a horse and several leaf spring sets too.
Like I said, that is only some of what I have reclaimed over the years. As a matter of fact today is dump day so I'll have to see what looks good...

Screw drivers: I have acouple of the old style Snap-on and some other older US made tools with plastic handles that have the same white "mold" on them. I think it is some kind of mold that must find a host on the surface of that particular kind of plastic.
Frankly, I can't beleive I am hearing a bunch of blacksmiths complaining about the poor quality of their screw drivers.
I have several different sets of screw divers and none of them were cheap but, they all have the same failing in the handle that is not a full tang. I relise the manufacturers don't want to encourage people to missuse them as a striking tool and I don't either, that's what chisels punches and prybars are for.
I made my own set of various size flat tip drivers from coil spring stock (salvaged of corse) that have a full width tang with wood slat handles. They give great turning power and they all have a square section shank that I can slip a wrench on if needed for extra torque. The tips can be temperd to hold their shape under a heavy load, unlike any other make that simply twist or break off. Phillips heads are a little more of a challange and, I'm working on a hot work die for them this winter. Right now I grind the head in with my tool and cutter grinder.
Last year at our antique power club show I made and sold three of my screw drivers to a guy for $60. I probably should have charged more but, I've never paid that much for three common screw drivers so I couldn't bring myself to ask any more. This year will be different...
   - merl - Tuesday, 07/28/09 11:42:36 EDT

I could make very nice screw drivers with pretty walnut handles and brass ferrules. . but WHY, when Sears makes great ones for $2. They also make a good wood chisel with the same handle. The difference is the shank of the chisel has a large shoulder and the struck end has a metal cap. Both are embedded permanently in the plastic. It is a good design. Sadly they never made gouges in the same pattern. I've only had one screw Craftsman driver abused to the point where the cylindrical "tang" was driven into the handle and I didn't do it.

But I suppose there IS a market for nice hand made screw drivers. Chisels as well. Be nice in matching sets. . .

   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 12:10:28 EDT

Hi. I'm writing an article on Damascus steel. I'd like to get a perspective from anyone using the material for non-blade making purposes. Anyone out there using Damascus steel for ornamental work; architecture, hardware or art?
   bluetick - Tuesday, 07/28/09 12:23:53 EDT

Check out this site http://draperknives.info/Jewelry_Gallery.php

It's Mike & Audra Draper..Both grat knifemakers..she's the first lady Mastersmith in the ABS!! She also makes damascus Jewlery
   - arthur - Tuesday, 07/28/09 13:36:56 EDT

Yes, yes, time is money. But, money spent on high quality hand tools is time saved and money well spent when you don't need to replace them in the middle of a job.
The US millitary tried going with cheep throw a way hand tools issued to their mechanics. We used to plan on needing the tools from at least two or three tool boxes to do almost anything. The powers that be quickly learnd to supply the best to the guys that keep the equipment running and make them fully accountable for the stuff to prevent theft.
I happen to make those three screw drivers entirely by hand and not with the power hammer so I felt justified at what I got for them. I told him what they would cost befor I started and he didn't batt an eye, just stood there while I worked and was happy to have them I guess.
   - merl - Tuesday, 07/28/09 13:39:25 EDT


Years ago, Tai Goo would make chunky, pattern welded, executive paper weights.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/28/09 14:03:39 EDT


I wasn't there, but I was told that Fritz Ulrich of Aachen, Germany, came to the 1974 2nd ABANA conference in Georgia, and he had photos of his "journeyman's piece," a wooden chest that was ironed with pattern welded hardware.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/28/09 14:48:43 EDT

I have been studying the junk yard hammer. What function does the shock absorber serve ? I somehow thought a spring would help thrust the ram down. Also where does the clutch go ?
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 07/28/09 14:52:46 EDT

Laminated Steel "Damascus" Sculpture: I have reviews in progress of a series of recent Italian books and one has a couple wonderful sculptural pieces in laminated steel. One, a fish is particularly nice work. See

I Segreti Della Forgia, Secrets of the Forge, by Antonello Rizzo.

   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 15:44:05 EDT

Shock Absorber Hammer: Mike this was a proof of concept machine that proved the concept worked but was very inefficient.

In every power hammer mechanism there must be a method of changing the height at which the hammer strikes the work. You must also have a method of absorbing the upward inertia of the hammer. A shock absorber (pressurized gas cylinder) would seem to be a good way to do this. It is not.

While the height adjustment and upward shock absorbing functions are good the shock does what it is designed to do "absorb" energy. It converts the excess upward inertia into heat and does not return it at the bottom.

It also had the unforeseen effect of "floating" the ram at high speed. Imagine the crank being the wheel of a car bouncing up and down on a rail road tie demonstration and the ram being the car. . . At low speed the hammer worked OK but at high speed it stopped altogether.

The clutch in this this machine is another mechanical demonstration. It is the brake on the opposite end of the car axel. Motion is input through the drive shaft coupling and is free to turn the side with the brake on it. When the brake is applied and the that side stops moving the end with the crank moves. This is classic differential planetary gearing.

The axel as clutch worked very well but is an unwieldy thing that takes up a lot of space.

We proved a lot of things with these machines. Grant's hit harder but had no way to absorb the upstroke and thus walked all over the place in BIG jumps. We also found that things that seem heavy, like an auto engine block, are actually mostly hollow and not good anvil mass. We also proved that most of the conventional linkages have good engineering reasons behind them. There ARE other ways but the conventional methods are best.

We also proved that building a Junkyard Hammer is best done when you have a junk yard of your own or close connections with a shop or yard with a lot of heavy iron. Either that or you need to be a great scrounger with a truck.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 16:45:40 EDT

Thank you for the information Guru. My brother in law has an old combine sitting in a field. I was thinking of getting the hydraulic lifts and pump off of it to make a press, will this work OK ? Thinking of a 4 post press sort of like the drawing you posted here.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 07/28/09 17:48:37 EDT

I have really been thinking about the junk yard hammer and believe it will work good if some changes were made. Instead of the shock absorber, I was thinking of a cable. Have two pully's coupled stationary side by side, guiding the cable center to the ram, on the uplift the cable would ride on the left pully and on the down stroke ride on the right pully. Maybe have a heavy spring to give the ram extra force on the down stroke.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 07/28/09 17:59:53 EDT

More Laminated Steel AKA "Damascus" Thomas noted on the Hammer-In that Dona Meilach's classic Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork had examples of sculptural pieces in laminated steel. They are (besides knives and swords).

Cannon sculpture
Sword grip
Two Pastry Tools (with rollers)
Wedding Band
Hand Mirror

The thing about using laminated or pattern welded steel for sculpture is that it is sort of like making making sculpture from precious gems or meteoric iron. You are working with VERY expensive material and mistakes can be a disaster.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 18:08:08 EDT

Mike, The parts in the harvester might make a good press. A warning on the 4 post idea. . takes LOTS of precision. Best way to do this is to buy (or scrounge) a large commercial die set, put it into a frame with your hydraulics. The amount of precision you get in a commercial die set is amazing for the cost. They come in a variety of types.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 18:35:58 EDT

In Peter Parkinsons book "Artist Blacksmith" there is little talk of laminated steel, but on the following page there is a damascene "pebble" (as its referred to), more like mokume gane, but it is an artistic sculpture, not a knife or other type of utilitarian object.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 07/28/09 18:43:14 EDT

Someone that was featured in the Anvil's Ring several years ago was doing some door hardware, push strips? out of pattern welded steel.

There is a local jeweler who moved from Mokume Gane to pattern welded steel rings because he realized that more guys would wear a ring that was made of "knife material." He kept doing the jewelry technique of making a strip, bending it into a ring, then soldering the joint. When I showed him my ring that I had punched and drifted out of a bar of damascus he was amazed that he couldn't find the joint.
   Judson Yaggy - Tuesday, 07/28/09 20:57:49 EDT

perspective laminated steel Often just the act of laminating ONE steel produces pattern such as in cable Damascus. This is caused by the decarburization of the high carbon steel in the resulting weld joints. I have a small hammer that I suspect is from the late 1800's that is probably made of recycled material (probably old files). It has a distinct pattern. Is it "Damascus" on purpose? No. Is it laminated steel with a visible pattern? Yes.

I saw a collection once of a collector that collected nothing but tools made from recycled tool steel. Most were made from files. Some had pattern, many were broken or chipped making the file texture visible in the joint (bad practice) and some had slight file textured surfaces. The tools ranges from hammer and punches to chisels, scribes and drills.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/28/09 21:47:53 EDT

Amos - The guy whose shop I'm working in now pointed out the railyard here in San Antonio to me the other day. I saw a hammer design with a train axle for the anvil, so I will be going to investigate when I can.

If you leave the teeth on that sprocket, it will look very cool!

Turnbuckle for linkage adjustment - We have some big chain binders from my dad's heavy haul trucking days, used to tighten down chains on a load. They have thick Acme (square) threads on them, and a ratchet to loosen and tighten. I'll convert one of these to adjust my linkage. They're much beefier than typical turnbuckles, especially with the Acme threads.
   - Stormcrow - Tuesday, 07/28/09 23:45:42 EDT

Custom hand tools - Sometimes the value in a tool comes not from its actual usefulness. For instance, when I was in high school, probably about ten years ago or a little more, I made a hoe for my grandpa for a birthday gift.

It was made from scrap metal, including a light duty shredder blade I had gathered on my great-grandpa's land (he was my grandpa's father-in-law). Great-Grandpa Jim was a blacksmith and farmer, and it was his battered old Peter Wright and his post vise that I used in making the hoe.

My dad helped me weld the pieces together and clean up the welds. We put a handle that had broken from another hoe in it, which was still plenty long. We were late getting to Grandpa's birthday party because we were still working on it.

Grandpa always had a huge garden, growing vegetables and flowers. He took his vegetables in to the nursing home in town for the old folks to eat. When he had to go there himself, I eventually retrieved the hoe and a walking stick I made for him, and both are still in my possession.

I use that hoe whenever I help my mom in her garden, or when hoeing cuckleburrs out of our family's fields. This past summer, with the help of my best friend, I heated the neck with a cutting torch and adjusted the angle a bit, and it works better now. It's heavier than our other hoes, but not uncomfortable to me and I have spent solid hours hoeing without being bothered by its weight.

That one tool is a link between four generations of my family: my great-grandpa, my grandpa, my dad, and myself. I'm the only one still alive in that connection, and I think of them every time I use that hoe. It will outlast me.
   - Stormcrow - Tuesday, 07/28/09 23:57:54 EDT

More tooling and family - Another tool connecting three generations of my family is Great-Grandpa Jim's old sledgehammer. It's about 10 pounds. Daddy said that Great-Grandpa Jim used it for splitting firewood with wedges, not forging. When my dad was young, someone had stuck a pipe handle in the sledgehammer head, and it was ugly and bent out of shape. He knocked out the pipe handle, cleaned and painted the head, and put a good wooden handle on it. That was his Christmas present that year for his grandpa.

Well, many years later, when we got a few of Great-Grandpa Jim's other tools, we got that sledgehammer too. Once again, someone had put a crappy pipe handle in it, and it was ugly, bent out of shape, and too small to comfortably hold. Many years later from that, when I was in high school and getting interested in blacksmithing, Daddy told me the story of that hammer. So for that Chrsitmas, I knocked out the pipe handle, cleaned up and painted the head, and put a good hickory handle in it. I put a bow on it, and that was Daddy's present. He was tickled pink, as he'd say.

So there's another tool linking three generations of my family. More value to it than can be expressed by a dollar amount.
   - Stormcrow - Wednesday, 07/29/09 00:06:02 EDT

Well, actually the spring did absorb the upward stroke but still transmitted it to the light weight frame. I just happened to come across video of that hammer recently and posted it on youtube:


Probably would have worked better if bolted down good.
   - grant - Wednesday, 07/29/09 01:02:13 EDT

My favorite thing about the design was avoiding the necessity of building hammer guides.
   - grant - Wednesday, 07/29/09 01:05:58 EDT

Judson, I like the sound of your Damascus ring. What were the materials used in the build up?
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/29/09 01:24:27 EDT

Stormcrow- I have already cut off one set of the sprocket teeth and will be doing the others as soon as I get more acetylene. I have enough stuff to stub my toes on and trip over already,but yeah it would look cool.I would be interested in having a gander at that hammer design-always in the market for new or better ideas.
   Amos Culham - Wednesday, 07/29/09 01:47:56 EDT

Hi. I am planning to restore a napoleonic french forge, complete with bellows. I think it was a side draft forge and that the fuel used was charcoal. There are stone flags on the base with gaps between them and a cavity below for the ash to fall. My question is what was placed on the stones to prevent them cracking in the heat? My research so far seems to point to rocks covered with an ash bed? Is this correct. Thank you for your help.
   John - Wednesday, 07/29/09 05:04:15 EDT


I've used sand and ash or even dirt/clay and ash, to good effect. The only problem with a thick bed of pure wood ash is that it's a little "flighty" and tends to blow away if the bellows get too enthusiastic or you get a cross breeze.

I take that this is a fixed (as opposed to portable- when I hear napoleonic, I think military) forge? Some pictures or further descriptions would be useful. Please tell us more, it sounds like a fascinating project.

Fixin' to rain (100% chance) on the banks of the Potomac. Good, we need it!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 07/29/09 07:51:38 EDT

I met a guy who made wedding bands out of old Damascus shotgun barrels..
   - arthur - Wednesday, 07/29/09 08:41:47 EDT

Grant, I checked out your Youtube stuff. Pretty dam COOL!!
I think you have too much fun at work, don't you...
In that video didn't you end up having to put hammer guides of some kind on it?
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/29/09 10:26:52 EDT

Thank Meri. Well, Yeah sorta. We just welded two angle irons from the frame upward to keep the beam centered a little better.
   - grant - Wednesday, 07/29/09 10:35:04 EDT

Mike from your postings I seem to get the feeling that you think that a mechanical powerhammer usually works by having gravity pull the head down. This is not the case! In most powerhammers, the head is thrown down much faster and harder than gravity could do it. Some will hit at over 200 beats per minute.

Old tilt hammers or schwanze hammers are gravity based but tend to have quite heavy heads to get maximum work out of the system. Very few people use them today save for "historical" reasons. Even back centuries ago they were fairly limited in use compared to having, say, half a dozen folks swinging 12 pound sledges.

Pattern Welding is a material expensive in *time* and so it tends to get used for items which will sell for enough to pay for that expense. It is an odd human quirk that folks will pay several times as much for a knife as they would for a chisel even if the same amount of time was spent on both of them.

However there are some smiths out there who have an odd sense of humour and will sometimes use pattern welded material for none-blade items often to "twit" folks who are making outrageous claims about it. For Example: Billy Merrit (sp?) has made a pattern welded railroad spike.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 07/29/09 10:50:45 EDT


Thanks for your advise on getting my anvil into working condition.

after 6 months of reading and studying blacksmithing, safety and collecting metal i feel i'm finally ready to hammer on my first piece of hot metal, but i still need to build a forge. I was thinking of building a gas mini forge since i will start making a few nails to secure my anvil to the wooden base and a few basic tools (thongs, punches, hot cutters, etc.).

my question is: can i use fired clay instead of the kaowool?
will this work? a long service life is not a necessity since i would be able to make these as disposable forges, i only want to know if i would be able to finish the projects listed above with this kind of forge.

the reason i ask this is because i'm really short on money and cant' afford to build another kind of forge right now. however i will build a better forge as soon as i can afford it.

again, thanks to Guru and all the people on avnilfire for sharing your knowledge so openly.
   Larzid - Wednesday, 07/29/09 11:51:07 EDT

Hey Jock: I found the original conversations on our junkyard hammers:


Sure cool reading that old stuff!
   - grant - Wednesday, 07/29/09 11:54:33 EDT

MINI Forge: Larzid, The clay will be too big a heat sink and not good enough insulation for a small torch to fire. You will also find that tongs (or a thong if you wear em') will take a larger forge.

The cheapest forge to build is a small charcoal forge using a small blower. One similar to a blow hair drier will work. See our plans page for a brake drum forge.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/29/09 13:04:33 EDT

Gotta remember: Everything you ever wrote on the web is probably archived on a server somewhere. But sometimes it's sure cool to be able to look something up.I knew the junkyard was archived somewhere. Fun to read Jock and I bantering back and forth, what we call "the good ol days". Funny, seems like yesterday.
   - grant - Wednesday, 07/29/09 13:49:51 EDT

Cheap forge: hole in the ground with a pipe to the bottom of it hooked to a blowdrier; charcoal as fuel.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 07/29/09 15:15:49 EDT

IT was 12 years ago. . Time does fly.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/29/09 15:47:10 EDT

Interesting reading in the the old Keenjunk archives.
   Brian C - Wednesday, 07/29/09 16:24:39 EDT

Merl- Old bandsaw blade (perhaps L series steel) and mild steel, with fine silver cast to the inside so you can see 3 different materials. Left it dead soft so if the EMTs ever have to cut it off they can.
   Judson Yaggy - Wednesday, 07/29/09 17:10:30 EDT

How are you keepeing your laminated sttel rings from rusting on your finger?

I had to make a replacement wedding band [long dumb story] rather than buy another titanium band. I tried a pattern welded chunk, drifted, and went through several iterations of a finish, each corroding within days. Oil, wax, clear lacquer... none lasted a week.

I went to stainless instead. Looks like the old Ti ring, but doesn't scratch as badly. Still, I with I'd gotten the steel one to stay clean.
   Mike/Marco - Wednesday, 07/29/09 23:44:49 EDT

Thomas P.

Yes, I had the idea that gravity pulled the hammer down on a power hammer, that is why I thought a 25 lb. hammer didn't seem like much. Glad you corrected me.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/30/09 01:09:43 EDT

Hammer Dynamics Mike, It depends on your needs. 25 pounds is a huge sledge hammer, but a small power hammer (when talking about blacksmithing). Smaller hammers of 5, 10 and 15 pounds are used to work sheet metal.

A 25 pound power hammer does not hit as hard as a man wielding a 3 to 4 pound hammer. But the machine does so tirelessly many times faster. While the machine DOES accelerate the hammer faster than gravity alone it is limited by the need for a return stroke AND stopping the hammer at the top of the stroke. Length of the stroke, making the machine a reasonable size is also a limiting factor.

To get usable work out of a small power hammer it must run very fast. The faster the hammer runs the less control the user has for doing fine work. A 25 pound hammer running full speed will draw out or texture bar up to 1" max quite well but is difficult to impossible to use for hand held tooling work. Meanwhile a 100 pound hammer that runs slower is quite controllable and can be used with hand tooling striking about like a short stroke hand hammer but also doing significant forging at higher speeds.

For creative hand held forging a power hammer in the range of 75 to 150 pounds has proven to be optimum. Air hammers need to be on the high side with mechanical hammers smaller.

There is an optimum size tool for every job but most of us cannot afford or need every size. So we use a tool that suits a wide range of work or has adjustable ranges.

Besides power hammers there are other shop tools for forging. A treadle hammer with a 75 to 100 pound head strikes about like a man wielding a 10 pound sledge. These are very good single blow machines that let you hold the work and a top tool. The slow heavy blows will let you do work that would ordinarily require a helper. However, they are slow AND human powered. Being human powered is the primary limitation and being slow the next. But if you have heavy punching to do (holes or designs) the treadle hammer works very well. Flypresses are similar to a treadle hammer in some regards but different in others. Tooling is usually attached to the flypress thus it is guided much better. This has the benefit of precision but tooling can not be instantly changed like hand held. So the flypress and treadle serve different purposes even though they can do nearly the same work.

It all depends on what you need or what your goals are.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/30/09 05:24:41 EDT

Thanks for the advice Bruce - I would love to share the project with interested people (and pick their brains when I get stuck!!). I'm new to this forum - can I upload pictures here? I intend to upload them to www.flickr.com soon – pls search for the tag La Poumeroulie.
The permanent forge was built for the Napoleonic wars to make weaponry. Indeed, we have found an old flintlock pistol in our adjacent barn (hidden on an oak beam). It was one of a number of forges (about 5 or 6 I think) in a small Limousin village, La Poumeroulie which is near Oradour sur Vayres. I think that there is only one other forge now still existing in the village. We believe that it was working up to 50 / 60 years ago. We have two sets of large bellows, one in good working order; the other the leather has rotted away, although the wooden frame etc seems ok. The forge roof has leaked for many years till we repaired it last November. The chimney stack was badly cracked and ready to collapse. We were amazed it didn’t collapse when we removed the roof. We eventually took it down brick by brick! It is made from special tiles that seem popular here in the Limousin – you regularly see them in domestic chimney stacks – but are difficult to replace today.
Since first posting on this forum we have cleaned out the fire pit more fully - it looks as if they might have used lime cement as a base - we think ash would have sat on top as there was no evidence of fire bricks on the base (which there were on the sides). We are now wondering whether the cavity below the fire pit was to collect ash or whether it was sealed off and used as a charcoal store? As I mentioned previously, the base stones slabs of the fire pit are positioned to leave gaps between them (like a dog grate). Also, there is a diagonal cut out at the back of the last stone slab in the fire pit – unsure whether it is broken or if it was to allow the ash to be more easily pushed into the cavity below. Did such furnaces need to draft up through the lime bed? And was excess ash dropped into the cavity below? Any thoughts would be very welcome. Regards, John
   John - Thursday, 07/30/09 06:05:17 EDT

Thanks for the information Guru. Another question....I assume the hammer is adjusted so when the hammer hits even
with the bottom die, it then starts its upward travel. If metal is placed between the hammer and the bottom die, what keeps the hammer from seizing up, since it is prevented from completing its downward cycle ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/30/09 08:19:36 EDT

Mike, That is one point of the linkage between the crank and the ram, to compensate for stock thickness changes as forging progresses. The linkage also produces a longer stroke than the crank (3 or 4 to one).

Normally there is a gap between the dies at rest which should be adjusted to about the stock thickness or a little greater. The increased travel while running should almost immediately close the gap. As the hammer runs faster the ram tries to travel even farther but it cannot, thus hitting harder.

In a mechanical hammer this extra travel comes from the compression or bending of springs. As the ram is lifted the springs compress due to lifting force, then they compress or bend the opposite direction when they stop the upward motion of the ram. The energy caught at the top is given back as the ram travels downward.

In a DuPont linkage like in a Little Giant or the Tire hammers the spring is compressed with varying leverage due to the toggle arrangement. At the center position (toggles in line) the leverage compressing the spring is infinite and thus there is free motion with little resistance at the middle of the travel. Since the dies and work stop the downward travel they are in the range of free motion where the hammer can hit the hardest. If the mechanism is adjusted too high then the springs would compress too much before striking the work thus absorbing energy.

As the spring compresses the angle of the toggles increase and thus the force to compress the springs (or the force applied by the springs) becomes greater. Since there is room at the top of the travel for more compression this decreased leverage helps stop the upward travel of the ram at high speed and send it on its way downward even faster.

The decreasing leverage against the spring at the top and free motion at the center of travel and while striking is something Dupont linkage has that spring helves (like the "Rusties") do not have. This gives them more power and a greater range of application. AND while they do require the proper balance against the spring to prevent timing issues so do the spring helves. The spring helve also has a narrow operating speed.

Both hammers have a limited top speed based on spring stiffness. The faster the hammer the stiffer the spring that is needed. However, in the Dupont linkage the change in leverage lets the spring be more effective at high speeds.

Note that the bow spring, coil spring and rubber snubber (Bradley) type hammers all have the Dupont effect.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/30/09 09:17:13 EDT

http://www.anvilfire.com/bookrev/manzer/manzer.htm I would recommend anyone thinking about building a PH get this video. There is a stop action section that shows how the dupont linkage stores and releases energy that is very informative.
   JimG - Thursday, 07/30/09 09:18:24 EDT

I would kindly disagree with the GURU about the spring helve having a narrow operating range. I find that at least my spring helve has at least as wide a range as the several dupont style hammers I have operated. The spring helves do not have either the advantage or the mechanical complication of the dupont mechanism. The long somewhat limber spring does take a S shape when operating and delivers a slap at the bottom of stroke.
I would compare my 45# favorably against the several 25# LG's and the couple of 50# lg's. The tire clutch is much easier to control than the LG's. I like then somewhat slower speed of my hammer as I find it delivers good control, and hard blows.
   Ptree - Thursday, 07/30/09 09:37:47 EDT

Early French Forge Construction: John, it is difficult to say exactly what was going on in an early French forge. Different areas of the world have different preferences and traditional types.

Generally charcoal forges did not have an "ash dump". This is thought to be a modern invention related to bottom blown coal forges where clinker build up would choke the fire. In side blow charcoal forges any ash in the path of the blast is easily blow aside. End of day (or morning after) cleaning would remove ash that did not blow out. Remember that real wood charcoal does not leave much ash compared to wood or briquettes which are made mostly of sawdust.

In side blown British forges (used with coal) there is no ash dump.

Clay was used a great deal for forge lining and to protect the construction material which could be soil with organic material or stone and cement. A soft clay lining was regularly in need of repair. In an old forge that was poorly maintained the clay may have disappeared.

In a fired brick forge a clay lining was not needed. Neither are refractory fire bricks. Generally refractory bricks are a modern invention that would not be found in early forges but MAY have been used in a repair or later resizing of the fire box.

NOTE: We currently do not let the public post images to our forums. New forums are on the way that will. However, you may post the URL without HTML to images posted elsewhere.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/30/09 09:50:21 EDT


The answers concerning the power hammer have gotten me on the right track and I hope they have helped others as well. The concept of the whole thing has been opened up for me. JimG thanks for the web site on the Dupont linkage.

Thank you very much
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/30/09 10:10:31 EDT

Guru, many thanks for your comments - we thought the debris taken from the fire pit base might have been lime mortar - but it may well have been mixed with earth too - the stone walls are infilled with earth / rubble. it is very crumbly but given its age it's hard to tell exactly what it's made up from. we will experiment before deciding what to line the fire pit with. At least we now know that the bottom cavity wasn't for ash, thank you. I have posted some photos on Flickr - anyone interested please visit http://www.flickr.com/groups/1161907@N20/ (or just search la poumeroulie from the flickr homepage). All comments / advice will be greatly received :) regards, John
   John - Thursday, 07/30/09 10:24:07 EDT


You are fortunate to work with a forge that old. I have given some thought to the way an antique side blast works. In our Southwestern Spanish forges, judging from a drawing done in the 1850's, the forge was of stone work or adobe bricks, the hearth being maybe 30 inches square. The tuyere nose(s) came through a fire wall at the edge of the hearth, which was a "small plinth" maybe one foot tall. We assume the air entry was one to two inches above the hearth. The fire was built directly on top of the hearth. All cleanout would've been done from the top...no ash dump. There was no chimney.

Sometimes, we hear the term "duck's nest" used to describe the fireplace proper. This could have meant a shallow depression where the fire was placed. Hawley, in his book "The Blacksmith and his Art" talks about his sideblast forge having a deeper fireplace depression or cavity that he filled with wet wood ashes. He could therefore scoop out a small "duck's nest" for light work or a deeper one for heavier work. Again, there was no ash dump at the bottom.

Many of the present day British forges have a water cooled tuyere, but in the early 1800's, as the guru suggests, clay may have been used to protect the nose of the tuyere. A diagram and description of the control of a sideblast fire is shown in the British book, "The Blacksmith's Craft."
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 07/30/09 10:27:45 EDT

Dear John:

It looks like it came straight out of Diderot's Encyclopedia!

The chamber under the bed puzzles me. My best guess is that it was a bin for charcoal. The advatages would be that it was handy, yet out of the way, and if a stray spark, somehow, ignited it, it was contained and would not spread. Also the water trough (amazing piece of work, that) is right there, so a quick sprinkle would douse it.

On the other claw; I don't think it would hold more than a couple of hour's worth of charcoal. You go through the charcoal at a tremendous rate with a forge of that size.

Now, my alternative possibility (partly due to working with bottom blast forges) is that it's a stash for hot, unfinshed pieces- when I have a piece of work I need to set aside, I stash it under the forge in the ashes dumped from the bottom-blast tuyere. It cools down slowly and is (mostly, unless it's very long) out of the way.

So, in your rebuild, did you examine the debris and residues in the lower chamber? If they consited of lots of charcoal, I'd go with option 1, and if they consisted primaruily of iron scale, then option 2 is a good bet.

Option three is that sometimes arches and voids are constructed to save weight or building material, but that doesn't seem applicable here.

Great pictures, thank you for sharing them with us. Also, if the pistol is a military model, you may be able to date it very accurately.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 07/30/09 11:30:21 EDT

John, that pistol is almost certainly a French Marine pistol, model of 1786. The missing front barrel band inlet is a little different, but these things were not really standardized. The 1786 pattern would have been produced at either the Tulle or Ste. Etienne arsenals until the revolution.

For a picture of an original in slightly better shape than yours, look at http://www.therifleshoppe.com/(869).htm for an example. As an aside, you can also order the missing parts from that website if you want to restore it. Just be aware that company makes molds off the original parts and then investment casts them, with the resulting shrinkage factor not taken into account, so they'll be a little smaller that the original parts.

Really cool find! Wonder how long it was up there, how it got up there, and where the rest of it ended up? Then again I AM an archaeologist, so that sort of thinking is an occupational hazard... (big grin!)
   Alan-L - Thursday, 07/30/09 12:17:54 EDT

Ptree, how high does the spring go while at full speed? I'm toying (again) with making a mechanical hammer and have a height limit of about 7'-6".
   - Marc - Thursday, 07/30/09 12:31:02 EDT

thank you for your help guru and Thomas.

here we actually use setups very similar to guru's first forge sans air blower for small BBQ grills, i guess i'll borrow the one my brother has and just fit the blower.

about the hole in the ground, it's a great idea, but i guess that would force me to work sitting.

i'll have to learn fire management since the only thing i have used charcoal for is grilling. any literature suggestions for that?

for the charcoal i think i'll use mezquite charcoal, since it's mass produced here in my hometown and very cheap. if any one is interested in a truck load just e-mail me and i'll put you in contact with the producers (in Mexico).
   Larzid - Thursday, 07/30/09 12:43:45 EDT

Larzid; try to get charcoal that is completely charred much of the mesquite charcoal I have seen often has pockets of uncharred resinous material that increases spark production during use immensely. This partial charring is due to it being made for cooking where they want to have some mesquite flavour left

Thomas in New Mexico
   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/30/09 13:33:52 EDT

thomas, actually i have never seen partial charring on the charcoal i get, and i have split lumps of charcoal of up to 4 inch diameter. this is not the bagged mezquite you buy for the weekend BBQ. this charcoal if fired for long periods of time by experienced colliers.
   Larzid - Thursday, 07/30/09 13:54:34 EDT

PS: fi we want mezquite flavour we mix some wood with the charcoal.
   Larzid - Thursday, 07/30/09 14:07:57 EDT

Mike T: My favorite visualization for power hammer linkage is to imagine stretching a rubber band with both hands. Now put a small weight in the middle. If you move your hands up and down slowly, the weight pretty much follows your movement. As you start to go faster the weight lags behind but also travels further than your hands. You can actually reach a point where the weight is going up when your hands are going down and vise-versa. A hammer does the same thing to a smaller degree, the crank is usually leading and the ram is lagging. Varying the tension on the rubberband or the speed demonstrates, in a simple way, how a hammer needs to be tuned to run properly.
   - grant - Thursday, 07/30/09 15:40:49 EDT

Hammer Designs: Grant's rubber band illustration is very good. In fact we have drawn up "rubber band" power hammers.

In my design the ram has two vertical arms like antelope antlers with loops at the end, the rubber band stretched between them and the link to the crank is connected at the center of the "rubber band". The reason the arms are on the ram is to put the weight there rather than on the crank where all it does it create out of balance and large flailing parts. Adding weight to the ram is good, to the crank arm assembly is bad.

In this case the rubber band acts like spring AND toggle arm. Very few parts. In fact, a bow spring hammer like a Champion, the South Africa JYH or the Costa Rica JYH has less parts than other Dupont linkages making the "complexity" and "extra parts" a non-issue between them and a spring helve hammer.

The problem with the rubber band hammer is you need bands that can produce about 9x the ram weight AND heat is a significant problem. I suspect the bands need to be nylon strap.

After deciding the R&D was too big factor in building rubber band hammers I realized that the arms would be the springs with short toggle links between them. This gets rid of the extra mass on the crank and uses simple leaf springs.

What adds complexity to good mechanical hammers is that to get the most out of them you need both work height and stroke adjustments. Spring tension is yet another adjustment. We have all three on the hammers we are building using the above plan. Should have had them finished last summer but staying glued to a desk is not conducive to getting work done in the shop.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/30/09 17:32:06 EDT

Guru and Grant,
Thank you for the information. I have just thought of something...OK hook a battery cable to the top die and then one to the bottom die, then hook one lead of a timing light to the top die and one to the bottom die, somehow it should be possible to get the correct timing down or optimize the setting.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/30/09 19:13:36 EDT

Mike: I like your enthusiasm and energy, but I think you should maybe see and run a hammer. Timing light: Things change when you got a hot piece of steel in there, or a colder piece or a taller piece or a tool, or a, or a,.............
   - grant - Thursday, 07/30/09 19:53:26 EDT

Timing light? Do they still make those things?
   - grant - Thursday, 07/30/09 19:54:40 EDT

Mike, Dave Manzer, Author of the Dave Manzer Little Giant Videos used a timing light connected to a pressure pad so that it would flash when the hammer struck. Then he made adjustments and ran the machine again. He also did slow motion photography of the workings. It is THE source of knowledge about how these things work. See our book review page and store.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/30/09 20:26:33 EDT

I thought that he had just used a strobe light for that. Well, there ya go.
   - grant - Thursday, 07/30/09 22:18:56 EDT

Actualy Grant, the strobe lite is the better idea. We have an indusrial variable speed timing strobe at work.
We use it to create stop action on our multipul incert face mills and the like.
When we need to have ultra low um finishes on a part surface we "shine" the strobe lite on it and adjust the flash rate to match the actuale rpm of the cutter while in the cut.
By making slight adjustments to the flash rate we can observe the cutting action of each of the different flutes or incerts and see wich one is draging or taking a deeper cut than the others. We then make the needed adjustments to the incert or pocket and are able to obtain as low as a 4 um finish with a face mill in alluminum or steel when using a "wiper" incert and matching rpm and feed.
The adjustable timing/stop action was also something we used to check the function of various gunnery when I was in the service.
Ever wonder what an actual 120mm HE round looks like coming out of the gun barrel??
Anyway, to let the cat out of the bag and join the fray. I have completed a power hammer of my own design that uses a form of the Dupont linkage but, is closer to the action of a bow spring hammer.
I'm still getting things dialed in and doing some fine tuning but, it is working and I have made most of a table knife with it.
Had to set it aside for the week to go on a blacksmithing vacation retreat so, I won't get back to it untill next week sometime.
BTW I've been reading the banter about the original "JYH Challenge" pretty good stuff, everybody loved the "Young blacksmith from Kent..." limerich at the club smithy. Of corse I gave credit were credit was due...
One thing that does come to mind when talking about using "rubber bands" for the toggle linkage. Does anyone know were to get the kind of rubber bands that are used on the "Solo-flex" home work out gym?
I remember the adds claiming they were good for hundreds of thousands of cycles.
If one made some kind of sheilding to keep the hot scale off them, they might be the thing to try on a power hammer.
   - merl - Friday, 07/31/09 00:27:42 EDT

Meri: Yeah, a timing light is a form of a strobe lite, but just for the one position. A strobe allows you to study motion forward and backward and stop. That's what I'd use.
   - grant - Friday, 07/31/09 00:59:41 EDT

Frank / Bruce / Alan, many thanks for your comments.
When we cleaned out the bottom cavity there was no sign of metal - just blackened soil (the same as the whole floor - about 5m x 8m). As the roof had leaked for many years the whole area was sodden wet. There was no specific evidence of solid charcoal debris in the cavity so maybe, Bruce, your hot iron theory might be correct. The bottom cavity is still untouched so I will have another dig in the floor to see what I can find. At the back of the fire pit there is an inlet into the rear wall which we thought might be to place long pieces of metal whilst they cooled or waited to be placed in the fire (it is at the same level as the front of the hearth and offset to the left hand side so would be out of the fire). The right hand wall was actually built on top of the water trough – it’s really heavy so a good foundation! Large bottom stones bridged the trough so as not to reduce the water space. Glad you enjoyed the pictures, Bruce. I will post more as we progress the work.
Fantastic to see an image of the original pistol and to have it dated / sourced. Many thanks. Hadn't really thought about restoring it. Well, maybe a later project. As to its history, Alan, I'm afraid I have no idea but I share your wonderment. Indeed, as I was taking the forge chimney down, I wondered who put the brick up I was holding and what was going on in his life? Also, found the old forge door key when I dug out the door well. Mind you, the current key is of the old, large style. Amazing how they lost a key of that size in the first place.
Frank, just bought the Blacksmith's Craft, will have a look at it when it arrives. Our fire pit seems a little smaller than your Spanish ones. It's circular 24" square.
   John - Friday, 07/31/09 02:40:23 EDT

Ok...Let's say the top die is touching the bottom die,and the wheel and linkage are at 90 degrees in the up position. This would be TDC ( top dead center ). To hit one inch above TDC, the hammer could be screwed up one inch on the ram, sort of like turning the distributor on an old car. If you wanted to know the actual travel, making allowance for springing action, place something like a sheet of soft lead between the dies, after the lead is beaten down, measure the thickness with a micrometer, and adjust accordingly. Just some thoughts.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/31/09 07:01:02 EDT

Hello all, I need some ideas and help I recently lost my $9. an hour job making pizza.. and now have to rely on my self to make a living. I'm a novice blacksmith.. I can make really good knives and a few other odds and ends spoons, forks, triangles, candle holders, some farm tools, hot plate holders, and other decorative looking things that did well a few years back.. but I havnt forged since. I'm in kentucky and did a bit of research on smithing and there aren't a whole lot of blacksmiths in this state that forge for more than just hobby. If I went to berea ky I'd be the only blacksmith there at the school but I'm not good enough yet. Basically I need to start small and I hit a wall. Any Ideas on things I can forge with speed and ease that I can sell for a good price while I get my skill back up, those dinner triangles are quick and easy but everywhere you turn you see them here. Any help at all would be appreciated. Aaron
   Aaron - Friday, 07/31/09 12:43:17 EDT

Business: Aaron, Step one is to make samples, step two is to see who will carry them for you. Preferably you want places that have enough faith in your product to BUY it from you. Many places will want to do consignment. Generally this is a bad deal for the crafts person unless the shop is well organized and does a good job of keeping track of your work. Otherwise YOU have to go check on them every month and take inventory. You should also have a contract with them that makes them responsible for loss by theft and fire.

In general hand forged items are high end crafts that sell for a lot more than you or your acquaintances would pay. They need to be in fancy galleries in Cincinnati, Lousiville, Lexington. OR possible the crafts shops in Berea (but I think those are filled by students).

Trendy garden shops will carry small items like hooks that can sell for up to $15 or $20 if they are fancy things with leaves and as little as $5 for a very plain J hook. We hang our humming bird feeders on leaf end hooks. . They may also carry larger items like trellises or pot stands.

Wine and Horse country are both sources for work. Wineries spend a lot on wrought wine racks with grape leaves and tack shops are big on things made with well forged horse heads (anything from key fobs to fire tool sets).

While making hooks can get boring it is good practice. If you can make 5 simple ones and hour you have replaced your $9/hr job. But the goal is to make much more. A smith working out of a commercial shop needs to produce a minimum of $100/hr and from a home shop $25 to $50/hr. Remember, over HALF your time will go to selling, collecting and general schleping.

Also remember that this is ART. If you have no art it will not sell for what you need.
   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 13:20:34 EDT

This is just my thoughts on the subject. Po' folks do not provide much of a marketing opportunity. Rich folks will leave the hustle and bustle of places like New York and move to quieter scenic places ie- mountain area of western N.C. ( where I was at for awhile ). Now rich folks usually have everything they need ,but there is one thing they really want and look for and that is quality home made, home crafted, rustic, perhaps antique looking things. I remember 10-15 years ago, home made, patched quilts were selling for $350.00 in areas of Arkansas. These are items you cannot buy in stores, not everyone has the skill to make them, and they add a beautiful country or pioneer look to the home. One thing you might make are metal windmills, I saw some at Tractor Supply and have been intending to get one. Couple of rings, with the blades fitted on them, vane at the back, pivot to turn in the wind, and the rest goes up like the Eiffel Tower with thin angle iron.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/31/09 13:24:46 EDT

More Business. . When you talk to shop owners you need a clear idea of prices for your work. Most retail businesses need to make 100% or more over the cost of the product. So if you sell a hook for $2.50 they need to sell it for $5 or more. Consignment shops take less but that is because they did not pay for the inventory. 30 to 40% is typical. So be clear about the difference between LIST and wholesale.

The class of the shop often makes a difference on their markup. Trendy expensive shops in high rent districts have higher markups than road side craft shops. Generally the higher class the shop the more YOU can ask. Note however, that you need to be fair to your customers and not sell at different prices in the same market and NEVER sell direct in the market served by one of your retailers. What MAY have been a good deal for you can turn sour in an instant.

Another outlet is high end furniture stores and some art galleries. These often sell hand made chairs, tables and beds. These can be high dollar items and you do not have to be concerned about building codes and installation like architecture work. These kinds of places are generally big city. That means reaching out to Chicago, Memphis, St.Louis. . .

Not that work for shops is best PAINTED. It should have a clean dry finish (no sticky wax or oil) and be properly deburred including rounding points. Colored finishes and metalic antique finishes greatly increase the appeal of hand work. Remember that the FINISH may be more than 50% of the job. The piece is not finished until it is finished. . .

If you are looking for small items to make there are dozens on our iForge page. Also note that if you are seeing dinner bells in shops SOMEONE is making them. You may be surprised at how many smiths there are in Kentucky.

   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 13:59:26 EDT

Check with any log home builders to see if you can get commissions from them; *BUT* you have to be able to do the work ON TIME if you ever want to sett them another piece!

   Thomas P - Friday, 07/31/09 14:03:02 EDT

$350 Quilts: If you count the hours in these they are being made for $1/hour or less. AND if you find the same quilt in a big city crafts gallery it will be selling for $1500 to $2000. . . Which is actually what the makers should have gotten. . . . AND yes you can purchase fairly decent hand made (from China) quilts in chain decorator shops.
   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 14:05:33 EDT

Mike T: You really need to see a hammer in action, you're not understanding how they work. What you're describing is sorta like how you would adjust a press. Blacksmiths work in two and often three dimensions. It's not unusual to be forging a part 1/2 X 2 inches and you forge the 1/2 inch dimension, and without stopping, flip it to the 2" dimension and back again.
   - grant - Friday, 07/31/09 14:15:12 EDT

Junkyard Steel Question:

One of my friends on the west coast posted the following to me:

"(A friend) and I were talking about blacksmithing:

I picked up this brake part ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/50905120@N00/3762926427/
) and it looked to me like a mezzaluna/ulu:


My question is this: does a car brake part that has been lying around and getting run over for ages and ages and ages have "things" on it such as asbestos or toxic polymers that would keep us from using it in the kitchen. As I've never made a knife (any knife) I thought I would ask."

My reply:

"If there are no fibrous portions (or anything nonmetalic) adhering to it, you should be okay. Of more import is what sort of steel it consists of, and is it suitable as a chopper, or is it instantly dull and constantly needs resharpening? If it is hardenable, does it take some exotic heat treatment (due to exotic alloys) to properly harden and temper it? It might be simple carbon steel, or a nice spring alloy like 5160, but I can't tell from here, and it's hard to run a cross-country spark test to get an idea of what you’re dealing with.

I've picked up a number of these, but never got around to forging any of them, and when I moved the forge and scrap pile… who knows where they ended up.

If you don't mind, I will run a post of this to Anvilfire, where a lot of folks are more skilled in identifying scrapyard steels."

He didn't mind; and I figure that folks here would have at least a clue about the suitability of the brake pad base for knifelike purposes.

Heavy rains preparing to decend upon us on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 07/31/09 14:33:42 EDT

On Time: This is true of all contractors. You can just about name any price you want if you have a proven track record of delivering architectural work (or any other large work) on time.

A smith I met that does nothing but very expensive commissions said that the secret to his success was ALWAYS delivering on time. He noted that the rich who can afford this kind of work travel in VERY small circles. Your reputation with them travels fast. If you screw up a job for one rich client then most of your possible future clients may know.

How do you avoid late deliverys?

1) NEVER give a delivery date that you know is too tight even if the client says they must have it earlier.

2) NEVER underbid. Being short on cash is the main reason many smiths cannot complete a job on time. NEVER try to "buy in". Under pricing your work only gives you a reputation for doing work for less than its worth. Folks will not pay you more.

3) NEVER wait until its too late to get help. If you see right away that you need a helper then get one. Any help is better than no help when you need it as long as you do not pay too much.

4) NEVER plan on setting up old used equipment to complete a job. If the job requires a power hammer then there is a good chance it will pay for a new one that is ready to run within an hour or so of delivery. That old machine will always have a "gotcha" that you did not expect.

5) ALWAYS sub out cutting of large quantities such as flame cut leaves. Laser or waterjet cutting is cheap and nearly burr free.

LAST) Remember that 50% rule. A self employed person is only 50% productive. If you estimated the job will take 40 hours then it will take two weeks. Working longer hours does not help when many involve dealing with suppliers, picking up material, talking to clients and other things that can only be done during business hours.
   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 14:38:03 EDT

I know you are right, and on the Costa Rican press I noticed the hammer blow adjustment was a slot cut in the wheel.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/31/09 14:40:36 EDT

Mezzaluna This is the backing plate for a disk brake pad. They are common mild steel. The one in the photo still has some fill in one of the media binding holes.

Material stuck to this COULD have asbestos on it as 100's of millions of brake pads were made with asbestos. Modern pads do not but they DO have synthetic refractory fibers and metal powders in the compound. This material is glued on with some sort of super industrial resin. I would not cook with it.

Burning a small amount of this material off in the forge would be harmless. These things are an intriguing shape but are not good for anything other than some type of sculptural unit. They make good parts to make a long spinal column or some-such if you have 100's of them.

Finding them along the road is a little scary since the vehicle they came off had NO brakes on that side. . .
   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 15:16:15 EDT

Power Hammer Adjustments:

1) Stroke (on the crank). Controls how hard the hammer hits. A short stroke is light and can be run fast. A long stroke is heavy and needs to run slow. Little Giants do not have a stroke adjustment but most commercial hammers such as Fairbanks, Bradley and Beaudry did. Some use a T-slot. We are using a series of holes.

2) Work height (in the linkage usually on the connecting rod). Mechanical hammers have a limited useful stroke and must be adjusted so that the ram is clear of the largest work when at rest. Not doing so can damage the machine. When changing the stroke (#1) the work height may also need to be corrected.

3) Spring tension (Dupont). The proper adjustment is when the toggles make nearly a straight line. I true straight line is physically impossible due to straight line vectors resulting in INFINTE force. So there is always sag. The tension can be loosened and tightened within a small operating range. When loose the hammer will have a longer stroke at slow speed and hit harder. When tight the stroke will be restrained and the hammer can run faster.

4) Clutch. A good mechanical hammer can be run at various speeds depending on how much force is put on the clutch. The Little Giant cone clutch must be kept well oiled in order to operate properly.

5) Guides need to be snug but not create any binding. The more precise the guide system the more precise the forge work that can be produced. On hammers with sloppy guides the shifting will cause hand held tooling to cock and get knocked over on the following blow. To use hand held tooling to good effect a hammer must have a good guide system.

Most smiths do not fully understand all the adjustments on their mechanical power hammers and fewer take advantage of them. A couple years ago we were sent a blacksmithing video to review. The fellow was using a 50 pound Little Giant that was adjusted to work at bottom die height. He then proceeded to put a piece of 4" stock on edge in the hammer. This choked the hammer forcing the toggles down onto the ram (probably bending them). With every blow the hammer almost stalled as it camed over the work (this tries to lift the main shaft and can wreck the bearings on top of bending the toggles and pins).

The adjustment to prevent this takes all of a minute. But you have to have some common sense and study the machine.

If you understand all the things a good mechanical hammer can do and how to adjust it they are an amazing machine.
   - guru - Friday, 07/31/09 16:02:41 EDT

Thanks Guru,

I have copied and put the above post in my documents.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/31/09 16:23:30 EDT


I'm heading for the road in early to mid September. I'll be starting in central Arkansas and heading wherever the work takes me. I've already filled out the ABANA journeyman form and mailed it in this week. I've a BFA from some private art college, completed a three year internship/apprenticeship at the National Ornamental Metals Museum, and have prior experience. So now the task of the U.S. journey. I want to get the word out that I work hard and I'm available for work on the road. Where is the best place to do this? Do you know of anyone looking for work? I will be happy to supply a resume, list of references from prior shops, and portfolio to anyone interested. Is there any way that you can point a soon wandering journeyman in the direction of knowledge?

Miles Of Knowledge,
   Steven - Friday, 07/31/09 19:02:49 EDT

Steven, most of the local abana chapters have newsletters, and most of the working smiths I know read their local one.
So putting a classified ad in them, in the areas you want to be, is a good idea.
   - Ries - Friday, 07/31/09 19:59:57 EDT

Guru, anyone, talking about subing out things like large quantities of identical parts, what do you think about the smaller scale cnc plasma torch machines? I'm thinking of something like a PlasmaCAM or Torch Mate type of set up.
With these you buy the ways/frame, servoes, drivers and machine controle interface with the required software, from the manufacturer and then you must supply the plasma torch and a compatable computer system to run it on.
I was looking very seriously at the PlasmaCAM set up for use at another shop I used to work at and when I left there I thought about getting the set up for myself if I could find the work to make it pay.
Full up, three years ago, that would have run between $15,000 to $17.000 and, if you can do more than just the prepackaged "clip art" stuff that comes with it, I think it would have some good prospects.
   - merl - Friday, 07/31/09 23:56:12 EDT

Merl, Unless you have the work for such a machine then you are probably better off using a local service house. You can still make the drawings yourself. After a couple tests with your vendor it will go very smoothly. I used to make and edit drawings for an engraver that took the exact same DFX file format as the cutting tables. We rarely had glitches that had to be changed.

Besides the cutting table you will need a good crane or hoist, preferably a rectilinear hoist unless you are going to do nothing heavier than 1/16" (2mm) and even then large sheets are hard to handle. You will also need stock racks for sheet. And if you do production work for others you will need a fork lift to handle the barrels full of parts. . . and space for all the above.

A friend of mine forges furniture feet from blanks plasma cut out of 1/2" steel plate. The blanks cost less than a dollar by the thousands. . . It would take YEARS maybe decades to pay for any machine capable of this work. The same fellow used to painstakingly make steel templates for a magnetic wheel torch system to cut similar blanks. He can get several thousand blanks cut by someone else for less than his in-house template cost. AND if a digital template is not right then it only takes minutes to make the change and email the file.

This is a competitive business that can save you a lot of money. If you want to go into it then you should do so seriously. Many of the people in the business warehouse tons of plate OR are located convieniently to a Steel Service Center.

For the average blacksmith shop you are either better off to cut it by hand, OR to sub it out. Some folks are artists with a plasma torch and unless they are doing production work are much better off doing the job by hand. To keep the hand made look on large jobs you can provide patterns with variations such as leaves of different sizes or maturity. After hand working them nobody would know the difference.

You ever look at the shapes of Hardies chicken nuggets? They all look like random lumps don't they? There are exactly FOUR shapes, no more. You can do the same with flowers, leaves or other elements where they are all supposed to look different. Some small variations in the patterns, and some hand work and it would take a very dedicated student of the art to figure out how many blank shapes you used . .
   - guru - Saturday, 08/01/09 02:23:42 EDT


Before you consider getting the PlasmaCam, you might want to read here: http://www.artmetal.com/blog/studio23/2007/07/cnc_plasmacutter_torchmate_vs_plasma_cam

There seem to be some issues with the entry-level CNC plasma cutters, from what I've read in that thread, at least. If you're at all serious about getting one, I'd definitely suggest asking Ries Niemi for his advice.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/01/09 03:13:33 EDT

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