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

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

This is an archive of posts from August 26 - 31, 2004 on the Guru's Den
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I am seeking information on acetyline regulators, and how to convery one to work with propane. The cost of acetyline is too high for me now, and it is in excess of the heat I need for basic work. I have all the torch equipment I require ( i think) and Am curious about what to do with my acetyline regulator. It's great for assuring the flow to my torch is correct however I have concerns about the varying pressure in propane bottles vs acetyline.Do you know of any flash supressors (one way valves) that can attach between acetyline hose and a torch head? I have rebuilt my acetyline regulator and adapted it to fit a propane bottle but would like to know if this is a safe or smart practice. My grandfather has ran one similar to this for the last 15 years but he's not the most safe worker. Should I add a propane govorner in line with the acetyline regulator?...any comments or suggestions would be appreciated thank you!
   sgloki - Thursday, 08/26/04 03:48:26 EDT

aha! Next question... I am curious as to etching with muriatic acid. I have been trained in interpreting MSDS (material safety data sheets) So I am well aware of the proper handling and safety issues associated with using muriatic acid, however I am NOT familliar with what is a good method of using it. I have read a bit about using wax to coat the surface and scratching/cutting away the area of metal to be etched, if you know anything of this method I am curious asto the time it takes to reach what depth (stainless or high carbon steels aswell as brass and silver.)And wether wax is truly a good option, if so, what kind of wax, paraphin? or another type? Where can I find further information? Google is my best friend on the net but I have not had a lot of success with searching.
   sgloki - Thursday, 08/26/04 07:04:24 EDT

Acetylene Regulators: sgloki, In general they will work. The only problem is that some MAY contain elastomers (rubber) that is not suitable to use with propane. Propane will rapidly age and break down certain types. This includes hoses too. Be sure to get hose rated for all gases, not just acetylene.

In applications where you have propane only an anti flashback check valve is not required. But when you have hoses running to a dual gas device like a torch there is the possibility of oxygen forcing its way up the low pressure fuel line. All welding suppliers have these valves to attach to the regulator. They are cheap insurance. NEW torches come with check valves built into the torch body valves. However, safety codes require the easily identifiable add on check valves at the regulator.

Etching is an art that requires practice and some experimentation. The mask is often made of a hard pitch or tar applied thinly. For quick work spray paint can be used. We have others here that know the right methods that will comment on this.

The rate of etch is determined by the strength of the solution and the temperature. 100% acid will disolve the metal instantly (as well as glass containers) is is useless for etching. Most solutions are much weaker, below 15% acid, some as low as 5%. Most acid is sold diluted to some extent. You need to know where you are starting. "Muratic" acid is normaly sold as an impure dilute hydrochloric acid.

Cold work and cold acid etch slower than hot. A process that you have timed perfectly in the winter may be much too long an etch in the summer unless you have a temperature controlled environment. Knowing when to stop takes experiance and close obsevation. Etches can take from 5 or ten minutes to several hours depending on the purpose and desired results.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/26/04 09:04:03 EDT

I am a 15 year old blacksmith at the Auburn forge in Alabama. I have been smithing since last July and have forged about 200 hours since then. I am going to be doing a demonstration at a Civil War reenactment towards the end of September. Although I have done some demonstrations before I would like some information about blacksmiths during the Civil War. Were there blacksmiths that followed the armies around? What did they make or repair? How did they impact the outcome of the war? I would be very grateful for any information you could provide. It will help me tie in my blacksmithing demonstration with the topic of the Civil War.
   Noah Edwin Sanders - Thursday, 08/26/04 09:57:36 EDT

Noah, Blacksmiths, farriers and armourers were part of every army until modern times and before that bronzesmiths. Today the "motor pool" takes care most transportaing related repairs.

Most Army smiths were blacksmith/farriers and would repair anything metal as well as keep the horses shod. Chains, wagons and cassions were contantly in need of repair. An army COULD travel without a smith but anything that broke would have to be left behind.

For a glimpse into the life of a American Revolutionary War blacksmith see my story "Blacksmith of 1776". Also see Frank Turley's story "Victor Vera, Man of Metal. Or Paw-Paws "The Revolutionary Blacksmith". The first parts of Paw-Paw's story is now in print so the whole is no longer on-line. All three stories are on our story page and there is a review of Paw-Paw's book on our book review page.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/26/04 10:43:18 EDT


The type of acid you use for etching is more a function of the type of metal you are working with than anything else. Muriatic acid will work well for etching aluminum, but is not suitable for etching steel, stainless steel, silver or gold. Nitric acid is the preferred acid for silver, copper, brass and steel. Aqua Regia, a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, is required to etch gold. If you want to etch glass, then you need hydrofluoric acid, which about the only thing that will etch glass.

For an etch resist, the old standard is asphaltum, a tar-type material sold in art supply stores for printmaking. For much more detailed information on most aspects of etching, I would recommend thatyou check a university bookstore or online for textbooks on etching for printmaking.

Silversmithing books, such as "Metal Techniques for Craftsmen" by Oppi Untracht, offer a decent primer in etching, but not all of them have much detail. Printmaking texts will have much more detail.

As Jock pointed out, the temperature of the mordant affects the speed of the cut, as does whether or not the solution is agitated. Naturally, the strength of the solution is a big factor. Various formulae are available in the texts mentioned. I am away form my home right now, or I could give you some recommendations on mordants and strengths.

For etching steel, ferric chloride works, giving a fine and controllable etch that works with a variety of resists ranging from asphaltum to paraffin to lacquer. It is available at Radio Shack as printed circuit etchant. It is also a very good mordant for copper.

I have to ru out of the office; due incourt in twenty minutes. I'll try to post more later.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/26/04 11:05:23 EDT


To add to what the Guru said, they fixed whatever needed fixin'. There were specialized traveling forges that were attached to the artillery as well as horse-transport. The list of tools reveals a 100 pound anvil, a vise, a screw jack, and a sufficient number of tongs and hammers for just about any general work.

One good site for artillery is at Antietam National Battlefield (www.nps.gov/anti/)
http://www.nps.gov/anti/artilery.htm . You can also hit the "In Depth" button for further information at any park site found at www.nps.gov. Digging about in some of our Civil War era websites might be fruitful, or if you live near any of the parks, give them a call and see if you can arrange a meeting with any of the NPS historians that would be knowledgeable on the subject. We also have an extensive collection of books on these subjects at our Harper's Ferry Center in West Virginia, and at Springfield Armory in Massachusetts. Horse shoes, wagon hardware, caisson tires; it all had to be kept in repair. Competent and willing hands were always of use.

Sunny and not too wretched on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks (Springfield Armory comes to mind): www.nps.gov/spar/

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

Keep us informed of what progress you make and how the event goes.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 08/26/04 11:20:55 EDT


There are a few pictures floating around on the net that show Civil War era blacksmiths. Some of the forges are pretty large and they are doing more than just shoeing horses. There was a 'smith named Jay Reakirt(sp) who did demos in the area of Andersonville Prison some years ago. Maybe do a Google search and see if you find anything.
   - HWooldridge - Thursday, 08/26/04 11:22:07 EDT

More information on farrier and blacksmith work in the military is at: http://www.nps.gov/fosc/stables_info4.htm (From Ft. Scott National Historic Site http://www.nps.gov/fosc/ )
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 08/26/04 11:52:02 EDT

Update on Circular Saw Blades (L-6 steel) and muzzle loader patch knife.

I used the cheap Chineese blade from Harbor Frieght. Yes, easily cut with hacksaw and file cuts fairly easy. Makes sense since sharpen saws with a file. Thanks, wouldn't have thought to try a hacksaw.

I ended up hardening it anyway. Seemed that bent too easily for me. I read that didn't need to temper L-6 and I didn't. Doesn't seem to get too hard or britle. It is much harder to bend and file doesn't bite as easily as before hardened.

I took a scrap and heated with weed burner with AL foil around the outside holes on the sides to get a better reducing flame. Looked a lot more yellow than the ususal blue. Heated to non magnetic and a little (a low red color) and quenched in ATF. Still not as hard as I thought it might be. So I heated patch knife to a good orange and quenched in ATF. Maybe a little harder but not a lot. We'll see how it holds an edge. Sharpened up well with a lot of honing on diamond hones.

Perhaps I'll try the US made Skill Saw blade and see how that compares.


   Dale - Thursday, 08/26/04 13:46:23 EDT

Jere Kirkpatrick of Valley Forge and welding makes a very good tredle hammer, I bought mine from him fully assembled and it is of highest quality with simple adjustments. He also makes a good vidieo on how to setup the hammer and use it along with ideas for tooling. He is good people also, a great guy to deal with.
   - Wayne Parris - Thursday, 08/26/04 14:06:46 EDT

More on American Civil War traveling forges and blacksmiths:

First a couple of forge sites:



Now, in miniature, a forge and a blacksmith with helper. Note that the anvil is mounted on a barrel, a usage that I’ve seen in several photographs of the era. Whether the barrel was loaded with local dirt, to make it more efficient, is another question.



I guess I'm on a roll. Please note, you can certainly do a Civil War smith without a traveling forge, but this is just to get you started in the research.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 08/26/04 14:33:36 EDT

Dale, thats the way with Junk Yard steels. . . My apprentice made a knife from an old coil spring. Quenched it in water, tried to flex it, snapped like glass. Tested tempering by color, could still snap it at a blue. . water quench was probably wrong thing to do. Air quench was probably good enough for this steel. Takes time and patience. He didn't have the patience.

Imagine the smiths of old that always had lousy steel of unknown composition. Every time they bought steel it was different. Today even if you don't know the steel it is usualy good material. You just have to figure out for what.

If anyone asks, I left home at 2:30. Traveling the wrong direction so to make delivery to PO and UPS. Will be incomunicado till Sunday. Ya'll be good.

   - guru - Thursday, 08/26/04 14:38:16 EDT

Hey everyone im back and so far im making a torch for my forge.But theres a problem.And it is that the cjoke wont fit over the burner tub because of the gav.ive heard of a acid bath but what do u put in it?thats for all your help to lead me on my way to blacksmithing joy(and lots and lots of FIRE!80)
   - John S - Thursday, 08/26/04 15:14:07 EDT


New circular saw blade bodies are often made of fairly soft steel because they usually have carbide tips brazed on. I'd bet lunch that a lot of blades are not L6 or equivalent but cheaper stuff. If you are stuck on saw blades, try one of the ones used on big weed-eaters (brush trimmers). Mowing blades are usually good too.
   - HWooldridge - Thursday, 08/26/04 15:16:06 EDT

I purposefully avoided carbid saw blades thinking this may be the case. Both the US made blade and the Chineese were regular "High Carbon" blades without carbide. Have to see if can find weed-eater or mowing blades.

Thanks, Dale
   Dale - Thursday, 08/26/04 15:31:19 EDT

Thanks for all the treadle hammer advice! I have a small PH (35# kerrihard) but I am looking for something able to do single blows more easily.

I might go with a fly press instead!

Thanks again...

   -JIM - Thursday, 08/26/04 16:24:57 EDT

Another option to get a harder blade that I may try in addition to the US made steel, which may be better, is to use a water quench. Read that L-6 hardens to RC 57 in oil and a little harder in water or brine.
   Dale - Thursday, 08/26/04 16:25:03 EDT

Dale I think the "no temper" for L6 applies only if you have transformed it into bainite---very unlikely with a by eye heat and water/oil quench. I'd make up a test sample and try it out first.

I also don't think that circular saw blades are the same alloy as the big bandsaw blades.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/26/04 17:05:26 EDT

Howdy to all you guys out there. I got a question that i could use some help with regarding a building for a shop. I would like to use a portable/prefabricated wood building, 10' by 16' with 8' ceiling. It will have a double door on one side, and each door is 4' across and 8' high. I plan on using gas and coal in there with proper chimney, and will insulate the building, put tin on the inside, and cover the floor area where the forges will be at with sheet metal. There will be a couple of windows in it too. The work i do in here will be small stuff mostly. I want to know if a setup like this would work, or if i would be setting up a big fire and/or health hazard. I live in the city, and in about three years will be heading to college, and Mom doesnt really need the building in the yard when im gone. I appreciate any feedback!

Thanks ,
Ian Wille
   Ian Wille - Thursday, 08/26/04 17:27:28 EDT

John S,

I hope I understand you post correctly. If the choke won't fit over the burner tube due to galvanizing, just file off the galvanizing with a file. The tiny amount of zinc that becomes airborne isn't going to hurt anything. You can etch the zinc off with acid, but the dangers of using acid are far greater, unless yyou use simple vinegar. Vinegar will do it, it just will take a day or two. Warm vinegar works faster than cold vinegar, but either way it will be slow.


Even "high carbon" blades are often bimetallic. That is, the teeth may be a different alloy than the body. Manufacturers of rotating equipment like to hedge their bets on liability from blades fracturing and flying off like sharp Frisbees.

The weedet\ater blades are a much better bet, likely to be the equivalent of 1045 or so steel. The ones sold by the big names like Stihl and Shindaiwa for their commercial machines are the best steel. Blades for cheapie homeowner machines are usually softer for those liability reasons again.

If you want some high carbon steel for a patch knife, I would suggest using an old file. The older Nicholsons were something on the order of 1095 steel. That will get harder than woodpecker lips , yet still be tough enough, if properly heat treated.

Ian Wille,

If you're in the city, I would suggest you check with you local building code/inspector's office. If you're going to spend money on a building, you don't want to do it only to find out that it is in violation of code and must be removed immediately.

What you have described shouldn't be unduly hazardous as long as you use adequate ventilation and have a fire extinguisher handy. I would suggest getting a carbon monoxide detector just to be on the safe side. If the building is going to be temporary, why not use a dirt floor? They feel good on the feet and are pretty fireproof.

If you live in a cold climate, you might want to consider putting in a make-up air vent in the wall by the forge. Any flue will need air from the room to create draft, and the wall vent will allow it to pull that in from a place close by. This minimizes the amount of cozy warm shop air that gets sucked up the chimney.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/26/04 17:56:59 EDT

I have been asked by a local historical conservation society to get an old shop operational. The original site was open for over 85 years then was broken up in the 70's when the owner died. The funny thing is that a lot of the folks who got the equipment 30 years ago are now donating it to the historical society, so we may get a good portion of the original stuff back together. Anyway, there is a Grinnell power hammer that I would like to get working and I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about this brand. I have rebuilt several hammers but have never seen one of these makes. It is about the size of a 25lb LG but has a stack of arched flat springs for the rebound mechanism. Thanks, Hollis
   - HWooldridge - Thursday, 08/26/04 19:08:04 EDT

Thank you for pointing me in the right direction for learning how to make sword hilts ect. I greatly appreciate it.
   - Peter Sterchak - Thursday, 08/26/04 20:25:27 EDT

I will second vicopper. Be sure to have adequate air input. CO is a killer. generally with a coal forge you can 'see' the nasties as there are also other things in it to make it colored and smelly, but not always and with a gasser it is not so easily seen. So plenty of fresh air in. Also I suggest strongly invest in a CO monitor. Otherwise you might not be heading off to school.....
   Ralph - Thursday, 08/26/04 21:20:24 EDT


Your welcome. :-)


To the above suggestions I would add that you should pay careful attention to the siting of the building and the location of the forge and general layout within. You location may not allow for it, but north facing windows are good (provides an even light), and putting your doors or at least some opening windows facing the prevailing wind is also a good idea. Think about what blows in, and where it will blow out to (and towards). In an urban situation, sound suppression is important, so you might want to think about at least some fire-proof sound absorptive materials (also another reason why a dirt floor is nice).

In the South, getting rid of heat and good ventilation are paramount. In the North, good ventilation while retaining heat is the ideal, at least for much of the year.

Many of the historic forges, especially out West, were simple, small frame structures like you’re proposing.

Good luck.

Humid and cooling on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 08/26/04 21:52:12 EDT


Leaving in the morning for Georgia for a Demo. Y'all have a good time and behave yourselves while I'm gone. NO FIGHTING! (grin)
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 08/26/04 22:24:51 EDT

It makes me glad to know there are folks out there willing to share their knowledge and save someone a lot of time and money.

VICOPPER: Thank you, I was already loking in the right place online so far as printing press related etching went, however I had assumed it would do me no good as it was generally not steel plates they were etching. you've saved me lots of time and money.

GURU: I am mostly working with inherited equipment, that is rather outdated (sand new propane tanks and valves of course) however spending a few dollars here and there is just fine, I say work safer and smarter not harder. Thank you very much for the information on the rubber, it was merely a passing consitteration until you made it clear to me here that my old acetyline hose and regulator could be a hazard. you may very well have saved me from some burns as I'm the overanxious type.

Another random question: in regaurds to tempering is it not true that in a lot of cases tempering should start with a slow consisant heat...is this true of larger pieces such as axe heads and hammer faces? and would it be unwise of someone (even one capable of producing an even surface heat) to attempt this with a torch rather than in a forge?
Also...if I were to use a propane oven to get the slow head started would that be sufficient to pull it out at about 800 degrees F (the max temp) and then use the torch?

I'm too anxious to get started, I have a forge on the way sometime soon I hope but have not had the opportunity to make any charcoal yet...the torch and oven will likely be ready first.
   sgloki - Thursday, 08/26/04 23:42:18 EDT


I am thinking you are confusing tempering with 'heat-treating' Tempering is just ONE small ( but important) step in the HEAT TREAT process.

So in your question above; when you have heated most hardened steels up to 800 F then you will have pretty much buggered up the hardening part of the heat treatment. If you go and look at most charts about the tempering part ( which is done AFTER the hardening part) you will usually only be going to at most 500 F usually much less depending on the steel and the tool being made.
I really think that you need to sit back and do some real studying on the whole smithing thing first. ANd I mean STUDYING not reading. Meaning, grab the book and some paper and a pen and take notes, underline stuff, read it re-read it. think about it. then ask folks about it. GO back and re-read it again. study it. Yes, light a forge and practice, as that IS part of the study. Jim Hrisoulas(sp?) has several very good books on forging and heat treating blades ( axes included). Look on this web site in the various areas. Especially the FAQ areas, as I think much that you are looking for may be there. By all means ask here. But I am thinking that you are going to need to do some basic catch up for a bit. But then I might be wrong......(shrug)
   Ralph - Friday, 08/27/04 01:06:44 EDT

Addendum to the excellent advice above;
Your torch and a casual little firebrick box will get you forging till you get an adult forge built.
Inexpensive adjustable (to20 or 30#) propane regulators are available at your propane distributor.
As Ralph said, first hardening ( Quench from just above nonmagnetic, the higher the carbon content, the slower the quench)
Then tempering... which is characterized by a rainbow of surface oxide colors. Each color = a given temper temperature.
The term tempering is often used unclearly or ambiguously.
Hardening and tempering can be compressed into one heat, but that takes more technique and practice.
Ian; If you have a choice, a higher ceiling is very desirable.
First Santanna winds of the season here on the far left coast.
   - Pete F - Friday, 08/27/04 03:01:48 EDT

Gee, no Jock or Paw Paw; and I'm much too busy to lead a coup. I guess it's up to the other members of CSI to lead the popular uprising. (Anyone ever lead an unpopular downrising?)

I've been working with the History Channel on some research on slegehammers and crowbars. I've got illustrations and mentions of crowbars back to Agricola. Anybody have anything earlier?

Hazy but tolerable on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 08/27/04 08:25:24 EDT

Saw blades:

are generally not L-6 anymore. I read on one of the knife boards that most new circular blades of the carbide and/or diamond abrasive edge variety are 4140 or something similar, a steel that is tough as all get-out but will not harden much.

Ian, one of those portable buildings was in my plans for a while, but I'm too tall to use most of 'em. Be sure your forge chimney is big enough to handle the coal smoke! 12 inch pipe is about right. 6" will not work. I got by with 8" pipe for a couple of years, but it did not do the job, and I paid for it with temporary loss of breathing capacity for a few hours after each forging session. I know that it did some cumulative damage to my lungs, as I was doing a LOT of forging at the time. Hocking up black stuff isn't fun either. Use as large a chimney as you can find!
   Alan-L - Friday, 08/27/04 08:42:08 EDT

sgloki, the torch hoses the Guru was refering to will say type T hose , type T is good for all gasses. check the ones you have now , they are all labeled acetylene , type T , ect.
   Tom-L - Friday, 08/27/04 09:28:16 EDT

John S., What the hey?

Atli, No. However, in the late 70's, doing reasearch for Swouthwestern Colonial ironwork, we showed up at Balconi conservation lab outside of Austin, Texas. They were conserving Spanish shipwrecked items which were unfortunately in litigation ref ownership. Therefore, we could not use the info for our book. Where is all this leading anyway? They had a sledge hammer recovered and after decrusting and derusting, one could definitely see that it was fagot welded of three lengthwise "slabs" of wrought iron. Apparently, the ship ran into foul weather off the east coast of Texas sometime in the 1500's.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 08/27/04 09:38:49 EDT

Dang it Atli, most of the library is still stacked in boxes; I'm sure I have read a description of medieval sappers with their crows that would push your date back a couple of centuries. (check books on seiges, medieval warfare)

Any egyptian pictures of folks using crows to move stones---seem to think I have seen that before---which would drop it another thousand years or two...(check books on egyptian technology and the arguments on how they built large structures---the answer of course is "cost + government contracts")

As for unpopular downrisings, Stalin was a specialist in them and if we mention you training a marine based raiding squad perhaps you too could have *The* *Knock* *At* *The* *Door*.

Coup? who would *want* the thankless job Jock's been doing so long? Hmmm we could strip mine the addresses, build in viagra "pop-ups", play popular music clips---*WHY are all these anvils dropping out of the sky on me??? And they're *ALL* HF cast iron ASOs!!!!!!!

   Thomas P - Friday, 08/27/04 11:21:00 EDT

I think Craddock mentions a wooden digging/prying pole with a doughnut-shaped stone weight on it from the chalcolithic age in Early Metal Mining and Production. Don’t know if that would exactly qualify though.
   Shack - Friday, 08/27/04 12:21:25 EDT

Michelle, I've seen pieces that are at least similar - machetes with brightly polished blades bearing seals, better finished than the working machetes - while visiting Guatemala. The ones I saw were just tourist items. Better done, and more expensive than the more common machetes, but available in the markets where tourists go. Can't tell you what they were selling for; the one I bought wasn't dressed up. ;)

Maybe a little late to be of any help.

   Steve A - Friday, 08/27/04 12:33:36 EDT

I asked you a couple days ago about tempering fish gigs.I have as yet received no reply.Did I not give you my e-mail address? If not I made sure to include it this time. I would very much appreciate your reply. Thankyou and God bless. Mike
   - mike - Friday, 08/27/04 17:12:55 EDT


This is a forum and we generally answer questions here, not by email. (Which you did NOT leave this time,by the way.) I prefer to answer questions here so that more folks can learn something, and so that I am not distributing my email address to computers that may be infected with viruses. I suspect most others here feel much the same.

To answer your question: Yes, if you heat and forge a piece of steel it will need to be heat treated all over again to maintain its original qualities. That is, it should be normalized, hardened and the temper drawn.

To heat treat a fish gig is pretty much the same as heat treating any other small section piece of steel where you don't know the alloy. First normalize by heating to red and air cooling to room temperature. Then heat it to non-magnetic and quench in oil, see if it is hard. If not, heat again and quench in water. If it gets hard, then polish it a bit and heat from the haft end until the oxide colors run to blue at the tips of the gig. Then quench again. If it doesn't get hard after heating to non-magnetic and quenching in water, it probably doesn't have enough carbon to harden sufficiently.

I recommend you read the FAQs page on hardening and tempering, and also the FAQs page on junkyard steels.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/27/04 18:15:43 EDT

To Frank Turley,

Mr. T, I sent you a private email a couple of days ago about your school schedule and was wondering if you received it. If not, please let me know the correct address and I'll resend it. Thanks, Hollis
   - HWooldridge - Friday, 08/27/04 22:25:08 EDT

Puchased my first anvil today!

I'm a beginning bladesmith and I found a 101 lb Peter Wright on Ebay.

I was wondering though, does Bladesmithing do enough wear and tear to damage an anvil? If so, I may hold on to it and buy a block anvil like the one described on the "getting Started" page. It's a beautiful anvil in great shape, and I'd hate to distort it with my ignorant hands.

Thoughts? opinions?

   patrick - Saturday, 08/28/04 01:15:34 EDT

If you work your steel hot,
as a blacksmith ought,
Then it'll outlast you
like as not.

Most anvil wear and damage come from mis striking and hitting the face with the corner of a hammer and other abuse. Torch cutting over the face being the worst.
There is a good argument for using softer hammers till you don't miss much....or using a funkier anvil to learn on.
To soften a hammer, heat the face till it turns a pretty peacock blue. Test for hardnesses by seeing if it will cut easily with a file.
If the face of the PW is original, a file will just skate over the surface, hardly scratching it ( hard on the file)telling you it is quite hard.
   - Pete F - Saturday, 08/28/04 02:24:50 EDT

Patrick; Bladesmithing shouldn't cause any more wear to an anvil than any other kind of smithing. The idea is to have the blade up to forging heat before hammering on it. DO NOT hit an anvil directly without something softer between it and the hammer, like a piece of red hot iron. That's one of the things a smith will go to Hell for. (The other one is for not charging enough).
   3dogs - Saturday, 08/28/04 02:29:45 EDT

Howdy, Pete.
   3dogs - Saturday, 08/28/04 02:31:39 EDT


I hope this is a reasonable question

I am looking for information on a biblical reference to what seems to be blacksmithing terminology- Proverbs 27 verse 17 says AS IRON SHARPENS IRON, SO A MAN SHARPENS THE COUNTENANCE OF HIS FRIEND. Since I am not a blacksmith and know very little about blacksmithing, I decided to ask the experts. Please could you explain the process of iron sharpening iron, how / where does it fit into the smithing of a sword or similar implement? This is an old testament reference, so what sort of iron tool would a blacksmith have used to sharpen a sword back then (about 2000-3000 years ago)? Alternatively, please could you suggest some good reading on this subject.

(South Africa)
   Bridget - Saturday, 08/28/04 06:48:29 EDT

First you could/would use a hammer and anvil to shape the item into a 'sharper' shape or form, then you would use a file or scraper to finish. Also scyths are still sharpened in the field with a small anvil and hammer. Tha anvil will is small enough to sit on your palm, but that is not how it is used. It has a small stake on one end that is driven into a stump or other handy object
   Ralph - Saturday, 08/28/04 08:59:36 EDT


The thing that comes to mind first is sharpening a sickle or other cutting implement. Both bronze and early iron cutting tools were often "sharpened" by hammering the edge until it was very thin and had become work-hardened. The work hardening enabled the soft metal to hold an edge much better than it would in an unhardened state.

With the development of carbon steels, heat treatment made them hard enough to hold an edge so hammering was not necessary and sharpening was done more with abrasive stones.

I would imagine that some of our more knowledgeable historical smiths can give you a more thorough explanation.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/28/04 09:01:52 EDT

Bridget, the first thing that came to mind was the way a sythe is sharpened: the edge is beaten flat using a hammer and anvil. This is ususally done cold and results in the edge getting thinner and harder, thus improving its cutting ability. Today, we tend to think of "countenance" as meaning "face" but if you are a biblical scholar, you will know that it means something far more significant and lends new meaning to this saying.
   Quenchcrack - Saturday, 08/28/04 10:12:30 EDT

Can anyone recommend a Steel Service Center who sells 4 inch thick tool steel for making a slab anvil?

After much thought and consideration, there's no way I'm going to chance screwing up my pride and joy Peter Wright.

On a related note, the guy I'm training under appraised my Peter Wright (101 lb.) at about $1000. Is this accurate, and if so, where can I get a safe big enough to store it? (pun intended)
   patrick - Saturday, 08/28/04 18:41:58 EDT

New tool steel in the size you need may be above the overly high appraised value of you Peter Wright.
A nice chunck of scrap is the way to go. You have not mentioned you location, but I would look for a forging operation(factory) and if one is a reasonable drive, ask to buy a scrap die block or die insert. A scrap yard may have some nice large shafting. For blade work, a 100# or bigger would serve. For reference, a 4" square weighs about 54#/ft and a 6" round weighs 122#/ft. A nice 4' long chunk of 6" round would give a 488# anvil. Just stick it in the ground till its the right height for you.
A new 100# anvil can be had from people that advertise on this site for far less than the cost of the new tool steel.
Good Luck.
   ptree - Saturday, 08/28/04 19:48:36 EDT

thanks ptree, I'm in GA. I don't know of any forging plants, but I know alot of people in the aviation industry who may.
Which advertiser sells anvils?
Also, what would be a good price to pay for a 100# chunk of scrap?
   patrick - Saturday, 08/28/04 20:33:27 EDT


I'd be hard pressed to think any 100# anvil is worth a grand. I have a 110# Peter Wright in pretty excellent condition that I'd take 500$ for so fast it would snap your arm! $2/lb. to $3.50/lb. is about all most 100# anvils are worth, unless they have some special collector's value. To keep things in perspective, a new Euroanvils 335# cast steel anvil sells for around $775 and is a darn good anvil.

There are bound to be a number of places where you can get a piece of heavy scrap steel reasonably in Georgia. Ptree mentioned places that do heavy forging, such as for automobile parts, places that repair heavy equipment often have scrapped axles that are good steel. The county road crew garage might be a place to check, salvage yards, shipyards, any place that uses big equipment of almost any sort. Doesn't Georgia have a pretty big lumber industry? Those machines have really huge pieces of steel in them. So do rail cars and locomotives. Places that service earthmoving equipment sometimes have scrapped out hydraulic cylinders. The big ones have rams that are solid shaft up to 8-10" in diameter. Once the hard chrome on them is trashed, they usually just get set aside to rust away. I've gotten them for free more than once. You have to ask around. In any case, scrap steel only brings ten cents a pound when they buy it, so it shouldn't be worth more than twice that to buy it.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/28/04 20:56:36 EDT

yeah, I thought 1000 was a bit crazy. I should've tried to sell it to them for 800. thanks for the info, I've been looking everywhere but the right places. You wouldn't think it would be so hard to find a peice of metal. What's the world coming to ?
If you know of anyone who has thick steel, I'll pay a good price just to avoid screwing up this anvil(and I will screw it up)

   patrick - Saturday, 08/28/04 21:12:37 EDT

HWooldridge, My email reception is screwed up. Zap "The Gurus" in the header above the Top Post for other contact info.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 08/28/04 21:56:10 EDT

Bridget, Iron sharpening iron. My midwestern dad would bake a ham or turkey on holidays, and he would use a tapered, cylindrical steel to kind of straighten the microscopic, "jagged" cutting edge. I don't think it really removed metal, unless it was a miniscule amount more by accident than design. He had a great rhythm in using the knife steel, and as a kid, I was always wondering whether he might cut himself. Never happened. I think that using the steel made the knife stay keener longer.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 08/28/04 22:18:22 EDT

Bridget, Iron sharpening iron. My midwestern dad would bake a ham or turkey on holidays, and he would use a tapered, cylindrical steel to kind of straighten the microscopic, "jagged" cutting edge. I don't think it really removed metal, unless it was a miniscule amount more by accident than design. He had a great rhythm in using the knife steel, and as a kid, I was always wondering whether he might cut himself. Never happened. I think that using the steel made the knife stay keener longer.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 08/28/04 22:19:19 EDT

In the restaurant business, we use a knife steel every time we use a carving knife. The purpose of the steel is to straighten the edge only, not to remove any metal from it. In use, a blade gets the fine edge turned to one side or the other and then it rapidly becomes dull and needs honing. When kept straight, the time between honings is extended several times over. Keeping the edge straight also reduces the amount of metal that must be removed during sharpening to maintain a centered edge.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/28/04 22:31:58 EDT

What were (are?) the general dimentions of a whalers harpoon?
I am working on some angons and pilums, and mentioned that the next one I make I want to make with a barbed head, and a buddy of mine mentioned it would look like a harpoon. Of course I'm not near a race track so the nubs of horseshoe nails aren't easy to come by. To say nothing of razors......
   JimG - Sunday, 08/29/04 00:44:36 EDT

A short term solution is to use a sacrifice plate on top of your anvil face. They absorb some of the energy that ought to go into moving hot steel but work quite nicely.
I have some soft 1/2" plates ( annealed by heating to red and burying in fine ashes till cool) that i use for cutting hot steel on the anvil.
And have some regular 1" thick plates that i use when doing heavier work where i fear for the face's safety. When one side gets all dinged up, i flip em over. Also use some short sections of heavy angle iron for when i need to abuse the anvil's edge.
If you tack some legs on them to hang over the edges of the anvil, or weld a chunk of square tubing on the bottom of the sacrifice plate to fit in the hardy hole.....you won't have to chase the plate around so much.
If a plate, or an anvil starts to fall, do remember to move your toes...don't forget now!
Howdy 3 Dogs.
   - Pete F - Sunday, 08/29/04 03:51:44 EDT

JimG, doesn't your source for the horseshoe nails and razors story also provide a dimension for that particular harpoon? I don't have my copy. Capt. Ahab, you out there?

   Alan-L - Sunday, 08/29/04 08:21:58 EDT

Iron Sharpens Iron; Bridget:

Besides hammer hardening and sharpening, and sharpening steels, the Northern European kennings (poetic references) are constantly talking about the file sharpening the sword. Here a piece of heavier, higher carbon sron, with a lesser temper (harder, but more brittle) is forming and sharpening a less hard, tougher item. (Files tend to be brittle, a brittle sword is a fatal flaw). So, in this case too, iron sharpens iron.

Harpoons; JimG:

Check with our folks at New Bedford; ask for a historian. If they don't have it handy, ask for an appropriate person at the (local) museum. www.nps.gov/nebe/

For information on pila; go to: http://www.larp.com/legioxx/ . (One of the best reenactment groups I've worked with.) They should have the straight dope.

vicopper: It's bearing north, but you may get brushed. Keeping an eye out.

A misty Sunday morning on the banks of the Potomac. Had to download some information before church, and, since the computer was up anyway...

Vist your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking (The new ship is to be named Sae Hrafn [Sea Raven]: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 08/29/04 08:39:10 EDT

Pete, thanks for the solid advice, especially the part about moving my toes when there's incoming steel. 1 inch plate is a lot easier to find around here. When I ask people do they have any 3 or 4 inch thick, the response is usually "huh??" or "how thick?!"
   - patrick - Sunday, 08/29/04 08:41:05 EDT

Temperature Question. I'm reviewing for anvilfire the "Guia Practica de la Forja Artistica", a good Spanish book on artistic forging. I think some of the celsius temperature ranges might be a little off. Any metallurgical thoughts would be appreciated.

The Guia lists the blue brittle range as 300C to 500C. The Tempilstik chart lists it as 300F to 700F (approximately 149C to 371C. And just what is meant by the blue brittle range, anyway?
The Guia says to forge stock that is below 20 mm thickness (about 13/16") at 700C to 800C and stock above 20 mm, especially when bending and doing heavy reduction, at 800C to 1,000C. The authors suggest coal-forge welding between 1,300C and 1,400C. The book says that at 760C, the steel begins its transformation, but doesn't talk about carbon content and alloys affecting transformation.

Thanks for helping me with my homework. I'm a bad boy, but I didn't want to get out on a limb and saw the limb off.

   Frank Turley - Sunday, 08/29/04 10:47:07 EDT


I will "snail mail" my note to you...Thanks, Hollis
   - HWooldridge - Sunday, 08/29/04 11:06:12 EDT

patrick, If you bought your Peter Wright on ebay how about giving the item number so we can all have a look at your anvil.
   - Robert-ironworker - Sunday, 08/29/04 11:13:23 EDT

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions - it is much appreciated. Will check back every now and then so if any has any other thoughts on the topic, please share them too
   Bridget - Sunday, 08/29/04 11:23:59 EDT

item #6113927872 is the peter Wright. The guy who sold it to me paid nothing...is was left in an old house his freind was remodeling. Some guys get all the luck.
   - patrick - Sunday, 08/29/04 11:25:52 EDT

Patrick You have a nice anvil, but now that you have it use it. I had to look back at your original post, as Pete F said you are hitting hot metal. If worried about damaging your anvil, you will just work with more care
   - Daryl - Sunday, 08/29/04 11:59:43 EDT

thanks guys, care is something I'm still working on. My trainer wants me to work with clay until I learn Hammer control. He also said "I bet you hit your wife harder than your hitting that metal", but thats another story.
   - patrick - Sunday, 08/29/04 13:46:30 EDT

Patrick, good exercise is to put a X on a block of wood and lay it on the anvil and hammer and try to put the marks on the x. I would think hitting clay erases the previous mark left by the hammer blows( no history of blows)
   - ptpiddler - Sunday, 08/29/04 14:44:35 EDT

Hitting Hot Metal: I have seen folks who hit WAY TOO HARD for their degree of hammer control. It left the iron looking like it had been in a train wreck. Light hammer, light blows, learn to hit what your are aiming at and leave little or no marking when you are done. THEN get a bigger hammer and hit it harder.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/29/04 15:44:06 EDT

thanks, I'll try the wood exercise. My biggest problem is hitting straight. When I got through forging I had a nice pattern of half moons all over my blade.
   patrick - Sunday, 08/29/04 15:58:08 EDT

Travel: I'm hone. Anyone that says SPAM is a minor inconvienicenc is full of it. Some 600 pieces down loading now. .
   - guru - Sunday, 08/29/04 16:33:18 EDT


The way your half-moons look can tell you a thing or two, sometimes. If they are "grins" or "frowns", it may mean your anvil is either too high or too low for you, causing your hammer face to be out of parallel with the anvil face. When the anvil is at the right height for you, your forearm will be just about parallel with the anvil face when the hammer face contacts the metal.

If your half moons are left-facing or right-facing all the time, then you may just be holding the hammer wrong or holding your elbow wrong. Either one can cause hammer tilt, resulting in dings that consistently go one way or the other.

If the dings are random, then you are just erratic and need lots more practice. The plywood on the anvil with a target on it is great practice to improve your aim, as it allows you to swing the hammer forcefully enough to simulate real forging blows. There are those who will tell you that the best way to practice is to spread the fingers of your tong hand on the anvil and hit between them, but I advise against trying that. (grin)
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/29/04 16:41:30 EDT

Marks on Work: All kinds of things can lead to theis besides bad hammer control. Having your anvil too high or too low can force you into an unnatural position trying to strike the work prependicular and besides tearing up the work, tear up your arm and elbow. Having an improperly dressed hammer will result in marks no matter how good you are. The face of the hammer sould have a slight crown and the edges radiused. Any sharp breaks in the face will show up every thime. It used to be that hammers came well dressed but no more. Today the user must learn how much and how to.

Marking the Anvil: When working points or edges you always keep the work suppported on the edge of the anvil so that the part of the hammer that MUST be below the edge of the work due to the taper is NOT striking the anvil. If you work edges or points in the middle of the anvil YOU WILL mark it. I told an apprentice over and over to work on the edge of the anvil and he insisted on working on the center. . the result is I need to regrind my big anvil. . I hate doing this because every time you grind it you are removeing some of the hardest surface. . .

THINK when you work!
   - guru - Sunday, 08/29/04 16:43:58 EDT

Patrick, when I had that problem a fellow smith told me that the height of my anvil might not be correct . I raised the anvil 1/2" and things got much better. If the moons are made by the front of the hammerface, the anvil may be too low. If they are made by the back half of the hammer face, it might be too high. A little shim stock might help along with Practice Practice Practice!
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/29/04 17:24:45 EDT

Wow, I need to hit the refresh button before I post. Vicopper and Guru pretty well pounded that one flat!
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/29/04 17:27:29 EDT

Scythe anvil, Iron sharpening iron See last week's archive August 9 - 17, 2004 - 257K for a photo and explanation.
   - guru - Sunday, 08/29/04 17:45:58 EDT

Guru, You looked in good form at the Big Blu school,Zeevik
gave you guys a good workout. Hated I had to leave and missed out on the barbecue meal. Ted does a great job on the meals. Enjoyed talking to you. maybe see you at another ABANA conference,probably Madison
   - ptpiddler - Sunday, 08/29/04 17:54:13 EDT

Hammer control practice. I tell my fledgling students to get some pieces of fir ( or other soft wood) about 4 inches wide and about 1/2 or so thick. and about 10 to 20 inch long. Mark it into 2 inch squares. Strangely that is also the same size as most hammer faces..... Then practice hitting. I usually say 10 hits each square. Fir is soft enough so that you can see each hit. By the time you get to the last square all SHOULD be in teh square and should all be mostly flat faced blows. Do several boards this way. Till you can Rapidly hammer in this manner. Another way is to hammer nails, and NOT MISS THE NAILS..... THEN I have them take 1/2 or slightly larger round stock and have them make it into 3/8 SQUARE stock. NOt almost 3/8 ALMOST square stock.... As they are going to be making hooks and other items from this square stock to be gifting Mom's, wives or significant others with.... so if they want nasty looking stuff to give, then have at it. SO far, my anvil has not been really abused..... but then again I have had several prospective students decide that that much hammer practise was not really for them and so they left. Which was fine with me as I really did not want to teach them anyway.
   Ralph - Sunday, 08/29/04 18:04:27 EDT

B² Design Big BLU Hammer School: PT, I think I screwed up more stock than anyone there. I've had too much experiance with other hammers like Nazels and such too many years ago and less patience than I used to have. If I still had a hammer at home (had four once) I would practice and care about it. So I was just mashing up stock and having fun. . ran out of energy last night and did not forge anything today but did take more pictures.

We will have a report on the B² Design Big BLU Hammer School and some iForge demos to go with it in about a month along with the SOFA/QuadState news.

Those of you that have thought of attending should do so. It is great fun, there is great food, great folks and all the steel you can mash up in 3 days. We learned to make many of the shapes seen in our ABANA NEWS coverage of Uri Hofi. Folks with no smithing experiance at all were turning out as good of work as those that had experiance. THAT says a lot for the system and the equipment AND Zeevik's patience with those of us that wanted to do everything backwards. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 08/29/04 19:55:24 EDT

Frank T., Everything is fixed and ready to release anytime you want.
   - guru - Monday, 08/30/04 00:23:32 EDT

Tom, thank you I have 3 sets of hose, so you likely saved me a few bucks.

Pete F and Ralph : Thanks, Pardon me, that was definatley a slip of the tongue. I am familiar with the techniques a bit and have practiced a *little* I did not mean tempering, but the smith's lingo is a bit confusing esp. when I am reading books that were first printed over 100 years ago. I plan to build a tensile strength tester to help me learn about methods of hardening and tempering. aswell as just plain using the tools I will make, keeping tabs on how they were made, and how well they hold up. I will have a propane oven near my forge for gradual cooling/heating, if needed. any links to info on how to harden and temper axes, swords, knives, hammers and tongs would be helpful. I've played around annealing , reshaping, and rehardening some tools (most successfully a cheap 6 set of small pliars) just to get used to the various functions of smithing (likely baking any carbon the steel had out of it in the process.) I'm working solely with junkyard stock. I have to guess what the stock is from the spark when I grind it. as well as lists I have found approximating the hardness of junk found on specific equipment (leaf springs and such)
   sgloki - Monday, 08/30/04 06:53:41 EDT

Canadian Copper rivets
Hayes.. I'm a bit late on this but you can get all kinds of rivets [and every other kind of fastener..great family bible sized catalogue!] from Spaenaur box 544 Kitchener ON. N2G 4B1 toll free. 1-800-265 8772
   - lydia - Monday, 08/30/04 09:09:50 EDT

I asked this earlier but it may have gotten lost over the weekend. I have been asked by a local historical conservation society to get an old shop operational. The original site was open for over 85 years then was broken up in the 70's when the owner died. There is a Grinnell power hammer that we would like to get working and I'm wondering if anyone knows anything about this brand or can direct me to another site. I have rebuilt several hammers but have never seen one of these makes. It is about the size of a 25lb LG but has a stack of arched flat springs for the rebound mechanism. I'll try Sid S also. Thanks, Hollis
   - HWooldridge - Monday, 08/30/04 09:23:00 EDT

Grinnell Hammer: Hollis, If there is any published information about this hammer it would be in Pounding Out the Profits (pp.242-250). See our book review.

The designer was a man named Alfred Koch, son of a blacksmith, who applied for a patent in 1903. It was an adjustable fulcrum beam hammer. It originaly manufactured in Montezuma, Iowa and sold for $100. Koch then moved to Grinell Iowa, took on partners and setup shop. Various models and changes came and at one point Koch broke with his partners who continued to make the hammer.

There are quite a few details of the business in Pounding out the Profits but Freund wrote a history and few technical details are provided. Most of the information came from advertisments and news articles in Blacksmith and Wheelwright magazine. You could also go to the patent office. However, patents give detaild descriptions of mechanical arrangements but avoid specific details such as dimensions and materials.

Rebuilding or restoring one of these is the same as working on almost any out of production orphaned machine. You study it, you find other examples, you reverse engineer it, record what you find, you do nothing radical when making repairs.

There is no "other site" for this type information unless an individual has rebuilt one and reported on it. As rare as these are it is doubtful. If you have specific questions about bearings and such we might be able to help. However, your best reference would be an old copy of Machinery's Handbook or a turn of the century Audels.
   - guru - Monday, 08/30/04 10:58:12 EDT

The Champion hammer I have also uses a set of arched leaf springs, so you may want to look at a couple of them as well.

Did "sweat equity" on my new shop building over the weekend and now I have the dreaded twinges in my elbow. How ironic it would be to have a spanking new shop but be off hammering for a while to let the elbow heal. Digging footers in very rocky soil puts a lot of impact into the arms, lifting it is dandy for the back too. But it's *done* now we wait for the inspection and then pour the slab.

I did use the flypress to straighten some of their grade stakes *cold*, they were suitably inpressed.

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/30/04 11:28:19 EDT

Flypress is a great straightening tool. They are used to straighten gun barrels. . .

Messing up the body is not allowed! Getting out of your element will do it every time. Digging is a job for a machine!!!!
   - guru - Monday, 08/30/04 11:54:44 EDT

sgloki, "just to get used to the various functions of smithing (likely baking any carbon the steel had out of it in the process.)" I am not sure what you mean by this. But generally removing carbon is not a good thing for items that you want to be hardened and tempered. Carbon is one of the things that allows steel to be steel and gives it is 'magical' properties. Like getting hard but having a certain toughness and resiliance to it.
   Ralph - Monday, 08/30/04 13:26:33 EDT

Baking isn't likely to remove much, if any, carbon from steel. Unless you get it to the point where it is just about burning, you should be okay. It is a time and temperature thing, as I understand, but the temps still have to be high enough to do damage. Up to a red heat should be no problem with losing much carbon.
   vicopper - Monday, 08/30/04 14:11:42 EDT

Guru, thanks for the info on the Grinnell hammer. I looked at it closely today and it's like so many in that it's been welded all over and the dies are smashed. They apparently used it exclusively for sweeps since there are plow points laying all around and the top die is a small fuller while the lower is flat. However, most of it is there and it may be possible to get it running. All of the stuff in this shop was working to an extent when the owner died, so most of the battle is with rust and siezed bearings.

Thomas, try one of the velcro arm wraps that are sold at the store for tennis elbow. I blew out my elbow a year ago and thought I'd ruined my arm but I tried one of these straps (wife's idea) and it healed enough that I no longer need it.
   - HWooldridge - Monday, 08/30/04 16:52:07 EDT

Well IIRC heating it to a high temp in a container of mill scale is considered a de-carburization method for reverse case hardening. This might be considered "baking", right?

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/30/04 16:53:03 EDT


I suppose you could consider that baking, yes. However, the carbon migrates from the higher carbon steel to the lower carbon scale due to the closed environment and proximity, if I understand the process correctly. A piece of steel just "baking" without the scale probably wouldn't lose much carbon, I don't think. This is an area where I defer to Quenchcrack's wisdom, though. I trust he will resolve this with some facts. (grin)
   vicopper - Monday, 08/30/04 17:55:50 EDT

Looking for info. on Scranton & Co, mechanical hammers. The one I'm looking at is somewhere between 100-125# and was patented:May 14,1889
   Jeff Jubenville - Monday, 08/30/04 19:48:05 EDT

Thomas, vicopper, IIRC, et al - you'd be suprised at how much decarb you'll get just heating up to 1450 or 1600 F in open air in an electric oven, or gas fired radiant tube. Plus the incoming scale on the piece if it's hot rolled or forged also acts as an oxygen source. Again - time at temperature, how high is the temperature, and do you have a good oxygen source (which scale is). At the one mill I worked at we used pure nitrogen atmospheres to minimize (not eliminate)and control the amount of decarb generated during annealing operations. Grades annealed were 4140, O2, 52100, and a resulphurized 4150. To eliminate decarb totally, you need an endothermic gas atmosphere (or synthetically generated endothermic gas atmosphere) that has the carbon potential closely matched to the grade of steel being processed. (Same basic concept as carbutizing. Endothermic gas was produced by cracking partially combusted natural gas (or propane) over a nickel catalyst. End up with a gas composed of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, carbon monixide, and water vapor which is removed by a drying unit. Haven't kept track of its use, but all the industrial gas companies were strongly pushing synthetic endo gas systems in the 80's. Cryogenic nitrogen, and methanol, which disassociates in the furnace giving the CO, and CO2. Carbon potential was adjusted by adding small amounts of natural gas. Scale is more efficient at supplying oxygen than air, but air will work too - just at a slower rate initially.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 08/30/04 22:40:15 EDT

Sut-off Saw:

I couldn’t help myself. They had one of these tailgate tool sales at the American Legion Hall last Saturday, and I bought a Cummins “Made in China” cut-off saw to save myself some hacksaw work on bar stock. I figured that I’d give it a try, and if it worked well enough to be useful, I’d get something a little better for long-term needs. Sort of a “trial” chop-saw.

Unfortunately, the instructions are written in “Chenglish” and are a little obscure. I figured that some of y’all might have some experience with this tool and could pass along some useful hints.

In the “eye” of what used to be Tropical Storm Gaston. Lots of rain and distant thunder on the banks of the lower Potomac. Ready to pull the plug.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 08/30/04 22:43:26 EDT

I got one of the saws,It's slow,because you can't use a lot of pressure to cut with. Works ok on light stuff-sq. tubing.etc. but not on solid stock.Includid in the package were some brushes. They were the first to go,When I used the saw for heavy cutting.Use light pressure and patince it will get the job done-eventually!
   - JES - Monday, 08/30/04 22:54:53 EDT


The cheapo cut-off saws work just fine, as long as you use a decent blade. I prefer SAIT blades, the 3/32" thick ones for cutting pipe and angle. The thicker 1/8" ones are more prone to glazing, which will make you think the saw has lost power.

When using a cut-off saw, it is wise to always use the clamping vise to hole the stock. Failure to do so can result in a piece getting snagged and tearing big flying chunks out of the blade and flinging hard stuff all around the place. You'll also want to wear gloves in addition to the mandatory face shield, safety glasses and hearing protection. A dust mask or respirator is a good idea too, as the blade throws off loads of airborne grinding swarf that is nasty to put in your lungs. Oh. Remember that a heap of hot sparks come blazing out the backside of that cut-off saw. They will start fires VERY well. I proved it once with a large bag of 2,000 firecrackers several feet away, once. The neighbors were NOT amused.

When cutting bar, support the cutoff end if it is more than several inches long. When cutting angle iron, put it in the vise in the inverted "V" position. When cutting flatbar, cut it on edge, not on the flat. If you cut on the flat, you'll glaze the blade real quickly. When cutting pipe or tubing, take care to have the saw as level as possible so that the drop end doesn't bind the blade.

With cut-off saws, there is always the temptation to use the side of the blade to deburr the cut pieces. DON'T do it! Those blades are only rated for edge cutting in a machine with a guard and clamped stock. Side pressure on the blade disk can cause catastrophic failure. 14" blade diameter at 3800 rpm yields a surface rim speed of 232 fps, or about 160 mph, or roughly double the speed of good fastball.

I've gone through a couple three of those cut-off saws and had good luck with all of them. The cheapies seem to last as long and cut as well as the much more expensive Milwaukees and Porter-Cables, as long as you use good blades and appropriate practices. For example, it takes me about fifteen seconds to cut a piece of 3/4" A36 square bar, 5 seconds to cut 1/8" by 1" flat bar edgewise, and almost two full minutes to cut a piece of 1" by 4" flat bar edgewise. These times hold for either the cheapo Harbor Freight saw or the more expensive Porter Cable saw. They all use roughly a 2 hp motor, the only differenceis the way the gear it to the wheel and the quality of wheel you use.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/31/04 00:28:21 EDT

While I agree with all you said about saftey vicopper, I must disagree with you about the function of cheap chop saws vs real ones. Years ago while working in a screen shop I used the bosses Makita 14
   - FredlyFX - Tuesday, 08/31/04 01:19:42 EDT

While I agree with all you said about saftey vicopper, I must disagree with you about the function of cheap chop saws vs real ones. Years ago while working in a screen shop I used the bosses Makita 14" chop saw. I was much younger and more impaitent than I am now, and I still never was able to hurt that saw in 3 years of heavy use. Since I started blacksmithing about 2 years ago I have burned up 2 of the harbor frieght saws. I am now to the point that it would have been cheaper to buy a good one from the start. On my first harbor freight saw the brushes were worn out in less than 6 months. I find this a common occurance on all of Harbor Freights power tools. Ive burned up 3 angle grinders, one drill, and an 18 volt cordless drill. I don't buy their power tools any more. I save up for real tools now.
   FredlyFX - Tuesday, 08/31/04 01:21:06 EDT

Picking up junk for years on the opal fields around Coober Pedy in South Australia now I want to "value add". I've got a few old, surface-rusty steel tanks from hot water services. Is there a way to make a 'new' look surface other than grinding or wire brushing the surface back to clean metal and then priming and painting?
   Gary D. Atkins - Tuesday, 08/31/04 03:15:29 EDT

Gary: sandblasting might be a good way to go if they're large.
   AwP - Tuesday, 08/31/04 04:04:46 EDT

Sand blasting with a nice big compressor and a pressure pot is the quickest and easiest prep for painting.
You can sort of get by using one of phosphoric acid based " rust killers" that have some latex sealer on moderate rust, followed by a primer.
What you can get away with depends on the climate where the piece will end up.
NOTE TO ALL........JOIN the CSI and support Anvilfire
   - Pete F - Tuesday, 08/31/04 04:33:38 EDT

Chop saws

I respectfully disagree with the life expectancy of the chop saws. Here the cheap orange (2hp) failed just after the warranty ran out (90 days as I recall). Cheap orange is $50 and at the same store, DeWalt (3.2 hp) is $160 and Milwaukee (3.2 hp) is $150.

DeWalt saws have a 3 year warranty on their machines, Milwaukee has a 5 year warranty on their machine.

We replaced cheap orange with Milwaukee red, and a 5 year warranty. Bought it from the local welding supply store, so I know the warranty will be honored, and it is not a refurbished machine.
   - Conner - Tuesday, 08/31/04 04:36:07 EDT

What i need to know is if someone can help me find a blacksmith to be my mentor. What i was wondering was if somebody might know someone in possibly the Orlando, FL area that may be interested in helping me. This project is a requirment for graduation and requires community service, a mentor, physical project, and a few other things. In knowing this i decided to do something i always dreamed of doing....blacksmithing. If anybody there knows somebody could you please please contact me at poeticpyro7@aol.com or even call me at (407)381-3459 with any information that could help me out i would greatly appreciate it. Thanks greatly, -Jamie Belcourt, Orlando, FL
   Jamie Belcourt - Tuesday, 08/31/04 09:23:29 EDT

Cap'n Atli; Once again, Haba Flate to the rescue ! Go to their website, and type in 44829 under the American flag where it says "Find Item Number". When the product picture comes up, scroll down to the little green bar that says "download product manual". That oughta do it.
   - 3dogs - Tuesday, 08/31/04 10:11:27 EDT

I do a few things that I feel make my experience with the cheapo power tools more rewarding. First, I check them out very thoroughly before I first put them into service, tightening loose fasteners, deburring where necessary, etc. On the little 4-1/2" angle grinders, I have several of them to switch off with, so I never get one too hot. That alone makes a huge difference in life expectancy.

The biggest enemy of power tools is dirt and contaminants in the motors. My shop has compressed air, and I make liberal use of it, frequently blowing the grinding swarf out of the motors, switches and moving parts of those tools. I have a couple of the HF angle grinders that I've used heavily for a couple of years without having to even replace the brushes. Likewise with the cutoff saws.

I had a Makita 14" cutoff saw and it did yeoman duty for five or six years in my sign shop, then followed me to the islands. Did fine here for another few years until the commutator finally came apart. I've had a couple of the HF 14" cutoff saws that worked fine for both me and then my brother for three or four years. Not bad for $50. A year or so ago I bought a Porter-Cable that is doing okay, but seems to have a hair less oomph than the old Makita did, about equal to the HF models. The only Porter-Cable side grinder I bought died within a year and PC wouldn't honor the warranty. A ripoff at over a hundred bucks. I haven't been all that impressed with the quality of Milwaukee's tools in recent years, either. Nor with their warranty support.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/31/04 10:38:04 EDT

Jamie, email sent to you.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 08/31/04 10:49:11 EDT

My friend just took his dewalt cutoff saw in to have the motor repaired, he had smoked it. They called and said it was ready, the bill was $140 almost the cost of a new one. He told them to keep it. I stopped by one day to see what the cost of a rebuilt used 4 1/2 grinder was-- $57.00 I went to HF - $18.99 on sale regular $29.99
Could buy 3 - spread out use, lasts forever
   - ptpiddler - Tuesday, 08/31/04 12:07:44 EDT

Hey there,

A couple questions about finishes; How do you do a rust finish and have it not rust anymore? Whats the best natural finish for outdoors? I know paint is always best for outdoors but someone wants me to make them a product with a natural finish. ie veggie oil or whatever.

Thanks a lot,
   Hayes - Tuesday, 08/31/04 16:16:45 EDT

Off line

I have been off-line since flooding in Richmond, VA has downed the major Internet trunk lines in Central Virginia. Some access has been available via numeric IP address. Maybe this post will work.

No word on how soon will be back on-line. I suspect there are more important concerns in Richmond at the moment.

Clean it, prime it, paint it. See my article on corrosion and its prevention

   - guru - Monday, 08/31/04 17:20:44 EDT

Natural Finish for Outdoors = Stainless Steel.

Rust finish that stops rusting = move it to 0% humidity well you have to either keep O2 or H2O away from it so sealing it off from them or moving to space or a desert...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/31/04 17:39:29 EDT

Well, yeah rust is a natural finish, but bees wax and oils can also be natural, since you asked about veggie oil I assume your client wants it to be somewhat weatherproof.... Also 'natural' plastics can be made from plants high in polymers such as hemp, however it is beyond difficult for your average joe to make a clear plastic of it. if I were you I'd go with bees wax.
   sgloki - Tuesday, 08/31/04 18:06:59 EDT

Even the so-called rust and stop stuff, Cor-Ten steel, will continue to rust in anything but a desert climate. And anything that rusts will leave rust stains all over whatever is below or around it. Galvanizing is one bare metal finish that will hold up fairly well. Chrome plating is another, if done just right. Stainless steel, if passivated completely, will withstand a lot before it starts to rust. But, in the end, anything with iron in it is going to oxidize, and that means rust.

If you want a "rust finish" that won't rust away, then you're going to have to fake it with paint. As Jock is wont to say, Hollywood can make plaster and foam look like anything they want, so make some paint look like steel that has rusted.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/31/04 18:07:02 EDT

I don't know where Hayes is, but I can assure you that here in our Caribbean marine climate, a bees wax finish is good for about 48 hours outside before it starts to rust. In a month, you wouldn't know you had ever put any finish on it. The fine folks at DuPont, Ditzler and Martin-Senour have spent millions of dollars in research to develop paints that withstand decades of exposure to car washes, sun, snow and salt. Why not benefit from their labors and expense, rather than try to use something far less satisfactory?
   vicopper - Tuesday, 08/31/04 18:11:14 EDT

guru: What I meant by saying "likely baking all the carhbon out of it in the process" was I had learned to not make that mistake.

FredlyFX: Yes, you already have the answer sandblasting, it's physically the easiest way to finish something....otherwise theres nothing so great as a rotary sander and a wire wheel...As I don't have a sandblaster I spend an excessive amount of time sanding and wire wheeling rust covered scrap metal for ANY project I do that doesn't involve stainless. there ARE chemical rust removers (choke and carburator spray, automotive brake cleaner spray, and naval jelly to name a few.) But they are all usually nasty stuff to be around and should always be followed with a wire wheel. not to mention the extra washing before painting you will need to do.
   sgloki - Tuesday, 08/31/04 18:20:44 EDT

HF Chop saws - I had one of those and it did fine until a motor brush went bad. Couldn't find the spare set that had come with the machine so I had to order replacements. When those arrived, I went to install them and I flipped the saw over. Now what did I see taped to the underside of the base? Yeah - the original spare set.

Eventually someone liberated it from my shop (I suspect the raccoons) and I bought a DeWalt which I like a whole lot better. IMO the HF is OK but a Makita/Dewalt/Milwaukee are not that much more expensive and worth the extra if your budget reaches.
   adam - Tuesday, 08/31/04 18:36:51 EDT

rust removal with out nasty chemicals. try the reverse electrlysis. Plastic or glass container, battery charger. pure water bicarbonate soda, some sort of scaraficial anode ( I get old Stainless resturant server pans like for salad dressings) and rusry metal. several hours ( or mebbe a day ) later mostly rust free with very little effort on your part.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:16:32 EDT

Hi, I am in the middle of building my own house. It is modeled after a Williamsburg home. On the Brick Chimney, I would like to add a bit of detail I have seen somewhere. The letter "S", for our family name, made from wrought iron in about a 2 ft tall x 1 1/2 ft wide size. In a pretty plain font, with some sort of way to tie it into the masonry on the chimney (yet to be built). Please point me in the right direction.

   chris - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:18:25 EDT

Baking the carbon out of steel: Not in your lifetime. At 1750F, carbon will diffuse at the rate of about .006" per hour, assuming the atmosphere around it has a lower carbon potential than the steel. A steel bar .60" in diamter would take 50 hours to completely decarb (yeah, I know it would slow down considerably as the carbon content of the steel approached the carbon content of the atmosphere, but this is an un-nessesary complication). If it takes you 50 hours to forge a 5/8" round, you need a power hammer and a bigger forge!

Rust: Rust is a must.
   Quenchcrack - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:41:20 EDT

Chris: That sounds like a relatively easy project for an experienced smith, tell us where you live so one fairly close to you can respond so there won't be shipping issues.
   AwP - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:41:32 EDT

Thanks for the info on finishes.

I made a flower pot hook for a deck rail on my house and did a wax finish. Its been 2 years and theres no sign of rust. Thats Johnson paste wax, it is petroleum based. I live in central B.C so indoor finishes work ok outside (so far).

I am looking for a natural based finish that can be redone by the client every 3-5 years or so? I heard beeswax will melt a bit in the sun. So im not sure what the best natural oil or wax would be that can be applied cold as well? Maybe linseed oil? Anyone know?

   Hayes - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:42:16 EDT

By the way the finish is for trim board straps that go on timber frame cottages. The guys that do the timber frames sell cottages that are completely natural because some people have allergies to materials in a average house.

That is why I'm on a search for the best natural finish.
Thanks a lot,
   Hayes - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:52:30 EDT

"Baking carbon": Quenchcrack, for round stock and other thick things you're absolutely right, he mentioned being interested in bladesmithing though. With a thin blade forged close to shape decarb can be a problem, and if it's steel with a starting carbon level being rather borderline to begin with (like maybe 1060), decarb can be a huge problem. It can be avoided by leaving the edge a little thicker to leave room to grind, or by maintaining a good reducing fire, but it is still something that has to be kept in mind with blades more then most other things.
   AwP - Tuesday, 08/31/04 19:53:37 EDT

AwP, surface decarb is, of course, always a problem with blades, which is why we are admonished: If a worthy edge you'd win, forge it thick and grind it thin. However, hot rolled steel sheet usually does not exhibit more than a few thousandths of an inch of decarb because it is heated, rolled and cooled fairly quickly. This is probably a good way to minimize decarb: work fast!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 08/31/04 20:47:12 EDT

Oh, was he refering to how much decarb comes on the stock when he gets it? My mistake, I thought he meant decarb when forging.
   AwP - Tuesday, 08/31/04 21:18:21 EDT

Can you tell me how to heat quench and temper a2?
I understand preheat to 1450 then raise to 1750 and soak. Well what does soak mean. Then quench in still air.Now I don't know what to do. What does temperimmediately mean. Boy sure wished I went to class.
   roger - Tuesday, 08/31/04 21:23:54 EDT

Can you tell me how to heat quench and temper a2?
I understand preheat to 1450 then raise to 1750 and soak. Well what does soak mean. Then quench in still air.Now I don't know what to do. What does temperimmediately mean. Boy sure wished I went to class.
   roger - Tuesday, 08/31/04 21:47:53 EDT


Jock is having network connection problems due to the flooding in Richmond. Be patient, he'll answer your questions as soon as he can.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 08/31/04 21:51:41 EDT

rodger, while I am not GURU nor am I one of the guru helpers, I will take a small stab at teh answers.
Soak is leting the material sit at a specific temp for a specific time to allow it to all get to an even and uniform temp thru and thru.
Temper immediately means after quenching in still air you need to draw the temper right away. Which means you will be heating to a specific temp ( depending on what it is you are doing) Tempering will be removing some of the hardness that you just made, but will be 'adding' toughness or resiliancy

Now all this is just laymans terms. Perhaps quenchcrack will chime in.....?
   Ralph - Tuesday, 08/31/04 23:56:30 EDT

Hayes, in that case the best 'natural' finish is either stainless steel that has been passivated after forging, or ceramic.... (grin)
   Ralph - Tuesday, 08/31/04 23:58:16 EDT

Thanks Ralph,

How do you passivate stainless steel?
   Hayes - Wednesday, 09/01/04 01:02:38 EDT

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