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This is an archive of posts from August 1 - 8, 2004 on the Guru's Den
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I'm looking into a trip hammer. three options available are Canadian Giant 25, Alberetlea#50 Minn. and Iron store Giant 50. Does anybody out there know these models? Parts available etc. Dead Horse Creek Forge..B.C. Canada
   dead horse forge - Sunday, 08/01/04 01:18:15 EDT

None of those power hammers are still being manufactured, so parts are going to be iffy. I think that all three hammers you mentioned are very similar to Little Giant hammers, also no longer being manufactured. Meyer Bros. was owner of the Little Giant name for a while, and they were in AlbertLea, Minnesota, I recall reading somewhere. However, the Little Giant powerhammer company name is now owned by Harlan (Sid) Suedmeier of Nebraska City, Nebraska. You can reach him at 402-873-6603 or email him at Lgiant@alltel.net for any parts needs. Sid would very likely know what parts will interchange, I would think.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/01/04 01:34:20 EDT

VICOPPER; You've got 5 G's in yer ears ? Sheesh ! I b**ched about 2 grand. What do you get for that kind of dough, a Playboy Bunny who does ASL ? Or, is the difference in the shipping and handling ? We'll get together at SOFA and compare hearing aid anecdotes. Actually, if you were to hook all the hearing aids at a smithing conference together, you could probably do some light welding.
   3dogs - Sunday, 08/01/04 04:04:19 EDT


What I have in my ears right now is hair. I don't have the bucks for the snazzy digital, triple-mic, compensated and programmed beasties that the audiologist says will do the job I need done. So I just say "Huh?" a lot and try to read lips. The cutie doing ASL sounds like a pretty good deal, though. Wonder what the shipping/handling would come to on that? (grin)

For those of you who can still hear, WEAR PROTECTION! Good muffs are really, really cheap compared to hearing aids as you can tell from the prices above.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/01/04 06:55:40 EDT

Mayer Bros. were located in Mankato, Minnesota and were asked to leave (losing) their company then started another hammer company in Wisconsin.
   - Robert-ironworker - Sunday, 08/01/04 10:15:07 EDT

dead horse,
Dave Manzer at Wildrose forge in Peers Alberta has a couple videos out on powerhammers. They deal mostly with the Little Giant and Jardine (Canadian Giant) There is some information on the videos on the bookreview page here on anvilfire. (accessible from the drop down menu in the upper right corner of this page)
This reply brought to you by the letters C, S, and I
   JimG - Sunday, 08/01/04 10:55:26 EDT

Railing How-To: David, this is a wide open field for writing a how-to book. However, once beyond the basics you are either into mass-production or fine art. There are also the regulatory issues which are a moving target that no book can address. If you find a 20 year old plan for a railing OR a old railing you want to install it probably will not meet the newest rules.

There are two basic ways to go with variations inbetween.

1) Spend a years studying to be a blacksmith and practice making "traditional" joints in iron (mortise and tenon, riveted, collars) along with piercing and forge welding. You will need a shop full of tools.

2) Buy components from an architectural component manufacturer and arc weld them together. You will need a torch, arc welder and a grinder.

There are common problems to both methods. The first is that every locality has different rules about what is allowed and what is not. There are building code rules on spacing of pickets and the height of rails. There is an insidious new rule that was beaten down as ludicris but that some localities have adopted anyway called the "no climb rule". This says there can be no horizontal members or toe holds so that a person of any age could climb the rail. All any book can tell you is to check the local building code and talk to people in the business to find out how the written code is interperted locally. Some inspectors are lax, some strict and a few moronic.

Codes will tell what something has to do but not HOW to do it. There are strength rules for railings that simply say "must be strong enough to withstand expected loads". That is all, you have to figure it out or hire an engineer. They WANT you to hire an engineer. Most do not. It is a risk.

A great number of rails I have seen in both wood and metal are jokes. They were not a lot better than the break-away railings that Hollywood uses for fight scenes. A railing should take the weight of several adults bouncing off of it or as many as can line up along it leaning hard on it. Both the railing and its anchoring come into play here.

The second common problem is finishing. I have written reams here on the proper way to paint ironwork and will not repeat it. Proper finishing can cost as much as the fabrication.

THEN the third common problem is installation. This is an art unto itself. Drilling into masonry is always problematic. In the old days hammer drills were used and the rails were set in lead. Today most contractors use fancy hollow core diamond bits to make a large oversize hole. Then the rail is set with a product called "Rockite". I recommend epoxy because I have had Rockite fail completly and wash away in the rain. Lead is and can still be used. In all cases you have to remember that the mason never considered that someone was going to drill holes in his work or that a single brick might be the anchor for an entire railing. Long straight rails should always have side braces at mounting points and terminations. Otherwise is is very easy for a bottom anchor to break out of wood or to crack masonry.

Painting and installation can cost more than a good custom rail. When the no-climb rule exists you may have to drill holes for EVERY picket When every picket goes to the floor the spacing of steps is oten greater than the spacing rule allows. In this case there must be two pickets for every step. Lots of holes to drill and have line up. . .

Most folks that do fabricated railings learn it in a commercial shop that does this kind of work. Blacksmiths usualy learn it the hard way.

Although a lot of smiths want the big architectural glory jobs they are much better off focusing on furniture or wrought iron beds. They are the same class of work without the regulation and aggrevation.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/01/04 12:22:54 EDT

Railing Horror Stories:

In Virginia I had a friend mounting a railing in an oak hardwood floor and stairs. The plan was to use 3" long 5/8" studs screwed into the wood and framing and then drill and pin the pickets that fit over the studs. Good plan. However, there was nothing under the wood for 2" except sheet rock (for fire proofing). The expected framing was not there. This cost a 300 mile round trip, a day making longer anchors and another day on the job. The carpenter had also failed to put in the requested anchoring points in the framing for the top of the rail. Luckily the rail made several turns AND the bottom termination was planed with a side bracket. The contractor was not happy that the finished and painted wall had to be torn apart to install an anchor block and be replastered and painted.

On this same job in a new multi million dollar home it was found that the rise and run of the stairs were different for every stair. VERY careful measurements had been made but it would have been easy to miss the +/- 1/2" variations in two directions.

On this same job the railing and tools and equipment to install it had to carried across a polished black marble floor. . . This job was completed but only after much frustration and frayed nerves. The person doing the job had many years of experiance in these things and managed to finish the job satisfactorily. However, several days were lost. Many others would have lost their shirt.

In England a fellow specified that he wanted a railing that looked like grape vines with leaves and tendrils but that he wanted no hammer marks or texture and that the whole was to be (in the client's words) "silver polished" and clear finished. The whole specification was no longer than this paragraph.

Some eager but naiev smiths took on this job. At this point both the client and the smiths at made a huge mistake. First, the clients specification was too open to interpertation. Second the smiths should have insisted on stainless steel or not taken the job. Third, neither party insisted on drawings (to prevent artistic disputes).

I heard about this job when the client sent me photos of the mess he had in his home. He wanted an expert opinion about the job, probably for a law suit. The long rail with several turns had been completed. Miles of forged vine, top rail and pickets had been ground and polished and lacquered. The smiths had done a Herculean job. On installation the finish and base metal had been scratched on some long flat pieces, there was also field arc welding that discolored the metal, burned the finish and was difficult to repair. The finish had been repaired but the welding was rough and obvious. There were also places where rusty hand prints were starting to show under the finish.

This job had some huge problems and both parties were equaly at fault. I am sure the smiths underbid the job. That much polishing and grinding would have taken a truck load of expensive abrasives on top of the thousands of hours. From the hurried look of the field welds and refinishing I am sure there was either pressure from the client to hurry up and get out OR the money had run out.

The client did not know how to specify a job and the smiths who SHOULD have known did not insist on a tighter spec.

The finish was bound to fail. Absolute cleanliness is required to apply a clear finish on bare metal. This was virtually impossible on this big a job. Many clear finishes can also breathe, letting corrosion occur under the finish. The client was naiev about specifying this finish and the smiths were naiev in aggreeing to do it.

Both parties were equally at fault for the results of this job. I'm sure that it will never be resolved happily. The artistic dispute (not flowing enough, not enough tendrils) cannot be fixed. The finish needs to be redone with opaque paint of some type. I'm sure the client will always think it is the smiths failure when he is equally to blame.

This job would have gone differently if three simple things had happened. 1) That drawings had been made and agreed to.
2) That the smiths fiqured out field assembly methods that did not require welding and were part of the drawings. 3) That the smiths had advised the client that the finish would not hold up and that stainless steel was the only material that suited this design.

In the North East US a fellow installed a fabricated rail where he had made the components. Installation required field welding and grinding the top rail. The rail paralleled a row of plate glass windows. . . He never thought about the fact that hot grinder swarf welds to glass. The result was a row of ruined plate glass windows that cost at least as much as the rail. . .

Field welding and grinding are commonly done but at great risk. Sputter balls will burn into anything included causing spalls in stone and concrete OR sticking to masonry and producing rust stains. Wood is burnt. Sputter balls weld to glass and also leave oxidized tracks on glass. Grinding swarf welds to glass and produces a rough surface that cannot be cleaned and shows a visible haze. Grinding swarf can embed into wood and not show up until much latter as the iron oxide turns the wood black. Both sputter balls and swarf are hard enough to scratch almost any surface.

One way to avoid field welding in top rails is to make carefully fitted lap joints and rivet in place. Done properly very little grinding is necessary and it may be possible to get away with filing.

Architectural work is interesting work and can pay well. But naivete and the learning curve can be very expensive.

In the US the fabricators get the lion's share of the railing jobs. One reason is price, the other is delivery. Smiths are notorious for slow delivery. To be competitive in this field you must mechanize. You need power hammers, gas forges, ironworkers, twisters, platten tables AND skilled helpers. A smart well equiped smithy should be able to compete with the component maker. Even though the component is made in a slave wage country there is transportation cost and and the middle man's proffit. YOUR extra cost has be sold as quality custom work. But this cost cannot be extravagant. People WILL pay more but they must get value for their money. You have to produce better looking work in the same time as the fabricator.

To compete in this area you have to be smart, tough and efficient as well as a good sales person.

   - guru - Sunday, 08/01/04 13:45:34 EDT

guru thank you for the info. I am a beginer blacksmith ,the railing is for my own house and education in metal working.I'am greatful for this web page and the knowlege of those who responde to the questions asked on it Thank you again. David NC
   David NC - Sunday, 08/01/04 16:36:49 EDT

David NC,

Poart of the support that keeps anvilfire running comes from the dues paid by the members of CSI. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, you can be a part of that support group.

It's one of the best investments you can make, I urge you to consider it.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/01/04 17:57:20 EDT

DIY RAIL David, Your best bet is to just look at railings of the type you are interested in. Measure them if you can. Then measure and layout your stairs as a scale drawing. Make no assumptions about squareness or equality of measurements. 1/4 scale on large paper is your best bet.

Then draw the rail on the scale layout. Standard rails are now 40" tall (I think) and most inspectors go by what is know as the 8" ball rule. If an 8" ball can pass through the rail then it is too open. (Check your local building code). This is easy to do with straight pickets but requires careful layout if the fill is scrolls and such.

Then you will need materials. The common cheap rail components are usualy available from your local steel supplier or a contractor supply. But you MAY have to order them.

At the least you need a good heavy drill press for picket holes. Both fabricators and blacksmiths usualy punch the holes using an ironworker which can make either round or square holes as needed.

Low cost rails are made with a top rail that fits over 1-1/8" channel. Pickets are made of 3/8" square bar that is straight or twisted. The channel is used as the horizonal bar on top and bottom. It is drilled with 1/2" holes and the bar forced in. Then the pickets are welded into place by filling the open places around the square bar. The top cap is fitted over the channel. Corners are mitered, flanges mounted on the ends that meet walls and lamb's tongues on the exposed end tenrmination.

3/8" square for pickets is a favorite fro light work because it can be cold twisted by hand given a big vise and long wrench.

The open end termination of the top rail is called a lamb's tongue because it looks sort of like a tongue. These can be ordered as weld on parts but are most often made by torching and grinding a taper about 6" long on the rail with a round end. This is then bent into the classic S shape as needed. This is as close to blacksmithing as fabricators usualy get.

The corner and newel posts are made of 1" square tubing on cheap jobs and 1-1/4" square on better jobs. The 1" is light weight and easy to handle but the thin wall makes welding tricky.

Between this cheap K-mart rail described above and a first class hand forged rail is fabricated rail made with components made in production blacksmith shops. These components are assembled similar to the above. A very nice looking job can be done with about the same amount of labor. The components come in a wide variety of styles. Look up King Archetectural Supply, JG Braun or Rik-Fer USA.

On quality work most smiths use 1/2" or 5/8" for pickets. On heavy exterior work they may use 3/4". Corner and newel posts will be solid 1" to 2" bar. Top rail is usualy solid and either ordered from specialty suppliers or forged in the shop. Simple to cap is 1/2" x 1-1/2" or 2" with the corners chamfered and sometimes lines chased near the edges. Fancier rail is forged on a power hammer from 1-1/4" round bar using custom dies. Bottom and intermediate horizontals are made from 1/2" or 3/8" by 1-1/4 or 1-1/2. These are punched for the pickets to pass through. Often the pickets have tennons which pass through round holes and are riveted on the far side. Solid top rail is done the same way with countersunk holes. The upset tennon fills the counter sink and is then ground and filed to blend in.

A blacksmith made rail can have scrolls, leaves, flowers, collared joints and all kinds of custom decorative elements. Terminations are often flat spirals or a fancy forged newel post.

Occasionaly you will see old work with a narrow half round set on a flat bar for a top rail. Built up top rails are a bad idea because rust builds up in the gap and forced the pieces apart. This usualy results in humps in the half round and long term maintenance headaches.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/01/04 18:26:34 EDT


The Uniform Building Code now requires openings no larger than what will pass a 4" ball. Pretty soo, we'lll just have to build them of solid sheet. (grin)
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/01/04 20:05:44 EDT

I've seen examples of railings in public spaces that did not pass the 4" ball test that were then covered in thin plexiglass. Go smack a lawyer today!
   Alan-L - Sunday, 08/01/04 21:11:57 EDT

I have been interested in blacksmithing for some time .I am a retired pipefitter .Some time ago I welded up a "deck grating " to fit my fireplace .With the 40ft chimney ,and a glass front ,it got so hot it softened the steel and made it sag.Do you think this would be suitable for forging (after buliding a forge on the concrete based porch)by natural draft ?
   Norbert Armstrong - Sunday, 08/01/04 23:53:44 EDT

Its true, the 4" sphere is the rule across the US now- as the building codes are becoming "rationalised" across the USA, the formerly 3 different codes are becoming all the same. And all require 4" spheres to be the largest opening.

A great book for David NC to look for would be "metal fabrication- a practical guide" by robert O'con and Richard Carr, Prentice Hall. It discusses all the ways fabricators make things, and the tools they use, plus it has a very good chapter on blacksmithing, and a good chapter on designing and building common types of railings, gates, and even spiral stairs. If you study this book, you will have at least an idea of what you would learn working for a fabricator for a couple of years.

As far as site welding on high end architectural ironwork goes, for many years now, I only tig weld on site- no spatter, no smoke, minimal heat discoloration, and with a few fireproof blankets, you can minimise the danger of damage to other surfaces. We recently had to install a bunch of metalwork inside a finished library building, with all finished surfaces painted, the carpet down, and we were working right up against about 10,000 dollars worth of custom milled wood hand rail with 4 or 5 coats of finish on it. We park the truck close by, run 100 feet of hot and ground leads in from the gas drive welder, and scratch start tig weld all the connections. Quick, clean, and easy. The welds usually look so good they need no grinding. Now I have even improved the technique farther, with a small cart holding a high frequency unit, argon tank and a water cooler, I can use a foot pedal and water cooled torch inside buildings, or, recently, up on an 80 foot manlift. If you do much of this type of installation, tig is the only way to go.
We do quite a bit of stainless work, and of course tig welding is also the best way to put that together on site. We have the stainless electropolished commercially before installation, then use a small battery charger sized portable electropolisher to touch up our site welds.
The modern day metalworker has to adapt modern technology- otherwise you lose your modern shirt.
   - Ries - Monday, 08/02/04 01:03:19 EDT

Ball Gauge Size: WHOOPS. . .

Overheated Grate: Norbert, Steel in a fire loses most of its strength at about 700-800 degrees and sags easily under load. Bar grating has nothing very large in it and when hot tossing a log on will make a mess of it. These temperatures are a LOT lower than the nearly 3,000°F needed for forging.

Yes, it is possible to build a natural draft forge that will get plenty hot. However, you absolutely do not want to do so on a concrete surface. Steam forms in the concrete and it spalls when exposed to these temperatures.

The problem with a natural draft is control. Once a coal forge is up to temperature it requires very little air to melt and burn steel. The trick is to get the air blast UNDER the fire rather than over the top. Forges usualy concentrate the blast in a relatively small area to produce a very intense heat.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 04:19:24 EDT


Could you list a source for your portable electropolishing unit?
   vicopper - Monday, 08/02/04 09:51:59 EDT


"The modern day metalworker has to adapt modern technology- otherwise you lose your modern shirt."

Very well said indeed!

I also would like to know a source for the portable electropolisher.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 08/02/04 10:17:17 EDT

Anvil Face -- new tool steel or hardfacing. Was considering taking an ASO and welding on a spring steel face or using hardfacing rod. Remember somewhere someone recommended 2 different rods. Softer one first then harder one. How thick need to build up each layer. What size rod 1/8" or perhaps 3/16"? Assume prehead ASO to a few 100 deg. Do I need to peen hot welds? Hardfacing sounds easier than trying to weld on a new steel face. Recommendations? Worth the effort?
   Dale Alexander - Monday, 08/02/04 11:05:33 EDT

Dale A, for the time involved and the price of materials (hardface rod is expensive!) you'd be better off buying a new real anvil. I understand the sheer cussedness of wanting to do it yourself, but in my opinion it's not worth it.
   Alan-L - Monday, 08/02/04 11:26:54 EDT

You cannot convert a cast iron ASO to a real anvil. Although welding to cast iron IS possible it is virtually impossible to hard face a large piece.

The hardfacing methods described in various places are used on fabricated low carbon steel anvils.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 12:17:46 EDT

guru -- I was thinking of doing on Russian Anvil if that makes any difference.
   Dale Alexander - Monday, 08/02/04 13:23:27 EDT

Does anybody know how that chemicle file sharpening stuff is supposed to work? Does the acid eat the parts of the file that are stressed by the chisel faster or something like that?
   HavokTD - Monday, 08/02/04 13:40:51 EDT

elcectropolish: have no clue if this is it or not,

   Ralph - Monday, 08/02/04 13:46:13 EDT

I think, I repeat I think that it simply eats away some of the metal leaving a sharp useable edge.
   Ralph - Monday, 08/02/04 13:49:04 EDT

Acid Sharpening: Havok, Ralph is right. Acid file sharpening takes advantage of the fact that corosion tends to avoid sharp corners for some reason. The other surfaces are reduced leaving a sharper edge. This process has been around a long time but I have no experiance with the results.

As late as the early 1990's When files were hand cut and steel very expensive heavy files were often annealed, reground and recut. Some manufacturers that used a lot of files would specify heavy square files instead of thin flat files so that they could be recut.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 14:10:14 EDT

welding hard face on an ASO... been there done that... would not sigest it.
ASO $50, shipping $30 ($80)
rod $120
abrasive costs 5 ruffing disks (4.5 inch)$40
60 or so sanding disks (4.5 inch) in varying grits from 24-120 (about 15 of each) $85
time spent 2 hours to preheat(with propain heater) 5 hours welding 10 hours grinding
result- an anvil that has no ring very little rebound (though it dosn't ding up that much) and corners that chip out with a 3/8" radi.
total price $305 per pound about $4.30
NOT INCLUDEING my time or cost of juce for welder/grinders and propain for the heater
last anvil I picked up- mouse hole 350LB cost $250 per pound about $0.72
   MP - Monday, 08/02/04 14:26:18 EDT

Anvil Hard Facing: This is not very economical. A lot of folks do it but they do not consider all the hidden costs. After the cost of the ASO.

First, hard facing rods are very expensive, about $1 each. You may need 50-100 or more.

Second, electricity is often overlooked as a welding expense. We had one fellow here get a surprise electric bill that was over $100 higher than usual after building a power hammer. He tried to get ME to explain to his wife that the cost didn't have anything to do with his welding! In a large shop it might not be noticed but at home someone will definitely see the cost.

Third, depending on your skill as a welder you will have to grind and grind and grind the surface. Pits, holes and slag inclusions must be ground out and rewelded between layers. Then the finished surface which will look like a freshly plowed field must be ground smooth patched and ground some more. AND. . grinding wheels and belts are not cheap and this process takes a BUNCH. You can also easily wear out a light duty grinder or two.

If all this time, money and effort was put into a part time job you could easily afford buy a first class professionaly manufactured anvil that was ten times better than your home made one. Add up the above costs (anvil, rods, electricity, abrasives) and then look at the prices of Euroanvils OR used anvils at a blacksmith meet.

On the other hand, if you are a good welder, are doing this on someone else's dime (government work) and like to spend hours and hours using a noisy grinder then by all means this is a good route to go.

When we first launced anvilfire almost 8 years ago I wrote several articles on making inexpensive anvils. Today however, steel prices have gone out of sight in the US and scrap is going for what new steel was 10 years ago. . . And there is the proliferation of anvils being imported from Eastern Europe that are well made and are impossible to beat price wise. You are far better off to buy the finished product than to do it yourself today.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 14:36:29 EDT

Add electricity to MP's cost and $1/hr for your labor and you can buy a NEW Peddinghaus including shipping.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 14:40:53 EDT

Has anyone tried the russian cast steel anvils that HF is selling nowadays? I purchased the 110lb version, has a nice ring and good rebound but I haven't done any real pounding yet (just knife blades from thin stock, no drawing or real shaping with the hammer). Just curious if I spent $70 on a stake holder or not.
   MikeA - Monday, 08/02/04 14:52:20 EDT

MikeA: I've heard decient things about them and had a chance to try one once and I didn't notice a major drop in quality between that and my pretty decient trenton 100# anvil. Only down side I've heard about them is that the face is slightly softer then typical good anvils. Easier to ding, though easier to fix by peening the surrounding area too.
   AwP - Monday, 08/02/04 15:23:24 EDT

Stair Code: Anyone who has not built a stair to code in the last 6 months would do well to visit their local building department. The code has changed in regard to allowable tread and riser, head room , rail, framing and toe space. I know of several local builders who have had to remodel floor plans on NEW homes, because the stairs did not meet code and the building department did not catch the problem untill final inspection. The developers are still in court with the city.
   Habu - Monday, 08/02/04 15:44:15 EDT

Thanks. That's kind of what I thought. The one I purchased had a small imperfection in the face. It was so small that the polishing will take it out (the face as is from the store has machining marks on it). But in a moment of boredom I started tapping around the mark with an embossing hammer and was able to get most of it to go away. No big deal, as an armorer most of my work is done on stakes anyway and this should do the rest of what I need. Thanks for the feedback.
And thanks to all who replied regarding the soundproofing. Lots of info, once we move I'll just play it by ear (sorry) and see how it goes with the materials I have available (and can afford) and I'll try to be extra nice to the neighbors.
I plan on making a bunch of towel racks, wall sconces and candle holders then having a housewarming bbq telling everyone to just take something.
   MikeA - Monday, 08/02/04 16:15:30 EDT

Does Acid sharpening work on stainles steels, too??
   HavokTD - Monday, 08/02/04 16:53:28 EDT

The Russian: Click this link for our review of the Russian anvil. It is linked from our anvil selection article and on the 21st Century page under product reviews.

The Cast Steel Russian is not an ASO, it is just a cheap low quality anvil. A true ASO is not good for much of anything. See the article for details.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 17:20:19 EDT

Acid on Stainless: Havok, What is it you would try to sharpen this way? It may have been used on SS but the only thing I have heard of the process being used on is files.

Acid sharpening DOES remove some of the edge. But it leaves a sharp ragged place there, not a round or flat. Since files are a series of relatively ragged teeth this is not a problem. However, when a straight edge like a blade is corroded the the edge does become thinner and sharper BUT it also becomes ragged. Sort of a chemical serrated edge. . . Not very pretty.
   - guru - Monday, 08/02/04 17:30:03 EDT

Howdy to all of you gurus out there. I just wanted to ask if any of you have worked with charcoal in the forge, and if you have, do you like using hardwood or softwood, or, which one works better for forging. With winter coming up in a few months, i figured itd be a good time to make a batch. I live in SE Missouri, and can get my hands on scrap hardwood and softwood, and i have plans for a kiln. I like using the Cowboy charcoal to work with in my bottom draft forge (made by Buffalo Forge Company). Any info will be much appreciated!

Thanks, Ian Wille
   Ian Wille - Monday, 08/02/04 17:35:30 EDT

I've got a bunch of those "laser sharpened ginsu knives" that are dull as heck. I doubt I could put a decent edge on 'em with a stone due to the fact that they're serrated, so I was gona try the chem sharpening, and see what it did.
   HavokTD - Monday, 08/02/04 17:36:26 EDT

Ian, the japanese swordmakers use softwood, I use hardwood, I think it's mostly whatever you have access to. I think size of the fuel amkes a bigger difference.

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/02/04 18:32:45 EDT

Back when Oerjan used to post here he always swore softwood charcoal didn't spark nearly as bad as hardwood. When, one of these days, I get around to making my own, I'll use whatever is free source material. FWIW, back in the day, black powder manufacturers specified willow and alder as the best charcoal for their purpose. Jack Daniel's (and yes, the apostrophe is in the right place, his last name had no "s") uses only sugar maple charcoal. Wonder what they do with it after they're through?
   Alan-L - Monday, 08/02/04 20:15:47 EDT

What gas forge should the beginner purchase. I read the reviews on the N C Whisper Momma with open ends and I am leaning towards it. Any suggestions?

   F Chalk - Monday, 08/02/04 20:38:58 EDT


If you get a round ceramic (or better yet, diamond0 sharpening rod, you can sharpen those serrated knives just fine. Just run the hone in the serrations, then hone the other side with a flat stone. Again, diamond is best for stainless steel.

For the blades that have very fine saw teeth type serrations, use an appropriately sized checkering file first to clear and renew the teeth, on one side only. Then use a fine Arkansas (or diamond) stone to hone the opposite side only. You can get a factory-fresh edge this way with just a bit of practice.

The chemical erosion won't work, sorry.
   vicopper - Monday, 08/02/04 20:45:12 EDT

Hey, it was a thought for the lazy guy in me. I don't think I have it in me to waste 3 hours with a file and stone trying to sharpen a $20 knife.
   HavokTD - Monday, 08/02/04 21:12:13 EDT

Ian Wille: I've heard that softwood burns hotter, but faster too. I buy hardwood just because that's what's available locally, but I toss in any old scrap wood I have lying around and haven't had any problems.
   AwP - Monday, 08/02/04 22:03:44 EDT

I have seen a Leatherman (stainless) blade that got soaked in Clorox bleach overnight to sterilize it. The edge of the blade, as the estimable Guru sez, got wrecked all to hell, just eaten away in spots. Get one of those itsy bitsy ceramic rods and sharpen it right.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 08/02/04 22:19:14 EDT

seen that happen with brake fluid a couple of times. Made a real mess of some rather nice tools.
   HavokTD - Monday, 08/02/04 22:39:38 EDT

I am trying to repair a 100 year old cast bronze statue using gas brazing. An arm has been broken off and is held on only by the armature.What filler rod is recommended and what chemical to restore the green patina?
you can call me at 404-694 1100. Atlanta Ga. I have been doing welded sculture for about 10 years as an amateur hobbyist/craftsman
   Barry - Monday, 08/02/04 23:48:41 EDT

Portable electropolisher-
The portable unit I have is from these guys- Screenpro at www.screenpro.net
It is not cheap- costs about a thousand dollars!!! They also sell proprietary acids and cleaners for it.
Is it worth it?
Not unless you are doing a lot of stainless, and getting paid what you should for doing it. It is not exactly a battery charger- but you might be able to use a battery charger. It runs about 40 volts, and I am not sure of the amps, but it is heftier than a standard car battery charger. The acid is a phosporic based custom mix. I have a friend who has had success using a citric acid instead, which is a lot friendlier to use.
This small electropolisher is really just good for cleaning up welds- it is not powerful enough to clean up forged stainless- for that, I send it out to a guy who has a 4'x8'x4' deep bathtub of 120 degree heated acid, and he runs a 1000 amp 100volt power supply. That strips off the black forged finish on stainless, and leaves it very very shiny in 15 minutes or so. Not something you would want to have in your shop, much less something the EPA would want you to have.
Everything about stainless costs more- you must bid stainless jobs at least double or triple what you would bid mild steel- Lately, in large quantities- say a ton at a time, I have been paying around $2.15 a pound. Then add in more expensive, and just plain more, drill bits, bandsaw blades, grinding and sanding discs, etc. Tig is the best way to weld it- figure 3500 or so for a decent tig welder, with argon running 60 to 80 bucks a tank. Of course, stainless filler rod aint cheap either. And everything about it takes longer, cause it is harder- more heats in the forge, bigger hammers, sore-er arms- it takes a lot to move it.
But the result is pretty trick looking, and the finishing is much easier- no sandblasting, no priming, no multiple coats of paint. Just send it out to be either electropolished (shiny) or passivated (dull silver). My friend Heath Satow has been experimenting with ferric oxide coating on it with great success- read controlled rust- check out his website at www.publicsculpture.com and in particular look at his denver zoo animals- the finish on them is controlled rust with the portable electropolisher used to draw the patterns on the giraffe, etc.
   - Ries - Monday, 08/02/04 23:58:43 EDT

Building Codes- In times past, there was a crazy patchwork of building codes, or lack thereof, across the US- The Southern Building Code, The Uniform Building Code, BOCA, and several more. To make matters worse, many Cities and States would start with one of these, and then customize. This drove builders who worked nationwide crazy, and also allowed for a good arguement in lawsuits- no matter what code you used, the lawyers could always argue you were at fault because somewhere there was a stricter one.
So starting at least 10 years ago, there have been conferences every year, with the end goal of making ONE code, that applies everywhere in the US. We may never get there, but we are getting a lot closer, and there are many things that every municipality seems to be in agreement on. What that means is that if you are used to a lawsuit prone, rich locale, like say California, then nothing much will change. But a lot of smaller, poorer states and counties are gonna be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with lots of rules that are more expensive to obey. I suspect where Habu lives is one such place, which is now being tightened up to national standards. Unfortunately for us ironworking guys, there is one guy, an engineer in Phoenix Arizona, who has taken it upon himself to make our lives miserable. He thinks of himself as the Ralph Nader of metalwork, and he is credible enough that every year, at the code conference, he has been presenting rules to make metal railings and the like "safer". He is pretty much responsible for the 4" sphere rule- it used to be 6". He has lately been trying to outlaw all horizontal elements in fences and railings- and almost succeeded, but NOMMA, the ornamental iron fabricators trade organisation, has been hiring lobbyiests to fight him, and so far the horizontal element rule has been defeated.
Its true, you see railings and stairs in fancy design and architecture magazines all the time that are clearly in violation of code- in many cases, they actually pay to put in a dummy, legal railing until after the inspector signs off, then return, remove that one, and put in the one they really want. It is a pity we have come to this- many masterpieces of historical ironwork would currently be illegal to install in most of America. So if you live in an area with a more tolerant building code, congratulations, but dont expect it to last forever.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 08/03/04 00:21:09 EDT


Thanks for that info. I've played around a bit with passivating/electropolishing using some homebrew mixes and a battery charger. The little wimpy charger I have isn't really up to the job, though. At least not for polishing. It does do okay on passivating smaller pieces.

What you said about the power supply for your portable unit got me to thinking. 40 volts at somewhere between 30 and 185 amps sounds a lot like a DC welder to me. I wonder if you could use a DC welder as the power supply for electropolishing? I may have to try it one of these days.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/03/04 00:27:25 EDT

What Ries said about building codes is right on the money. Here in the benighted Virgin Islands, you used to be able to do darn near anything and get it signed off by the inspector. No more, though. The VI has adopted BOCA, the 4" rule, seismic zone 4 specs, impossible CZM regulations and a whole host of other "improvements" to drag us into the 21st century. The cost is staggering, the restrictions unrealistic and often totally inappropriate. Like we really need regulations on fireplaces and chimneys. (sad, wry grin)
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/03/04 00:33:25 EDT

For some wierd software reason, I am unable to post anywhere on this site except here- nothing works on the hammer-in,or the members area, just here.
Anyway, there was mention on the hammer in of a "bronze railing maker" in NYC. That is no railing maker- its a blacksmith, and a darn good one- James Garvey. He has been making all kinds of street furnishings for New York, from bronze as well as steel. He might be a good person for Coss from Africa to go talk to- I dont know if he hires helpers or not, but he has been working in NYC ever since he came down to forge stainless parts for the Statue of Liberty, and he knows a lot about metalworking there, of which there is a surprising amount. www.jamesgarvey.com is his virtual address.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 08/03/04 00:41:29 EDT

Laser sharpened ginsu knives Havok, I thought these were warrented forever and could cut rock and metal! ;)

Wood for Charcoal: Hard woods make proportionaly denser charcoal that lasts longer per VOLUME. However, certain hardwoods to make little explosive fleas that fly off in a red cloud once in a while. Softwoods are OK but you want to avoid really sappy pine heartwood and certian woods just do not coal at all. The best wood is the nice cut waste you get from various sources for FREE.

Code Stupidity The problem with building and zoning codes and many other such things is that they are written for one place with a specific situation and then another place in completely different situations adopt the entire code. Doing this is just plain LAZY slovenly government. When codes are adopted they should be very carefully studied for local application and exceptions made in the BEGINNING. But most localities take the easy way out and then coble them up after trouble occurs. The biggest problem with this method is that when the NEXT new code comes out the locality has to go through the whole thing again.

Image the USA adopting the tax code of another country. . . OR some third world country adopting OUR tax code. . . Yeah, its like that.

Posting Ries, The hammer-in needs archiving and is currrently a memory hog. . . But here it is 2:38am and I am still making postings after having fixed some web pages. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 02:45:31 EDT

NOMMA and the CODE: These guys have done great work and stayed on top of things. Oddly ABANA whos' members are more greatly effected has ignored the issue. I would get involved in this but I am just barely keeping things glued together here now and what the issue NEEDS is money. A strong CSI (so I could have some HLEP) could and should help in a situation like this.

The constantly fighting the same battle over and over is the real problem. You would think that once a stupid idea has been beaten down it would stay down. But there is always someone to pick the banner back up. . . Constant vigilance is required.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 03:06:34 EDT

Thanks for the link to James Garvey's web site Ries. Wow, what a terrific artist. I look at work like his and hope that some day I will have the necessary skills and vision to craft such art.
   FredlyFX - Tuesday, 08/03/04 03:14:12 EDT

Concernimg the construction code....
BAD-BAD-...In Province of Quebec(Canada) We have to deal with the 4" sphere and in addition we can not put anything that permit the "scaling" or "climbing" so what can we do!!!!Only upright twisted rods at 4" distance...very very nice!!!!!As customers still wants decoratives fences and railings... we have to produce items that are not legal....here nobody care about that regulation but...one day one of us will have to face a law action from that same customer that had requesting a nice decorative railing !!!You were lucky to have NOMMA .....BRAVO NOMMA.
   - André Boudreault - Tuesday, 08/03/04 09:06:52 EDT

Building code: The bigbest problem we have had with the new codes has been that the inspectors have not learned the code prior to the begining of it being enforced. I the cases I sited the shorter riser spec. required 2 more steps in the run ,this put the last step too close to the wall, head room became too short and the landing too short. The plans had been aproved by the building department, the framing inspected and the infraction was not cought untill an inspector(just doing his job) on final inspection 3 days befor closing. Law suits: home owner- contractor, contractor-city, contractor-arcitect. The problem was finaly solved by a varance that took 3 months to issue. The city wanted to have them add a porch to the front door and put a closet in the up stairs bedroom to hide the change in the head room. Right here in Longmont Colorado (Boulder county) where we are proud to be both rich and backward. Here is another example: a deck built 30" off the gound needs no rail but a single step from that deck must have a handrail. most are removed within an hour of final. Don't get me started. Grin
   Habu - Tuesday, 08/03/04 10:21:07 EDT

In the US I am told that much of Texas addopted the no climb rule despite the fact that the rule did not officialy make it into the standard code.

The option to the ball and no climb rules is to design in mounting for Lexan (polycarbonate) cover panels that is a permanent feature of the rail. Temporary mounts will generaly NOT pass.

If you do this on curved sectiontions be SURE to use Plexiglass (acrylic). Lexan is almost impossible to heat and bend. It absorbs water from the air and it turns to steam and makes bubbles when heated to bend. Places that regularly bend Lexan sheet keep it stored in an oven that is held at nearly 300 degrees F to prevent water absorption.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 10:35:26 EDT

Thanks for the advise on hardfacing. I will just continue to use the Russian Anvil as is and perhaps get a better one at some later date. I ground and polished the face and rounded up the horn. My only complaint is that the face marks easy. Dale
   Dale Alexander - Tuesday, 08/03/04 11:26:52 EDT

marking Anvils: Dale, I have a large old Kohlswa that tests as second in hardness only to a Peddinghaus and much harder than many of the best brands. I never marked it in years of use. But in a couple weeks an apprentice who would not work points off the edge of the anvil like I instructed numerous times, but thousands of dings in the face. It will take HOURS to grind out.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 11:51:58 EDT

More on CODES: As I noted earlier the codes are often specific where they don't need to be and very non-specific where they need to be. Picky stuff like the ball and no climb rule are very specific because they are EASY but do not solve the problem of poor mounting of rails which is HARD enginering. The code just say "strong enough to withstand expected loads". There are no examples of expected loads and no specifics about mounting.

We had a contractor put a railing along a mezzinine nine feet above the lower floor in my parents' new house. It was one of these cheap looking deck type rails. It passed inspection and the contractor left town.

Then *I* looked at it. I was going to have a desk next to this rail and was curious. The ends of the rails were toe nailed into sheet rock with finishing nails. They never reached wood. A small child leaning on this rail would have torn it out of the wall. The slightest bump from an adult would have done the same. The pickets were soft pine nailed into a pine facia board with the same small finishing nails. With the leverage of the rail they had no strength to resist any kind of bending moment such as the top of the rail coming unmounted. . . which was VERY likely.

We had another contractor come in and replace the rail with a hardwood rail. He was highly recommended as a finishing carpenter. He put up decorative mounting boards where the old rail was toe nailed into the sheet rock. Then he used the same size nails to toe nail the rail to these. . . This was about twice as strong as the rail it replaced. But it could STILL break away like a rail in a Hollywood movie set.

I have seen approved rails on new brick porches break down when a mover leaned on the rail. The corner bricks broke out. My recommendation to prevent it from happening again was to put external scroll braces on the platform and nice S curve braces to hidden concrete pads on the terminating ends. Instead a mason was hired to patch the bricks back in place. . . The rail WILL fail again the next time somone leans on it. . .

The codes cover this with their "strong enough to withstand expected loads" phrasing, but give no specifics and require no tests. They are no help to the builder or the customer. If I have seen these mounting problems more than once then there must be tens of thousands of insecure rails. The no climb rule was beaten because there was no evidence of anyone EVER being hurt by climbing a rail AND the fact that even an 8 year old can climb over a rail without foot holds. But here is a problem that there IS evidence of a problem and that there probably have been reported cases of injury.

It is this kind of stupidity and bad logic that drives me crazy. Complex regulations that do not address the REAL problems because they are hard.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 11:53:22 EDT

I remember seeing a picture in the paper in 1998 or 1999 of a 10 year old boy hanging from a spiked rail by his lower jaw. It was a "no-climb" rail, just vertical pickets 4" apart, one stringer at the base and one at the top, 8 feet off the ground. The kid's football had gone over the fence, and he climbed it with the usual monkeylike ability of a ten-year-old. Except there was no rail for him to get a grip on when he swung over the top, slipped, and impaled himself on a picket. He lived, and is hopefully doing well now. This is one example of the kind of safety one can expect from a very stupid rule, one that ought to be used in all the lawsuits. Oh, and the tops of the pickets were those little cast ball-tip four-bladed spearpoints. This happened in the mid-atlantic, but I don't remember exactly where.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 08/03/04 12:27:26 EDT

My point in the previous post, just to be clear, is that rails WILL get climbed. Crossmembers that can be used as footholds are much safer than no crossmembers at all.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 08/03/04 12:29:15 EDT

When the city told me I had to have a railing for the front steps of my old house and *fast*---it's been without one for 100 years so they were worried that a couple extra days would make a big difference---I went out to the scrap pile, indoors cause you can't have scrap outside, and picked out a nice *old* railing I had scrounged---all solid including the 1.25" square support pieces with the forged knobs on top.

Since I don't like trying to mount levers into old masonry I went beside the steps and dug 3 postholes over 2' deep and cemented heavy duty galvanized angle iron in them and bolted the railing to them, SS bolts of course.

Now the new owner can de-mount it for painting. I couldn't shove it over with my full weight. Don't know if the city is happy. I mounted it slightly lower than the norm cause my wife who uses it is a bit shorter than I am.

Now for the porch railing; I have been restoring it to what a 1940's pic of the house showed: wooden columns with 1 round cross bar between them. Inspector told me I had to have something underneath the crossbar because the porch was too high from the ground---I asked how they measured cause I needed to re-grade the front yard anyway---every hundred years whether it needs it or not!---he couldn't tell me how they measured! Told me that I had to have it cause we had 3 steps. I told him I could site a situation in which you had 6 steps and the ground level would be higher than the porch floor---I wanted to know how they measured so I could do it to code and to the historical specs for the house.

I moved and sold the house before we went round again. I'm sure the new owner will be happy to gut the place to make the city happy---just heard that he had cut down the large flowering magnolia that graced the front yard---probably wants grass.

Thomas Shop here! wife here! too long till the weekend!!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/03/04 12:32:15 EDT

Expected Loads: At LEAST once a year we hear of a disaster where a porch or deck or pedestrian bridge collapses resulting in many injuries and fatalities. Usualy these are under high loading situations (lots of people). A deck that will support a family and friends forever collapses during a frat party.

Expected loads need to be looked at as maximum normal loading. A deck should easily support one 150 pound (69 kg) person per four square feet (about 1/3 m2). But people do not hold still (verticaly) so this loading needs to be at least double. The normal rule for floors is about the same as for crane beams. It should not sag more than 1/4" (6mm) at the center under full load.

Large driveway gates should be expected to be climbed by a mob. Rails by a rushing crowd.

The biggest problem is reinforced vibrations. We have all heard the story of marching troops needing to be out of cadence when crossing bridges. A row of people marching in unison can start the bridge bouncing and if they continue at the same frequency the bouncing will become greater and greater until the bridge fails. A bridge that can take bumber to bumper heavy trucks cannot withstand a row of people marching. . .

Decks and floors have a more serious problem, music. A large disorganized crowd can bounce in unison to music and do the same as troops marching on a bridge. Under high occupancy and the right frequency a normaly very strong structure can collapse. Probability and randomness keeps this from happening more often than it does. You are lucky it the music isn't the same beat as the natural frequency of the floor. Unlucky if they DO match.

The question is, are these "expected loads"? Can they be engineered for? In this modern era it is not unusual to have a large crowd bouncing to music. Determining natural frequencies of a structure is difficult but can be done. But then what? To prevent the ocassional disaster you have to over-build at hundreds to one. It is done in many public spaces. But in the end it comes down to how much safety can society afford. If you apply public construction standards to private hames and apartments no one will be able to afford to live in them.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 13:02:06 EDT

Thomas, Step one is to grade so that you only have 2 steps!

I have also delt with inspectors that have THEIR idea of the code or the one they learned from and damn the new codes OR the correct interpretation. When I built my shop I put in what is known as a UFER ground ring system. A ring of rebar in the footings is all connected by welding or iron wire (I welded) and then attached to a copper ground lead. I used 1-0 cable and a heavy split bolt clamp, the entirety coated with tar to prevent corrosion at the joint. This is the prefered ground system recommended by the electrical code.

NOPE. . it would not pass. HAD to have an 8 foot driven ground rod. Drove in 6 feet, hit rock and sawed it off. Connected IT to the UFER system with a piece of #6 solid wire per the code. . .

Ground rods often fail in dry weather especialy under the eves of a building. The ground next to the building becomes so dry that the soil cannot conduct away sufficient electricity. When found to be failed multiple NEW ground rods are driven until they meet code. A ground ring system assures sufficient surface area to conduct away any amount of electricity AND because of the building load is almost always in contact with compacted moist soil and never fail.
In my case the ground rod is on the uphill side of the building where moisture is a problem and the ground will never be too dry. But I also have the ground ring which is a better system AND recommended over ground rods by the code. . .

Most construction codes are the MINIMUM requirements and you can and SHOULD do better. But here was a case where I tried to do better and the local authority did not recognize it. .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 13:21:29 EDT

Guru, Re: your dinged anvil. I was a guest in a shop a few years ago and we were using a 360# Arm & Hammer anvil. Another guest was tapping the work then wailing like hell on the anvil face, dinging it. I yelled at him and his response was that all *real blacksmiths* hit the anvil after every few blows on the work. I told him if he dinged the anvil again I was going to ding his head. He took my subtle hint...
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 08/03/04 17:22:45 EDT

I had a code problem problem last year. I was contracted to build 2 new railings repair 1 and add some fenceing on an estate in Mass for a friend. I went up took measurements and talked design with them. after I got home I called the local building inspector and got the local codes (5 inch on center 31"-48" hight on the rail, 6' max hight on fenceing) so I designed to this did 3 sets of drawing's, my customer picked out the one they liked and I started to order the stock. I had forgotten to check the spaceing on the railing I was to repair (by repairing it I would have to bring it up to code) I lost the paper I had writen the code on so I called back.. This time I was told that the code was 4" on center 32" -40" hight, I had allready punched the stringers 5inch on center the existing rail was 31" with 5" spaceing..I ended up replaceing rather than repairing it and remakeing all the stringers for the rail. I was told that the code was changed 1 week after I called the first time.
I got lucky if I had not lost that paper with the code on it I would not have called back and would have finshed and installed the railings only to have them inspected and rejected and then I would have had to find a way to bring it up to code.. luckly I had left enough money in the bid to cover my lost time, along with the extra cost for 50 more pickets. now if my welder hadn't died I would even have made a nice profit, even so I made enough to take something away.
   MP - Tuesday, 08/03/04 18:13:53 EDT

Ringing the Anvil NOT Dinging: I did a large part of my smithing while doing public demos at craft fairs. Sales were proportional to the crowd you attracted and ringing the anvil drew a crowd. It rapidly becomes part of your rhythm, strike, strike, strike, tinkata, ting, ting. . .

Bouncing a well rounded hammer squarely off the face of the anvil should not leave marks and if anything smooths and hardens the face. . . If it leaves marks the anvil is much too soft or the hammer needs dressing OR it is being held crooked.

But then there are folks that have no rhythm and just don't understand the anvil gently returning the hammer to your hand raising it with no effort. My apprentice that dinged the anvil was one of those that didn't get the flow. He would stiffly strike the anvil and awkwardly resist the motion in both directions. I told him to quit. If it came natural, fine but stop forcing the act. Yep, I've seen your guy, afraid to hit the hot iron hard but willing to pound the heck out of the anvi. . . DUMB!

I saw one of those westerns the other night with a couple REALLY bad actors who had NEVER held a hammer trying to be smiths. These guys are so universaly the same that it MUST be what the film's directors . . . Or the Hollywwod school of smithing. . OR something. These guys had actual hot iron and out of a dozen blows NEVER managed to hit the iron once! Now. . I KNOW 8 year olds with no experiance can hit a piece of iron 8 out of 12 times. So it MUST be the director telling them to "hit all around it, don't mess up the bar".

I KNOW the CBA has a large membership and most of these movie parts are non-speaking. There MUST be some way to get a REAL smith to ring the anvil instead of these stiffs. . .

tinkata, ting, ting. . . tinkata, ting, ting. . .

   - guru - Tuesday, 08/03/04 19:05:36 EDT

I have a question to ask and a blacksmith seems to be the most appropriate person to ask. I want to make a faceplate as is seen on samuri helmets.

[long link removed ]
My idea is to first make a clay mold of my face and bake it.
Then I will take some metal, place it over the mold, and
carefully hammer it into shape. I doubt this will work
without heating the metal first. Are there any suggestions
as to what type of metal to buy? Should I buy a sheet of
it? is there a better way to do this? I cant melt metal
hot enough to pour it into a mold. Right now all I have
to heat the metal is a blow torch, but I will build a simple
oil drum forge if you think I need to. Thank you
   elias - Tuesday, 08/03/04 22:48:27 EDT

Will I have any problems bending a cast iron ldler arm if I heat it in one spot and twist it? Cracking or significant loss of strength? No safety issues, reliability is not a big issue, if it works it will save me some cash, if it will not work I can save some time by not experimenting with it. I will have no problems getting the temperature I need.
   Tom - Tuesday, 08/03/04 23:24:14 EDT

Anvil "tapping". I was asked by a student many moons ago why blacksmiths "tap" on the anvil with the hammer. I gave it some thought and came up with the "Three R's": Rest, Rhythm, and Rumination. When a guy needs a rest, there is no reason to lift the hammer head high and hold it there. Duh. Much easier to rest it on the anvil, using gravity as a friend, and when he/she does rest it, the hammer usually gives a rebound along with some ringing. But the smith DOES NOT HIT the anvil. I even use the word 'tap' (above) advisedly and in quotation marks.
As for rhythm, I don't think I need to elaborate. You've either got it or you don't.
Regarding rumination, a smith is trying to figure out exactly where to hit, especially when making bends over the horn. So there is this temporary rest/rebound thing happening.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 08/03/04 23:36:41 EDT

Tom-- Thou shalt not bend anything made out of cast iron. Hot or cold. Nothing.
   Smartleigh Smitten - Tuesday, 08/03/04 23:40:43 EDT

Mask Making: Elias, I had to remove your long link with search parameters because it broke our page. Besides, we know what a mask looks like.

First, ceramic clay will not withstand ANY kind of hammering. It is both brittle and weak compared to metal.

Second, most sheet metal work, even relatively heavy plate for making armor is worked cold except in certain situations. Your mask is not one of them. However, if the metal is worked cold too much it work hardens and must be annealed. This is done by heating the metal and letting it cool slowly (quickly if it is non-ferrous).

Repousse' is the technique for making your mask. This is not just one technique but a collection of associated methods. Sheet metal is shaped by backing it up with wood, pitch or a sand bag (leather bag filled with steel shot or sand). For some work hard packed driveway gravel has proven to be a very good surface to work. After the initial shaping the metal may be supported by a metal stake or anvil for further shaping.

In the case of a mask the overall ovoid shape would be formed first in a sand bag or stump using a sinking hammer or very large ball pien. It would be worked fairly smooth by planishing on a mushroom stake with a nearly flat plannishing hammer. Then the bulges for the eyes and nose would be drawn and hammered out with the work supported over a depression in wood OR with the work set into pitch. Custom made punches or small ball end repousse' hammers would be used. As the shape develops the pitch is melted off and replaced. Smaller and smaller tools are used as the details become finer. When the shaping is finished some pieces are filed and polished, others smoothed or textured with a hammer.

A mushroom stake is a tool that is shaped something like a mushroom. It has a square shank that fits in a holder, a wood stump or is clamped in a vise. The working end is spherical or hemi-spherical. These are purchased or made by the smith. Armourers use these in numerous sizes and also large steel balls for the same purpose. Balls from trailer hitch size up are used. I bought 2 mushroom stakes and a holder for $100 a few weeks ago. And for that price I will have to grind and polish the working surfaces.

Sinking hammers have a long body heavy for reaching into curved shapes. The face is round or oval and highly polished to prevent maring the work. They are usualy used from the back or concave side of the work pushing the metal DOWN into a form.

Planishing hammers have long light bodies and nearly flat circular or square faces. They too are polished. Planishing hammers are for smoothing out the iregularities from sinking and are usualy used on the front or convex side of a piece. While planishing the work is supported on a curved surface (ball or mushroom stake). Plannishing is the stage that leaves a "hammered metal" finish. However, done properly it can also leave a surface so smooth that it is ready to go to the buffing wheel.

Repousse' Pitch is a mixture of tar and wax with a filler. The filler can be fine plaster of paris or coarse sand depending on the size of the work. Fine sand is common. See www.repoussetools.com/ for recipes as well as hammer images.

Wood in the form of wood stumps (short sections of hardwood log) are used a lot in this process. The advantages of wood is that it does not mar the work, is easy to cut and shape and is self smoothing under use. If you do not have tools to cut depressions they can easily be burned and scraped.

For your mask you probably want 16ga or 18ga metal (the higher the number the thinner the metal). You could make it out of steel (the least expensive), copper (the softest), brass or aluminium.

Many auto body hammers are the same tools as used by armourers and metal sculptors. Modern Armourers are also very creative in adapting other bits and pieces to their work.

Follow the links on RepousseTools.com and also see our two NEWS articles on the West Virginia Armour-In in 2003 and 2004. Many tools are shown as well as a few techniques. See also our FAQs page and Armoury articles. These should get you going in the right direction.

Click on the link to ArtisanIdeas.com on our drop down menu. They carry a very good book on repousse'.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 01:51:57 EDT

Idler Arm: If this is an automotive suspension part it is probably forged steel not cast iron. Yes you can heat it and straighten it.

However, there ARE safety concerns. Neither you nor I know what temper (hardness) the part requires to maintain its integrity. When you heat it you may leave the part permanently softer than as-engineered. OR if it cools too fast it may harden and become brittle. In either case it might fail and result in an accident. It would probably be OK, but do you want to risk it? No matter what the cause of the accident if an investigator found your torch heated suspension part YOU would be the one to pay.

Buy the new part. Then if you want to play blacksmith turn the old one into sculpture.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 02:03:14 EDT

Unexpected Loads - I've personally experienced the start of `marching troops on bridge' scenario during a parade. The Parade Commander didn't give the order to `Break Step' as our parade route took us over a bridge. Once we started to feel the bridge oscillate (bounce)up/down, a Warrant Officer at the rear of the flight gave the order. By then most of us in the flight had already done that on our own. After the parade the PC and the WO had a few words and beers together!

Guru - The UFER ground ring is acceptable by the Electrical Code in Canada, great for new construction, but nye impossible to retrofit on older buildings. I had similar problems with ground rods at my place with an electrical upgrade. Contractor instead used a ground plate (lots more surface area then a rod.) A large (8" by 2') very heavily galvanized steel plate with bonding point connected by a 4 gauge (I think) stranded copper cable. The plate was buried about 3' down out past the drip line of the roof It was easier then explaining why the flower bed was being dug up.

   - Don - Wednesday, 08/04/04 08:59:43 EDT

guru -- YES! You're phsycic! I'm sure that's it. I hadn't heard that tip before. I was making a shim for the Hardie hole from 1 1/4" tube. I was taking it down to 1 1/8" to fit and tapering it. Was about there and it was getting out of square, so had a corner down and the point on the face trying to square up. Also, had lost all the heat. Small sharp marks from the point. I used a draw file and flap wheel sander to clean up some. They are pretty small. Not sure they will hurt anything. Think I'll just leave them as a reminder and wait until I get more experience before I worry about them. Someone mentioined peening around them.

Anyway, not too happy with the shim yet. A 1" sq. heavy wall tube fits in the lower part, but it's still loose in the upper part. I also tapered the 1" sq. a little on the end by forging and grinding slightly. Was thinking of 2 possible solutions. 1. could MIG a little on the upper part of the 1". However, would have to do that on every Hardie tool. 2. I could MIG some beads on the inside of the upper part of the shim to make it smaller. Not sure that will be enough taper. Also, when I drive a hot 1" into the shim (with it in the Hardie hole) it pushes the shim out the bottom. And when drive the 1" back up it pushes the shim out the top. I can split the shim at the bottom and bend it up to keep the shim from comming up. Was thinking of beveling the top of the Hardie hole more so that with the welding on the inside to increase the thickness of the shim that it may not drive out the bottom. What advice? Also, assume that the shim should be 1" at the top and smaller at the bottom so that the 1" sq. tube will bet at the top and have to forge the bottom smaller to fit the taper? I wish the school in Moriarity, NM would reopen. They plan to open again this fall. Robb Gunther moved the location. This would save a lot of grief.


   Dale Alexander - Wednesday, 08/04/04 09:07:14 EDT

Tom, if your idler is cast iron, any attempt to bend it will result in sadness. Hot or cold, cast iron does not bend, it breaks.

Ringing anvils: Frank Turley's explanation is why I have caught myself doing it. It really is not even a "tap"; it's more of a "after a few hard whacks on the iron I set the hammer face down on the anvil face, where it bounces just a little bit."
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 08/04/04 09:08:36 EDT

I read a reference recently to the use of a pitch ball instead of a bowl. I can find no other references or pics of this but it sounds like it would come in handy on several shapes. Anyone have a source or picture of one? Perhaps a description so I could make my own?
   MikeA - Wednesday, 08/04/04 10:24:53 EDT

Heard one demonstrator refer to the anvil tap as a "thinkin' lick"
   3dogs - Wednesday, 08/04/04 11:20:39 EDT

Hardie Holes: Anvil hardie holes have sort of standardized at 1" on good anvils with broached holes. This is partialy due to the cost of broaches and the force required to use them. These precision machined holes are the easiest to fit tools to but only come on the best anvils.

However, there are a hundred or so hardy hole sizes, inch, metric, bastard cast. . . and many out of square.

There are THREE ways to approach an odd sized hardie hole.
  1. Mine is the low stress if it fits in the hole and does fall through its good enough approach. All my old shanked tools are different sized and some fit, and some don't. Over time I have had anvils with 7/8", 1", 1-1/8" and 30mm hardie holes. Except for one hardy I have kept the old tooling. Small shanks fit larger holes just fine, just a little loose. The only tool I have that fits snug is one hardy in only one of my anvils.

  2. Repair and bush the hole as you are doing.

  3. Make all new tooling to fit your anvil. Most pros do this when they purchase a new shop anvil. Since there are so many hardie hole sizes old tooling rarely fits correctly so custom fitting is the rule. However, I do not recommend doing this on a cheap soon to be replaced anvil with a misshapened hardie hole.
ALL, ALL, ALL decent anvils have straight punched, broached or cored hardie holes. Most are fairly square and parallel. A few of the old punched holes are not as true as others as the holes got distorted when dressing the anvil (hot forging it). But most are fairly true.

Many foundries making cheap ASOs and low cost anvils do not core the hole. They have a drafted (tapered) hole in the pattern. Not only are they tapered they are tapered much more than is necessary for a casting. This is the WRONG way to make and anvil. It is the cheapest possible way to make a square hole that SORT OF looks like a hardie hole. IT IS NOT. A hardie hole is a tooling hole for straight shanked tools. A tapered cast hole is not suitable. Good castings can be made using a core (a loose piece of bonded sand made in a core box - a mold for making the core). Cores are not tapered. Holes in good swage blocks are made the same way. However, there are a bunch of badly made swage blocks on the market now using the same tapered plug method of making holes. Both the anvils and the blocks are being made by people who do not use the tools and only care to make a buck. The exception is the handful of amature pattern makers who don't know what a core is or how to make one. . .

There are only a couple tools that need to fit fairly well in the hardie hole. A hardie, stakes, and hinged fullering tools. Swages and set tools can bounce around in an oversized hole with no problem. Even a hardie with a good sized shoulder does not have to fit very tight.

The right way to fit tools to one of these anvils that have a tapered misshapened hardie hole is to FIX the hole. Start with a cold chisle and a die grinder then use files to finish up. The only way snug fit bushings work is in good straight holes.

The next best method is to fit the hardie to the hole. My second anvil (an old Mousehole) had a slightly skewed hole that was not quite square to the face. The fitted hardy only fit ONE way. The hardie was the only tool I had that fit. The rest of my tooling either had undesized shanks or oversized shanks. I used the ones that fit loose and didn't worry about it. . . But as I mentioned before, I do not recommend making a bunch of tools to fit a cheap anvil.

THEN there is another bushing option for crooked holes. Make a two sided bushing (an "L" shape). This will fit at the bottom of a tapered hole and push the hardie into the other corner. All bushings should have a flange that extends at least an inch in all directions. So for this bush you have a square piece of 16ga or thicker metal for a flange and an L shaped piece welded to it. In FACT you might be able to get away with just bending two tabs down from the bushing's hole to snug up that hardie. . . A short bush works fine for hardies (not stakes) and aviods taper problems.

OR You can start with an oversized tool and grind the shank to fit the existing hardie hole.
NOTE: Sheet metal stakes have tapered shanks designed to fit special holders with tapered holes, NOT anvil hardie holes. Using a tight tapered shank fit in an anvil is likely to break the anvil. Stakes made for anvils must have straight shanks.

AND finaly . . the fit does not have to be so snug you have to carefully align the tool to fit. It should just drop in and not hang up. As long as the tool does not wobble around too much in use it is good enough. This is BLACKSMITHING, not precision die making.

Personaly, I would never fool with a bushing in an anvil. Its an agrevating extra complication that gets in the way of doing the job.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 11:39:15 EDT

Hardie Hole -- thanks for the great advice. Straight is much easier to deal with.
   Dale Alexander - Wednesday, 08/04/04 12:27:00 EDT

Ufer ground. In the code book I have (nec 2002)it says to use a rebar to come out of the ground with. Copper is supposed to react with the concrete and cause the concrete to fail. Steel rebar will not do this and it conducts well enough that it alone is good enough to attach to. Last week (7 days exactly) ago, we poured the slab for my new shop. 53 yards of concrete, a 18x18 inch grade beam all the way around (30 x 75 feet) with a double row of rebar inside. You only can count the rebar around the outside of the slab, interior steel is not to be counted when calculating the cappicty of the ground system.

In my pour, I added a piece of 3/4" pvc water pipe through the slab and into the first 1 inch of dirt, next to where the Ufer ground exits the slab. This is so that I have somewhere to drive a copper rod, shoud the inspector get funny about the Ufer ground, though a copper rod is much less effective than the Ufer.

The Ufer ground works better than a conventional ground due to the concrete reacting with the dirt to form a "cloud" of electrons between the dirt and the concrete. This plus the concrete is the last thing to dry out and the first thing to absorb water insures a very good contact with the ground.
   - Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 08/04/04 15:52:36 EDT

Wild West Tech on the History Channel last night had a segment of a smith making a knife out of a file. Nicely done, the coal fire was even properly shaped. My question is: would the file teeth induce stress into the knife blade as it is hammered smooth? I have heard folks say the file should be ground smooth BEFORE hammering on it......thanks.
   Ellen - Wednesday, 08/04/04 15:53:51 EDT

I am a novice blacksmith and have a pretty basic question. What are some of the ways that you finish your projects (i.e., to protect the surface or to enhance the appearance)?
   john dodam - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:00:31 EDT

UFER Ground: Wayne, I coated the copper at the connection and ran a piece of PVC conduit as close to the connection as I could. But as I noted, the inspector would not count the system. I even asked him to inspect it when he came down to look at the footing trenches and he wouldn't look. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:09:38 EDT

Files as Knives: Ellen, Yes, all the cuts make the piece easier to break.

Many smiths have done it as you saw but it is not a good method. When the teeth are hammered flat they make hundreds of little cold shuts. I have examples of tools made by laminating old files into bigger pieces by forge welding. Almost every one in the collection had a failed weld somewhere. These make it easy to identify the fact that the item was made from files. Where the pieces had broken you could still clearly see the file tooth or rasp texture. If you think about all those teeth as possible unwelded cold shuts then the joined surface is probably less than half at best. However, if the file is fluxed and brought up to a welding heat and the teeth flattened then you should have fairly decent metal. BUT. . there is always a high probability in welding this much surface area that much of it is not going to weld on the first heat and that many cold shuts will occur where welds do not take.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:18:54 EDT

Finishes: John, See last weeks archive for a long answer.

Paint is the best finish when applied over clean metal. Wax and oils can be used as a temporary "get it out the door" finish but it is not permanent and requires maintenance.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:21:08 EDT


There is no "right" way to work with pitch; use whatever works for you. Likewise, there is no one "perfect" recipe for pitch. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Pitch is just any sticky stuff that can bve used to back up or hold a piece to work it. Engravers use pitch made with a high proportion of shellac to hold small items on wood blocks so they can be engraved. Chasers use a stickier pitch made with a variety of resins, tars, powders and goos to back up pieces for chasing and repousse'. Armourers use pitch for holding pieces for detailing with punches, essentially a chasing type work.

Pitch for backing up is commonly made with asphaltum, rosin and various fillers such as plaster of Paris, sand, talc, or clay. The Asphaltum and rosin are the "sticky" stuff, and the fillers increase the resistance of the pitch to deforming. Softer metals require a softer pitch and harder metals like iron require a stiffer pitch, in general. The more metal you plan to move at once, the stickier and softer the pitch needs to be. For chasing fine detail, the pitch should be harder, to give less "diffusion" of the punch's efforts. Different recipes work differently depending on temperature, age, amount of use, etc. Part of the fun is in concocting your own personal recipe.

Pitch is often used in iron bowls with round bottoms, kind of like a small, very heavy wok. The bowl is supported on a ring pad, either of filled leather or rubber. With the workpiece adhered to the pitch fon the top of the bowl, the bowl can be rotated or tipped in the ring to give different angles for working. Sort of the poor man's engraver's block.

Ther is nothing magic about the pitch bowl, though. Anything that will hold the pitch, control the workpiece, and allow you work it in a comfortable position is what you want. A piece of 4x4 clamped in a leg vise, with pitch on the end will work just fine for many chasing and repousse' operations. So will a large stump covered with pitch, if you want to work a large piece. Remember, the pitch is only the sticky backing stuff; what you hold it with is up to you. Stick, bowl, pan, ball or table top, it doesn't matter.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:24:59 EDT

Hiya. I was just wondering if anyone had plans or instructions to make a non metal non Gas powered forge. A friend of mine and I were thinking about settin gup a blacksmith shop at a live action D&D game we play, but we wan tsoemthign that looks medevil authentic. So idealy brick or stone. Everything I have found online so far has been metal gas types.

Also Our funds are pretty limited so we can't buy any realy expencive components. Realy we just need something that looks authentic and lets us melt low temp metals like lead so we can make coins and what not from moulds.

Anything you guys have would be great. Please e-mail me with info if you have any.


   Krotious - Wednesday, 08/04/04 16:49:31 EDT

Well, yes, I understand all of that, I'm just trying to chase a reference I read to a pitch ball. I get the recipe part and the use part and the stiff/soft reasons. I've even used a pitch bowl for silver work. What I'm looking for is a source or description of a pitch ball. Is it a stake that holds pitch? I like the idea of setting it up to preference but have no idea how I'd get the entire stump into the oven to soften the pitch :) or keep it from oozing all over the garage floor in the summer her in So Cal. so whatever I do has to be small and portable enough to fit into a fridge or stove as needed.
The part I can't wrap my mind around is how they kept a ball shape a ball. The bowl works because it has sides keeping the pitch in, but if it were mounded, and you stuck a piece of 16g sheet on it and started tapping, I'd guess the pitch would start moving, not supporting the work properly and making a mess. It wasn't a general question about pitch bowls or recipes (though thank you very much for the info and the ideas) but more of a "what the heck is a pitch ball?" question. Thanks.
   MikeA - Wednesday, 08/04/04 17:14:58 EDT

A campfire will melt lead. Several pictures of medieval forges are shown in "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" by Gies & Gies.

If you can slip as far as the renaissance "De Re Metallica", Agricola, (it's been translated into english) will show you several hundred pictures of renaissance furnaces and forges

If you can find some fire safe rocks and some clay from a creek you should be able to build a medieval forge for nothing but the labour. now the bellows will be harder to make as the most common material for them is leather and that is hard to scrounge for free. I have used heavily treated canvas that I got from a awning and tarp store as scraps.

The most common fuel would have been real chunk charcoal.

A large "chunk" of steel will make a more medieval anvil than one that looks like a "modern" anvil.

May I suggest you learn to smith first and then go to work on a medieval portrayal? Also no-lead pewters will make a better coin and with less "hassle" than working with lead.

Actually I consider working with molten lead to be far more dangerous than working with hot steel even though the steel is 1000 degF hotter than the lead.

1 drop of water---even a drop of sweat in the mold can throw molten lead back on you which might be very medieval but not much fun.

If you are near Socorro NM I would be happy to get you started smithing in a medieval way, or if you are near Columbus OH I can direct you to a number of folks who are working on this themselves, (most of which will be at the Dublin Ohio Irish Festival this weekend running a medieval forge at Brian Boru's Ireland. A.D.1004)

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 08/04/04 17:16:02 EDT

could use a dark brown naugahyde for your bellows. this would look almost like a leather. You could strip an old sofa from goodwill to get the material. Use lead free solder for your coins, is almost same composition of pewter
not as toxic.
   - ptpiddler - Wednesday, 08/04/04 18:21:30 EDT

Howdy Ya'll,I would like to ask a question on a hood for a coal forge. I will be moving the forge out to a screened in room attached to my garage. I was wondering if I tee the up right piping to go through the wall,and back up to exhaust,and was wondering if I put a squirl cage blower on one end of the tee if it would be more efficent,or even worth the trouble? Any ideas are welcome Thanks.J
   - jimmy - Wednesday, 08/04/04 18:23:40 EDT

Not to rain on your parade, but if you can not really fingure out how to cover a metal shell with a clay outer 'shell' to 'look' 'medievial' then perhaps you should rethink this.

In fact I will ask you this. What does an authintic forge from the Scandinanvian highlands from around 1425 look like?
Or on from the Welsh region from the same period, or say from Persia? Or China? Or GotLand? What did the Goths use?

Sorry must have gotten up on the wrong side of the tent this morning.....

My best advice for you to do, is to do a bit more reading about stamping coins. Also perhaps a bit more info on the 'what not' would be good. I know that there are lots and lots of folks who are into pretty much every aspect of this type of thing. SCA and other type of re-enactment groups, as well as the many many talented smiths here on anvilfire. more info as to what you are really wanting to accomplish will help us help you get there.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 08/04/04 18:39:03 EDT


I've never seen a pitch "ball" myself, but I've only been working with pitch for thirty years, so there's a LOT I haven't seen. That said, if your pitch is sagging, running or oozing in the summer, you might want to try a bit harder mixture. I live in the tropics, where it is summer all year around, more or less, and I have no problems with the mix I usually use. My mixture has a fair bit of hard asphalt in it to stiffen it up in warm weather. If you go to the local paving outfit, they get the stuff in great big hundred pund lumps and you can break a chunk off with a hammer. When melted down and mixed with some asphaltum, a bit of rosin and some talc, it makes a good stiff mix that stays fairly hard up to 120º.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 08/04/04 19:04:08 EDT

Primitive Forge: Krotious, A "forge" can be anything from a hole in the ground to a high tech synthetic refractory lined device with stainless steel shell and electronic temperature controls. Both just get the metal hot.

If you buy a copy of "The Art of Blacksmihing" (About #11 to $13) there are drawings of primitive forges as well as descriptions of 18th and 19th century forges. It is also a good reference to learn a little about blacksmithing from.

When you get earlier than the Medieval period of Europe most forges were pit types and people sat on the ground to work (the same as they still do in much of Asia). So there is not much "building" to make a forge. Here is a link to a photo of a blacksmith in India working at a pit forge.


The description of the forge:

Here in India we simply dig a hole in the ground insert a grate and prop a few old bricks around the hole and insert a simple mechanical or motorised air-blower in a trench leading into the hole under the grate... seal all airgaps- then a bit of kindling is lit up and allowed to smoulder then we sprinkle a few handfuls of coal granules onto the embers start up the blower and we have a nice forge running in a few minutes!! No hunting around for any mechanical parts or materials.. if the forge is permanent then we daub the surface with an indigenous mortar which is primarily some "end-product" of the HOLY COW! and some other clay stuff...

- CJ Roy. Bison Exports
Other than the modern blower this is a common forge and working arrangement that dates from the Bronze age.

Of course in the West we learn to work standing at benches so this may be an uncomfortable work arrangement So you would want to build a stone hearth. And as Thomas noted the stones must be heat resistant. Some types of stone have water bound in the crystals and will spall or explode when heated to high temperatures. This can be quite dangerous if you don't know your rocks and minerals. Raised forges are also built of wood or mud and wattle (sticks and mud). So you build your hearth and cap it with brick or clay where it is going to get hot. Shape a fire pot from clay and you are ready to go. Forge fires contained in a "bowl" shape get hoter and are easier to control.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 19:15:41 EDT

Bellows: THEN. . . there are the classic Oriental Piston Box bellows without leather. But all the same, a proper sized bellows costs money to build. When I built mine the leather was on sale at Tandy leather and cost less than half the wood. Unlike nagahyde and similar materials it has held up exposed to the weather for almost 30 years and is still going. A good investment. A year ago I saw full hides tanned for furniture covering for about $100.

Guru with Bellows - Click for more
Great Double Chambered Bellows Parts

OBTW - The above type bellows is relatively modern and did not become popular until the late 1700's.

Ralph, At Jamestown, VA next to the reconstructed fort they have a glassblowing shop with gas furnaces. They were built from refractory brick, kaowool and other modern materials THEN covered with hokey looking round river rocks set in masonry. The building is a huge A-frame made of big beams with Thatched roofing or wood shingles (I think it has changed). 1950's shiek for the tourist trade. Yogi and Booboo would be right at home. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 19:33:34 EDT

Can anyone give me any history on an anvil with the word 'TREXION' on the side (diamond pattern for the word).

   - Dave Hammer - Wednesday, 08/04/04 19:54:49 EDT

Can anyone give me some information (or history) about an anvil that has the word 'TREXION' (diamond shaped word) on the side?

   - Dave Hammer - Wednesday, 08/04/04 19:56:12 EDT

Trexion in a diamond is probably a "Trenton stamped with a bad stamp I think. I seem to remember this from AIA.
   ptree - Wednesday, 08/04/04 20:23:10 EDT

Guru, I would consider it a catastrophe if my rocks got hot and exploded......which is why I use a propane forge, of course. Regarding hardy shanks, I took a lesson from one of your iForge demos. I weld a 1" 11 gage square tube onto the tool I am making, then heat the shank and forge it diagonally to make it longer on the diagonal. The diagonal shank fits into the opposite corners of the hardy hole very snugly.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 08/04/04 20:46:23 EDT

Dear Sir,
We’re interested in finding out if there are any apprenticeships available in weapon making / armoury? [eg swords, knives, chainmail, helmets etc]
Is becoming a BlackSmith the first part?
Do you offer any? Who else might? [preferably in Australia?]

Best regards,
Sydney ,Australia
   Daniel - Wednesday, 08/04/04 21:00:44 EDT

Daniel, See our FAQs page article on apprenticeships and our Getting Started article.

The short answer is no. True apprenticeships are a thing of the past. Today you have to look at these things like any modern education. And when there is not a curriculum or school that teaches what you want (there is not), then you make up your own curriculum, take courses where you can and fill in the rest yourself.

Making plate armour is a seperate specialty from blacksmithing as is bladesmithing.

There is probably someone in OZ making plate armour, I know there is in New Zealand. Seek them out. Talk to them. They will be able to guide you.

Bladesmithing is another specialty. See our Sword Making FAQ. The Sword Making resources page has a long list of metalworking and bladesmithing references. Many are reviewed here on our book review page. YES, many of these references are difficult to get in OZ. But if you are seriously interested in these kind of subjects you had better get used to ordering books and tools from all over the world.

There are a bunch of bladesmiths in OZ. As with the Armourers, seek them out. Most are willing to share information IF you are truely interested AND you have done your homework.

There have been some attempts to form blacksmithing organizations in OZ but not very sucssesfuly. However, we have a bunch of folks from there that read these pages. Some may contact you. Check the archives and you may find a few. Eventualy there will be enough of you mates to organize.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/04/04 21:28:57 EDT


Once you've absorbed the material here at Anvilfire, including the articles in the Anvilfire Armoury, try over at http://www.armourarchive.org/ . On their discussion boards there are a lot of postings by some rather excellent Australian armorers and reenactors. Tell 'em "Cap'n Atli" sent you. Wait, maybe you'd better not. ;-)

Cooling down and humid on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 08/04/04 22:45:25 EDT

   - MICK TYGH - Thursday, 08/05/04 04:03:30 EDT

Pitch ball;
Normally about 3 meters in diameter, a pitch ball is accreted from various mixtures of pitch on a core of olive oil , asphaltum and soapstone. A modicum of alum is also admixed to prevent bees and small children from diminishing the mass over time. As the work progresses, it is moved to successively stiffer areas of the pitch ball. Each time, the ball is rolled by several large women to present a face of the proper hardness to attach the freshly annealed work.
Several modest sized pieces are generally worked at once on various sides of the ball which serves as a solid back up and damps the sound quite effectively. very large work requires that the ball be wedged into a stout corner so that the striking teams don't cause the pitchball to roll and crush the odd customer. Work is released from the pitchball by suspending a bowl of flaming alcohol trom a tripod with chains, next to the piece of work, while specialists in circular breathing who blow the flame sideways with great precision onto the work hardened metal.
Great care must be taken to avoid setting the pitchball afire, for if this eventuality comes to pass, the whole building must be promptly evacuated.
Um, say...where'd you hear that?
   - Pete F - Thursday, 08/05/04 04:29:17 EDT

I am wanting to make a garbage disposal.Wondering if anyone has tried this.If so would like to hear about how you did it.thank you
   Gary Dishaw - Thursday, 08/05/04 08:27:25 EDT

If you want to be really authentic, go to your local library and request an inter-library loan for The Early History of Metallurgy in Europe by RF Tylecote; Longman Inc., NY 1987; ISBN 0582491959. It has archeological info about medieval and earlier forges (or smithing hearths) and info on coining. It also has a lot of info about the smelting and production of copper, bronze, iron and steel. If you choose to go down that road, keep in mind that this is not the safest of ventures and great care and caution must be taken. The slag that is coming out of an iron smelting shaft furnace can be hotter than lava.
   Shack - Thursday, 08/05/04 10:46:54 EDT

Mick Tygh,
No problems man. Easy part is go to the upper right hand area of this page to the pull down menu you find there. It says " NAVIGATE anvilfire" got to the STORE area and look for Cybersmiths International click on that and follow the instuctions. fairly straight forward. if there are any questions or concerns there is a contact email for the webmaster (guru) AKA webmaster and boss and he will help. Basic and often complex issues are often and frequently fixed here as well

Welcome and have fun
   Ralph - Thursday, 08/05/04 11:22:15 EDT

Kitchen Appliance Manufacture: Gary, You start with engineering school and study several specialties, mechanical design, hydraulics and electrical engineering. Then you go to work for an engineeing firm as an apprentice engineer (the term varies from state to state) then you take your state licensing test to become a Professional Engineer (PE). While doing this you study the plumbing and electrical codes (something that changes annualy and that schools do not teach). After spending about $100,000 on education, living expenses and learning practical design you will know what and how to do it.

OR you go to Walmart, buy a commercial unit for $99.95 and take it apart to see how it works. Better yet, you DON'T take it apart and you just install it.

If you intend to produce a product and have no talent or imagination you reverse engineer a competitors product (take it apart, make detailed drawings of the special parts and then make your parts from that. You reasearch the parts made by others such as the motor and find their OEM.) THEN you invest another $100,000 to one million dollars in a machine shop and start making parts. Note that making the drawings and making the parts also require a certain degree of education and experiance. Most people cannot do all these tasks so they hire specialists or sub out the work. Needed to reverse engineer is an engineer and detailer. To manufacture the product, a tool and die engineer, diemaker, machinist, welder and many others . . However, at this point you probably should have studied law because you have assuradly violated numerous patents.

OR you could play low-ball inventor and cobble together something highly dangerous from an old blender and some pipe and still end up spending more than what a new APPROVED commericial unit would cost. . .

   - guru - Thursday, 08/05/04 11:23:47 EDT

easy way is have a boy child then wait 13 years. During this time have said boy work hard on a farm and play hard. By the teen years there will be no need for a disposal as he will attend to all that... ( grin)

Hard way..... wouldn't it be more or less like a meat grinder? if so take one apart ands see how it was built? Or get an older one and use it?
   Ralph - Thursday, 08/05/04 11:26:18 EDT

3M Pitch Ball: OK Pete, I'll bite, Where'd you hear that?

Sounds like a Beau Hickory production with assistance of the infamous California Coast Artgawk.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/05/04 11:34:45 EDT

Hmm... I was going to suggest the following two-step procedure for garbage disposal: 1. Pick up garbage. 2. Place in trash can. Of course, all kinds of fun suggestions involving a brush chipper, a trebuchet, and napalm come to mind, but local codes may frown on that.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 08/05/04 13:31:43 EDT

Round these parts you don't make garbage disposals; though sometimes you do BBQ them! Neighbor's goats will even eat tumbleweeds---handy when there is a burn ban.

In more urban settings a pig was the preferred garbage disposal eating all sorts of kitchen scraps and leftovers.

Vegetable stuff goes to the goats or the compost pile, animal stuff goes to the dogs or if dangerous to dogs, to the garbage can.

I personally hate the mechanical under the sink kind---they have a high failure rate, make nasty noises, will cheerfully eat the heirloom silver spoons---and I dislike mixing water and electricity. (Bought a house once from a young widow with two kids whose husband electrocuted himself working under the kitchen sink---and he was a trained maintenance engineer too).

If I had to have one I'd buy it new.

Looking forward to the SWABA meeting---now if they would only include the *time* in the newsletter...hint

Maybe I'll get time to stop by the fleamarket right next to the Opera---New Mexico has some really nice aspects to it!
   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/05/04 13:44:18 EDT

Thomas, You like the fact that all that good junk out there calling to you is not rusting faster than you can get to it!
   - guru - Thursday, 08/05/04 14:26:04 EDT

On garbage disposals,
First as a safety and Environmental manager, the suggestion to make a boy child and wait 13 years does bear merit, but is problamatic. First, the safety guy says there may be an exchange of body fluids, and that is a biohazard issue. The environmental side says ok, waste minamazation through less generation is very good. But what of the waste generated by the child over the 13 years prior to the beginnings of teenage voracous eating? The safety guy does also point out that a teen is by defintion a safety hazard of the worst sort.

Personnally I think i would use the "pick it up and place it in the bag" method. (especially as I have three teens and one tween. Note that this guy speaks from experience in those matters of teens!
   ptree - Thursday, 08/05/04 16:52:28 EDT

Ahhh, but now my teen is now serving the greater good and all that. He is now a PFC serving with the 1st Marine 3rd Batt. (VBG) So feeding him is not my problem...
   Ralph - Thursday, 08/05/04 18:45:15 EDT

Try feeding an 18, 16,14 and 12 year old. just think of the milk consumption!
   ptree - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:04:58 EDT

Fellas, my Father in law, would like me to forge him a draw knife. I remember them from 30+ years ago but don't rember the specs or the Configueation- remember "flat on bottom" arced blade,and handles. If any of ya'll have any idea or plans please help- I do have leaf spring,But I need a idea. I can be had at, Mseale7@msn.com-All help is welcome and appriciated, Thanks, ...J
   jimmy - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:18:41 EDT


You came home every two years, huh? (grin)
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:24:07 EDT

   - guru - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:30:01 EDT

Also my Step Daughter is in the USAF, Just back from Pakistan, THANK GOD SHE IS BACK IN THE USA!!! Or Alaska All the "younguns" need the "support" from the "oldones"-Thay are OUR 1 st. line of defense. She is also a garbage-DISPOSALE-1st.CLASS
   jimmy - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:36:31 EDT

Thanks the e-mail address is Mseale7@msn.com
   jimmy - Thursday, 08/05/04 22:54:48 EDT

Jimmy, There are alot of different designs for drawknives, Basically any blade with handles on each end could be considered a drawknife. Pick your style and build it.
   - Sven - Friday, 08/06/04 02:22:47 EDT

I am the new owner of a AirCo Dipstick 160 welder. I want to run flux core 0.035 wire in it, but it seems difficult to switch the polarity from reverse DC Electrode Positive to straight polarity Electrode Negative. I have taken the cover off the welder, and I could simply switch the lead from the mig gun and the work clamp cables, but then if I stick weld I would have to undo this. I was trying to figure out how to switch the leads from the rectifer to the big multi purpose switch. If I could do this, then I would simply have to re-label Stick Straight to be Stick Reverse and vice versa. I don't imaging I will be runing solid core mig wire with gas anytime soon, so I don't mind giving up DIP reverse polarity.
I would appreciate your thoughts.
   TS O'Grady - Friday, 08/06/04 03:36:59 EDT

Good Guru:
RE giant pitchballs....this may be the single instance in which Beau Hickory is innocent.
One is respectfully advised not to bite on the giant pitchballs because of the alum in them.
   - Pete F - Friday, 08/06/04 05:04:57 EDT

I have a strong interest in weapons and martial arts, and lately I've had a strong urge to create something with my hands in fairly simple primitive method. I can't afford to build a log cabin in Canada right now, so I think I'm going to get in to weapon creation. Don't worry, I'm not asking for a how to on making a katana from scratch. I read the FAQ's and have done a bit of research, and I decided I'm going to start by making a pair of wooden daggers. I intend to start the work this sunday with a friend. I've made two wooden practice swords before, but they were both simple (I used 2x4's, a jig saw, and a circular sander for both... not to mention all the parts were made as one). The plans I have drawn out are fairly complicated, but I'm confident I can make them. I plan on doing more research of my own in this week to come, but I was wondering if anyone on here would be willing to let me email you some rough sketches to compile a list of tools/materials I will need so I can be prepared. I can be reached at Demesthenos@hammeredgames.com or just leave me a reply with an email I can send the images to if someone can help. Thanks for your time, I know I'm long winded.

   Demesthenos - Friday, 08/06/04 06:24:51 EDT

TS O'Grady,

I am not familiar with the Airco product specifically but a MIG setup will not work with stick because it is a different type of power supply. Stick and TIG are constant current machines and MIG is constant voltage. Maybe the Airco is built differently. If it will work with stick, decide which rods you will be primarily using and determine the polarity based on that.
   - HWooldridge - Friday, 08/06/04 10:10:36 EDT

Can anybody explain the uses of the various hardie holes on this anvil currently for sale on Ebay? Ebay item no. 3831295566
   Bob G - Friday, 08/06/04 12:24:26 EDT

I seem to remember that that old Airco welder was supposed to do MIG, TIG, stick...everything. How it could accomplish that, given that MIG is CV and TIG is CC, is beyond me. For an answer to your question, you'll need a real weldor with some experience with that particular machine, I think, or an old Airco dealer.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/06/04 12:29:04 EDT

Bog, that's a chainmaker's anvil. The extra holes are for a sort of work rest that held the complted chain as you welded up individual links.
   Alan-L - Friday, 08/06/04 12:38:08 EDT


Chain makers anvil?
   Paw Paw - Friday, 08/06/04 12:38:45 EDT


That should be "Bob", not Bog! darned fingers...
   - Alan-L - Friday, 08/06/04 12:39:07 EDT

Ebay anvil with holes:

The round one is a pritchel hole for punching. The square hole next to it is for holding hardy tools such as cutter, fullers, and swages. The square hole in the face at the front of the anvil is also for punching and tool holding. Positioned close to the side is a French/continetal style as opposed to the English style with the hole at the tail. This anvil has them both. The hole passing through th anvil was for aditional tooling genearlly used to forge chain. You can see this in use in the chain making video at the link below.

   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 08/06/04 12:42:24 EDT

About the AirCo Welder. I have read old posts from the Guru who has such a welder, thats why I posted my question here. Some people have commented how usually a welder is either MIG or Stick, constant voltage or constant current respectively. CV and CC power sources are both simply dievices that get plugged into a 230 volt circuit. I believe the only diffence is a set of large capacitors in a one of the power sources. I believe thatAirco machine has a set of capacitors that can me switched on or off. Its similar to an AC/DC welder which has a rectifer switched on or off. Thus the Airco Dipstick can be either CC or CV. If my explaination is correct, then I am surprised that there are not more such dual purpose machines.

So I am interested to hear what the Guru or others familiar with such welders think.
   TS O'Grady - Friday, 08/06/04 13:38:48 EDT

I don't know the answer to the welder question, but I do know that welders that do arc, TIG, and MIG are possible because that's what some of the machines in my welding class were. There's a socket where the TIG and arc cables can be swapped, and the MIG gun cable comes from a different spot. It's pretty big, so I'm sure there's enough room for both types of wiring in there.
   AwP - Friday, 08/06/04 14:16:58 EDT

I am a beginner in metal working, but am the type of guy that makes everything. This time it's an adventure in working brass and bronze to make oriental style (not bell type) large gongs. I am not after tonally tuned instruments, but gongs with numerous atonal clashing resonances. There are a few heavily hammered gongs made by Paiste that are almost planar, with lots of peened dimples that create this kind of effect. I think that more irregularity in the hammered metal vs. the radial symmetry and consistancy of tuned tonal gongs will help to achieve this kind of sound. I've done numerous searches in the archives and found some good info, but still am unsure of a number of things about how to go about actually doing the work. I expect it to be a lot of trial and error, but would really appreciate any hints or references to resources about this type of work.

I have several pieces of metal bought from a scrap yard. Unfortunately, I don't know the exact alloys. A couple pieces will yield 24"-36" diameter x 1/16" thick disks, the others are about 1/8" thick and a foot square. My heat source is low tech, an oxy acetylene torch with rose bud. I have an assortment of hammers, and A very large piece of I beam as an anvil. Here are a few things I am wondering about:

- the 1/16 thick stock will need to be shaped a bit, specifically the outer edge will need to be folded/ curved over to create a rim, and the planar surface will need to be domed slightly. What methods are suggested to do this?

- I'd like to thin out the 1/8" stock considerably by hammering. Will the metal get too brittle without heat, or should I repeatedly heat it to keep it soft for shaping and thinning? Also, should I start hammering in the center and work outward to expand and thin the metal, or vise versa working from the perimeter to the center?

-My understanding is that heat softens these metals, but that quenching and tempering have the opposite effect compared to steel. So, If I heat the metal and then quench it, will it remain softer for shaping work before work hardening by hammering?

-How can I harden the metal with heating/ cooling after shaping work, and in the midst of hammering to tune the gongs?

Thanks Kindly!

   grinnin - Friday, 08/06/04 14:23:14 EDT

Hardening Non-Ferrous Grinnin, Certain non-ferrous metals can be hardened somewhat by heat treating. The method for silver is in our Heat Treating FAQ.

Cimbals are spun on a lathe and then tension tuned by hammering. You start with annealed metal and then do not temper. If you work harden most raised or dished gongs to the point of needing to anneal them you have lost the work hardening which is much harder than from heat treating.

Unless you are going as far as a helmet or oriental bell shape you should not need to anneal after starting.

For methods, see our Repousse' FAQ, RepousseTools.com, our Armoury page and the links to our news covering the WV Armour-Ins.
   - guru - Friday, 08/06/04 14:48:29 EDT

Demesthenos, Our Sword Making article is short on drawings but the tool lists are complete and comprehensive. For practice wood and aluminum projects what you want to do is get a book on knife making and make parts EXACTY the same as you would metal. IF you can accurately fit them together so that they do not need glue then you are a long way along in learning fitting skils.
   - guru - Friday, 08/06/04 15:09:38 EDT

Chain Makers Anvil: This is a VERY old one and quite unusual. The hole for the dolly bar is usualy near the center or at least it is on latter anvils. The price is a steal for someone in England.

Later chainmakers anvils are simplier and look less "anvil like". The tooling hole was used to support bottom swages to fit inside chain and the far end had a hinged foot opperated "dolly" that dressed the opposite side at the same time. These were use to dress the welds and make the end of the link smooth so that it would rotate properly on other links.

   - guru - Friday, 08/06/04 15:31:17 EDT

Noob forge question: I am young (15), I am poor, but I am fasinated with the whole blacksmithing thing, I am working on building a forge and all, but I want to you know not spend alot of money, I was looking in the FAQ in the forge parts, and I found a thing on a "micro forge" it was a burns-o-matic handheld gas torch dispencing the flame into what it said was insulating brick that was hollowd out. were can I get some of this insulating brick? I already have the torch, and 2 anvils, and a buch of hammers.

I posted this in the message forum, but I think I should have posted it here instaed sorry.

   cwr89 - Friday, 08/06/04 16:34:24 EDT

Casey, Right over that way 7 miles. Now that's over and you doubtless are smacking your forehead saying "asking where to get something when I didn't even say what continent I'm posting from!!!!" I'll suggest you look for a kiln supply, pottery supply or refractory supply company.

   Thomas P - Friday, 08/06/04 16:52:04 EDT


What the Guru said about spinning and tension tuning is accurate for cymbals. For big gongs, like the ones made in the Orient and India, they sometimes start with a piece of cast brass and then hammer to harden/tune. Spinning a disk as large as 24 to 36" diameter takes a LOT of practive and a lathe with a gap bed or a 20" swing over bed. Lathes like that get real expensive real quick. Of course, forging your own spinning tools would be a good blacksmithing exercise.

You can take the sheet stock you have and work it from the center out with a hammer. The I-beam will make a truly crappy anvil, though. Find a piece of 3" 04 4" diameter shaft about five feet long and bury three feet in the ground and work on one end of it. It will help if you shape the end of the shaft to a very shallow dome, about 1/16" to 1/8" rise in the center. Radius the outer edge a bit to prevent it leaving dings in the brass if you miss hit. You'll do that a fair bit when you start out, since you can't see the anvil. Practice will overcome that.

You shouldn't need to anneal the brass except for turning the edge to make the rim. For that, you want to do it first, before you work the center. The technique is usually called "raising", and consists of starting a series of concentric circles from where you want the corner to be and working to the edge. This is done with the brass held at the edge of the anvil, and the hammer striking just past the edge over air. This moves the brass a liuttle bit, and as you overlap the blows working around the disk, you will make an anngled rim. Then you anneal by heating to low red and quenching. Then do it again. And again, until the edge is turned up at right angles to the face. Don't get impatient or you'll frustrate yourself and possible crack the metal. It will probably take at least eight courses of raising to get a 1" right angled edge.

Once you have the edge turned, then you start planishing the face from the center out. This is going to dome the face slightly unless you also work the turned edge to stretch it. You can do this because it will lhave actually thickened a little from the raising up and in.

You might look into how steel pan drums are made. The makers of these instruments "tune" the faces to include ujp to thirty different notes, all by hammering and torch work. The multiplicity of different "notes" will give a dissonant tone if they aren't all true notes. The same will happen with a gong if you hammer part of the face to a different hardness than the rest. If you want a clear tone, it is important to work very uniformly; one reason that cymbals are usually spun on a lathe.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't know exactly what the alloy of brass is that you have. You'll need to experimnet with a few pieces to find the maximum hardness and the best annealing process. This is NOT something you want to try and discover on the finished piece, believe me.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/06/04 17:53:40 EDT

*Posting from West Chester, OH (US)*
thanks, do you know of any online places at all? also what is so speacial about insulating brick? I have alot of the red brick my house is made of, would that work?

   cwr89 - Friday, 08/06/04 21:21:11 EDT


Check out MiamiClay or Seattle Pottery Supply, or try a Google search for "kiln supplies" or similar. I've bought mine from Miami Clay and found them very good to deal with. Get the 2600º rated soft firebrick.

No, the building brick for houses is not suitable at all. It will fracture immediately and has no insulating value.

Another thing to consider might be using Kaowool in a metal can. You can get the Kaowool from the Anvilfire Online Store, just go to STORE on the drop-down menu at the top right of this page.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/06/04 22:27:07 EDT

vicopper makes a good suggestion, I made a can forge myself from a coffee can in about an hour not counting the time for the ITC100 to dry. Another thing to concider would be charcoal for a forge, in many ways it's alot simpler to deal with, though in other ways it takes more work.
   AwP - Friday, 08/06/04 23:59:16 EDT

thanks, I am likeing the Kaowool thing, I can find it, I have been looking for the bricks but I seem to not find any, this may sound realllly stupid, but when it says 1 x 24 is that 1" x 24" I am new to looking at meauserments, is is L W D? thanks
   cwr89 - Saturday, 08/07/04 00:05:26 EDT

thanks for the suggestions AwP, but see, I am 15 and well, money just isn't growing on trees here... hehe, but thanks for your work with me, infact I just finished some small scale tongs, made them out of old bycicle spoke that had broken on one of my old bikes, it was really easy, but I need a forge, right now just my torch alone is not getting near the heat I need. I am working on a web page right now, it will have some drawlings that I have worked on, I will post up the url so you can see it and tell me weather it will or will not work.

again thanks for the help alot!
   cwr89 - Saturday, 08/07/04 00:10:11 EDT

vicopper, disregaurd that post to you about the meausrements, I just learned I can't read very well
   cwr89 - Saturday, 08/07/04 00:13:41 EDT


If you're looking for firebrick, and can't find it locally or through the references vicopper provided, eBay item #6112040194 is the brick in question. A tad pricey for 2, but easily accessible. I like the Kaowool, as it gives you more size options, but a brick and a torch can get you started quickly heating small pieces of metal.

   eander4 - Saturday, 08/07/04 00:46:54 EDT

Dear grinnin;
Respectfully, you are probably in over your head.Which is just where i always start.
Learn some basic metal working skills first.
Heat treating/ annealing is alloy specific.
Traditional gongs are deceptively sophisticated instruments with carefully executed radially symmetrical differences in thickness and shape.
Your torch will get you most of the way. Get a good solid anvil with a good face.
Having spent some years messing around with this stuff, i'd suggest you at least read up on nonferrus heat treating, repusse' and raising shapes.
The stiffer the edge, the higher the pitch. It can be stiffened by thickening ( shrinking), work hardening or by shaping into compound curves.
The areas, proceeding from the center out in bands that determine the primary overtones need to harmonically agree or you just get noise. Any process you use will affect the tuning..as will use and time.
OOPs Vicopper just said it with his usual eloquence..mo' bettah.
   - Pete F - Saturday, 08/07/04 05:14:50 EDT

thanks eric

   cwr89 - Saturday, 08/07/04 08:46:11 EDT

I recently found a cast iron wood cook stove made in Dover NH in 1893 by S. Machine Co....any info on this stove would be greatly appreciated.
   Cherie - Saturday, 08/07/04 10:08:08 EDT

I recently found a cast iron wood cook stove made in Dover NH in 1983 at S. Machine Co. Any information you could give me about this stove would be greatly appreciated as I will be using it this winter in my home to cook on and enjoy.

Cherie McGuire
   Cherie - Saturday, 08/07/04 10:13:52 EDT

Pete, Its still good to hear from someone that has made many sound making devices and much noise ;)
   - guru - Saturday, 08/07/04 11:21:29 EDT

Thanks guru, vicopper and Pete for the awesome info!

With your thoughts and references, some other info, and the recommendations of my father in law who is a professor and PHD of material sciences specializing in metallurgy, I think I am on to a process for making these gongs. The term "tensioning" really rang a bell in my head.... (kind of like tensioning a guitar string.) I have potentially figured out a way to accomplish exactly this with a sheet metal gong. Tensioning and work hardening by cold hammering seem key to the kind of sound I am after. Unlike modern cymbals, the gongs I will be making will definitely be more primitively made. Before lathing and spinning metal, gongs were (and in Indonesia still are) formed by hammering over stone forms. I just poured the foundation for an addition to my shop, and have plenty of left over material to cast one or more massive concrete forms with shaped edges for forming a rim, and dished centers for slightly doming and contouring the gongs. After shaping the rim, I'll be able to tension the center by hammering into the dished forms, and into an additional heavy steel ring. That along with lots of cold hammering on an anvil and experimenting with some peening to develop multiple resonances should develop pretty good tone. The trick will be to get this done without making the metal too brittle before the final work hardening.

"Respectfully, you are probably in over your head.Which is just where i always start. Learn some basic metal working skills first."

Looks like we are kindred spirits Pete. No worries, I am not discouraged one bit by your warning, but will take your advice, and plan to experiment with some of the scrap left over from cutting out the larger blanks. After that though, I am going big on the first one. No reason to tentatively piddle around. I expect a very steep learning curve, challenges and potential disasters along the way, but also I also expect nothing less than success after a few tries. Go big, or go home. ;>)
   grinnin - Saturday, 08/07/04 11:29:46 EDT

Casey: Actually I suggested charcoal as an alternitive partially because I was assuming low funds was a part of the equasion. Wood is free for many people, propane is not. Kaowool and firebricks aren't free but you need neither for charcoal. At the most basic level, a hole in the ground with a pipe duct taped to a hairdryer pointing into the fire is all you need. There's tons of room for improvement, but it'll get the job done. You don't have to do it this way, but it's definately the cheapest.
   AwP - Saturday, 08/07/04 16:06:21 EDT

Would anybody care to hazard a guess as to the age of these anvils currently for sale on Ebay. No prizes for guessing which one I may bid on!

Ebay item numbers. 6112152276 and 3740563475

   Bob G - Saturday, 08/07/04 17:27:22 EDT

Both 6112152276 and 3740563475 are approximately circa 1700 to 1800.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/07/04 17:48:52 EDT

grinnin: If you are a kindred spirit to PeteF, consider yourself in very good company. If you would like to see the work of Mr. Peter Fels, go to www.artgawk.com. You may genuflect at the door.
   Quenchcrack - Saturday, 08/07/04 19:05:47 EDT

Quenchcrack, you sure about that URL? The website doesn't seem to exist.
   grinnin - Saturday, 08/07/04 22:24:19 EDT


Try www.peterfels.com
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/07/04 22:34:53 EDT

http://us.share.geocities.com/mental_help01/Forgeconcept.png [WARNING over sized file requiring plugin]

ok there is my new forge concept drawlings, what do you think? will it work? remember I am on a like $30 budget so I am trying to work it to the best I can.

   cwr89 - Saturday, 08/07/04 23:06:05 EDT

Paw Paw:

The slate is on its way as of this morning.

Actually got some forging done, plus some research for History Channel "Toolbox" in my reference library.

Downright chilly (upper 50s!) and dry (at last) on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Vist your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go Viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 08/07/04 23:31:26 EDT


Muy Gracias, Amigo!
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 08/07/04 23:47:54 EDT

Casey: I can't say anything about the plans since my comp can't seem to handle the picture. It's either so huge I can see about 3 words at a time and can't get a feel for the pic at all, or of I smallerize it then it's blank instead of small. :shrug:
   AwP - Sunday, 08/08/04 04:55:01 EDT

Casey's forge:

Casey, I think you need to have your torch come in from the side. Your drawing shows it feeding from the end and I would expect a lot of wasted flame shooting out the front, through the window, before it has a chance to heat up the interior.

You'll also get the flame blasting towards you when you open the front to get at your work.

   - MarcG - Sunday, 08/08/04 07:05:29 EDT

Sorry, I did not realize Pete had changed his URL. I gotta go see the new digs.
   Quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/08/04 07:59:41 EDT

Old....I feel sooooooooo old...OK, so Pete didn't change the URL, I just got it all screwed up. Hope you went to see what Pete has been doing, it is pretty amazing stuff.
   Quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/08/04 08:02:35 EDT

Thanks for the link. Checked out Pete's work. "Plagued by an excess of imagination." is an understatement. Defintitely the work of a very innovative and creative person.

"A somewhat drunken member of the California Blacksmith Association informed Peter that there was only one correct way to make a bottle opener.

Peter took it as a challange."

Seems like a common theme.
   grinnin - Sunday, 08/08/04 09:58:37 EDT


just got given a pile of tungsten strips -12x3x300mm ,only markings are-H10F
can any one tell me if this stuff can be forged into any thing ?? perhaps some sort of damascus or the edge of an axe blade ect. or is it too hard and brittle , can you anneal it ? i know it makes great scribbers ,but can you do anything else with it ?

mate who gave it to me said the company he works for was throwing the stuff away ,thought i'd have a use for it . surely there's something i can use it for .


cold mornings and very dry in ipswich Australia -2 - 22 cel need rain .bad.going to be a bad bush fire season
   - wayne - Sunday, 08/08/04 10:03:33 EDT

Tungsten (click on link for details) melts at 6192°F (3422°C) and in pure form is relatively soft. Scriber points and cutting tools are often called "tungsten" while in fact they are tungsten carbide, one of the hardest materials known. Tungsten is used as light bulb elements NOT because it doesn't burn (it does) but because it keeps its strength at very high temperature.

Industrialy it is a very important metal but in the blacksmith shop it is almost useless.

Most tungten carbide is a sintered product. This is tungsten carbide (considered a ceramic) powder that is bonded together with cobalt by heating in a atmosphericaly controled furnace. They are called "cemented carbides" or ceramics in the machine tool industry. Besides cobalt other metals are used as well as mixtures making for a vast variety of cemented carbides.

Cemented carbides were one of the first of this type product made from powder. Other processes include making pressed metal parts from zinc, brass, bronze and steel powders that are similar to die castings. Hot isostatic pressing is used to make powdered metal alloys that cannot be alloyed by melting and there is a Swedish process for making Damascus steel from powdered steels.

Prior to powdered metal technology possible alloys were ALMOST infinite in number, at least the useful ones. Now there is virtually an infinite variety. Among other things composite metals can be made such as metals containing graphite or glass fibers. Diamond grinding wheels with diamond powder in a bronze matrix is one of these materials.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 11:17:45 EDT


Considering it's melting point, could Tungston be cast? Possibly in a lost wax mold? What kind of tempered colors would it show?
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 08/08/04 12:39:47 EDT

PPW, LOOK at the melting point again. It is virtually impossible to melt. The first electric furnace to melt Tungsten was a huge technological breakthrough. Consider that most firebicks melt at about 3716°F (2047°C - 2320°K).

More Internet Scams: I had an odd piece of SPAM today asking for help in a chain letter resaerch project. It had some rather odd addresses on it so I did a WHOIS. This "researcher" with a VERY proper English name supposedly at Middlesex University, London, England has an email address registered in Russia. . .

This is some kind of SPAM list test or lead-in to a scam. Probably a chain letter or pyramid scheme (both illegal in the US). Do not reply. That is what they want.

I try not to get suckered into even opening SPAM but this one had a simple "Can you help with my project" subject line which is not unusual in my legitimate mail. Even the random ones get me once in a while. I have gotten random SPAM's with anvil, blacksmith, machinery and other similar subjects. I get so much SPAM (about 300 a day now) that they are bound to hit some subjects that I cannot just discard.

Beware of the tons of offers for cheap software by SPAM. All of this is pirated software. Most is coming out of Russia and the former soviet states. It is even sold on ebay! If you are caught with it (try to register it) the costs will be more than you saved. ASK some pointed questions before you buy (Does it have a complete set of maunals, come shrink wraped in the OEM packaging. .?).
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 13:04:27 EDT


there you go, a smaller picture that should fit on everybodys screen. i changed it from 5240 x 4960 resolution to 800 x 600. but I also redrew the hole for the torch. what do you think of it now? will it work?

   cwr89 - Sunday, 08/08/04 16:48:46 EDT

Ok, that picture is alot better. I think the hole for your torch should be smaller, barely bigger then the torch end itself. I can't tell if the opposite side from the door with the hinges would be open or closed, but that could make a difference with backpressure. I'd try it with it closed, and make a hole if it seems to backfire, or else have a hinged door on both sides.
   AwP - Sunday, 08/08/04 18:02:15 EDT

Mini Forge: Cwr89, What you have drawn is the classic "bean can" forge. Sadly the original drawings and article that was posted on the web is now gone and I have not been able to find a copy to post here. However, here is a photo of first class min-forge built by Doug Merkel. He was using it to demonstrate nail headers he was selling at SOFA/QuadState last September.

Doug Merkel Mini-Forge Photo (c) 2004 Jock Dempsey

The first thing you will notice is the quality of the construction of this little forge. No shortcuts were taken. The forge shell is a new piece of thin wall tubing and everything is well constructed. An important feature is the long legs so that the torch can operate properly. Propane torches do not operate properly if tilted to where the liquid fuel gets in the valve. The burner also wants to point almost parrallel to the inside surface of the forge so that the flame swirls around the surface. It should be from 1/2 to 2/3 of the way toward the back of the forge.

This little forge is lined with Kaowool and coated with a product like ITC-100. The burner just barely engages the side of the shell. Otherwise it will overheat and possibly melt. For safety the bottle is clamped to one of the forge legs.

Added features that are VERY handy is the forge hearth and the adjustable built in stock rack. The piece resting on the forge made of a piece of angle iron is a stock prop with various heights to get the work piece in the hot spot.

The finishing touch was that this forge was neatly painted with high temperature barbeque black paint.

In operation this forge would heat a piece of 1/4" (6mm) round bar to forging heat in just a minute or two from lighting the forge. Faster if the forge was pre-heated. However, this is about the limit of the work that can be done with one of these. 5/16" (8mm) would probably work but 3/8" (10mm) would be very slow to heat and only a short portion would heat.

Note that this forge has no door. The hearth blocks off a bit of the bottom and the stock rest some more. For efficiency the opening can be narrowed with some loose refractory blocks (1/2 thick brick, pieces of kiln shelf or Kaowool sized with ITC-100). Forge doors must be covered with refractory just like the rest of the shell. A thin metal door such as you show will burn out in short order.

What you have drawn will work. However, all of these made with short legs end up needing to be put on top of something so that the torch lines up and is properly supported. A jury rig at best. And as noted, your door will burn up in short order.

OBTW - On the web JPEG images are the standard and MUCH more efficinet than your PNG format which requires a plugin that not everyone has. When I get them in the mail I just delete them.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 18:56:47 EDT


Now I can see what you're getting at, thanks. I think it would work, but you're going to too much trouble for a coffee can forge. I would skip the hinged door and just punch a hole about 1-1/2" diameter in the bottom of the can and leave the front open. Make the torch hole just big enough for the torch to go in with a little room to wiggle. If you use a 3# coffee can, they're about 6" diameter, I think. That being the case, use two layers of Kaowool to end up with a 2" diameter hole in the middle. That will make it more efficient and give you about the right volume for a Bernz-o-Matic torch. The hole in the other end will allow you to poke longer pieces through if you need to, and when you don't you just close it with a scrap of Kaowool. A 1' by 2' piece of Kaowool will make the forge with enough left over to re-line it if you want. You'll still be well under budget, maybe enough to allow you get a bit of ITC-100 to coat the Kaowool with for better efficiency.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/08/04 19:01:20 EDT

NOTE: Only the front of this forge is open. The back is also lined with Kaowool.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 19:03:48 EDT

We sell both the Kaowool and ITC-100. The minimum of each will make two of these forges OR one big enough to need two torches OR a small home built pipe burner.

As VIc noted, 2" of Kaowool is better but for the size forge Doug built 1" was the max. Doug was also just using his forge for very brief times then shutting it down. Longer use with a 1" layer will cause the shell to get very hot. On a bean-can forge I would use 1/2" and put in three layers.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 19:11:33 EDT

Do you know please what steel Ruger use for the frames and cylinders on Blackhawk revolvers.
TIA Mark
   Mark - Sunday, 08/08/04 19:17:56 EDT

hehe, guru, about the PNG file... I am what you could say a computer type of person. I am 15 and I love PCs so, I happen to use more technical things, the reason I selected it to be a PNG instead of JPEG, is simple, JPEG distort the image when they are saved. same with .bmp files, PNG files don't resize or distort. but I will work in JPEG in the future.

anywho back on tiopic:
WOW thanks for the picture, for the hinged door, I was indeed going to line it with Kaowool, but I think I like that set up better. I think for now, I don't need to be doing anything bigger than 8mm, I need to learn the art and what not befor I go out an buy a iron cylinder that is 3" wide. so far, (please don't laugh) I have made a pair of tongs, but let me list my gear that I have (all of which I have attained from my father who is an expert woodworker):

2 anvils, 1 is very very small and rather soft, it was made in shefeild england as a paperweight, I only use it for the round nose type thing it has, and the other is a 6" peice of railroad track. for both anvils, I have reground the tops with a file (yes, it takes forever) so they are flat on the top.

for the forge, I have a small gas torch, a cyclinder that sits upright, it has a nozzle coming out of it 90 degrees. that is what I have been using, (planz to upgrade to burnz-o-matic torch)

for hammers, I had an uncle that was a blacksmith, he had given my father about 5 of his hammers befor he died.

the metal I am working, I think it is steel, I am not really good at telling the difference in metal yet. but they are also known as bycical spokes. and no I havent been cutting them off my bike ;-). I have an old bike that the wheels are poped and bent. anyways, I can get it to turn orange, and I can flaten it, I have also taken 2 and made some really small scale tongs out of them, I will get some pics of my gear and post them up later.

but I don't need to do much large scale yet. I know that the forge I have suggested is like a "portable" forge or just a quick fix, but I think that is what I am going to go with, but I will probly go for something more like the picture that you posted.

if your wondering, I would like to get into blacksmithing to build some tools, and some hinges, but mainly armor, chainmail, and swords, I am looking into unedeged swords in particular, why, I am heavy into movie making, when your shooting lord of the rings things, hand made swords look sooo awsome. but thanks for your help, I think I am going to go get some pictures of my stuff and then post them on my site and put the links up here.

   cwr89 - Sunday, 08/08/04 19:43:20 EDT

Guru, that is an awesome little forge, thank you for sharing the picture. I would like to note, however, that the newer MAPP-gas torches like the one pictured have a regulator that allows proper operation in any position, even when only liquid fuel is getting to it... a feature very handy for us glassworkers who often have them well above the gas-fuel-only angle. Having the burn tube at horizontal is just good design, though.

Cloudy and warm in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Sunday, 08/08/04 23:09:32 EDT

I'm just starting to research this. I have a wrought iron gate and I would like a medium size Scottish thistle to weld to the gate as a sort of "crest." (My ancestry is Scottish.) I have no idea who to get something like that made. Would a blacksmith be able to do make something like that? If so, do you know of anyone I might contact to get a quote? Any information or leads will be appreciated.

   Linda - Sunday, 08/08/04 23:23:03 EDT


Metal, If its magnetic then it is usualy steel (or cast iron). If it is magnetic and you can bend it, it is steel. Get a magnet. Cobble one out of an old speaker. You need it for heat treating too.

Bicycle Spokes, These are chrome plated steel, probably medium carbon. The chrome is a problem but for fooling around you can ignore it unless you want to make a weld. You are better off working coat hanger wire, it is not plated.

The Round Nose Thingy on the anvil is the horn or bick (from beak).

You grind with a grinder or grinding wheel, you file with a file.

JPEG files only degrade when improperly compressed or overcompressed. Considering they are 1/5 the size of a BMP or PNG they are MUCH more efficient.

I have no sympathy for folks with high speed connections and fancy software that complain about not being able to afford blacksmithing tools. You can buy a GOOD anvil or heavy vise for the cost of the typical graphics editor. The anvil will still be a good tool 500 years from now, the software may not have a platform to run it on 5 years from now.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/08/04 23:41:18 EDT

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