WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.0

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 August 26 - 31, 2003 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Metals Specs: Colinau, Tongs are typicaly made of mild steel (SAE 1018-1020, ASTM A-36) or 1030. The reason being that tongs are frequently heated and quenched over and over again. A hardenable steel is not good because it will eventualy get hardened without tempering and shatter. It even occasionaly happend to mild steel tongs.

For other tools there are more suitable steels than tool types. Hardies and any edge tool should be high carbon steel from SAE 1095 to tool steels with over 1% carbon. Hotwork edge tools are typicaly high carbon high alloy tool steels that remain hard at a red heat like HSS. For tools of this type as well as hammers and punchs many smiths like S-7 because it is commonly available and is easy to heat treat. Tools for shaping such as fullers, flatters and some hammers are made from medium carbon alloy steels like 4140 but many that are factory made are higher carbon and tempered softer. This produces a VERY tough mar resistant tool that can still be dressed with a file.

Some folks use H-13 for hot work tools such a punches and chisles. H-27 is rated higher.

For machined parts W-1, O-1 and A-2 are commonly available in annealed and precision finished stock. Because they are commonly available tool steels they often find their way into blacksmith shops Nd are used for a variety of tools. The three have roughly the same properties but are hardened and tempered differently. The "W" in W-1 stands for Water hardening, the "O" for oil hardening and the "A" for air. W-1 is the cheapest and A-2 the most expensive.

For springs in spring clapper dies mild steel is used. But a common spring steel 5160 is used for pry bars, punches, cold chisles, hammers and other tools. It is a very tough steel and air hardens in thin sections like blades, oil hardens in normal sections. Many smiths use scrap springs, guessing they are 5160, to make various tools. However, there are as many more steels for springs as there are steels for tools.

Some smiths only deal with one or two steels in their shops and others have racks full of specialty steels. Books like MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK cover dozens of steels individualy and by group with suggested uses and handling. Start there if you want to begin learning about steels.

NOTE: Most smiths have or buy one or two tool steels like S-7 or SAE 5160, learn to use them and then make everything that needs to be tool steel out of that steel. Everything else is mild or structural steel.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/26/03 00:28:20 EDT

guru many thanks on steel gave me all the answers i need
i use railway line as an anvil is there an easier way to make a square hole (hardie) than a 1" drill & a square file
   colinau - Tuesday, 08/26/03 02:02:43 EDT

another note on dust, burnt iron is black rust, combined with aluminum or copper sandings, and an igniter like magnesium and you have termite. hard to start, real hard to put out.
   habu - Tuesday, 08/26/03 02:22:45 EDT

I just heard from Thomas about your layoff. Drop me a note at the above email. I can put you in touch with some of the recruites that I used while search for a new job a few months ago. Don't get discouraged. Jobs are out there.

Patrick Nowak
   Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 08/26/03 07:42:02 EDT

Build your own flypress: be very carefull in building the frame, the pressure spike on a flypress puts way more stress on it's frame than does a hydraulic press of the same tonnage! (the "stretch of the frame" is part of the energy transfer mechanism and the pressure spikes rather than ramps up---good for moving metal but hard on welds, etc)

Glen, what SIZE of Little Giant did you buy? If folks have a spare die laying about wouldn't do them or you much good if what you wanted was a 25# LG one and what they had was a 250# LG...

   - Thomas Powers - Tuesday, 08/26/03 08:35:05 EDT

I have been asked to fix a stone pinicle back onto the outside of a cathedral. The old cramps that originaly held the pinicle on the wall were made out of copper. The copper cramps were cut flush with the wall and look in good condition, and still have a strong hold. The architect has asked me to drill and tap into the end of the copper cramps and screw in 316 grade stainless steel fixings to anchor new stainless steel cramps holding the pinicle back in position. My question is will there be any reaction between the old copper cramps and the new stainless steel fixings ? I could remove the old copper cramps from the wall, but would be greatfull for your comments first.
Many thanks,
   Henry Boyd - Tuesday, 08/26/03 08:38:21 EDT

Before tube benders came to be common .You would fill your tube with sand then bend it (after putting bungs in both ends)depending on the thickness and/or hardness of the metal used for the tube, depended if you had to heat and bend or aneal and then bend or any combination.

Never tried it on shs, but it's worth a try.


beatiful sunny day in ipswich aust. 35-77f today
   - wayne - Tuesday, 08/26/03 08:42:45 EDT

Hardy Hole: Colinau, Most RR-Rail is approximately 75 point carbon steel (like 1075). It is often work hardened from use and if torched the heat effected zone can be very hard. It can be very difficult to work somethimes.

Rail is a little small for a hardie hole but you have some options. One is to make a "stake plate" with a square hole and mount it on a stump next to your anvil. The square hole(s) can be in relatively thin steel such as 1/2". For mass the plate can be attached to a heavier piece with drilled or torched holes. Since most of us end up with a collection of different sized hardy tools a plate with 7/8", 1" and 1-1/8" holes would be quite handy.

IF you have access to an arc welded or someone that can weld another option is to weld up a square hole on the side of a block or end of your RR-rail anvil. Common 1-1/4" square structural tubing accepts 1" shanks with a little clearance. It is a start. A heavy rim forged like a colar or torched from plate would need to be welded at the top. OR you can fabricate the hole from bar stock.

To make a square hole in thick bar (1/2 - 3/4" bar), you start with a scribed layout of the square hole. Also scribe diagonal lines for the center AND to locate the corner holes. Scribe an on-size circle with dividers. Then, pick a small drill diameter (about 3/16" - 5mm works) and layout a place where it is tangent to the corners of the square. You want a small drill to make the corners of the hole but not so small that it may break easily. It does not want to break through into the center hole either. But it is nice if it is big enough to remove some material. Once one corner drill location is determined then use the dividers again to layout the other three on the diagonal lines. Center punch all four accurately.

Now, drill the center hole and then the corner holes. If you have a milling machine you can remove most of the remaining material with a half diameter end mill. Otherwise you can use a hacksaw or cold chisle then files. The corners do not need to be 100% square as long as what fits them has chamfers.

Another way that is not so pretty but makes a good functional hole is to do as above except drill the corners so that the little hole encompass the corners. This makes bulges at the corners that look ugly but from a functional standpoint work perfectly. Look at Snap-On hex wrenches for a similar thing.

Square holes are not that bad to make it you go at it with a plan.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/26/03 10:02:54 EDT

Copper and Stainless: Henry, This mixture is a bad one for bi-metalic corrosion but not as bad as copper/steel. I'm not sure which way it would go but one part or the other is going to be eaten up and the resulting oxides are make large stains on the surrounding parts or masonry. I think the copper corrodes in this case, plating the stainless as well as making stains. Eventualy the threads rot out and the fastener fails.

A better bet would be brass/bronze bolts and new copper or bronze hardware. Our local hardware supplier has brass bolts in a high copper red brass. Coat them with Never-Sieze to prevent galling and to insure a good electrical bond.

However, depending on the weathering conditions the stainless in copper fittings will probably last your lifetime and the architects. But I prefer not to have folks cursing my judgment after I am gone. . . I'm not very religious but having priests cursing you in your afterlife is bad carma. . . yeah, I know. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/26/03 10:22:10 EDT


I have been asked to repair a colonial age boot scraper. The top of one of the sides, above the scraper, is broken off. Would brazing be the best way to attach a new mild steel piece to the old wrought iron?
   Brian C - Tuesday, 08/26/03 15:42:17 EDT

Quechcrack (and any one else who needs to send me email off line)-my work email address was changed this morning to the one above.

Patrick Nowak
   Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 08/26/03 16:41:14 EDT


You know, that type of message is one of the things I like about the folks that hang out at Anvilfire.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 08/26/03 16:47:33 EDT

Patrick, my email to you bounced. Send me an email at quenchcrack at hotmail. com.

Copper/stainless bolts: I cannot agree more with Guru's accessment of these two metals in combination. Stainless steel relies on oxygen to keep the surface passivated. Threading SS into a copper stud will ensure the SS will not only have no oxygen in the threads to maintain corrosion resistance, when the corrosion resistance breaks down, the Galvanic coupling of the SS and the copper will eat up the SS bolts.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 08/26/03 17:37:14 EDT

First off, I want to thank you for such a magnificent site! It has re-inforced my disillusionment to the mysterious nature of smithing, as well as fueled my desire to begin my own work. After much searching (and reading the reccomended "Getting Started" information) I have realized that finding someone to tell me how to do everything won't happen, but I plan on teaching myself through books and personal experimentation how to do what I desire. But I have decided that the best thing for me to do to get started is to gather the equipment I need-most importantly a forge. I am looking to build a simple gas forge or possibly by a fairly inexpensive one, as well as tools. I was wondering where one might go about this (either in the Everett, Washington area or online). Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time, and once again, thank you for the impressive website.

Shane Qualls

I know it is very unlikely, but if you happen to know of anyone who would be willing to teach me the basics of forgework in the general area (Everett, Washington)I am sure that it would help me along as well. Thanks again!
   Shane Qualls - Tuesday, 08/26/03 20:55:34 EDT

Repairing old wrought: Brian, how you approach a repair on old wrought depends on the condition of the wrought. First, do NOT braze it. This is an outdoor item near the ground and the bimetalic corrosion will greatly shorten its future life.

Second, you need to evaluate the wrought. If it is very corroded and you can see deep cracks in the grain then the entire part should probably be replaced. It the metal is in good condition then welding is the best repair.

If you have good forge welding skills then the best repair would be a new part made of wrought carefully forge welded on. Or yu can weld a mild steel part to the wrought. Yes, this is a little scary on antiques.

The sceond option is to gas weld the piece. Wrought does not like to be welded by any modern process. Intense heat tends to melt out the slag inclusions and then the volume is reduced making the affected zone dip or have undercutting at the edges. However, with care on good wrought you can usualy build surfaces back to their original plane or close enough using a torch. Grind flat and reheat to create a scaled/pitted surface and dress with a hammer to produce as close to an original surface as possible.

Using an oxyacetylene torch I have repaired little wrought iron hinges that were made from 1/32" (.8mm) material and heavy legs on andirons so that it was difficult to tell there was a repair.

On antiques you should always have a discussion with the owner about possible loss of value due to any repair. If the owner is a dealer then there is often the moral issue of restoring something so that it appears to be a rare perfect original when it is not. . . very small touchmarks with a date precedded by an "R" to indicate a repair is good practice. Example JDD R2003
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/26/03 22:01:59 EDT

Washington State: Shane, Check the NWBA (Northwest Blacksmiths Association - www.blacksmith.org). They are a widely dispersed group in your area. You may have to travel to go to meets but it will be worth while. Once you find these folks you will very likely find someone in your local area that can either help you OR that you can get together with and swap ideas, lies, needs, tools. Going to local blacksmith association meets is also the best way to find tools, supplies and suppliers.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/26/03 22:10:18 EDT

I am trying to find a wall chart which shows the spark patterns of various ferrous alloys, preferably in color. Do you have such a chart or know where I might find one? Thanks.
Wolfgang Rotbart
   - Wolfgang - Tuesday, 08/26/03 22:17:47 EDT

I am trying to find a wall chart which shows the spark patterns of various ferrous alloys, preferably in color. Do you have such a chart or know where I might find one? Thanks.
Wolfgang Rotbart
   - Wolfgang - Tuesday, 08/26/03 22:18:22 EDT

Shane, depending on what you're interested in forging with your gasser, I believe I have one of the best designs available for making a gas forge without using a cutting torch OR electric welder. My lack of these important tools led me to use only a jigsaw, bench grinder, and drill to put mine together. Of course, if you have a nice buzz box, ignore me and make something snazzy! (VBG) My forge is rather minimalist and if I had welding/cutting equipment it would be very different. If you're interested, drop me an email. Good luck either way!

Hot and sunny in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Tuesday, 08/26/03 23:03:30 EDT

On bending pipe with sand, very important to Cap Only One END, as no matter how dry the stuff seems it probably is damp enough to generate steam. With the old seamed wrought iron pipes they will split a little and let off pressure, but with seamless pipe you may be making a bomb if you cap both ends. In any case when you are heating the sand filled pipe, don't stand in line with the open end as occasionally you will be shot at with a plug of sand, caused by the steam pressure in the "dry sand". Then when you bend it do it slowly and there will be less problem with the pipe collapsing across the bend. Regards.....Cap
   Cap - Wednesday, 08/27/03 08:34:44 EDT

Wolfgang, go to www.iforgeiron.com . There is a section on spark testing with B&W drawings of the patterns. I doubt you will find anything in color since color printing was rare and expensive in the years that spark testing was popular. It is really more about shape and distribution than color, anyway.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 08/27/03 08:52:42 EDT

Spark Chart: Wolfgang, I cannot remember seeing a spark chart in color. They are almost always black and white drawings. A few have been done photographicaly but it is hard to capture the details of the fast moving sparks in low light.

The most complete chart I have seen is in Metals for Engineering Craftsmen by CoSira. Then the standard welding reference Modern Welding - Technology and Practice, has a similar chart.

Spark testing is difficult in that the character of the grinding wheel (speed, coarsness, grit) effects the apearance of the sparks. In most cases you need a reference sample or two to make the determination. Spark testing is also not very conclusive. It can be used to determine high carbon steel from low and wrought from mild steel. There are faint diferences in alloy steels but it is almost impossible to tell one tool steel from another. However, it is a simple test and can help prevent serious mistakes when building with scap metal.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/27/03 08:59:35 EDT

I tried emailing you but it bounced. Email me as I do have some contact info for locals to you.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 08/27/03 10:02:32 EDT

Hello, I have recently purchased an old lockback knife,with stag horn handle and have been trying to identify the marks on the blade.There is a very worn mark which I think says SOLIGEN and at the bottom of the blade are the letters FF, with the left hand "F" facing left and an anchor motif seperating the letters. I realise that this is a long shot but all the other research I have tried has turned up blank. Thanks for your time. Mark.
   mark noah - Wednesday, 08/27/03 12:15:15 EDT

Cap, isn't a good working temp for steel about the melting temp of sand?

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 08/27/03 13:57:49 EDT

well a quick trip through google brought back this link:


Which has information on the F anchor F(rev) as being the mark for Franz Frenzel a maker from NIXDORF, BOHEMIA (AUSTRIA-HUNGARY). The "Solingen" should refer to where it was made (Solingen, Germany) or where the steel came from. I forget.

You might try http://www.knife-expert.com/pages/523051/index.htm

But I have no knowledge on there informativeness. (my new made up word for the day)

   Escher - Wednesday, 08/27/03 14:08:18 EDT

re: Spark testing, Actually there was a rather expensive book published on spark testing with patterns of the sparks in colors. Sorry, but I don't remember the publisher, the title, or the author just that such a book did exist. It was out of print by 1980 - at that time we had to go to used technical bookstores to find a copy. I think but am not sure that it was a German technical book. We were setting up the quality system for a new ring-rolling mill in York, South Carolina and needed that for general alloy identification until we got a radioisotope "spectrometer". Hope that knowing that such a book existed at one time may aid you in finding a copy.
   gavainh - Wednesday, 08/27/03 14:52:14 EDT

Here are two books on the subject but I could not locate copies of either. The first is in the Library of Congress.

Spectral characteristics of grinding sparks used for identification of scrap metals by W.D. Riley, B.W. Dunning, Jr., and D.M. Soboroff. [Avondale, Md.] : U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, 1985.

Spark Tests for Steel by S. P. Rockwell, American Gear Manufacturers Association

The one above is listed in Books in Print but I checked the AGMA web site and they do not have it. It is not in the LOC either. Neither were found on the used books lists.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/27/03 16:41:08 EDT

Hey Ralph and T. Gold- I discovered that the mail server I was using is a piece of junk, so I have set up a different one. I am pretty sure that I sent my e-mails to you through the aforementioned junk server (yeah, for some reason mail can go out, but not in...) and hence replying to it would only result in another block. So if it is not too much trouble, could you reply to my new address, vvlightandshadowsvv@yahoo.com? I am terribly sorry to waste your time with all this nonsense...

   Shane Qualls - Wednesday, 08/27/03 16:58:03 EDT

heh, that is two "V"'s on the front and tail end, not a "W"
   Shane Qualls - Wednesday, 08/27/03 17:29:54 EDT

Guru, do you know where I can get a wall poster showing the colors of oxidation? Thanks, Boneman
   boneman - Wednesday, 08/27/03 22:21:23 EDT

Dear Gurus, Thank you for this forum,
I am restoring an old Champion No. 401 steel rivet forge. I located an advertisement photo which is helpful but I am not able to see how the firebox (hearth) was finished, if at all. Were those forges lined with fire brick, or refractory clay or asbestos maybe, please advise. Thank you.
   Matt Woodside - Wednesday, 08/27/03 22:31:50 EDT


If they were lined with anything, they were most often lined with clay. I use refractory cement.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 08/27/03 23:59:45 EDT

Boneman, I made my own "colors of oxidation" (tempering) chart by simply heating a piece of spring steel untill it was a dull red and quenching. followied by sandpaper and buffing on a wheel to a high polish, I then heated ONE end of the piece in a propane torch untill the colors began to run the length of the piece, quenched and spryed with a clear artist fixitive (lacquer). The lacquer will slow down any further oxidation, and I have a true sample color in any light. a felt tip maker can be used to mark the color-temp of each color.
   habu - Thursday, 08/28/03 01:20:12 EDT


it is very nice having found the "anvilfire" by coincidence within the internet. I am forging myself sometimes and it is as well astonishing as admirable, how many good ideas are demonstrated in your web-side.

Thank you very much and continue !

Best regards:

Gerd Stuber
   Gerd Stuber - Thursday, 08/28/03 09:15:22 EDT

boneman, Pacific Machinery and Tool Stee Co., Portland, Oregon, has charts. Uddeholm Steel, uddeholm.com has charts. Both charts indicate temperatures.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 08/28/03 09:22:00 EDT

Temper Colors: Having a prepared sample with the temper colors should be very helpful when heat treating other pieces with the same chemistry as the sample. You would not achieve the same hardness at the same temper color if you were using a different alloy. Since spring steel can be anything from 1035 to 6150, your results could vary significantly. This is especially true considering that variations in the carbon content(from one alloy to another) will dramatically change the hardness as quenched, and that will affect the hardness after tempering. Add to that the differences in alloy content and their effects on resistance to tempering and it becomes extremely difficult to predict the hardness based on temper color. However, it's the best you have to work with. A file test is still pretty handy.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 08/28/03 09:51:14 EDT

Steel Temper Colors Chart: Boneman, I have seen many of these printed in books but they were not very well done. It is VERY difficult to capture the colors properly and reproduce them. They either end up much too dark or much too faded. The difficulty is capturing the irridescence or reflectivity of the metal AND the briliance of the color. There are some things the eye can capture that film cannot and I think this is one of them. Or it could be that it just has not been taken on by a first class photographer.

When creating a color chart based on PERCIEVED colors it is still difficult as some of the colors are mixtures described as "spotted red-brown" and "brown with purple spots". Then there is the limitations of your pallet and reproduction method. Even with a perfect photograph the reproduction method must also be adjusted to reproduce exactly what was seen. I know that the temper colors chart I created on our FAQs page looks differently on almost every monitor it is displayed on. The monitor I use has brilliant color saturation but many display colors and images as faded and washed out. I am often shocked at what anvilfire looks like on these systems.

Our temper chart can be printed on a color printer but you have to tell your browser to print background colors. Eventually I will convert the colors to individual graphic tiles but it is a day long chore to do so and the "spotted" colors are VERY difficult.

Habu's method is a very good one. However, you do not need a hardened piece of high carbon steel. Any steel will do but preferably a non-alloy steel. Alloy steels color differently and at different temperatures than plain carbon steels. A mild steel bar will do fine. The cleaner and brighter the surface the better. If you heat one end of the part and cool it very slowly in annealing medium the colors should run a longer distance providing wider bands of colors. You can also create individualy colored "tiles" by heating them on a heat sink. If the heat sink temperature is known then the color and temperature can be matched. If you use high quality clear lacquer the colors should not be effected too much.

AND . . then there is the matter of converting percieved colors into a standard and then words so that temperatures can be matched with them. . . I used three respected references for my chart and they agree for the most part the differences being mostly in how colors were converted to words. However, there are a couple places where they disagree considerably.

Judging and reporducing colors are a fine arts. Measuring temperatures accurately is also an art. When you combine the two. . . ?

Last year we had a fellow looking for temper colors for other metals (non-ferrous and alloys) for a research paper he was writing. I told him that he was probably going to have to do the laboratory work himself if he wanted to know. I suspect a few studies have been done but I have never seen the results. I tried the ASM site. Either they have no such references or they have a poor indexing for their search. I tried the Library of Congress but could not narrow the search to where it was meaningful and still get results.

Frank, I tried the Uddeholm site and they may have had something but I cannot find it on their current web site.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/28/03 10:36:02 EDT

Tempering Colors

When using film (or now digital) photography to record tempering colors, you are limited by the ability of the media to record the information. Much of this is dependant on the dyes, and chemistry used in the film and paper.

Slide films have to be exposed correctly or the image is degraded. Negative films have a much greater latitude of exposure, and adjustments or corrections are made in the printing process. The operator of the printing machine has tremendous control of the final product in color, hue, saturation, and density.

Many films are manufactured to be color bias, to red, blue, yellow, etc., at the choosing of the manufacture. The lighting conditions that were used for the subject can vary greatly, depending on the voltage and quality of the electric current, and the age of the light itself.

When published to a book or chart, the paper printing industry is another list of variables. Inks are mixed to match the color you want shown. Lighting may be much different in the print room when the "match" of the ink to the image is chosen than in the classroom or home where it is viewed.

One more thing to consider is the viewers eye. Is it young and healthy, or slightly older. Does the eye have cataracts, require glasses for sight correction, and does the corrected lenses have a color cast to the lens glass, etc.

Also the training and life experiences of the brain receiving the information from the eye has a large part to do with how the information is perceived to the viewer.

Many times, capturing the iridescence or reflectivity of the metal is a matter of getting close. Your experience and judgment will be the best information you can have.
   - Conner - Thursday, 08/28/03 11:34:47 EDT

Hey all, its good to be reading at this page again... been busy....
Ok, so...
I got myself some 3/4 inch cable, heated, cleaned, twisted, welded, folded and made a knife. Ground just so (dull edge, left to anneal), then polished into oblivion. Looks nice. Now, apparently, I'm to be able to etch this slightly and see some patterns, eh? What acid do I use and what is the procedure? I have some glass etching paste here, will that work? It say,"Contains: Ammonium/Sodium Bifluorides & less than 1% Hydrofluoric acid" I find that it will etch basic window glass in three to four minutes, depending on how thick I put it on. What ye thinketh?
   Rodriguez - Thursday, 08/28/03 14:41:49 EDT

Guru, re: the temper chart table made with cell background colors, you could just take a screenshot and crop it.

Rodriguez, don't hold me to this, but if memory serves, glass etchants are usually hydrofluoric acid. That may work (it's sometimes used as a metal cleaner) but a simpler solution of vinegar often works fine for bringing out patterns... I suggest you give that a try first.

Sunny and windy in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T Gold - Thursday, 08/28/03 15:00:29 EDT

I use the PCB etch from radio shack, (feric cloride) cut 50/50 with water. clean the blade (I started useing brake cleaner seems to work well for me) be sure there is NO oil grease on it, then drop in the blade (so that it is not touching anything) hung by a wire. check it in about 5 mins look for any shiny spots it should be an even gray or black. If there is any shiny spots or much lighter areas clean the blade off with water and refinsh the blade (start over) as there was oil, or somthing that was masking the etch. if it is even, dip it in water and wipe with a CLEAN rag. if the pattern shows well and you like the look clean the blade with bakeing soda and water (made into a paste) and finsh to your likeing. if the pattern isn't showing well yet put it back in and check it again in anouther 5Min.
   MP - Thursday, 08/28/03 15:43:38 EDT

Etching blades:

Glass etchant (contains HF), is NOT what you want. Go down to your local Radio Shack store and get some circuit board etchant. It contains Ferric Chloride (FeCl), which will give you the slow, controlled etch that you need. Additionally, FeCl is more likely to produce a clear pattern because it acts quite differently on different alloys and/or carbon contents of steel. It is what I use in the Firearms Lab for restoring obliterated serial numbers , because of that differential action on conmressed/uncompressed steels, by the way.

Make sure the blade is scrupulously clean and totally free of any oil or grease, then brush on a thin layer of FeCl with a cotton swab. Gently wipe the surface with the wet swab and watch the action on the steel. If you don't see any effect after five minutes, apply more and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Experiment with it a bit. When you get a decent light etch, use superfine wet-or-dry andpaper to polish the high areas. The low areas will appear darker and show the pattern. When you get what you like, oil it so it doesn't rust.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/28/03 15:47:04 EDT

To be chemically correct, Ferric Chloride is FeCl3. One iron, three chlorines. I don't know how to make the 3 subscripted, unfortunately.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/28/03 15:51:05 EDT

Back from Tucson where I had the pleasure of taking Eric Thing on our cooks tour of the Western Archeological and Conservation Center. He ended up as name #1 on the event logbook. I'm very pleased with how the facility came out. Having devoted the better part of the last 10 years to the project, it was worth it. It's fascinating to see some of your ideas in concrete.

Gotta run, some BSmithing comments later.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 08/28/03 15:59:04 EDT

Was just experimenting with etching for putting a logo and serial number on my blades. Ferric chloride mixed to the concentration that's recommended for etching PC boards puts a nice visible etch on hardened and tempered 6150 or O1 in just a couple-three minutes. Four or five minutes etches enough material to feel it with your fingernail - that would be a couple thousandths. More etching if you agitate - move the blade around or stir the etchant. I use blue layout dye for a mask and scrape the dye off where I want it to etch. You could skip the bit with the mask when just trying to bring out the pattern in welded cable.

   Steve A - Thursday, 08/28/03 16:00:52 EDT

If I remember correctly from etching boards, cuircut board etchant is affected by temperature. Warm etchant and agitaion cut etching time.
   - ironspider - Thursday, 08/28/03 16:25:08 EDT

   Paw Paw - Thursday, 08/28/03 17:51:09 EDT

An article I read on blacksmithing mentions the Pritchel hole in the anvil. Do most anvils have this? Is it the square or a round hole? Thanks!
   Robert - Thursday, 08/28/03 19:31:59 EDT


The pritchel hole is the round hole that is found on the tail (usually) of the anvil. It was originally used for punching nail holes in horse shoes. Now it is used for punching holes of almost any type. It dates back to about 1830.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 08/28/03 19:42:54 EDT

So I got some FeCl3... used it full strength... my knife came out AWESOME!!!!!!!!! Thanks guys! I did use the glass etching stuff until I got back in to read your responses... left it on for 20 minutes... barely a difference. Now then, can I reuse this acid? And what exactly is happening during the etch? Is it eating away more metal where its not compressed so much from welding? The surface carbon or something? Que???
   Rodriguez - Thursday, 08/28/03 20:34:52 EDT

Guru, Frank, habu, quenchcrack,and Conner, Thanks for the anwsers to my question on tempering colors. boneman
   boneman - Thursday, 08/28/03 20:58:10 EDT

Paw Paw on my browser that came out as a capital A with a circumflex over it followed by a small superscripted 3

Rodriguez, use it until it stops doing what you like. Be carefull it will eat *most* metals including gold! but is one of the less hazardous etchants for skin contact. (I use hot vinegar and salt to etch bandsaw blade and strapping billets) It etches areas with different chemical reactivities, could be alloy difference, could be mechanical damage to crystal structure, etc.

   - Thomas Powers - Thursday, 08/28/03 21:39:02 EDT


Strange, I made that using the IBM character set hexidecimal code for the ³.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 08/28/03 21:52:40 EDT

Paw-Paw. . don't DO that! Could break the log.

Pritchel hole: European anvils have a larger round punching hole centered on the face of the anvil near the round horn. The square hardie hole is near the square horn. The pritchel hole on English anvils near the hardie hole was named for the pritchel punch used by farriers.

Some modern anvils and some old stake anvils have a series of round holes centered on the face of the square horn for punching and riveting, bending wire and such. These are not pritchel holes.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/28/03 23:10:53 EDT

Paw Paw, how does ≥ that look to you?

Guru, would hammers made from mild (A36) steel be suitable after quenching with Super Quench? How about if they were case-hardened first? If not, could you suggest the best steel for hammers?

Looks like stormy weather coming in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T Gold - Friday, 08/29/03 00:55:26 EDT

What Question mark, T. Gold?
   Paw Paw - Friday, 08/29/03 02:57:08 EDT

T. Gold.

The "best" steel? You're gonna get fortyleben different answers to that, but 4140 works well.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 08/29/03 03:47:50 EDT

Etching: A knife-maker friend used a non ferrous rod (maybe nickel silver) to suspend a damascus blade in etchant- turned it a pretty bronze color. Not what he wanted , but pretty. Don't know how durable it would be. Lots of makers are going for color in their blades...
   Ron Childers - Friday, 08/29/03 07:51:58 EDT

This question does not pertain to blacksmithing as such but I think that you may have the answer. I built a towable BBQ grill for charcoal. I now want to convert this unit over to gas, How would I go about building my tubes and making my conection to a gas supply? Thanks
   Greg B. - Friday, 08/29/03 09:48:12 EDT

Gas Grill: Greg, Although we build a LOT of gas burners among our group this is the wrong place to ask. We build burners to MELT iron, steel and brass. A lot hotter than what you are looking for.

What you want is something like a large furnace burner. These are a long cast iron tube with many small holes in the top or side. The outboard end has a funnel shape (venturi) where air is sucked in by the gas jet. The open end of the funnel is partly covered by a damper to adjust the fuel/air mixture. You can purchase this type burner from various hardware suppliers like McMaster-Carr or a local HVAC dealer. Building such a burner can be done but it is an R&D project and can be hazardous to your health and well being if you are not careful.

For plumbing you need to consult an RV dealer or welding supplier. A large burner like this will probably not operate on a little preset regulator designed for one or two stove top burners. You will need a 0-50 PSI regulator with gauge and fittings. The hose needs to be rated for LPG (propane or butane). For this application I would recommend the heavy black hose designed for liquid fuel that the sell at RV dealers because they are also grease resistant.

A little wishy washy? If I gave too many details and you blow up your garage, who is your significant other going to come after???

So how did Tim Taylor put his BBQ in orbit? LOX?

   - guru - Friday, 08/29/03 10:51:23 EDT

ETCHING: Now, whilst all you good folks are happily etching everything in sight, go over to your art/drafting store and gitcherself some dry transfer lettering sheets ( the kind you put face down on the job and rub with a stylus, popsicle stick, or what have you. These little beauties are made of a waxy material that resists acids. If you find a good source, they will have a lot of different fonts (styles). Imagine your name, in Old English, jumping off that blade at ya. Yer Mom will be SO proud. Another bonus; Ferric Chloride has the decency to burn straight into the metal, rather than seeping under the edges of your resist.
   3dogs - Friday, 08/29/03 11:14:14 EDT

Okay may be i'm just blind, but were does one get the ferric chloride? Lowe's?
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 12:14:32 EDT

Does hydrochloric acid work? if so it is found in the works toilet bowl cleaner. will this work for etchant?
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 12:16:46 EDT

Dragon-boy: Radio Shack sells it as a circuit board etchant. Check radioshack.com for pricing.

Paw-Paw, will A36 totally not work? PS, the question was about a special character that I had inputted, "Alt+0179" does a superscripted 3 in most Windows fonts. Of course, you need subscript for a molecular formula anyway... (BG)

Still cool in Kaneohe, Hawaii. (Are me and Bruce the only ones who still do this?)
   T Gold - Friday, 08/29/03 12:57:50 EDT

dragon-boy, most folks get their ferric chloride from Radio Shack.

T Gold, depends on what you plan to hit with it. If hot iron only, a mild steel hammer should be fine as is. Hammers are usually relatively soft to prevent chipping. Tip: if you poke the tip of a drywall screw through the back side of a project, don't try to hammer it flat. The points are much harder than a commercial hammer head (ask me how I know :)

Rodriguez, I read that cable etches mostly from surface decarb at the outside of the wires.
   - mstu - Friday, 08/29/03 13:14:13 EDT

Okay, How do you Know? sounds as if it was'fun'.
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 13:21:07 EDT

hey folks what nuetralizes this stuff? etchent from radio shack? so I know what nuet. this stuff before I get it
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 13:55:07 EDT

You can also get etchant at electronics components shops - where they have transistors and fans and chips and stuff, not stereos. Although there are sometimes old audio system surplus in these places. I buy Datak brand that comes as a dry concentrate.

It WILL eat under the mask. I've lost a few boards to getting distracted and having it eat under the mask till whole traces disappeared.

Someone posted a chemistry lesson about what FeCl does to steel on one of the knife forums. Apparently tt is hydrochloric acid (HCl) in the solution that is the active ingredient. Most of that stuff is lost on me.

And yes, you can keep re-using it. It's expired when it doesn't work anymore. You define just how slow is "doesn't work". I know when I'm using it on copper for circuit boards the stuff gets darker and darker as more and more copper gets in the solution - this takes quite a few boards. Some people I've read say they actually get a better effect - more what they want - from an older and weaker batch.

Agitation and temperature both make etching happen faster. I used to etch boards in a metal building in a field with no A/C. Getting it warm wasn't a problem. ;) I'd put the board in a baking dish with maybe a couple other little things to keep it from resting on the bottom. Then I'd set the dish on a pencil and just rock it back and forth. For the blades I've etched, I just kind of hold the blade vertically in the etchant and kind of stir it around slow.

Rubber gloves and pliers recommended for handling. It leaves interesting stains on your hands.

   Steve A - Friday, 08/29/03 14:09:44 EDT

Neutralizing acids:

Fundamentally, any base will neutralize any acid, if you have enough. Some work better than others, some are too strong to be very safe to handle. The simplest is bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Sodium carbonate, (washing soda) is about twice as strong a base as bicarb, but still plenty safe. Sodium hydroxide (lye, caustic soda) is way stronger yet and can gobble the skin right off your hands.

I always recommend baking soda, since it is safe. After neutralizing, wash with soap and water then rinse thoroughly.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/29/03 14:11:44 EDT

Steve A; I wonder if it started to creep under the mask when it ran out of unmasked copper to eat. I've had good luck with it when the steel was absolutely clean prior to applying the lettering, insuring a good bond. Of course you're dealing with a few thousandths of copper, and not a quarter inch of steel.
   3dogs - Friday, 08/29/03 14:25:23 EDT

obviously new to etching, what is mask and use it could one reproduce touch marks on other stuff than blades? such as ...well any thing?
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 15:41:12 EDT

I had to get a hobby circut board kit in order to get the FeCl. According to the directions, after etching, run under cold tap water for two miunutes... thats it. Also, the kit came with a "mask" to trace your circuts with.... its a regular Sharpie permanent ink pen! Cool, you can never have too many Sharpie's lying around!
   Rodriguez - Friday, 08/29/03 16:04:14 EDT

well, if a sharpie is the mask how do you remove the mask
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 16:44:42 EDT

Hammer Hardness: Almost all hammers are tool steel hardened to where they are just dressable with a file (pretty hard). Folks that do repousse' in soft materials like their hammers and punches a little softer so that they are easy to dress with a fine file and sandpaper or a stone.

Ancient iron hammers had a tool steel face welded onto a wrought iron body. Very small hammers may have been solid steel.

A mild steel hammer will forge hot mild steel for a while but will mushroom rapidly. It will not work well at all on spring steel and high carbon steel which is nearly as tough as mild when at a red heat. Just a few blows while cooling will tear up the face of a soft hammer.

Smiths hammers are usualy 50 to 75 point carbon steel but a deep hardening 40 point steel like 4140 will work. Modern smiths with a source for tool steel often use S-7 (high carbon shock resistant steel) for hammers. A good source of scrap steel for hammers is truck axels and torsion springs off big old Chrysler products (both said to be 4140 but could be anything strong). Old jack hammer breaker bits are good steel for hammers and other smithing tools. Be sure to cut off the working end where they are commonly cracked. I have and have seen hand hame hammers made from laminated steel, probably old worn farrier's rasps.

If you find a truck axel to use, the flange end is often a beautiful mushroom shape that can be made into a nice mushroom stake. So don't torch off the shaft too close!
   - guru - Friday, 08/29/03 16:52:09 EDT

could I use the etching technique on persay a rose to scribe a name and date on the stem?
   dragon-boy - Friday, 08/29/03 16:53:08 EDT

The kit come with a little bottle of "special mask remover"...
   Rodriguez - Friday, 08/29/03 16:56:00 EDT

Etching Mask or Resist: This is a coating put on metal to keep the acid from etching it. Masks vary depending on the acid used and the length of time. Some are tar based, other lacquer or wax. The classic method is to coat a smooth piece of metal with the resist and then use fine tools to scrape off the resist where you want etching.

One modern method of etching is to use silk screen process to apply the resist. Then very fancy etching can be done in production (like on those 59.95 HSN swords). Another method is using a photosensitive acid that only etches where exposed to light. This is another production method.

Big lightening bye!

   - guru - Friday, 08/29/03 16:57:50 EDT

Dragon, try acetone, nail polish remover, or a similar solvent... it's obviously some kind of organic solvent, but I'm not sure what would work best. Bet acetone would do a killer job, though.

Guru, thanks for the suggestion. Time to call the scrapyard...

Windy and oddly cool in Honolulu, Hawaii. (I'm at school.) (I'm right... no one does this anymore.)
   T Gold - Friday, 08/29/03 21:34:21 EDT

Having built a leaf spring crank type power hammer similar to the "RUSTY" and run it, I would like to tell of my experience. The hammer that I built is about 30 pounds, uses a truck leaf spring,and is loosly based on the Powel patent of 1872. See Pounding Out The Profits, page 214. I used a welded structure, with a main column of 8" square tube. I filled the tube with scrap steel shot, which has damped the sound and bounce. As I ran this machine I was VERY aware of the proximity of the spring to my face. After some hours of operation, the spring failed, lucky me, at the rear. After the parts quit flying,and I was once again contacting the floor, I begain to reason out the failure, and the effects if the spring had failed in the front. If the spring had failed when the ram was upward bound, the ram would have parted company with the machine to fall God knows were. All the hammers of this type appear top have open slots for the ram, with the ram unrestrained in the upward direction. Also, Splinters and parts may strike the operator. With a NEW, unused spring, I rebuilt this hammer. It also now has a lovley OSHA yellow 10 gage hood that will suck up the energy of any errant parts. I did make slots and holes to allow access to all the grease fittings, so as to not be tempted to leave the hood off after routine greasing. I now run this hammer, with alot more piece of mind.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Friday, 08/29/03 21:41:22 EDT

Having noticed that the guru mentioned truck axles, I should mention that I work at a forge shop that makes truck axles. Until I started there I thought that truck axles were 4140 steel. Heard it many times at hammer ins. Found out the heavy truck axles, for the last 10 years at least are 1541H steel if bigger than about 1 3/8" on the unforged shaft. The smaller ones are 1050. This applies to axles that do not have bearings pressed onto the shafts(full floating) The 1541H is a modified steel for very easy(quick) deep case hardening. We induction heat, and quench in a polymer and water spray, for about Rc58 at the surface. If you are through hardening try oil, or it will probably quench crack. Tom Clark tried a sample at the Indiana conference this year, made a hardy(hot cut)He quenched in oil, and tempered to a straw more or less. Made a great hardy.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Friday, 08/29/03 21:50:32 EDT

Actually, the ferric chloride is the active ingredient. Ferric chloride is a strong oxidizing agent, and it is that oxidizing property that leads to the actual etching. The differential oxidation rates of the metals in the blade leads to that pretty pattern. In some ways, its similar to controlled rusting.

As for the acids, ferric chloride is notoriously insoluble in water. The hydrochloric acid drops the pH, allowing higher concentrations to go into solution (As an example, we use 0.1% HCL to put a 1 molar concentration of ferric chloride into solution, otherwise it rapidly settles out). Additionally, the hydrochloric acid extents the active life of the ferric chloride, allowing recycling of the oxidative and reductive states of the chemical when in the presence of solublized oxygen in the water. Often, in industrial etching applications, aeration is continuously provided to the etching solution to extend the lifetime of the etchant even further.

I have to agree with Vic on neutralization. It's just a good idea and ensures that the etching stops when YOU want it to. In artistic etching, they use sodium carbonate to neutralize Ferric chloride, as the two have comparable, but opposing reactivities. Baking soda will also work nicely. You just need a bit more. Sodium hydroxide is overkill.

That's just my 2 cents. Back to lurking mode...
   eander4 - Friday, 08/29/03 22:25:54 EDT

Hi. I am going to start my blacksmithing buisness finaly and was wondering about how others started their buisness. Did you make up a business plan look into loans, research the market in your area, start in you garage and step up to a work shop etc? I am also wondering about the legalities and possible grant available. I live in California so I'm just now strarting to look into the laws that govern me. Any help or ideas are appreciated. Links and resources are welcome to. I have been blacksmithing for 5 yrs now and am ca certified welder(flux core 232 structural ). Thanks a bunch.
   Rigel Hunter - Saturday, 08/30/03 00:20:31 EDT

Thanks, Jeff. I would have quenched in water and smoked my work.
   T Gold - Saturday, 08/30/03 00:37:35 EDT

Rusty-type Power Hammer:
Jeff, a couple questions, if you don't mind. First, how is the performance of the hammer? I'm collecting the pieces to build that type and want to make sure it'll do the job.

Second, you've convinced me that buying a new spring is the way to go. What size spring should I use?

And if you've got any more hints or tips, please let me know.

   Marc - Saturday, 08/30/03 07:40:47 EDT

Axles etc., I have made hammers of 18-wheeler truck axles, but I didn't know the age of the axles. I get them at a truck junk yard, and they average 2" in diameter. They have held up and I have treated them like 1050. I quench the bright cherry faces in water and draw to a dark straw using a thick steel ring, heat conductor...done in the vise.

And Jeff, about this "case hardening". Nowadays, this term is used synonymously with "carburizing", where carbon is taken into the surface of mild steel. If so, a deep case might be about 30/1000 of an inch. But, I assume you are talking about a "case-core effect" on shallow hardening steels. If 1541H is quenched at a red heat or above (?) and it is considered a shallow hardening steel, then the "case" would be much deeper than it would be in the "carburizing" method...and you would also gain a "tough core". Or does the induction heating only affect the surface of the axle? Do you know the typical analysis of the 1541H? Thanks.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 08/30/03 10:16:03 EDT

I was just reading about using cylinder ends for hot dishing for making armour. I have lots of cylinder ends, in different sizes and shapes that I would like to get rid of. Is there a place to sell them cheap ( to cover my cost of handling and shipping)? Thanks
   Ed Kidera - Saturday, 08/30/03 11:38:42 EDT

Ed, write to me. Let me know where you are. location (shipping distance) is everything. . .

Jeff thanks for your comments. I'll have to add them to the JYH page. Folks often think guards are something only for libility shy manufacturers but they are for the safety of us ALL.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/30/03 12:54:38 EDT

Jeff, I want to echo the guru's gratitude for your comments reference guards. You've got me thinking about how to make a guard for the NCJYH.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 08/30/03 13:22:49 EDT

Not a week goes by that some father visiting our shop doesn't tell his children that people used to burn down buildings to reclaim the nails. Does anyone know if there is any basis in fact for this, or is it just another legend?
   Neal Bullington - Saturday, 08/30/03 13:39:33 EDT

Business Legalities: Rigel, According to the "notorious" Peter Fels, blacksmithing is ilegal in California if anyone finds out you are doing it. . .

That said . . Most smiths start out the wrong way or on a shoestring budget without any capital and remain starving artists forever. . On the other hand there is no "right" way. This business fits no standard model other than starving artist or itinerant craftsperson.

Most start as a hobby or back yard "business". The problem is that you can "get away" with almost anything as a hobby but as soon you become a business (or do anything "commercial") then all the laws apply. These include:

Zoning: You cannot run a business in most residential areas. Once a hobby becomes a business then look out.

EPA California is the strictest state in the nation. If it makes smoke you are in trouble (think gas forge).

Fire Regs: If it makes sparks (forge, grinders, welding) then it is verbotten (not permitted) in many areas and for good reason in highly flamable CA.

Business Licensing: Varies all over the place and is different even between counties and cities. Most states have a state wide sales tax and in CA you have different local sales taxes. Your sales tax license is different than a business license.

Installation: If you install architectural work you may need a contractors license. However, if a general contractor covers the job you can usualy com in under his license.

Plan: The book "NEW Edge of the Anvil" has a good article on the considerations of a business plan.

Capital: Everyone will tell you that you need one to two years operating capital to start a new business. That is wrong. You need that to start a SUCCESSFUL new business. Most of us do it with less and are rarely successful. Remember, that capital money needs to include the WAGES to pay yourself, not just pay the rent and electric.

CHARGE RATE: You must figure out how to charge $100/hour for your labor. This sounds outrageous to many folks but that is what it takes to make a living out of a small business. This number whittles down in a hurry. First, you are only 50% efficient at the BEST. Now you are down to $50/hour. Take away rent, utilities, insurance and you are down to $40/hour. Take away the cost of building your business (tools, machinery, a little advertising) and you are down to $30 or less an hour. Then remember that being self employed that Uncle Sam takes away DOUBLE the SS withholding you are used to. Taxes amount to a third or more of your gross. Now you are down to $20/hour or $40K/year IF you are more efficient than most AND you charge that $100/hour. Charge $50/hour and you could be making ZERO.

My apprentice has been slaving away trying to get his production rates up. So far the best he can do is about $50/hour but only for a couple hours a day. . . The economics are daunting. Not only do you need to be able to produce product at a rate of $100/hour you have to be able to market it at the same time.

Many smiths look at the "big job", the architectural commisions, the big sculptures and think, WOW XXXXXX thousnads of dollars. . . But the big jobs only come in a couple times a year and if you have more than one they will coincide so that you are either late deliverying OR incure higher costs to get them out. . . In the end those big dollar jobs often pay less than a bunch of little jobs. Between the big jobs there is often no work, for years! SO a lot of smiths with name recognition end up being starving artists or driving a fork lift. That is what happened to the fellow that did most of the iron work in the Washington National Cathedral, driving a fork lift.

You really have to LOVE smithing to stay in it. You also need to educate yourself in everything from business practice and contracts, history and design, to mechanics and machine operation.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/30/03 14:18:21 EDT


It's true. The situation got so bad that in colonial Virginia, the legislature actaully passed a law making it illegal to do so. There was also some kind of bounty program, (I'm not sure of the details) giving folks some amount of money to buy nails with when they moved, in order to remove the incentive.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 08/30/03 14:40:48 EDT

In response to the queston about a typical chemistry for 1541H used in truck axles, it is as follows:
C .35-.45
Mn 1.25 - 1.70
Si .15 - .30
S .01 - .025
Cr .15 -.2
moly .03 - .06
This is the steel that is used in the large truck axles. These are the type that DO NOT have bearings pressed on, but are full floating. I was told that this steel has been in use for at least 10 years, maybe longer. At our plant, any axle larger than 1.38" is 1541H, and the smaller are C1050. These axles are heat treated by induction heating and quenching with a polymer modified water spray as the induction coil scans the part from one end to the other. As Frank turly noted, this is really a case and core, with very deep hardness for a case. This is not carberized steel, and as it hardens so readily, quench cracking is easy. The axles are tempered at 350F for an hour to give a VERY tough material. Watch out for holding the steel at temp. too long as grain growth can be a problem. We scrap a crop end from every bar, and other scrap. Millions of pounds.This is very usefull stuff, as well as the 8620 aerospace grade steel we use.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Saturday, 08/30/03 19:42:15 EDT

The small hammer I made is a spring type, and I would be willing to put a picture on the power hammer page if you wish, with some details of the hood. The lack of guards on the JYH's that I had seen made me a bit complacent. I did make a good belt guard at first but had to break the spring to worry about the main moving parts. I think that this is a critical issue for anyone building a JYH.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Saturday, 08/30/03 19:46:22 EDT

The first spring I used was from an old truck. I used a single leaf, about 5/16" thick by about 2 1/4" wide. It was too limber. So I added a pair of shorter leaves one on top and one on the bottom. This made for a very good hammer. Then after several hours of use the spring broke at the end of the short leaves, must have caused over stress at that point. May have also been too small a radius on the short leaf end causing a cut into the long leaf. The stress riser that would have resulted would have caused failure. I went to a thicker spring(new) and this is not as good as the old three leaf system. I have a new tapered spring that I need to de=arch and install.My spring width was determined by the pivot and end details that I used. Being a good scrounger, I used the end of a rear pivot pnuematic cylinder and the mount to make the center pivot. Already had perfect pin and fits, were forged steel, and had tie rod holes to use for clamping the spring. I drilled the cylinder head for a pin to fit into the spring center hole, Made a top plate and bingo. I think it was a 4" cylinder. Same type end for the end of the spring to the pitman. Drilled and grease fittinged everything. Use molydisulfide axle grease on everything. No wear to date.
This hammer is about 30#, and with the present single spring peters out at about 1" stock. With the old multi spring I worked 2" square,although somwhat slowly. An important note; my source, a friend who owns a truck spring shop told me to NEVER drill out the center holes on the springs as they will break. I have seen several spring type hammers with slots ground in them to retain the spring. BAD MOVE!
   Jeff Reinhardt - Saturday, 08/30/03 20:02:27 EDT

Thanks for that info. I, for one, would love to see some pictures of your hammer. Until they make it on the JYH page, would you mind placing some in our User's Gallery on Yahoo?
   Marc - Saturday, 08/30/03 20:51:01 EDT

I will ahve to consult with my children to figure out how. The 15 year old is quit good at this stuff. He can't weld worth beans, but give him a computer and watch out.
The pictures will not really help that much, as I used stuff I had. If you can find a hydraulic shop in your area, ask to look in thier junk bin. The end of a rear pivot hydraluic cylinder, and the mating eye and pin are perfect for the center pivot. Find the big pulley first, then buy pillow block bearings with the same bore. I used about 3 1/2" off center for the crank, and used a large shoulder bolt with a lock nut for the crank pin. My crank shaft is 1 3/16" as that was the big pulley size. Use an industrial, forged turnbuckle from a building site if you can find one. Mine was a 7/8" threaded shaft galvanized turnbuckle from the wind bracing of a building. I was able to use it without reinforcing. I used square tube from a scrap pile for the center column. Filled it with steel shot. Sand would also work. I used a variable diameter pully, with a short lenght of tube to make a flat pulley for the motor. I just hinged the motor,and pull the motor pulley to start the hammer. Do not use a standard V-belt pulley as it tends to grab. I run the belt on the flat, and it slips nicley. The hammer "throttles" well. I have $43.00 in my hammer. I did get the dies of S-7, the ram, and the sow block made for free at my old place of employement as it was closed.
I think that a decent scrounger can build a hammer like this with a decent set of dies for a few hundred dollars. If he can get the machineing done like I did on the cheap, much less.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Saturday, 08/30/03 21:09:57 EDT


With no intention of being critical, I'm going to dis-agree with you on one point.

[FOR THE RAM] A sand filled tube is not a good idea. Even in a welded tube, the vibration will cause the sand grains to rub against each other. Over a period of time, the grains will grind to a certain amount of dust, which WILL get out of any openings in the tube. Sand is almost completely silica, which is a prime source of silicosis.

Use steel shot, or better yet, solid steel bar. Do not use lead, even poured molten, it will still bounce and creat lead dust, which in it's own way is just as bad as sand.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 08/30/03 21:20:49 EDT

Dear Guru,

Thankyou so much for the opportunity to ask my question. Your site is fabulous! So well done! My question relates to a stroy I am writing in which one of my characters must "modify" armour to expose the left shoulder. It is set in pre industrial revolution time and the blacksmith makes swords and jewellery. How would he go about doing this, given he is not in his forge but camping out and is it possible at all? I really appreciate the opportunity to ask these questions of you and, indeed, I will acknowledge this site in my writings. I am educated and in my forties and from Australia. Thanks so much for your help. If you need more information please let me know.

   Kim - Saturday, 08/30/03 23:27:13 EDT

Kim, there are medievalists and armor crafters who frequent this site and know much more than I, but they're not awake at this late hour (heheh), so I'll take a stab. What I'm going to give you is a question and some suggestions which will help you narrow YOUR original question's focus, thereby allowing the guru or some other worthy to answer your question. Of course, I'll be lurking in the wings, ready to snarf up all that spilled knowledge myself! Mua-haa-haa. Ahem, right then, here I go.

A prime commandment of good fiction is getting the facts straight, or at least making them believable enough to forestall DIS-belief, yes? What type of armor is it? That should be your first question, and will lead the more knowledgeable of the good peoples here to answer your question. With some types of armor, if I understand their construction, someone could modify it without the use of fire at all, but just simple tools. Also, how much of the shoulder is to be exposed? This also makes a difference.

As for the campfire, umm...I would think that a resourceful individual could get a campfire to produce forging heat in small and easily worked metal pieces, provided he can get some "blast" into the fire. This is important; people don't just carry blow-pipes around, and it would require a "windy" individual to assist. It would be rough, tribal-style work (not that there's anything wrong with that).

The time period and individual's origins will determine what type of armor he or she would be wearing. Pre-industrial revolution armor could range from a leather fencing jacket and some gloves to full jousting plate to a plaid wool brat, moggans, and a wood or leather shield, depending on how long before the Revolution.

And thank-you! My CSI dues help make this site fabuous and I'm proud of it. Thanks for visiting and poking around, and I look forward to reading further developments regarding your question.
   Two Swords - Sunday, 08/31/03 01:13:59 EDT

Fictional armor modification: Kim, I'll assume you are talking about plate armour. In your time period plate was cut with huge shears (3 to 5 feet long) OR a cold chisel. Since he is not in his shop and he has a small kit of tools the chisel (a common tool) and a hammer is all he has.

The plate would probably need to be annealed (softened) but not worked hot. Hot working plate is only done occasionaly and usualy only for rough stretching.

As Two Swords mentioned getting a camp fire hot enough to do hot work it would not be an easy task unless the fellow was prepared for a long night. . . The easiest way to do it is with a second pit next to the fire pit and a blanket or a hide. A tunnel just big enough to get your hand in is dug from one pit to the other and shored up with small rocks. The blanket or hide covers the air pit so that it sags nearly to the bottom. Dirt from the pit is used to seal it to the ground except in one space about one foot wide. If available a flat rock is set on edge between the pits as a heat sheild to protect the fellow blowing the fire AND to help prevent setting the hide on fire.

To pump air onto the fire a helper pinches the middle of the hide with one hand and lifts the unsealed intake area to let in air as he pulls up on the hide. When the hide is raised above ground level about the same distance as it sags into pit the intake area is closed and the hide pushed down into the pit in a slow steady motion. The blast of air into the other pit make sparks fly from the fire and a white heat developes. The the hide is all the way down the intake flap is lifted and the hide raised again. Over and over in a steady motion. As this is done on ones hands and knees while hunching over the pit and smoke and sparks is blowing into one's face it is VERY tiring. You need several helpers that change places. Using this method the charcoal in the fire can get hot enough to weld steel.

To anneal the piece of armour it would be heated to a dull red heat and then allowed to cool slowly. This would probably be done in the fire pit by just letting the piece set and the fire die down slowly.

When cool the plate would be cut with the hammer and chisel while supported on a small scythe anvil driven into a stump or the ground. To protect the anvil and the chisel a copper or lead covering would be put on the anvil.

After the cut was made the edge of the plate would have a smooth rolled edge put on it by working it over the edge of the anvil and supported free hand against his belly. Then the plate would need to be work hardened some by planishing. This is hammering the entire surface of the plate with a smooth round faced hammer on the anvil. Fast light overlapping strokes are used that smooth the surface and compact the metal making it harder. Rough planishing shows little hammer facets but finish planishing is so smooth you cannot see a tool mark.

Before rolling the edge of the plate the cut area may want to be flanged (an edge about 3/4" turned up a slight angle). The need for this would depend on the area and the reason for the modification.

So, the tools needed are, a smiths forging hammer, a chisel, a planishing hammer and a small bench or scythe anvil (about 4 to 8 pounds). The hide bellows could be made from a cloak, blanket or animal hide. This is a temporary use and except for the strong smoke smell it will not be harmed. A large rock COULD substitute for the anvil but is not very satisfactory and the scythe anvil was a very common tool of the period.

The MOST primitive method to blow a fire is by lung power. A group of fellows with long hollow wood pipes (much like a digery-do) set around the fire and BLOW. . . It works but is hard to keep up AND requires the hollow tubes. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 08/31/03 02:10:00 EDT

If your blacksmith is trying to expose the shoulder of a wounded knight, the pauldron (shoulder piece of plate armor) could be removed by cutting the leather straps that held the armor together.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/31/03 08:42:24 EDT

Power Hammer stuff:

Jeff, I was wondering about using a variable pulley. I rescued a treadmill from our transfer station because I heard that they have nice DC motors and controls. This one, though, was a 1hp AC motor, controlled by a variable pulley. I was first planning to use the NCJYH clutch method of rubbing a wheel against an inflatable tire. Might still do this if the variable pulley isn't up to the task or I can't find the DC motor.

PawPaw, I think Jeff put sand in the support beam, not the ram. At least that's the way I read it. Sand would be OK in that spot, right?

I've got a 4-inch round that I am planning for the ram. It's 3-ft long, so I still need to find a way to cut it down. I figure a 1-ft section will give me 40+ lbs. A nice compromise between length and weight.
   Marc - Sunday, 08/31/03 08:45:04 EDT


I don't think so. It's going to vibrate, no matter where it is in the structure. Vibrating is going to cause the grains of sand to rub against one another, creating dust. It's not worth taking the chance, silicosis is NOT a fun way to go.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/31/03 08:57:37 EDT

Paw Paw,
As Marc noted, I used a 8" square tube for the central column that everything is attached to. I filled this column with about 8 gallons of steel shot to fill the tube after I had the hammer on the foundation. Took about 6 gallons at first, and settled after use to take some more. If steel shot is not available free or cheap, sand would be OK if the container is sealed. I do agree that silicosis is bad news. My ram is a 10" lenght of 2" x 4" cold rolled steel. A chunk of rectangle steel is easy to aquire, and easy to rig to slide. With dies, rollers and the welded on roller mounts, I guess at 32#. I rigged the tapered truck spring to the hammer this morning. Better than the single leaf of 5/16", still not as good as the multileaf. I may yet rig another multileaf. I worked a 1" round into a large leaf with stem,roughed to the point of going to a hand hammer, and did it in 4 heats. Should have been able to do the same in 2 heats with the multileaf spring.

If I were to start from scratch, I might use the car tire clutch. It has good possibilities. What it all comes down to is look at what is available cheap, and start cutting and welding. Otherwise you end up with a perfect design, but only on paper. Remember to guard ANY moving parts. An easy guard for keeping you out of the works is to build a simple frame and use hardware cloth wired to the frame. For keeping parts out of you, use steel, lots of it.(Thye rams and springs on these machine have a lot of energy, use enough steel to soak up the energy BEFORE the parts get to you) You might guess my current title at the forge shop I work at during the day is Safety and environmental Manager. Used to do R & D, build machine tool and was a plant engineer. The manufacturing market is such that Safety was an out.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Sunday, 08/31/03 14:12:46 EDT


As I said, not being critical, but I don't agree that filling with sand for any point in the structure is a good idea. I suppose to some extent my opinion is colored by the fact that I have Emphysema and am very aware of breathing problems.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/31/03 16:23:21 EDT

Paw Paw,
I think that steel shot is indeed best. I doubt that any of these hammers will be in a full time shop,and with a sealed container, the likly hood of dangerous dust levels being present are rather remote. That said we should all be very careful that our hobby/lifestyle does not harm us. Steel shot is the better choice from the weight standpoint anyway. I went to filling the column to damp the bell like nature of the structure, and to add mass to damp the machine.If one has a large tube for a column on this thype machine, filling with steel slugs might also work. Having watched my machine run, there is indeed some vibration, and some grinding of the fill might occur. I withdraw the suggestion to use sand. For a source of steel shot, look to a production forge shop that has a wheel-a-brator machine. They scrap shot that has become too small. Be aware that the shot will be contaminated with the scale from whatever they have shotblasted, and this may also present hazards. New shot is available, and can be purchased.
   Jeff Reinhardt - Sunday, 08/31/03 18:06:31 EDT


One thing that I will add about the fictional smith is that all of the tools that the armourer uses to change the shape of the sheet iron or such are also made by theh smith. This is actually an often neglected aspect of the blacksmith. Usually there is a focus on horseshoes, swords and armour in old times as the production of the smith. Almost every craft DEPENDS of the smith for tools to practice their trade. Could you imagine doing woodwork or stone work without metal tools. You could but it would take a VERY long time.

Just something to keep in mind.

Caleb Ramsby
   Caleb Ramsby - Sunday, 08/31/03 18:47:44 EDT


I completely agree that steel shot would be MUCH better than sand. As for quantity, there is dust in every smithy. Not just from sand, but from grinding, sanding, shaping (scale breads down to dust, just from walking on it) and so for.

Believe me, it only takes a little bit to make a big difference in your lung capacity.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/31/03 19:21:46 EDT

I have just bought an anvi, at an estate auction this weekend and I have some questions about it. First, it is approximately 100 pounds, stands about 14" tall, and is about 32" long. It has the word "TRENTON" inside of a diamond border on one side. The table shows some roll-over along the edge, but is otherwise in very good condition. My first question is, can I re-surface the table with hard-surfacing electric arc welding rod, or is there another process that can accomplish this? My second question is, how valuable is this particular anvil?
Thanks for any help you can provide.
   Alcon - Sunday, 08/31/03 19:58:06 EDT

Question on Faggot Weld.

Greetings all. I am still a relative newbie. Over the past few weeks, I have spent most of my time at the forge practicing welding, trying to get close to 100% on my welds. I had a quick question about how I do a faggot weld and I'm always looking for suggestions.

I am working with 1" stock, I do my cut about 80% through the bar. I heat the metal to a red/orange heat, pull it out, clean the scale, apply a small amount of borax and bend the surfaces together. Then I heat to my forging heat and forge the pieces together. My question is this. If I clean the scale off and the pieces are then immediately bent together, doesn't that keep the oxygen out of the welding area? For this reason, would it be okay to not use borax on that type of weld? Or maybe just sprinkle the borax on the edge seams to take care of any air getting into the weld? Not all that important, I'm just trying to make sure I understand the processes as best I can.

I'm probably just trying to think about it too much... :)

BTW: Thanks to all for the great conversations on this forum. Its great to see all the various skill levels work together to share knowledge.

   Scott - Sunday, 08/31/03 21:00:47 EDT

Everybody take a deep breath and sit down, now medieval blacksmiths did not make swords! A bladesmith would forge the blade and may even heat treat it, the grinding would be sourced out and the hilting would be definitely sourced out. They would *not* make jewelry. The would *not* make armour. (you don't ask your proctologist to do heart surgery! These are skilled crafts and the usual result of folks working in one they are not trained in is armour or weapons that don't work right---your insurance rates go way up!)

Migration to early medieval smiths did a wider variety of stuff; but armour of that time is maille and trivial to cut a section out; *much* harder to replace/repair a section as you would have to have or make the wire and make the rings, do the overlap and flatten, punch, knit, rivit. It was done as you can see patches of different size wire and rings in extant suits.

Folks using plate armour usually means an armour smith somewhere around---like rich folks having a mechanic to work on their cars now days.

Now during most or the middle ages armour was not heat treated as it was made of low carbon wrought iron, (Alan Williams has written extensively on this with research done *recently*; please do *not* use the "urban legends" of 100 years ago))

I'd say forget the fire, use a cold chisel and a rock for the anvil (one that curves the same way as the armour does would be a lucky find!) Re-forging the chisel as it becomes worn would be a smithing thing to do (with heat treat, water quenching for those steels, draw from the haft.

We tend to forget how different things were back then. A "single" person shop would be unheard of. You would expect the master, several journeymen and a handfull of apprentices---in a small rural shop, a bladesmith or armour maker would have *more* or outsource more, (records mention buying sheet iron from batter mills and sending harneses fresh from the forge to the polishers and to folks to drill the holes and add the buckles and "mount* the armour for use.) Now days we are rich in capital---I have bladesmithing tools, blacksmithing tools, woodworking tools, non-ferrous metalworking tools etc, but poor in labour. In medieval times you would be lucky to have the tools of your craft! And in guild controled areas tools of a different craft found in your shop could be confiscated and destroyed!

   - Thomas Powers - Sunday, 08/31/03 21:51:36 EDT

More Thoughts on Armor:

We really need to know the date, the country of origion, and the social class of the person who's armor is being worked on.

For instance, despite the movie "Braveheart" the Scottish knights would have differed very little from the English knights (and some held lands in both England and Scotland). As a rule of thumb, the Scottish harness would have tended to be a bit older, plainer and less fashionable than English armor, due to the relative wealth of the national nobilities. London would tend to keep up with the latest fashion more than Edinburgh. On the other claw, the Scots had close ties with France, so it would not be out of the question to have a rich Scottish knight rigged out in the latest harness. (And with everybody in similar armor, you begin to understand the use of heraldry, badges and banners to tell the sides apart. Friendly fire is not a 20th century phenomonen.)

I don't mean to muddy the water, but if you want to do it right, you need to nail down all sorts of niggling (and major) details.

When writing historical fiction, the research is a major factor. When writing medieval fantasy (in parody), I can just cut loose and apply what I know, changing the world to fit the context as needed.

Hot, humid and more rain coming on the banks of the lower Potomac. Made my last run to meet with Finnr's widow and pick up some more leatherworking supplies, tools and metal stock. We'll sell & auction them at Hastings, all profit to go to the widow.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 08/31/03 23:06:45 EDT

This Just In:

My wife was watching the 10:00 news and they showed a panel truck or large white van on fire on the Washington Beltway with "L????? FORGE" written on the side. All occupants appeared to be safe, but the truck was burning pretty hot. Looks like another annealed anvil.

Anybody we know? If we see anything else, we'll pass it on.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 08/31/03 23:13:48 EDT

Scott, About fagot welds, my answer is based on experience. I don't flux the interfaces and then close. I close and then sprinkle borax around the area to be welded, especially the shuts. I hammer from the closed end toward the open end to help squeeze out the "soup". I have a hunch that some of the flux will creep into the shut area by capillary action. Regardless, if you reach a welding heat without flux, the scale is molten on the outer surface *and* the interfaces. If you do use flux, the scale and flux will melt forming a new compound. We needed to weld two horseshoes together in horseshoeing school as a beginning exercise, and the instructor did not allow us to use flux. All 12 students got the job done.

Proper hammering from closed end to open end is important. Taking slightly overlapping welding heats is important on a long piece. You don't need a lot of sparks, if any, to weld. The light welding heat or "sweating heat" is an non-sparking heat and there is less chance of reaching the incipient burning range.

I believe that all forge welds of everyday smith work should be hit relatively lightly for the first few blows. This allows the metal to cohere without slipping (shearing) apart. Once "stuck", the blows can increase with force.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 08/31/03 23:37:57 EDT


Not mine.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/31/03 23:53:45 EDT

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