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

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

This is an archive of posts from September 16 - 21, 2005 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

This is the first time i have been on this site and I will tell you right from the beginging that I have no welding experience and very very little coal forge experience. I live in eastern pennslyvania and am 30 yrs old. I currently don't have any tools for blacksmithing, but i do have a huge desire to learn. Here is my question. I want to learn to make authentic functional weapons. swords, battle axes, things of that nature. All of this is in line to my ultimate goal of creating for raw materials and full suit of armor. Now I know that I have set huge goals but I have the drive. I just need some one that has the knowledge to point me in the right direction. I guess what i need to know is where to begin and have I set myself up to fail. Any information that you can give would be great. Thank you in advance.
   joshua franco - Friday, 09/16/05 00:25:52 EDT

Gavain; As much as we Wolverines would love to claim Ric Furrer as a homeboy, alas, he dwelleth in the land of cheese, on the other side of Lake Michigan, in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Nonetheless, a damfine smith.
   3dogs - Friday, 09/16/05 01:40:25 EDT

On Quad-State, the no alcohol is a fairground policy - as is no smoking in any of the structures. Latter seems a bit odd when coal forges are producing a goodly quantity of smoke.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/16/05 04:50:48 EDT


Way off topic, but one of my law professors said the most important thing to remember about a criminal trial was this: Never send *both* the gun *and* the ammunition to the jury room!
   Mike B - Friday, 09/16/05 06:14:25 EDT

Guru, Ken, Ralph, John and quenchcrack (love the name)

Many thanks for all your feedback. I will follow up on leads and hopefully start to get somewhere. Since posting, I have visited Richard Quinnell (founder member of BABA) and he's been very helpful.

Thanks again. Cool Website.
   Debbie - Friday, 09/16/05 06:59:15 EDT

Joshua Franco,

See our Getting Started link at the top and bottom of this page, our home page and FAQs page. Follow ALL the links and read all the articles closely including those on apprentices and sword making. See the Sword Making resource list. Four times as many people go to the article as look at the list which took longer to compile. We have reviews of most of the books lists and links from that page.

The above should keep you busy for a year or a lifetime if you are a self starter and persistant. If you do not have the drive and tenacity to follow through on your own you will fail in this endevour. There are no easy answers.

   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 09:06:34 EDT

Joshua; wish I had more lead time, there is a group smelting wrought iron from ore next weekend in MD I believe using basically Y1K technology. However they are a bit insular and dislike "observers" their motto is "everybody works" and it would take a bit to get you introduced and invited...

Also there is an ironmaking conference in Cooperstown NY coming up; let me look through the archeology metallurgy mailing list archives for the details.

I plan a run this fall but am in NM.

My basic advice: learn to smith; learn to work with real wrought iron, then learn to smelt it from the ore.

Send me an e-mail---my address should be correct for *this* post and I can start dumping info on you.

Ken; funny thing--- coal smoke only messes up my sinuses; tobacco smoke can put me in the hospital ER---and not one of those smokers who told me that their smoking wasn't hurting anybody has ever offered to pay the ER bill. Nicotine was a major trigger for my hiatal hernia they symptoms of which are exactly like those of a heart attack so the ER bill include cardiac Dr evaluations...

   Thomas P - Friday, 09/16/05 11:02:59 EDT

Thomas, Email address updated in CSI database. Sorry. .
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 11:19:55 EDT

Failure in smithing: For many dreamers the reality that it takes new learned physical coordination and specific muscle development is very frustrating. Forging takes practice, practice, practice. At first everything you make is junk then over time you get better and better. Forging a few hundred hooks or scroll ends helps. Don't expect to make that work of art the first time out. Patience, practice, persistance and preservation are required to learn this trade. Only those that do it for love of it succeed.

Expecting others to teach you everything is guaranteed failure in this art. There is a lot of technical details that you will need to find, study and learn on your own. We have a lot of it here on anvilfire but you need the books and to study them. Think of them as text books the same as going to school. Most are cheaper than typical text books and much better to boot, some are as expensive but just as important. Books are tools that are just as important as any other except one, your mind.

You can learn a lot from others and it pays to travel to as many blacksmith meets and demos as possible. THE big US event of the year is coming up next weekend in Troy, OH. SOFA's Quadstate meet has more tailgaters (tool sellers) than any other show of the year. They also have fine demos, classes and competitions. If you are serious about smithing and want to LEARN you will make it to this event.

Not getting out to meetings and events can be failure if you are the type that must see things being done to learn them. The good side of this is that in the US and many parts of world there are many blacksmith's meets to go to and observe and learn.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 11:44:02 EDT

I am new to the Blacksmithing game, and have been looking for coal. A friend gave me a barrel of anthracite coal. Is it good for anyhthing?

   John Hooker - Friday, 09/16/05 11:55:45 EDT

Drat - 3dogs, thanks for the correction on Ric's dwelling place. One of those things that happen when you go on memory and don't know the person that well. I agree that Ric is a good smith, and he's definitely done some intersting work with blister and crucible steels.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 09/16/05 12:15:07 EDT

I spotted this swage block on ebay and thought some of you might be interested. It's item#: 6209846334 a very old nice block. I wish I lived near IN so I could pick it up.

   FredlyFX - Friday, 09/16/05 13:41:23 EDT

I have an off topic question, but I know some of you guys will have the answer.

I recently bought a 5hp Ingersoll Rand upright air compressor at a garage sale. It works fine, but I discovered while connecting the electric that one of the two capacitors has the bottom broken off. It almost looks like it blew off. The unit still works ok, but without that capaciter I am blowing a fuse on one leg of the 220 conection occasionally when it draws too much while starting up.

My question is how do I discharge the capacitors when I take them out? Obviously the one I don't need to worry about, but what of the other? I figure that I should probably replace them both, or is that not neccessary?


   FredlyFX - Friday, 09/16/05 13:53:12 EDT


When I used to play with them, I just shorted across the leads with a screwdriver. Techically, you're supposed to connect a resistor across the leads (a small 120v light bulb would probably work). I think using the resistor ensures there's no current spike that could damage the capacitor -- probably not a concern in your case.
   Mike B - Friday, 09/16/05 14:04:12 EDT

Fredly, Great old block! Wish I could afford to be a collector. I've asked permission to use the photos.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 14:16:56 EDT

Fredly, Do as mike suggested and then each to ground (with the power OFF) just in case.

If the capacitor looks blown it probably IS. When things go wrong with capacitors they do literaly explode. That is why most have steel covers over them on new motors. . . Don't run it any more until you get a replacement. I'd replace both to have a matching set.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 14:20:43 EDT

:) I work out of my garage. My forge can break down and be thrown in the trunk of the car if need be. I leave it together and drag it outside a few feet. Anvil is mounted on a plow disk so I tilt it and roll it where it fits best for the work of the day. It would be better if it wasn’t so springy. I have not decided on my next iteration for a stand. Jock’s plywood stand works Great!

Anyway, when I can build a small shop and keep it under the radar, I plan to build 8x8 or perhaps 8X10. Landscape timbers will form the 3 sided base with a cross beam at 4 ft. This will allow a single sheet of decking to be placed on it giving a 4X8 floor. the other 4-6 ft will be left dirt. I will enclose with scrounged wood fencing and then a light roof with OSB or plywood. I will have a T in the roof and a 4 ft overhang. the doors will be two piece each 4 ft wide. When open they will be able to fold back along the side of the building or be stopped anywhere in there arc to assist in ventilation. There will be a door on the back side to give access to the lawn tools as well as for ventilation. I will orient it with the forge side to the South or SE to break the North prevailing wind. The anvil can then be mounted solidly inside the door (maybe) and the forge can still be portable or vice versa. with a window or two it may be possible to run a sidedraft through the roof or on the outside of the building and keep the main doors closed if necessary.

Thought I would share this with you as I want the same thing. to be close to the house and available for my wife.
   Mills - Friday, 09/16/05 14:32:43 EDT

Anthracite, Hard Coal: John, Anthracite can be used for blacksmithing but it is hard to get burning, hard to keep burning and hard to control. You must keep a constant supply of air and this means no bellows and no hand crank blowers.

The most commonly used and best coal for blacksmithing is the highest BTU, low ash, low sulfur bituminous (soft) coal you can find.

Next best fuel is blacksmiths coke but it is almost as hard to keep burning as the anthracite. However, it is easier to control.

Charcoal (real wood charcoal) has been and still is the only solid fuel used in many places. It works well and is almost universaly available.

Modern smiths use propane more than coal but many shops have both and use each to their best advantage.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 14:32:53 EDT

Oops that was for wendy.
   Mills - Friday, 09/16/05 14:33:19 EDT


Note that the "Leaves for Paw-Paw" are to be turned in at SOFA or shipped to NTECH by the same date.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 14:49:23 EDT

Tyler Murch,

I couldn't get that URL to work, but I doubt that it would change the answwer to your question, since I'll be guessing anyway. (grin)

I make coat racks where the hanger pegs are forged with a tenon and riveted to the back bar. I just countersink the rivet hole in the back bar and set the rivet into the countersink. A quick pass with a file or grinder and you can't even see where the rivets are. They still hold just fine; the one in my bedroom has an extra long peg, about 6", where my gunbelt hangs. That thing weighs about twenty pounds with weapon, baton, 2 spare magazines, 2 sets of cuffs, Leatherman tool, and radio. It's no wonder cops get bad backs.
   vicopper - Friday, 09/16/05 15:57:20 EDT

Tyler Murch, see our iForge Demo on riveting for flush rivits and tennons. Lots of things also have decorative rivets where the back is flush.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 16:09:57 EDT

What type of material should I use to line my cast forge? I know that it is referred to as clay, but is that the same as castable refractory?
   Rick - Friday, 09/16/05 16:13:16 EDT

Guru, thanks for the update.

Thomas@correct email address now!
   Thomas P - Friday, 09/16/05 17:00:34 EDT

Coal Forge linings. . it is way past due for a FAQ on this one.

By clay, they mean clay of any type but preferably a clay with a placticity like good potters or artists clay. These work up stiff and harden without cracking severly. A refractory clay or mixture is slightly better but you do not need refractory temperature material for claying a forge. Clay suitable for making bricks is also suitable. It does it need to be a refractory cement or cement bonded clay.

The only manufacturer's diagram I have seen of claying a forge showed a ring at the joint between the flat bottomed forge and the flush fire grate. The ring created a "duck's nest" or shallow fire pot. This would help control the fire and partialy subtitute for a heavy cast iron fire pot such as the better forges came with.

Other shallow cast pans that had "Clay Before Using" cast into them probably wanted the clay as an insulating layer to reduce thermal shock to the cast iron. A uniform layer of clay about 1/2" - 3/4" (13 to 19 mm) thick would suffice.

Many folks use a mixture of clay and refractory cement or castable refractory cement, OR clay and portland cement to line their forges. This must be done carefully and with thought. Adding a layer of refractory to a forge pan makes it VERY heavy and what was semi portable is no longer portable. If the refractory is too deep the reserve volume for fuel is lost. In forges without firepots a deep layer of refractory can help form a firpot but only if the shape is correct. As noted above it could be a simple ring around the fire grate and a thin layer beyond. Heavily cementing a forge makes maintenance very difficult. Tuyeer and grate bolts rust rapidly enough and ocassionaly need attention. If burried under a thick layer of cement this may be difficult or require removal of the cement. Less permanent clay may have advantages in this case.

Castable refractory is a lean mixture of refractory agregates (usualy synthetic mullite), refractory clay and a high temperature cement. The cement only holds things together long enough for the dried mix to be fired and become calcined and partialy vitrified. Castable refractories are never as strong as fired refractories (brick). Unless castable is cured or fired through at high temperature the result is a very weak refractory.

Mixes of clay with a small portion of portland cement are probably better for claying forges than castable refractory due to the strength issue (as well as cost). Coal forge pans rarely get to the temperature needed to cure refractory cement and then only on spots near the tuyeer.

When claying OR cementing a forge the refractory/clay mix should be made as dry (stiff) as possible to prevent excessive shrinkage. Refractory clays are those with alumina and are generaly tan or white. The higher the percentage of alumina the higher the temperature rating but also the higher the firing temperature. When cements are used high alumina clays are overkill because the cement will not withstand as high a temperature as the refractory.

Pressed or welded steel pans do not need to be clayed and are best used as-is. Heavy cast iron pans with heavier fire pots also do not need to be clayed. The bed of fuel provides sufficient insulation in most cases. Even thin walled cast iron forges hold up well without claying if they are used for light work and a sufficient fuel bed insulates the forge.

Note that many old HD forges had the firepot set very low in a forge pan 6 to 8" (150 to 200mm) deep for very deep fires intended for heavy work. It is often beneficial to raise the fire pot a brick's depth (about 2-1/2" or 64mm) by using bricks to line the forge pan. This leaves a sufficient coal reserve and raises the hot spot to very near the bottom of the side cut out in the forge. This allows heating long slender bars to welding heat in a fairly efficient fire. Some modern forge makers just mount the fire pot in a flat surface and use the fuel bed to adjust the work height. The down side of this is reduced coal reserve.

Note that forges stored outdoors will accumulate corrosive water that has picked up acid by passing through the coal ash OR alkali from wood or charcoal ash. This moisture trapped under the clay will cause severe corrosion. Forges kept outdoors should not be clayed or bricked and shouold have all the fuel and ashes cleaned out between uses.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 19:22:08 EDT

Hmmm. . . had a FAQ. . added to it.
   - guru - Friday, 09/16/05 19:32:02 EDT

Screen question. Anyone have a source for screen with 3 holes per inch? My dad has an old piece of it that's worn out. He used it to filter out the smaller bits of charcoal from the ash when he cleans out the woodburning fireplace. The only thing that he's seen latley is 1/4" sutff.
   David - Friday, 09/16/05 19:47:58 EDT

I had read or heard somewhere that when your putting a new wood handle on a hammer you should burn the end that goes into the eye of the head. Has anyone else ever heard of this and if so how do I do it??
   Ray - Friday, 09/16/05 20:08:43 EDT

I am new to blacksmithing but have learned how to make a small mouse suitable for a key chain. I am told that there is a book available to instruct how to make other animals (preferably small animals). Do you know the name of this book and where I can get it? thanks I live in western NY
   Ernest Koenig - Friday, 09/16/05 20:14:50 EDT

Joshua F : Where in Eastern PA do You live
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 09/16/05 21:57:33 EDT

FredlyFX : To what the others said about the capacitor I would add that the usual way to test one is to use an analog VOM set to measure Ohms, LO OHMS if there are ranges on Your meter. With the capacitor discharged and at least one lead unhooked test with the meter. The needle may jump slightly, but then return to infinant resistance. Then reverse the polarity and look for the needle to jump momentarly, then return to infinant resistance. This indicates a good capacitor. Replacements can be purchased from a motor repair shop, usually 10 to 15 bucks/each. The case should be marked with voltage and Micro Farads [MFD]. MFD should be the same, voltage must be the same or higher.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 09/16/05 22:08:20 EDT

Swedish hammer, Being Swedish of course I know this...
(We all know the "Swedish Style" smithhammers, But I think the question was not about that)

Actually I only sort of know.
"Swedish Ping Hammer" is used by my concrete finisher buddy. I never seen it, But he describes some sort of instrument that is struck onto cured concrete and it registers the rebound to determine a measure of concrete hardness.
   - Håkan - Saturday, 09/17/05 00:31:30 EDT

Screen question,,
Try these guys http://www.mcnichols.com/
I dont know about supplying your small order,But for the stuff we use, their service and variety is excellent.
   - Håkan - Saturday, 09/17/05 00:51:36 EDT

my thanks to ken sharabok and thomas p for the information i'll have tobuy in a few more books [good excuse anyway"
   brendan obrien - Saturday, 09/17/05 00:57:48 EDT

Do you know where I could get a plan to build a metal roller to roll horse drawn carriage wheel rims. I have been looking for an old tyre roller for many months with no success. Thanks Art.
   art westlake - Saturday, 09/17/05 05:55:26 EDT

art westlake: If you are near SW Ohio try the tailgate sales area at the Quad-State Blacksmithing Conference on 23-25 September. It is at the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, OH. Ask each one of the vendors with old tools as they might have one at home (they are rather large to lug around when there is a limited market for them). A couple of years ago they had a guy do a demo on making a rim and shrinking it on a wheel assembly. I don't know name, but he is usually at these events. He has a large collection of wheelwright items.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 09/17/05 06:49:34 EDT

David: Don't recall seeing 3/8
   - Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 09/17/05 06:51:39 EDT

Hey all, I am looking for a forge and found this one e-bay (item 6209444680). Was wondering if this looks like a good quality one for starting out. I know I could go with a smaller one but they aren't that much cheaper so figured the 3 burner is the one for me. Just want to be sure it's not a junker thats gonna be worthless in a year or two. Thanks in advance for any advice!
   jeff - Saturday, 09/17/05 11:54:06 EDT

Ray, it makes sense to burn the end of the shaft in order to get to fit the hammer properly. However, a better way to fit a hammer to a handle is to adjust the eye of the hammer so it squeezes the wood into the hole. Take a dremel tool with a conical or cylyndrical bit able to remove metal and radius the eye of the hammer head. A file works too. This makes the wood squeeze into the hole instead of shearing it off like burning or just attaching it with a sharp corner still there would. Of course this all assumes that the handle is a bit big for the eye. After you put the head on the handle (usually using another big hammer) and secure it with a wedge, soak the head in linseed oil for a few days. That is a hammer that wont come off.
   Matthew Marting - Saturday, 09/17/05 12:49:45 EDT

Ken- judging by his email address, Art is in england- so quad states might be a bit of an expensive day trip for him.
I emailed him a set of plans for a small one. If you dont get them for some reason, Art, email me and I can resend.
Commercial models are available from the following manufacturers, and you can go on their websites and get a good idea of how they make theirs, then copy, as these are not very complicated tools. There are a few variations-the old style tire benders were designed for flat bar the easy way- but nowadays people also want to bend things like square tubing, that didnt even exist when the old ones were made, so there are designs now with rollers, with hydraulic jacks for wheel pressure, and other improvements.
   ries - Saturday, 09/17/05 12:56:15 EDT


I have never used one of those forges, or even seen one in person. Al I can go by is the pictures, and that doe4sn't tell me much. A sheet metal box with refractory panel lining and three Reil-type burners made from stock plumbing fittings. The guy says it will get to welding heat, but I'll bet it takes a long time to get there. Those hard refractyory linings are durable, but they don't insulate well and are a lot of mass to have to heat up. The openings on the ends of the forge are rather large; I would rather see one opening much smaller to contain the heat better.

My personal preference is for a gas forge that has a door. That way, you can have a large opening when you need it, but you don't have to have the forge trying to heat your whole shop all the time.

The firebox on that forge is 7-1/2" high, which is unnecessarily high, in my opinion. I don't find that I have much call for that high a chamber, and it takes gas to heat that area.

One other issue I have with that forge is that all three burners must be run together. Much of the time, you will be working on small items that only require a quarter of the forge volume and one burner. If the burners are controlled separately, you can shrink the forge chamber with a firebrick or two and just use one or two burners, saving a lot of gas.

If you have access to welding equipment, you can build your own forge in a weekend, including the burners. An empty Freon tank is easy to get at your local HVAC shop and makes a good sized forge for hobby use. They actually come in two sizes, and I have one of each size. The big cylinder uses two burners and the smaller one uses just one burner. I also have a big 4-burner forge that I hardly ever use as it is just way too big for most of what I do.

All three gas forges are lined with Kaowool, a lightweight refractory with excellent insulating properties. It is fragile, so I coat it with ITC-100 for durability and heat reflection. All my forges will get to welding heat. The best one of the bunch is the two burner, as it has a clamshell door and a rear port for long stock. I use it 95% of the time. There is a picture of it in the User's Gallery if you want to see it. All the construction on it is done with rivets, so you could build it with nothing but a saw and a hammer, actually.

Unless you have some overriding reason to buy ready-made, I would recommend you build your own. You can get the stuff to do it easily, and you'll save money. Also, you'll know how a forge works, and will be abvle to troubleshoot it and fine tune it.

If you are determined to buy a ready-made forge, I suggest you check out the NC Tool forges as well as the Forgemaster. I have used both of those and find them perfectly satisfactory, though much more expensive.

Finally, if you don't feel up to building a forge, but don't want to waste money buying a high-end forge you may not use all that much, I would suggest you check out Ken Scharabok. He makes forges and sells them under his Poor Boy Tools name. Ken doesn't make any false claims about his forges, just that they'll be satisfactory for hobby use. His prices seem very reasonable, (under two hundred bucks), and he's a pretty nice fellow. If you check the Advertisers Index on the drop-down menu you'll find him and several other suppliers who support Anvilfire by advertising here.
   vicopper - Saturday, 09/17/05 14:00:24 EDT

"iron menagerie" by the "guild of metalsmiths": lots of animal heads; norm larson pub....
   - BlokDok - Saturday, 09/17/05 14:46:15 EDT


A large, coarse hardware cloth oughta do ya good. Available at any hardware store. I think it is available in two and four holes per inch. Usually galvanized steel.
   T. Gold - Saturday, 09/17/05 17:13:33 EDT

David Maydoll's epic contribution to the development of the hammer was the introduction of the adze-eye.Since then, any properly made hammer ought to have one. If yours doesn't and you opt to give it one with a Dremel tool, file, etc., more power to you. Me, I'd rasp down the handle and wedge it.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/17/05 18:07:40 EDT

Anybody in the DC metro area? Can I come see your "set-up"? Know of a good anvil source?
   ChrisB - Saturday, 09/17/05 22:01:23 EDT

Christi-- Check with Bob Swenson at The Front Porch antiques shop in Ocean View, Delaware, a three-hour drive from D.C.-- that's the late, great Bill Gichner's old place, Iron Age Antiques, renamed. Bob said recently he still has some of Bill's huge trove of smithing tools to sell.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/17/05 23:16:07 EDT

Thanks for the drawings Ries. You are right. I am based in Dorset in England. The bender is a bit small for what I have to do but now I know how it has to work I can use the instructions to build a bigger one. Thanks again ART
   Art Westlake - Sunday, 09/18/05 08:56:09 EDT

Has anyone ever built or used a side draft chimney built from stucco/mesh/concrete. I realize it would be heavy, but I have cheap access to the materials. I saw one at Bents Fort,Colorado but no one was in the shop. How well
would this hold up? Any thoughts?
   - RC - Sunday, 09/18/05 12:17:27 EDT

I'm looking for a farrier school near Rapid City SD. Any ideas? I'd also like to get a dialog started up with someone who is currently a farrier to get a feel for what I may be getting myself into. Any help would be most apprecieated. Thansk.
   chris Bernard - Sunday, 09/18/05 12:21:15 EDT

How can I find a introductory course for blacksmithing in my area? Are there any abbreviated classes that introduce the art of blacksmithing to a novice? I am very interested in working with metals but have no experience. How can I get started... I have read many books from the library but have not done any hands on work. Should I make a coke stove in my back yard and try it on my own without getting any guidence? I am sorry to sound so ignorant I just do not know where to start. I am eager to learn and really want to approach this correctly. Thank you for any help
   zenbone - Sunday, 09/18/05 15:19:42 EDT

oh... sorry, I live in clearwater florida but would travel if I needed to.
   zenbone - Sunday, 09/18/05 15:21:06 EDT

Hello Chris, I have been shoeing horses for 25 years now and could tell yu a lot but for sake of brevity the best places are those affiliated with a college or university. Try to keep away from places that start a new class every monday or those who try to run a school in every state. These places have little or no oversight and are little more than diploma mills. The American Farriers Association can furnish you a listing of all the schools in the US and Canada. Do not be in a rush be very discriminating about the place you choose. I went to a fly by night place myself but managed to become a half decent horseshoer anyway. It was in spite of the place not because of it though. More importantly though try to line something up with a farrier for when you finish. If you can ride with somebody that is where the real learning will begin. If you can do that some before school so much the better. This would give you a real idea of what the business is all about.
   hammerman947 - Sunday, 09/18/05 15:26:45 EDT

guru... sorry for posting before I looked around your site more... I found your section on getting started in blacksmithing and will follow your recommendation on starting with a solid welding class at the local ptec first. again, sorry for posting prematurly... thanks for all of this incredible information.
   zenbone - Sunday, 09/18/05 15:32:36 EDT

well, my friend and i (he's my neighbor) live out of town and we have attained an interest in blacksmithing. We are studying the subject and i have a question: We really don't want to deal with gas (making a gas forge) so i was wondering about the design of making a charcoal/coal forge. I would need a firepot to put all of it in i know, but for walls should i just use brick and mortar? We're doing this in my friend's backyard...yeah, so any advice would be useful.
   derek m - Sunday, 09/18/05 15:41:51 EDT

derek m,

you can use any thing that will withstand the heat and be worth while per dollar. BUT fire brick or "K - Wool" refractery cement is perferable.

On my first forge I used standard red brick ( the kind used to make fireplaces) for the walls and a layer( 2 or 3 inches thick) for the floor.
   - timex - Sunday, 09/18/05 16:27:48 EDT

Derek, Imagine a table with a depression about the size and shape of a 6 quart serving bowl. In the bottom or side of this there is a hole about 1-1/2 to 2" (40 to 50mm) in diameter connected to a pipe blowing air into the bowl.

The ancient poor-mans forge was a box about 30" (750mm) square and about 8" (200mm) deep. This was filled with earth and clay nearly to the top, the surface and exposed wood glazed with a thick layer of clay to create the shape above and fireproof the wood. This would be raised on legs to a comfortable working height. There would be no chimney or stack. Air would be suppled by a belows.

A modern colid fuel forge would be the same except made of steel plate or cast iron. The fire pot the thickest to hold up against the heat. Air would be supplied by a small squirl cage (centrifugal) fan, output about the same as a heavy duty hair drier.

The most primitive forge, still used in many parts of the world is a simple hole in the ground, lined with clay, the air supplied as above.

Charcoal was the traditional fuel (real wood not briquettes) and is smoke free enough not to need a chimney, just plentiful ventilation. Indoors any fire needs a vent. Coal used to be more plentiful and makes a slightly hotter more concentrated fire. It is the prefered modern fuel when available. It requires a good chimney.

See, our FAQ's page on Claying Forges, Coal and Charcoal, and Getting Started in Blacksmithing. Follow the links to our book reviews. See the plans for a Brak Drum Forge and consider how that hardware would work with the forges described above. There are numerous books on the subject that will help you learn the craft.

You can get started with very little expense if you are creative and resourceful. You can also spend a fourtune on tools. Most hobbiests find a path they can afford. If they are bitten by the ironworking bug they improve their tools as they can afford to do so. Used tools are fairly plentiful and much less expensive than new. However, new tools are readily avialable and if you consider your time worth anything their availability may make them more economical than the search for the holy grail, which is what many tool searches are like. There are those that are good at it, and those that are not. If you are not, then go to our advertisers they will be happy to serve you.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/18/05 18:57:29 EDT

Zenbone, Contact FABA (blacksmithing.org). They are the Florida Artist Blacksmithing Association. They will be able to help you.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/18/05 18:59:13 EDT

FerroCrete Chimneys RC, The lower portion especialy around the intake edges would need to be made of a more refractory mix than common concrete or stucco. See our FAQ on Claying Forges. I would use castable refractory as far as it would go then go with a common concrete mix. Next option would be to make your own refractory mix with fire clay, sand and portland cement. I would use this only were exposed to the direct heat as it is a weak mix. Beyond the first couple inches of the intake edges you could cover it with your regular mix.

In general common concrete is not recommended for chimneys due to it spalling from high heat. However, forge chimneys rarely see high enough temperatures to be damaged and are not prone to creasote chimney fires as are wood stove and fireplace chimneys. Ancient chimneys were built using a lime and clay mix for refractoryness. Modern chimneys require firebrick and clay liners preferably assembled with refractory mortar.

The same applies for the forge. You could build a beautiful free form forge with this technique as long as you follow the guide lines above for using castable or fireclay. However, I highly recommend you use a number of forges and study their construction details before attempting such a project. Otherwise you can end up with a BIG heavy concrete monstrosity with no use. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 09/18/05 19:12:33 EDT

Farrier Schools: Chris, See Hammerman947's post above. Note that many schools will show you how to put on a shoe in a few days. Farm folk, ranchers and such have been doing it themselves for centuries. However, today your client base will be people with pleasure riding horses that may not even see their horse but a couple times a year (even when it is in the barn behind the house). These horses are often not shod or reshod often enough or paid close attention to. This means that there are many more problem cases requiring more veterinary knowledge and corrective shoeing knowledge than just fitting a shoe. We also live in a society where many people do not take responsibility for their own actions and will want to dump it on you. This raises the stakes and the need for more technical knowledge AND experiance. Many farriers are overworked and need assistants that are serious about the business. As Hammerman noted it is a good place to start.

The class of school Hammerman947 is suggesting are not found in every state or region and they are not cheap. If you are serious you will make the commitment to travel to where a really good school is located.

You can also learn a lot about forging and getting a head start in that direction by going to one of the many blacksmithing schools. Many of these run short "quicky" courses but it is a field where you are not putting a valuable animals life at stake (and your carreer) if you screw up.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/18/05 19:29:02 EDT

Chris B:

Contact the Blacksmiths' Guild of the Potomac at: http://bgop.abana-chapter.com/ Good crew!

I'm about 60 miles south of D.C., and there's plenty of BGOP members closer in, but if you want to come down to Camp Fenby (see the Virtual Hammer-in Page) I'd be glad to show you around. :-)

Warm and humid on the banks of the lower Potomac; but should hit down in the 60s tonight.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 09/18/05 21:09:17 EDT

More BGOP:
Newsletters are at: http://www.bgop.org/Newletters/2003-05.pdf

A looong download time (on dialup w/ .pdf) but a lot of good information and contacts. Someone may be nearer you than you realize.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 09/18/05 21:31:55 EDT

I just noticed that we seem to be dealing with a Chris B and a Chris Bernard. Must be two different people unless Rapid City, SD is a suburb of the DC metro area.

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 09/18/05 21:37:38 EDT

I have a 104# Peter Wright Anvil that is well over 100 yrs old. While cleaning it I found a stamp of a horseshoe and two anchors stamped into it.. Do they have a specific meaning???
   Dennis - Sunday, 09/18/05 22:05:03 EDT

dave boyer. sorry it ook so long to answer. i was away this weekend. i live in selinsgrove pa. if you have heard of bucknell University then you have a good idea where i live.
   joshua franco - Sunday, 09/18/05 23:39:59 EDT

Joshua F : Have You ever been to Hopewell Furnace ? It is a pretty well restored Iron furnace from the mid 1800's, They don't actually smelt iron there anymore, but there are diagrams and a lot of information on how it all worked. This site is a little East of Reading, Pa. More acuratly it is South of Birdsboro on Rt. 345. I live about 10 miles from there.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/19/05 00:47:59 EDT

I'm not sure if you've been asked this before, but in making a sword / knife how would you make the handle / hilt for it? just wondering, thanks.
   Curtis - Monday, 09/19/05 01:06:44 EDT

Hello again:
Could someone explain to me what Coke looks like?

Cody T.
   Cody T - Monday, 09/19/05 01:31:09 EDT

Coke is a hard dark grey black foam. It varies in density from very light like charcoal to about twice as heavy. The heavy stuff has a metalic grey sheen and is comercial foundry coke. The dense stuff is hard to use in a forge and the light stuff is the natural result of burning any good grade of bituminous coal.
   - guru - Monday, 09/19/05 07:41:54 EDT

Handles: To see how handle/grip is made for a sword of knife look at any good comercial kitchen knife (not the cheap ones with a plastic grip).

Methods vary greatly. You can have solid wood or horn drilled through and hot fitted over a small tang (bad blade design), slabs riveted on a full tang (modern bladesmiths also use epoxy glue to make more durable and seal), or wood slabs wire wrapped (a custom blade specialty). Handles are sometimes solid metal or hollow metal as well.

The more difficult and critical part of fitting furniture to custom blades is that most makers silver solder the guard to the blade. This requires a very good fit and good silver soldering skills. When done properly you almost cannot see the joint. This is one of the many places that modern blades are much superior and more durable than old blades (no matter what myths you believe).

Every book on knife making covers these processes. For knifemaking at its most primitive see Foxfire 4, For modern methods see any of the books by Jim Hrisoulas and for some of the best step by step how-to and tricks see the works of Wayne Goddard. There are reviews of several books by these authors on our book review page.
   - guru - Monday, 09/19/05 08:00:50 EDT

Dennis: I suspect your question on the odd stamps on a PW is no one knows any longer. Could have been the stamp of the crew which made the anvil or inspectors. However, I will be seeing Richard Postman later this week at Quad-State in Troy, OH and will try to remember to ask.

To those who are going to Quad-State remember to bring something for the Anvilfire Support Silent Auction. All proceeds go to the Anvilfire general operating fund.

On the thread above on looking for 3/8" hardware wire, I got cut off trying to note I use 1/4" wire on the bottom of a 3-lb coffee can and use it to quench small items rather than having to fish them out of the bottom of the can.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/19/05 11:15:05 EDT

I found a champion post drill in my mothre in laws 150 yr old barn. it turns freely and had little rust. the downfeed gear and I have just today found the handle that goes on it. is stuck but I have put motor oil on it. The Drill has a spare shaft but is missing the chuck assembly.Do you know where I might find a chuck assembly and about how old this drill might be. I live in N.Alabama
Chip Blanton Ag. teacher Fort payne High School
   chip blanton - Monday, 09/19/05 13:15:33 EDT

how can I get a key like the masterpiece one in your 2002 newsletter?

   - pamela palacios - Monday, 09/19/05 15:59:18 EDT


How can I get a key like the masterpiece one in the 2002 newsletter?
   - pamela palacios - Monday, 09/19/05 16:00:04 EDT

Chip, Most of these were patented around 1870, the majority sold in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They were made and sold up until the 1950's. Probable age 100 years.

These machines had no chuck. They took 1/2" shank drills (down to 1/32") which are no longer made. To put a chuck on one requires a chuck with 1/2" straight shank. Jacobs makes nice 0-1/2" chucks and arbors. I use a #33-34 Plain Bearing Chuck with a 1/2" to 33JT arbor. See McMaster-Carr. mcmaster.com

You can also take a chuck off an old electric drill and make your own arbor but its a picky job.
   - guru - Monday, 09/19/05 16:17:25 EDT

Chris B,

You can find current information on the Blacksmith's Guild of the Potomac at www.bgop.org. For some reason the site Bruce listed hasn't been kept up (through no fault of the host, I'm sure (grin)).
   Mike B - Monday, 09/19/05 17:01:40 EDT

Masterpiece Key
Masterpiece Key
modeled after example on page 51 of Schüssel und Schloß (Locks and Keys) by Heinrich Pankofer, 1973. Hand made by the Company of Meticulous Smiths.

Pamela, This particular key is a work of art made the hard way to prove it could be done. It is forged, then carved from pieces of steel which are then assembled by brazing, hand engraved and finished. There are easily 200 to 500 hours in it not including fitting to the lock. Several craftsfolk worked on this one piece. Even at minimum wage this is an expensive piece and it was NOT made by minimum wage craftsfolk.

There are two ways to obtain a key like this. Buy one from collectors of European high art locks and keys (Keys are more common than locks). Or have one made to order. I suspect that the price of an antique key of museum quality is less than having one made.

Write to me if you are serious about having one custom made.
   - guru - Monday, 09/19/05 17:16:46 EDT

Looking for a method of forming 1/8 inch wire from 1/2 inch diameter ingot. I have a wire draw bench but need to get to about 1/8 inch diameter as force generation capability is limited. Looked at small rolling mills but these seem suitable only for silver, copper. Really want something that works for steel. FYI, the alloy of interest is like an inconel and work hardens quickly. Its a composition I came up with for a wear resistance application but is NOT for any profit making activity, just my own use. Thanks in advance.
   Frank - Monday, 09/19/05 19:27:56 EDT

Frank, See the plans for the McDonald Mill on our book review page. Commercial min-mills run on 20 to 30 HP and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Hugh McDonald proved it could be done with 1 to 1.5 HP and a very small machine. For continous wire rolling you would need to cool the rolls and perhaps use medium carbon steel like 4140 for the rolls. I would go with a long heating furnace and make single passes.

Your other option is to do what some of the specialty alloy folks do and forge the billet to a long slender shape that can be drawn or rolled more easily to start. Power hammers are redily available for the purpose. Many R&D shops had them for metalurgical work.
   - guru - Monday, 09/19/05 20:21:01 EDT

Just restored a Beverly Junior bench shear that a previous owner brutalized. New blades, new top blade holder. It's factory rated to cut 18 ga. mild steel, 24 ga. stainless. Anybody have any PROVEN experience with what this will handle safely-- i.e. without damaging itself-- in sheet brass, copper, sterling? No theoretical conjecture, please. Note: it's a no-longer-manufactured Junior, not a No. 1 or 2 or 3.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 09/19/05 23:04:54 EDT

this post is to say i am sorry for not understanding and/or underestimating the level of skill require to become a bladesmith. i was uninformed. now that i ahve read all the links from here and serveral other pages i can honestly say i understand why, as you stated in your article about making swords, you hate see the posts just like mine about wanting to make swords. i can also say that i can answer the question about why do i want to make a sword/s. simply because they are beautiful. i no realize that i have set some very high goals for myself. but i also wanted to say that i will start from the bottom and work my way up. as of next month i am going to be helping out around a steel shop. just at night and for no pay. sweeping stuff like that. but the owner has agreed if he has time and when he feels i have earned it, he will teach me welding and some very simple begining metal work. i do have one quetion though. i still plan on building a forge at my house. nothing to big but a nice one to start. what should i practice making that will help my skill level. thank you all again for having this page.
   josh franco - Tuesday, 09/20/05 00:12:26 EDT

Josh F: You are off to a good start, If You can take some metalworking and or welding courses at a Vo-Teck You will be ahead of the game, not relying on the availibility or whim of the shop owner, and better able to advance when He can help You. Get Your foot in the door Keep Your nose clean, be usefull and You may be able to use the shop's equiptment for things You can't do at home. Coal forges tend to be smokey, if that is a problem where You live use charcoal or gas. Make Your own tools to learn on and with.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 09/20/05 02:18:45 EDT

About coal. For John, I have heard that generic coal is different and may or may not be good for blacksmithing. Recently, I visited a yard sale, and there was a lot of coal lying around. Seems like someone was a survivalist, and the coal was stockpiled in case of a depression. So, the current owner of the place just wanted to get rid of it. It was composed of pieces of all sizes, some as large as cantelopes, and some of smaller, more familiar size. It has hard, and freshly exposed surfaces were shiny. I think that it was anthracite. There were a lot of rocks in it as well. A piece of advice I have seen many times is that one should not take much coal unless it is known to be good for blacksmithing, so I only took half a grocery bag. I brought it to the team forging activity, and it was almost as good as the bagged "blacksmithing coal". It did not coke up as well, but it was no trouble to keep lit as long as the blower was not turned off for more than a couple of minutes. It burned clean and hot, and was fully adequate for forging (we did not try welding). After some leaves, closed dies, and mortise and tenons, we burned it all, and I realized that I forgot where I bought it. Oh well, next time I see some, I will get a couple of bags. Maybe I'll recognize the place when I'm in the neighborhood. It was pretty picturesque. There was a dancing girl on the side of the street to attact passers-by.

I tried making some leaves with a veining die made according to the Iforge demo by Bill Epps. It had mixed results. I had trouble thinning the leaf along the sides, and found that the leaf must not move while impressing on the die, else there will be double strikes similar to accidentally double striking a keyboard key. Any suggestions? Hotter? Different hammering technique? It is indeed fast, much more so than the traditional chiseling, and the veins do have that realistic raised look, but it just seems less controlled, and there are no second chances.

I have a quick question about stone chisels. I have had pretty good luck making hot and cold chisels for steel. I tried one out on granite, and although I was able to make decent progress, the chisel dulled rapidly. Then, I did a yahoo search on granite chisel and saw some with carbide tips brass brazed on. This got me thinking, since forge brazing is pretty effective. Has anybody made anything like this with forged and forge brazed shanks? Would these have any chance of working, or is it critical, and a homemade one doomed to breaking?
   EricC - Tuesday, 09/20/05 03:25:51 EDT

Junkyard air hammers:

Are there any plans available for compressed air powered powerhammers? Does the air cylinder simply raise the tup which then falls under gravity or is the mechanism more complex?
   Bob G - Tuesday, 09/20/05 07:55:53 EDT

Air Hammers: Bob, ABANA sells the "Simple Air Hammer" plans and Mark Linn of the AFC sells a video tape on air hammer control.

The earlist air hammers lifted and dropped the ram. However, they had HUGE rams. Very shortly after their invention they were changed. Gravity is very limiting in the velocity and power of a hammer. The smaller the hammer and the shorter the stroke the more important downward power is.

In all air hammers the ram is powered down, the valving changes direction BEFORE the hammer bottoms out so that it can rapidly pick up the ram THEN the valving reverses before the top of the stroke to stop the ram and and start over again. Timing is quite critical and makes a huge difference in performance. Port size and air delivery is also critical.

Dean Curfman of BigBLU Hammers is constantly making minor changes in their air control system and has greatly improved both the speed and controlability of their air hammers. He has found that very minor changes can make a big difference. Do not expect YOUR hammer to perform as well even using the same parts. However, DIY hammers do quite well and are generaly much better than DIY mechanical hammers.

The critical parts for the JYH-Air builder is sufficient anvil mass and a good quide system. Also note that scrounged cylinders and valves WORK but are much different than new parts specificaly selected for the purpose.

   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 08:25:05 EDT

Peter Wright Markings: Richard Postman says he has seen them with all variety of marks on the foot, including letters, stars, asterics, anchors and other symbols. There is no evidence as to what they are and there doesn't seem to be any logic to it. I suspect they are touchmarks of members of the team that forged the anvil.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 09:00:07 EDT

Sheet Metal Tool Rating: Miles, I have found that the ratings of this class of tool in steel are pushing the capacity and I like to do no more than 70%. In aluminum and brass you can go to 150% of the steel rating. My judgement is based on when you notice that the frame starts to spring then you have exceeded the reasonable capacity of the device.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 09:05:32 EDT

Esteemed Guru-- Many thanks!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 09/20/05 10:10:47 EDT

Stone Chisels: Eric, these must be much harder than those for cutting steel. Part of the problem is abrasion. Carbide tips for stone work is a different grade than for other purposes (there are thousands of grades). Normaly these are oven brazed using thin sheet brazing brass. This is not much different than forge brazing.

Besides the grades the big problem with DIY carbide tipping is the grinding. You really need a large water cooled diamond wheel to do this properly. The typical carbide tip is factory formed to the finished shape. On things like saw blades the grinding is a very minimal sharpening. You do not want to have to shape this stuff to any degree.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 10:51:34 EDT

Josh: There's nothing wrong with high goals if they motivate you to do the work. It's the people who expect to get there without any work that make us impatient here.

The bad news is that its a long road the good news is that its all a lot of fun. A lot of fun even if you never get to blade smithing. For, when you start on a long journey into a new country who knows where you might end up?
   adam - Tuesday, 09/20/05 11:22:40 EDT

josh: further:- practice suggestion. hammer work. you can never have enough hammer skill. If you have a small forge you can practice drawing and pointing a bar and then curling them into small hooks.

If you dont have a forge yet -well thats one thing you should be working on :) - but you can do hammer exercises with wood. It takes quite a while to build up the hand strength and skill needed to use a hammer properly. Pushing too fast can cause injuries that are hard to get rid of. So start small , start soon and practice often.

I personally am a disciple of the Hofi school of hammering and I suggest you get one of his hammers from Big Blu (get the small one) and his instructional DVD from SimonSez productions - see my recent post in the HammerIn forum
   adam - Tuesday, 09/20/05 11:31:42 EDT

I am looking for a place to get a hand crank blower can you give me some resources please.
A New Smith
   Kurt Pitsch - Tuesday, 09/20/05 14:41:08 EDT

Kurt; what country are you in?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/20/05 15:08:43 EDT

Practice Smithing: It does not matter what you forge, it matters that you DO forge. It takes lots of practice to develope control and build up the correct muscles and caluses.

For bladsmithing you can practice forging blade shapes, just do not expect then to be very good. Mild steel is easier to forge than higher carbon steels but you will need practice in them as well. Plan on lots of scrap that you toss.

Anything you forge helps. Points on tent stakes (do not need to be sharp) from 1/2" square bar for reinactors, Flint and steel strikers (good for reinactors, campers and boy scouts), anything decorative with tapers. Hooks forged to a long gentle taper from 1/4" (7-8mm) square bar are good practice. Working small stock lets you concentrate on accuracy until you have the control and muscle tone to do heavier work. Remember that control is more important than power. Both come from practice.

I forge a lot of leaves. These are similar or can be to blade shapes. More practice.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 15:31:19 EDT

Just a note I will be shutting down the Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools link while I am at Quad-State. Will reopen it on the 26th.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 09/20/05 17:14:33 EDT

Josh Franco-- At least one super-duper blacksmith I know, now a world-renowned master, when he was just starting out as you are today, taught himself the craft by working his way through the exercises in one classic how-to text. The book, The Blacksmith's Craft, was published in England half a century ago by the Council of Small Industries in Rural Areas, which has changed its name because the world is nowhere near complicated enough without doing stuff like changing the names of things, highway numbers, phone numbers, the metric system, etc. Anyway, now it is called The Countryside Agency or somesuch. The book is available for free, if you can get their bloody site to work, online. http://www.countryside.gov.uk/NewEnterprise/Economies/craftpublications.asp
Or you can track the book down at Centaur or Larson's books, ABE, Bookfinder, etc. and spare yourself the hassle. This book plus one called Schwarzkopf on forging will cover it for openers. They handle the middle part well, too. Dunno about the end part. I am still sorking on that.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 09/20/05 17:32:50 EDT

Not sorking. Working. Sheesh! Anybody know anything encouraging about cataract operations?
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 09/20/05 17:36:22 EDT

I am using 3/16" sheet steel as the finish facing for my stair risers (the verical part). I have applied Brownells Oxpho-Blue to the steel plates to achieve a black color. I feel that either wax or some other clear coat material should be applied to better protect the steel and allow removal of shoe scuffs? What do you suggest? Thanks for your help.
   kathy langenwalter - Tuesday, 09/20/05 18:55:01 EDT

The Blacksmiths Craft is available in hardback from Artisan Ideas.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 19:40:07 EDT

Kathy, Most chemical finishes such as gun blue require oiling to prevent rust. Wax will rub off. In this application you will need to use clear lacquer to seal the metal and prevent rust. Furniture and musical instrument grade lacquer is harder than the acrylic automotive lacquers. Behlen Nitrocellulose Stringed Instrument Lacquer is very good, sold by Stewart-McDonald Guitarmakers Supply.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 19:53:15 EDT

Hand Crank Blowers: They are available new in England and India. In the US you can order an English blower and wait a few months. . OR you can go to SOFA in Troy, OH this weekend and buy a couple used 19th century units.

I prefer the action of a bellows.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/20/05 20:33:08 EDT

My Mother has had both eyes done, and had no problems. She wears glasses, but even at 80, and after a double by-pass, she gardens about 30 hours a wek in the gardens. I suspect she can outwork any 5 of us, and her cataract surgery would not be noticed by the 5 of us laying in the dirt as she went by with another wheelbarrow of mulch.
   ptree - Tuesday, 09/20/05 20:42:21 EDT

Miles : My mom had one eye done a few years ago, the results weren't perfect right away, but the eye recovered verry well in due time. The other eye gets done in 1 week [next Tue.] You don't want to put this off too long, or the results may not be as good. Follow the advice of a good Dr.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 09/20/05 23:02:08 EDT

PS Miles : My mom does a lot of fine needlework, hand sewn 1800's costumes, milenairy, counted cross stich,etc. She wouldn't be doing this today without the surgery. If She hadn't been trying to do such fine work in Her recovery, she may have minded the time it took to fully recover less.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 09/20/05 23:09:37 EDT

Thanx for the heartening words, gents. But, chicken that I am, I can just hear the doc saying, "This hardly ever happens, Mr. Undercut, and the entire staff and I are so upset about it that we want you to accept this lifetime subscription to books on tape and this handcarved white cane as tokens of our regret...."
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 09/20/05 23:13:46 EDT

Picked up a HF anvil a few days ago, and im grinding away!

Just wanted to say thanks agian for the advice, i ended up with a relativly well cast model and im very happy with the price.

Hopefully my last set of questions for a while: I know that running a coal forge is a whole skill in itself, and that a master smith has tons of personal prefferences with how he sets up his fire. Is there a webpage adress or some pointers anyone can give me before i fire my new forge up?

And lastly, my coal supply is from a friend i got the forge from, and most of its been sitting in a metal barrel outside for a few years. when i opened it up there was alot of moisture and debris mixed in with the coal. with the damp have messed with the coal at all?

Thanks agian :)
   ThoroDaMountain - Wednesday, 09/21/05 00:14:39 EDT

Miles, You jes' never mind, now. you can go ahead and sork all you want to.
   3dogs - Wednesday, 09/21/05 00:26:19 EDT

Miles: If the Doc tells you, "I've sorked on this kind of thing before", you should take off. Otherwise get it done - or at least post the days you are going to be driving on the hiways so the rest of us can stay home.

Seriously, you have my sympathy. I too am on the slippery slope of failing body parts. But be of good cheer - remember 3dog's encouraging words, "We're all just circling the bowl".
   adam - Wednesday, 09/21/05 00:26:25 EDT

"Circling the bowl" ? I got an E-mail joke from somebody that said "Health is merrily the slowest way of dying" Odly I find humor in that, as My battle with cancer continues.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/21/05 00:54:42 EDT

But... tell me, you chirpy optometric optimists, howcum it is, if the bod rejects foreign matter, as it does in the case of silicone breast implants, howcum it wouldn't reject plastic lenses? If the bod is generating protein strings in the form of cataracts, howcum it doesn't keep on generating same, necessitating a new operation every year or so? If a minor maladjustment meant the Hubble, the big telescope out there in space, needed collimating, how can a plastic lens floating in the intraocular fluid possibly be-- and stay-- in proper optical alignment? If....
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/21/05 01:03:49 EDT

Humor is one of the things I find works for me.
Did not know you had cancer but will add you right away to my prayer list.
If you ever need or want to talk email me.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 09/21/05 01:46:41 EDT

Wet coal.
Not to worry. Many smiths will wet down the coal. I keep a 5 gal pail of coal ready for use. and it too is also full of water. Keeps it from burning too fast in the forge.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 09/21/05 01:48:04 EDT

Ralph: I am still hopeful that I can get beyond this, but it seems I can treat it and keep it under controll for a while anyway even If I can't get it behind Me. I will find out more after next week's CT sxcan. It find that there are quite a lot of us here and across the street with significant medical problems, and at "middle age". Maybee that is why We are on the computer instead of working in Our shops 'till the wee hours.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/21/05 02:29:30 EDT

I havent heard the rejection rates for artificial lens. I suspect its low being as there are few blood vessels in that area. As for silicone implants the matter is palpably different being soft and .... oh! excuse me ... where was I ? Oh yeah , if the Doc suggests silicone implants you might be in the wrong office - another sign pointing to the need for surgery. In any case dont get the implants is my advice, they are expensive and your health plan wont help with much of it.

Hubble telescope? This is an exquisite device that can resolve faint objects at the edges of the galaxy. Your challenge is to decide whether the incredibly beat up 1970 Ford PU thats cruising infront of you is flashing its turn signal or just winking in the sun. The engineering tolerances arent the same
   adam - Wednesday, 09/21/05 03:02:35 EDT

Dave sorry to hear your news. I wish you good luck with that. IMO a sense of humor is the only way forward. Like Ralph said.
   adam - Wednesday, 09/21/05 03:05:19 EDT

Wet Coal, Dry Coal, Dirty Coal: ThoroDaMountain, Depending on the type dry coal starts easier. Some coal absorbs moisture and is thus harder to start. But in general coal is coal and what moisture it has was bound into it in the ground eons ago. However, I like having some dry coal to start a fire.

Dirty coal is a different thing. Dirty coal is hard to get started, hard to keep burning, causes more scale on metal and is nearly impossible to weld with.

If coal has been dumped out of a forge where much of it was burnt then you have, coal, coke, clinker and ash. When smiths dump their forges they generally pick out the larger lumps of coke to use for welding fires, the obviously clean coal that can be easily shoveled and scrap the rest that is mixed with ash and clinkers.

Coal that has been shoveled off the ground or the bottom of the pile at a coal dealers graveled lot is often full of dirt that is just as bad as the ash above. Gravel often gets coated with enough coal that you cannot tell the difference without a sharp eye for shape and texture. Sandy soil causes excessive clinkers, clays deaden the fire and gravels do not burn making cold spots in the fire.

Fire management can only be described in very general terms because of the variables which include infinite grades of coal and nearly infinite variations in forge design and construction. The generaly process follows.

  • You start the fire with fresh coal using a torch or a wad of paper and a little kindling. In a good forge you can start a fire with a sheet of newsprint alone.

  • Once the fire is going good you reduce the air, pile on more coal and let the heat build as coke forms (assuming good coal). I poke a vent into the pile with a gently curving poker with a straight point. This reduces the spread of the fire and helps create a hot spot.

  • Once the fire is burning clean and hot you can bury a piece of steel in the fire. Use as little air as is needed to keep the fire hot.

  • As you work the center of the fire becomes hollow. Pat or push the surrounding coke and coal toward the center. Add coal to the reserve area in the forge. Feeding coal to the center is a continous job. I work the fuel in while pulling the bellows and waiting for the steel to get hot.

  • In forges using hand crank blowers or bellows it is easier to use a beehive type fire where you keep a roof of fresh coal on top of the fire and vent it out the front where you are putting the work in to heat it. Maintaining this fire shape is a little more difficult than an open fire and requires close attention. It is nearly impossible when more than one person is using the fire.

  • When doing large or odd shape work the fire breaks up using more fuel and air. When feeding an open fire push the surrounding coke into the center and replace it with fresh coal. This is constant movement from the outside in. Do not put fresh coal into the cneter of the fire. This creates more smoke and cools the fire. Coke makes the hot clear fire at the center and is created in the area surrounding the center.

  • Open fires are hard to supply sufficient air without a helper or powered blower.

  • Both type fires tend to spread and need to be controled. A spreading fire is an inefficient fire. Only the heat concentrated in the center is useful. A little water from a sprinkling can will put out the excessive fire outside the center and usualy leave coke. Sometimes at the end of the day you have a huge mound of coke. Most smiths pick this out and use it for welding fires or to feed the next days fire using just the minimum fresh coal to start the fire, then piling on the coke THEN surrounding that with fresh coal.

    The above assumes a good coking grade of bituminous coal and a fairly normal bottom blown forge with fire pot.
  •    - guru - Wednesday, 09/21/05 08:36:03 EDT

       Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/21/05 10:16:47 EDT

    Miles; my neighbor retired cause he had cataracts; turned down several very renumerative offers, (he is a master electrician with a very high security clearence a needed combination in these parts!). He recently had the surgery and is now driving again and has accepted some of those offers and is much happier.

    Find someone who's done a bunch not someone who's watched the animated version once...Last time I had elective surgery the Doc told me he had done the operation several thousand times and as there wasn't a crowd of folks with pitchforks and torches milling around his office door I guess most of them went well. I'm sure "The Art of Travel" will tell you how to do it yourself with a rusty knife a watch glass and some horse hair for sewing...; but in generally it's best to employ a professional...

       Thomas P - Wednesday, 09/21/05 10:58:53 EDT

    Re: Cataract Surgery with implants.
    Mother had it done, both eyes, in her late 80s. When they removed the bandages she could see better than she ever had. She had worn glasses since she was a girl. After the surgery she needed them only for reading.

    Thoroughly research the surgeon first!
       - John Odom - Wednesday, 09/21/05 11:50:10 EDT

    Okay, y'all, 'nuff said. Guess I'll wait'll Adam's pickup becomes a dim silhouette and then check into it. Right now it's just the 64ths look a little blurry, is all. Many thanks.
       Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/21/05 16:09:29 EDT


    You forgot one what if. What if you have the surgery and it works great and you can keep smithing for 20 years? Never leave that one out, because in my mind it trumps the others.

    Good luck with it

       FredlyFX - Wednesday, 09/21/05 16:24:06 EDT

    Hi All
    I've been reading "The Art of Blacksmithing" by Alex Bealer, and he uses a tool called a monkey tool. I was wondering what a monkey tool is? Did I miss an explaination in the book?
    Have a good time at SOFA, those who go!
       blackbart - Wednesday, 09/21/05 17:45:50 EDT

    Monkey Tool: These days this is a small block with a hole in it the size of the tenon - it gets hammered down over the tenon to set and upset the shoulders. In the old days this was a heavy piece of cast iron that was swung horizontally on a chain suspended from the cieling - hence "monkey tool"
       adam - Wednesday, 09/21/05 17:59:31 EDT

    Monkey tool I think the modern version is the SPUD. . I've heard numerous tools called a spud. I think both spud and monkey are names for tools that the users did not know the proper name for. .

    But in Bealer the monkey is a bar with a longitudinal hole used to square shoulders, set rivets. Modern ones are typicaly made from hex bar stock but they can be made in round, square, rectangular. . .
       - guru - Wednesday, 09/21/05 18:47:13 EDT

    What if... yup, that would be great, indeed!
    Spud-- in high steel construction, it's the long, tapered end of an open-ended wrench, used to line up the holes on two pieces of wide-flange.
       Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/21/05 20:00:09 EDT

    Miles: Do You see colors PROPERLY ? The other problem with putting off the surgery too long is that the Dr. cant see INTO Your eye well enough to asess it's condition. I strongly urge You to see a good eye surgon,hear him out, then make up Your mind.
       Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/21/05 21:21:58 EDT

    MILES I woud not have figured you for a fellow that had a half empty glass rather than a half full glass of water.

    When I was young. I just knew the wife would have a better kid than what I was. So I merrily kept putting her with child after child and lo and behold, they were somewhat better than me.BOG.

    Go for the better visison, while it is still possible, it wil turn out allright.

    Monkey wrenches/spud wrenches.. Just depends on where and when you are talking about them.

    In the olden days of the late twentys(my Dads time) and early thirtys in the oil patch(steam rigs)--- Monkey wrench. In construction of later years ---spud wrench.

       sandpile - Wednesday, 09/21/05 21:34:45 EDT

    Half-empty vs. half-full: depends on whether it is being drained, or replenished, no? Ain't no mo' where this came from. Don't gamble unless you can afford to lose. I see colors fine. My ophthalmologist says put it off until I can't stand it any more-- less to lose on down the road, sez he. Right now it's okay, livable-withable, both definition and color. Somebody just tweaked the focus knob a wee, and slightly maddening, bit, is all. Thanks for the encouragement. Such faith in the salutary effect of having a blade stuck in one's eyeballs is touching. But it does jibe with everything else I hear. Finis, okay?
       Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/21/05 22:56:11 EDT

    Miles: GET IT DONE. I operate every thursday spend the time between cases with the opthalmologists. The procedure takes only minutes, it is painless and the results are overwhelmingly good. If you are hesitant, get one eye done and then when it is healed then do the other. So there. On another note: where should I look for a push and hold type electric switch for my forge blower. I have a wall swithc on it and dont turn it off when I pull out the steel like I should. A switch that cuts off when released would be better. Where to look? Lowes and Home Despot dont have any.
       JLW - Wednesday, 09/21/05 22:59:10 EDT

    Sorry Miles I posted before I saw your last post. I hereby retract and shut up.
       JLW - Wednesday, 09/21/05 23:00:33 EDT

    JLW: What You are looking for is called a "momentairy contact" switch.You have to get them from a REAL elecrical supply house, or Granger, Mc Master-Carr etc. It will probably have a threaded round steym for mounting. Alternativly You could rig a spring to the switch You are using, probably easier than tracking down the ready made one. A foot pedal might be the best way to go.
       Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/21/05 23:28:18 EDT

    Excellent. McMaster has them. I have seen a surplus tool place that has a lot of stuff but cannot remember the address. If someone has it I will be grateful. Thanks.
       JLW - Wednesday, 09/21/05 23:44:46 EDT

    JLW-- No problem. In fact, ¡Gracias! I appreciate all the emboldening encouragement. After a lifetime of razor-sharp 20/15, though, it's tough to consider some knife artist going into those pretty blue peepers with itsy-bitsy pieces of plastic. Plastic! UGH!
       Miles Undercut - Thursday, 09/22/05 00:19:49 EDT

    Off to SOFA:
       - guru - Thursday, 09/22/05 01:35:56 EDT

    Surplus Center in Nebraska maybe the surplus dealer you thinking of. (they have a web store, Offhand I dont know the adress)
    They have a huge variety of stuff interesting to the creative people like alot of us Smiths.

    There is dozens of ways to control the fanspeed/airvolume.
    I used to have a sewing machine footpedal connected to a fan on my smallforge. (If you do this be sure your motor can be speed controlled this way and that the motor is within the max capacity of the footpedal)
    It worked great but it needed skill to be able to hit the right speed for the task and hold it while doing the other stuff at the forge. Eventually I just put a stop block in the pedal at a speed I liked and just used it as an on-off pedal.
    Another option is to use lighting dimmer switches. (Again, be sure your motor can be speed controlled this way)
    Multiple dimmers can even be wired up giving adjustable different airblast rates, Then the foot switch can select between the dimmers, Maybe useful if using processed coke where the air needs to be on all the time at low volume just to keep it lit, then press the footswitch bypassing the 'low' dimmer for the higher airflow.
    Lots of fun,,,

       - Sven - Thursday, 09/22/05 01:39:05 EDT

    Dave Boyer; I'm a "Big C" survivor meself. The definition of "circling the bowl" may be observed whilst holding down the flush handle. I recall a phrase I heard in the '60's which said, " Life is just what you're doin' while you're waitin' to die." I've always liked that one, but I can't remember who gets the credit for it.
       3dogs - Thursday, 09/22/05 01:47:41 EDT

    on glass / barrel 1/2 empty versis 1/2 full debate, from an engineering point of view i think its pretty obviuos the vessel is double the volume it needs to be!
       - john n - Thursday, 09/22/05 05:44:49 EDT

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