WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

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

This is an archive of posts from August 16 - 21, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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On DIY powerhammers:

While I agree in principle that the DuPont linkage mechanical hammer is probably the most energy-efficient of the available designs for power hammers, I still think that a uktility air hammer is the way to go.

All mechanical hammers suffer from the same syndrome, that is, they hit best and hardest at a particular speed and height setting. If you change the speed or change the thickness of the stock being worked, the power drops off markedly. If you want to use top tooling in a mechanical hammer, you just about have to change the linkage height or the hammer won't function at all. This makes a mechanical hammer less than optimum for a small shop where yhou may be doing several different things on the hammer in one session. An air hammer doesn't sukffer from this syndrome, however.

The great virtue of the elegantly simple Kinyopn-style air hammer plumbing is that it cares no a hit about the stock thickness or height of top tooling - it will hit and reciprocate just fine on anything from 1/16" sheet metal to top tools that are dangerously tall, all with good solid blows. The magic is in the spring-return spool valve that changes direction when pressure reaches equilibrium within the valve. Ingenious and simple.

Yes, you will have to spend some money on parts to build a decent air hammer. But for any powerhammer that will work well, you will have to spend significant money (these days) to get sufficient anvil mass and frame mass/rigidity, so why cavil about a few hundred b ucks for decent air components? Yes too, you will need an air compressor to run an air hammer. You also need a compressor to run a spray gun to finish your work, to run air chisels, pump up the tires on the shop truck and your kid's bike, etc.

There is a reason that today's manufacturers of power hammers aren't building many mechanical hammers - air hammers are more versatile and have better control.

If all you want a power hammer for is drawing bar stock, then I suppose a mechanical hammer is the cheapest way to go, short of impressed strikers. However, once you actually use a power hammer, you immediately realize how much can be done with a really good one versus how little can be done with a limited one.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/15/08 23:00:03 EDT

thanks for giving me so much to consider if i would have known that asking such a simple question would make me so confused i wouldnt have asked it........rofl. i do really like the kinyon style hammers and think it is within my means skill and buget wise as long as i spread it out and take my time. jock i would love to buy that hammer i like anything that is old wich is why i think i gravitated to this for a hobby but i cant get 4500 bucks together without getting a divorce too..lol. i shouldnt have much of a problem scrounging parts for any of these hammers i have friends that owe favors and past jobs that i am still in good standing with particularly a recycling center with a very large scrap pile. so bits and pieces wont be a problem i also have a paper mill up the road with a very large "scrap" pile wich is more like a gold mine and the gm there is one of my friends and said i could pick through. there are a ton of air cylinders still in working condition only moved out when the mill retooled. there is also alot of heavy heavy steel old mill shafts and old frames much of wich can be broken down to managable sized pieces with wrenches. all this being said should i build an air hammer. how much air needs to be made to run one.ill take all the info anyone wants to throw at me im so confued now....lol. but honestly i just have more to think about i guess
thanks again
   j naylor - Friday, 08/15/08 23:53:46 EDT

j naylor,

The amount of air a hammer requires is fairly easily calculated from the size of the cylinder involved. The volume of the cylinder will be filled twice (once for down, once for up) for each stroke of the hammer, so thatvolume times the number of blows per minute is the volume of air you'll need, plus a bit to account for system losses. My 65# Kinyon-style hammer has a 2-1/2" by 12" cylinder, though I only use 10" of the available 12" of stroke, and my 5hp, 2-stage Ingersoll-Rand compressor (17cfm@175psig) runs it very handily. With a smaller compressor, I could still run the hammer, but I might have to wait a bit between uses for the compressor to recover the air. I used to run the hammer on a 2" diameter cylinder, and it used about the same amount of air, since I had to run it at a higher pressure to get the same power.

The 2-1/2" cylinder that I recently installed cost me about $150 at MSC, as I recall.

When building an air hammer, be sure you don't scrimp on the valving components! Get the highest cv rating you can reasonably manage. Use nothing less than 1/2" primary air lines, preferrably copper tubing rather than hose, and use a butterfly valve for the throttle rather than the standard ball valve. Likewise for the roller pilot valve - 1/4" lines and high cv rating. The difference in price is negligible and the difference in both performance and control is dramatic.

I regularly work 2" square bar with my hammer, and also small stuff like 1/4" round, to give you an idea of what it can do.

One last bit of advice: plan your hammer to have a minimum of ten inches of available stroke or more. This "headroom" allows you to use flat dies and top tools to do things you simply cannot do with a hammer that has only seven or eight inches of stroke and therefore requires trick dies to get around the inability to accomodate top tools and heavy stock. You can use less stroke than you have available, but you can't use more if you don't have it to begin with. The price difference between a cylinder with ten inches of stroke (9" usable with a margin for safety) and one with twelve or even fourteen inches of stroke is about ten bucks. The volume of air consumed is a factor of the stroke you actually use, not the maximum stroke length of the cylinder, by the way.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 00:42:06 EDT

could it be plumbed with black iron instead of copper
   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 00:51:25 EDT

Air hammers, continued:

As a matter of sensible design, I'd recommend that you serioiusly consider building an air hammer using a larger diameter cylinder operating at lower pressure. The power of the cylinder is a function of the area of the piston times the pressure of the air, so a 2" diameter piston at 100 psi produces 310 pounds of push/pull (discounting the rod diameter). Likewise, a 3" diameter cylinder will produce the same force at only 45 psi. It is cheaper in both the short and long-run to use a bigger cylinder and lower pressure, since the higher price of the bigger cylinder is more than offset by the much lower price of the single-stage compressor instead of the two-stage needed for a smaller cylinder. You can get two inexpensive single-stage compressors that will supplyh all the 75 psi air you could want for less tha the cost of my 5hp 2-stage IR compressor. Lower pressure also means less leakage, less hazard and less noise.

This was recommended to me by Tony Bartol, a blacksmith and first-rate fluid systems engineer (among other things), and my experience shows it to be very true.

Big self-contained air hammers like the Beches and Nazels run at about 35-45 psi, if I'm not mistaken. They have pistons the size of trash cans, too. :-)
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 00:57:15 EDT

j naylor,

I use black iron for my general air piping, but for the power hammer copper is actually better as it allows you to make smooth sweeping bends rather than having to use tight right-angle fittings. This contributes to smoother, quicker air flow and better control and performance. With the soft copper refrigeration tubing you can use either soldered fittings or flare fittings, but do not use compression fittings - they leak, period. The copper is rated for about the same pressure as Sch 40 black iron pipe; it is what is used on 250+psi refrigeration lines, remember?
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:01:25 EDT

j naylor,

I use black iron for my general air piping, but for the power hammer copper is actually better as it allows you to make smooth sweeping bends rather than having to use tight right-angle fittings. This contributes to smoother, quicker air flow and better control and performance. With the soft copper refrigeration tubing you can use either soldered fittings or flare fittings, but do not use compression fittings - they leak, period. The copper is rated for about the same pressure as Sch 40 black iron pipe; it is what is used on 250+psi refrigeration lines, remember?
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:01:26 EDT

Ooops! Clickitis got the best of me there, it seems. Still, I guess if it was good enough to say once, it was good enough to say again, right? (grin)
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:02:57 EDT

i was going to ask about the piston size becase it would actualy be easier for me to get a large one for free than to get a smaller one and pay for it the cylinders i have access to are between 4 in with a 15 in stroke to 6 in with a 12 in stroke th were used to lift metering rolls and open calender stack on a paper mill
   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:53:52 EDT

there are also some smaller diameter ones with a long stroke that were used for opening and closing water and stock valves
   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:56:13 EDT

what would be the optimum size to use if it is something i do wind up having to buy than i would rather get the right one the first time rather than refitting or remaking over and over again

   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 01:59:35 EDT

im sorry i dont mean to be bothersome i am just very interested and any information i can gather from somebody elses trials will only help me get it right or close to right the first time
   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 02:04:17 EDT

j naylor,

The 4" x 15" would probably do fine. You'd need about 18-20 cfm @ 50 psi to run a 50-70# hammer, at a guess. You can do the calculations yourself and get the actual numbers.

If you have to buy one, I'd go with 3" diameter by 12-14" stroke. The 3" diameter cylinder will come with 1/2" ports, which is a good thing to move lots of air quickly. Smaller cylinders usually have only 3/8" ports or sometimes 1/4", forcing you to go to higher pressure.

There is a cutoff point where too big a diameter is problematic in terms of moving sufficient air quickly enough. Valves to switch that much air get expensive in a hurry, as they have to have large ports and internal passages.

If you do some poking around online you can find a calculator application that will let you plug in your cylinder dimensions, force requirements, air pressure, etc and get the related figures. You can also do it the old-fashioned way with a pencil and paper, but in any case you need to balance your components to end up with a well-behaved hammer. You're on the right track already, asking question sand assemblijng the necessary information upon which to base your decisions.
   vicopper - Saturday, 08/16/08 02:23:57 EDT

Hi and thanks for such an excellent, inspiring website.
I saw an ad for a 50kg anvil made from 'SG (spheroidal graphite Cast Iron'which made claims about the superior material its made from. It is relatively cheap, which makes me suspicious of its quality. Is this likely to be an ASO or a UBA (useful blacksmith's Anvil)
Thanks again a keep up the good work,
Dan :)
   dan smillie - Saturday, 08/16/08 07:11:32 EDT

Mechanical Hammer Blows: That is not correct, that they only hit well at one speed. That is only true of the lesser hammers without the proper adjustments AND the operators that do not know how to adjust the hammer. There is a surprising number of pros using Little Giants that cannot adjust them properly for given work and the better hammers have more adjustments than the LG.

Hammers like the Fairbanks and Bradleys with height AND stroke adjustments can be run very hard and slow high and low OR very fast high and low. But if you don't take the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to make the adjustments or don't know how then you will be running in the wrong place most of the time.

Air hammers are great machines but require a lot more HP to do the same work. They run consistently but do not hit well at the top of their strokes and cannot be made to run with rapid short blows.

The advantage of air hammers is mostly that they cost less to build having less moving parts. But as fuel costs for everything continues to be a bigger part of our overhead the more efficient mechanical hammers will be more and more attractive.
   - guru - Saturday, 08/16/08 08:00:43 EDT

Anvil Materials: Dan, There are two problems with cheap import anvils.

1) The sellers often do not know exactly what the material is and will make up ANYTHING to sell them. Recently we posted a letter from one of the makers in the U.S. about their material and I suspect those words will be showing up in many shady advertisements. In the past every cast iron anvil on ebay was being sold with phrases about superior anvils taken directly from this page.

2) There ARE heat treated ductile iron anvils made of proprietary alloys designed specifically for anvils. TFS, NC-Tool and others sell these. From long experience they have found that standard irons do not work.

There are numerous issues with anvil manufacture that make good ones expensive. It is not JUST the material, its the quality control behind its chemistry and how it is processed. It is not just the heat treatment, it is proper heat treatment for the specific alloy for the intended use.

Many anvils sold on ebay are sold cheap and the NON-REFUNDABLE shipping is more expensive or AS expensive as the product. When people look at a warrantee or misrepresentation issue they must also look at the cost of shiiping the product back as just more money thrown away.

Caveat emptor!
   - guru - Saturday, 08/16/08 08:13:21 EDT

4 cents worth(inflation) Every thing Vicopper says about air hammers is probably true, but you get what you pay for. While the construction time for an air hammer is less, the cost of a massive air compressor quickly offsets that. Then when you factor in the electric bill to run 7.5 hp versus 2hp for the same energy at the hammer head, the mechanical hammer becomes far cheaper in the long run. As far as the air hammer being better, the only feature I have seen on an air hammer, that isn't readily available on a mechanical hammer is the ability of One model, to clamp work between the tup and the sowblock. If your mechanical hammer is not performing up to snuff, it was built/designed poorly. Old (century plus) designs are not as versitle as newer designs. See ptree's model on the junkyard hammer page on this site, and or contact me for more info on modern improvements to mechanical powerhammers. One of the best benifits to a leaf spring helve design is quick change hammer height adjustment. They hit just as well at all but the MOST extreme height adjustment(say six inches or more height over anvil at bottom of hammer stroke. Vicopper, next time you are on the continent, come up to Cape Cod and try my powerhammer.
   John Christiansen - Saturday, 08/16/08 11:47:46 EDT

Hey dan you can make a good anvil for cheap or free from a broken forklift fork, cut the striaght back of it in half and weld together when i weld mine it will be 5 1/2 inches thick, and its hardened spring steel.
   - jacob lockhart - Saturday, 08/16/08 14:52:02 EDT

I must allow that John Christiansen is right about the spring helve being a super easy to set height, and that it is controllable and hits as hard as any LG of similar size. They are simple and easy to build. I built mine with a slip pully first and than upgraded to spare tire clutch. For the simplest, cheapest, JYH, a guided ram, spring helve with a tire clutch will be very hard to beat.

Jock you are sold on the Dupont mechanism. Having now run about 5 or 6 LG's with the Dupont, and maybe at least one of those was in tune, I do not see any gain in applied hammer force over the spring helve. The long leaf of the spring helve takes a S shape and stores energy and delivers a good slap. I find the tire clutch far easir to feather, and it is easier to deliver soft blows than any LG I have run. Granted I have not run that many. For free hand, no top tools work I like my mechanical with combo dies. I would love to have an air utility right next to it for top tool work.
   ptree - Saturday, 08/16/08 15:28:44 EDT

I have some old "branding irons" I would like to use to burn designs into wood. I've tried my gas grill to heat them but they don't get hot enough. What would you suggest I could do to heat them up without ruining them and at a low cost? Is a gas forge the answer. I don't want to spend a lot.

Thanks much for your advice.

   Robert Winer - Saturday, 08/16/08 16:54:23 EDT

A charcoal fire. ( not the briquettes) get a fire going and when you have a bed of coals stick it in there and give it some air with a hair dryer that should get it fairly close to a glowing cherry red, if your not going to use them too much this should work fine, but if you plan on using them alot you can build this easily and it will work great
   - Jacob Lockhart - Saturday, 08/16/08 17:18:37 EDT

Heads Up: Quad-State 08: Thermite welding of RR track; Power Hammer Techniques - Phil Cox; Knifemaking - Doug Noren; Traditional - Bob Alexander; Iron Smelting - Darrell Markewitz; Armor - Robb Martin; Air Tools - Glen Horr; Comtemporary - Jack Brubaker and Beginning & Basic - Lorelei Sims. September 26-28.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 08/16/08 19:37:34 EDT

john chrstiansen, where on the cape are you in land or on the island i would like to see your hammer. i also live in mass and have been trying to find anyone close to local to pick there brains. im in central mass but wouldnt mind taking a trip down to the cape. i am new to all of this and im need of ideas. im the type that needs to learn new things on a daily basis or i consider that day a loss...lol not a loss but i like to learn as much as i can.
   j naylor - Saturday, 08/16/08 19:37:42 EDT

J Naylor, I am in Yarmouth, the hammer is in Harwich, another ten miles or so to the east.
   John Christiansen - Saturday, 08/16/08 20:26:43 EDT

I was looking for a leather apron to wear while blacksmith, but I can't seem to find any leather blacksmith aprons that fit what I'm looking for. Can anyone recommend a quality leather apron for blacksmithing thats not super expensive?
   - John L. - Sunday, 08/17/08 00:30:34 EDT

j naylor- I also am in central mass (worcester) and have a shop, etc. I agree with John with the advantages of a spring helve hammer. I got appalachian plans, and built with some scrap steel and some new steel total cost was around $400 including nuts and bolts and whatnot. Contact me and I'll show you some stuff if you're nearby. If the name-email link doesn't work for you look me up on internet yellowbook under Ferromorphics
   Josh S - Sunday, 08/17/08 00:33:40 EDT

Jacob Lockhart: I offer this advise because I had very sinilar questions about 14 years ago. An anvil can be any mass of metal, relatively flat and heavey enough that it dosen't junp around on a stump or anvil stand. When I started forging blades I was given a shrimp boat gear that came off the winch. It was is 4" thick and 21" diameter. I havent weighed it but I'n guessing it was 100 lbs or more. It worked fine for over six months, until I found a proper 101 lb Peter Wright. My forge was made from an old cast iron wood burning stove, lined with firebrick and had 2" black iron pipe plumbed along the botton, with an elbow turned up to the firepot. which was lined with fire brick.
, and coated with refractory clay Not construction brick or concrete block (they will spall). For air I used my handy yard blower and could make the whole thing get almost white hot...burnt up a bunch of coal that I picked up on the RR tracks leading to the two mill here locally and melted around 10 rail road spikes while trying to forge knives. I was deep in the learning curve, but the folks here at Anvilfire got me going in the proper direction. I switched to my wife's hair drier after adding two feet to the pipe so's not to butn up my wife's hair dryer...well I melted it anyway, though it did work well for a while. Had to buy her a new one. Long story short and the main point is. you can use any number of things to get started hammering hot steel. Once you have accomplished that, you can continue to search for proper blacksmithing equipment. There are breakdrum forge plans right here on Anvilfie. I built one from a garbage truck drum. It is deep and wide and makes a great welding fire. I was still picking up coal dropped from the RR cars going to the paper mills...free.I now use LPG forges because of my location but now and then I fire up the break drum forge just to make there eyes water over on the fancy golf course across the street, Point is, if you have the desire you will find a way however crude or rudimentary to get started. I made a few decent blades using that shrimp boat gear and wood burning stove forge until I could do better. Do it for the joy of doing it and you cant go wrong.Know that the good folks here at Anvilfire will always answer questions and give good advise to help you along. I would recomend basic bladesmithing books like "The Hand Forged Knife" by Karl Schroen, basic understandable reading. very informative. Also Alexander Weygers "The Complete Blacksmith" which covers just about everything including cutting tools. Pattern Welded "Damascus comes after you have mastered the skills needed to make a servicable edged tool from a plain carbon steel. I am not being critical, but honoring your desire to work hot steel.
Best Regards Ya'll,
Randall Guess
Amelia Island Forge, Florida
I pray Fay will Stay Away

   R Guess - Sunday, 08/17/08 00:55:47 EDT

John L,

You can find hides at Tandy Leather Factory which has retail outfits throughout the country, and they put out a catalog. Cowhide is OK if it is free from holes. Once you have the hide, cut to fit. I personally don't like the bib and neck straps. Some old aprons were simply a hide with about a 3" beltline fold. It was tied with a thong going around the waist under the fold, and the top of it was worn above the belly button. Farriers' aprons were sometimes thick mule hide with the vertical split and they fit lower on the hips.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 08/17/08 10:19:37 EDT

R Guess-- Bravo! Great post re: gear and attitude! Ought to be archived. Good luck with Fay!!
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 08/17/08 11:11:14 EDT

What ounce (thickness) and type of leather should I buy to make the apron? I've decided I just want a waist apron.
   - John L. - Sunday, 08/17/08 11:14:13 EDT

Thank you for the advice. I will use all the info given. This is really an amazing art. Thanks for a site like this.
   jim - Sunday, 08/17/08 12:06:29 EDT

John L.

My smith's apron averages 6 ounces (3/32") and is dark brown in color and vegetable tanned. It's length is a tad lower than my mid calf. My old farrier's apron averages 10 ounces (5/32") and is chrome tanned. I believe that either type of tanning is OK for our use.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 08/17/08 13:05:53 EDT

Aprons and a story: Mine is a welding apron (they are cheap) that I cut about 8" from the bottom. I do not like an apron that goes below my knees. I've worn the same apron for over 30 years and have had to replace the straps twice.

I wear my leather apron for mechanical protection while buffing, smithing and welding. Stains on them indicate that most of the use protecting clothes is from the belly up.
If I were doing heavy smithing I would look into cotton as noted above. Farriers wear split leather aprons that often start at the waist to protect them from exposed nails while shoeing. That waist down apron you want is a farriers apron.

There are aprons and there are aprons. One heavy work industrial smith said that all they use in industry is cotton. This is because leather is too heavy, conducts and holds heat (it will burn you and keep burning you until you get out of it) and is too stiff once overheated. While doing his demo his cotton apron caught on fire from the radiant heat and he continued to work while several members of the the audience were trying to get his attention. When he was finished with the task he calmly patted out the flames, looked at the audience with disdain, mumbled something like, "You dumb SOB's" and then said, ". . don't you think I KNOW when I am on fire? I wouldn't get ANYTHING done if I stopped every time I caught fire!"

He continued by saying that cotton aprons were consumables that regularly burned or smoldered away until they were too short and were replaced about once a week in his industry. Leather was never used for the reasons above.

As a smith and a welder you to will find that you cannot flinch every time a white hot sputter ball or red hot scale lands on you or will never get anything done. Having certain clothing catch fire is another of those things. . . just be darn sure it is slow burning dense cotton.

Under extremely hot working conditions such as in foundries they use multi-layer aprons, gauntlets and spats covered with reflective foil, follower by insulation and then sometimes leather for durability. Gloves with foil on the backs are common.

   - guru - Sunday, 08/17/08 15:17:05 EDT

When I worked in the cast iron foundry, I learned that molten iron splatters will bounce off of your skin due to the steam that forms when it touches your sweaty skin (assuming you are actually sweating and not just "manageing" something). Slag, on the other hand, will stick to your skin and give you a 3rd degree burn real fast. Note that slag is not the same as scale.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/17/08 17:34:18 EDT

John L, look for welders leathers at a welding supply shop. If you find the apron too long, cut to to the length you want. Also, Harbor Freight sells really cheap welding leathers. I think the leather comes from squirrels.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 08/17/08 17:38:06 EDT

I made an apron out of cotton duck. It's a full length, down to ankles, with split legs. I velcro the bottoms loosely around the ankle.

What I like is it's pretty light and I don't sweat quite as much. With the full length legs I get to wear shorts, and that, and a fan, helps keep a little cooler in the summer.
   - Marc - Sunday, 08/17/08 20:24:05 EDT

Thanks for the advice.
   - John L. - Sunday, 08/17/08 21:11:12 EDT

Sad to say that several years ago Tandy leather closed all of it's retail locations. Now there are just a few shops selling limited selections of their goods and you can purchase off of their website. Like many other wonderful stores of the past their products have been outsourced and are no longer of the quality they used to be. A little online research provides a much better selection of leather and associated supplies from other vendors that are better and at similiar prices. I miss Tandy stores almost as much as hardware stores that sell good tools.
   Robert Cutting - Sunday, 08/17/08 22:28:27 EDT

Apron, what apron? I forge in shorts and a T-shirt. I do wear a jacket for electric welding, as I have sufficient skin cancers already. I hate it though, its too damn hot here to be wearing a jacket.

Small burns, scrapes and cuts are just a fact of life if you're a working smith. If you bundle up in all the protective clothing and other gear so you're immune from all hazards, you'll probably just croak from suffocation and heat stroke under all that gear.

By all means, wear eye protection and use hearing protection when using loud power tools or if you have one of those offensive ringing anvils. Beyond that, I have found that a bit of care will avoid most of the larger scars, and the small ones only add character.
   vicopper - Sunday, 08/17/08 22:35:20 EDT

Ken, were is this Quad-State show every one talks about ?
I'm thinking I'd to put it on my wish list for vacations when my kids are a little older.
Sounds like quite a line up for this year. Is it as fully packed like this every year?
   - merl - Monday, 08/18/08 00:00:01 EDT

I did production welding for two years at a big shop that made rolls for the paper industry. I would stand for ten hours a day at the pit (10 feet deep by 5 feet around with a turn table at the bottom of it) and shrink together and then weld to pressure vessal standards with 7/64 flux core on a water cooled gun. I usualy ran from 500-800 amps and it wasn't uncommon to go through 60-80 lbs. of wire in a shift. I had a piece of 2'x3'x1/4 steel plate to lean up aginst so I wouldn't get vertigo and fall in the pit, a very heavy one piece leather apron, cotton half coat and sleaves with aluminized pads above the wrist, long gaunlet welding gloves with aluminized backing and aluminized pads on the backs of the gloves.( it was allarming to see how fast that aluminum backing would burn up) I used a thirteen shade in my helmet and wore shaded ice climbers glasses. I also wore a bandana around my neck to protect from uv's.
Hot? yes very. But I drank probably a gallon and a half of water per shift and I was so drenched in sweat that all I had to do to cool off was step in front of a fan for a minit and I was good.
I still have that apron and use it when at the forge but otherwise I'm usualy in shorts, T shirt and open toed sandles (with socks, I admit)
I like the full length apron but, somtimes wish it was split like a farriers. Like Guru said I also like it for the protection from grinders and wire wheels ect...
   - merl - Monday, 08/18/08 01:05:32 EDT

i have a few general purpose questions.....i am a Staff Sergeant in the Army and I am the one in charge of the welding shop here. I have lots of blacksmithing and welding experience but still one area trips me up. When we do inventories of our machine shop sets, there are so many types of files on it, i cant tell the difference. is there a reference for all the types of files out there? by nomenclature or shape or something? i just "inherited" this machine shop and the guys before me were just guessing, i dont want to guess. any help would be great. also, what is a good reference for how alumium is graded. i know how steel is and can read and understand the numbers behind it (1095 HC, 4130, O-1, etc) but where could i find info on aluminum? i love this site, keep up the good work, and thanks from Iraq!!
   matt - Monday, 08/18/08 04:43:56 EDT

merl: It is the Quad-State Blacksmithing Conference held every year, normally the 4th weekend in September, at the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, OH (about 20 miles north of Dayton) off I-75. The host, Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil Ass'n, has a permanent shop building there. Typically the largest blacksmithing event in the world with attendance approaching 800-1000. Very family friendly. Camping and food vendors on site. Nearby motels and fast food places. Several acres of tailgate sellers. Indoor vendors (e.g., Centaur Forge). Blacksmith's Depot is typically there. Event doesn't officially start until Friday evening, but some folks come in early in the week to catch the tailgate sellers coming in.

Anvilfire.com typically has a canopy set up.

Tailgate area seems to alternate years between lots of postvises and anvils.

Bob Cruikshank will have the SOFA/Zeller firepots there. VERY heavy duty.

No alcohol on fairgrounds rule is pretty well a wink and a nod. Kept to campsites or well disguised.

Expanded program this year over past. Typically they have someone doing knives, traditional, beginner, work involving a power hammer and something different. Same program on Saturday and Sunday, but event is pretty well over by noon on Sunday as folks head home.

For a registration package send a postcard to: Quad-State 08, P.O. Box 24308, Huber Heights, OH 45424-0308. You can also register at the event.

I believe this is something like the 25th Quad-State so they have the routine down pretty well pat.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 08/18/08 08:21:11 EDT


Welcome back to the land of the living.


There is a little bit of file info on http://www.cooperhandtools.com/brands/nicholson_files/file_terminology.pdf
   Frank Turley - Monday, 08/18/08 08:23:32 EDT

Categorizing Files: Matt, There are literally hundreds of types of files. While there are general types there are also many special and proprietary types. They also come in various sizes and lengths. The coarsness of the cut is generally proportional to the length for every type.

For general classification files come in different shapes (cross sections), are straight of tapered, have one of several cuts, several coarsenesses and are sized by length. Manufacturers catalogs would be helpful.

The shapes are:

Flat or Equaling
Rectangular (Pillar)
* Warding
Round edge flat
Half round
Triangular or three square
Barrette (a flat triangle)
Crossing (two curved surfaces with v edges).
Diamond or slitting
Knife (two tapered faces and a "safe" back)

Each of the above can be straight or tapered. Those with a flat uncut side may be "safety" files. Safety means one surface is smooth or uncut. Occasionally folks convert their own by grinding teeth off one side.

Each of the above may be standard hand files with a short tang OR double ended. Each may be a needle file. These are long slender files with a straight bare grip that generally come in sets. Different lengths apply. Each shape can also be found in riflers (double end, different cuts on each end, curved or bent) in different sizes OR smaller die sinker riffle files (look sort of like dental tools).

Cuts are single smooth, bastard (double cut) and rasp. Each can vary in coarsness and there is no real standard the grades varying from English and metric countries and by manufacturer.

Often files are named for the trade they were designed for but there is too much crossover for this to have any real meaning. Riflers ranges from the very small used by jewelers and dies sinkers, to medium called silversmiths and end with large sculptor's riflers. Needle files are made in sets as short as 3 or 4" and are called machinist's or jeweler's needle files but also some in lengths up to 8 and 10 inches.

* Some standard shapes do not fit the general rules. A "warding file" gets its name from cutting slots in bit type keys. Warding files are a thin flat tapered smooth single cut file or varying length. Originally a locksmith's file all crafts make use of them. A new file shape is a locksmiths tumbler cut file which has two 120 degree faces and a radiused corner.

Aluminium (cutting) files have a special extra sharp coarse cut and sometimes have X shaped lines of "chip breakers". They are usually marked "Aluminium".

Rasps come in various file shapes and can be coarse or fine cut. Pattern makers rasps are specially cut with the medium coarse teeth not forming straight rows. They are one of THE most expensive files made.

SO to recap, You have shape, taper or not, cut, length, type (hand, needle, riffler). The level of coarseness is tricky because what is coarse on a 6" file is extra fine on a 12" file.

Files can also be grouped by what you cut. For soft (non ferrous) metals and fine hardwood sharp new files should be used. When these are slightly worn they work fine on steel. Dull (but not worn out) files are good for hot rasping (a blacksmith technique) and for heavy work in the wedling shop.

Files should be stored so they do not knock or rattle against each other and new files should be kept wrapped in oil soaked storage paper. But file maintenance is a whole different subject.

   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 08:50:03 EDT

Just wanted to tell you guys about a heck of a find at a flea market yesterday. Got 6 commercially made tongs for $40! 3 bolt tongs 3/4, 5/8 and 1/2, two flat stock tongs and a set of the weird double bowed tongs. The seller had a half a can of Kasenit. I was tempted to buy it, but there was another guy with a nice selection of 8 track tapes I just HAD to get.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 08/18/08 08:53:16 EDT

Files: If you have not already discovered it, the files at Harbor freight are NOT real files. They will not cut steel or wood effectively. I believe they are decoys made in India or China. I have several in my scrap bin hoping to lure in some real files from which I can forge a few good blades.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 08/18/08 08:58:50 EDT

Aprons, I like a bib apron, but don't like the loop around the neck, so I have a "teamsters" style apron (do a google, pictures can explain better than my words) also when you think you are good enough to be called a Smith cut a fringe on the bottom of your apron. http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/stories/King_of_Crafts.htm
   JimG - Monday, 08/18/08 09:11:25 EDT

Metal Info: Matt, Every shop that works in numerous alloys should have a copy of ASM Metals Reference Book from ASM International. This covers all commonly used and quite a number of odd special alloys including steel, tool steel, non ferrous and ceramics. You should also have a copy of Machinery's Handbook. Machinery's includes many metals but only the most common due to the space limitations of a general shop reference.

Aluminum has a numbering system much like steel but also like steels there are different systems. Most U.S. machinists know the AA (Aluminum Association) numbers. This starts with 1000 being pure aluminum which is found mostly as wire but occasionally as other products. It is difficult to machine due to gumminess. 2024 and 6061 are considered engineering or aircraft grades and 7074 is a hard high strength zinc alloy grade. It machines better than any other material. These numbers are almost always followed by a temper number T1, T3. . T6 which indicates the as-delivered hardness.

When cataloging metals (as well as speaking about them) you always give the authority that issued the number. SAE, AA, ASTM, AISI. . . For complete interchangability you should always use the UNS (Unified Numbering System) which incorporates ASE, ASTM and AISI numbers into one system with cross references.

AND most importantly, in any shop that does critical work material that is not identified with a permanent label or identifying mark (colors or stripes) is NOT a known alloy.
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 09:28:35 EDT

NOTE: Almost nobody speaks UNS numbers. . but if you are inventorying metals they should have this number because it helps with interchangeability.

My copy of Metals and Alloys in the Unified Numbering System Fifth Edition (1989) jointly published by ASTM and SAE was obtained from ASM International (AKA American Society for Metals).

   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 09:36:10 EDT

I recently aquired a 300# chambersburg steam hammer that I want to convert to air. Any help would be appreciated

   mike andrews - Monday, 08/18/08 09:54:25 EDT

If you use steels from many countries, they all have their own numbering system and may not have the same exact chemistry as a similar US grade. One good reference that cross references them is: Stahschlussel: Key to Steel by Autoren C. Wegst (Turtleback - Jan 31, 2006). It is available from ASM or Amazon. Note, these are not cheap books. The newest editions may run up to $400.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 08/18/08 10:14:02 EDT

Only thing to add is that we all appreciate the men and women in the forces. Any help any of us can give goes without saying.
   philip in china - Monday, 08/18/08 10:37:27 EDT

i certsainly appriciate the responses!! this site has never let me down. i will take the information gathered and put it to good use. i thank you all very much for your input.
   matt - Monday, 08/18/08 10:51:21 EDT

Steam to Air conversion: Mike, At one time Cburg had different rings for running on air but most conversions are made without. The important thing is to be sure the lubricator works (or that the hammer has one). These were often attached to the control linkage on the left side of the hammer.

The only other differences I can think of is that if you replace packing on the main drive rod or control valves you may want to use a packing rated for air rather than steam.
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 11:13:46 EDT

The double-bowed tongs sound like raku tongs, used by potters for pulling pots out of the sawdust fire.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 08/18/08 12:14:30 EDT

Thank you. I am putting a lubricator on it and will repack if necessary. I'm not sure if it has teflon or graphite packing yet. I also want to build a treadle for it as I'm often by myself in the shop. Do you have any pictures I can copy for a design?
   mike andrews - Monday, 08/18/08 12:32:11 EDT

Mike, no details. Many of these machines have a boss or stud where the control goes. Cburg used a peddle on one side of their utility hammers. IT was quite high and hard to use.

Is your hammer a two piece or one piece (utility) hammer?
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 12:48:03 EDT

looks like SOFA has the Quad-State registration form available from their website now too.

Navigate anvilfire => ABANA chapter.com => SOFA

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/18/08 13:06:58 EDT

Smithing aprons: for many years I used a wraparound leather miniskirt as a smithing apron worked a treat!

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/18/08 13:10:47 EDT

It is a one piece that came off an old Liberty ship when they scrapped them. It hasn't been used for over 20 years but is still in excellent condition. no corrosion or pitting on the rod
   mike andrews - Monday, 08/18/08 13:14:23 EDT

file into knife:

i remember reading about in the "old days" a lot of smiths and machinists took old files and made them into good knives. the files im sure were a great choice because the steel was good and it was allready in the form of a rectangular billet.

im looking at making myself a new knife out of the same stock, the issue is that due to my living in the enlisted quarters of the marine corps i dont really have acess to a forge, however i CAN use the machine tools in the auto hobby shop.

the issue is that the file i have is a file with the tang broken off but the filing is still pretty much new. will that cause damage to the tools if i try to cut and grind a blade out of the file? would you suggest wearing down the filing first?
   isaac johnson - Monday, 08/18/08 13:46:08 EDT

I am interested in detailed drawing for Ray Clontz's rubber tire power hammer.I will pay for the drawings,I am interested in making my own hammer.I saw the hammer on this web site .Thank you
   Carl Olsson - Monday, 08/18/08 14:14:31 EDT


Knife from file: Isaac, Files are made to be as hard as possible and thus are very brittle and break easily.

In all heat treated steel you must find a balance between hard and brittle or soft and ductile. To adjust the hardness you heat the steel in the range of 350°F and 1,000°F depending on the type of steel and hardness wanted. The hotter you heat the steel the softer it becomes. This is called "tempering" and is done after hardening. In the case of a file it has already been hardened to the maximum, all you would need to do is temper it IF you do not overheat it while working. Tempering can be done with a propane torch, stove top or oven.

It would be safest to temper the file prior to shaping, perhaps after grinding off all the teeth.

Files being as hard as the steel can get cannot be cut with other edged tools (saws, files, drills). If you need to use one of these processes the file needs to be annealed (heated to the transition point of about 1400°F and then cooled very slowly. Cooling is often done in an oven or by burying the hot part in an insulating medium such as wood ash, lime or vermiculite. Some tool steels and air hardening steels must be cooled in a controlled temperature oven to be slow enough. Rates vary from 20 to 50°F/hour until the part is below 1300°F.

SO, that is why knives from files are made by grinding. The maklers do not need to heat treat the blade. They also often used the original tang as the end of the knife's tang because it was already soft.

Making a blade by removing all the excess material from the bar is called the "stock removal method". This can be done from soft annealed billets that can be sawn, drilled, machined and filed OR from something like a file which can only be ground.

After grinding you can polish the blade by starting with relatively coarse wet-or-dry sand paper (180 grit) and then progressing to finer and finer grits (180, 320, 600). I have never seen any point of going beyond 600 grit unless you are going to hand polish without power and even then I would only go one more step to about 1000 grit. Depending on the grinding and polishing equipment available you may skip some steps. However, getting in a hurry leads to much more work OR poorly defined lines and rounded edges.

Bladesmiths that forge blades also do a LOT of grinding. In both forging and stock removal numerous belt and disk grinders are used. Very rarely are hard wheels used. The great advantage of belt grinders is that belts are relatively inexpensive and are easy to change. SO you start with the coarsest most aggressive belt and then progress through a series of finer grits until it is time to hand work the blade. Skilled knife grinders often go directly from the grinder directly to polishing.

Polishing with powered wheels is done using black (emery) compound to start and brown (Tripoli) compound to finish or "color". To polish by hand you use Dupont orange auto rubbing compound keeping it wet to cut, letting it dry to polish and using the last dust in the polishing rag to color.

The goal when hand crafting a blade is to have crisp fine straight ridge lines and corners. If you skip steps the lines round and become blurred and often you end with polished scratches. At each step you should see absolutely no marks from the previous steps. If there is a file cut or heavy grinding dip it MUST be completely removed by the next process. This is why you want to go through the stages.

Good luck with your project. I would recommend that you fine several files to work with
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 16:04:14 EDT

Tandy does still have *some* retail stores. At least that's what it shows on their website. For me, driving to the nearest one would have cost as much as paying for shipping, so I can't give you a first-hand verification.
   Mike BR - Monday, 08/18/08 16:29:54 EDT

While they have a few stores, they are not the same as they were in the 1970's when I bought my bellows leather from them in Richmond, VA. Even then, that was the only store in the state.
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 17:22:00 EDT

Matt, when I was in the Army I held a 63H20 and a 45B20 MOS (and an 11B20) I was in charge of the maint. sections and alot of mobile equipment.
I'll try and do a serch for you to get the correct TM or FM numbers that will give you the inventory lists along with the pictures or at least the silloett of the items. Bear in mind that you may have a bunch of stuff that somebody thought they needed but doesn't belong in your inventory. I used to know the TM numbers but it's been a few years and I don't want to steer you the wrong direction. I would think if these were standard shop sets they should have an inventory list that you signed for when you took over the section.(please tell me you took inventory BEFORE you signed?)
Any way the discriptions of the files should look something like: File, hand, mill basterd, 10 inch
File, hand, round, 10 inch
File, hand, triangle 10 inch (you know how it goes...)
If you have alot of weird files that you can't find on your lists check with the guys from small arms repair and tank turret repair, you know everybody has their own special junk for each MOS.
As far as your stock rack goes I would tell you, if you don't know what the material is, scrap it and start over. I think your TO&E should give you your basic bench stock you should carry and maintain.
Well any way, make sure you keep your caffeine level up, your eyes open, and your weapon clean, and we'll see you when you get back.
   - merl - Monday, 08/18/08 19:09:55 EDT

Hi Guru(s),
I want to put a diamond-shaped point (like a spear-point?)on the ends of the bar of a paper roll holder I'm making, but don't know how to sharpen up the angles on the back end. Is the technique at all similar to leaves? Leaves I CAN do, but I don't want the rounded base.
   Craig - Monday, 08/18/08 19:10:14 EDT

Thanks Ken, I've got that written down and in the que for the next couple of years.
Thanks Frank, glad to be back(I didn't know I was dead)
Thomas, blacksmithing in a leather mini skirt... Thanks for the visual on that one (I gess)You couldn't have called it a kilt?
   - merl - Monday, 08/18/08 19:18:18 EDT

Merl; come on out to Quad-State and see me in my lederhosen and aloha shirt in memory of Paw Paw!

I have ranks in craft disturbing mental image!

   Thomas P - Monday, 08/18/08 19:24:56 EDT

Diamond point on bar: Graig. . . you ah. . just forge it. .

Normally this type thing where there is no lead in taper (like a leaf stem) starts with a short point, then is flattened with the start at the edge of the anvil using a half on half off blow (bridging the edge of the anvil). This makes the diamond offset to one side of the bar. If you have perfect control you could align your blows with the edge of the anvil. This would center the flattened diamond.

To get the crisp lines you are looking for requires practice and a few accurate touchup blows.
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 20:38:12 EDT

Thanks again Guru. Would a "guillotine tool" be of much assistance? I'm a little embarrassed to admit to having attempted making one for my little anvil last year that flew to pieces on about the third blow. Maybe I should gather up the pieces and try beefing it up a little...
   Craig - Monday, 08/18/08 20:56:36 EDT

I understand Harbor Freight has leather aprons for $8.00, yep, eight bucks!

Speaking of leather; I recently had to replace the leather belt on my big fly press (after eight years of hard use!). Well, it's getting hard to find good, heavy industrial leather. It was explained to me that no one raises cattle in cold climates anymore. I remember when I could get real 3/8 thick leather, today anything over 3/16 is laminated. Works O.K. until one layer wears through. "Some" can still be had, I managed to get a 5/8 thick that was only two layers - not cheap!!

Converting steam hammer to air. The worst part is the valves. They are quite loose even from the factory. Steam is HOT and expanding air is very COLD. Valves usually have sleeves, so you can either make new sleeves and re-machine the valves or vice-versa. Shoot for less than .001 clearance. Many (most?) old hammers have broken rings in them. Replace with Parker Poly-pacs and have the cylinder honed. Tap air for the hammer between the compressor and the after-cooler. The hammer won't mind hot, wet air - more energy in that too.
   - grant - Monday, 08/18/08 21:06:36 EDT

Rule of thumb from Chamberburg was 25 S.C.F.M. per cwt of ram weight. I find the little utiliy hammers use more than that, probably more like 35 CFM per C. And that is IF they are tight!
   - grant - Monday, 08/18/08 21:11:44 EDT

Mike Andrews: Do not use teflon packing in a dynamic packing. Teflon has no elasticity or spring. You need a packing that will conform to the uneveness of the rod and have very low friction. I like Parker Tiger-Stripe. It' teflon impregnated and has an alternating graphite strand in the weave. They are Oh-So-Low friction and last 50X longer than the old cotton/flax/graphite packings.
   - grant - Monday, 08/18/08 21:19:33 EDT

Leather: Grant, I noticed the same when I ordered "premium" belting from McMaster-Carr. Every width was undersized, the thicknesses were under and there were splices every couple feet. Stretch was unbelievable. It was so bad I had to replace belts with nylon/leather laminated belting. This material has huge problems on fixed center (cone pulley) machines because of ambient temperature sensitivity. I've got a short splice I have to put in for cool weather and I'l need a longer one for winter. . .

   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 22:02:14 EDT

Oh yeah, I also wanted to mention that the valves can also be flame-sprayed to build them up and the sleeves bored and fitted. I also took apart a hammer that had had the valves brazed and turned to fit. The brazing and fitting seems like a pretty good way to go, IMNSHO.
   - grant - Monday, 08/18/08 22:33:25 EDT

i know this is off subject to the convorsation, and i am sorry about this, but i am buging out about finding more fule for my coal forge. ive looked every were and the only thing i found that was half good was, centaur forge and they kill you on shiping. so i was wondering if any one knew were a iowan like me could get some good and preferably cheep fule.
   Sam - Monday, 08/18/08 23:24:14 EDT

Making new valves is not hard if you have machining capability. The steam (throttle) valve is a simple rotary and the motion valve is a spool type. Corus Metals sells cast iron billet stock that would be perfect.
   - grant - Monday, 08/18/08 23:35:11 EDT

On powerhammer belting you might consider an agricultural equipment deal with the capability to make various sizes and lengths of belting, such as for round bale hay rollers.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 08/18/08 23:39:32 EDT

Sam: Go to www.yellowpages.com and do a search on Coal in Iowa.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 08/18/08 23:49:09 EDT

Ken, Their sources are the same as the big industrial guys. The problem is that leather is being exported in bulk buy deals the Japanese made in the 70's and it is mostly going to be ground up to make synthetic leather for Southeast Asia's massive shoe industry. Thick leather that little use other than for belting is now ground to powder and glued to a cloth backing.
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 23:50:58 EDT

Coal: With shipping costs between UPS, Common Carriers and the US Mail all equalizing on a per pound value shipping coal from West Virginia is going to cost you what it costs. . . The only way to get coal cheaper is to cut out the middle man and buy a large truck load AND arrange for some kind of cargo on the return trip. . .

You are going to see an increasing shift to charcoal for those that insist on solid fuel. While it is not quite as potent as coal it WAS the standard metallurgical fuel for thousands of years.

Me, I'm using propane gas and will be using charcoal for solid fuel in the future. Oil forges were economical until the recent jump in prices. Propane should be following. Everyone should refill before the winter prices set in. . .
   - guru - Monday, 08/18/08 23:58:51 EDT

If you are looking for an alternitive to leather belting to run line shaft machines ect. You might try the flat rubberised wide belting used in big round hay balers to form the bale chamber. I have not tried it myself but, have heard of others tring it with mixed results. It can be had in pre-cut length with the end conectors on or in a bulk roll.
...Thomas in lederhosen and a Hawian shirt, with a beard and tri-corner hat, hmmm...ohh, ow,OWW, my minds eye!
   - merl - Tuesday, 08/19/08 00:07:33 EDT

meri: Yeah, in many applications a sustitute can be found. In clutching applications though, I've never found anything that comes close to the qualities of leather. Whether as a slack-belt or the small contact of a powered fly-press, leather can be modulated perfectly and can transmit suprizing power. No grabbing, stuttering or undue slip. In other words; IT'S THE PERFECT MATERIAL (well, it does streach out when new).
   - grant - Tuesday, 08/19/08 01:22:19 EDT

Penn Keystone (www.penncoal.com) will sell bagged blacksmithing-grade coal by the pallet. $15 for 50-lb bag plus freight delivery. Several possibilities: Go to the area terminal and ask them to load pallet. Have pallet shipped to a local business with a loading dock. Meet the truck and manually transfer bags. For truck deliveries my local Farmers' Co-op helps me out.

At a coal company you need to ask for metallurgical-grade coal.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 08/19/08 08:37:13 EDT

Coal: try to get up a bulk deal with a blacksmithing group is probably the best way to get decent coal at a livable price. A RR carload would be best; but a truckload would be ok.

I was looking into getting a "super sack", bit more than a long ton, of good coal but it would be delivered to the next state over and I don't have a vehicle that would carry it here and the price of renting one and travel expenses make propane very nice indeed!

Guru; good warning about filling *before* the heating season starts. Which is pretty durn soon what with folks foolishly choosing to live in the norther parts of the continent!

My hat is not so nearly reputable as a tricorn and for that slur if I meet you at QS I will *SING*! (Even in church they ask if I could just lip-sync the hymns...)

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/19/08 10:43:59 EDT

Fuel Prices: With coal and other locally produced fuels we are going to see higher and higher prices based on the "world price" of oil. We are rapidly approaching the era when all economic transactions will be based on energy units or "solars" as one science fiction writer named them. Nations that produce their own energy will have highly rated economies while those that import all their fuel will be low rated economies.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/19/08 10:46:12 EDT

Belting-- Imsco Wire Rope Chain & Accsrs
Address: 5830 Midway Park Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109
Phone: (505) 344-8024 -- has heavy-duty synthetic belting, holds up well, joins with those steel zipper-like gripper clamps. The belt I got from them for my Royersford Excelsior 21 has not needed attention in 10 years. Helpful folks.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 08/19/08 11:58:19 EDT

Thanks Grant
You have lots of very valuable info. Do you have a suggested source for rings? Also, I'm not familiar with what cwt stands for. I have a 5hp compressor with about 360 gal of storage for air. What pressure do you recommend using for the hammer?
   mike andrews - Tuesday, 08/19/08 13:54:07 EDT

CWT is the old hundred weight system just like old English Anvils. with each cwt equal to 112 pounds.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/19/08 15:34:14 EDT

Air Hammer HP: Chambersburg specified 10HP for a 100 pound Utliity hammer. Larger hammers had 30HP and up gasoline engine powered compressors. The OEM pressure was 100 PSI but you could use a little more.

I have a 350 Niles Bement that I plan on running on a Sulair 150 (150 CFM @100 PSI) portable air compressor. This has about a 30 to 40HP gasoline engine.

Unless you are very lucky and have industrial duty power you cannot run over 10HP on most domestic/rural power lines. Even at that load they ask you to use special reduced voltage starters to reduce surge on the line.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/19/08 15:57:09 EDT

Hello, this is more of a metallurgical question than anything however i think im in the optimum enviroment here to ask. Im building a tool for burosilicate glass working, it will be a grabbing tool that will allow the glass worker to finish his or her piece by clenching the hot glass so it may be pulled off a pontii. The design and machine work i have handled however id like to make the clenching end out of stainless steel. other designs on the market are made of carbon steel and are hence more subject to corrotion. these "tongs" must have the properties of spring steel. This is my problem. What is an appropriate corrotion resistant material that can be fabricated then treated to have that ductility you see with spring steel? Any advise would be great thank you
   Chris - Tuesday, 08/19/08 18:16:34 EDT

mike andrews: While Thomas is correct, in modern American parlance it just means 100 pounds C=100, wt for weight.

As Guru noted, these hammers take a lot of air. What does it take for your compressor to fill that tank? 25-30 minutes? So, you could get a short work cycle every half hour or so. 10 hp would be a lot better as most 10 hp machines are high duty/high output. But still not nearly enough! You need a 25hp electric or 35 hp gas to get the required 100CFM for continuous opperation. Yeah, 100 psi is about right.

Polypac rings are availible from any Parker pnumatic dealer. For air opperation remove the "O" ring from the Polypacs. I couldn't find the "Tiger stripe" packing. Use any sintered teflon/graphite packing.

   - grant - Tuesday, 08/19/08 18:26:38 EDT

You have all been very helpful. I have a much better insight about what I need to make this happen.
Thank You

   mike andrews - Tuesday, 08/19/08 18:55:28 EDT

Glass Working tools: Chris, Often good plating is a better solution than going with stainless. That said, the properties of stainless make it tough to bend and work but it will fail at lower strain than steel. So thinks like stainless eye bolts and lifting devices are derated about 20% less than steel.

There are many varieties of stainless but the most common are 303, 304, 305 and 308 which are all non-hardening. They are quite tough and 304 is used for cold shaped springs. Then you have 440 and the cutlery grade stainlesses which can be heat treated to a very hard condition.

Stainlesses do not have the properties of top performing carbon steels but are fairly close. The big difference is the cost of fabrication. Everything about working stainless is more difficult. It takes a lot more pressure to shear or punch, it is hard on drills, chips are long and wiry and hard on the worker, finishing is difficult because all stainlesses are abrasion resistant. AND, if you use a heat treatable stainless the heat treating is more complicated than carbon steel. Things made of stainless often cost 5 to 10 times more than those made of carbon steel.

If you are in the position to experiment I would make the tool you want from 304L stainless and test it. Testing and trial and error is often cheaper than paying a metallurgist.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/19/08 19:07:04 EDT

Hey thanx! that was fast. I am in a position to experiment, and will. One other question is ; what is a good resource to compare 'modueles of elasticity' ?

   Chris - Tuesday, 08/19/08 19:16:39 EDT

Chris, The modulus of elasticity (E) is almost identical for all ferrous alloys. What this means is that "springyness" is identical in mild steel, spring steel or stainless steel. What is different is the point that the steels yield and do not return to shape. This translates into low performance and high performance springs. A low performance spring can not travel as far as a higher performance spring of the same configuration.

Modulus of Elasticity (29.8*10^6 PSI) is one of those surprising mysteries of steel.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/19/08 20:12:46 EDT

Whoops. . a good reference to steel engineering values is the ASM Metals Reference Book. You may also find some of the same information in Machinery's Handbook.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/19/08 20:14:57 EDT

Is 7.12 % ash and .75 Sulfur and 18% volatile matter and 80 % fixed carbon good coal? high
   - Jacob Lockhart - Tuesday, 08/19/08 22:23:23 EDT

Sorry about the random "high" i rephrased my question and left it on accident
   - Jacob Lockhart - Tuesday, 08/19/08 22:24:14 EDT

Jocob Lockhart: Yes. Those are basically the specs. from Penn Keystone for soft (bituminous) blacksmithing coal. For hard (anthracite) blacksmithing coal they cite 9.58% ash, .59% sulfur, 4.36% volatile matter and 95.17% fixed carbon.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 08/19/08 23:30:09 EDT

Stainless steel for high temp's tools. Having worked for many years with stainless steels for high temp chemical service in valves, my choice for steel if I could find it would be a 410SS or 416SS. Both have excellent high temp strenght and corrosion resistance, although the 416 is a little touchy in Sour gas environment such as H2S laden natural gas. Both are forgable, both are hard to weld. If you find the 300 series hard to forge the 400 series are a little easier as they are only 13% chrome and about 3 to 5% nickle. They heat treat well, and can be heat treated much easier than say 430 or 440.
We used these steels in valve trim operating at continous 1500-1650F.
The 416 is the "free machining" grade and is a lot easier to thread and finish, but anneled both machine well. The 410 works well and is quite tough at a quench and tempered 42-43Rc. We typically quenched in water, and tempered back to the 42-43.
   ptree - Wednesday, 08/20/08 05:47:16 EDT

Mike Andrews: The factory makes these hammer loose ON PURPOSE. Besides the fact that the valves grow a little with heat from the steam, they need a constant flow of fresh hot steam going through them to prevent condensation. If they were tight, any idle period would cause loss of heat to the castings and then the steam. This causes major condensation. That means water! Enough water in the bottom of the cylinder and bringing the ram down smartly can burst out the side of the cylinder! I've seen hammers like that. Can always happen when starting up especially on a cold day. Hammers operating on steam need to be warmed up gently.
   - grant - Wednesday, 08/20/08 15:32:41 EDT

What would be better the bitumunous or anthracite for Making stuff like flint strikers, axe heads, knives, and old fashoined tools?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Wednesday, 08/20/08 16:49:03 EDT

Oh sorry but 1 more random question, bronze and brass can be forge welded right? Or do they just have to be cast or worked out?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Wednesday, 08/20/08 16:51:37 EDT

Grant, I say AMEN, AMEN and another AMEN brother, re: warming steam hammers up gently. In fact all steam equipment and even steam pipelines need gentle warm ups for the same reasons.
At the steam drop forge shop, we had 8" steam mains to feed the shop, and they had a bypass of a nice little 1" flow control needle valve. This was cracked at a minimum all the time and when we started up after the weekend, a helper came in 2 hours early to open the bypass slowly till steam was seen at the vent, and then the vent was closed and the main 8" valve was slowly opened.
Never slam a steam valve open on anything cold.
   ptree - Wednesday, 08/20/08 18:00:20 EDT

A small revision to the above post on $10 SS. We quenched in Oil, not water. Thought about that one all day. We did do a lot of water quench, just not aon the 410SS.
   ptree - Wednesday, 08/20/08 20:24:59 EDT

Coal: Jacob, Generally top grade bituminous is best. Anthracite is much more difficult to work with but when that is all that is available folks use it.

Brass: Technically ALL metals can be "forge welded" but for practical purposes copper alloys are not. Once billets are cast they can be forged. However, in the Japanese Mokume' Gane' process pieces of copper, brass, bronze and silver are laminated by heating the the stack until the lower temperature alloy is about to melt and are then pressed together. This is actually a type of braze welding or hard soldering but it can be done in the forge.

Copper alloys can be welded by gas and TIG processes. I use an O-A gas torch to build up pieces of heavy brazing rod or make welds for basket twists which are forged to dress and then twisted.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/20/08 21:01:10 EDT

Imainly use a 2lb.cross pein hammer and I have heard about the Hofi style hammer. Could you tell me the Pros and Cons of this hammer? I have a history of tennis elbow and I was told that this hammer would help, but is it worth the price and where is the best place to get one if it would be worth it.
   kenneth - Wednesday, 08/20/08 21:42:44 EDT


The hammer techniques make all the difference. Go to ebay and buy the dvd. The hammer is worth the money go to Big Blu and buy one. Top right pull down menu will take you to the website for Blu. I am just stating the facts. I am not going to talk about pro's and con's because the hammer techniques are a winner for your problem and nothing else is.
   - Rustystuff - Wednesday, 08/20/08 23:05:10 EDT


I will differ with the Guru on the subject of how Mokume Gane works. While some crude Mokume is done by "sweating" the metals together, (getting them to the point where the surface is at them melting point but not yet up to the fluidus point), the better process is a true solid-state diffusion bonding process. In solid-state diffusion bonding, the metals exchange stuff at the molecular level rather than being glued together by liquified metal.

The various metals are scrupulously cleaned so there is absolutely no oxidation and then sandwiched together in a press and subjected to high pressure clamping. The clamped stack is then brought to a temperature that is well below the melting point of any of the metals and held there, ideally in an inert atmosphere, until the combination of pressure, temperature and time causes the metals to conjoin at their surfaces. If the pressure is sufficiently high and the metals are clean enough and surfaced to where they are very, very flat so that they contact one another as completely aspossible, this diffusion bond can actually be accomplished at room temperature.

The advantage of the solid-state process over the sweating process is that the boundaries between the differeing metals are much sharper, cleaner and less likely to have unjoined areas that may cause problems during later forming operations. The disadvantage, of course, is that solid-state bonding takes higher pressures, chemically clean metal and, ideally, an inert-atmosphere (or vacuum) chamber in which to do the whole process.

For further information on Mokume Gane, I would recommend to you the books of Steve Midgett.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/21/08 00:26:39 EDT


I neglected to note in my previous post that forge-welding of copper alloys is almost certain to fail due to the high affinity that copper has for oxygen. That and the fact that with most of the alloys the solidus and fluidus points are close enough together that by the time you get it hot enough to weld, you have just melted it into a puddle or at least gotten it so soft that when you hit it with a hammer it deforms so severely that bonding is impossible due to shear forces on the joint.
   vicopper - Thursday, 08/21/08 00:30:49 EDT

In my classes, I use the same terminology as vicopper, "solid state" and "bonding", when talking about forge welding steel. I think these terms were first used in "Scientific American" articles a few years back. Any molten surface material in ferrous forge welding is either melted scale or melted scale + flux. In a coal forge situation, there may be some dirt mixed in, which shows up as "slag inclusions" when photomicrographed. From what I understand, the steel surface itself is not molten; it is in a solid state. The old timers said that the material was "pasty" when ready to weld.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 08/21/08 07:30:59 EDT

For way more information on the subject may I commend to your attention "Solid Phase Welding of Metals" by Tylecote

   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/21/08 11:35:00 EDT

Thomas - good recommendation on books. Frank - I worked for Elkem from 1992 to 1995 doing solid state refining of electrolytic chromium into vacuum grade chromium. At the Marietta Ohio facility, (no longer Elkem by the way) we constantly refferred to solid state processing and bonding - and in fact had used the terminology from when the plant was built in the 1950's to produce Simplex Low Carbon Ferrochrome by a similar process - neither term is new in the metallurgical world.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 08/21/08 12:24:09 EDT

Hey, I'm really into the artist type stuff, but I love functionality too. So, by way of explanation, I would call myself apprentice level, I'm into my third or fourth iteration of my ground forge designs and I'm gonna light my ultra-teeny firebrick forge quite soon. Anyway, to the point. I like to create objects... boxes, games, shelves, etc, and I incorporate metal, wood, ceramic(eventually), whatever. I love to work forge stuff into these... okay, the question.
We've all heard, I suppose, about walking sticks or staves being 'shod'. Hr'm K. I've been carving this walking stick as a gift for a while now. I'm doing some inlay stuff, cool, but I wanted to experiment with 'shodding' the tip. In my research I've read the accounts of how the elders would rim up wagon wheels, and that seems to be the best bet to go with. I'd have to re-go-over the exacts, but I was wondering if anyone had any ideas on it?
(To rewind I realize I may need to define my usage of the verb 'to shod' by which I mean to wrap a metal band around the bottom tip of the stick to prevent splintering, take abuse, what have you)
The stave is a dense grain, post oak or eastern cedar(it doesn't have the typical red heartwood, but it is light and dense like cedar). I have access to standard mild steels, plus some weirder, industrial castoff stuff (that would be from the dad who helped design the M1A1 Abrams tank and can weld aluminum foil with a TIG). I could drop a little cash if necessary.
Also, If this question has been raised recently I apologize, I tried to search the site but didn't get any hits and I don't get much time online.
Well, enough of the novel.
thanks- josh
   josh - Thursday, 08/21/08 12:26:21 EDT

Thanks to Jock Dempsey for the advice on the "Modern Power Hammer". I am also seeking advice on the value of hardie tooling in good condition.
   Joe Hartman - Thursday, 08/21/08 12:37:01 EDT

Josh, your best bet is just making an open or closed ferrule and inletting it onto the end of the stick. Whatever metal you want can be used. Heat-shrinking a forge-welded band onto a small stave will most likely result in a burnt-off tip. I've only "shod" one staff, a seven-foot dogwood monstrosity, using a bronze pipe cap threaded and epoxied on. I regularly put sterling silver bands on pipes, and cast pewter mouthpieces on pipe tomahawk handles. For a walking stick I'd stay with brass, bronze, steel, or iron for the sake of wear.

Roll a thin band of your metal to the same size as your stick, weld/braze/solder the joint, and add a tip if you want, also welded/brazed/soldered, attach to an inlet on the tip of the stick with pins, glue, epoxy, cutler's resin, or whatever floats your boat. Pretty simple, in the grand scheme of things.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 08/21/08 12:40:35 EDT

Josh, As Alan noted this is usually a cold fit ferrule. Long tapers hold quite well. Often on something like this there is a band(the ferrule) and a seperate end plate that may be made like a large nail and driven in after the ferrule is installed, thus tightening the assembly and putting a metal tip on the staff or cane.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/21/08 13:40:03 EDT

Anvil Tools: Joe, You need to be more specific on the anvil tooling. I have a large collection of it and almost every piece has a different size shank. If your goal is to use it with a single anvil as a set the shanks should be the same size or at least fit. However, they can also be used in vises, swage blocks and stake plates.

Another thing you see is heavy rust and corrosion on some tools of this type. A good usable tool may sell for $20 to $30 but half rounds with excessive corrosion may only be worth $5. Fullers and other convex shapes can be easily dressed but those indside curves are different. Some of these tools are available new and you should check those prices before making offers on old tools.

Marked tools with a brand name on them are worth more to collectors than those without.

I've also seen collections that had many duplicates of the same tool. If you are in the buy and sell business this is fine but if you are looking for a set those duplicated do little good.

Then there are the odd-ball collector's items that you may never use in your lifetime. I have a couple top tools that are yet to be identified much less have a use. Then there are the one-offs that also served some unrecognizable purpose. . .

So the value is dependent partially on your needs or expectations as well as the individual tools. Collections of things often sell for less per item than the items would sell for alone. BUT, good collections also sell for more as collections.

   - guru - Thursday, 08/21/08 14:02:54 EDT

do they use arsenic in the production of ductile iron castings?
   patrick plesha - Thursday, 08/21/08 15:44:09 EDT

Patrick, not that I know of. Usually a magnesium product is introduced into the iron in the ladle or the mold. This causes the carbon to form graphite nodules reducing the dissolved carbon in the iron.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/21/08 16:04:56 EDT

Josh, I always used a 1' length of 3/4" or so copper tubing for the ferrule tip. Leave the wood exposed on the end for tractction. The ferrule will keep the staff from splitting and wearing. I used a couple of small nails to keep it in place. A bit of epoxy might help, too.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 08/21/08 16:42:09 EDT

im working on a knife and i,ve decided to try and install a stone of somesorts on the pommel i want to use a copper rivet but i dont know what type of drill bit i should use. i.ve benn an apprentice for about a year and a half the man teaching me has been doing it since he was 14 i think hes close to sixty now. the why he teaches is from 1840s era and he has few modern tools he has every blacksmith tool you could need and makes what he dosent have any advice would be appriciated email me if you need to know more
   Jason - Thursday, 08/21/08 17:44:18 EDT

Holes in Stones: Jason, Mounting stones is done with either glue in a socket or mounting fingers (prongs) that wrap sightly around the corners of the stone. A lot depends on the shape or cut of the stone.

Normally you do not drill gem stones, not even cheap ones. To drill a hole in a stone you need a bit with something harder than the stone. Diamond dust is often used with water and a soft shaft that the diamond embeds into. Relatively soft stones can be drilled with carbides.

This is a subject that is a specialty of folks that cut gemstones.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/21/08 18:43:44 EDT

I suspect Vicopper will weigh in as well, but I think most stones set on knives and swords were set in bezels. A loop of the correct size to tightly encircle the stone is made from bezel wire. This is thin metal, perhaps 1/4" wide by about 32 gage or thinner. The bezel is just taller than the edge of the stobe for a cabrocon type stone and solderer to the base. A bit of soft paper as a cushion is placed under the stone and the bezel is gently burnished over the edge of the stone. For a faceted stone such as a diamond ruby etc a double bezel is made the first is inside the taller outer bezel. It acts as a shoulder for the OD of the faceted stone to sit on and again the taller bezel is pushed over with a burnisher to seat the stone. Yet another method is to drill a hole, with a shoulder and then push up a bezel with a little impact tool.
Remember that a faceted stone with the back captured, ie no hole thru to light will often be dull and lifeless. If the back of a standard faceted stone is set in glue it will not refract, and again the stone will look like a chip of coke bottle.
This from a guy who in the past century actually set several stones by these exact methods to learn how from a German master Gold Smith. He then said and I quote. "Now that you know how, you don't ever have to do this again, let the stone setters do it, and when they break the stupid stone they buy a new one, not you"
   ptree - Thursday, 08/21/08 18:57:29 EDT

Josh, My elderly mother had a stick that somebody shortened for her and managed to splinter the end. It was a lovely tight grained african hardwood like ebony. So she wanted a ferrul fitting. Eventually I put her in touch with a friend of mine who is a great rifleman. He had a whole load of old rifle cases one of which was just the correct size to saw off and mount as the new tip for the stick. Having previously decapped it a small nail went into the primer pocket to hold the whole thing in place. To the best of my knowledge it is still there and certainly looks very neat! Just make sure you carve the stick in a readily available rifle calibre!
   philip in china - Thursday, 08/21/08 19:41:07 EDT

Newbies getting familiar with various steels and aluminum.
I suggest getting hold of a metal suppliers catalog. While certainly not as comprehensive as the ASM stuff, they should be a LOT cheaper, (free? with a little scrounging).
Something like a Jorgensen catalog will give lots of perfuntery (Miles?) info on various common steel alloys and grades of aluminum as well as providing familiarity with the names and nomenclature.
Possibly the guruissimo may have mentioned once or twice that a man can learn a lot from books.
   - Tom H - Thursday, 08/21/08 21:19:21 EDT


What Jeff (ptree) said is absolutely on the money. Semi-=precious stones such as turquoise, jade, lapis lazuli, tec, are generally cabochon cut ( a shallow dome profile) and set in a bezel. The bezel material is generally soft, either fine silver or high-karat gold, so that when burnishing the bezel closed you don't need to exert so much force that a slip witht he burnishing tool will fracture the stone. Southwest Native American silversmiths traditionally used a bit of tobacco as the buffer under their turquoise, by the way.

Faceted stones, again as Jeff noted, need light from all sides to properly refract. Thus, they are generally set in prongs above the backing or in recessed holes, anything that allows the back of the stone to be kept clean. A perfectly cut stone *shouldn't* need any light from the rear to have full refraction/reflection, but few are perfectly cut and therefore benefit from light entering the rear as well as the front. Stepped bezels as Jeff described often have relief cutouts in them to allow for cleaning and/or light entry, and the top edge is often "serrated" with a file to minimize the amount of the stone that is occluded.

With big bucks stones I wholeheartedly second what Jeff's mentor said - let the guy who does it seventeen times a day for a living do your stone setting.

Real jewelers, silversmiths and craftsmen frown upon the use of glue to "set" stones. There is an art and a skill to proper stone-setting and it is worth learning if you want to work with the sparklies. The only stones I know that are customarily set with glue are rhinestones on fairy princess tiaras. :-)

Setting a stone into the pommel of a knife is placing it in a highly vulnerable position and I would suggest giving some thought to designing a mount that offers the stone some protection from direct impact. Perhaps a recess with countersunk facets to reflect light into the stone, or heavy high prongs to act as a buffer, or something similar. If the knife is dropped, as we all know who have ever tried to catch one, the sharp part will inevitably turn up and the pommel will hit the deck first. Unless, that is, someone who has never heard the old adage that "a falling knife has no handle" actually tries to catch it; in that event, it will just as likely land in a pool of freshly spilt blood.
   vicopper - Friday, 08/22/08 00:08:13 EDT

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