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THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from August 18 - 25, 2004 on the Guru's Den
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Newsmith, The coal forge fire is a world of variables. The bulk of the coal is raw unburnt coal, in a circle of about a foot the coal is coking down and varies from smoldering to fully coked. Inside of that you have burning coke and some raw coal that may have fallen in. The temperature varies from 1,000°F at the edges to 3,200°F in the center. When you put work in the forge you poke it through the mound of unburned coal into the coke and burning heart of the fire. One of the things you learn as a smith is to try to disturb the fire as little as possible but to keep advancing raw coal toward the center. However, when you poke a large piece into the perfect fire it usualy stops being perfect in short order and may have to be rebuilt every time you take a piece in and out of the fire.

Just about the time the fire is burning its best you get a couple good heats and then the fire rapidly degrades into a mass of clinker and ash. . .

All this varies greatly from forge to forge and coal grade to coal grade. This is "fire tending" and it is something you learn from experiance. You have to get a forge and burn some coal. After you have burned about a ton you will get the hang of it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/18/04 00:42:39 EDT

Old Gate: Michael, We need more information. Is the gate made of solid or hollow stock? Is this an antique gate that has other problems such as severe corrosion?

As Ralph noted, if weight (or inadvertant loading) was a problem, do you plan on modifying the gate to prevent the same from happening as soon as it is reinstalled?

Severe corrosion on an old gate may have reduced the components to where it can never support itself again without significant repair or modification. Occasionally gates were poorly designed to start and must have either diagonals added or support panels (like a kick plate).

Most of the time when a smith needs to straighten a gate it is clamped on a heavy table called a platten and the work done with a torch, hammers, bending wrenches and hydraulic jacks if necessary. It is not unusual to have to loosen joints or cut welds and completely dismantle a gate or fence section and straighten the parts seperately and make repairs or replacements as necessary. Localized damage can be repaired without such drastic measures but when every picket is bent then it is almost always necessary to dissasemble.

On very old antique gates made of old fashioned wrought iron straightening must be done carefully. Wrought can be bent cold or VERY hot. But it is often "red short" and when heated to a low red can be more brittle than when cold. If old wrought is corroded to the point where it has swollen from internal corrosion it must be cut out and replacement material welded in.

Details. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/18/04 02:24:36 EDT

I just came across a Military "Travel" Hot Forge and bought it for $50.00 from a friend of the familiy. Can you give me any information as to when these were last made and any pictures of restored ones so that i may restore mine,too. I believe mine has all the parts to it and assembles up to a complete forge with champion blower and all.
   Virgil - Wednesday, 08/18/04 03:50:06 EDT

Traveling Forge: Virgil, What countries? The US, Britian and Germany made them. Others may have as well. I'll assume US since it has a Champion blower but our allies may have bought the blower from the US.

Some of our military/history folks may have a photo but here is what I know and have seen.

1) Each major manufacturer made them and they were similar but different in details.

2) The US type were quite sparse and broke down, the German was portable but did not bteak down and had storage built in.

3) Parts included, The rectangular steel forge box with lid that doubled as a storage box. The lid had stabilizer bars to hold it vertical as a wind break. Some were removable like the lid on an ammo box. Pressed metal legs that fit sockets in the corners. Blower and tuyere that fit a dovetail or slip on fitting on the bottom of the forge. The grate was a simple rivet forge style with holes that bolted to the center of the forge bottom.

4) What they did not include. The US typle did not need wrenches to assemble. As far as I know there were no hammers or tongs. These were probably a seperate kit but I may be wrong. The German type had a belt drive and a storage box provided a place to keep a spare belt and necessary wrenches.

6) The original paint was OD green as was almost all US military equipment. Original pieces MAY have been repainted while in service so multiple coats of paint may be original.

5) The US type was pretty primitive and not a very good forge. The German type was a much better forge but was not quite as compact.

6) As far as I know these were made until these companies went out of business or quit making blacksmiths tools. I do not know when the military last ordered them. Champion, Buffalo and Canady-Otto all went out in the 1950 and 60's. The last gasping breath for Champion and Buffalo's blacksmithing lines were making light duty fallout shelter blowers in the 1960's. These were cheap blowers with nylon bearings and were designed for a short life. Expected time in a fallout shelter was two to three weeks. Expected hours on one of these blowers was no more than 200 (one in four). The only fallout shelter I have visited had a first class Champion 200 blower.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/18/04 10:48:38 EDT

I had a friend buy a military forge in mint condition; it was the US "box" type but had an electric blower with a weird plug---he replaced it with an offboard hand crank blower. It had the original paint on it and it was *gray*---shipboard?

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 08/18/04 11:46:48 EDT

I've seen grey ones and black ones too. But I think the black was a repaint job. The one I had was a 30 years of rust finish without a hint of paint and no legs.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/18/04 15:11:46 EDT

I have a couple of more questions pertaining to the Military Forge. I'm a farrier in South Texas and could make some good use out of this new found toy. I notice there is no fire pot. Is there any precaution i should take when usuing this forge? Maybe line it with a couple of shovels full of dirt?
   Virgil - Wednesday, 08/18/04 16:07:51 EDT


If it's a cast iron unit with a depressed center, you can use it as is. If it makes you feel better, get some fire clay from a brick supplier and put in a layer. I am in New Braunfels so email me if you want some help. I have a couple of forges that are ex-military. One was at Kelly AFB and one of the last ones to come off the base - was painted blue when I got it. It is a stock Buffalo forge with an electric blower and half hood plus has the stock rheostat, pot and blower with damper. The blower is more than big enough to run two or more forges, I only use it on the first or second speed setting. When I first got it, I turned the fan way up and pulled the damper out - wound up blowing the coke out of the pot!
   - HWooldridge - Wednesday, 08/18/04 19:25:24 EDT

Poratable Army Forge: Virgil, These sheet steel boxes are fairly durable. However, they are not designed for a large fire and if left outdoors with coal ash in them (or indoors in a humid environment) they will disolve to dust in no time. Keep it clean between uses.

I find the deep boxes without a firepot hard to control the fire in. These were designed as a carrying box for the blower, not a good forge design. I would carry a handfull of firebricks with it to help keep the fire localized in the center. Yes these are going to add a lot of weight to carry but they can be used loose and not effect the forge permanently. They do not need to be carried in the forge.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/18/04 21:57:08 EDT

Thanks guys for the great ideas. I greatly appreciate your time and efforts in amswering my questions.
   Virgil - Thursday, 08/19/04 00:22:29 EDT

I was curious if you guys have seen the "Big Bertha" forges for sale on ebay, and if so, whats the verdict? They're $100 bucks, and probably safer than anything I could build. Any and all help is appreciated.
   - patrick - Thursday, 08/19/04 02:24:28 EDT

If it were me, I would build it myself. What you see on ebay is nothing more than anything any Blacksmith could build by himself. Also, in building my own gasser I would place a firebrick or piece of kiln shelf on the floor of the forge to protect it. I do not see anything like that in the pics of the forge on ebay. Personally I have had nothing but poor experiences when dealing with ebay. Your luck may be different.
"Let The Buyer Beware"
   Harley - Thursday, 08/19/04 03:53:49 EDT

Gassers don't lurk around waiting to explode if you use common sense: dope the threads, check for leaks and *always* turn the tank off when you stop---storing the tank outside is a good idea too in case it's seal isn't working right.

Unlike acetelyne you cannot propagate an explosion up the feedline and into the tank---unless you have it hooked to high pressure oxygen!

Mistakes generally result in large plumes of unburnt gas or the flame in the wrong part of the burner---which you then just turn off the valve, or give a big puff to move it down to where it should be.

Other than letting it go too long before lighting it and getting the whoosh---just like the old gas cook stoves used to do. Onece it's get set up your not in for much excitement.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/19/04 10:29:49 EDT

Ebay Forge: DO NOT buy this one at any price. The lining is just roughly stuffed in and not coated. Nor is there a floor as Harley noted. If the rest of the construction is this bad then it is a real POS.

Kaowool lined forges generaly have the blanket fairly well fitted to the curve of the interior. The surfaces are not smooth but they are NOT like this. They should also be coated with ITC-100 or a similar product to prevent breaking down of the surface and spreading fine kaowool dust (a possible carcenogen) around your shop.

You absolutely cannot just stuff a piece of steel in a forge without a coated lining or a floor. Scale from the steel will eat up the refractory. ITC-100 prevents this as well.

If you would like to build a forge this this see the links on our plans page to Ron Reil's site and the book by Michael Porter. If you want to understand forge burners and make the hottest and most efficient get this book.

Gas Burners, For Forges, Furnaces & Kilns Review in progress.

As Harley noted these are not too difficult to build and the parts are redily available. We sell the ITC-100 and Kaowool here and most of the other parts are available a plumbing and hardware suppliers. You can also find these forges at many blacksmithing meets (See ABANA-Chapter.com) for reasonable prices. Just LOOK at the quality of the construction before you buy OR buy a commercialy made model from one of our advertisers. All the commercial models are well made and have those nifty built in piezio electric igniters.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/19/04 12:43:42 EDT

Travel Plans: I have been invited to attend the Big Blu "Free hand" Power Hammer School on the August 27-29 and will be in Mooresville, NC Thursday night (26th).

Zeevik Gottlieb, former Uri Hofi student and master smith at Oak Hill Ironworks / Big BLU hammer Mfg. Co. will be the instructor.

They have one more opening if anyone is interested.

We may have some coverage in the next news (probably after SOFA/quadstate but it is difficult to take part in AND cover an event.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/19/04 13:46:40 EDT

Big Blu school.... I wish. Have fun.
   Ralph - Thursday, 08/19/04 14:15:51 EDT

is there realy a need for another kind of flux to join the maetls or is using the heat from the fire enough.
If it is needed what would you recomend
   richard - Thursday, 08/19/04 14:28:29 EDT

Richard, it depends on the metals and the type of heat or fire used. Many smiths weld steel in coal or charcoal forges without flux. Others use flux. It depends on your skill and what you are used to. Some high alloy steels cannot be welded without a strong flux.

When oxy-acetylene welding steel the flame is hot enough to melt and float the oxides off the surface. TIG and MIG welding protect the surface of the metal with inert gas. When brazing, braze welding and soldering flux is always necessary.

All fluxes work basicaly the same, they disolve the oxides on the surface of the metal that will prevent it from being joined and they also cover that fresh surface and keep it from oxidizing from the heat source. Generaly cleaner more metalurgicaly sound joints are created when flux is used and the joint is properly shaped.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/19/04 14:56:57 EDT

thanks for the help
   richard - Thursday, 08/19/04 15:09:57 EDT

HELP! I am a landscape designer trying to pacify a customer who wants an artistic fire pit. I suggested a solid granite orb with a fire ring/sculture around the base. Where or how do I get enough fire out of the ring thing? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, Matt
   Matt Wilson - Thursday, 08/19/04 17:20:40 EDT

Matt, we have done various fire sculptures by taking copper pipe and drilling holes in it and connecting it to a propane tank---you will need an adjustable propane regulator *not* a gas grill one..

At the pressure it likes you get white flames. Note rain or wind can put it out and timely lighting is necessary---just like in a gas grill.

The size of the pipe and the size/number of the holes need to be experimentally discovered.

The propane will soot up things near it; if you burn it such that you don't make soot you can't really see the flames very well. Perhaps using a black basalt that would show up the flames but not the soot?

For an example, visit the MOB camp at Quad-State and see the flaming anvil.

Here in the SW this same technique is sometimes used in the "clay pot" fireplaces usually with the pipe covered with lava rocks.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/19/04 18:36:34 EDT

Fire Sculpture: As Thomas pointed out you may want to do some experimentation. Properly burning propane or natural gas is nearly clear burning in daylight. To get a good yellow color it needs to move slow and for there to be a lot of gas.

Kerosene or fuel oil will burn yellower but will stink of oil. This is what is commonly used in torches.

As Thomas noted a dark background will help. I would recommend some kind of shade too. A flame in direct sunlight is difficult to see no matter what.

What ever happens, whoever builds it will have to experiment. If they are lucky they will get it right the second of third time after changing each version several times. Fun project for someone.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/19/04 20:13:05 EDT

thanks for the advice guys
Good News!!!
Today I met with some local bladesmiths in Macon GA and they agreed to show me the ropes. In exchange I have to clean up and provide my own steel, but thats a small price to pay.
   - patrick - Thursday, 08/19/04 20:28:24 EDT

one more question: where's a good place to purchase 1095 flat stock?
   - patrick - Thursday, 08/19/04 21:03:03 EDT

Good source for knife steel --www.admiralsteel.com
   - ptpiddler - Thursday, 08/19/04 21:10:19 EDT

hello folks ...

i've got a 2-floor circular staircase with a diameter of 4m that needs railings (stairwell too!). the metalworker who did the ironwork for the windows and doors cannot continue on the project, and i'm trying to understand the factors involved in bending the handrails. there is about a 35 degree angle of rise/run. Any info on jigs, compression and materials choices would be appreciated.

thanks in advance
   bob - Friday, 08/20/04 00:10:46 EDT

hi there all. my blower on my forge was making a grinding noise after about 30 or so rotations so i would then wind the othere way. after a couple of hours or so of forging i got pretty sick of this noise so in my wisdom i pulled the blower apart it is a rapid b sydney blower. everything looks pretty good inside (well from my point of view anyway) now what should i do to put it back together as i see there was some type of hair gasket sealing it and what sort of grease should i use. also are blowers geared at different speeds as i note that my blower seems to turn alot slower than another one i use which turns very easily. both blow very effectively tho.

some of you may remember me getting given a soderfers anvil last year, well now i have been given a 200 or so pound peter wright which hurts my ears every time use it. one of you said there are finders out there it seems that i am one.

cheers from a very chilly Australia
   banjo - Friday, 08/20/04 05:06:41 EDT


"Ear protection."




Don't end up like some of the rest of us, asking the wif: "What did he say on that Olympic Beach Vollyball play?"


Back to the 90s and tripple H (hazy, hot and humid)on the banks of the Potomac. Taking the afternoon off to go on a museum crawl with a friend to check out the Sackler, the Freer and any other museums we can cram in. http://www.si.edu/ Fearing boat voyage and some more work on a sword hilt and the RJYH this weekend.

Vist your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 08/20/04 08:40:49 EDT

Bob, See our 21st Century Page. There is an article on spriral stairways. It may help or not.
   - guru - Friday, 08/20/04 08:49:28 EDT


Tie the anvil to the stump with bolts, chains, straps, etc and it won't ring. A lot of the old blowers were meant to run on oil so everything would get lubed by slinging. I'd put it together with a good automotive gasket sealant and then fill with gear oil.
   - HWooldridge - Friday, 08/20/04 09:21:02 EDT

Even better than gear oil for blowers is bar-and-chain oil for chain saws. Gear oil is heavy and smelly, and makes the blower harder to crank at low temperatures. Bar and chain oil is thinner, and it has "stuff" in it that makes it stick to moving parts. I've been using Huskvarna brand, which is a delightful blue color, very decorative on the floor. Oh, and it WILL leak. It's supposed to. Really.

I used a couple pieces of steel plate and 3" lag bolts to bolt down my Peter Wright. Unbolted, it will sing your fillings loose. Bolted down, it just goes "clunk."
   Alan-L - Friday, 08/20/04 10:10:28 EDT

Blower: Banjo, Every blower maker had a different design and gearing arrangement. The quality of the gears varied greatly. The quality effects both the life and the noise.

Unfortunately gears wear out. Just a few thousandths wear and they get noisy. Once gears are noisy they wear rapidly and not only get noisier but the friction causes them to be hard to turn.

As HW pointed out, these were designed to run on oil. The oil leaks out of most because they do not have seals and must be re-oiled regularly. Lack of oil is their demise like so many pieces of machinery.

Don't "fill" to the top with oil, put just enough to fill below the lowest shaft that penetrates the case.
   - guru - Friday, 08/20/04 10:10:30 EDT

The Toolbox episode featuring Atli (yours truly) on the versatility of the axe (as well as maybe Leonard and Paul) has been moved up to a double header this Saturday, August 21, sometime around 6:00 p.m. on the History Channel. (The other episode is on chainsaws!)

So far they look pretty good, and they have used some of our Longship Company folk and vessels to good advantage. There's been a couple of episodes showing the Viking period forge (on saws and drills).

In haste...
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 08/20/04 10:30:41 EDT

i find it interesting but hard to find a source of research which can help me in artist blacksmithing. i recently tried leather, which i enjoyed but some of the dimensions were flat. i was thinking of adding a new scource of research to the side view and keeping a leather look at the front... but my tutors want me to take my ideas from 1 scource of research so the information is the same.... can you help?
   alex smith - Friday, 08/20/04 11:55:39 EDT

do you know any helpful books in the way of design and thought principles behind design and research areas for design?
   alex smith - Friday, 08/20/04 12:05:45 EDT

Alex, There are thousands. However, you will not find anything on modern iron design that also includes leather. There are books on general design/decoration as well as books on the theory of design and design in many specific fields.

Try to be more specific about what you want or focused about what you want to do. See our book reviews of the books by Giuseppe Ciscato on "The Italian Masters of Wrought Iron" and the one on beds. Both books display designs by artists and their "realization" as interperted by one or more smiths. The reviews include copious samples.

To design well in iron one should have some experiance with the material and what can an cannot be done. Understanding the processes aids greatly in producing a design that can be realized rather than the figment of ones imagination that may be impossible to manufacture in the real world.
   - guru - Friday, 08/20/04 12:50:33 EDT

Or perhaps I should say, impractical rather than impossible. Poorly concieved designs rarely get realized.
   - guru - Friday, 08/20/04 12:53:16 EDT

practicality, just what i was lookin 4... thanx
   alex smith - Friday, 08/20/04 13:05:07 EDT

Bob- Spiral Stair rails are extremely tricky- Making metal into those shapes is quite hard, and the guys who do it all the time use a lot of expensive equipment. It is not uncommon to build a full size mockup of the stair in the shop to build it right.
So first I would advise finding a really skilled smith or ornamental iron shop in your area. Contact your local Abana chapter for references, or try NOMMA- they have a website. And if you really want to do it yourself, or cheap, you might consider cheating, and doing a series of straight lines for the railing- rather than a true helix.
   - Ries - Friday, 08/20/04 13:32:57 EDT

Guru, I must take the opposite view---poorly conceived designs are *often* realized, generally very badly!

As for the use of iron and leather, ISTR that some of the medieval books used both leater for the bindings and iron for hasps and hinges. In some cases they were actually chained to the shelves! There have been some iron and leather chairs done too and finally would knives and their sheaths count as "iron and leather"?

   Thomas P - Friday, 08/20/04 15:42:19 EDT

Iron and Leather, together?
That one ain't hard,
check the Marquis de Sade
   vicopper - Friday, 08/20/04 15:51:34 EDT

Thomas you got me there. Now find a book in your vast bibliography or collection that covers the design of knives and sheaths both from and artistic and practical standpoint. . . :)

Same for the chained medieval and Renassiance library book bindings. . . In fact, in this case it was not done very artisticaly. Most were ugly and rusting iron did bad things to the leather and the acids in the leather the same for the iron. But I've always wanted to do a brass/leather fantasy binding a'la Disney. I bid on one job with repousse' metal covers but the outfit wanted a dozen or so and did not understand why there was not a huge price break on that quantity all made by hand. . . For hundreds dies could be made.

Horse tack is anothr place where metal and leather are used together.
   - guru - Friday, 08/20/04 18:11:36 EDT

Well it's funny but one of the better books on medieval leather tooling was "Knives and Scabbards, Museum of London" that had a large number of tooled sheaths with closeups of the tooling and information on the piece including dating.

I don't know if I have seen a book that discussses good design criteria for knife sheaths beyond functionality; though I have seen a lot of sheaths that really improved the esthetic impact of the knife they carried---none of them mine BTW. I believe that *every* knife *MUST* come with a sheath; but mine are more likely to be simple folded leather with copper riviting, when I get fancy I go to wood for sheaths.

Home to stake out possible shop dimensions and realize it's not going to fit everything anyway. Atleast here I can keep my scrap pile outside---just having to watchout for cold blooded visitors...

   Thomas P - Friday, 08/20/04 19:09:52 EDT

Depending on the temp. I prefer automatic transmission oil for blowers. It is cheap, available most everywhere in the world, stays thin to very low temps,has great anti-oxidizers that will prevent varnish build up, and is very easy on most every seal material. It also has a very good anti wear package.
   ptree - Friday, 08/20/04 20:14:35 EDT

Thomas: Does it ever all fit? Of course I have multi-thousand square foot facilities built for the National Park Service and I'll spend the first five years of the lease being chastised for wasted space and the last fifteen being flogged for not enough space. 8-0

I will note from both advise and experience that storing a blade in a leather sheath, over the longer term, is NOT a good idea. All depends on how the leather was tanned, the storage conditions (cool & dry vs. hot & humid), the presence of other reactive metals like copper alloys, and the length of time. Of course we all oil and maintain our blades and firearms in flawless condition on a regular schedule, right? ;-)

Warm and humid but not too bad on the banks of the lower Potomac. Faering boat voyage tomorrow and trying to do some blacksmithing on Sunday. D@mn Olympics keep getting in the way, especially when the cool sports, like rowing, fencing, sailing and such are usually scheduled at ungodsly hours.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 08/20/04 20:39:14 EDT

What is the value of an Edwards shear (#10) includes handle?Blades good.Surface rust.
   Russell Colvin - Friday, 08/20/04 21:29:02 EDT

Alex, "The Elemants of Dynamic Symmetry" by Jay Hambridge; "The Nature and Art of Workmanship" by David Pye; "The Nature and Aesthetics of Design" by David Pye. Some of this material is a little difficult to assimilate; for me, about two pages a day on the crapper is plenty.

Jim Wallace, now head of the National Ornamental Metal Museum, Memphis, Tennessee, created some sizable ironwork that was combined with rawhide in the early 1970s. This was when he was a smithing neophyte in Colorado.

Russell, "The price of a thing is what it will bring". I sold an Edwards sheat 10 years ago for $300.00.

   Frank Turley - Friday, 08/20/04 23:20:20 EDT

Russel, To add to what Frank had to say about prices, it depends on who is selling and who is buying. If you are stuborn, advertize and can wait you will find someone that will overpay by two to one. IF you are in a hurry and the buyer shrewd it will go for half of its normal value.

Used equipment prices also depends on location. In some parts of the country (world) it is plentiful and cheap, in other places it is rare and expensive.

I believe Centaur Forge still sells these or at least the parts. That may give a clue to value. Used should be around half of new.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/21/04 00:04:05 EDT

I run a machine shop that is primarily a pewter foundry. All of our hollow ware has a hand hammered finish. A stien has, on average, 2,000 hammer marks. Because its done by hand much man power is lost.

While looking at the home built power hammers I was wondering if I could constructed one for pewter. I'd assume the gear ratio would be considerably different but the principles the same. All that is needed is a device to repeatedly hammer with a slight amount of force. Could you point me in the direction of plans or books?

Thank you
   Logan - Saturday, 08/21/04 02:40:15 EDT

Try a small air driven chipping hammer. You'll need good trigger control so avoid the cheapies. Look for a hammer with a flow control on the bottom of the butt and a steel plunger type trigger rather than a molded plastic type.
You can get any old bit and cut it off so you can grind the shape of the imprint you want on the end.
I've built a mount for small hand held air hammers with an opposed anvil that has been quite successful.
EA Chase is the master of the medium. He uses a foot actuated valve to control his.
Join the CSI and support Anvilfire or carry the guilt of failing to do so your whole life long!
   - Pete F - Saturday, 08/21/04 03:45:22 EDT

Thank you all for your help. I will now be raiding husbands shed for chainsaw oil - lucky we do have one of those so that will be easy to get. I have to put my blower in the shed after each use as my forge etc are outdoors as i do not have a large enough undercover area to use them. Thanks again you are all a wealth of information.

Watch out for Jana Pitman in the 400 metre hurdles Aussie Aussie Aussie........Oi Oi Oi

cheers Banjo
   Banjo - Saturday, 08/21/04 04:00:30 EDT

Planishing: Logan, There are a variety of ways to make a planishing hammer. They are mechaicaly a little different than a power hammer but not much. They are faster and lighter. The JYH listed as "The Emerald City" is one of these. It was designed for armur but will work on non-ferrous also.

Comercialy there are several popular makes that ae no longer in production. Pettingell was one of these. They are a small mechanical hammer built for the aircraft industry and still used by coustom aircraft and auto body builders. Due to their rarity and class of work they are rather pricey. See our power hammer page for photos.

Pullmax is another more recent machine but out of production the best I can determine. Made in Sweden they are a large heavy machine that was designed for the modern air-craft industry. They are also relativly rare.

E.A.Chase with planishing hammer ABANA 2000 NEWS Fig 1
E.A.Chase with planishing hammer ABANA 2000 NEWS Fig 2
Detail E.A.Chase planishing hammer ABANA 2000 NEWS Fig 3

The method of hammer building by E.A.Chase (above) as mentioned by Pete is very practical and can be modified for specific applications. To do hollow ware you probably need two configurations, a stiff open arm and a bottom support. Do not get carried away with the open arm (horizontaly supported anvil). I would make an open arm from a piece of heavy plate (2" - 2.5") shaped in a U so the force of the blow is supported undeneith. Sorry for the small images. . . I have larger somewhere but would have to dig to find them.

This hammer is a C-frame supporting a cylindrical air hammer in a tube so it floats up and down. The blow is controlled by how much weight is stacked on the top of the floating hammer and the rate of blow by the air control. This one has a foot control for the air.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/21/04 09:32:48 EDT

I need to know the depth between the coal bed and the top of the fire pot, or lip. My coal bed is 31"x35" and the book i'm using to build my forge does not mention the depth. I know the coal forge has many different specificatons so I hope it isn't to much trouble.
   - New blacksmith - Saturday, 08/21/04 13:58:40 EDT

I registered for the slack tub pub a few days ago just wondering about how long till i get a response. My wife took me to Silver Dollar City and I got to be blacksmith for a day and I am hooked now I am gathering my tools so I can do this at my own shop. I would like to be able to check out the demos you have there thanks.
   andyb - Saturday, 08/21/04 14:05:57 EDT

Newsmith, In my earlier response I was pretty specific within a range. It is also discussed in our coal and charcoal FAQs. Your word pictures are still not clear.

What are you looking for?

Depth of fire pot?

Forge floor to top of side?

If I were building a forge in the shop today the sides would be the width of whatever flatbar or angle iron I had laying around. The last coal forge I built was made from a very large piece of I-beam and the sides were the remains of the the 6" wide flange. If I were making one using all new materials I would make a drawing and try to use the same stock for the sides and legs.

If your book has a drawing you are going by, then scale it.

And As noted in my previous answer, some smiths use forges with no edge on them at all. Some forges are completely enclosed. This gives you a range of 0 to two feet.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/21/04 15:02:34 EDT

iForge Demos: Andy, we have not had a new "live" demo in a while due to my not having time to set them up. However, there are over 150 posted on the iForge page.

I WAS about 6 monts behind on pub registrations and have cought up on a about two months worth (200). Yours will be in the next batch as I do the most recent and then play catch up.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/21/04 15:06:11 EDT

On my coal forge, the firepot (a commercial Centaur Vulcan rectangular) sits with the higher of its edges hanging from the edges of a hole cut in a 20" x 30" sheet of 3/8" steel plate. The gap left between the lower edges of the pot and the hole in the steel plate are filled with fireplace mortar reinforced with window screen. The edges of the plate have a 1/2" lip on three sides, and the front edge is completely flat. Since I made a side-draft hood that covers the back of the table, there is no longer any need for the back lip. In use, the coal is heaped up about two to four inches higher than the top of the firepot. There is never more than a five-gallon/22 liter bucket's worth of coal atop the forge table at any given time, as more would serve no purpose and get in the way.

Since you mention a book, why not mention which book? I'm guessing you are using Aldren A. Watson's "The Blacksmith: Ironworker and Farrier" as it is the only one I know that has good coal forge plans that don't involve a brake drum.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 08/21/04 17:16:15 EDT

I am looking for a supplier of candle drip pans and candle cups while i get my tooling up and running can anyone help would like to purchase 20-40 pieces thanks
   - robert sides - Saturday, 08/21/04 19:29:39 EDT


With the air hammer configuration, would one have to press the foot peddle for each blow? More preferably, could you design it so that once its on, the hammer starts with relitive speed....maybe 2-3 beats a second and stays at that speed. Similar to a slow sewing machine maybe? We've got tons of buffing motors around here 3/4 - 1 hp, that could power it. By hand we can get out a strike a second, for a limited time before rest. A machine that would be 2 -3x faster would be great. All one would have to do is rotate the mug to control placement of the strike.

Have tried the air chisel/hammer routine. Even on a slower speed the blows are inconsistant and hard to place exactly.

Thank you
   Logan - Saturday, 08/21/04 20:53:17 EDT

Just a thought,maybe a treadle hammer would work for you,a simple and lighter version of a vertical motion hammer,they are good for tap tap work,not hard to build and it saves your arms,i would think a person could sit on a stool and operate it for your application.
   crosspean - Saturday, 08/21/04 22:05:16 EDT

Robert Sides, Tune into http://www.saber.net~jere/cups.html Jere Kirkpatrick is in charge of Valley Forge and Welding, and has the candle pans and cups in stock.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 08/21/04 22:08:54 EDT

Planishing, Logan, No, power hammers repeat at up to the rate of the main shaft. I am guessing that Ted's planinshing hammer is running sbout 500 RPM tops or about 8.3 blows per second. That is typical of small mechanical machines. However, both air and mechaincal have speed adujustment by slipping a clutch or throttling.

Operating any of these machines requires skill and practice. You don't just start and produce perfect work the first time. Producing a nice overlaping hammered finish via machine is going to take practice. You won't be able to put an untrained worker on the machine and get good work the first time. You would have a better chance doing it by hand. On the machine the worker is going to need learn to move constantly at the rate the machine runs (fairly fast, like a sewing machine running at near full speed). Otherwise it would be faster by hand. To keep hollow work moving smoothly and steadly is going to require well designed tooling as well as practice.

There is almost as much "rest" time with the machine as doing a job like this by hand. Most of this time is spent repositioning the work and one's grip and anticipating the next pass. If the machine runs too slow the job would quickly become boring and lack of attention would set in.

By hand light planishing blows to produce texture should be 2-3 per second unless you are using too large a hammer. So the 8 per second from a machine should be about right.

When you tried the air hammer was it setup in a frame with snug guides? Was a good free arm anvil used? Was a foot control used so that two hands could be used to control the work? To do this job mechanicaly the details will make the difference between success and failure.

The E.A.Chase machine in the photos above has a machined block for the hammer to slide smoothly and snuggly. A weight stud was added to the body of the hammer and a foot valve with throttling capability is being used. It has everything other than an open arm anvil arrangement for your hollow vessles. On the whole it is a well thought out machine and there is nothing technical in its design and construction.

Sounds to me like you need to visit Teb Banning in West Virgina. At the spring Armour-In his hammer was used to texture a 16" diameter brass bowl after it had been pressed to shape under a hydraulic press.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/21/04 22:20:59 EDT


As soft as pewter is, planishing it should take very light hammer blows. It would be relatively easy to build a very light duty mechanical planishing hammer along the lines of a micro-Pullmax.

If I had to design one, I would start with a 1/2 hp variable speed DC motor. You'll pay a good bit of money for one, but with a digital controller you'll be able to set the speed right where you want it and be able to count on it staying there.

I'd probably try using a simple crank/pittman arm assembly running a spring helve. (Or a rigid helve with a spring loaded hammer head.) Since you don't need a heavy hammer weight for pewter, you could put the pivot point for the helve at something like a 2:1 ratio to get a bit more speed out of the tup and more open throat.

An open arm lower anvil assembly that has a provision to use different anvils/stakes for different shapes would give you the most flexibility to handle various closed forms like cups, vases, etc. Again, keep in mind how soft pewter is when designing the members. This hammer doesn't need to be built like a forging hammer for steel.

It might be nice to have the foot treadle that controls the motor also bring the bottom die up to meet the hammer head. Or bring the helve arm down. You step on the treadle and it starts the motor, making the hammer reciprocate at whatever speed you set. As you step down a bit more, it brings the hammer and anvil together to planish the stock between them. You can control the depth of the texture that way to feather areas into one another.

These are just a few thoughts that come to mind. Look at the design of the Rusty hammer by the Appalachian Blacksmiths group and other helve hammer designs to get a feel for what I'm thinking of. Freom there, you'll have to start experimenting and come up with your own design. I will note that there have been a few very small planishing hammers made over the years for doing just this sort of thing. You might check with used equipment dealers in the Providence, RI area. Providence was the jewelry making capital of the US for much of the 19 and early 20th centuries and there may well be some of those old machines languishing in a warehouse somewhere.

It sounds like a fun project; let us know how it turns out.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/21/04 23:11:26 EDT


1) Look at Travis Industries' Ring of Fire http://www.travisproducts.com/. They have taken care of the liability issues associated with propane.

2) Alternatively, design your own system. Start with using B-100 (100% biodiesel) as the fuel. Eliminates odor, much of the soot/particulates, and a number of liability issues. 100% biodiesel is food grade, inherently safe, etc. Light it manually with a butane fireplace torch. (Just a touch of customer involvement.) If you drip onto an irregular roughened surface, you can create a number of effects depending upon the drop height and the amount of wind. If you want a bigger fire, you have two choices. a) a funnel-hood over the firepit or b) a side draft hood. In either case, you can do a lot with (human) textured stainless steel.
   - dloc - Sunday, 08/22/04 00:06:16 EDT

Robert Sides,

Another place that carries candle cups and drip pans is Kayne and Son. You can use the NAVIGATE anvilfire pulldown in the upper right-hand corner of this page to find a link to their site.

   eander4 - Sunday, 08/22/04 01:18:36 EDT

Several years ago, I built a brake drum forge (for coal). I just played a bit back then, but didn't really know much about learning to be a blacksmith. I just read some books and liked to try new things. In addition, I built a couple small gas forges (propane), using Ron Reil's burner design. One is a single burner, the second is a dual burner. I did get a good flame, as shown with pictures on his web site. The single burner forge is an 8" cylinder that is also 8" long. I have sliding metal doors on each end of the small forge (maybe 3x4 inches open area when the doors are fully opened). The larger forge is the same diameter, but longer (maybe 16") with two burners and has a setup to use light ceramic brick on each end (they slide into a track from the top. Both forges are lined with KAO Wool (just one inch) and coated with ITC-100. I have an adjustable regulator also.

I have just used the gas forges in the past (years ago) to make leaves by holding a rod (round or square) in one side, holding the rod till it got hot, then taking it out and working on an anvil. My day_job kind of overtook me and I got away from playing with the forges for several years. Last year, I was able to retire and learning about blacksmithing came back into my sights. I took a couple classes this past spring and have a a renewed interest. I have been working with coal forges this year and haven't dug out the gas forges yet. I'd like to do that now and make things with both coal and gas.

I have a few questions (about gas forges) for the experts...

1. Is it possible to get to welding heat with one burner?, with two? For example, I would like to make some tongs using one of the forges, and will want to forge weld the handles on. I haven't tried welding with the gas forges yet (I may have tried years ago, but don't remember). Back then, I really wasn't trying to do any project that required forge welding. I have forge welded with a coal forge this year (many tries, few successes, but I'm working on developing expertise). If my memory serves me, I don't ever recall getting steel to "sparkle" or look like it was about to flow (forge heat) with the gas forges. Based upon what I know now from playing with coal forges, it didn't seem like the steel was getting hot enough in the gas forges to forge weld. It's probable that I wasn't doing something right.

2. Should I have more KAO wool? If so, can I put more wool over the wool I have already treated with ITC-100? Or do I need to replace it all, then just coat the showing wool?

3. If I want to put items in the forge to heat, then take them out with a tongs, would it be easier if I put a shelf (ceramic shelf)in and a front door? It seems like my sliding doors may be a little awkward to keep opening and closing (if I need to do that). Also, at least with the smaller gas forge, it may be difficult to user a tongs to put things in and get them out of the side doors.

4. How much open area (square inches), if any, (open doors or vents on the forge) do I need to provide air for a gas forge to work properly (beyond that provided by the burner), but still hold or produce enough heat for forge welding? For one burner, for two, for ?. Is there a formula?

If I need to make some modifications to the gas forges, I want to do that before I get them working again, thus these questions.


   djhammerd - Sunday, 08/22/04 01:30:56 EDT

You need lots of controlled light blows...Thats very soft metal.To be practical they should be much faster than you'd envisioned...as the good Guru says, there is an element of skill involved.
If you set it up right, with a well configured C frame , proper polished anvil mass, a very sensitive foot control ( I had to make my own) and a good tight little air hammer...that job should be fast and easy....
It took me a while before i stopped blowing holes in the sheet metal.
Be grateful that you didn't have to pay for the specialized answers you just got...it'd be a bundle...
And gracefully JOIN CSI!!!!
So i can collect my nickle commission ( NOT)
   - Pete F - Sunday, 08/22/04 03:20:51 EDT

Hello, I have a couple of questions relative to bladesmithing. First, I have checked the FAQ's and have not seen my questions so here I am. I have never made a knife or sword, I have seen it done before but never start to finish. My father made a couple of knives out of spring steel a number of years ago and used a furnace to heat them, not a very accurate methode from what I've read. As far as tools go I have general tools but nothing specific to forging and bladesmithing. My questions are as follows. First, If I were to use spring steel to create a blade would I have to have it heat treated to bring it back to it's original state? I realize the amount of heat I apply to the blade during fabrication will impact what I need to do but how will I know? Second, If I did need to have it heated could I take it someplace to have it done? If so what would I tell them that I needed. I've done some (limited) reseach on the web and have looked at hardness tables and rockwell information, which seems to have been written in a language I can't grasp. Please advise.
   Don - Sunday, 08/22/04 09:43:51 EDT


1. Yes, you can get to welding heat with one burner. It will depend on the size of the burner, the volume of the forge chamber and the effectiveness of the insulation. It is a matter of getting enough Btu's into the space in the requisite amount of time. How efficiently your burner operates is another big factor, too. Too rich or too lean and you're losing available heat to inefficiency.

2. Yes, probably. 2" is much better than 1". Yes, you can put it over the existing Kaowool, just paint the existing wool with a bit of ITC-100 to act as a "glue", add the new Kaowool, the coat again with ITC-100. Insulating value is a function of thickness of insulation, so more insulation yields greater efficiency.

3. Yes, a "hearth" shelf is a very handy addition. If the burner(s) are sized appropriately for the forge volume, you should be able to run with the door mostly open. Gas forges need adequate exhaust area to function correctly. The ratio of burner area to door area should be around 1:7 or a bit less. Much less and you choke the burner, much more and you are losing heat to convection.

4. See #3. Go back to Ron Reil's site for more detailed information on this. You may also weant to look alt some of the newer, more efficient burner designs that Reil and others have come up with. Michael Porter's new book, "Gas Burners fo Forges, Furnaces and Kilns", is an excellent and detailed resource for very high efficiency atmospheric burner construction.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/22/04 11:30:08 EDT

I need the plans for "the world's smallest forge" made from a few fire bricks and heated with a regular propane torch. I have seen one used to demonstarte the making of a small folding knife but don't remember exactly how it was made. I'd appreciate any help. Thank you!
   Rob George - Sunday, 08/22/04 12:17:37 EDT

Knife Making: Don see our Heat Treeating and Junk Yard Steel FAQs.

Yes you have to heat treat. Yes you can have it done comercialy. The first question the heat treater is going to ask is what is the alloy (SAE, ASTM or UNS number) and the second question is how hard (Rockwell or Brinell). Our Sword Making FAQ has a bibliography to get you started.

   - guru - Sunday, 08/22/04 12:32:25 EDT

World's Smallest Forge: Rob, In the early 20th century oxy-actylene rigs were labeled "forges" and the smallest tip with the smallest flame would be the smallest "forge". Don't like that definition? Make a thimble sized cup from Kaowool, line it with ITC-100 and stick the torch through the side. Then you have a 1/2 cubic inch (8cm3) forge.

We had a discussion about these the first week of this month. (August 1-8, 2004 archive). See our 21st Century Micro Forge article just updated for your question. It is also linked from or gas forge FAQ and plans page.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/22/04 13:09:50 EDT

Thanks for the wealth of info. I'll be checking those resources come monday. Looks like I've got some libary time coming. Once I've complied the data and pulled a game plan I'll let you guys know what my approach might be. Thanks again.
   Logan - Sunday, 08/22/04 13:15:56 EDT

A friend of mine has a plug bayonet, looks English It is old and I was just wondering If any one of you had before seen the mark that is stamped on the blade that reads like this. I have looked but can find no reference To this mark. I dont know if this is a froum for old steel as well so dont answer if the question is inapropriate. But any help would be apriciated. Also sorry for the lack of good spelling in this message.
   John Hofman - Sunday, 08/22/04 15:08:48 EDT

John, Someone here or reading this may know something about it. Check back later. All I can say is that shear steel was an early grade of high carbon steel and that it was probably made in the famous Sheffield steel region of England.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/22/04 15:22:17 EDT

NOTE: We found and have reproduced the text of the original bean can forge called the "Bean-O-Matic" by Ed Halligan with the micro-forge article. It originaly ran in the Ocmulgee Blacksmith Guild newsletter and was posted on the Donnie Fulwood site which no longer exists. The original drawing was not with the archived version. I have not been able to locate Donnie either. If anyone has a copy of the drawing or Donnie's address please contact me. I've just written to the OBG editor and webmaster about it.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/22/04 15:22:38 EDT

Logan- the guys over at metalshapers.org have done quite a bit of r&d on planishing hammers- there are people there who own original petttingil and yoder hammers, which now run $20,000 and up for used ones, there are a couple hundred pullmax owners, plus owners of original CP planishing hammers. And in the last few years, several hundred planishing hammers have been built by members- there are kits available, as well as free advice, photos of working models, and so on- with somewhere over 3000 members, there is a lot of experience on this subject- light, fast hitting power hammers. There is probably someone right in your area who already has one you could try.
   - Ries - Sunday, 08/22/04 15:40:20 EDT


Thanks for answering my questions. I need clarification on one thing. Your answer 3 says the ratio of the burner area to door area should be about 1:7. Does that mean for every seven cubic inches in the forge, I should have one square inch of door?

Thanks again....

   djhammerd - Sunday, 08/22/04 16:54:32 EDT

I have some 3/4 inch kiln shelf material (ceramic, I assume) that I may want to cut for shelves in gas forges. I'm sure that masonary blades in a chop saw (or masonary saw) would cut it, but I am wondering if there is a saftey issue with the dust that would be created. I could also use a diamond blade instead with water running over the blade (just more prep and setup time for cutting), but I'm still wondering about safety issues with either method. Also, are there similar issues with cutting those light bricks that ceramic folks use (they create a LOT of dust when cut dry).

   djhammerd - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:04:57 EDT


NOpe, I guess I wasn't clear on that answer. What I meant was that for every one square inch of burner area you need seven inches or so of exhaust area. If your burner uses a flare that is 1" i.d., then that is about 3/4 of one square inch. Multiply that times seven and you get an area of about 5 sq. inches of exhaust area. This can be either door area or rear port area or both combined, but you need about that much for an atmospheric burner to be able to aspirate sufficient air to mix with the fuel. This is just a rule of thumb and different configurations each require a bit of jiggering to get just right.

The reason for the exhaust area being about that ratio is is that it takes about 14 parts of air to 1 part of propane to get a neutral flame. The volume of fuel/air mixture traveling through the burner must be able to exit the forge chamber or it will "choke" the burner and interfere with proper aspiration and combustion. The forge volume must be sufficient to allow the flame to slow down and heat the chamber, and the door or exit ports must be adequate to get rid of the burned gases. But not so big that the flame ends up only heating a small area of the forge chamber and then exiting directly. A little backpressure is a good thing, but too much ruins performance just like too little does. The whole thing is a balancing act that is dependent on several interrelated factors.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:16:22 EDT

DJ Hammerd:
Extreme safety issues. Dust from that will give you silicosis and cancer, I believe. Wet cutting is the way to go. However, if you're using your chop saw with a diamond blade (instead of a tile cutter) to wet-cut that kiln shelf, be sure that it's plugged into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) so if the motor gets wet it won't fry you. Also note, if you wet-cut brick you need to let it dry before firing it, otherwise the little air spaces that make it insulating brick will be destroyed and the brick will lose structural integrity (in other words, disintegrate!)

With regards to the burner area vs exhaust area, I've heard a ratio of 1:7 or so like Vicopper says, with 1 being the cross-sectional area of your burner tube and 7 being the area of your exhaust. I.E. a 3/4" burner (pi(3/8)^2 = 0.44"sq.) needs about 3 square inches of exhaust ( 0.44*7=3.08"sq.). I followed this rule with my forge and it works well. Of course, if you are using a blown burner, you can ignore this for the most part. Guru would know more; I don't use blown burners.

By this time next week (hopefully) I'll be blowing glass again! Permanent(ish) shop coming sometime soon.

Sunny and hot in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:23:33 EDT

Oops, I need to type faster... (BoG)
   T. Gold - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:24:09 EDT

thanks for all the answers to my drip pan question john shear
steel was bilster steel that was cut or sheared up melted and cast in to ingots if i recall right it originated in england by a man making clock springs the steel harden good and tempered good thanks robert
   - robert sides - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:49:50 EDT

TRAVEL: Remember my travel FAQ? Well there is a trip to Uri Hofi's school in Israel being planned by Big BLU hammers. Look for more information on their web site in a week or so. The CSI Carribean getaway is still being hashed around. Next year is CanIRON V, and there are numerous European events being listed on our Calendar of Events. Its never too early to start working on getting your passport!
   - guru - Sunday, 08/22/04 17:54:21 EDT

Shear Steel & Plug Bayonette:

Sounds like it must be a 19th or 20th century reproduction. As I remember, plug bayonet were mostly 17th and no late than early 18th century; the British ring and socket bayonets being a major advance because they allowed the musket to be shot with the bayonet in place. Commercial markings like "Shear Steel" and "Warreated"; as opposed to touch marks and inspectors/armoury marks, don't really come in until the 19th century.

Most puzzling.

Worked on a sword hilt today, and the Great Ironbound Chest. The RJYH was on the list, but a new wasp nest in the tobacco sticks means I have to make a midnight visit with the "thermonuclear wasp spray" a necessity first. Did pretty good for someone who spent most of yesterday rowing a faering boat.

Cool and calm on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 08/22/04 20:14:38 EDT

vicopper and T. Gold

Thanks for those timely and thorough answers. All my questions are answered now. I do have a tile cutter, so the water doesn't complicate operation. I normally use the tile cutter with a dry metal cutting abrasive wheel for cutting steel (It works great for that), so I just need to clean it up, put on the diamond blade and water pump, fill er up (water) and go. I will also use a good face mask, since, even with water, it is possible to breath in "stuff" from cutting.

Thanks again...
   djhammerd - Sunday, 08/22/04 20:43:40 EDT

Dear Guru,
I am a rank amature to say the best when it comes to blacksmithing, however I do enjoy it alot. I have only been blacksmithing for a few months now and I have a huge passion for making swords. Unfortunatly I cant seem to find much about making handles for them, any info you could give me on them would be appreciated. Also to make the blades I am useing old Leaf springs from cars, I heat them untill they are orange or yellow and then I shape them and after I quench them in used motor Oil. Should I reheat the blade to glowing before I quench? Thank you for your time I am sorry this is so long.
   Peter Sterchak - Sunday, 08/22/04 21:20:46 EDT

Just posted some pictures of my in-the-works great, double chambered bellows in the User Gallery. Took the design from G. Agricola's (Hoover and Hoover) De Re Metallica and the dimentions from A. A. Watson's The Blacksmith, Ironworker and, Farrier. I got the leather on but it was too dark to take any more pictures. I'll try to post some tomorrow if I get out of work before dark. Tested them and they work realy well.
   Shack - Sunday, 08/22/04 22:10:18 EDT

re: Military forges: before he passed away my father gave me a military forge. It was still banded together and had never been used. Paint color was olive drab, it has a smaller hand cranked blower, legs that fit in slots to raise it about 18 - 24 inches, sheet steel panels to form a wind break and a top that was banded to the bottom to make a case. Looked as though the bottom was made from about 1/8" thick sheet. Basically - pretty much what the Guru described. Everthing was packed in rather deteriorated newspapers form the 1940's. I've not used it yet, but due to the thiness of the sheet have "clayed" the bottom. Currently using a cast iron version picked up last year at Quad State. (PArdon the late response - just back from Pennsic and catching up.)
   - Gavainh - Sunday, 08/22/04 22:42:47 EDT

DJ Hammerd,

Didn't know you could use a tile saw with a metalcutting blade. I'll have to look into that. Would rather buy a good tile saw than a cheap one and a chop saw, not to mention having that wet cutting ability is always nice.

Waiting for the sun to go down in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Sunday, 08/22/04 23:13:37 EDT

"shear steel" Robert, what you are describing is cast steel. Some was called "shear steel" because it was used to make shear blades. The term was used until the early 20th century when more specific definitions started being used such as the SAE system. So this term was in use for 100 years or more for steel made by numerous processes. Non specific steel terms are still commonly used on manufactured items. "Forged", "forged steel", "cutlery steel" and "surgical steel" are commonly used and mean virtually nothing except for the "forged". But the question is "forged WHAT?"
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 00:10:29 EDT

Thanks for the quick response. I looked at the FAQs and have a little better understanding but now have other questions. I see the numbers listed for leaf springs so I have the alloy, but I do not know what to tell the heat treater about hardness. What is a reasonable number for a decent knife, dagger or sword?
   Don - Monday, 08/23/04 00:28:23 EDT

I have another question that I'd like to post.
Today I was given what I assume to be a military knife. I'm guessing it is military because the cloth part of the sheath is olive green. The blade of the knife, which had been blackend by some method seems to be good but the grip or handle which was plastic was severely damaged. I'd like to use this as a "blank" to start a small dagger (the blade is 10.25" the handle is 4.75". How can I tell what this material is? I can file it and it is not magnetic, that is all that I know about it.

Please advise.

   Don - Monday, 08/23/04 00:47:22 EDT

All you romantic puppies who need to make knives, cutting weapons and assorted pointed pokeums would be better served looking on the knife making forums.
Like horse shoeing, knife making is a rather specialized corner of blacksmithing.
But first read all the good basic stuff the good Guru has thoughtfully provided here on Anvilfire.
The hardness desirable in a blade depends on the use to which the blade is put. A razor is extremely hard to hold the best possible edge and consequently is brittle. A chopping tool, which must take a lot of shock, needs to be softer the thinner it is.
And, uh,Don; Freud would have told you that there's no such thing as a " decent knife".
   - Pete F - Monday, 08/23/04 04:03:39 EDT

Thanks to everyone for the helpfull replys about shear steel. Its is much apriciated.
   John Hofman - Monday, 08/23/04 05:18:10 EDT

T. Gold

My tile saw is an older "Clipper" brand. It is a large commercial saw and has a 5 horse electric motor. It is amazing for cutting steel. It has a large tray platform on heavy legs (I put locking wheels on it so I could move it easily). I originally got it to cut decorative brick and slate when I put in a patio about 15 years ago. I had seen my brother cut rebar with one at a construction site, so I knew I could cut steel with it easily. I put a heavy rubber mat on the end behind the motor (about 28" behind the blade) so the metal dust would hit that instead of my wall (works fairly well). When I first got it (I have seen these saws at construction equipment liquidation auctions go for $200-$300), I cut a full size railroad track with it. That particular cut took a long time and you have to be very patient, but it illustrates the capability. I have also seen just the heads of them (uper platform with the motor and assembly that holds the blade) go for as little as $75 (rare). Being able to move the steel piece back and forth with the roller platform facilitates much faster cutting. The saw blade is moved down with your foot (and back up with a spring), so both hands are free to hold the metal. Use the least amount of pressure necessary to cut steel. If the blade glazes (fewer sparks), just roll the platform and ease up on the pressure, it will start cutting again. Sometimes I will also roll the piece of steel a quarter turn to continue the cut. Occasionally, I will clamp the steel piece, but most of the time, I just hold it against the cross bar with gloved hands and ease the metal into the blade (with slight down pressure). Also, wear ear protectors, long sleeves and something to cover your eyes and hair (a lot of sparks). Same advice as using a large hand grinder, I would guess. The one absolutely golden rule is that if the saw wants to take the piece from you, let it go (doesn't happen often). and if that happens, you may have to replace the blade, because odds are it will shred a bit (not always though). Don't try to hold something if the blade grabs it, fingers don't grow back and a large motor has more pulling power than you. I buy 1/8" (14 inch) blades (usually Norton or SAIT brands, about 7-8 bucks apiece), you would be suprized how much steel you can cut with one blade. I cut the railroad track with a premium blade that cost about double that. I can't even find those at my normal shopping haunts anymore. The thinner ones can wander when you cut stuff like larger diameter pipe (I don't try to use them at all anymore).

A smaller saw would work for most of what a blacksmith would cut, but the larger one makes it possible for me to use it for larger welding projects also (like attachments for a tractor or Bobcat).

I also use the side of the blade to "debur" the cuts if the metal is easily held and manipulated by hand. Just don't press too hard. I have never had a blade come apart doing that and I have used many many blades over the past 15 years using the saw (don't buy cheap blades though).

The biggest advantage is the speed at which you can cut steel. It's easy to set up a stop for cutting multiple pieces of the same length. I have a metal cutting band saw also (65" bands) and it hardly gets any use. I can cut through a 3/4" round bar or square in a few seconds with the tile saw. It takes many minutes with the band saw. Some of the cuts I have done with the tile saw (like 3" solid round bar) would take hours with the band saw.

Enough information already, I sound like a salesman (I hate that)... Anyway, it works good for me.

Just be careful if you get one.

   djhammerd - Monday, 08/23/04 08:19:26 EDT

Peter Sterchak; Sword Hilts:

As has been suggested, above, you may want to try your questions at the various sword and knife sites on the internet, such as http://www.swordforum.com/ or http://www.bladeforums.com/ . Folks at Anvilfire do work with swords and knives, but they're just some of the arrows in our quivers.

I will say that the hilting of a sword is as important as the blade. If you can't hold it, and you can't control it, it's useless. Historically (even back in the early middle ages) a separate craftsman, or hiltsmith, would mount the cross guard, handle and pommel. Blades were frequently imported from elsewhere and then hilted according to local custom and current fashion. (Still other craftsmen might do the scabbard and other furniture, such as the belt buckle for the baldric or sword belt.)

I assure you, from personal experience, that watching your blade come loose from the hilt is not a good feeling, so you need to get it right; this takes a surprising amount of effort and not just a few wraps of leather and wire and some casual peening over an oversize bolt. Wayne Goddard’s books, reviewed in the Anvilfire Bookshelf, have a lot of practical information for hilting knives, much of it applicable to swords. You might also want to check out the Anvilfire Armoury for my article on the history and development of swords and Jock's progressive guide for Gen. X swordmaking.

Even the books tend to give short shrift to the hilting, being big into the forging and grinding; but even the best blade in a bad hilt is both useless and dangerous.

Do a good job.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 08/23/04 08:52:24 EDT

"Military" knife: Don, Assuming a blade that came in an OD green sheath was government issued military is like assuming if it is clear and liquid that it is water. . .

Billions of cheap low quality blades of highly questionable manufacture have been made to sell at knife and gun shows, flea markets, discount stores, surplus stores and on e-bay. There are by far more of these floating around than the "real thing". The material could be almost anything.

See our Junk Yard Steel FAQ and our Heat Treating FAQ. See also our resources list for our Sword Making article and book review page.

   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 09:57:50 EDT

djhammerd, What you have described is an abrasive cut off saw or "chop saw", not a "saw". In metalworking they actually make cold saws that use a carbide tiped rotary saw blade. These turn VERY slow and need power feeds to cut. They look similar to a chop saw in configuration but are not the same thing. They run too slow to cut wood and MUCH too slow to use any kind of abrasive wheel.

Calling your machine just a "saw" confused T.Gold, that is why he was surprised you could use a saw blade in a machine designed to cut masonry. Even though there is confusion in the name of these machines the wheels for these machines are NEVER called a "saw". They are abrasive cut-off wheels, and diamond wheels.

Abrasive cut-off machines have advantages and disadvantages.

Two advantages are that they are cheap and they can cut hardened metal as well as other materials with the proper wheel.

The disadvantages are that the work gets hot and produces a VERY hard burr, they shower the shop with sparks and grit and they are quite noisy. Wheels are a consumable that are considerably more expensive per unit cut than saw blades.
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 11:03:22 EDT

Shear steel is blister steel that was stacked up and forge welded, if you draw that out and cut it and stack it and weld it you get double shear steel. Note it can get complicated because you can also get blister steel that went through the process twice so you could get double blister double shear, etc.

Huntsman is the fellow who "invented" cast steel made by melting blister steel in a crucible.

(Steel Before Bessemer, Vol I Blister Steel, Vol II Cast Steel" will tell you quite a bit of the processes used though it is very anglocentric.) Note that Wootz and other crucible steels were used in and exported from Central Asia about 1000 years earlier.

Sword Hilting: have you read "The Complete Bladesmith" by Hrisoulas? Lots of info on swordmaking---it's what he does for a living...besides the degree in metallograpy with his thesis on migration era blades...

Hmm cheap plastic handled knife that files easily and is non-magnetic: my guess it's one of the austentic (sp) stainless steels and so won't harden---a waste of time to use as blade material.

Blade heat treating: if you look in the knife magazines you will find people who specialize in blade heat treating, usually at a fairly reasonable rate. Or you can find your local bladesmith and ask for a quick course.

Heat treating swords is a very different kettle of fish, you need a much larger heat treat furnace amd quenching it without warping is much more difficult too. Remember that a sword should be tough and springy and so will draw at a *higher* temperature than a knife of the same alloy---unless it's a traditional japanese heat treat then the edge is brittle and the back is soft.

Thomas we stake out the shop tomorrow after work!!!!!!
   Thomas P - Monday, 08/23/04 11:31:11 EDT

Hey there,
Anyone have any idea where i could get copper rivets or copper round stock to make rivets. ( I live in B.C, Canada and the steel shop cant get any ). I want about a 1/8 or 3/16 diameter rivet
   Hayes - Monday, 08/23/04 12:52:17 EDT


These folks have a variety of copper wire in round, half round and square. (www.rjleahy.com/Store/wire/cwi.htm) In your case, 1/8" is roughly 8 gauge wire.

Alternately, Jay-cee Sales & Rivet Inc.(www.rivetsinstock.com) carries rivets of all kinds.

   eander4 - Monday, 08/23/04 13:16:24 EDT

I've been collecting pocket watches for a while & have decided to try my hand @ getting some of them running. BUT a good set of jewelers screwdrivers are $$$. So I got some, shell we say, cheapies. Of course the blades need reworking, but I cant seem to get a good temper on the end of the blades as they taper as they come in and are parallel @ the end. Any advice you can give me would be appreciated.
Oh...my eqpmt so far has been ancent Weller soldering iron and water to quinch. I can move up to a propane tourch, but I'm pretty sure that it won't take a lot of BTU's to get these tiny (3/16 & 5/16 for example) babies HOT.

Thanx in advance
Dave AKA DenverDave, hay you! etc etc
   DaveK - Monday, 08/23/04 13:32:57 EDT

Stock to make copper rivets: Hayes, The size you are looking for is about the same as #8 and #6 copper wire. The #6 solid is about 3/16" and used for grounding electrical panels/ It is commonly available from electrical contractors and very soft.

I also make rivets from brazing rod but it needs to be annealed or worked hot. Buying rivets is a lot easier.

If you go to Jay-cee sales BE SURE to tell them you heard about them HERE. They keep sending me advertising spam and when I replied suggesting they advertise on anvilfire they said that nobody using anvilfire would have an interest in their product. . . I thought they were rather rude and dismisive of the blacksmithing community. . . I was a customer in the past but no longer. I go to McMaster-Carr now.
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 13:41:11 EDT

Small Screw Drivers: Dave, See our Junk Yard Steel FAQ and Heat Treating FAQ.

Some inexpensive screw drivers are made of good steel and others not. Most I have seen were made of soft mild steel. They cannot be hardened more than they already are and are a waste of time and money even at 50 cents a set. .

For fine precision tools I would rework something made of good quality steel. Old files (chain saw files are round), taps, punches, Dremel bits. . . These can often be found at fleamarkets and are usualy NOT good for their original purpose even if they look good. If you grind carefully and do not overheat the metal you can make some very nice small tools from this material. Old taps are exceedingly hard fine high speed steel. I keep a box of dull taps to regrind into special cutters for use on drill press or lathe.

The other tool to regrind are good quality small screw drivers. A Sears Craftsman $13, 12 piece screw driver set has several small screw drivers that can be reground smaller and then you have the nice handle too. . . It is one of the best tool bargains of the past 30 years.

On small tool handles are very easy to carve from scraps of fine hardwood or plastic. Ferrules can be made from copper tubing. On VERY small tools I use old ball point pen bodies and epoxy the tool into place. I've got short pieces of fine coping saw blades glued into old Bic pen bodies to make little close quarter saws. The new Bic "Grip" pens have a very nice feel and would make classy lloking small screw driver, needle file or graving burr handle.
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 14:06:16 EDT

howdy, I have been 'smithin for about 2 yrs and have run onto a snag. I have a guy who wants two fish gigs sharpened. One is tempered correctly and the other is too soft. When heated and drawn out does it have to be re- tempered or not? Also what is the proper procedure for tempering a gig? Please reply via email. thankyou very much, Mike
   mike - Monday, 08/23/04 14:08:59 EDT

My forge welding class at Peters Valley, New Jersey, was cancelled due to lack of a sufficient student signup. It was scheduled for mid-September, 5 days, and was designed for "advanced smiths". We were going to do most of the welds in the books, and some that are not in the books and that don't have names. I think Jock will remove the listed class from the Anvilfire Calendar of Events. HOWSOMEVER, I AM going to demo for one day at the newly reconstructed "colonial smithy" in Bethlehem, PA, Sat., Sept 18, 459 Old York Rd., Bethlehem, PA. 18018. Contact Educational Services of the Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Inc., 610-691-0603 Extension 20. $35.00 fee.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 08/23/04 14:47:01 EDT

Frank, Done.
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 14:57:05 EDT

Frank Turley, if you ever get down to Penland or John C. Campbell I'll try to make it. I'd love to learn from you, but can't get very far away for very long. Those two schools are close enough for me to swing a 5-day class.

Mike, Did you read the whole site before your question? The answer is in the heat treat FAQ AND on this page a little higher. The short answer is yes, it does, and light blue ought to work, depending on the steel.
   Alan-L - Monday, 08/23/04 15:17:04 EDT

Thanks a lot guru (on the copper rivets)
thats a huge help. Ive been tryin to get it through the steel shop weeks. Ill let them know you told me.
   Hayes - Monday, 08/23/04 15:31:17 EDT

Hayes, check out Peavy Mart, or a harness/tack/saddlery/whatever shop for harness rivets, I think the ones I use are about 1/8, they have a big flat head and come with a matching burr. Also make your self a nice combination rivet set/header. A rivet just smashed over looks shoddy, and as smiths we know better. (insert gratuitious smiley face here)
   JimG - Monday, 08/23/04 15:54:10 EDT

Hayes, I've bought copper rivets and a rivet set from Tandy leather. Too cheap to mess with making yourself unless you've nothing better to do. IMHO.
   Ellen - Monday, 08/23/04 17:23:04 EDT

Hayes, also look at Pieh Tool co. (An advertiser here, available from pull down menu at top right of screen); they sell 1# boxes copper rivets from 8 ga to 14 ga from $6 to $7 per box, 1# is up to 180 rivets in 8 ga.....a lot of rivets for $6 to $7......
   Ellen - Monday, 08/23/04 17:41:54 EDT

DaveK are you heating the ends up till they glow? Heat treat is a two stage process; first stage is to heat till it passes the critical temperature---for simple steels the curie point, where they become non-magnetic, is a good temperature to start with; then you quench in water or oil or air depending on your alloy. The second stage is heating to a much lower temperature where you see the colours on the steel, usually 300-600 degF depending on what you want.

The soldering iron sounds like you are drawing temper with out the hardening stage to me.

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/23/04 18:15:25 EDT

Respectfully, I'm sorry that I've taken up anyone's time on my inane questions. I thought that I could get answers that would point me in the right direction to get started with a project. Guru, Thanks for pointing me to the the FAQs and the Sword Making article but they did not help me as much as I had hoped. I'll not be posting anything else.
   Don - Monday, 08/23/04 19:04:41 EDT

Don, bladesmithing is a VERY specialized part of blacksmithing. Try these sites: www.knifenetwork.com and www.dfoggknives.com. Both of these sites are specfically for bladesmiths and they will have an abundance of information for you.
   Quenchcrack - Monday, 08/23/04 19:35:47 EDT


Do you buy your blacksmithing coal at Monger Coal &Oil in Elkon?
   djhammerd - Monday, 08/23/04 20:00:33 EDT

Alan L., I was at John C. Campbell in 1998. I was at Penland in 2001, 1999, 1996, and 1981. I never try to get the gigs. I just sit by the phone all day and wait, LYAO. I am my own agent.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 08/23/04 20:57:53 EDT

i recently built a forge with my friend and after making a few beginning projects (rings hooks tools etc.) we are ready to start forge welding (old fashioned axe head) by folding bar stock in half leaving an opening for the handle. How would one forge weld two flat pieces of stock like that? i have read bothe forge welding demos but those dont show welds for flat stock
   Bryan - Monday, 08/23/04 21:32:43 EDT

Bryan, we have some iForge demos on axes as well. On flats where a covex scarf is impractical you make sure to keep the metal as clean (scale free) as posible while preparing the shape to weld. Leave it open enough that you can clean and flux. Then when you start the weld start at the middle and work toward the edges so that the flux and swarf can squeeze out.

I would recommend you practice other smaller welds before you attempt an axe.
   - guru - Monday, 08/23/04 22:01:31 EDT


Try the various blade sites mentioned in our posts to you and some of the others asking about swords and knives. There's a lot of information out there on this subject, and some of it is beyond our ken. Some questions we get are a tad obscure even for the breadth of knowledge and talents here assembled. ;-)

Good luck.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 08/23/04 23:07:01 EDT

Thanks to guru and ries for the suggestions on the circular stair question (how-to on spiral stairs helped get my head 'round the project scope issues).

I didn't mention that "la obra" is just north of Sevilla, Spain; so if anyone wants info on the project I'll be happy to talk with you!

Muchas gracias
   bob - Monday, 08/23/04 23:20:59 EDT

Bryan, In terms of axe research, I refer you to Henry C. Mercer's "Ancient Carpenters' Tools", Dover Publications, Mineola, New York. In Mercer's travels, he ran across a smith in Kutztown, PA, who was making American axes the old way in 1925. On page nine, there are photos of the assembly prior to welding. Mercer thinks that the Americans developed the elongated eye and the large poll on the axe, as opposed to European axes. In Mercer's description, there was no fold. Each of two slabs of iron was fullered on one side to leave the eye hole and angular or circular "cheeks" were drawn toward the handle side, one on each slab. The poll was fagot welded and likewise, a portion of the blade just ahead of the eye. Before the insertion of the steel blade "bit", the ends of the iron blade portions were thinned to a feather edge, a form of simple scarf. The steel is inserted and at first, "rough welded", (the shuts show). The steel is of an elongated triangular cross section and is made ragged by chiseling rasp cuts on the side or barbs on the sharp end to be placed within the iron blade. This helps to hold it in place while taking the welding heat. It makes a "sandwich", the steel being the balogna. The steel is slightly wider and longer than the iron which contains it. At a light welding heat (sweating; no sparks), the steel is first backed up by end hammering, then hit on the flat in the center of blade first; then, go either way of center. Wear eye protection. A sparking heat on high carbon steel will cause it to crumble like a Keebler cookie; not good. Another valuable book is "The Twentieth Century Toolsmith and Steelworker" by Holford, which has been combined in 1982 with "American Blacksmithing" by Holmstrom. Check abebooks.com under "American Blacksmithing" and the authors' surnames. This toolsmithing book is from the early 20th century, but that is good because it shows the old timey methods of forging tools and it has good line drawings. Holmstrom discusses "laying steel", the old fashioned term for forge welding steel to form an edge tool.

And if you are ever in Doylestown, PA, near Philadelphia, the Henry C. Mercer Museum is a MUSTSEE. It contains Mercers huge tool collection, everything from a gin pole to a gimlet.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 08/23/04 23:39:51 EDT

FRANK & BRYAN; You will no doubt be pleased to find that Mr. Holmstrom's book has been a downloadable freebie for some time now. Slide on over to: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/preservation/smithy/chpt1.htm .
   3dogs - Tuesday, 08/24/04 01:44:14 EDT

What you probably don't want to hear is that you won't be a passable knife/sword maker 'till you master basic blacksmithing.
Trying to learn it all at once invites a much higher failure rate. If you have a high tolerance for failure, it's probably the fastest way to learn but it takes a certain sort of fool to do it and not quit...like me...sigh.
   - Pete F - Tuesday, 08/24/04 02:41:26 EDT

Frank, I knew you had been there in the past, unfortunately I was elsewhere at the time! Let us know when you're coming back.

Don: Don't get discouraged. DO go to the knifemaking web sites. They both have newbie's areas where most of your questions will be answered, and usually not in a short-tempered way. The most important thing to do is to read as much as you can on the subject. The questions that get "short" answers are ones that are amply covered in all the books. Those are the questions that give others the impression that one has not been doing one's homework, so to speak. Don't take it personally. DO read the books.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 08/24/04 08:01:59 EDT

Well I said I would not post anything else here, but... I just wanted to thank the folks that provided me with some information. I do realize that bladesmithing is unique but did not realize that it was so difficult. Pete F., I don't mind trying and failing as long as I have learned something from my failure. Alan L., I will read on. Bruce B. Thank you. And to the guru's, I realize that you get an tremendous number of questions that you go through and answer and for that thanks.

   Don - Tuesday, 08/24/04 08:42:22 EDT

3dogs, Thanks for the info. Also, I know it's in the anvilfire archive somewhere, but I'm lazy; what is the downloadable address for the three British books? The Blacksmiths Craft; Wrought Ironwork; Decorative Ironwork?
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 08/24/04 09:23:52 EDT

Don, many bladesmiths do their own heat treat and don't test their blades to any objective standard--if it 'feels" right it's right when tested with a file or cutting tests, etc So it's hard to cough up a specific number for you.

Yes we could look in the books and see what that author likes---but so could you and you would learn a lot of other good stuff as well. "The Complete Bladesmith" is well worth the reading and you can ILL it at your library if they don't have a copy.

Bladesmithing is the "formula 1" race car driving of smithing. You need to know your alloys, have good hammer control, be able to judge temperature accurately by eye---some alloys have vary narrow forging ranges; know something about heat treat, do precision work....

We get a lot of folk who stop by and say "Teach me how to drive a winning formula 1 race car and OBTW I don't know how to drive." It's not a "pay your dues" situation it's a learn the basics first. Many times the answer to some of the questions we get is "if you don't know the answer already you can't be safe working the stuff and we don't want to hear of broken swords embedding pieces in innocent bystanders (or guilty ones for that matter) and so are hesitant to answer them.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/24/04 10:32:09 EDT


I just posted URL for those books on the hammerin page.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 08/24/04 10:49:54 EDT


Try this:

   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/24/04 10:51:34 EDT

That URL is also in the Sword Making FAQ resource list. I hate to spread it around TOO much because our advertisers sell the print editions. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/24/04 12:33:21 EDT

I'm just wondering about the different styles of anvil, theres the hay budden and the fisher and the peter wright ect. i have an oppertunity to get a peter wright, what is the difference between them all is it manufacturer of what, I'm new to anvils, been forging for a while, and now I'm setting up my own shop.
   bryce - Tuesday, 08/24/04 16:11:51 EDT

Bryce, it's sort of like cars, some are different some is just manufacturer's hype.

Most anvil manufactures made a number of different styles of anvils---I've owned a Hey-Buden swell horned farriers model and a "regular" london pattern hay-buden. My fisher was designed to be used as the "anvil" for a blacker triphammer.

Then there are cultural differences: european anvils often have double bicks (horns) with one traditionally of round/oval cross section and the other of rectangular cross section.

Some differences are based on how they were made: Fishers had a body of cast iron poured onto the steel face---so they tend to have thick heels to resist the cast iron breaking.

Trentons often went to long tapering heels, very elegant but most of that distance is not real usefull for heavy hammering; but can be very nice for certain types of light work.

Mouseholes look "squat" and "industrial" with more mass concentrated below the main working area of the face.

Basically any good brand of anvils will be a good anvil (barring later damage); so you can choose by your forging style or what you like looking at.

Peter Wright is a good brand; I've had one as my primary shop anvil for over 20 years.

but anvils are like potato chips ---you can't stop at one!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/24/04 17:36:48 EDT

Bob- why didnt you say you were in Spain in the first place?
Blacksmiths capable of making spiral rails are available in europe. I dont know of any in spain, but the guys at Ferro Design, in the algarve, in Portugal, are not too far away, and they could do it. www.ferrodesigndotnet will get you to them.
There are definitely some smiths in southern france that can do it as well- you might pick up a copy of forges &fevreries magazine- they are the blacksmith and knifemakers magazine for france.
they are at L'association Elementa, gare d'etainhus, 76430 etainhus, france. phone is 02-35-13-13-35, and their email is forges&feveries@elementa.asso.fr
Frankly, I would just contact them and ask them for recommendations- given how relatively small europe is, and how easy it is to drive across international borders there, I would not hesitate to hire someone a days drive away. Here in the US, I frequently do work on projects up to 2000 miles away, and just ship the finished work there for installation.
Blacksmiths in europe are a funny thing to find- there are world class smiths there, and then there are lots of cut and paste weld shops that do frankly awful work. But most of the good blacksmiths are hard to find, because of the aristocratic attitude that only peasants work with their hands. Only in the last few years are blacksmiths starting to become more respected in europe, and that is mostly because of their aligning themselves with "art". But there are certainly some world class metalworkers in Spain, Portugal, and France who could do your railing. Sorry I dont have any info on Spanish smiths- I am planning to get to spain in the next year or so, and I will do research when I am there, but search engines like google are remarkablly amero-centric, and very hard to find info on foreign language sites.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 08/24/04 18:28:45 EDT

Bob, The people who put out the good forging book in Spain:
"Guia Prcatica de las Forja Artistica" in Leon, also have short courses. The teachers are Enrique Munoz and Roberto Lopez. They presented a one week class in July. The offices are Centro de los Oficios, Plaza Centro Martino, s/n 24003, Leon, Spain. Those two ought to know something.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 08/24/04 19:50:35 EDT

A plug for Frank Turley: Alan, If you want Frank to teach a class near you then recommend him to your local ABANA affiliate or school. He is an excellent demonstrator and teacher and well worth his fee. He can teach at any level. I learned a lot from the couple hours I watched him at CanIron in 1999. If you think it would help tell them that I recommend him as one of the best.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/24/04 20:20:11 EDT

World Google: Ries, Google has country specific databases edited by local editors for many countries including Spain. Many come from DMOZ for which I am the English blacksmithing Editor. Type in "google Spain" and the first listing is;

www.google.es/ For most countries the URL is www.google.countrycode but for a few it will be www.google.countrycode.co. Not .com.

Now. . if you type in English search terms you are going to get English web sites. Google Spain lists anvilfire as #1 under "blacksmithing" but if you type in "el forjador artistica" a list of spanish language sites pops up.

As in English some key words take you to other places "Herrero" is a common name and is of little use but "forjador" brought up a list of of Spanish Blacksmiths and www.forjador.com. A nice website in Spanish, Catlan and English.

If your technical Spanish is rusty see our International Glossary. I used it for the two terms above and got instant results.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/24/04 20:38:13 EDT

So I learned a new term 'forjador artistica' . . been studying Spanish, need to study my own web site!
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/24/04 20:49:47 EDT

Frank, I have a copy of the review of that book that ran on a Spanish web site. It is no longer on-line. . . :( I will post it on anvilfire but we should have our own review.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/24/04 20:58:20 EDT

What metals can be joined with copper that do not react with it?
   Ed - Tuesday, 08/24/04 23:08:49 EDT

What metals can be joined with copper that do not react with it?
   Ed - Tuesday, 08/24/04 23:09:23 EDT


I'm assuming that you mean galvanic reactivity. If so, then most of the brasses and bronzes are very close to copper on the galvanic chart, as are monel and nickel silver. Silver and gold are frequently combined with copper without problems, as long as they are kept fairly dry. Iron, aluminum or magnesium with copper would be a bad combination.

To some extent it will depend on the particular alloy of copper that you are dealing with. The particular ambient environment, i.e water, humidity, ground potential,etc all have a lot to do with facilitating galvanic corrosion. Wet is bad, dry is good.

This is a gross oversimplification and hopefully Quenchcrack or one of our other metallurgists will give you a more detailed answer.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 08/25/04 00:20:22 EDT

Ed, not many. As VIc pointed out brasses are not too bad. But copper is very chemicaly active. We have a galvanic chart on our FAQs page that shows the reactive values. The bigger the numerical difference, the bigger the problem. The chart has elemental metals only. I am not sure how you determine the reactivitiy of brasses since they have zince in them.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/25/04 03:55:45 EDT

I have a machetti (spelling may be incorrect)I would like to give you a brief description and possibly you could tell me more about it. it's from the Republic of central America,has the Republic seals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala,& Costa Rica engraved in blade,is perfectly balanced, and never been sharpened or used for that matter. was made in El Salvador and numbered as #152
also engraved in blade is the symbol of two swords crossed together with a crown in the center.I am very curious to know about it as I am not a collector.Thank You and I look forward to hearing some feedback.
   Michelle (California) - Wednesday, 08/25/04 12:25:22 EDT

First Knive--
Thought I'd make a muzzle loading patch knife. Found some interesting designs and planning to use an antler handle.

Started looking for steel. Local steel supplier want's an arm and a leg for O-1. After some reading, decided L-6 much more available and cheap! Can get US made 7 1/4" circular saw blades for $5 or Harbor Frieght 10 ea. 7 1/4 for $4 or one 10" for $5. So as long as don't need something too thick then this is cheap!

Now to how to cut out the blade from the circular saw blades? Cutting Torch, Cut Off Grinder, Hot Cut Hardie, Anneal first, etc.???? Assume want to not burn up the steel.

As far as heat treating seen lots of info on line. If shape blade by grinding, etc. and don't get too hot can I avoid heat treating all together???


   Dale - Wednesday, 08/25/04 12:26:00 EDT


Those blades can be cut with a hacksaw and shaped with a file without and need to heat the steel or do further heat treatment after the blade is finished. I have made many this way with good success. They will be tad soft, but for your first project I think the work very well because you don't have to worry about heat treat-just design issues. You could also use a dremel or die grinder with a cutting disc.

   patrick Nowak - Wednesday, 08/25/04 13:51:56 EDT

Circular saw blades: Dale, like all used items this is a Junk Yard Steel. They vary greatly in material and hardness. See our FAQ on Junk Yard steels.

The last thing I made from a circular saw blade was a scraper. It was way too hard to saw. We cut with a grinder, dressed with a grinder keeping it cool to prevent screwing up the temper and hand dressed with a stone. It was VERY hard and abrasion resistant. I suspect hardened L6 or some such.

During this sam project we made scrapers from thinner bandwaw blade material. The back was soft enough to saw after grinding off the teeth which were very hard. Was still hard enough for a scraper and worked quite well.

Both tools worked well and were plenty hard and well tempered for the purpose. We avoided the agrevation of heat treating and post clean up. But we were also lucky enough to hit on some good material.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/25/04 14:14:27 EDT

"Republic of Central America" No such place, though a few US adventurers and big corporations have tried to create one. That is like saying Canada, the US and Mexico are a republic. They are in the region of North America but are all seperate countries as are El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica, resideing in the region of Central America.

The blade sounds like a presentation piece given to a group of officials from those countries. Probably to celebrate some treaty or another. Considering the history of the region it could have a very dark past. Don't have a clue about how to find out more about it. You would probably have to do your research in El Salvador where it was made.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/25/04 14:25:53 EDT

Michelle; Machete:

I've had good luck over at http://www.swordforum.com/ in their "Other Bladed Weapons" and "Antique Sword" forums in identifying some of my antique swords. It has a fairly international crowd and some of the folks there have a good grasp of history and details. Unlike Anvilfire, however, you'll have to register to post your question.

Sounds like either a presentation piece (as the Guru said) or something made for the freebooting Filibusterers of the 19th or early 20th century.

Oddly enough, many of the machetes made for South and Central America were made by British companies, like Collins; just as the British used to practically monopolize the North American market for Bowie Knives.

Meetings and compilations all day long; don't even know what the weather is, but it looks like D.C. haze.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 08/25/04 15:44:23 EDT

one question for ya,what is the preferred name of a horse manicurist?if you know it would be greatly appreciated.thanks for your time
   kris - Wednesday, 08/25/04 17:54:22 EDT

Kris, the name that comes to mind to me is CRAZY.....
but that is just me......
   Ralph - Wednesday, 08/25/04 18:22:20 EDT

Hi, howdy, hello. I've joined alot of bladesmithing forums in the past six months, and I've already made two knives (if you can call something that ugly a knife). I don't feel I'm progressing very quickly, but I do have some old light car leaf spring. Do you find it...advisable, to try to make a small dagger or other sort of blade, using stock removal, at my limited skill level, or should I hold off for a few more projects? By the way, I rather enjoyed the GenX sword thing. I knew most of the info, but it reminds me of people I know. Anyway, thanks for your time. You guys are doing us blind fools a great service by being here.
   Stuart - Wednesday, 08/25/04 18:52:15 EDT

Kris, In the early days and even to the present, "farrier" is the preferred term among the high falutin' literati. Over one hundred years ago, the farrier was also a veterinarian and he could float teeth, as well. However, in recent years, I have heard of the profession referred to as "equine podiatry". To my way of thinking, "podiatry" or "equine podiatrist" sounds terrible. The most used term is probably "horseshoer" or simply, "shoer". If a guy is not a horseshoer and he/she just trims feet, I suppose I would use the term "hoof trimmer". You cut back the overgrown hoof wall and sole, rasp the hoof level and radius the sharp hoof wall edge to keep the wall from splitting and/or breaking.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 08/25/04 19:04:15 EDT


I am considering purchasing a treadle hammer. An recommendations/things to look for/brands to avoid?


   -JIM - Wednesday, 08/25/04 19:04:35 EDT

Treadle hammer or Power hammer? Jim, Most treadle hammers are user built and there are some plans that various folks use. The best I have seen were not made to the plans and if I had been on the ball I would have taken lots of photos and made sketches. Tom Boone (Dan's son) has one of the nicest. The kits that are available used to be made by Jere Kirkpatrick of Valley Forge and welding in California. I think he still sells kits as well as complete treadle hammers. He also demonstrates them and has videos on their construction and use. He the one I would go to to buy one.

There is also an outfit that makes a treadle hammer with air power assist. They were showing them at SOFA Quadstate last year. Fairly well built. I did not get their literature.

If you build one according to the plans, DO NOT fill the head with lead. Using lead in this application is wrong.

Then . . we have advertisers selling every brand of modern power hammer available in the US. I have personal preferences that have nothing to do with quality that I will not mention here, but they are all good machines. Each has features that are a little different and are also personal preferences. I would not buy one with spending some time using one or more. I've used Little Giants, Kuhns, Nazels, Niles Bements, Chambersburgs Utility and self contained. All old iron. I've only spend a few minutes playing with any of the new hammers.

Speaking of power hammers. I will be gone, on-the-road for then next four days. I've been invited to attend the B² Design Big BLU Power Hammer School and will be spending the weekend forging on Big BLU's using the Uri Hofi die system. Will probably embarass myself beyond belief! Its been 20 years since I actually MADE something on a power hammer. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/25/04 20:22:40 EDT

Stock Removal: Stuart, We are BLACKSMITHS and FORGE iron!

That said. . Even forged blades have a lot of grinding in them. Pattern welded Damascus is a process of reducing a very expensive billet into dust, forging it some more and turning MORE of it to dust. I suspect that you end up with about 10% of the material you started with. Very inefficient and expensive. That is why most folks made random pattern. They only grind away about 40 to 50%!

The trick to stock removal is to start with a piece close to the right size so you do not turn too much to dust. Profile it on a band saw, THEN you need a good grinder. Many blades have been made on bench grinders but belt grinder/sanders are MUCH better. A great source of how-to on this is the books and video by Wayne Goddard. See our book review page. Also my comments above about using circular saw blades (pre hardened stock).
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/25/04 20:36:03 EDT

Jim, Clay Spencer(clay @ webworkz .com ) 828-837-0708 has plans for an inline treadle hammer and sometimes has one for sale as he holds workshops and builds them. If I were going to buy one I would look for one that has height adjustment for the head. Some styles are set up where you have to shim the work so the head strikes the work parallel. This does not apply to the inline style. Clay is very knowledgable and if you have treadle hammer questions, he would be the one to contact
   ptpiddler - Wednesday, 08/25/04 20:51:55 EDT

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