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 8 - 15, 2006 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Hi, i want to make my own pyramid rolls, does anyone have any plans?
   markj - Friday, 09/08/06 03:38:11 EDT

Frank T.
Several years ago I heard Robb Gunter mention that he had helped you heat treat the face of an anvil pulled out of the ashes of an old store. I've wanted to ask you ever since if it was the old store that used to be at San Juan, up where the Chama and Rio Grande go together? I remember that store as having about everything. Also, how did the heat treating work?
   Terry Birdwell - Friday, 09/08/06 10:13:02 EDT

Bending Rolls: markj, not here. A few folks are building them but they are just complicated enough that most folks buy them. I did a google search with no luck.

Here are my guidelines to building one.

1) 1" shafts and 3" wheels work well.
2) Plan on driving at least two rolls.
3) Gear reduction (~2:1 with 16" crank) or a very long crank is needed for general shop work (up to 3/4" sq).
4) Screw adjustments work fine.

Open sided rolls are more useful than closed but require much heavier shafts.

Set collars (or spacers on open sided arrangements) are needed for bending flat on edge or angle. When bending angle or channel be sure the edges of the legs do not bear against the rollers.

If building power rolls the RPM wants to be very low, about 25 PRM. The reduction method used on the McDonald Forging rolls is a good speed. It results in about 14 feet per minute with 2" rools and 21 FPM with 3"

   - guru - Friday, 09/08/06 10:53:31 EDT

Mark- depends what you mean by Pyramid rolls.
There are a few plans out there for rolls for both sheet metal, usually called slip rolls, and for bending flat bar and sections, sometimes called tire benders, section rolls, or angle rolls.
You can check the metalworking drop box- www.metalworking.com
You should also look at www.stagesmith.com which is a list of metalworking links, with links to many companies that sell these.

Often most people who have enough equipment to do this properly- that is a decent machine shop with mills and lathes- just buy one.
Companies like Grizzly, Harbor Freight, and Shop Outfitters sell cheap small ones of both types.
Even industrial models are pretty cheap, compared to the cost of making your own, if you take the time to do it right.

Which style are you interested in, and what size of material do you want to roll?
   - Ries - Friday, 09/08/06 11:04:21 EDT

For those who want to take a look and possible earmark it:

   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/08/06 12:08:55 EDT

hey yall i wanted to know about safety glasses. i wear clear ones and try not to stare at the fire too much. i would like to get some tinted ones that arent very dark. welding googles are just too much and too dark. i see the didyium (sp.) glasses on the kayne and sons site but them things cost 40 bucks. are they really worth it or can i just go buy some sun glasses that will do the job.
   coolhand - Friday, 09/08/06 18:12:10 EDT

Coolhand, We sell shade 2 standard glasses for forge use. This is one full shade lighter than common brazing glasses. The didyium glasses sold by the Kaynes will filter bright sodium flare (normal for glasswork) and also flare from borax flux a little better. But for basic IR protection the cheaper glasses work.
   - guru - Friday, 09/08/06 18:40:50 EDT

Hello! I recently purchased a Canedy-Otto Royal Western Chief hand cranked blower. Attached to the blower is a cast iron post/stand that is about 3 1/2 feet long that flares at the bottom. No legs or any type of support other than the flare. My question is: How is this blower and stand supported? I was cleaning it up today and discovered a small amount concrete around the bottom of the cast iron post where it flares. Was this blower intended to be permantly mounted in the ground? Thanks for the help!
   Michael Moriarity - Friday, 09/08/06 22:30:40 EDT

Michael, Does the base flare out very smoothly to about 12 or 16"? Auto, truck and tractor rear axels used to have half a housing that looked like this and are commonly adapted to tool and machinery stands. Those off old tractors are very large and a work of art. Those off autos are a tad small to be self supporting but are equaly beautiful.

When a tool is 75 years old a lot may have been done to it.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 00:03:48 EDT

In the first blacksmith shop I worked in (1970's) they were in the habit of keeping a pile of 2-3" thick lumber cut about 12-14" long close to the forges. We layed these over the top of the fire to form a sorta "cave". They added to the heat and when they burned thru they were pretty much charcoal and we'd just put some more on top. Worked well for production work where you had a dozen or so parts in the fire. This works well with poor coal and with coke.
   - grant - Saturday, 09/09/06 00:09:00 EDT

Michael Moriarity-- diameter of flare? Does the pedestal seem unstable?
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/09/06 00:20:36 EDT

I mean, that's the way Canedy-Otto made them, but maybe somebody modified your pedestal if it's wobbly.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/09/06 00:22:24 EDT

Can you help me identify these iron tools???

   Tom Clark - Saturday, 09/09/06 09:02:42 EDT

On the blower stand, mine is a lovely cast iron pedestal that flares out to about 20 inches. But: This is a two-piece stand. The main shaft has a slow flare from about 2.5 inches at the top to a rather abrupt 4 inches at the bottom, and the wide graceful flange bolts to that through the bottom. If your post only flares to about 4.5 inches or so, someone has removed the big flange.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 09/09/06 09:53:36 EDT

Tom Clark, I can't get the "bucket" to show up.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 09/09/06 10:02:15 EDT

Tom, These are guesses.

1) Running irons. These were used by rustlers to modify brands.

2) Fire pokers for coal. But these appear to be too short. I use a simple curved one to clear the tuyeer and fish out clinkers.

   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 10:09:52 EDT

Frank, leave out the [IMG] and [/IMG] code. These are for embedding images and do not work here or in your browser address window.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 10:11:51 EDT

Swirlomatic Model #0:

While I am waiting for my forge to come up to temp this Sat moringing: I have been working on a propane combustor for forging. The idea being to achieve complete burn of the propane/air mix in a very short space and produce a jet of hot gas at welding heat with no spare oxygen. I then build an enclosure to suit the work around this jet out of firebrick and kaowool furnture (that I make myself). The combustor looks alot like Rons mini forge. Actually the design was inspired by 3dogs' cheerful words of wisdom "We're all just circling the bowl". The chamber is a 5"dia x 8" cylinder with a 1" horizontal rod in the center. The center piece is to encourage the gas to swirl rather than make straight for the exit. The air and propane are injected tangetially at the far end (they are not combined before entering the combustin chamber) and swirl around until they exit thru a narrow (1" x 2") port in the front. On its way to the combustion chamber, the propane is preheated in a loop of 3/16" brake line coiled up and pressed against the wall of the chamber.

I am not sure how best to arrange this loop. The chamber is 2" of kaowool with an inner liner of mizzou about 1/4" thick. I have been putting the preheat loop against the outside of the mizzou. The wall glows yellow but the flow of cold propane keeps the brakeline much cooler. However when the forge is turned off and the propane stops flowing, the brake line gets very hot - I am concerned about it corroding away from exposure to 02.
   adam - Saturday, 09/09/06 10:52:55 EDT

I wondered what that eerie glow is over there in the Jemez Mountains to the west of me. I thought maybe Los Alamos had figured out cold fusion at last. Nahhh-- it's the Adam Bomb.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/09/06 11:43:32 EDT

Tom Clark, I hope they aren't bull cinches, aka bull snubbers. BOL
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 09/09/06 11:47:23 EDT

Adam, how about coating the exterior of the brake line with an appropriate refractory so it's not exposed to O2. Also keep an eye out for stainless or even more resistant piping---inconel perhaps?

   - Thomas Powers - Saturday, 09/09/06 13:09:37 EDT

preheat: Thomas Ive been thinking the same thing. Think I will try coating it with ITC100 or Satinite or somesuch and then take it apart in a week to see. I do have some ss tubing but its not as easy to bend - I roll up about 24" for the preheat loop. Also, I am trying for a design that doesnt require any exotic components - I would like to make a few of these once I settle on the design.

On another front, my attempt to make super light, super tough forge furniture from kaowool covered with SS sheet crashed and burned. The SS just burned up into a nasty gooey slag which then went on to do unspeakable things to the wool. So its back to satinite. But that stuff doesnt wear very well for mobile parts. It tends to crack and spall and always needs touching op. I have some Plistix SR90 (equivalent to the Plistix 900 which is the new "hot thing" in propane forge construction) mebbe that will do better. Plistix also has a product called TopCoat2600 which is designed to go onto fiber blanket but it needs protection from 02 and its only rated 2600 which is marginal for a hot forge and it only comes in 50# pails at $200 per. So I am hesitating on that.
   adam - Saturday, 09/09/06 13:29:37 EDT


Not having messed with Mizzou, I'm shooting in the dark, but would it be possible to run the propane in a channel in the refractory layer itself? Say cast a piece of thin plastic tubing in the Mizzou and then burn it out?
   Mike B - Saturday, 09/09/06 15:30:25 EDT


While I am a proponent of "swirling", I don’t understand some of your design ideas. When you say, “they are not combined before entering the combustion chamber”, what is your reasoning? Good combustion requires thorough mixing of the fuel/air and helps to complete combustion in the shortest distance. For the last twenty years or so I’ve built most of my forges with the gas directed into the blower! The best burners for a short flame have multiple small holes like a cutting torch tip only maybe ¼ diameter or so. The swirl needs no enhancement if the burner comes in tangent; the bar across the middle will not help and will probably just get in your way.

“A jet of hot gas at welding heat with no spare oxygen”? No spare oxygen is a good goal; a jet of hot gas at welding heat is not (if the goal is to try to use it to heat the work). At high temperature, most of the heat transfer (and the most desirable) is radiant heat from the walls of the forge. Most of the design work should be directed at heating the walls of the forge and keeping the flame off the work. Swirl helps with both.

While atmospheric forges can reach 2400-2600 degrees, a good blown forge can get to 2800 to more than 3000 degrees! The ability to work against a backpressure and maintain a positive pressure in the forge is very important. If welding only requires 2400 or so, why is it important to go higher? Well, the RATE of heat transfer is a function of the temperature difference of the two bodies (the forge and the part being heated). When you put a cold piece of steel in the forge two things happen; the steel gets hotter AND the forge gets colder. In the colder forge the temperature may actually fall below welding heat for a while. In both forges the part will start to heat at nearly the same rate, but as they approach welding heat the one in the hotter forge will reach welding heat much faster. This is critical in forge welding because at or near welding heat the part begins to scale at a prodigious rate. So yes, some atmospheric forges CAN get to welding heat (some can't!), it's just that a blown forge can get you there faster.

"Muffle" furnaces have a chamber that is heated from the OUTSIDE while the part in the muffle is heated almost completely by radiation away from all combustion gasses. Someone ought to experiment with this for a welding forge using an inert atmosphere.

Most "recuperators" are applied to the combustion air. I don't think your steel tube is adding much BTU's to the furnace, although it may be helping combustion a little.
   - grant - Saturday, 09/09/06 15:54:01 EDT


Oh, you're talking about a "pre-combustion" chamber aren't you. A chamber to do the combution in and then transfer the gasses to the actual forge. Hmm, not sure about that one. You might want to be the one to try the experimenting with the above mentioned "muffle" type.
   - grant - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:19:23 EDT

mike - refractories are very prone to cracking due to thermal cycling.

grant: there are two reasons for not combining the propane:

1. I am free to preheat the propane without worring about preignition. This cracks the propane before it gets to the burn chamber and should result ina faster more complete burn.

2. I would like to use other fuels - perhaps diesel fuel which I can get at reasonable price from my local gas station 24/7

I agree hi temps are desirable - the higher the combustion temp - the more rapidly heat gets transfered to the walls of the burner before being carried away in the exhaust
   adam - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:21:49 EDT

yes its a pre combustion chamber - a combustor. The forge is assembled ad hoc out of firebrick and blocks of wool covered with satinite. Its like the setup you might use when you arrange firebrick and heat a piece up with the rosebud.

I am indeed having some trouble with the back pressure - I have tried using satinite on inswool for th inner liner but I get some leaking. I might have to go back to a mizzou liner which makes the thing much heavier and slower to heat up.

PS I misspoke I dont have the Plistix yet - I am fixing to order it
   adam - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:28:42 EDT

Propane preheat: Adam there is a British patent on a propane preheated torch that claims that it breaks down the propane into acetylene and hydrogen and produces a VERY hot flame. I think platinium tubing is involved.

Hot air balloon burners use copper preheat coils but they are dumping liquid propane into the system that must be evaporated. The coil is in free air and there is no heat when the burner off.

Rocket engines cool the nozzel shell, evaporate and preheat the fuel components simultaneously. The problem was how to shut down the engines. It tooks decades of R&D to design and build primary rocket engines that could be stopped and started. The X planes and the Space Shuttle have them. Other rockets burn until the fuel runs out.

Normally the best preheat for a forge is to simply preheat the air. When you do this the forge or furnace is called "recupritive". In a gas forge you use a heat exchanger made of sheet metal that uses the exhust heat (there is a lot) to preheat the incoming air. You DO NOT mix exhaust with incoming air. You heat it with the exhust. You can raise the incoming air several hundred degrees or more. This is all heat the fuel does not have to create. The downside of this is the hot air is thinner. However, recupretive furnaces have proved effective at saving fuel as well as increasing temperatures for over a century.

Hmmm. . . too many interuptions this afternoon. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:28:42 EDT

Forge Temperatures: There are limits to how hot you want the atmosphere. Steel burns at forging temperature and melts just above most forge temperatures. If the forge is running over 3,000 F and you turn your back on it a minute you will have a puddle of metled steel on the floor. (see grant's comments as well).

The balance between just hot enough and too hot is about perfect on our little Planet with 20.95% oxygen. If we had more oxygen fires would be hotter and with less we might not have ever reached the level of technology to be in the age of pottery or metals. Thank mother nature or whatever God you pray to for that.

Note that ITC products are good WAY beyond forge temperatures. In normal fuel/air use the maximum working temperature has not been found.

   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:43:19 EDT


Indeed, oil furnaces are nearly the best combustion type forge furnaces. Many large forge shops use them, often in furnaces that can use oil or gas depending on the current price. Their incandesent white flame and high temperature always made them the prefered fire for welding. I think the biggest reason you don't see them in blacksmith shops any more is: THEY STINK! And they leave an oily, sooty film on everything in the shop. Due to additives I think, you are suposed to use "stove oil" or home heating oil not engine fuel.
   - grant - Saturday, 09/09/06 16:48:36 EDT

Oil Forges. Yep, you must vent them outside and need a hood over open doors unless you want your world to reak of deisel smell. Even the purified grades of kerosne stink.

   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 17:03:33 EDT

I am thinking about selling a couple of smaller anvils and buying a 175lb euro anvil. I would like your opinion of these anvils and also the old world anvils. I live on the west coast , do you know of any dealers close.
   CW - Saturday, 09/09/06 17:13:06 EDT

CW, Euroanvils is sold only by Euroanvils which is owned by Blacksmiths Supply. They all ship from Richmond, VA to the best of my knowledge. Old World is a similar import from the Czech Republic and only sold directly by them. One of the reasons these anvils cost less than some others is that there are no middle men. They are shipped directly from the foundry to the sellers, then you.

Euroanvils is a long time anvilfire advertiser thus they help bring all this "free" information to you.

There are better anvils than the Euro but they cost a great deal more. There are worse anvils that cost the same or not much less. So they are one of the best buys for your money. They are not as hard as many of the old time anvils but almost no new anvil will be. You do not want maximum hardness in a cast anvil otherwise they will have chipping problems. You will find Euro anvils in many professional shops.

If you want a better cast anvil in the US you will have to buy a US made TFS or a Nimba.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/09/06 17:43:55 EDT

Preheating - I think I got the idea from that Brit torch patent. You also see a similar thing with combustors for turbines - yeah home made turbines -those guys are some serious crazy! - which burn kerosene. I have messed around with exhaust recuperation - sure would be nice. I calculate that my exhaust is 4-5kW of wasted heat. But I cant find a design that doesnt place a lot of constraints on the heating chamber. That conflicts with my design goals - versatile and easily able to accommodate a wide range of work. The only thing that would work would be routing the intake air around the forge shell but that is preheating by cooling the forge plus it makes construction very complicated. Although this design may waste more exhaust heat, it has the advantage that it only heats a small chamber and it can be rapidly turned up from idle to welding. The precombustion chamber is heavily insulated and the exhuast is narrow and with no line of sight to the interior - so its not very lossy. (looks like a very fat sheep with raging flatulence! :) ) So far it has used less gas than a RR Mini forge would eat in the same time.
   adam - Saturday, 09/09/06 18:11:58 EDT

Hello again everyone. I have a question reguarding safety glasses. I've been looking for new perscription safety glasses, but have been unable to find the style of frame that I find the best. Does anyone know any online glasses manufacturer that carries the wrap-around style safety glasses, rather than aviator style with hanging side shields.

Thanks in advance!

In other news, forged my first blade today. It's not /too/ grotesque, and i may go back tomarow morning and put a twist in the handle. It's just a low carbon rail spike so I dont expect to be able to get it to hold a good edge, but I'd like to make it look better even if I'm not hardening the edge properly at this point =)

   jmercier - Saturday, 09/09/06 19:09:38 EDT

Flatter geometry question

how is a flatter dressed? Are just the corners radiused? Is the whole face slightly radiused? It will be used on flat sections.
   - Tyler Murch - Saturday, 09/09/06 19:32:57 EDT

The wrap around safety glasses are available from many vendors and many styles in NON-prescription. They are also sold with cheater lens in the bottom for those who need close up help. I do not know of anyone making a wraparound prescription safety glass.
   ptree - Saturday, 09/09/06 20:13:36 EDT

I know they make them, but havent been able to find any place that sells them. A few people i used to target shoot with had perscription wraparound style safety glasses, look like the typical sports wraparound type. Was just hoping someone here knew where I could get some
   jmercier - Saturday, 09/09/06 20:28:26 EDT

Hey guru and grant thanks for the replys about my Canedy-Otto Royal Western Chief hand cranked blower stand/post. Here are pictures of the blower mounted with the stand and a pic of the flare at the bottom of the stand.

Thanks again for the help!
   Michael Moriarity - Saturday, 09/09/06 20:40:44 EDT

Flatter-The flatters that I use, both under the power hammer and at the anvil are flat with the edges dressed.

Blacksmithing groups near Steubenville OH- Check out the Western Reserve Artists Blacksmiths Association (WRABA). They have monthly meeting that rotate around the greater Akron/Cleavland area. It should be a bit closer than going done to WV. You also should check out the Pittsburgh Area Blacksmiths Association (PABA).
   patrick nowak - Saturday, 09/09/06 20:53:27 EDT

I was a sheet metal worker about 15 years ago (actually I was a forth year apprentice), but left the trade for other work. I would like to get into metal (iron) work as a hobby and was wondering if you could tell me what basic tools I need to begin. I want to get the basic, least expensive tools I can. I already found a good forge for about $180. Sorry for asking such a a simple question, but I would appreciate an answer.

Thankyou very much,

   Perry - Saturday, 09/09/06 21:11:42 EDT

i just got given a post vice, is in good working order, but, a half of a tube of magnet fell out, what would that be from?
the vice works fine without it,and i dont know where it came from
what is it?
   Cameron - Saturday, 09/09/06 21:26:41 EDT

MM-- looks to me as if the bottom flare the blower had on it when it left the factory is missing.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/09/06 22:02:54 EDT

Howdy tyler
Just the edges radiused.
   Burnt Forge - Saturday, 09/09/06 22:17:15 EDT

Tools: Perry, This depends entirely on your budget. If you can afford a significant hobby but are not wealthy I would start with a good HD buzz box (AC arc welder) and an oxy-acetylene outfit. With these and an angle grinder and a drill press you can build just about anything you need from forges to presses and power hammers (or other machinery). Arc welding is THE most effficient method of putting two pieces of metal togheter and a cutting torch is the best way to cut up heavy scrap.

You need a decent anvil in the 100 to 200 pound range, the heavier the better in most cases. However, see my article on the FAQ page about selecting an anvil.

A good blacksmiths' leg vise is used as much if not more than the anvil and there are no substitutes. I would rather have a junk anvil and a good vise then vise versa.

You will need a couple weights of hammer. Do not start too heavy. 2 pounds is the low end and 3.5 the high end. Work up to that professional weight. Standard cross pien blacksmiths hammers are the old stand by. I also like having a selection of ball piens for use with marking tools and for riveting. After that there are all kinds of specialty hammers that you may desire but do not really need.

Tongs are something you can never have enough of. Good universal tongs like Grant Sarver's goosneck chain makers tongs are some of the best. BlacksmithsDepot sells them. I prefer old style bolt tongs when I can find them.

It is also good to make your own tongs for practice and to appreciate the design of good tongs.

Anvil, Forge, Vise, Hammer and Tongs and you are on your way. But remember that blacksmiths were always on the cutting edge of metalworking technology and today it is often difficult to tell the difference between a modern machine shop and a blacksmith shop. If you are going to sell your work you need to be efficient and machinery is a must. But if it is a pure hobby then you can make it as hard on youself as you like or as easy as you can afford. Remember that in days of old there were always helpers around to swing sledges. A small power hammer can replace a group of strong men with sledge hammers. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 09/10/06 00:55:26 EDT

Flatters New flatters had sharp edges just barely broken with a file. They would be dressed further as the smith saw fit. Special flatters for working in corners would have distinctly radiused edges. I have a rectangular flatter made by Athol that is this way. Some flatters have a VERY slight crown and well radiused edges. This would be a roughing flatter for initial smoothing.

Tube Magnet Cameron, It just got stuck to the nearest heavy iron thing. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 09/10/06 01:00:18 EDT

jmercier -- www.rxsafetywear.com should have what you're looking for. I think I found them on a tip from Miles.

I ordered a pair of glasses from them in July. Apparently they were relocating their lab then, so it took them two weeks to ship. But they explained quickly enough (once I asked) and even sent a coupon for 50% off my next order.

The glasses were as advertised. I think they look different on my face than they did on the web page, but no one's laughed out loud yet (grin).
   Mike B - Sunday, 09/10/06 08:31:34 EDT

Anybody know the weight of a 1954 lil giant 50 power hammer complete,for shipping purpose? I cant find it at their website.thanks
   ckark-kentski - Sunday, 09/10/06 09:25:56 EDT

Clark, See our Power Hammer Page, Little Giant Specs. These are for late little giants with dovetail guides.

The weight varied depending on if the hammer came with or without a motor. LG used large heavy industrial duty 3PH motors that were a lot heavier than modern morors. The "with motor" option also required a longer shaft and larger heavier clutch pulley.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/10/06 09:47:33 EDT

My 2¢ on flatter dressing. I disc-sand the working face border on most of mine and allow it to fall off maybe 3º. Many manufactured flatters had a 3" square face, so for example, I'll smoothly, with a slight convexity, fall off the border area for about 3/8" inward all around. The central area remains flat. This is not a full 90º radius by any means. The idea is to avoid edge marks on the work.

This is not to discount what has been said previously, but when we say "radius", of what size are we speaking? A relatively small radius can leave edge marks, if used to flatter a stock length and not used carefully.

My anvil face is wide enough that I often use the flatter corner to corner rather than square with the work. It covers more territory that way.

The flatter is primarily a finishing tool, and it can be used at the blood red heats and below in order to avoid the free scaling which occurs at the brighter heats. By wetting the anvil and by dipping the flatter in water, it will help to pop any residual scale via thermal shock.

A full radius on a flatter to fit a radius previously made with a fuller or set hammer; that makes sense to me. The guru mentions this above.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/10/06 10:34:03 EDT

jmercier-- Try safetyglassesusadotcom/optx-20-20-stick-on-bifocals.html also (Thanks, Mike B, for the plug). They have stick-on (you wet them with plain water and through the miracle of molecular adhesion or some such, they adhere. Mine have worked for some months now, as do a friend's, but I have heard that some, perhaps another brand, fall off in time.) magnifiers in a range of diopters that turn any specs into bifocals. $8.95 a pair.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 09/10/06 11:19:10 EDT

What would be an approximate modern equivalent to the material "CAST STEEL" seen on chisels, dividers, etc, of the late 1800's?
Perhaps something like 1080 or so?
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/10/06 11:41:42 EDT

Tom, you are close. Since it varied I suspect the range was like 1050 to 1080 with most being close to 1060. It was often bought by maker or trade name such as "black diamond steel". This was popular for files and dies.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/10/06 13:54:27 EDT

Regarding preheat:
When burning atmospheric air and propane, the ratio of air to propane for a neutral flame is around 10:1. This means that it's way more useful to preheat incoming AIR than fuel. Preheating fuel is generally a good idea only when it won't really flow otherwise (heavy oils/vegetable oils).

Regarding rigidizing Kaowool:
Sodium silicate is pretty good for this (waterglass), but I dunno if it will hold up in this application. I would be inclined to stitch the Kaowool to a suitably formed piece of sheet steel using nichrome wire, and then apply waterglass and ITC-100...

Grant, I frequently weld in a Forgemaster forge... which uses two atmo burners of what I would call a mediocre design, and gets up to 2800 without breaking a sweat... heats 3/8" sq. from cold to welding heat in a couple of minutes.
   T. Gold - Sunday, 09/10/06 17:59:15 EDT

preheating the air is a good strategem to save BTU. What I am after is a fast, hot, complete burn. Propane is a heavy molecule and to burn it has to crack into simpler molecules - this takes time and heat.
   adam - Sunday, 09/10/06 18:14:52 EDT

Punch press

I just scored a hand-lever.operated punch press. It was made by the late Bill Planzer, of Chattanooga. Bill was the last full-time smith on the Southern Railway, and a great man. I have several tools he made me. He has been gone about 10 yrs. He ran his shop and made his own living 'til he was 87.

The press is eccentric operated and has a 3/4" stroke. The handle is about 5' long. The whole thing is heavy enough that I can just barely rock it up on one side. I think between 500 and 1000 lbs, The side plates are 1/2" and the base 1" plate. The tooling socket hole in the ram is 1" dia.

I have some punches around somewhere that I can adapt.

The press is eccentric operated and has a 3/4" stroke. The handle is about 5' long. The whole thing is heavy enough that I can just barely rock it up on one side. I think between 500 and 1000 lbs, The side plates are 1/2" and the base 1" plate. The tooling socket hole in the ram is 1" dia.

I have some punches around somewhere that I can adapt.

I made some measurments, and with a 100# downforce it will deliver a little more than 6 tons. Bill had it rigged up with a guide system for punching railing parts. I have'nt found the punches I have yet, but I'll keep looking.
   - John Odom - Sunday, 09/10/06 20:22:06 EDT

Adam: I don't know how much heat it takes to break down propane gass [I don't know the required temperature or the specific heat of propane gas]. I had an old Prepo brand [propane or butane, maybee a mix]blowtorch that had a gas preheat tube looped around the burner, somebody must have thought it was a good idea. When there is a phase change [liquid to gass] a lot of heat will be used in the phase change alone. If You ever get to working on an oil forge this might be something to work on.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/11/06 01:15:35 EDT

In addition to BTUs, door opening size is also a factor. For example the one on my propane forge is about 5
   - Ken Scharabok - Monday, 09/11/06 07:19:00 EDT

I use MAPP and propane combo in my forge with standard torch burners. The door opening of the forge is adjustable by sliding it up or down to accomodate the size of whatever it is I am forging. The 'door' is a 3"x4" piece of 1/4" steel sandwiched between stationary rods welded to the 'porch' of the forge. I stuck some Kaowool to the front of the door to keep heat from escaping.

Latest project: making custom frames for tattoo machines. The 'works' of a machine COSTs under $50. Making a frame costs me pennies. A fully tuned built machine SELLS for anywhere between $200 to $300!! Profits anyone?
   - Nippulini - Monday, 09/11/06 09:22:43 EDT

Propane needs to be heated to about 500F to crack. I intend for this to be a multifuel design and I hope to burn diesel fuel as well as propane. I have to drive out of town to fill my propane bottles at a reasonable price. On days when I am in a bad mood I might even burn old transformer oil.

The exit port of the Swirlomatic Combustor Mark #0 is shaped much like the bottom of of a toilet bowl. A cone shaped front wall leads into a 1.5" dia opening which turns a sharp right angle before exiting thru a 2" x 1" wide aperture. Thus there is very little loss thru radiation. The exhaust loss is mitigaged by forcing the gas to spiral along the chamber before exiting - giving increased time inside the chamber during which it can complete its burn and shed heat to the chamber walls. The exhaust port can be used directly, like a big rosebud or it can be let into an ad hoc heating chamber arranged to suit the work. With this setup and the correct gas adjustment I am able to heat the work directly in the exhaust jet setup with very little scaling even at near welding heat. I can get a 1.5" long yellow heat in the middle of a bar and I can work on pieces that are way too big to fit into a gas forge.

Although the Swirlomatic Combustor makes no provision for recuperating exhuast heat, it is in fact quite efficient because in most applications it only has to generate a small concentrated heat - like a coal forge. Also like a coal forge it can go from idle to welding in a short time. The main design goal is acheive the kind of versatility and benign chemistry that one gets from a coal fire. Fuel efficiency is desirable but not the primary goal. I have not been able to figure out a way to recoup exhaust heat without putting a lot of constraints on the heating chamber, so I have abandoned that idea b ut I welcome suggestions. Another design goal is that it should be fairly simple and economical to construct and not require exotic materials over and above the sorts of things are routinely used in forge construction

When I need a diffuse heat say for bending, I place a wall of firebrick (actually coated kaowool) in front of the jet and heat the whole thing up to orange - the work is place between the combustor and the firebrick.

When I need a concentrated heat, I use a kaowool firebrick with a 2" tunnel thru it - this keeps the ehaust concentrated.

I keep saying "kaowool" but I have been using Inswool3000. This stuff is very nice and seems to insulate more effectively than the kaowool. After a couple of hours of welding heat inside a 2" wall of Inswool, I can place and keep my hand on the outside. Ok so I am a black smith, most normal people would yelp. But there is no smoke or smell of burning meat - so I am impressed
   adam - Monday, 09/11/06 12:10:00 EDT

I purchased an antique Katana in the 70's and during one of my moves with the military, about an inch of the tip was broken off. I saved the tip in the hope that it could be repaired someday. Any hope? I now live in Colorado Springs. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I can supply additional info, including pictures.
   Steve Sloboda - Monday, 09/11/06 12:54:14 EDT

I've been trying to find a supplier for coke here in the, semi Pacific Morthwest (Idaho). Anyone know of a vendor where I can buy bulk (1/2-1 ton), instead of 50lb bags on this coast? Most all the suppliers are on the other end of the continent. Maybe a few of us could get together and order a boxcar full or something to save on cost. Oh yeah, thanks for the feedback on my forge refractory idea, saved me some $$, time and hair pulling over the experiment.
   Thumper - Monday, 09/11/06 13:14:22 EDT

Steve Sloboda, the only repair possible is to have a professional sword polisher reshape the broken end into a new tip. That said, in dealing with Japanese swords you'll find there are lots of opinions, and none of the options will be cheap. I suggest asking this question over at swordforums international. You have to register first, which takes some time.
   Alan-L - Monday, 09/11/06 14:17:05 EDT

Steve, I agree with Alan. There is no mysterious magic method of putting broken pieces of metal back together. In this case the ONLY repair is shortening. Luckily you are not losing much and it is within the tolerance for the style.
   - guru - Monday, 09/11/06 15:16:25 EDT

I am just setting up my own workshop and have an oppertunity to buy an old (50-80 years)forge hammer (air)made by huckeswagen Beche Grohs, it needs some work, all parts move and the rings have been kept well, but it needs a 3 phase motor fitted, the seller has a 5 horse one to go with it. he wants 850 pounds for it. Aparrently it wieghs around 3 tonnes and I am going to see it on 13 sept. I have limited experiance with these things, can anyone adise? Many thanks. Paul Sheppard.
   paul sheppard - Monday, 09/11/06 15:17:43 EDT

I am building a small project and need four 8" inside diameter steel rings made from A36 1/2 inch round bar. Where might I buy these rings?
   chuck - Monday, 09/11/06 16:07:57 EDT

Beche air hammers are very nice.
The Premier american hammer design, Nazel, was a copy of the Beche, as Nazel originally was the american Beche agent.
I met a guy from Norway a few years ago who has 5 of em.
He loves em.
   - ries - Monday, 09/11/06 17:18:39 EDT

Nippulin- once you start tossing around technical terms like "profit" you open a whole can of worms.
Yours is the classic discovery of the beginning metalworker- that finished products sell for seemingly large amounts of money.
However, when you use the word "profit", you need to then consider the word "expenses".
It may cost you "pennies" to make a tattoo machine frame- IF you dont include any labor costs (you ought to be worth 20 bucks or so an hour) workers insurance, unemployment, and tax costs, overhead including rent, utilities, insurance, depreciation, more taxes, wear and tear on equipment, vehicle costs, medical insurance, and so on.
On top of all that, you want a good 10% or so "profit".
Add all that stuff up, as if you were paying for it, and you suddenly see that $200 for a finished tattoo machine isnt so much after all.

Real businesses, that you would be competing with, have all these expenses and more. So they price accordingly. Making one, or three, at home, you can slide by making more per piece, assuming you manage to ignore your real costs.
But if you got serious about them, and started doing 50 a month or so, suddenly all those costs would rear their ugly heads. You would need employees, and shipping costs, and advertising, and trade show expenses, along with all the stuff I already mentioned.

Big difference between trying to manufacture products on a commercial level, and making one from scrap.

The trick, or course, is to try to find the cracks between the two, and inhabit them.
   - ries - Monday, 09/11/06 17:29:28 EDT

Repointing a katana: an antique, traditionally made katana has differential edge hardening and so you can't just re-grind a point on it without a total re-heat treat without having a "soft" point.

The differential heat treat's soft body/back is what let them get away with such a glass hard brittle edge; but edge/point failures do occur as you have noticed.

If you decide to let the sword go you might try to find a research project on them as getting antique blades they can chop up for metallurgic study is kind of hard...

   Thomas P - Monday, 09/11/06 17:48:12 EDT

Early Bech Hammers: Paul, The big pre WWII Bech hammer's were made by Nazel or under license from Nazel and are identical. Those made after the war are a combination of Bechs' modified designs of the Nazel. Later they partnered with Chambersburg and now are owned by a Spanish Company I think.

It sounds like it is the size of a 2B Nazel. This took a 7.5HP 1200 RPM motor but MIGHT take smaller. Be sure the speed of the motor is right. These machines had a fibre gear on the motor that ran on a large ring gear on the flywheel. I have seen these converted to belt drives.
   - guru - Monday, 09/11/06 17:57:44 EDT

Tip breakage is actually pretty common for older katana blades. As Thomas P mentioned, it's due to the very hard edge and soft back, the tip is the most brittle part of an old katana. There is no real good way to repair a broken katana for 'use' without reforging it. however if you just want it for a nice display, many times a good clear epoxy to hold the tip on will look much better than the broken blade, and not destroy the historical value of the piece either.

My understanding of much of old japanese steel is that it had a very high silicon content, which allowed a greater flexibility. In addition old japanese blades are laminated. There are many different ways of them being laminated but typically it's a soft core with a hard outside, with teh cutting edge hardened to an extremely sharp and brittle edge. This makes re-forging japanese blades that are too old many times impractical as well, because there's no way to reproduce the lamination of the varying hardnesses of steel properly once they're forge welded together in the final blade.

There's actually a good amount of research that has been done into japanese blades in the past, and it's quite intresting reading if you find good sources.
   jmercier - Monday, 09/11/06 18:47:00 EDT

As I understand it, up thru 1914 or so, Nazel was "the sole manufacturer of Beche Forge Hammers for the United States and Canada". This from the 1914 Nazel catalog reproduced in the Hammermans Emporium book.

Which leads me to believe that Nazel made Beche hammers here, but Beche made em first over there. Then, in the late teens, Nazel switched over to calling all their hammers Nazels.
The early ones were made under licence from Beche and Grohs, of Huckswagen germany. The later ones, featuring improved guides, were pure Nazels.
I think in the very beginning, Nazel just imported Beche's.

I am pretty sure the european Beche's were still made in europe by Beche.
The Norwegian Hammer Collector I met at LaCrosse a few years ago pooh-poohed Nazels as being not as good as his original Beche's.
An early Beche number 2 weighed 7050 US pounds, and took a 7.5 hp 1100 rpm motor.
   - ries - Monday, 09/11/06 19:02:21 EDT

A little quick research reveals Beche is still in business, in germany, and still making forging hammers, although mostly closed die. They were bought by another german company in 1999- no mention of Spain.
Then click on Beche down on the bottom.
Their closed die hammers do look a lot like Chambersburgs.
My guess is they would be completely befuddled by requests for info on 80 year old open die hammers, but hey, you never know.
   - ries - Monday, 09/11/06 19:11:01 EDT

I know this has been answered before but I can't find it in the archives. I made myself a small long horned anvil out of rr rail and welded a 1" hardie post to the base. I wanted both a stake and a small elevated table to work on using my anvil as a base. It feels dead soft when touched with a file. Is this steel hardenable to any great degree, or should I just leave it be?
   Thumper - Monday, 09/11/06 20:18:14 EDT


Old, old tracks like narrow gage and mining tracks were wrought iron. I've worked with recently made tracks (rails) which appeared to be high carbon. Can you spark test your anvil? You might think about normalizing the whole thing and hardening just the top working portion of the anvil, upside down in a coal forge. After quenching, temper perhaps, by letting it soak in a hot coke bed, right side up, until blue is reached. If the color runs too rapidly anywhere, for example, on the horn tip, use a wet cotton swab on the end of a stick to slow it.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 09/11/06 20:51:56 EDT

Thanks Frank,
I'll give it a shot. Didn't know if it was worth the effort or not.
   Thumper - Monday, 09/11/06 21:20:57 EDT


I picked up mine cheap at a flea market. One of the reasons it was so cheap was due to some rust pitting on the face. I spent the next few months, at odd times, filing it smooth. I eased back the edges very lightly, starting at 1/4" (6.35 mm)from the edge, maybe a 1/16" (1.59 mm) relief, if that. (I'll have to take some more exact measurements tomorrow night.) At any rate, it works just fine, and gives a nice, smooth finish to a piece. I like Frank Turley's suggestion about using it catty-corner - good thinking "outside the box." It might save a couple or more heats, depending on the size of the project.

Finally getting caught-up after my trip to Voyageurs (www.nps.gov/voya). At one of the old lodge houses used by the park as a visitor center, I was able to point out three tools at the fireplace from three different smiths and/or in three different periods. There was a simple forged poker/rake with hot forging and an elegant curl to the handle, ending in a snub-end inside the turn. Then there was another poker/rake that had three sharp bends to the handle and looked like it had been formed cold using a vise. The third was a "marshmallow" fork, nicely spot welded at the fork end, but with a sloppy arc weld glob at the simple turn-back handle.

Also came across a "mystery anvil" in their collections. It doesn't seem to be in Anvils in America, so I'll toss out further information to the Guruity when I get the photograph developed.

Cool and cloudy on the banks of the lower Potomac.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 09/11/06 22:38:08 EDT


I am curious to know how many of you actually use a flatter when working at the anvil. I use one quite often at the power hammer, but can only remember using one once at the anvil. It is one of many tools that really requires a striker to use effeciently, plus I prefer the slightly textured you get from the hand/power hammer. I have seen video of large industrial forgings being finished with flatters, but rarely see them used on hand work today.

   patrick nowak - Monday, 09/11/06 22:50:25 EDT

Patrick Nowak,

Most forged, decorative ironwork wants an honest hammer texture for a finish, even if painted. However on tools with flats like cold chisels, I use the flatter. I think a tool looks crappy unless carefully finished. I most often fire weld the reins on my tongs. I like to flatter finish the weld area going either way and up to the boss shoulder. When I punch a hammer eye, I flatter with the drift in the eye to get rid of the side swelling. Sometimes, the swelling is left, Spanish style. The flatter also gets rid of some of the "punch suck-in". Is that what you call it, Patrick; "suck-in?"

You're right. It helps to have a striker, and many of us hand forgers do not have one. I have gotten by doing the work myself with helper stand and a weight hanging on the workpiece. It takes a few more heats and it takes my 4½ pound hammer.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 09/11/06 23:18:00 EDT

Thumper, Weygers covers heat treat of RR rail anvils in "The Complete Modern Blacksmith" You may want to ILL a copy.

Rail I'm familiar with is about 1070 but with added Mn for work hardening.

Note when making a RR rail anvil you want the heaviest and most worn you can find. Heaviest is obvious, most worn is to get a flat face instead of the crown on new rail. Having a crowned face on your anvil may help when drawing but it's hard to keep stock on it for other processes.

   Thomas Powers - Tuesday, 09/12/06 00:44:43 EDT

Mystery anvils: Richard Postman is sure there are more brands of anvils out there than what he was about to document before or after Anvils in America was published. If you come across one you think might be unique you can send photos to him at 320 Fisher Court, Berrien Springs, MI 49103. Richard doesn't Internet.

He would still love to find a SAMSON (Van Wagoner & Williams Hardware Co., Cleveland, OH) It was advertised in 1899 they were produced in weights of 10 - 250 pounds. However, he has only heard of one. Cast iron body with a steel plate. It is possible these were special ordered from a manufacturer, which would have allowed the company to offer a wide range of weights, yet not have to make them themselves or even carry the inventory.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 09/12/06 06:49:50 EDT

Thump- Hardening rr rail is a waste of time- A friend made a good rr rail anvil: Two pieces of rail with the base trimed so the tops fit close together and a piece of armour plate welded to them- Cut a notch and weld in a piece of thick wall i" id tubing for a hardy hole.
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 09/12/06 07:31:07 EDT

Two inch armour plate
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 09/12/06 07:32:44 EDT

Hey Thumper, Alexander Weygers' book has a couple pages about shaping rr rail to an anvil and heat treating it, if you can get that from your local library. I will leave all judgements of the cost and value of this venture to you.
   JohnW - Tuesday, 09/12/06 09:20:45 EDT


Generally, it just sits there waiting for its moment, just another tool in the arsenal. But if I have a piece that I plan to bring to a file finish, then a little work with the flatter can save a lot of filing. Now, I know a lot of folks "leave no careless hammer marks, but from time-to-time it comes in handy smoothing stuff out. I've also used it to "un-oops" some light armor sections for helms; sometimes a successful salvage operation when I'm off to a bad start on a compound curve.

It's sort of like a lot of the other secondary or tertiary tools around the shop, like swage blocks or mandrel cones; not utterly necessary, but right handy when you need it.

Cloudy and cool on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov (new & revised format):

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 09/12/06 09:27:18 EDT

I over-compliment my tools all the time, and you know what? None of my hammers became flattered!
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 09/12/06 09:44:28 EDT

Flatters: I have about half a dozen after getting rid of duplicates a few years ago but have never used one. As Frank noted it depends on the class of work you are doing. Now I HAVE used a power hammer flatter.

Probably the most interesting use of a flatter I have seen was in the film "The Williamsburg Gunsmith". They use a flatter while making their own brass sheet from cast sheet that is hammered out to thin then smoothed with a flatter.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 10:13:39 EDT

I've been asked to demonstrate at an "Archiology Fair" taking place next weekend in Clayton, NM. They will have people demonstrating traditional crafts, even flint knapping (sp?), making buckskin, atlatl throwing, etc. I thought I would make some chain, maybe some strikers, that sort of thing. I figure some of you have done this enough to have lots of ideas on small projects that would fit a demo like this. Any ideas or advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
   tbird - Tuesday, 09/12/06 16:18:16 EDT

Flatters: As noted, they depend largely on the class of work you are doing. However, at one time ANY hammer marks were considered bad workmanship. Even on architectual work flatters were used often followed by filing. Then there was a period in the 1950's and 60's where faux hammer texturing marks were put in with a ball pien hammer on decorative ironwork. Unforged bar with three or four ball pien dimples. Later undersized power hammers were used by some to make equaly lame texture. Hammer die marks with gaps between. Now work is hammered all over and left as rough as possible. This is probably the most acceptable texture if done evenly. Changing styles. . .

So flatters are used less and less. They are used ocassionaly where smooth finishes are desired but rarely in decorative work. The fact that they are also largly a two man two tool and we live in a culture of on-man shops.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 17:07:44 EDT

Demos: Tbird, Keep it simple. The public has a short attention span. You want to make things that that can be finished in just a couple heats. Things like S-hooks, J-hooks nails, leaves (if you are fast) from small stock make good demonstration items. You should have your stock cut to length and I warn demosntrators to NEVER use a hardy for cut off purposes at demos. All it takes is ONE nail poping off like a bullet to ruin your whol year. . .

S-hooks are easy to make, you can repeatedly demonstrate drawing a long point and making a scroll then a twist. They also sell well.

Drive hooks are popular in some areas not others. If you are going to makes hooks that require a hole you need a fast wqay to make holes like a heavy Whitney punch.

Larger items like fire pokers make good demonstration items but set you up to need to make shovels (too slow for demos) and brooms (a job for a specialist).

Souvenir horse shoes are good if you keep them simple and move fast. You have to take shortcuts to make shoes fast enough for demos.

NEVER give a piece away to a child. They almost always have brothers and sisters OR may be there with a class or other group and they will ALL expect free samples. NEVER give or sell anything to any age child in a school group. School rules against sharp items, items that could be thrown etc. will get the piece confiscated. If a teacher (not just an adult chaperone) is with the group it MAY be safe to give a sample to him/her.

I know a fellow that the first demos he did he made nails for all the kids. He wore himself out, then the nails were all confiscated before the kids got on the bus, THEN later he got a complaint for giving the kids dangerous items.

For safety be sure that you have a sufficiently large roped off area. Most crafts shows do not allow individual demonstrators much room and for blacksmithing you should double the usual 8x10 feet. I like to have about 8 feet between the anvil and the crowd. If you are on grass it will be dead and dry by the time you have walked and sttod on the same patch for two or three days and it will be highly flamable. Keep extra water on hand for grass fires. You also need to be sure you come under the host's libility umbrella.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 17:41:08 EDT

More about Demos, Costs: No matter HOW you do your demo it is an expensive proposition. Blacksmithing equipment is heavy and a significant job to move and setup. Small tools get lost or misplaced in moves. Bulky items like forges tend to get damaged during moves.

Then you have fuel and material costs. Time preparing materials and picking up supplies. You may go through several full lengths of steel in a short weekend and much more in an extended or week long demo. If you came prepared this also represents hours cutting stock. Much more of the steel and fuel is wasted than in your shop. When talking to crowd there is a higher likelyhood of burning work than any other time.

The time involved is not just the two days of the demo. It is the day loading the truck and the day unloading the truck at home. There is also the travel time if you go any distance.

Most places do not appreciate the costs of putting on a demo. Many think that letting you make sales and not charging you to be at their show is enough. This is not a paying business unless you are very lucky and pick up a major client due to the show. But in most cases it is a very rare event that makes it financialy worth while.

So if you do demos, do it because you love to do it and not for profit. After many years of doing shows and making sales I found that it was a lot more enjoyable to just demonstrate and not make any sales at all.

If you are going to demonstrate AND make sales you need a second person to handle the sales, make change, etc.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 17:59:45 EDT

The demo:

First, you must remember that 99.999% of the public does not know anything about blacksmithing and 90% of those that do have it wrong. They think "tempering" is hardening and do not know the difference between forging and casting something in a mold. Do not confuse them further. Provide clear accurate information.

Know your equipement, the type of bellows or blower you use. Know your fuel and how hot it burns. Know the parts of your anvil. Be ready for questions about everything both intelegent and incredibly stupid.

Work on a line of talk that you can use with group after group.

What are you doing? Today I am making [hooks].

How? I am heating steel to 2,500 degrees so it will be soft and shaping it with a hammer. Watch. . . First I, then. . .

Do you ever get burned? Yes, small burns regularly. Hopefully no large burns.

How can you hold that hot metal? Long pieces - Steel is not a good conductor of heat so the end out of the fire is cool while the other end is read hot. Short pieces - I use "tongs" they are like pliers and are my fireproof fingers.

And so on. For children you should explain. "I am a blacksmith" I make things out of steel which when heated and cools is black. So I am the smith of black metal, a BLACKsmith." more. . "The thing with my fire in it is called a "forge", air blows on the fire. . ."

Clear, simple, educational.

For school groups IF they hang around you can get into more details like how important the smith was to early life and industry. The last demo I did at a school the demo was for a technology class on metals. I explained that steel was, "maleable", a property of most metals. But this was an unusual demo and I had 40 minutes with each group. I showed the basic processes and discussed terms, answered questions.

   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 18:19:51 EDT

Interesting anvil on 'the bay', see item no. 270025629391

   Bob G - Tuesday, 09/12/06 18:45:57 EDT

Interesting anvil on 'the bay', see item no. 270025629391

   Bob G - Tuesday, 09/12/06 18:47:47 EDT

RR Rail:
Duh....never thought about Alex Weyger's book, I've owned it for years. I met him back in the late 80's when he was living in Carmel Valley. He invited me to his" compound", all done in "hobbit" style with rounded roof lines etc and I did the grand tour of all his different shops. A little known fact is that at one time he did some work for the gov't in the development of a "flying saucer". I saw his schematics and finished hand drawn vision of his ideas, have no idea what became of the project. The man also gave me great pause for thought, after we did the walk around, we went into his house for refreshment and he wanted to see pic's of my jewelry work, that was when I discovered he was legally blind (we're talking dbl coke bottle glasses and everything held at nose length to be seen), yet still as sharp as a tack mentally and it scared the crap out of me looking down the road. I started classical guitar lessons shortly after so that in the event of loosing my sight I could still do something creative. Believe me, as inspiring as his writing, smithing, scrounging, sculpture and drawing's are, too have met him was TRULY inspiring. In retrospect, I only wish I had taken the cue to start smithing then.....boy would I have had a brain to pick!!!
   Thumper - Tuesday, 09/12/06 20:04:21 EDT

Bob, Tis a little different. Most anvils of that era did not have two hardie holes, nor that large. Probably had some special purpose that will remain a mystery. But the overal pattern is the same as most hornless English anvils from the 17th and 18th century.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/12/06 23:26:32 EDT

I'm leaving for Quad-State in the Morning; y'all play nice while I am gone!

(Historical demo's *know* how what you are doing differs from smithing in earlier times!)

Thomas Powers
   Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 09/13/06 00:50:02 EDT

With demos for groups unfamiliar with blacksmithing, you need to tell them the obvious, that the reason we heat the metal is to make it plastic.

In demonstrating for regional or national blacksmith organizations, you're dealing with all levels in terms of skill and design. I usually "shoot for the middle" and vacillate. A little something for the "advanced"; a little something for the beginners...while staying in the median area most of the while.

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 09/13/06 06:07:47 EDT

When I demoed daily for a year at an historical park I often directed my "Rap" to a young child in the group. I often put the child to work (it was allowed at my park) doing cold work,turning the blower or striking with a 6# sledge punching a hole in a pice of wood to demonstrate that a child of 8 or 9 could do useful labor. I invited questions from the crowd but worked the youngster with leading questions. Parents were held as long as I had their child and were drawn in by the intrest of the child. Props were the sledge (the aprentice hammer), a welders hat(a proper gentalman wore a hat), and a lot of examples on a table just out side the rope that could be picked up. I had one family that stayed at the shop for 4hrs.
   Habu - Wednesday, 09/13/06 07:54:06 EDT

By the way, Peter Ross will be doing a demo this Sat. at the Rock Ledge Ranch in Colorado Springs. Cost is $20 for a full day Demo. www.rockledgeranch.com
   Habu - Wednesday, 09/13/06 08:00:46 EDT

The More (or Less) Flatter:

Measured it last night (its 3" X 3" [76 mm]), and it had more of a crown than I thought. Starts relieving about 3/4-1/2" [19-12.7 mm] from the edge for a total of about 1/16" [1.5 mm]. I'm sure that a factory new flatter would be considerably flatter; but this works for what I need.


I didn't know the "Four Corners" were part of the "Quad States." ;-)

Still cool and cloudy on the banks of the Potomac; and a touch of rain.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 09/13/06 09:03:10 EDT

I was doing a demo for a fine arts fair, making s hooks, j hooks , and small leaf keychains. I figured these would be nice short projects to keep everyones attention for a few minutes before they moved on. I had quite a few people stop by several times throughout the day, and they all seemed somewhat dissapointed that I was still just making the same small trinkets. So I thought to myself, why not work on a larger project that involves these basic elements....like a campfire tripod or a utensil rack for camping! This way people that do stop back by aren't seeing the same thing over, and by the end of the day the public can see a finished product sitting in your demonstration area. Just a thought.
-Aaron @ the SCF
   thesandycreekforge - Wednesday, 09/13/06 09:14:02 EDT

Demos: Tailoring the demo to the local audiance is needed when you have a feel for it. There is a huge difference between doing a demo for other blacksmiths and the general public. However, for someone that has always used a gas forge the details of a coal or charcoal forge are interesting.

Most of my comments were directed towards demos at large gatherings. In recent years my demos have been places where there are lots of other things to see and a stop at each was quite short. Making small trinkets is about all that folks will stay long enough to watch.

The danger with larger projects is that you will invariably have a large group of folks come by while you are filing some detail, or painting the piece and your fire has gotten cold. . So you have to be careful about what those projects entail.

I would often make fire shovels. The pans were always pre-made and I would fit the handle, drill 3 holes and install rivets. I used a hand cranked drill press and everything made a good demo. I would also make basket twists on pokers and other tools from prewelded "blanks". These would need the end forged to a looped hook or rat tail loop and the shank weld dressed. Doing the twist is an exiting demo but it only takes about 3 seconds and people usualy miss it.

But I have also been caught in a long demo hand rubbing paint on work that needed to be done for inventory. . real exciting, and a major let down to those that came to "see the blacksmith". Trying to keep up with inventory and special orders is why I have found it much more enjoyable to just demonstrate and not worry about sales.

I used to sell hand made souvenir horseshoes with initials stamped on them. I quickly found it was easy to get swamped with orders. So I made it a rule that you had to watch me make your horseshoe. Of course I was probably priced too low and a better remedy might have been to raise prices. At the time I was getting $2 and it should have been $5. That was 30 years ago.

Audiances vary. When you are the only show there is a big difference in what you can or should do. You may demonstrate continously but you need definite stop and start points. When you are the only show you can explain all the basics and demonstrate different things. But you still need to keep it short and concise. Avoid slow boring tasks.

When you have a family group you can tailor your demo just for them. Answer questions, make things for the kids. But I have found that is a rare demo.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/13/06 11:16:10 EDT

I see a potential fund-raiser, here! I think a lot of folks would pay good money to watch Jock Dempsey do the Twist. (Ye Grynne)
   3dogs - Wednesday, 09/13/06 12:22:14 EDT

You think thats funny. . . I won a twist contest at a chrurch event last fall! HA!
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/13/06 14:26:04 EDT


Does it change back to metal when it cools? (grin). Either you were paraphrasing, or the audiences there are a lot smarter than the ones here . . .
   Mike B - Wednesday, 09/13/06 17:09:08 EDT

Look up the definition of plastic Mike (grin)
(I better look it up myself or I might be grinning from the wrong side of the head)
   JimG - Wednesday, 09/13/06 17:45:32 EDT

Hey, youse guys. I'm gonna sic the Plastic Man on you. Look up "plastic deformation" while you're at it.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 09/13/06 18:52:58 EDT

Iron the Other Thermal Plastic
   Habu - Wednesday, 09/13/06 21:42:58 EDT

Frank's comments about plastic made perfect sense to me, of course, I got introduced to the concept over 30 years ago in my first metallurgy class - taken because trying to ba a math major wasn't fun. Been dealing with metals mostly iron and steel one way or another for most of the time since then.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 09/13/06 22:20:45 EDT

Demo: Dan Boon was one of the demonstraters at the hammerin I went to last weekend. He suggested making trinkets for kids whoose parents were nearby as a way of hooking them as a customer for some of His regular forged goods. He allso said to have a large selection of different articles on display so there is a greater chance of someone seeing somthing they want. This POV comes from a guy making a living at the trade.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/13/06 22:36:29 EDT

Thanks to all you guys for the great ideas and advice on doing a demo. The one I'm doing Saturday will be better as a result.
   tbird - Wednesday, 09/13/06 23:04:22 EDT

I wonder if anyone has come across anything about pollution (particularly soil) from 19th century blacksmiths/forges. Anything with specifics and/or a chamical bent would be great.

many thanks
   Grim_up_North - Thursday, 09/14/06 07:05:42 EDT

The Dempsey Twist:

I read about the "Dempsey Twist Tong" and all along I thought it was some kind of method to make tools. Apparently it was spelled wrong and should be the "Dempsey Twist Thong". That's a whole different image.
   - Marc - Thursday, 09/14/06 09:22:59 EDT

Small Shop Pollution: Gary, Due to their size and the amounts of materials used most pollutants were in the trace amounts compared to even a small manufacturer of the time.

The primary metalic waste product was scale (anhydrous iron oxide). As old steels were non-alloy (other than carbon) this was pretty benign stuff. Modern steels contain lead among other things but it is still a very small amount and the amount in scale would only be a trace.

The primary flux used in blacksmith work is borax. A shop might go through a couple to ten pounds a year. Most would end up in the coal ash and clinker. This is the same 20 Mule Team borax that is used in washing laundry.

The bulkiest waste product was coal ash and clinker. A very busy shop migh produce several hundred pounds of ash a year which normally ended up on the shop floor and to reduce mud around the shop. At this time the average home heated by coal would produce more. Coal ash varies greatly in content but the worst polutant in it is sulphur followed by very small amounts of metals like chrome, mercury and lead.

Metalic lead was commonly used in many small shops for many purposes. Solder, soft work surfaces, soft hammers and decorative elements. Shops that cast lead for various purposes would have a quantity of lead in the shop floor and surrounding soil. However, not all shops delt with lead other than as very small amounts of solder. Modern hobbiests that cast lead fishing sinkers and other lead items produce a great deal more.

Shops that did a lot of heat treating MAY have had a tank or drum of oil for quenching. This is often a witch's brew of oils such as castor (bean oil), whale oil, fish oil, linseed oil, mineral oils. However, this is most likely to be found in shops from the first half of the 20th century.

Where most serious polutants come into play is toward the end of the century at the begining of the modern era (20th century). Electric batteries of all types were used for a variety of tasks and the zinc shelled cells were tossed into waste piles or left to disintegrate in some corner. Although of limited use earlier with the automobile came the lead-acid battery with its lead disolved in sulphuric acid. Rural homes and shops often had DC lighting provided by lead-acis cells that were charged by wind mills. As automobiles became more popular the blacksmith often became the auto-mechanic and had waste oil and antifreeze to dispose of. This was most commonly dumped behind the shop on the ground although waste oil was recycled from an early point. Shops that sold crankcase oils usualy had a storage tank for wate oil. But oil soaked filters were still a problem and they were usualy tossed and the remaining oil soaked into the ground.

The other thing that became common in many shops of the same era was the acetylene generator for producing acetylene gas for air-acetylene and oxy-acetylene torches. These used carbide (calcium carbide) and water to produce the gas. As a result they produced a large quantity of alkaline sludge containing various metal compounds to dispose of.

This was also the beginning of the era of white lead paint. Lead paints were used on everything. Any place that did painting and repair work usualy has more lead in the ground from this source than any other. However, not all blacksmith shops were invloved in painting and it was generally avoided due to the dirt of the shop and the fumes of the paint and forge fires not being compatible. However, shops that segued into automotive work MAY have also been involved in body repair and painting.

Shops of this period were also involved in changing to machine operations and lathes powered by steam or electricity were common. Lathes produce mounds of chips with little effort. While steel chips rust away, copper and brass are heavy metal polutants and often contain some lead. A machine operation also indicates a likelyhood of working with bearing babbit which is mostly tin but also contains lead.

So, the most common polutant from a variety of sources would be lead and other heavy metals (copper, zinc, tin) that were trace elements in a variety of items or primary materials used in the shop. However, as noted, many blacksmith shops would have been very clean in this respect. Especially older shops that used charcoal instead of coal and stuck primarily to working with iron and steel. Those that did not segue into automotive work may have stayed quite clean.

Lead is still probably the most hazardous persistant item found and used in the modern blacksmith shop followed by paints and solvents.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/14/06 09:50:12 EDT

Two questions:
I've been told that adding water to your green coal as it heats up, next to the fire, does more than just slow the consumtpion of fuel and that it actually aids in the coking process. Is this true? If so, how?
I read that boiled linseed oil is prefered over raw linseed oil for iron finish blends and that the "boiled" isn't really boiled, but has a dryer added to it. Is this true?
Thank you.
   Wendy - Thursday, 09/14/06 10:27:56 EDT

Display and Sales at Demos: If you use demos as a sales tool you MUST have a helper. In Dan Boone's case he is doing the same that I did for many years and his wife travels with him and takes care of the sales unles there is some technical question.

IF you plan on a demo paying in immediate sales you must have a significant inventory of whatever it is you make. You cannot make $1,000 in sales unless you have more than that in inventory (tripple if you are lucky).

IF you want special orders then you need high quality samples of your work. If you are looking for architectural work you need sample gates or half scale rail samples in a variety of styles finished properly. You may also want finish samples.

A "brag book" or portfolio is helpful but you MUST be sure to use only the best photos of your best work. Many folks use every snapshot of every piece they have made since day one. This is fine for your family but in public it is vey unprofessional. And don't forget personal cards.

Demonstrations educate and entertain the public. They do not make sales. Sales are made by having work on display and someone that is friendly and knowledgable about the work to sell it. You cannot do both at the same time. If you are going alone then you must make up your mind which you want to do. The ONLY question a demo ever answered in this regard is, "Did you really make this?"

I've demonstrated at almost every kind of place you can demo, jurried arts and craft shows, historic sites, state and national parks, resort craft shows, schools (elementary through college). After many years I came to the conclusion that I was mostly educating the public at my expense (much as I am now). If you need to make money doing blacksmithing demos then be sure you get paid to demo (then put on a great show). Many places that you will be asked to demo at are NOT good sales locations. Even venues that have a large number of people are not necessarily goo venues. If the focus of the event is food, people are coming to eat, the the focus is music then people are coming for that. I've done some very large shows where sales were almost nil.

If you want to demo and make sales then you must be very selective about where you go. "Crafts" shows where the product is molded ceramics, assembled kits and imported goods do not attract the class of customer that can afford hand forged iron. The last ren-fair I visited should have been labled "Chinese Crafts Market". There were no domestic crafts people. At one of the last historic sites I helped demo at the other folks selling ironwork had a truck load of imported Mexican work. It was not bad work and the prices were far below what we could compete with. They also had a prime location because they were NOT demonstrating. This was a slap in the face of the un-paid demonstrator who was supposed to be compensated in sales. These situations often come up making the negotiating of demo terms critical.

Folks that depend on sales from crafts shows have spent years researching the shows, send in applications early and keep a calendar full a year in advance. They know where they can afford to travel and travel cheap usualy camping out or sleeping in the truck everywhere they go. They also subscribe to various publications and keep an ear to the ground looking for new shows and changes in old shows. The change of a show organizer can make a huge difference. All of a sudden the folks you delt with are gone, policies change and they do not know you. You may go from a sweetheart deal due to your demo to being just another crafter.

SO, if you want to make money doing shows then you need to be serious about it and study the business. If you want to make money doing demos the best way is to just demo and get paid for it. You will probably get as many special order or job requests just from handing out personal cards.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/14/06 11:06:46 EDT

Coking: Wendy, coal is infinitely variable. Besides the infinite chemistries you have a great range of sizes. So every coal and coal product has different characteristics. THEN you have variations in forges. . .

Dampening your coal will reduce the amount that is burning and you may increase coke output. For coal that ignites very easily this will be more true than for a lower volitile coal that is hard to ignite. For coal that is in fines dampening it may help hold it together until the coal melts and form a large lump of coke. Forges that do not have a focused air blast may create too large a fire area and weting the fire may be needed to control the burning and save more coke.

So any advice about coal must be tempered with the knowledge that all coal is slightly different and each type of forge adds to those differences.

Linseed Oil: Boiled Linseed Oil can be simply a heat conditioned product, however today most products labeled as boiled linseed oil are a combination of raw or polymerized linseed oil, petroleum-based solvent and metallic dryers. Read the label carefully.

Products sold as polymerized linseed oil are the heat treated product only. When you buy raw and boiled linseed oil from artists suppliers you get the actual product.

Raw linseed oil is what is used in artist oil paints (and as a food stuff) and dries very slowly due to oxidation. The raw oil is often processed by boiling thus making it boild linseed oil. Drying to the touch can take a week or more depending on how thick the paint and to dry through as much as a month.

Paints have been formulated with various driers since before the Renaissance. Red lead was used by the Ancients, copperas was used later. Japan drier (a cobalt compound) is used today.

As I have noted many times before, as soon you start formulating your own finishes you are an amature making paint. So why not buy paints and varnishes from professionals that not only know what they are doing but have hundreds of years of experiance behind them AND the best testing laboratories money can buy?

Read the ingrediants in common household varnish. It contains, linseed (and other) oil, waxes, solvents and a drier. Roughly the same ingediants as the amature recipes in many blacksmithing books. However, it will also have material to reduce aging due to UV exposure, stabilizers and more. . AND it has been tested in the lab and field.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/14/06 11:58:46 EDT

do you know of any colleges/universities in the US that offer a full four year blacksmithnig major, if there are any.
   andrew belcher - Thursday, 09/14/06 18:13:33 EDT

Andrew, how about a 4 year degree in Metallurgical Engineering and you teach yourself to blacksmith?
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 09/14/06 19:19:04 EDT

Andrew, Majoring in blacksmithing.

I'm a little out of that loop, but Brent Kington introduced blacksmithing at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, years ago. I don't think it is a 4 year deal. I believe you can major in something called "Metalsmithing", which indludes fine metals and blacksmithing. The University of Massachusetts is reported to have a good metal shop including a Bradley hammer, their program perhaps directed toward sculpture. Years ago, the State University of New York @ Brockport had a good metalsmithing program. I was told that they included some blacksmithing. I think there may be blacksmithing as part of the "Early Technology" program at Cooperstown, New York. There is a junior college program, I believe in Austin, Texas.

Others will chime in with more definitive information.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/14/06 19:22:28 EDT

For those of you who have nothing to look up technical terms in, most metals are "elastic" up to the yield point (also called the elastic limit and is close to the yield strength of the metal). This means that if you put a tensile stress on the metal but stayed below the elastic limit, it would stretch a little bit. When you removed the stress, it would return to its original dimensions. If you stressed it beyond the elastic limit, it would become "plastic" and the deformation would be permanent. When you heat the metal to normal forging temperatures, it is plastic until it cools. If you applied a tensile stress to it, it would remain deformed after it cooled. I will be emailing each of you with the written test.........
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 09/14/06 19:30:32 EDT

Back when I was doing a lot of highpressure burst testing, I observed that the pressure rise was just like the load increase on a tensile specimen in a pull test. The pressure would smoothly rise till the elastic limit, and then drop a bit as plastic deformation occurred. As the ultimate limit was approached, the pressure would sharply rise just prior to burst. I won a lot of coffee, betting I could "call" the burst just as it happened. Those were 20 to 30,000 psi tests, on boiler components etc.
   - ptree - Thursday, 09/14/06 19:44:47 EDT

Since I started this, maybe I should explain that I do know what "plastic" means as Frank used it. My point (to the extent I had one) was that folks at demos who didn't know why we heated iron might not understand the term. Oh, and I have an East River bridge I can let go real cheap . . .
   Mike B - Thursday, 09/14/06 19:48:03 EDT

thank you all for the great information.
i've been looknig into a blacksmithing/ metal smithing major for about a year, well ever since i first hit a peice a metal. i've been trying to start a shop but it's been a chore locating a good "mentor" and a good anvil. i have a small (litteraly a small 10"X10") coal forge and as an anvil i'm using about 15 railroad spikes welded together. I've been used channel lock pliers for tongs and a cross pien i got at homedepot. All of the stock i use is the REALLY expensive stuff i get brand new from homedepot of lowes, because the closest scrap yard in about 1 1/2 hours away, and i don't have a car.
if anyone has any information partaining to anvils or blacksmithing techniques. i would LOVE to learn.
i heard a quote the other day from a fellow smith named, robert hesson, (blacksmith in the 19th century), he said, "I fell in love with the forge, I can't get the ring on the anvil out of my ear, or the smell of iron off my hands, I love it and wouldin't have it any other way" and i took it up as my new motto. ANYTHING anyone wants to share will be helpful.

thank you
   andrew - Thursday, 09/14/06 20:25:30 EDT

Mike B, if you want to buy a bridge, I believe PennDot has an vintage 1896 one on the marketplace at the moment. From that time frame, a decent chance that it's wrought iron. Don't remember where I saw the info, but it was in print in the last day or two, so probably the local newspaper. (I'm in Western PA) A "Google" search would probably turn it up. They probably will let it go "real cheap".
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 09/14/06 20:37:17 EDT

I know Berea college in KY had an actual blacksmithing program, don't know if you could major in it or not, taught by Jeff Farmer. I was wondering if anyone knew if the Arts college in Savannah GA had anything, because I might consider going there if they do.

Also, a little off the topic, but I saw at a craft show, a smith from PA, I can't remember his name other than his first name was Don. He had a rather interesting design for a hanging wine bottle holder, which was some hooks hooked together and designed to where the bottles would balance themsleves. I don't know if this makes sense to anyone else, but if anyone has seen something like it, could you show a picture of it.
   - Boogerman - Thursday, 09/14/06 21:35:36 EDT

Mike B,

Plastic. I understand from whence you come.

I think some of this has to do with word usage and change over time. When I was a kid in the 50s, we began to use the word "plastic" as meaning a material. I remember mom bought a plastic sewing thimble! Unheard of! In shop class, we all made and buffed a plastic finger ring. Plastic, as a word, is not included in my 1944 "Materials Handbook", although under various other headings, the author talks about synthetic resins.
In the 1977 "Materials Handbook", there is a listing of "Plastic Alloys", the first sentence of the definition being, "A mechanical blend of two or more resins." The two were polyvinyl chloride and polycarbonate.

I'm thinking that prior to say, WW II, "plastic" was not in our lexicon as a noun or adjective, as it is often used today. It's everyday use in the earlier days was to indicate the pliability of a material, like clay for example. I maintain that it still has the latter meaning, and if a people don't get it, that's tough. "I feel for them, but I can't quite reach them."

P.S. Plastic Man was an early comic book super hero who could really stretch, especially his neck, arms, and legs. He could reach out a city block or so and nab the crooks while they were trying to run away. That kind of stuff.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/14/06 22:34:19 EDT

Metalsmithing degree programs:

Yes, SIU Carbondale still has a metalsmithing degree program. After for or five years you'll receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Metalsmithing. Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Co has a similar program, though not as highly rated as that of SIU. I got my BFA from CSU way back when and it was a good program, taught by some very fine silver/gold/black smiths.

For graduate work, it is hard to beat Cranbrook.

Mot schools that ofer a BFA in Metalsmithing will not care particualrly what metal you choose to work with, but some will have instructors who are more knowledgeable about steel than others. Generally, the focus is silver and gold, of course. The techniques and mindset translate to just about any metal, though.

Wherever you live, check out your State's land-grant college or university. Most of these started life as A&M schools and many still have some of the old A&M classes like Forge and Foundry, etc.

Quenchcrack has a good point about getting a degree in metallurgy and learning blacksmithing as a secondary subject. A BFA and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee most places these days, but little else. If yo uwan tto teach, you really need a Masters degree or serious recognition in the field, (and a teaching certificate if you want to teach in primary or secondary school). A degree in metallurgy will actually allow you to get a paying job in many places, though a Masters or doctorate degree will get you bigger bucks and in the door easier.

Jim Hrisoulas, a rather well-known swordsmith and author of several blade4smithing books, has a degree in Metallography I believe. So you can get a lofty advanced degree and still be a bladesmith if you want.
   vicopper - Thursday, 09/14/06 23:34:04 EDT

Thermal plastics, the "stuff", are resins that become malable when heated, and may be formed by mechanical means such as dies, or vacuum forming or it may be injectied into molds under high presure. polyvinyl, polycarbonate, nylon, polyetheline,polystyrine are but a few. They become "plastic" any where from 150F for polystyrine to 450F for nylon,
   Habu - Thursday, 09/14/06 23:36:55 EDT

Andrew Belcher: Don't overlook places, such as crafts centers, which hold blacksmithing classes. The John C. Campbell folk school comes to mind. Frank Turley offers classes of varying length and skill level. For a school list go to www.abana.org and then their RESOURCES link.

You can learn basic blacksmithing in a couple of weeks. Mastering the techniques and related skills (design, sales and execution) becomes the devil in the details as far as making a living at it.

As Guru often points out the ability to draw/sketch in 3D details is just as important as shaping metal. He also notes component parts suppliers are now approaching the look and feel of hand-forged ornamental work - ratching up the competition to be faced from an assembler.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/15/06 05:33:47 EDT

thank you all again,
i was wondering if any of y'all would share with me what you majored in just to give me a scope of what i might look at.

thank you
   andrew - Friday, 09/15/06 08:43:05 EDT

SCAD: Boogerman, My son graduated from Savannah and was not too happy with the school. When he enrolled they had a very low student/teacher ratio and two years in they had a shortage of teachers and many classes he had planned to take were no longer available. They over enrolled students to the detriment of the school. No, they do not have a sculpture department.
   - guru - Friday, 09/15/06 08:48:40 EDT

thank you
i actually looked in to savannah but i had a friend who looked to get a MFA and they basicaly shut him down and pushed him out the door
   andrew - Friday, 09/15/06 08:53:54 EDT

I'd like to share some info on propane tanks that my dad taught me. When and if the tank freezes, spray de-icer on the regulator (if you have on attached), and it will thaw. My dad worked for the gas company for over 30 years. Worked every time on natural gas.
   - Rob - Friday, 09/15/06 10:43:20 EDT

Blacksmithing Degree: I tell kids that are interested in a computer education to get a degree in anything else (mathematics, engineering, chemistry. . ) and take computer science courses as electives or a second major. That way they will have an education in something to apply the computer skills to. Computer technology is changing so fast that much of what you study in a four year school may be obsolete. Blacksmithing is not quite the same but it needs more than what is found in most schools in a single curricula.

Blacksmithing, while it IS our trade it is actually a small part of it. You can learn most of the blacksmithing from various crafts schools in a relativly short time and for less money than in a four year institution. What most people need to study is art, basic engineering or some mechanical field and buisness adminstration.

ART: I have come to realize that many people come to blacksmithing want to go into decorative work but have no artistic skills. Somehow they miss the fact that a beautiful scroll or a graceful ribbon of steel must be concieved in one's mind first and usually committed to a drawing before forging it. They overlook the artist in artist blacksmith. When you go to sell a job you will need to be able to present it on paper, clearly well drawn in a professional artistic manner.

Some folks claim they cannot draw. Generally they have not tried or practiced drawing. If you frustrate so easily that you cannot take time to draw a circle or straight line then forget blacksmithing. Metal is MUCH more frustrating. But people CAN be taught to draw. Some people claim it is an inate skill. It is not. It is mearly a skill that some people have practiced since they were very young. You can learn, it just takes practice. One blacksmith I know said that a series of life classes (drawing nudes) taught him more about line and how he wanted to apply it to his blacksmithing than anything else he had ever done. If you are an adult that "cannot" draw, I suggest you start with drafting courses and then take art courses with the emphasis on drawing.

MECHANICS: I was also surprised to learn in the 1980's that many well known blacksmiths (such as those doing demos at ABANA conferences) had few or no mechanical skills. They could not adjust or maintain a power hammer or properly drill a hole. Today the technology necessary to be competitive in the field is far more complicated than a Little Giant. TIG, MIG and plasma are standards. Presses of all types abound and require some basic engineering to use them properly. Ironworkers and twistig machines are now programmable. A good two year course in machine tool practices and welding would be a wise course. Making chips has replaced forging in many industries for good reason. There are no skills taught in these courses that do not apply to the modern blacksmith shop. Unless you are already a "gear head" you probably need these courses.

BUSINESS: Last but not least most blacksmiths today are small independent business folk. The big difference between being a starving artist and doing what you want is having a business plan and the skills to carry it out. Most schools do not teach this as part of many things that rely on it. It is absolutely required to be sucessful as a blacksmith. Some folks have an inate sense of business or were brought up in business families and understand capital, cash flow, markup, contracts and taxes. Basic bookkeeping skills are a minimum but is something that can often be farmed out. Location. logistics, supply, labor pools. . . are all part of a plan. Having a sound plan and methods to make that plan work are the hard part of this business.

Custom Curricula: Some schools will let you design your own curricula if they don't have what you want but do have the necessary resources. This is usualy based on a you get what you are willing to pay for basis. There will be no in-house scholarships but you may find some form othside organizations. Many Universities and colleges have the range of classes needed from art to mechanics, engineering and business management. To confer your special degree (BS in BS or "machine arts") they will want you to take the usual first year general classes including English, writing, math prerequisites for the more difficult courses in your plan. You will have to research and write your entire curriculum and present it to the school. They probably will not have a process for this so you will need to make this up as well (approval by department heads then the board of regents). If you are sucsseful be sure to get a contract in writing (and tell US about it).

Sometimes you have to go to more than one school to get what you want and often this can be done in one locality. My home town of Lynchburg, VA has a University, two colleges, a large community college and a business school. You could probably convince one of the colleges to confer a special degree based on classes taken at more than one school.

Otherwise, if you do not want a specific degree you can take most of these courses at many community colleges or as adult education courses. You will probably only obtain assoicates degrees (2 year) in each area but not a BA or BS. the blacksmithing you can get at Frank Turley's, the Power Hammer School and elsewhere.


One of the best blacksmiths I know was an English major. Another was an accountant. I was an artist and auto mechanic before going into blacksmithing. I was a machine designer in the nuclear industry after that and then did computer programming. I am self educated in all those fields and a few others.

Jim Hrisoulas's doctorate in metalography is not a standard course. It is one he designed for himself and the school administerd. This is not unusual in the field of doctoral dissertation.

The majority of blacksmiths in North America are Hobbysmiths or second career smiths. Another occupation supports their blacksmithing. Quite a few in decorative blacksmithing came to it from horse shoeing, having learned to forge in farrier school.

There is also a move from the world of fabricators (the welded railing people). They see money in high end artistic jobs and are adding forging to their portfolio. However, they are doing it from a mostly business background. They are learning enough to design the work and are installing equipment and training or having others trained to use it. In the past their high end work was made from components bought from others. Now they are looking at making their own components as well as having the capability to do custom forged work.

   - guru - Friday, 09/15/06 10:50:35 EDT

ART: I love to move metal, and enjoy looking at pretty things, but I am no artist! That is why I prefer to make tools, rather than decorative stuff.

GURU is right, forming metal is only a small part of the craft.

   - John Odom - Friday, 09/15/06 11:32:36 EDT

I have a 1932 Modulus of Elasticity which I use daily, invaluable tool that it is, and keep in a safe, special place in the shop high up on a shelf right next to the Moment of Inertia my great-grandfather the French tinsmith left me. USPS has just issued a sheet of postage stamps featuring comic book heroes of yore-- Green Lantern, the Flash, Green Arrow, and, amongst others, ta da, Plastic Man. In my book plastic is sheer caca, right below cast iron, aluminum and freeze-dried dog poop as a material to make stuff out of.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/15/06 11:38:24 EDT

"Gentleman Blacksmithing" (a long tradition going back at least as far as Thomas Moxon and Maximilian I [?] ) is a lot like "Gentleman Farming" in that an independent income tides you over should you make a misstep. Good years and good projects can make the hobby more than pay for itself, while bad years or biting off more than you can chew usually just wastes your time rather than causes direct harm to your food supply and health insurance.

A rotator cuff injury for an amateur is an irritation (albeit, a very painful and troublesome irritation) but really bad news for anyone working full-time. A bad year in the art room of a science fiction convention just means I don't cover room costs or guild dues. It's a point of contention with my spouse, perhaps; but not near as bad as a rained-out crafts show for a full-time smith when the rent's due.

The artistic merit and abilities vary all over the spectrum for amateurs, part time and full time (I strive for competency, myself) but, as Jock has often pointed out, conducting the business end of things is much more important for a full time smith. In the long run, delivering what is needed on-time and on-budget beats the tar out of overdue and over-budget, no matter how brilliant the result may be. Talent only goes so far, and varies in the eyes of the beholders. Reliability is much more appreciated compared with chaos and missed deadlines.

Light clouds and cool on the banks of the Potomac. After I finish cutting up the locust tree that Tropical Storm Ernesto dropped by the church hall, maybe I can do some blacksmithing tomorrow.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 09/15/06 11:40:25 EDT

ART: There is ART, then there is commercial art. At the high end there is little difference but at the low end there is a big difference. Mechanical drawing or drafting requires no "artistic" skill. It mearly requires following the steps necessary to project points and draw views using a straight edge, compass and templates. From about 1930 to 1980 every public school in the US had a drafting course. Most that took it were looking at going into a simple white collar job that is as close to a blue collar job as you could get directly out of high school. Others took it for the skill to learn to read drawings or as a skill needed in engineering.

Drafting and the rules applied are a good basis for learning free hand three dimensional and perspective drawing. From there you can go on, or not. But this is sufficient to render drawings for a client. You may struggle but you can get the job done. Like everything else it takes practice.

Free hand drawing is mostly practice. At one time I could render a reasonable pencil portriat in 5 minutes or less and a good characterture in about 30 seconds. I am way out of practice and can no longer do either in any amount of time. Too many years drawing machinery. . .
   - guru - Friday, 09/15/06 12:29:43 EDT

Hammer Envy:

I have available for whoever wants it, a 8 1/2 x 11 ink drawing on linen.

Anvil Cap for
1500 Chambersburg Steam Hammer No. 195
Chambersburg Eng. Order No. 162 dated Nov. 30th 1900

Drawing is dated 4-17-23
   - Hudson - Friday, 09/15/06 12:30:17 EDT

Hudson, Let me know what you want for it. If free, go ahead and mail to me at:

4714 Granite Trail
Boonville, NC 27011

Let me know if there is something you would like in trade. anvilfire hat, t-shirt. .
   - guru - Friday, 09/15/06 13:35:20 EDT

Drawing a professional-looking realistic sketch is almost a must in trying to sell a client on a gate or potrack or guard rail, etc. design. Drawing on the Artist Within, by Betty Edwards is a terrific how-to book re: freehand drawing with step-by-step exercises. Its predecessor, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (or maybe it's the left, whichever is supposed to house creativity) is a wonderful book, too. DOTAW is somewhat better because it has epic quotes running down the margins from artists, scientists, other creative types musing upon where their ideas came from. Be sure you get the latest editions of whichever one you get.
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/15/06 15:20:55 EDT

I had an art class where we were required to sketch something in the room everyday before we were allowed to move on to our other projects. Its amazing how this simple exercise improved our abilities. Practice makes all the difference. I still draw everyday.
   MikeH - Friday, 09/15/06 16:09:56 EDT

Is anyone here part of HABA (Houston Area Blacksmith Association)
   andrew - Friday, 09/15/06 16:13:54 EDT

Hi, Question on a spark arrestor for my forge chimney. I'm finding myself working mostly with Mesquite charcoal and have learned to live with the sparks down at my end but I'm worried about the other end of the chimney. Neighborhood is extremely residential, small children playing on two sides.

I'm running bottom blown brakedrum forge, Chimney is 10 inch ducting, going thru a metal patio roof and 5 feet above that. Can I just use metal screening (have some scrounged fireplace screen material)and should it be inside the pipe or do I need to fashion a screen cap for the top of the chimney?
Michael-Richmond CA
   Michael - Friday, 09/15/06 17:19:05 EDT


I can see your point. You're out there busting your hump trying to teach people. If they have to stretch a little to understand you -- so what. In fact, if they do figure it out, they'll probably remember it better.

I took a class one time on communicating with the public on environmental matters. In that situation, it's important that they understand as much as possible -- and some will misunderstand on purpose if they can. So a major focus was on using words that would be understood. According to the instructor, a significant percentage of the population think an industrial hygienist is who you have to see when your teeth are *really* dirty. And I'd better not even mention "fugitive emissions." (grin)
   Mike B - Friday, 09/15/06 17:24:20 EDT

Hey Folks
I have a 100# Little Giant and am planning a guard for the spring. I thought of using a sheet of 1/2" polycarbonate in front of the spring so the works are still visible. Any thoughts on this idea? Would the lexan be able to stop an exploding spring?
   blackbart - Friday, 09/15/06 19:41:16 EDT

Polycarbonate spring guard,,
I have no experience with broken LG springs, But from seat of pants experience with using Polycarbonate sheet for security glazing, I would think 1/2" would contain a spring or fragments of the toggle links etc. Its possible may crack the glazing and possibly spall out fragment of the glazing. But I dont think there would be enough mass or velocity of the fragments to penetrate 1/2"
Mind you thats just the fly off broken pieces, No comment on if something goes loose while still being driven by the motor and its being rammed into the 'poly repeatedly while the flywheel is coasting down to stop.

One thing, Since LGs like to be bathed in oil, I dont expect the guard would stay clean enough to see the workings for long.
   - Sven - Friday, 09/15/06 22:24:50 EDT

What kind of supplier would carry hardwood charcoal? I live in maryland and can't seem to locate a decent source.
   Darin - Friday, 09/15/06 23:22:17 EDT

Darin, try a restaurant supply. They generally have Mesquite and Hickory. You might also consider making your own out of whatever scrap lumber you can scrounge up. There's plenty of Oak out there in the form of palletts, for instance. Go to your favorite search engine and type in "homemade charcoal", there's lotsa info on the subject.
   3dogs - Saturday, 09/16/06 01:35:47 EDT


Roofing suppliers often carry charcoal as well. Last time I posted this, I was told roofers still use it to heat soldering coppers.
   Mike B - Saturday, 09/16/06 07:06:36 EDT

[ CSI - anvilfire MEMBERS Group | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]
Counter    Copyright © 2006 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com Cummulative_Arc GSC