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This is an archive of posts from September 8 - 15, 2005 on the Guru's Den
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I found an old buffalo coal forge that had a downdraft hood on it. The forge table sits on a heave sheet metal pedestal. The hood is a two piece casting that has a ratcheted handle that allows you to rotate the hood over the fire to the desired amount of coverage. There is a baffle inside the hood that directs the smoke down. Underneath the forge the baffle casting opens up to allow an 8" stovepipe.

Has anyone seen one of these? How was the rest of the piping done to create enough draft? It is available for sale, any thoughts
   Steven Bronstein - Wednesday, 09/07/05 22:28:41 EDT

What would be a good metal to practice forge welds on? Most of what I have is picked up at construction sites. I have a fair number of rr spikes and rebar.
   JLW - Wednesday, 09/07/05 22:30:31 EDT

I really appreciate the wisdom all shared with me about the beginners instructions and safety.

Thanks very much to all
Joe F
   Joe F - Wednesday, 09/07/05 22:45:24 EDT

Ken, Guru-- Sure, somebody can't just go run off some reprints without making a deal first. I am only saying there is a market among all the smithing and old tool nuts for reprints of these books. Last time I looked, Frank's book was going for a hundred bucks (sic), second hand. Just like David Smith by David Smith. Yup, a C-note, before the reprint of Cleve Gray's book about Smith came out at last. There is nothing that I know of comparable to the Shelburne book. No, it is not going to be Love Story, or even Gone With the Wind. Cameron Diaz will never star in the movie version. But it will sell out the press run, count on it.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/08/05 00:14:29 EDT

Reprint Frank's "SW Colonial Ironwork". We had a bite last year from the Western National Parks Ass'n., or some like named group. They contacted me and I deferred to the savvy of co-author, Marc Simmons. The association guy told Marc to send in a disc for review. Marc politely told him that the book was typewritten in the 1970s, and that discs were unheard of at that time. The guy told Marc, "Sorry, not interested". This leads me to believe that some presses are too lazy to look for a clean copy of a book that they can take apart and copy. As if it would take that long. Sheesh!
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/08/05 00:37:29 EDT

I recently found an old pole drill I quess it's called. It is in good shape. I was wondering if I could get some info. on it.Are they worth anything to collectors?
   Dan - Thursday, 09/08/05 02:33:06 EDT

I recently found an old pole drill I quess it's called. I was wondering if the are worth anything to collectors?
   - Dan - Thursday, 09/08/05 02:35:05 EDT


from experience of steel mills billet transportation falls into two catagories, hot billets and cold! - It will make your life alot easier if you design a 'cold' system!

on all systems the primary design criteria is tonnage / day & reliability (it costs ALOT of £ to have a mill stop , even for a few mins)- on hot transport systems the obvious main design problem is thermal expansion / contraction which plays hell with all bearings / lube systems etc etc!

as the guru said, try and get a visit booked to a mill - its quite an experience
   John N - Thursday, 09/08/05 05:38:29 EDT

Post Drill: If in good condition many are still good usable tools. I find them handy for picky drilling where and electric motor may snap a drill too easily. There are hundreds of models from small hand crank units to big belt powered monsters. Some worked well while others are very questionable. Prices in the US range from $25 to $125.

Good condition includes all the parts including the turned wooden handles. A few had second sets of gears and having them is very rare. Most are still mounted on their milled edge mounting board. This is actually part of the machine as it keeps the flywheel off flat surfaces. However, even with the board these must be mounted on a post or column as the crank handle extends beyond the mounting board AND you need knuckle clearance.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 08:36:49 EDT

Weldable Metal: Almost any non-alloy steel is forge weldable. The most forge weldable material is wrought iron but it is no longer available new. Mild steel is slightly more difficult to weld but it is what we have. Ocassionaly you get some made with lots of scrap with too many tramp metals (copper, aluminium) and it is very difficult to weld. All of the things you listed should weld OK. However it pays to clean off heavy rust.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 08:42:03 EDT

Wendy; What kind of floor do you have in mind for your shed? If this is to be a structure of the standard yard storage type, your floor will have the life expectancy of a snowball in hell, and require MUCH reinforcement. Concrete, cinder, gravel or dirt would be better. On days when you can't roll your forge outside, you're going to need lots of ventilation to get rid of the smoke and fumes. This is still a pretty confined space to be doing hot work in, even at 10'x 12'. Are you burning gas, coal or charcoal? Carbon monoxide is an issue to consider, especially in small, confined spaces. At best. you'll get headaches. At worst, you'll assume ambient temperature (as in dead). Please don't assume that I'm trying to discourage you from practicing this great craft of ours. I'm trying to keep you alive and well, so you CAN. I'm sure the others will want to chime in, as well. Be safe.
   3dogs - Thursday, 09/08/05 09:10:08 EDT

I'm looking for a professional heat treater for 5160 spring steel, and going through the yellow pages calling around for quotes. Does anyone here work for one, or have somewhere they've worked with they'd like to recommend? Wouldn't mind keeping the business in the family, so to say...

Small batches of long springs, 40 lbs at a time maybe, normalize, heat at 1525F for 20 min, quench, draw to 520F.

   MikeM OH - Thursday, 09/08/05 09:10:46 EDT

Shop Size Material: Wendy, I would stay away from plastics. You never have enough room and I would go larger if I could afford it. The critical problem with these sheds is the low ceiling height. If you intend to have a forge or do welding in this buliding you will need to put in GOOD forced ventilation. Smoke and toxic gasses will collect at head level in a low ceilinged space. There is also the question of hammer swing. When working hard a smith will raise the hannd a little over their head. Remember that when you start with X ceiling height that lights and such will hang lower. The 10 foot center should be fine but look at the framing design.

As to the Pine vs Cedar issue both are equally flamable. The big difference is the surface texture. Fuzzy wood (like split shakes, or grit blasted for texture) catches fire much more easily than flat and smooth. I like wood construction because it is easy to attach to. However, it is good to cover the wood as needed. Sheet metal or sheet rock work. It is not unusual to see sheet metal on the floor around an anvil to protect from scale and hot biscuits.

The other things to avoid are foam insulations. Most are flamable and produce very nasty fumes. If you want to insulate use fiberglass. Remember that the paper )or foil covered paper) should be covered with non-flamable sheeting like sheet rock.

In Virginia where I am from there are numerous folks selling wood and metal framed prefab buildings with a variety of coverings. Here in North Carolina they seem to be mostly metal buildings. But they make them locally so that may be the reason. Generally if they are built so that you can park a pickup truck in them they are suitable for a small blacksmith shop.

There are other considerations you need to budget for. Most of these units are windowless and quite dark. Windows provide light and ventilation. Consider putting some in. Shuttered openings are better than nothing. Where an anvil goes should be solid to the ground. You may need to cut a hole in a raised floor and block it in solid to the ground OR use a stump (anvil stand) that extends to the ground. I prefer to be able to move the anvil so a couple reinforced areas would be better than a fixed position.

In the end you will adapt to what you have. As long as you do small work one of these little utility buildings can be a great place to get your equipment out of the rain and give you an all season place to work.

Paw-Paw had a 12 x 15 with a 10 foot gambrel roof that made a nice cozy small shop. It was heated with a small wood stove at one time. It was not setup as a blacksmith shop, it was a general small wood working and light metal working shop. WHen he got a gas forgeit would fill the building with fumes instantly even with the doors open. For an inside forge in one of these you need a good ventilation hood over the forge as well as forced ventilation. Where gas forges work without vents in larger buildings they DO NOT in these small ones.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 09:24:03 EDT

Billet Transport: I overlooked conveyors. . However, the same logic applies. Conveyors are a specialty but there is lots of literature on them and the guys that build them would also be helpful. As John N pointed out, dependibility and life calculations are important.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 09:29:03 EDT

Old Buffalo Forge: Steven, These downdraft units were designed to have the air supplied from under the floor and the exhust taken away the same. These were used in large shops and schools where there was numerous forges in one location and the air and ventilation provided by large centralized fans which Buffalo also made (still does).

SEE Buffalo Catalog CD for an example shop photo.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 09:36:32 EDT

Hello Guru, am a young man of 23 years. interested in blacksmithing especialy the old way. I want to learn the ancient techniques of weaponry, have no expierience at all. I can not find anny educations in Belgium. maybe looking the wrong place. My dream is to learn the old ways in Ireland, Scotland or Bretagne in France but my experience with internet is small. Its my first day on the net? My question is that you could help me find adresses, real or on internet, that can help me find the richt place to learn. it may be a school or even private blacksmith. Live in Belgium but am happy to move to nearby country to learn. Maybe you could shorten my search and thank you for your attention, hope I hear from you soon.
   Bart Vancamp - Thursday, 09/08/05 11:00:25 EDT

JLW, the best metal to practice forgewelding on would be the metal you plan to do forge welds with! If you are going to do pattern welded billets lern to forge weld carbon and alloy steels. If you are going for ornamental iron work learn to forge weld "mild" steels.

I will say that low alloy steels are generally easier to weld than those containing Ni or Cr.

I have seen one downdraft forge that had a seperate "blower" built in to do smoke removal. I'm trying to remember if it was geared off the main hand crank blower or a seperate crank for it, (over 20 years ago...)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/08/05 11:21:59 EDT

Bart Vancamp: Go to www.baba.org.uk, which is the site of the British Artist-Blacksmith Ass'n. They may know of opportunities for you on the Continent or perhaps might even be able to arrange apprenticeships for you in some on the shops in England for room, board and a bit of pocket money.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 09/08/05 13:44:30 EDT

Bart, may I suggest you visit the forums over at swordforum.com and ask the same question.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/08/05 14:54:15 EDT

Well nuts. I am on vacation the week BEFORE SOFA. I will be getting home the day it starts. Maybe next year.....
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 09/08/05 19:12:39 EDT

I am a student researching for a dissertation.

How do I go about finding out how many female blacksmiths there are in the UK? I have asked BABA and they do not keep a gender record. Thanks for the help.
   Debbie - Thursday, 09/08/05 20:06:25 EDT

Bart-- The Irish smiths have an association, called Inneon (anvil) or some such, and each county, I believe, has a "heritage center." County Mayo's, at Crossmolina, was just finishing construction of a handsome smithy in 1998. There is an Irish crafts center down at the foot of Grafton Street in Dublin.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/08/05 20:28:10 EDT

Bart-- Irish crafts center is on Temple Bar in Dublin, or at least it was in 1998, and it had a comprehensive picture archive of Irish smiths and their works. I looked pretty hard for smithies in a cross-island drive from Dublin to Westport and back, and found none save Crossmolina. And the teaching smith there was going to be a German. What old ironwork I saw was rusting to dust. New work I saw was replication. Old forms arced in square turbing.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/08/05 20:33:49 EDT

Debbie, hard to find out unless the UK has some kind of employment census. Even then many my list their occupation as artist or sculptor (sculptress?)

In the US there are a fair number. There is a higher percentage that are professionals than among men where there is a very high number of amatures or hobby smiths. Even though the number is low here I suspect it is higher than elsewhere in the world. In Europe where blacksmithing did not nearly die out as it did here many of the old stereotypes and prejudices still exist. In the US blacksmithing came back as an art form and many women artists took up the craft.

If no record exists then you do it the hard way. You start with a list of names, then guess at the gender. This can be full of errors but I suspect that with 50/50 chances the average will give you nearly the exact answer in a large enough sample.

Did you know that back when all chain was hand made that small chain was made primarily by women. This included links with 1/4" bar and smaller. They shaped and welded thousands of miles of chain up until the 20th century when automated machinery put them out of a job.

About 20 years ago the articles in Engineering magazines were saying that less than .2% of all engineers were women (2/1000). I suspect it is somewhat higher today but it is still a miserable record for the mechanical trades.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/08/05 20:34:39 EDT

Guru, Many thanks for your help. I guess I will have to trawl through the names in BABA's address book, like you said. I also think asking galleries and exhibitors may give me some idea too.

I'm sure that Blacksmiths and Engineers wives throughout history did a lot of the work without much credit but they were the days when the occupation wasn't looked upon as artistic.

I know there are quite a few practicing female blacksmiths in the UK, but it's just finding them. I think I may start a forum for us. It's interesting to note that there are more female professionals than men in the U.S. Why is that do you think? I would have thought that it was mostly male blacksmiths who get most of the large scale architectural commissions which although time consuming I would have thought this would be quite lucrative. Many thanks.
   Debbie - Thursday, 09/08/05 21:01:21 EDT

Bart-- Typo alert-- the correct spelling of the Gaelic word is inneoin-- anvil-- sorry. Google The Irish Blacksmiths' Association and you get to the Crafts Council. Also, try the Irish Tourist Board.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/08/05 21:06:16 EDT

Wendy-- a TuffShed-type yard-tool storage shed can only be just that for you once you get your shop going. A coal or gas forge emits a LOT of BTUs, a lot of nasty fumes. The anvil needs to be soundly founded on/into the ground. A porch won't do. Ventilation, security for your rare and costly tools, space to swing a dead cat-- all those factors come out wayyyy shortshrifted with a dinky little prefab. You'd be better off to put the money into renting a full-scale shop or space in a shop. Mine is a high-roofed 20 by 20 and has proved itself to be so cramped it's now only a tool shed requiring me to weld and forge outside.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/08/05 23:46:02 EDT

I am just getting started in blacksmithing and unfortunately there are no classes near where I am. Looking thru the Peil site there is a 3 DVD set called A BLACKSMITH PRIMER by Randy McDaniel. Would this be a worthwhile purchase and/or are you aware of any other videos that would be helpful/? Any info or feedback you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Roger
   Roger Arendt - Thursday, 09/08/05 23:48:18 EDT

lebo-- you might take a peek at The Design of Steel Mill Buildings and the calculation of stresses in framed structures, by Milo S. Ketchum, C.E., Sc.D., McGraw-Hill Co., N.Y., London, 1921. A lot of stuff about cranes, including detailed drawings of crane girders. The book should be inexpensive these days, seeing as how building steel mills has gone the way of making buggy whips and buttonhooks.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/09/05 00:04:50 EDT

Debbie: I am not sure Guru meant to imply there were more women blacksmithings in the U.S. than men. Rather, of those identified with an interest in blacksmithing, if female, they tend to be professionals rather than amateurs or hobbiest.

I have a SOF&A membership list from 1992. Of the 300 some names I seen only two which are definitely feminine. One of those I know to be predominately a potter. I attended just about every SOF&A meeting for about 15 years and do not recall a single woman attending on her own. At the Quad-State Conferences, my observation would be the females in attendance are predominately spouses. Most of the ones I have seen demonstration have been more arts & crafts oriented, rather than what I consider to be ironworking. I suspect there are few who do large commission work, such as gates, on their own.

I've never done a survey, but it is not unusual for one of my purchasers to have a feminine name. However, I cannot tell if it is a husband or boyfriend purchasing under their name.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/09/05 03:14:14 EDT

Women in smithing. Dorothy Steigler. Lorelie Simms. Both do artsy stuff and both do gates etc.....
   Ralph - Friday, 09/09/05 03:48:52 EDT

Debbie, It might be worth writing to Sally Clarke at BABA as Sally and Terry attend most of the UK 'forge ins'and are more likley to know than most (terry is the usual editor of the magazine, sally guest edits occasionally I think,), the blacksmith college at Hertfordshire might also provide usefull information.

I know of a few forges in Ireland - the main one that springs to mind it 'Bushy Park Ironworks ' (dublin) who have approx 20 employees and do some supurb commissions (but no blade work to my knowledge)- good website, think you can google them.

Rule 1 of writing assignments - read the question! - lebo has to design a billet 'trolley' - should have read that better myself! - if the assignment is to be realistic to industry yoiu should spend 1 week designing the trolley, then 3 months writing method statements & risk assesments before anyone can use it........
   John N - Friday, 09/09/05 05:30:59 EDT

Women Assisting Engineers: Often the picky calculations were done by the wives of engineers. In the slide rule era there were often a few calculations that required more than the 3 places possible with the typical slide rule and ocassionaly as in gearing formulae and astral alignments you needed as many places as possible OR until the value was known to be rational.

On several projects I remember my mother sitting with my father at the dinining room table with sheets of paper and an old mechanical calculator doing long differential calculations. The machine was used for many of the steps but the final long division was done by hand. In one case the goal was to achieve an absolute zero output from two inputs through a gear train and the velocities when the input was changed. In others it had to do with the hydraulic lift due to the friction of water in a nuclear reactor core. One of those jobs that is simply defined by physics but had to be proved again and again.

I'm sure this scene was repeated in thousands of homes and officies over hundreds of years.
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 07:37:04 EDT

Women in smithing: Yes, I said that badly. Among professional smiths there is a signifigant number. The ratio is higher than among hobbiests but men still dominate.

On the other hand. In our newly formed Blue Ridge Blacksmiths Assiciation of Virginia (BRBAVA.org) with about 20 members our vice president is a widow who enjoys blacksmithing as a hobby. She recently attended the Power Hammer School with Uri Hofi where she was one out of ten. If you look at photos from many schools there is often at least one woman among the men. Women also tend to be repeat students at schools more often than men taking all the available courses.

In the US there is enough women involved that they have women only classes and seminars at many of the schools. They have one at John C. Campbell Crafts School in North Carolina each year. In the tour photos of Frank Turley's school there is a photo with three women and four men (including the photographer/student). Contacting schools might be another way to tell.

Among our Slack-Tub Pub registrants I think 5 to 10% are women. In CSI (CyberSmiths International) we currently have 3% active women. At least one drags her spouse to events. . .

Another note of interest. I got my first "I wanna make a sword" question from a teenage girl after the movie "Kill Bill" had been out a few months. Those that don't believe popular media effect our youth have never interacted with any. . .

If you are looking for female smiths in your country simply to get together give it time. Keep posting notices and contacting folks and eventualy they will find you. Also remember that a significant population is still not "wired" and you will not find them through the Internet.
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 08:28:36 EDT

Well, maybe. But now, me, my approach would be a tad different. I think the way to start on any writing assignment is with a series of lonnnng, ruminative, lubricative, lunches and maybe some dinners, just to get focussed, and get the old synapses sparking. Then a fact-finding jaunt, to garner on-site understanding in felicitous areas of the world. (There must be a steel mill to look at in Bali-- how else did they make all those krises, eh?-- or Monaco, no?) Then lay in a goodly supply of pertinent research and writing material-- lots of Becker's pretzels and vodka. Then hire a staff of pert and perky internes. Then initiate a series of agenda-prioritizing lunches. And, of course, more dinners to get the event horizon structured. All tax-deductible, of course.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/09/05 08:59:13 EDT

Blacksmith Videos: Roger, I have not seen the McDaniel video. However the Bill Epps videos available from teachingtapes.com are very good.

If you are interested in bladesmithing the video by Wayne Goddard is very good.
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 09:21:14 EDT

Hmmmmm. . . now I know why Miles is no longer writing professionaly. . the IRS found out about his methods, or worse, maybe his wife! :)

But I DO agree with much of his method. I have done more creative work sketching on a napkin while sipping a drink in a resturant than pehaps anywhere else. Employers overlook the value of long lunches. . . However, I never had any luck finding "a staff of pert and perky interns". At least that I could afford. :)
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 09:41:18 EDT

Miles; Your words are indeed inspirational to those of us who would aspire to the writing craft. It is assumed that one would seek Federal funding for this enterprise, of course.
   3dogs - Friday, 09/09/05 09:59:17 EDT


On the prefab. I looked into those here and there. I've built a couple of small sheds over the last 15 years for shop work and a couple of brief things from my experience. (e-mail if you want detail)

1) Twice I've gone through the work of comparing what comes in the kit with what I need and what the raw materials would cost. In both cases it came out that materials were cheaper than the kit. (Some of that is because I scrounge really good, so some comes for free.) If you've got the skills to knock together a shed yourself you can probably save money on the kit.

2) I wouldn't put the forge inside. My last shed I could have but I still didn't. Just too crowded. Also if you're building the shed to get out of the weather, by the time you've ventilated a small shed you let the weather in.

3) My "ultimate" solution to a small shed for smithing and such was to go with a 10x12 (because code said that was the max before I needed a permit). I used 3/16" OSB 4x8 (3 panels for the long walls, 2.5 for the short) and that gave me 8' height plus my roof. My "trick" is that one of the long walls is pretty much two 4x8 doors on big hinges with a hinged awning that's propped up by the open doors. (Makes the building into an 'L' but it's official footprint still met code.) My forge sits just beyond the door. The main anvil sits just inside the doors. I put a bench around the other three walls. Lots of windows for breeze in the Summer. The post vise goes right by the door so it's handy and I've got a lot of area for big bends.

I faced the double doors away from the prevailing winter winds (and luck out in that it catches the prevailing summer winds). I get a wind break when I need it. The portable tools are locked up. I have lots of ventilation. With a hood on my forge about the only time I really can't smith is in heavy winds. Officially I have about 120 sq. foot of space, unofficially it's more like 160.

I've found it convenient to invest in a couple heavy tarps to run up as extra shade or wind breaks.

Hope that helps. (Apologies for going on so.)


   Timothy - Friday, 09/09/05 10:06:27 EDT


For what it's worth, I live in MN. I ran the forge one December two years ago in that set up to get the Xmas work done. It was 10 below for the last three days. With good boots, double socks, once the forge was running and I was working I was comfortable except for my feet (the ground doesn't warm up and acts like a heat sink). But I was working bare handed and I wasn't playing tough. The windbreak of the shed made all the difference in the world. I suspect you live in a less harsh climate. So the "open" shed concept should work.

   Timothy - Friday, 09/09/05 10:11:04 EDT

Tim, Good use of the the extended space. Working within the rules to get as much as you possibly can is what "high performance" and efficiency are about.

Build your own vs. Buy

This is always tricky. Sometimes you can beat the prefab price, sometimes you can't. I got a quote on lumber to build trusses for my shop, then got a quote to have the custom designed trusses made by the same lumber yard. Saved $500 and I didn't have to build them. . .

The little pre-built buildings that are delivered on a tilt body truck are very convienient. The KIT buildings, especialy the all steel ones are a pain to assemble and take a lot of time and patience. Dave B. put one together for Sheri Wilson and I helped. . I would have quit in frustration then started nailing a frame together from 2x4's and screwed the sheet metal to it. . Setting on the ground the floor has already been wet. We will need to raise it as well as putting supports under the middle before it can be used. It really needs a raised foundation. . for a tin box!

Now. . Sheri has Paw-Paws old Ford truck with the step body. It would make a nice storage building (on wheels) for anyone interested. Not that this is the one that lost two wheels on one side of the rear. . .
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 12:22:42 EDT

miles.... a very eloquent solution which i may utilise next time im assigned a project - however I fear that the nett outcome would be a p45 (not sure of the US equivalent but it ensures plenty of free time :)
   John N - Friday, 09/09/05 12:59:06 EDT

Another solution to extending your shop without to much cost is awnings. I salvaged a 10 x 20 foot awning and added that along the side of my shop that opens. The forge, anvils, and foot vice all live underneath, and the interior space is used for storage/lockup. It protects from rain and with a tarp curtain on the windward side, its rather cozy.
   blackbart - Friday, 09/09/05 13:47:42 EDT

can anyone explain the basics of making molds and using crucibles? more importantly, can it be done with a regular home-made propane forge? im aiming to pour objects out of metals with lower melting points like bronze and such. book suggestions welcome!
   Tobin - Friday, 09/09/05 14:33:51 EDT


I would commend to you the bood "Creative Casting" by Sharr Choate, as a good book on the casting process. You can use a gas forge for both the burnout process and the metal melting, but it is not as satisfactory as having a burnout kiln and a melting furnace. Stay tuned, I'll tell you more tonight. Have to go do some work.
   vicopper - Friday, 09/09/05 15:33:51 EDT

Casting: Tobin, A propane forge will melt brass and bronze quite well. They are not really low temperature metals the pouring temperature close to 2,000°F. Zinc Aluminium alloy melts at 800°F. and is poured at 1,100°F. It is nearly as strong as bronze thus a very good material to work with. You commonly see it used for thin cheap die castings but it can also be cast in sand and plaster molds in heavier sections.

The trick with forges is they are not designed to handle the vertical height of even a small crucible. Turn the design on end and you have a crucible furnace.

BOOKS - See our book review page. See the books by by Steve Chastain. All four are aplicable to what you want to do. Also see Oppi Untracht's Metal Techniques for Craftsmen on our review page. It has a long chapter on casting, particularly jewelery scale.

The clasics on the subject are the collected works by C.W. Ammen. If you can find them, buy them. His books on Brass Casting and Constructing and Using Wood Pattrns are very good.

See our iForge demo on Lost Wax Casting. and the links from there.

AND See our gas forge and burner FAQ. It shows a couple crucible furnaces built similarly to a simple gas forge. It uses a burner of my design which has not failed. I have a newer design that I need to write an article on that is constructed similarly but is fully adjustable.

My crucible furnace is based on common designs and can be much better. To be better it needs to have a lift off body rather than a lid. The reason common crucible furnaces have a flat lid is that the solid refractories are very heavy and lifting the body is a problem. A furnace as shown with a light steel shell and Kaowool insulation can easily be carried in one outstreatched hand. This means that the top shell can easily be lifted as one piece. The bottom should probably be castable so that if metal is spilled or the crucible breaks the liquid metal can have a drain to run out.

You cannot study this subject enough. It is very simple on one hand yet very complex on the other. There is a lot to learn.
   - guru - Friday, 09/09/05 17:34:27 EDT

I agree with Guru, you cannot study this subject enough!
I learned about casting bronze by finding a number of groups in my area that have foundries (as they are called).
They all have different foundry designs and methods of casting. I found the people involved were more than willing to explain the process and after I proved my skills and willingness work(clean up and such) I was able to pour with them.
If you are pouring more than a few pounds it takes a crew of people to do this safely.
I now have my own homemade foundry and a crew of friends who pour regularly.
Good Luck
   blackbart - Friday, 09/09/05 18:50:23 EDT

3dogs, estimable guruissimo-- what I have outlined is a true, understated, factual precis of exactly how every book and magazine and (some) newspaper project(s) from the teenciest item to the most complex of special issues gets started. It's ALL expenseable, and it's ALL legit, right down to the closing night dinner and the limo home. just be sure to save every receipt. And that rigamarole I described is just the beginning. Next comes the preliminary conceptualization, and then the actual research, the writing of the first draft, the endless editing and revising-- with meals and drinks at every turn. In 30-plus years of a speaking acquaintace with it I heard of just one guy who got canned for cheating on his expense account, and he was trying to build a house with his. And, hey, the little cuties fresh out of Barbard, Smith, etc. are lined up in droves down in the personnel office, waiting to be interviewed. Probably even more of them nowadays over at the networks.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/09/05 18:59:03 EDT

Sorry for the hiatus, work sometimes interferes with my fun. (grin)

For making molds, you first have to determine what kind of a mold you want to make. Do you want to do a number of items all alike, with moderate detail and reasonable size? If that is the case, then I would suggest you check out C.W. Ammen's and Steve Chastain's books on sand casting. You'll need to make a few simple tools such as cope-and-drag mold forms, rammer, muddling set-up, etc., but it is all stuff you can build with minimal woodworking skills.

If you want to do very complex pieces with minute detail and/or lots of complex undercuts, then lost-wax casting is probably your best bet. For this, you make the original in wax, then encase it in plaster investment compound and heat it until the wax all burns out. The cavity left by the wax is then filled with molten metal. Of course, the wax original is "lost", so this is a one-off technique. See the iForge demo for more details.

One note on lost wax casting: You can build a simple burnout kiln using loose soft firebrick and an electric stove element or two for heat. The controls for range top burners will work for ramping the heat up on the investment. I started to do a set of plans for a simple kiln, but they got lost somewhere. (Perhaps, if there is sufficient interest, I'll redo them and make them available by free download for CSI members.)

Those are only two methods, and there are several more. If you let me know just what it is you would like to cast, I can give you more specific directions. First though, a few words on safety.

Molten metal, whether low temperature lead or zinc or aluminum, or medium temperature copper or silver alloys, will strip the flesh off your bones falster than a butcher with a sharp flensing knife. The wound will heal terribly slowly, if at all, and may require painful grafts. Should even a tiny drop hit your eye, you will be permanently blinded. You may be able to scratch an itch with a hook instead of a hand, but you'll see nothing at all through the finest glass eye.

The fumes of many metals can be quite toxic, resulting in sickness, disability or death. I lost a good friend to metal fume fever recently, and I don't wish to lose any more. Use ALL the safety gear: leather apron, spats, boots, gloves, face shield, respirator, etc. DO NOT SCRIMP ON SAFETY GEAR!

The single most important safety item is knowledge. Get all the books, read them , STUDY them, then start small and slow. I have done bronze castings of more than two huindred pounds, but I started with little things like rings and such. Ask questions as often as you need.
   vicopper - Friday, 09/09/05 19:09:26 EDT

Women Engineers: When I was in college, we had 1600 men and 7 women. This was at the Colorado School of Mines in the mid-60's. We always insisted that 5 of the 7 were on wrestling scholaships. Today, about 25% of the student body is made up of women and the campus is better for it. YOU GO GIRLS!
   quenchcrack - Friday, 09/09/05 19:12:30 EDT

Tobin, where \are you located? I'm near Chattanooga TN and often have students over to my foundry.

Try artmetal.com and go to the foundry discussion group. Nice helpful folks there for any size work from jewelry to thousand pound castings.
   - John Odom - Friday, 09/09/05 19:23:07 EDT

Well, thanks everyone for the advice! It sounds as though making a cement floor would solve both the problem of flammability and support for the anvil but might complicate the permit issue but I'll have to check that out. I don't know if I did my own foundation if I could still get a prefab deal. The one thing I have absolutely no clue about is ventilation...what I need, how to go about it, what is the cost. My ceiling height will be about 10' 6" and I do plan on wheeling my forge out the door. Also if I add an awning over the forge how does that change my ventilation needs?Thanks again!
   wendy - Friday, 09/09/05 21:37:02 EDT

vicopper, guru, blackbart, Miles, and quenchcrack:

Thanks a bunch for responding! I'm really impressed with the community here. Anyways, a little about me and my interesting in blacksmithing: I did a little MIG welding and after I got an oxy-acetylene torch from a family friend, i started to play with hot metal on a regular basis in my back yard. Sure, the torch is versitile in it's uses, but it's gotten rather boring as projects have run dry. Shortly thereafter, I decided to persue blacksmithing as a hobby, doubling for my senior class project. Honestly, it is in my interests first and acedemics second. School has just begun and I am contemplating smithy layouts and forge designs. Once i read up on forges a little more, where should i post pictures of my designs?

Also, quenchcrack, I am in Seattle, Washington so i dont think ill be able to come and visit your shop =(
   Tobin - Friday, 09/09/05 22:56:05 EDT

Wendy-- How about doing a work-area diagram such as is in The Edge of the Anvil, whose author, Jack Andrews, set up his smithy in a tipi. Look, let's say, just hypothetically, that you wheel the forge outdoors and cook some steel, and then do what to get to the anvil before the work loses its heat? To get to the leg vise ditto? That is just not going to work. (My sister all the time says, "Miiiiiyulls! You're soooo negative!") Sorry, but it ain't gonna work. (Subliminal message: Rent a shop.) It's a tough craft and you are just making it a whole lot tougher for yourself. (Rent a shop.) Put an awning over the forge and you'll have a nice airy porch, is how it will change your ventilation needs, what with that big singed hole in it. (Rent a shop.)
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/09/05 23:04:04 EDT

FWIW, My smithy is a 20' ocean container.
Good points they are very cheap, solid floor, secure and quick to set in place, I even have (cleverly disguised as a flagpole)gibcrane attached to its front outside. a great help when I load up to take a smithing road trip...
Downside may be a bit cramped space for some, But I can manage alot within the space if need to.
Depends where you live, Some agencies will have a hard time accepting it, I simply 'Permitted Myself' To utilise it then about 20 years until was caught by the building authority.
I was lucky that here they dont really care so long as meets setback distance and that I pay 200 dollar permit for a 'Detached Accessory Structure'
   - Sven - Saturday, 09/10/05 00:09:13 EDT

I was looking through vice portion of this website and I came across a section that talked about a Prentis Vise. I to have a 6" Prentis Vise and had a few questions if anyone would be so kind as to answer them. Where can I get the interchangeable jaws? (Pipe jaw, Break Jaw) Where were these vises made by, was the company named Prentis? Are there any other companies that made large vises? Was the company always named Prentis or did it change in later years?
Your help would be greatly appreciated. This vise is by far the most used tool in our shop. I have yet to see another like it which is probably why I am so curious to learn more about it.

Thank you
Cody T.
   Cody T - Saturday, 09/10/05 05:00:47 EDT

Wendy, I started out under a tree for some shade. But dragging everything in and out of the woodworking shop got old quick. Also limited my availability of working time due to climate. I then added a 9' x 9' lean to and used that for a couple of years. Very tight, but beat the shade tree. Had a 8' door for ventalation, as well as a stacked coal forge, and a vent fan. still not enough ventilation sometimes.
I was then lucky enough to find salvage materials to build a much bigger shop, another lean to. The current shop is 22.5' by 22', dirt floor, but has too low a cieling. I am crowded!I have a 10' swinging door set, a 5' swinging door on the other side, a 5'square louver, a fan forced 4' louver, and a 24" turbine vent in the roof. I also have a side draft hood on the coal forge. I almost have enough ventalation!
To restate several posts, go for a tall ceiling, as it makes many operations much more easy. Go for the maximum square footage you can afford. Go for the maximum ventalation you can install.
Go for it.
   ptree - Saturday, 09/10/05 08:03:48 EDT

Prentiss Vises (Vices): Cody, The Company was Prentiss and then Reed & Prentiss. Famous Prentiss "Bull Dog" Vises. They were one of the great heavy vice makers of the early 20th century and now long gone along with Parker, Massey, Columbian, Rock Island and others.. There are no parts. A decade or two ago McMaster-Carr had a stash of parts for the common ones but I do not know if they have any left.

My 1899 Carey Bros. catalog has the 6" stationary base vise at 135 pounds. I have one of these and a larger 8" vise that must weigh around 200 pounds. Fantastic tools. The catalog says the 6" opens 9-1/2" but I swear it opens a good bit more.

The catalog shows "Prentiss Vise Company, N.Y." on one with "Bull Dog Machinists". These were heavy chipping vices. Others had Prentiss Pat." Listed models:

Patent Adjustable Jaw Vises - with and without swivel bases
Machinists' "Bull Dog" Vises - with and without swivel bases
New Shepard Vises with wrought steel sliding bars, screws, levers and jaws.
Prentiss' Combination Pipe Vise.

The same catalog has "Improved Wrought Steel Solid Box Vises", no brand but look to be English, probably Peter Wright. It also has Samson anvils by V.W. & W.H.Co. a cast iron steel faced anvil. 15 cents a pound 50 to 500 pounds.

Recently I saw someone write that anvils wer never sold by the pound. . aparently he never saw any of the old catalogs that gave the price per pound as most did until modern times.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/10/05 08:26:56 EDT

More about Vise Parts: Back in the 1970's I bought a large Columbian Vise (I think) and a local hardware supplier said they could get the vise jaws (which were missing) for $58. They were ordered and I repeatedly checked on them. Six months later I was told they were no longer available. It would have been easier to just make the jaws by sawing them out of tool steel plate and flame hardening them. Later I traded this vise and stand for a ten ton crane scale.

I bought a nice little leg vise at the local flea market for $15 as it was missing some parts. I forged a new spring, pivot pin wedge and tennon type bench bracket replacement AND made a new lever by welding two nuts on the end of a piece of mild steel bar (in the vise). Except for the lever all the parts were simple forgings.

Repairing machinist vises is a little different but parts are parts as the chicken nugget commercial used to say. . . parts are whittled out of blocks of steel, machined as necessary to fit. It doesn't matter what kind of tools you are maintaining a lathe, drill press and small mill or shaper are all very helpful.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/10/05 11:28:09 EDT

   - WANDA - Saturday, 09/10/05 12:35:34 EDT

Wanda--is there a thermostat in the cooling systym? Usually located where the top radiator hose connects to the engine. They stick shut keeping the coolent from circulating--engine gets hot--radiator stays cool.
   Jerry - Saturday, 09/10/05 13:35:45 EDT

Wanda, In any internal combustion engine the water in the engine may be hot and the hoses and radiator cool. This almost always indicates a stuck thermostat. If the engine block is warm or hot and the radiator cold then the thermostat needs to be replaced (or removed). Only remove a thermostat as an emergency measure. The engine will run but cooler than it should and result in carbon fouling.

If the sending unit is bad the gage usualy does not read at all (stays at zero). If the gage reads zero when the ignition is off and immediately goes to high when turned on then the sending unit is bad or short circuited. If the gage SEEMS to be reacting correctly then the sending unit is probably OK.

To test the sending unit remove it from the engine block, attach the wire and clamp a ground jumper to the metal body and to the engine block or device frame. Then turn on the ignition and see how it reacts. Dip the end of the sensor in hot water OR use a small flame like a match or lighter and see how it reacts. If it goes up and down with the application and removal of heat then it is probably OK.

If neither of these is the problem then it is possible that there is a cylinder crack of head gasket leak and hot exhust air is heating the temperature sensor.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/10/05 13:47:53 EDT

Wendy-- Plan B-- how about a metal awning? Corrugated tin roof? Pipe frame supports? Or, if doityrself is out, Walmart sells a carport for c. $500 that would work. I decided smiting inside my shop was a hazard, moved the forge out under such an awning, second-hand tin roofing. Works great. BUT it means the anvil, leg vise are exposed to evil thieving miscreants who abound, lurking for the merest chance to steal them. But you will find a solution, 'cause you are smith and we are a hardy, self-reliant lot. Plan C-- switch to making miniatures, something a little shop would be great for, IF properly ventilated, 1/12-scale items that the dollhouse nuts from all around the globe will go all drooly with concupiscent desire over and seek you out to buy for exorbitant sums. Don't laugh. That stuff sells for mucho dinero. And there are only a few smiths making it. Plan D-- switch altogether to joolery-making. Carve teency waxes, send them off, polish them to a faretheewell after they come back in silver, make mucho dinero.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 15:07:09 EDT

Miles, I tried that Joolery bit, but never seemed to find that mucho dinero part. I even tried it with real gold, still not enough dinero to put dinner on the table:(
Do to lay off, I am at least short term, a full time smith, and just spent 6 staight hours at the JYH and anvil. Production smithing sure does heat up the tools. You are hitting a lick when the anvil gets too hot to touch!
Hope to return to part time smith soon:)
   ptree - Saturday, 09/10/05 15:24:53 EDT

There was a person wanting to know historical alternatives to using borax for brazing: Moxon in "Mechanick Exercises" published in 1703 advises to use powdered glass.

"Practical Blacksmithing", Richardson; a collection of articles from a smithing journal of the late 1880's early 1890's strictly advocates the use of borax for brazing.

Theophilus in "Divers Arts" mentions borax WRT niello work but sugest burnt argol(crude potassium carbonate) and salt as a brazing flux, (circa 1120)

Biringuccio mentions borax in his "Pirotechnia" (1540)

and borax is mentioned for use in brazing in "Von Stahel und Eysen" anomeously published in Nuremberg in 1532

   Thomas P - Saturday, 09/10/05 15:27:03 EDT

Thank you so much for the info. I agree ptree these vises are Fantastic tools. I was using it this morning and thinking how would I get half the projects I start done without this tool. The really crazy thing about it is my grandfather bought it at a mine auction for $10.00, as well as a 1150 lb. anvil for another $5.00. I guess he knew a good deal when he saw one.

Thanks again
Cody T.
   Cody T - Saturday, 09/10/05 16:46:32 EDT

Cody T. Is 1150 lb anvil a typo? If not, please tell us more about it.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 09/10/05 17:30:50 EDT

ptree-- not just joolry, but CAST joolry, craft multiples, replications. Fabrication is a black hole unless one is mighty fast, and coming out with an absolutely irresistible item. With cast stuff, or, rather, having their models cast, I see people making $$$$. I only suggested it as Plan D, a way to do metal in a small shop.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 17:35:46 EDT


I love it!! Do Gurus get more respect??? If so, how do I become one??

We are restoring an old wrought iron fence. In between the fence sections, there are some square tubing posts, with some arc welded slop on them I believed someone considered brackets. My question is, when was square tubing first offered to the public for use. Because the main body of this fence is very well forged/cast, I suspect it was once built for a different location which had brick piers every 20 feet. If I could identify when squart tubing was first available to the masses, that would give me a feel for when (or at least not before a certain period) the fence was installed.

This is the first time I have sent anything into the Guru. Prior to sending this, I read your instructions. It said "no student term papers". I don't want a term paper, but could you help me with the meaning of life??? Or should I go elsewhere???

Thank you for any help you can offer concerning the square tubing. I will ask my teenagers about the meaning of life. They seem to feel quite knowledgable everything in the world!!! Were we ever that full of ourselves???

Uncle Bob
   - Robert Walsh - Saturday, 09/10/05 18:56:56 EDT

I did cast joolery as wella as fabricated and still no dinero worth dinner:) I like to think it was because my style was far too sophiosticated for the plebian masses.

Watch out floks, Miles special writing style rubs off!
   ptree - Saturday, 09/10/05 20:04:35 EDT

ptree-- Ummm, thanks. I think. But, doing the casting one's very own self is not what I see people around here (Santa Fe) doing who are making their house payments off it. They do a wax original, and send it out. But you won't get any argument from me on making money or the lack thereof with jewelry. I know exactly what you mean. I spent quite a few hours recently making some of the cutest, most adorable ittle oval sterling pill boxes oo ever did see, with, can you believe it! eency weency ittle Indian petroglyph-tpe symbols on them in brass bas relief-- I mean, come on, who could resist?-- and some belt buckles. Nada. So far, anyway. Hey, if you want to see one way to make some real dough, google Evo Gallery in Santa Fe and check out Tom Joyce's latest sculpture, humongous solid forged billets. Some upwards of two tons. Sold most every one, for five figures each. Talk about ¡mucho dinero!
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 20:28:08 EDT

Maybe billets is not correct. But calling them ingots somehow doesn't do the stuff justice either, though. Humongous hunks of solid steel is the idea. Take a peek, and you'll see what I mean. The website doesn't give dimensions, as I recall. They are maybe two, three feet high, that wide again. The billets/ ingots are perhaps eight inches or more square in cross section, I think.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 20:36:41 EDT

Miles, Mi;es , Miles, apparently yoou've underestimated me! Here at Wildfire Forge my motto is "how hard can it be?" and I do not give up easily. I can not afford to rent a shop, but wouldn't if I could because I WANT a little shop on my property where my kids can walk out from the house and say hi and know I am near by. Also. if you think about it the forge and anvil don't have to be miles(no pun intended)away just because the forge is outside the door. The workbench and anvil can be placed in just the right spot if you make the platform the same level as your floor. Think outside the box.(shop) I worked this way outside the french doors in our basement for 2 years and the only problem was the cold on the most fridgid days, I didn't work too long on those days and that solved that. The metal awning idea sounds appealing to keep the rain and snow off the forge so i'll let you know how it works out. Looks like I may just have to build this thing myself(ok I know a few good carpenters that I might let help, but I'll be on it.. after all "how hard can it be?" (I'll let ya' know)
   wendy - Saturday, 09/10/05 22:22:39 EDT

Ahh, nothing as winsome as a plucky lass! Here's wishing you luck!
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 23:29:09 EDT

Meaning of life: When You get bogged down searching for it, watch the "Monty Python" movie by that title. It doesn't provide any answers, but is good as a diversion.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 09/10/05 23:37:15 EDT

Well, you know what Shakespeare had somebody say about that-- life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Sounds a bit bleak, but close.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/10/05 23:44:10 EDT

Yes it is a typo sorry about that it is about 450-500 pounds. I really don't know why I typed that in. Sorry about that.

Cody T
   Cody T - Sunday, 09/11/05 00:19:41 EDT

We wuz all excited fer a minnit, there, Cody. Extreme anvil envy was starting to set in amongst the troops.
   3dogs - Sunday, 09/11/05 01:19:14 EDT

I ran across a curious wrought iron piece in a blacksmith shop in Coloma, CA last year. I have a photo of it if you are interested in identifying it. The blacksmith there did not know what it was.
   Phil Lammi - Sunday, 09/11/05 03:16:10 EDT

Where can I find more information about the blacksmiths work on the net? I have searched very hard but i havent found anything yet. So i thought you could help me....maybe with some links.....

thank you
   Timothy - Sunday, 09/11/05 09:23:49 EDT

Timothy, click on "HOME" at the top of this page, scroll down to the bottom of the home page. There is a links section and clear at the bottom is The Blacksmith's Ring, a list of many blacksmithing sites. Right about here everyone is expecting me to say something clever and pithy about how very hard you searched....but it's Sunday and I just got up.....
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/11/05 09:47:36 EDT

Timothy: Can you be more specific in your question as to what you mean by 'blacksmiths work'? Are you asking what blacksmiths today do to make a living at it or for a gallery of the work of various smiths?
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 09/11/05 15:12:31 EDT

Hello. I broke 2 leaf spring leaves on my 56 Chevy. They are 2 in wide about 5/16 thick and between 16 and 30 in. in length. they broke across the 2 in. width. How can I repair these leaves. I have a arc welder, a oxy-acy. setup, I could build a small forge. If these are not repairable, what is the process for making my own leaves from scratch? Thanks.
   TM - Sunday, 09/11/05 17:07:35 EDT

TM: Vehicle springs are a specialty. Don't try to weld it. Either find a pair for sale, or go to a spring shop and have them made.
   - John Odom - Sunday, 09/11/05 17:14:59 EDT

I have been given a natural gas forge from the local school. Flipping it over to propane. It is made by Wayne Forge Ltd up here in Toronto Canada. Question, does anybody have a book or info on this forge. It is in very good working order. Just like to have the book for info later on. Stands 3' high and had a working area of 12 sq inches. Four burners.Eltrical start switch and a small blower inside. Like I said very good conditon.

Thankyou in advance for any info

Barney still no snow. But very warm Cheers
   Barney - Sunday, 09/11/05 19:04:05 EDT

TM, John is right on the money don't weld it. My brother broke the spring on one of his semis. The company that repaired it uses a special jig that holds the spring in place while welding it. The jig holds it rigidly while allowing the spring to flex slightly up and down but not side to side. Not to mention the amount of heat that the spring needs to have applied to it just to get the weld to stick. get the actual length I have a Bunch of old Chevy’s and maybe able to help you out.

Cody T.
   Cody T - Sunday, 09/11/05 20:30:29 EDT

TM, Unless its 'go for broke' to escape the East Berlin border or something,,,
Car springs should never be welded.
Broken springs are only good for recycling to something else. One cheap-o option is to get similar leaf springs from another junk vehicle then de-laminate the stacks, Mix and match the leaves then put it back together.
Of course, not optimal the mixed leaves may have different properties and wear patterns. The car will probably ride differently than before, Maybe better or worse, You wont know until its played around with.
   - Sven - Sunday, 09/11/05 20:38:36 EDT

Wendy: The shed with well packed earth floor isn't too bad. I actually LIKE a rammed earth floor for a smithy or foundry. I for got how much until I moved into the new shop with all concrete floors. Earth dosen't spall with heat, doesn't dent droped items, dosen't burn or char. It is especially good for foundry work. Now I cover the pouring area with sand and clean up before/after each foundry session. I'm planning a shop addition for forge and foundry and that new space will have a rammed earth floor. Here, any space that has no concrete floor or foundation, no permanent walls and just a roof is code exempt.
   - John Odom - Sunday, 09/11/05 21:11:27 EDT

Dirt floor,
One thing to consider is the your local soil composition, At my friends smithy needed a higher clay soil brought in because the local soil is very sandy and would never compact hard & always dusty. Plus critters burrowed in because the cooler soil temp and higher moisture level being under a roof attracted bugs and worms into the soil that the critters were digging after. The hard packed clay pretty much sealed them out.
   - Sven - Sunday, 09/11/05 22:26:52 EDT

Help with Casting. Is there fesible way, other then contracting it out to someone else, to cast something out of scrap steel. If so how is it done? I understand melting points and all that jazz, also I know how to use sand for forming. I don't know however how to melt the steel. I know some about electrode furnaces and arc furnaces but can it be done without one of these? Could someone give me some direction, books web sites etc. I have a degree in welding, and have been working in the field for a while. But I started to think how much I don't know about working steel and would like to learn these things.
Thank you
Cody T.
   Cody T - Monday, 09/12/05 04:50:25 EDT

Foundry Work: Cody, Casting steel is a tricky business. However, it CAN be done with a blown propane furnace and high temperature crucibles. Where it gets tricky is the results. Common steel cools in such a way that the results are not very good and you CAN end up with white cast iron instead of steel. Typicaly alloying ingrediants such as manganese are added to reduce ingotism. Explaining this accurately is a specialty beyond my expertise.

Casting iron, brass and zinc is fairly simple. Cast iron is very fluid and has a lower melting point than steel due to the carbon. Brass has a lower melting temperature and is much easier to handle than iron. Zinc pours at about 1,000°F and the casting alloys are nearly as strong as bronze.

The place to start on this process is the collected works of C.W. Ammen. The titles include:

The Metalcaster's Bible
Casting Aluminium
Casting Brass
Casting Iron
The Complete Handbook of Sandcasting
Constructing and Using Wood Patterns
Lost Wax Investment Casting

I have many of these and highly recommend them. Some of these may not be in print and you will need to search the on-line used book stores.

Then there is the series by Stephen Chastain covered on our book review page. These cover modern home foundry methods.

An authoritative reference covering many technical problems but designed for the industrial engineer is the ASM reference "Casting" from the Metals Handbook series. I would give the volume number but they change with each edition. Look it up on the ASM page.

See also the Navy Foundry Manual reprinted by Lindsey publications and carried by Artisan Ideas.

See also our iForge demos #98 and #99 on pattern and mold making and #137 on Lost wax casting. Our gas Forges FAQ has photos of a couple crucible furnaces and burners as well as links to other sites.

This is a subject you CANNOT study enough. Casting metal is chalanging, frustrating but very rewarding.
   - guru - Monday, 09/12/05 07:58:05 EDT

SPRING REPAIR: TM, as noted above this is a job for spring specialists. Replacement springs on trucks are common enough that there are spring shops all over the country that do nothing but make replacement springs and install them. Alternately Sven's suggestion to find the closest match and replace them is also good.
   - guru - Monday, 09/12/05 08:05:38 EDT

Thank you so much this is a huge help. Out of curiosity you spoke of white cast iron. What is the hardness of this in comparisson to steel. I don't know if you would have a Rockwell hardness number on that or not. I am so glad I found this site, great job on it.
Thank you
Cody T.
   Cody T - Monday, 09/12/05 08:40:35 EDT

More Dirt on Floors:

The tobacco stripping-house that I converted into Oakley Forge had wood floors remaining on the sides, but the center area had worn/rotted out. Since that's where a lot of the action takes place, I used it with dirt, and eventually added sandbox sand to it in what I call "the self-fluxing floor." So far (15+ years), it works very well, good for leveling tool stands and stumps, easy on the feet, fire-proof, cleaned with a rake (my friends call it the "zen forge"). If a piece of hot steel drops on the wood floor, (which usually has some sand on it anyway) or on the truck flaps (to insulate my feet from the cold in the winter and as a foot-friendly surface) over the bricks around the coal forge, it's no trouble to flick it over into the sand and then pick it back up at my leisure. About the only problem is dropping small parts, but I've recovered just about everything but one letter punch (which may have flown off into the clutter of the rest of the shop).

I lke it so much that if I build a new forge when we move to another location on Oakley Farm, I plan to have the side areas, for workbenches and equipment, in wood or masonry, and the center in sand.

Crawling back up to 90 degrees on the banks of the Potomac. My friends are launching the Sæ Hrafn today, and I'm stuck at work with the auditors. :-P Well, at least I'll be at the christening on the 24th.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 09/12/05 09:28:51 EDT

Dear Anvilfire

Im a 16 year old living in Cali and ive gotten a forge from a friend. Im currently shopping for an anvil to begin smithing *cheer* There is a seller on ebay at the moment selling in long beach, and its close enough to drive. Ive read all your info on scammers on ebay, and i find that this guy has many of the danger signs, but allows pick up (for a nominal fee of 20$) Recommend going for it?

Heres the ebay number: 6208680642

Any insight is apreciated ;) Thanks guys
   ThorOdamountain - Monday, 09/12/05 12:06:50 EDT

Cody, white cast iron is extremely hard; but also brittle; now in comparison with steel *WHAT* steel and *WHAT* heat treat?

I would suggest telling us what you want to accomplish and let's go from there, a lot easier than playing 20 questions where everyone may not be using the language the same way.

Note if using a cast iron will work then look into cupola furnaces, easy to make and use and cast iron is a LOT less fuss than trying to melt a steel and get it to hold it's properties while being cast.

   Thomas P - Monday, 09/12/05 12:19:26 EDT

Read about ASOs elsewhere on the site - too late!
Would you be interested in my EbayAnvil experience? - it sounds hauntingly similar to yours, right down to the seller's reaction to a 'neutral' feedback.
I kept all of the back-and-forth emails and collected them into a Word document to use as a cautionary tale for others.
Let me know - I'd like to get the word out as far as possible.
- Ron
   Ron Broz - Monday, 09/12/05 12:28:52 EDT


If you're looking for something inexpensive to get started on, go to your local Harbor Freight store. harborfreightDotCom - 'Retail Stores' on the left side.
You can pick up a 110lb anvil (not BAD) for about $90 or a 50lb for less - best not to drop a lot of $$$ until you're sure.
   Ron Broz - Monday, 09/12/05 12:39:15 EDT

Re E-Bay vs pick up
Why would someone charge $20 to allow pick up, unless they figure they won't get to keep the shipping money when you return the ASO?
   ptree - Monday, 09/12/05 12:45:25 EDT

Sorry Thomas, didn't mean for it to come across as though I was playing 20 questions. I was merely asking what the hardness of white cast iron was. I am trying to gain some knowledge and resources on casting.

Cody T.
   Cody T - Monday, 09/12/05 13:15:15 EDT

Hi Guru.Got a question? I own an old circa 1930'electric fireplace manufactured by Colonial Fireplace Co in Chicago. It's made from the bronze alloys they used in that era. Weights about 40 or 50 pounds. Is worth anything as scrap bronze seeing how the alloys that they used to make bronze have changes and now most bronze is brass.
   Bill - Monday, 09/12/05 13:24:12 EDT

I have just started tomahawk throwing, and I want to temper my wooden tomahawk handles. Could you please tell me what to use, and how to temper them. Thank you.
   Mickey White - Monday, 09/12/05 14:02:01 EDT

I don't know if you received my question when I sent it before. I would like to know how to temper wooden tomahawk handles. Please tell me what to use and directions on how to temper them. Thank you.
   - Mickey White - Monday, 09/12/05 14:08:22 EDT

ThorOdamountain: From the shape I suspect it is a China import of cast iron. Looks like the pointed, rather than duckbill horn. Don't see a pritchel/punching hole. Hardy hole may be 1 1/8", which means most of the commonly available hardy tools will be sloppy in it. The guy has a questionable feedback rating. Negative/neutral feedback will happen, but he is running 4-5%.

Other than lack of finish to these, the most common remark I have heard is surprise as to how small they are, even at 110 lbs.

Ask the seller if they will let you do a ballpeen hammer test with a full refund - including two-way shipping - if it fails. Hit the top hard with the ball end of the hammer to see if it leaves a dimple. If it does, then the top is too soft for any serious forging work.

ptree: My guess is this guy is a drop-ship seller. For local pickup he would have to go out and buy one or have one shipped to him from his jobber.

As Ron Broz noted you can pick up a 110 lb Russian anvil at Harbor Freight retail outlets. May not have one on the floor or in back. However, they should be able to get one delivered from the warehouse in a couple of days. Decent enough for a starter anvil if you are careful with it. Beats the shop floor.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/12/05 14:27:24 EDT

How would I find out some history and value on an anvil?
   Jon Stark - Monday, 09/12/05 15:03:02 EDT

Can you give me directions, and what to use to temper my wooden tomahawk handles. Thank you.
   - Mickey White - Monday, 09/12/05 15:24:54 EDT

Micky White: Nothing. Or boiled linseed oil. If you hit wrong, the handle will break, if you hit right it won't.

I have known folks to soak 'em in kerosene for a couple of years before using them, and one guy who kept his in a pipe full of hot boiled linseed oil for a week.

Nothing is going to harden the wood or keep it from breaking. What are you expecting to happen? When we use the word "temper", we mean using heat to slightly soften and toughen fully-hardened steel. With wood, it has no meaning that I know of. I suspect you mean seasoning? As long as you get good hickory handles, they'll last until you throw wrong no matter what you do to 'em.

Kerosene is supposed to penetrate the wood fibers and allow them to slip past each other. It does make ramrods more flexible, but won't do anything to wood the size of a hawk handle except make it stink.

Boiled Linseed oil makes a nice finish, as long as you apply it to glass-smoth wood in thin coats, so thin you can't really tell it's there, letting it dry fully (a week or so) between each coat, and then using the palm of your hand to rub the dried built-up film hard until the heat produced by friction polymerizes the oil film, making it hard and shiny.

I'd leave the handles unfinished, myself, since they do break. No point spending that much time on an expendable item.
   Alan-L - Monday, 09/12/05 16:19:32 EDT

Jon a good way is to post the info here---including where you're located---in a general way---and folks can tell you quite a bit. The best source I know of on anvils is "Anvils in America" by Postman

   Thomas P - Monday, 09/12/05 16:26:01 EDT

Newbie has a question. I'm a lefty and am trying to decide if the horn should be pointed toward my left side or my right side. Is this a matter of preference or do certain techniques require the horn to be pointed towards the arm/hand with the hammer for either a lefty or righty?
   walker - Monday, 09/12/05 16:37:04 EDT

Jon: Info we would need:
1. Any markings on the sides, particularly with the horn to the right? One method is to wirebrush, lay on side, dust with flour and then brush off flour leaving it in depressions. Sometimes it makes markings jump out at you. Also, are markings stamped in or raised?
2. Is the bottom flat or does it have a depression? If a depression, what shape?
3. Any markings on the front foot or under the heel?
4. Any handling holes? If so, where?
5. Can you see a seam which indicates a separate top plate?
6. Are there small ledges on top of the front and back feet?
7. When you tap the top plate and horn with a flat faced hammer do you get a nice ring or a dull thud?
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/12/05 16:59:14 EDT

Ok, thank you. I live in the Grand Rapids Michigan Area and have an anvil that is about 125-130 lbs. It is has a enlongated diamond mark and has TRENT chiseled in it. There is a number stamped in the end that is 62090. Any information/value on this would be helpful. Thanks...
   Jon Stark - Monday, 09/12/05 17:00:15 EDT

Walker, There are many ways to stand at an anvil. Professionals work predominately with the horn to the off hand (tongs) side while standing at the side or rear of the anvil.

Many modern instructors have the student stand at the side of the anvil facing the direction of the horn. This makes it easy to work on the face and horn as well as SEE the edges when working on them. You want to stand CLOSE over the anvil, taking possesion of it. The biggest fault with newbies is trying to stand at arms length. Your toes should almost be touching the stand and you should be standing straight and relaxed but NOT hunched over.

The reason for the horn to be on the off hand side is that when you take something off the horn that is wrapped or hooked around it you move it away from your body. If you work the other way when you take things off the horn you are pulling them straight into your body.
   - guru - Monday, 09/12/05 17:12:05 EDT

Thanks much guys, i checked with all the local harbor freights and none close have a 110 russian anvil. Im gona run down there sometime soon and put in an order then. Ive read alot of the reviews and they look promising, but when i checked harbor freights website they didnt seem to have it listed. Ill check anyway, thanks agian
   Thorodamountain - Monday, 09/12/05 17:18:58 EDT

Jon Stark: You have a Trenton from the Columbus (OH) Forge and Iron Company. Serial #62090 would place it in 1906. Wrought iron body with a steel plate. Among the best anvils produced in the U.S. Value depends somewhat on condition. If in good condition, I would say $2 - $2.50 pound, perhaps a tad higher if in very nice condition.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/12/05 17:22:47 EDT

Thorodamountain: For whatever reason Harbon Freight's catalog division doesn't seem to carry the anvil. Have been told the catalog/on-line orders and retail outlets are separate entities.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/12/05 17:24:24 EDT

left or right. I use my anvil both ways. Depending on what I am working on. BUt mine is fairly small 149 lb'er so I can rotate it fairly easy.
Guru is very correct about standin up to the anvil. You will work better and be able to work longer.
   Ralph - Monday, 09/12/05 17:46:43 EDT

My local Harbor Freight had several anvils about a m,onth ago. A 110# Russian, and some cast iron ASO's from China. Pick up a ball pein hammer in the store, and gently tap. Cast iron= thud, cast steel a bit of a ring.
   ptree - Monday, 09/12/05 17:52:48 EDT

ptree: I'm starting to suspect the Russian anvils are what use to be called semi-steel, quenched (chilled) after being poured. Do you know? According to Anvils in America, some of the modern farrier anvils were ductile.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/12/05 18:33:31 EDT

Thank you, appreciate the information to someone very new in this hobby...
   Jon Stark - Monday, 09/12/05 18:39:33 EDT

Hey, didja see that Jon Stark is in the Grand Rapids MI area? Me too! Already sent him an e-mail. Maybe can help out a new smith.
   Bob H - Monday, 09/12/05 18:46:56 EDT

Russian Anvils: Ken, Nope. They are actually cast steel. See my review.

My eBay Ad: Hey, I just bought a used car and found a few anvils in the trunk! These are real beauties, hard and heavy and everything. They got round holes and square holes and everything. Great for professional blacksmiths and even fishermen and everything. Great for stopping that door that won't stay open or keeping the old boat from drifting off. Bid now and bid often. Shipping is extra. Extra expensive, that is.

Disclaimer: this is not a slam against our own Mr. Scharabok who is an honest ebay merchant. It is a reflection of those other merchants who do not enjoy Ken's code of ethics.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 09/12/05 19:19:03 EDT

White cast iron: about 600 Brinell or about 60 Rc. This officially qualifies as "harder than woodpecker lips".
   quenchcrack - Monday, 09/12/05 19:24:21 EDT

Yeah, but not nearly the tensile strength of woodpecker lips.
   vicopper - Monday, 09/12/05 22:03:00 EDT

About the only good thing I ever heard about white cast iron is that it could be cast with extremely good detail, at least back when there were people willing and capable of such. If it is "Maleablised" sp? it would be much softer and pretty tough. Think threaded pipe fittings.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/12/05 22:43:29 EDT

Bill: I havnt taken any scrap in since the end of last year, but brass/bronze was about $0.45/pound at that time. The problem with scrap is that nobody knows just what is in the alloy, for most purposes it neds to be melted, tested and made into a specific alloy so the end customer knows what He is getting. Copper, brass/ bronze, and copper-aluminum coils are always worth collecting, market prices fluctuate. Always collect, sell when high.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/12/05 23:01:24 EDT

In addition to above, aluminum is worth the effort to scrap, cast iron is OK, potmetal is marginal, steel often not worth the fuel to get it there, unless heavy sections and a lot of it.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/12/05 23:06:36 EDT

Ok so say I cast white steel on accident (which I am sure I will). Can I then anneal it? or am I better off starting over?
My mom is a potter and she gave me one of her old electric kilns. I thought I would be able to heat treat with that kiln. does anyone see that being a problem.
Thank you
Cody T.
   Cody T - Tuesday, 09/13/05 02:21:56 EDT

Also: what is prepared scrap steel bringing east of the mississippi or on the east coast?

Cody T.
   Cody T - Tuesday, 09/13/05 02:23:48 EDT

g'day from new zealand
i'm trying to locate a set of blacksmithing prices from the 18th and 19th century.
can you suggest a web site of books covering this period
   brendan o'brien - Tuesday, 09/13/05 03:26:53 EDT

g'day again
should read
can you suggest a web site or books covering this period
   brendan o'brien - Tuesday, 09/13/05 05:15:13 EDT

brendam o'brien: I would suggest The Blacksmith, Ironworker & Farrier (original title The Village Blacksmith) by Aldren A. Watson. It contains two appendix, one is Blacksmith's Daily Record for January, 1842 and Selected Enteries from Account Book to Show Diversity of Blacksmith's Seasonal Work. Both would be for the New England area of the U.S. Bear in mind some of the work may have been done on a barter basic, such as receiving charcoal, produce, meats or labor-in-kind.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 09/13/05 07:35:58 EDT

Potters Kiln: Although these LOOK hot enough for melting metal they are not designed for work that hot. Special stoneware kilns get in the neighborhood but are still too slow. The thing about kilns, especialy electric kilns is that they are VERY slow, taking 5 to 8 hours to get up to temperature (usualy about 1800° - 1900°F.). For melting metal you want to reach 2,000°F right NOW and for iron and steel 2,600°F. THIS is completely out of range of pottery kilns.

The little propane fired crucible furnace shown below can melt about 5 pounds of brass in 10 minutes or less. It is sized exactly for that amount making it quite efficient. Larger quantities (in a larger furnace) take longer but only about double the time.

Freon can melting furnace

Note that melting iron and steel in a crucible furnace you need crucibles with snug fitting lids. The are often sealed except for a small vent. Otherwise the steel will burn and be worthless. Normally cast iron is melted in a coupla furnace where the fuel (coke) and iron is mixed together and the atmosphere of the furnace protects the iron.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 08:41:00 EDT

Scrap Prices: It used to be scrap steel prices were fairly stable. But since the Chinese and Europeans have been mining US scrap iron (with our cooperation) the prices have been as volatile as any thing else. A few years ago you could not give away cast iron and steel was selling for less than a penny a pound. A few months ago scrap prices spiked to nearly what NEW steel prices were a few years ago. . . Chinese over buying rocked the scrap world and drove up new steel prices. Today they are half what they were but could drop or spike tomarrow. You have to be in the steel market to know.

   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 08:48:36 EDT

Scrap prices
I have been involved in selling scrap for about 20 years for large industrial concerns. The large customers get a contract that ties the price by class and location to a spot price. There are two publications that publish prices.
An example would be the Pittsburg market for #2 heavy melt prepared, second Tuesday.
Pricing is very linked to location. If a mill that wants scrap is close by the price is better for the sellor.
Over the last twenty years, I have seen the first 19 or so with very stable prices, probably no more than a $40/ton change in any month. In the last year I have seen $50 up, $50 down, and $50 up all in the same month. I have seen the very dependable approx. $ 100 a ton for scrap steel, prepared #2 run to $450, and back down.
By the way, any preperation work, such as shearing down to size, or burning down to size drop the price paid. Most mills want #2 prepared heavy melt as the favored scrap to feed. #2 prepared heavy melt is scrap with no demension greater than 3', and heavy enough not to blow back out of the furnace when charged.
My favorite predictor of next months scrap price is a 78 year old scrap broker that has worked the Louisville market for about 60 years. I am willing to ask him what he predicts for next month anytime. He has never let me down.
He has bought about 250 million tons of scrap from the various companies I have worked for over the years and he is very good on predicting next months price. Even he will not take a guess on two months out.
   ptree - Tuesday, 09/13/05 09:17:16 EDT

Cody T,

You can use that electric kiln for heat treating steel. For dependable, reproducible results, you will need to get a computer controller for it. These can be found, though they aren't real cheap. You need to be able to ramp the heat up and down, from room temperature to about 2000ºF, with rates controlled by as little as 25º per hour for some of the more difficult alloys. Some of them require inert atmospheres, or reducing atmospheres or cryogenic post-treating. For the simple carbon steels, a good *accurate* pyrometer and close attention will do most of what you need.

Heat treating is a VERY complex and exacting process when high alloy steels are involved, and you need to get the appropriate books and really study them. There is a goodly amount of information out there on the 'net, on suh places as the knife making sites, but jsome of it is just kitchen chemistry and pretty suspect. If you can get the ASM heat treating book it has the facts, and you can judge the rest of what you read by comparing it to the book.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 09/13/05 10:30:21 EDT

Shops that have electric furnaces for heat treating usually keep them partialy heated 24 hours a day due to the slow heat up time. They often have two, one for hardening and the other for tempering and keep each one set at the initial heat which can be pretty high for hardening.

For heat treating an electric furnace is much easier to control than gas. Electronic controler output is used to operate a sufficiently heavy contactor (power relay). With gas you must power a solenoid valve, fan and ignition (if you are building your own). Automatic gas furnaces usualy also have a "fire eye" or infrared sensor to be sure they are lit when the gas is flowing. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 10:59:53 EDT

"Mechanick Exercises", Joseph Moxon, published 1703
"Practical Blacksmithing", Richardson late 1880's early 1890's

Gill, H. B., and T. K. Ford
1971 The Blacksmith in Eighteenth Century Williamsburg: An Account of His Life and Times and of His Craft. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia.

"To Forge, Upset and Weld" a pamphlet from the PA history society has excerpts from a smiths Daybook from PA as well.

Don't know of any website for information like this...especially for NZ

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/13/05 12:02:54 EDT

new to blacksmithing and am thinking of taking the week long course at the John C Campbell in North Carolina. Is this a good place to learn? Or is it a waste of money?
   - Chris - Tuesday, 09/13/05 15:09:46 EDT

Chris, All the schools are a good place to learn. However, these are short courses and it helps a lot to have done some serious studying before going. For a newby knowing the names of the tools, parts of the anvil, how a forge works is a good start. THEN there is general metal working. Knowing the right way to use a file, how to stand when using a hacksaw, something about file and saw teeth and where not to apply coarse teeth. The right way to drill a hole and other small machine tool tasks. Then there is use and safe handling of welding equipment as well as general shop safety.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 15:55:03 EDT

I personally can't recommend John C. Campbell highly enough! I got my start there, and have taken other classes too. Read a few smithing books, then go. You'll come out further ahead of the game than if you'd spent two or three years trying on your own. I'm not exaggerating, either. It's a great place to learn the basics, the intermediates, and the advanced.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 09/13/05 16:02:58 EDT

Went to a two year school for Ag/Ind Mechanics. Been schooled on welding and even basic hand tool usage. Grew up on a working Farm/Sawmill/Grist Mill. I know what you mean about a hacksaw and a file its amazing how many people dont know how to use such simple tools.
   Chris - Tuesday, 09/13/05 16:33:21 EDT

Schools: Something to watch is who the instructor is. There is a small group of folks that travel to teach at various schools. Some folks go over and over to where the same instructors are while others go to see different instructors.

Currently Uri Hofi is only teaching at Ed Mack's "Center for Metal Arts" in Florida, NY and at the Power Hammer School in Mooresville, NC in the US. He also teaches in Germany and his own school in Israel.

Frank Turley (who is currently in Austraila) teaches at his own school and also at Ed Mack's as well as other places such as John C. Campbell. In one of his three week courses you will learn a LOT. Many of today's professionals launched their carreers taking courses at Frank's.

In the past the purpose of the title Journeyman was that workers in various fields spent years traveling (on a journey) from one job to another to learn as much as possible. They would stay at a job until they had learned all they could then move on to another. Today going to various schools take place of this process in blacksmithing. Every instructor has something different that you will take from them.

Note that Alan L. above is a Master Gunsmith among other talents.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 17:35:31 EDT

I am doing a project exploring the history of blademaking. There is a book on your website titled: By the Sword: A Microhistory... Do you know where I could find it or another good read exploring the historical rather than technical aspects of forging a sword?
   ANK - Tuesday, 09/13/05 19:46:21 EDT

Ank, When doing research the FIRST stop is the LOC (Library of Congress) on-line search. You can also search specific University library catalogs from the links there.

Once you have a wish list bibliography you can go to your local library and ask about ILL (Inter Library Loan). You will have some forms to fill out using the print outs from your LOC search. IF you found books in the LOC catalog they are ALL available somewhere. With ILL the first library to offer the book is where it will come from. These are often University libraries. If nobody has it the LOC may loan it. OR you can make a trip to Washington DC and use the LOC in person. Its an experiance you won't forget.

Many books in specialty fields that are published outside the United States do not end up in the LOC but MAY be in University libraries. If you are having a hard time finding resources at the LOC go to some major University libs. Many from other places also have on-line catalogs.

Do not overlook archealogical journals or blade magazine.

If you want to purchase many of these relatively rare books and journals then the on-line bookstore search sites are great. I prefer bookfinder.com because Amazon.com has not bought them and screwed them up like they did bibliofind and a couple others.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/13/05 20:50:11 EDT

I'm a total beginner in the art of blacksmithing, but this looks like and excellent place to start my education!

I would like to use 1" electrical conduit as tent posts. To make the lengths easier to handle I would like make them "stackable" by swaging one end so that it fits into the end of another.

Can I do this with a simple set of dies, a hammer and an anvil with out the tube "folding" or would I need a some type of rotary saging tool ?
   Jack Patteeuw - Tuesday, 09/13/05 20:52:32 EDT

Hello everybody. I was wondering if anyone knows of any brands of non-galvanized nails at the hardware store. (Been having trouble finding any.) I recently got grip-rite masonry fasteners, as it didn't say that they were galvanized. I'm not sure if it was the oil, or maybe zinc, but there was a residue left on them after heating them up.

If you know of any non-galvanized nails, preferably 2.5 inches or longer, your help would be appreciated. (Just in case you were wondering, I was trying to make a rose I saw done at a ren fair.)
   - mouko - Tuesday, 09/13/05 20:59:06 EDT

Another question. YAY!

How fast (relatively) does charcoal burn? The stuff I got seems to burn MUCH faster than coal. It is described as being "100% natural hardwood charcoal." Almost every time I put a piece back in the fire, I throw another handful on. Keep in mind I have my blower on low power the whole time.
   - mouko - Tuesday, 09/13/05 21:23:38 EDT

blower on all time is why. turn it off when you are hammering.
In facy I would say make a foot on off switch so that when you leave the forge the blower will turn off.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 09/13/05 22:32:08 EDT

Jack P : I havn't ever tried to do this on steel conduit, But I have sucessfully made swages for copper pipe. Turn a piece of steel to a diameter slghtly larger than the OD of the pipe about 5 times the diameter in length. Next turn down the end to fit snugly inside the pipe, about 2 diameters in length. turn a 15 degre per side bevel from the smaller diameter to the larger. Polish the entire thing with emery paper, grease well and drive into the end of a length of pipe to swage a socket about 2 diameters deep.This workes in copper, but might split the conduit, but You won't know unless You try. If You try to make a die to swage down the tube end, keep it light, and still use the 15 degrees. You depend on the mass of the pipe rather than an anvil, so work the end before You cut the length.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 09/13/05 22:40:25 EDT

brendan o'brien-- you might have some luck querying The Early American Industries Association (qv google). They publish scads of old tool catalogs, and also day books of early American craftsmen. Also, try asking for info from the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.
Melting stuff-- beware really hairy-scary noxious toxic fumes from cooking brass.
Chris-- you'll get farther faster with some kindly teacher looking over your shoulder who knows what she is doing and what you are doing wrong than you will solo.
Jack Patteeuw-- Conduit is not heavy enough to drive into the ground. Get mouko to pick you up some BIG nails when he finds some.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 09/13/05 22:48:37 EDT

It is time yet again to bother the professionals with another question. Does anyone here have any experience with jewlery making? I was thinking of making a ring by taking some brass rod and making a shallow bellied basket twist. I thought I could taper the tips of it and form a bit of a fishtail scroll at the ends of the basket twist. Then I would proceed to carefully curl the ring around the properly sized shaft with the scrolls protruding externally. Now for the question: Will it work? I intend to either use brazing and four brass rods or cut two slots normal to each other through the middle of a piece of square brass stock. Would the brazing take hammering well? Is there any way to curl a basket twist while maintaining its shape and beauty? Thanks for your thoughts in advance.
   Matthew Marting - Tuesday, 09/13/05 23:00:46 EDT

Basket twist ring.
Sounds like it will need a small gauge wire to appear porportinal to ones finger.
Perhaps practise with copper first, Cheap and easy to work...
Maybe try a paper or tape wrappings over the wire to maintain the spacings between wires whilst its twisted and rolled to shape, then burn away the paper
   - Sven - Tuesday, 09/13/05 23:39:05 EDT

Matthew-- It's going to be awfully klunky, catch on your/her sweater, and it's going to turn your/her finger green.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/14/05 00:31:08 EDT


I have a bit of experience with jewelry making. I would not bother making a ring out of brass. Sterling silver is cheap enough and better to work with. It won't turn your finger green, either.

You can do the basket twist part no problem, but making the ring bend after opening the basket will be problematical. I would experiment with a few different baskets unti I worked out one that could be opened properly with a full reverse twist. Then you can twist the four strands, curve them bend the ring and then untwist them to open the basket. Might work, I've never tried it.

I'm totally confused by what you're talking about with the fishtail scrolls, though. If you taper the ends, what is left to forge out into a fishtail? And if you scroll the fishtails out away from the ring, the thing will be impossible to wear. As I said, I'm a bit confused by your description.

Rings need to be comfortable to wear, above all else. I would stick with making the basket twist and then bending the ends to form the shank of the ring, soldering them together. Simple and airy, and not too bulky, if you let the part of the basket that rests on the finger flatten a bit as you bend the shank.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 09/14/05 01:03:11 EDT

Silver won't turn your finger green, but if your body chemistry is like mine, you'll get a black stain under the ring occasionally. Something to do with sulfites, methinks. (Too many onions, garlic and Habaneros?) However, it's not quite as toxic as the green stuff. Now, the nice Navajo wedding ring I got at Bien Mur, on the Sandia Rez, for $85 hasn't stained me yet. (better silver?)
   3dogs - Wednesday, 09/14/05 01:58:38 EDT

Thanks guru, I think the kiln would work for annealing steel however I worry about it not cooling slow enough. but I would never attempt to try to melt in a kiln. However The kiln I currently have will reach a temp of 2381 Degrees F. and can achieve that temp in 6-8 hours faster if you don't care how long the fire brick lining lasts. They are called True Cone 10 kilns.

Thanks again
Cody T.
   Cody T - Wednesday, 09/14/05 03:44:51 EDT

1" EMT Tent posts.
Why not use a ordinary conduit coupler.
Use steel set-screw type couplers and screw it to one end of a tube. Just placing the other tube into the coupler without the screw will hold fine so long as there is compressive tension on the assembly as its being used as a tentpole. Sven
   - Sven - Wednesday, 09/14/05 04:29:04 EDT

100% Wood Charcoal: Mouko, IF the charcoal looks like broken up peices of wood it is REAL wood charcoal. IF it is those nice little pillow shapes then it has been ground to a powder and glued back together. If this is the case it is NOT suitable charcoal. It has a much lower density than the real thing.

I prefer keeping the blower going all the time when I am working but you need a gate or adjustment to reduce the flow to a minimum when not heating a peice of steel. However, most of us work more than one piece at a time and like the forge hot but below burning so that each piece is ready NOW.

Even when using coal you are constantly rebuilding the center of the fire. Every couple heats you need to push coal from the reserve in the forge to the center. This is the primary reason big forges are better than small rivet and brake drum forges, the small ones have no place to put reserve coal. You load the larger foeges with a bucket full of coal (or two) and feed the coal to the center as you work. Ocassionaly the whole pipe tries to burn and then you sprinkle water on the fire fringe. All this is fire maintenance, something that takes time to learn and is slightly different for every forge and every batch of fuel.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 07:48:00 EDT

Swaging Pipe: There is a big difference in pipe and tubing and types of each. Conduit is made fairly cheap and will swage but usualy the weld will split. You are better off to make it smaller. If you look at commercial tent tube assemblies most have gone to this style. Also if you look they crease a place in the tube instead of trying to shrink it. This allows them to use a simple punch press setup to make the ends fast and efficiently.

Conduit couplers are made from very thin die cast zinc and break easily. All they are intended to do is couple with the absolute minimum strength. In a tent they are likely to break. Folks that make tents using conduit fittings usualy go to 1-1/2" to get the strength.

   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 08:44:06 EDT

Swaging Pipe: Steel conduit couplers would do fine, Maybe Sven should have wrote "Steel set screw type coupler, Not the wimpy die cast couplers" BTW Sven, Is that you, the same guy from the tool talk board ?
   Noel; The Electrician - Wednesday, 09/14/05 09:40:09 EDT

ptree, did you get my last email.

   BobbyN - Wednesday, 09/14/05 09:57:55 EDT

ANK like "The Metallography of Early Ferrous Edge Tolls and Edged Weapons" by Tylecote and Gilmour or "The Celtic Sword" by Radomir Pleiner? NB these discuss what the swords were made from but do not discuss the shape of the forge or types of bellows. That stuff is much harder to come by and is usually 1 picture per book. De Re Metallica has a lot of great woodcuts but it's middle of the 16th century. Therer is a stave church in scandanavia that has a carving of the forging of a sword on it from the 12 century IIRC; Theophilus tells how to build bellows in the "Divers Arts" from 1120, etc.

Also note that you can need more background information---like that the term "coal and coals" referred to charcoal in the medieval period and not mineral coal---to really understand what's going on.

If you have some specific questions I may be able to refer you to some sources.

N.B. The early research on re-creating pattern welded swords (as mentioned in the appendix to "The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England) has been superseded by more modern research---the use of round rods does not appear to be correct as the patterns you get from using round rods do not match the extant ones in excavated blades while those made by welding flat stock and then twisting do. (and making round stock is much more labour than making flat/rectangular stock)

Cody, a kiln's rate of cooling is quite sufficient to anneal most steels---in fact it's considerable slower than most methods smiths use.


   Thomas P - Wednesday, 09/14/05 11:04:14 EDT


I've heard that it is best to learn to weld on an oxy/acet set up before moving to arc or stick welding. In y'alls experience is that true? And if so, is an arc setup that desireable given that the majority of the work I would be focused on would be 1" or less in thickness though the ability to weld hardy tools would be nice. Do y'all prefer stick or gas for smaller work (1/8" or smaller rod for instance)? If you had the choice between TSC, Home Depot, or a welding supply store, who would you go with for initial set up (does TSC or Home Depot refill tanks?) I've been re-searching for awhile and haven't been able to find answers to the questions (I work long hours and the stores are always closed when I get off work) That being said, I will likely be relegate to learning on my own on the weekends and as I live in the boonies and hate driving the CC is not a viable option. I understand the hazards of working with explosive gasses and dangerous currents and have some experience with those elements in my line of work and have read a few books on the topic, so I should be okay on the safety side Thanks for any advice y'all can provide.

   Brett - Wednesday, 09/14/05 12:04:00 EDT

Yes I got the e-mail and returned an e-mail to you this morning. Thanks for the tip!
   ptree - Wednesday, 09/14/05 12:21:12 EDT

Brett, A good Oxy/acet torch setup is a very usefull tool in the shop, nearly required. I would (and did) buy mine from the welding supply store, they have all the support you need and many times will give a discount just for asking for it.

A torch is good for sheet metal welding but for much larger than 1/8" a stick or mig welder will be needed. Mig is ok up to about 1/2" with multiple passes, stick can "get er done" easily into the larger sizes of stock
   - Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 09/14/05 12:54:26 EDT

I guess my blue color isn't working yet. It has only been a couple of months.
   - Wayne Parris - Wednesday, 09/14/05 12:57:27 EDT


First, Always deal with a professional industrial welding supplier and purchase well known brands of welding equipment. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

Only welding suppliers will refill cylinders and you ned a good working relationship with the business you select. Don't expect ANY help when you go to them looking for tips for your lowhung oddball welding torch. Yes you WILL have to deal with these folks on a weekday during business hours.

You need both oxy-acetylene and arc. Arc welding is the fastest most economical way to put two pieces of steel together and oxy-acetylene is the most flexible and efficient method of cutting heavy plate, beams and such. Arc welding equipment is almost worthless without the support of the oxy-fuel equipment. The oxy-fuel torch however CAN be used to solder, braze, weld, heat AND cut. It is quite universal in what can be done with it. However, it is slow and expensive when welding anything of signifigance (anything over 1/8').
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 13:04:37 EDT


I served an apprenticship as a Coppersmith/Millwright/welder in the Royal Navy
in the 40's in the UK at the age of 15. Went on to become an enginner on a Nuke
submarine years later, then a teacher at schools and universities
internationally. I have lots of "stuff" in my background!

We were expected to do most processes without specialized equipment in those
days in case a ship wasn't damaged and we had nothing to work with. Although we
did a modern welding course also - Brazing was done on a coke hearth with
spelter and borax as flux - my final test job included a 6" Copper Pipe
manufactured from 1/8" copper plate into a right angle bend with two saddle
branches - one of suppiled pipe but the other a "blind" saddle of 2.5" diameter
raised up from sheet. All the brazing was done on the hearth including the three
brass flanges.

So - as we did most things in a traditional way there are a couple of things you
may be interested in.

Annealing Aluminum (we welded it with OxyAcetylene when we needed to) we heated
gently using a slightly carburizing flame until a sliver of wood wrote on the
metal like a black marker. The aluminum was allowed to cool slowly

Annealing high carbon steel - raised to above critical tremperature ( basically
a bright cherry red) and then plunged into a pain of dry and fine slaked lime

We tempered springs by heating and quenching full hard. The a piece of steel
pipe about 5" diameter was placed on the forge and heated a dull red. The hard
spring was held on a piece of heavy wire and dipped into boiled linseed oil then
held inside the tube until the oil flashed off.

Brass was forged regularly at a dull red heat - we each made a "Ring spanner" a
device for opening heavy valve wheels in brass.

We also, of course, re-metalled bronze bearings (many ships were still
reciprocating engines with bearings of 18" diameter and 2ft long being common).

We were expected to be able to re-tip a warships propeller on a beach if
necessary......moulding the shape in the beach sand and welding it to the prop
by running molten brass though a channel in the sand to fuse the parts. Strange
and never used skill!

I am looking for a recipe for Kasenit?Casenite?.....it is no longer able to be
imported into Canada and I need a quick method for a thin skin case-hardening.
Can you give me any ideas ?? I see Boron/Barium Carbonate is suggested here and
there as an accelerant with powdered charcoal....do you know any more than that

Blessings...............feel free to mail me if there's anything I can ever add
to your knowledge.....my trade is extinct now regretfully but those years of
basic training have stayed with me all my life as an Educator.....a PhD means
less to me that that trade certificate - I worked harder for it!

Peter Wilkinson
   Peter - Wednesday, 09/14/05 13:19:38 EDT


Sterling silver rings will often turn your skin dark, due to oxidation of the copper alloying element. Fols like me, with very acid sweat, have more problems with that than some people do.

One possible reason your Navajo ring hasn't given you the black finger band is that it may have been repeatedly bright-dipped. Bright-dipping simply means heating the metal up to a black heat and then quenching in picling solution. The solution can be either Sparex #2 or 10% sulfuric acid solution, either one. The pickle dissolves the oxides and the surface copper, as it is more susceptible to the acid than the silver. If you do this a few times, the surface of the piece is pretty nearly fine silver and won't tarnish. By "surface" I mean the top ten microns or so.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 09/14/05 13:26:36 EDT

Ok ptree, was sure it the email I sent back went.

Brett, go to a Community College and take a class. You will learn both. Most bottles are swap outs after you buy your first set. I don't think that Home Depot swaps bottles but I have seen TSC with some, but the best deal is a Welding Supply store. Stick or Mig is perferred, you will be limited with O/A welding.
   BobbyN - Wednesday, 09/14/05 13:37:44 EDT

Case Hardening: Peter, The reason Casenit is no longer used in some places is because it was cyanide salt or contained quite a bit. The new stuff says cyanide free but doesn't say WHAT it is. Straight sodium cyanide can be used but various proportions of potasium cyanide and sodium cyanide are used for economical reasons (according to Machinery's Handbook). See Machinery's for details.

WARNING: Acid including weak ones such as in sweat will liberate cyanide gas from the dry or melted cyanide salts. This is the same gas used in execution gas chambers.

Casenit and other similar compounds only produce a superficial surface hardness. For deep case hardening other methods are used including packing in charcoal in a sealed container and holding at the carburizing temperature for up to 4 hours.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 14:11:47 EDT


Thanks for the info! That pretty much so confirms what I had been hearing and reading. I get off a little early today and will try to make it out to the welding supply store that is on my way home. I'd also heard about it being a good idea to become friends with them. If I am not mistaken, I think Lincoln Elec. makes a decent start up kit, not sure if it is single stage or double stage. Will I hate life if I get a single stage given the fact that I will soon hopefully pick up Lincoln's 110/225 Buzz box when I can find an electrician to come wire me for 220/50Amp (no reason to go 70 amp on that right?)

   Brett - Wednesday, 09/14/05 14:14:19 EDT

Welder Amperages: Buzz boxes will run on much less than the rated supply however you WILL trip the breaker or blow the fuse when you reach its capacity. My little (ancient) Miller Thunderbolt 225 specs called for a 90A 240VAC breaker. It would easily run on less but I generaly ran it on a 60A breaker. My light duty AirCo MIG machine required a 90A breaker as well.

Note that when you operate on 115/120VAC these devices require twice the amperage as at 220/240VAC to do the same job. Total power in watts is the same no matter what.

See the manufacturer's reccomendation for the power requirements for your specific machine.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 14:39:50 EDT

Single and Double Stages: This applies to gas regulators. As oxy-acetylene equipment is often a once in a lifetime purchase it is best to go with a standard duty set like the Victor Journeyman set. I believe it comes with two stage regulators.

The difference is that as the pressure in the gas bottle drops the output of the regulator changes. Two stage regulators reduce the pressure to near the maximum low range then the second stage adjusts the pressure from this fairly stable point. Output from the second stage is usualy very steady.

The common text book used by schools all over the country is Modern Welding. Look for it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/14/05 14:46:54 EDT

   - BobbyN - Wednesday, 09/14/05 16:47:25 EDT

   BobbyN - Wednesday, 09/14/05 16:49:07 EDT

I have a brass broach which I want to "antique" the look of. I recall vaguely from my jewelry-making classes in college that there was something you could do to brass to make it look copper, but it seems like that involved annealing, and I don't want to make it softer. Or perhaps I could do something to make it go green. What suggestions do you have?
Thanks, Raelin
   Raelin - Wednesday, 09/14/05 17:51:46 EDT

Thanks guru. It is real charcoal. I found it at Trader Joe's (I guess that Trader Joe's are dotted around the country). It was 4.49 for a 8.8 pound bag, but it was the real stuff.
   - mouko - Wednesday, 09/14/05 18:51:05 EDT

Thanks guru - I know the process well and have taught metallurgy for 30 years and knew I was only seeking a shallow layer hence my quest for casenite powder formula - however IF indeed it contained Cyanide salts then I will pass - although I used it for over 40 years without any problems !

I will use a charcoal pack with an accelerator - thanks anyway

   - peterwilkinson - Wednesday, 09/14/05 19:10:11 EDT

Bottled gasses at TSC: They are an outlet for "Gas Pony" They offer Oxygen, Acetylene, and C25 for MIG welding, but are NOT able to accept out of date cilinders. the price looked prety good, as do the evening & weekend hours, but You WILL NEED a good working relationship with a full service welding supply shop.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 09/15/05 00:06:20 EDT


You can find formulae for lots of different patinas at this site:


Antique brass usually turns brown first, then may develop a verdigris (greenish) patina if exposed to the weather. Copper finishes have to be coated with clear lacquer or they turn dark very quickly since copper is such an active metal.
   vicopper - Thursday, 09/15/05 00:07:55 EDT

Could you please help me with a crossword clue? "Metal Worker"s Forge" 6 letters, 4th one T.
Thanking you, Lynette.
   Lynette - Thursday, 09/15/05 00:39:24 EDT


why not try making your own.

If not there are several " lump" char coal brands to chose from.
One to avoid is Texas Mesquite real wood charcoal.
it tends to have large( stump size) fire brands and rock mixed into the bag.
One that I favor is Regal or Royal brand lump charcoal. Burns hot and with little ash( respectivly, sp?)

If you end up making your own stick to this rule o thumb:
" The harder the wood the slower the burn( in forge ), the softer the wood the hotter."
   - timex - Thursday, 09/15/05 01:34:36 EDT


sorry for the two posts but royal brand is on sale at Wal-mart untill the 28th of sept. 9.00 $ US for 20lbs
   - timex - Thursday, 09/15/05 01:36:38 EDT

Man due I seem to be behind the power curve today.

K... third and final post fer today

Real charcoal bburns faster than coal cause its less dence that coal. So yes, you will need to " feed the fire" more. how much cfm's ( cubic feet per minute ) is your fan putting out? If its too high you are drowing the fire in O2 and lowering the heat. A good charcoal forge blower , or any for that matter , allows just enough O2 into the fire to raise the heat to the desired temp. I personally use a "Fart fan" with a variable intake for mine. But I still have to be careful about allowing the temp to get to high( burning steel). Not bad for a trashed out portable bbq pit.

Timex card board carberator:
Cut or tear a card board box up and place it infont of the INTAKE side of the air supply. Adjust the blockage untill happy with the air flow.

Have you tried building a cave of coals over your steel, err iron. It will help you to control air and fuel not to mention foci the heat of your forge.
   - timex - Thursday, 09/15/05 01:57:54 EDT

Lynette: Vortex?
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 09/15/05 06:12:15 EDT

I am using a portable forge I got at centaur. I think it has a Dayton blower. On low I don'st think it put out too much air, but on high using charcoal, it spews ash all over. Man, I really need to take the time to go get coal.

Also, thanks timex for the info. I will go to walmart within the next few days to check out what thay have. ;)
   - mouko - Thursday, 09/15/05 08:59:17 EDT

Lynette-- smithy
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/15/05 10:16:40 EDT

Is this right I have to pay 50 to 60 bucks just to walk around SOFA??
   chimp1 - Thursday, 09/15/05 12:14:25 EDT

How would I go about makeing a swedge for makeing ladles?
   packrat_red - Thursday, 09/15/05 12:51:07 EDT

Unless they have changed the rules the SOFA group will let you in the tailgate area and in the vendor/exhibition area at Quad-State without paying. However, to watch the demonstrators you must be wearing a registration badge and must also register if you are going to sell and/or camp. There is an extra charge for camping on a per night basis. I don't know how they do the camping area, but they do have a guy who goes around and verifies the tailgate sellers. In the past if you help set up on Friday and take down on Sunday afternoon all or part of the registration fee has been waived. However, check on this as they may have all the help they need.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 09/15/05 12:57:19 EDT

packrat_red: I would recommend purchasing a swage block. One is on eBay now as #6209224135. Also check the forum advertisers (use the NAVIGATE link down towards the bottom) to see if they have something which may suit you.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 09/15/05 13:00:37 EDT

   - packrat_red - Thursday, 09/15/05 13:21:00 EDT


$60 On site for weekend $50 if preregistered
$35 On-site for one day Friday $30 if preregistered

$15 extra for family members.

In the past SOFA has been pretty lax about walk in visitors however they have had a problem with tailgaters that come and expect to get away with no fees.

The fees make you an "associate" member of SOFA so that their insurance covers you while on site, the legalease says you agree to their waiver of responsibility. Since this is voluntary and clearly stated it would probably hold up in court.

Those that do not pay can be asked to leave and otherwise charged with tresspassing. This rarely happens but it is a possibility. They have a no firearms and no alcohol policy that could force the issue.

If you want to save the preregistration costs you had better put a check in the mail today.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/15/05 13:44:39 EDT

Ladles: There are many ways of doing this. The easiest is to use a wood stump and work hot on the stump. The hot work will burn a bowl shape as needed. The same can be done and then used for cold work OR you can carve the wood using a gouge and scraper.

Generaly bowls in swage blocks are much too deep (such as the one referenced above). 1/3 the diameter should be the max depth and as little as 1/5 or less is often used. After using a shallow dish shape you will find that it is much superior to overly deep shapes.

Besides bowl shapes many people use short rings from pipe with rounded edges. This actually supports the work exactly the same as the edges of a bowl. If you do not have pipe available then you can easily make a ring from flat stock to do the same. Swage blocks without bowls were used this way as well.

Another posibility is the cut off ends of welding cylinders welded to a base plate, or the same don with a ring. However it is easier to store rings hanging together on a hook or spike.

   - guru - Thursday, 09/15/05 14:03:26 EDT

Without killing myself running around to flea markets etc is there a good affordable new anvil available? I'm within driving distance of the Euroanvil dealer. Whats the gouge on Farrier anvils for "smith" work?

   Chris - Thursday, 09/15/05 15:33:18 EDT

Chimp1; how much effort have you put in helping to set-up and run Quad-State? What's your share of the cost of getting the fairgrounds? Paying the insurance for the event? Paying for the plane tickets for the demonstrators---you may only want to see the tailgating *but* the reason those tailgaters are there is because of the demonstrators so you owe a cut for the cost of "bait"

I suggest you compare the cost of Quad-State to that of the ABANA conference...you'll be much happier.

SOFA is usually willing to help out students and other special cases; have you called and talked with them?

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/15/05 15:54:28 EDT

I have an old copy of 'Scientific American Encyclopedia of Formulas' dated 1911. It contains many formulas for casehardening, one of which sounds like your 'Casenite'. If interested let me know and I'll copy the pertinent pages and shoot them off to you.
   - Mani De Mers - Thursday, 09/15/05 16:15:05 EDT

Thank you all for your imput. I have been rather busy of late (I am barely keeping up with my schoolwork enough to still have time to sleep), otherwise I would have waited anxiously for your reply. I think I will try some wire first and then move on to sterling silver once I get a flawless prototype. Also, I read down from your answers to my post a bit and was horrified to find that sodium cyanide is used for case hardening. I would just like to add to the guru's warning, that THERE IS NO ANTIDOTE to cyanide poisoning. It permanently bonds to the active site of the enzyme that produces energy for the bodies cells. The cells are thus forced to use fermentation in order to get energy (thus forming lactic acid, the chemical that makes your muscles "burn" after a workout). This also happens when you dont get enough oxygen (but oxygen deffiency is obviously not permanent). Ever run a marathon, or felt like it? Imagine dying while every cell in your body literally suffocates, coagulating your blood and outraging every nerve, the feeling of running a marathon fifty fold. It is the worst death imaginable.
PS: I wrote this to inform as well as warn. Knowledge is like firewood, one can never have enough.
   Matthew Marting - Thursday, 09/15/05 17:47:27 EDT

Thank you for the civil reply. I will try to be more prepared for next year.
ThomasP I think the color blue states I dont look for a free ride.
   chimp1 - Thursday, 09/15/05 19:11:06 EDT

What is a Swedish hammer used to test?
   Brian - Thursday, 09/15/05 20:11:44 EDT

Swedish nails?
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 09/15/05 20:13:41 EDT

Chris, the Euroanvils are heat treated cast steel and are made mostly in the Czech Republic. They are pretty decent anvils. I have one from Old World which is also Czech made, possibly in the same foundry. I have had no problems with mine. After three years, the face is almost unmarked with no deep dings at all. It is fairly hard with a good rebound. Hey, maybe I need to do a review of the anvil...
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 09/15/05 20:17:27 EDT

SOFA Quadstate:, I suspect they cannot completely patrol who has paid since it is in a public fairground where there is often other things going on. I don't think most or many of the folks perusing the tailgating pay to get in. Demonstrations and such are a different thing. The $30 for Friday is not bad compared to the $80/day ABANA wanted.

Personaly I think the bigger events should be heavily advertised to the general public and lower fees charged. On the other hand, demos for other smiths are a LOT different than demos for the general public.

Speaking of which, I will be doing a Saturday demo at Bethabara Park in Winston Salem, NC on the 17th (this weekend). Anyone that wants to stop by and maybe spell me a minute or so is welcome! Will be using the portable forge trailer.

Swedish hammers are used to test Swedish reflexes. . . ;)
   - guru - Thursday, 09/15/05 20:42:43 EDT

On http:www(dot)hallowelco(dot)com/iron%20hardware(dot)htm look at the coat rack that has the flat backplate. Does anybody know how he gets the back of the plate to be flush against the wall. It's got rivets in it.
   Tyler Murch - Thursday, 09/15/05 21:44:09 EDT

In the web address the i in iron is supposed to be capital.
   Tyler Murch - Thursday, 09/15/05 21:46:11 EDT

No Alcohol & No Firearms:

We usually have both, but never at the same time! ;-)

Short on time, auditors are leaving me exhausted...
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 09/15/05 22:55:09 EDT

Matthew Marting - Regarding case hardening - commercially it's mostly known as carburizing, and the most common commercial industrial method is to add methane to an endothermic atmosphere obtained either by cracking natural gas over a nickel catalyst at high temperature, or by creating a synthetic one by adding nitrogen and methanol to the furnace. The amount of methane added determines the carbon potential and is typically controlled with a plc hooked up to an oxygen probe. This is done in enclosed, furnaces that are relatively air tight. They operate at a slight positive pressure - 1 or 2 inches of water column. This is the method used by large companies - I've worked on converting carburizing furnaces to nitrogen/methanol systems at Rockwell plants manufacturing auto & truck parts, Eaton plants, Sikorsky helicopter for heat treating the helicopter gears, and a little company called Barden Bearings - manufacturer of precision bearings for things like missile guidance systems. Most companies have moved to relatively environmentally friendly manufacturing methods - sometimes kicking and screaming, but still moved.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean someone hasn't kept grandpa's can of casenit around and still uses it with no knowledge that it contains cyanide - when in doubt be careful. It's also possible to case harden things without cyanide - pack in an airtight box with a fine carbon source and heat - depth of case depends on time and temperature. Shown by Rich Furrer, Michigan blacksmith and knife maker (sp) at I believe the 2003 Quad State, and discussed in length in volume 1 of Steelmaking before Bessemer - Blister Steel, which the last I checked is still available from Great Britain. Volume 2 about crucible steel is also still available.
   Gavainh - Thursday, 09/15/05 23:10:06 EDT

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