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This is an archive of posts from September 24 - 30, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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I am Works Contractor presently working on Railway Platform Shelters by using unserviceable Railway Tracks as poles or stanchions. For this work I have to bend the 8.5 Mtrs rails at the midway by 4 feet radius. To bend these rails I hired a local blacksmith who used the conventional methods practiced in our country (India) by digging 3 Mtrs deep trench and bending it after heating it to red hot by pressing and hammerring it, since the work site was not having any infrastractual support. Unfortunately these bends could not take uniform size and shape.Unfortunately the gentleman who undertook contract for bending ditched me. Since there was no option to correct these sizes and shape, on advices of many we decided to errect these poles(rails) in the hope that it will be free to work and will be locked for carrying out any defectation. For correcting these sizes we tried to heat the bends by using oxygen and LPG cutting torches. We could achive the red hot condition of the rails and tried to pull the bends with 5 men pulling but it did not bend for even one inch where as we are required to bend it at least by 6 to 7 degree to achive 17 inches levels. If we do not achive these levels we can not procced further.

Now I am having few questions,

i) How I can bend and correct the sizes of these rails (rail tracks used for railways)Sizes - Head Width : 50mm, Head Thickness : 50mm, Wall Thickness : 12mm, Wall Height 60mm, Flange Thickness : 12mm (max.) Flange Width : 110mm.

ii) Suppose if I try to make red hot by using 02 in nos cutting torches how to determine the exact heat or red hotness.

iii) Will it break if we use excessive force and less heat?

iv) Any other methods you suggest to achive the bends.


- DS Tomar

   DS Tomar - Sunday, 09/24/06 00:19:15 EDT

Bending Rail: DS Tomar,

This is a difficult job. RR-rail is a high carbon steel that is very strong and often very brittle. IT is also hard to bend.

iii) Yes, it may break if you try to bend it cold.

ii) No, that will probably be insufficent heat

i & iv) Now that the pieces are bent you have a serious problem to reheat them. You have two choices. A) Scrap the existing pieces and start again. B) Build a forge or furnace that will fit the curved pieces. I will address this second method.

Heating in a Furnace: There are several ways to build a curved furnace of this type. Heat will be provided by propane or fuel oil (I will also explain charcoal). Using either refractory brick, refractory brick and kaowool (ceramic blanket). The interior of this furnace will need to be larger than the rail. My guess would be about 300mm x 200mm and as long as necessary to fit the curve. I would start with making a flat surface out refractory bricks turned on edge (to make aproximately an 100 to 120mm thickness) over an earthengravel or concrete floor. The walls of the furnace should be a similar thickness with the brick set flat. The difficult part will be the roof or top of the furnace. This could be a couple layers (total 50mm) of ceramic blanket laid over the walls and lifted off when needed with wooden sticks or metal rods (it cools very quickly). It could also be shaped into an arch in a lightweight steel frame with a lifting point at the center of gravity. The alternate is an arched brick roof in a heavy steel frame, also with a lifting point at the center of gravity. This will need a hoist to lift. However, you will also need a hoist to lift the rail out of the hot furnace. Both types of roof will need at least two vents about 50mm round inbetwen the possitions of the burners. The ends of the furnace can also be left open or partialy closed with brick. I would close them half way on the short end and lay a single brick on top of the rail at the end where the rail extends.

In a furnace of this size you will need two or three burners. Two burners on the out side of the curve and one on the inside. See our Simple gas burner. To use fuel oil you need a similar burner with the oil dripping in from the top near the hot end of the burner (almost in the furnace). The burners should be placed in holes in the side walls of the furnace

Operation A With the roof off, start the middle burner. When it is burning good and there is a visibly hot place on the rail and refractory close the furnace and start the other two burners. If they do not light turn them off and wait while the middle burner heats some more then try again. You may need a piece of burning oil soaked rag near the burner in the furnace to help start the burner.

Once going it will take about an hour or two to heat the rail. You will be able to observe the heat from the ends of the furnace. When hot lift the roof of the furnace and set it aside. Note that it will be hot enough to set anything flamable on fire so there should be a clay or brick brick surface with sufficient space around the roof. DO NOT set it on concrete. Lift the rail using two man rail grabs as needed.

ALTERNATE Charcoal Furnace: Similar to the way your previous blacksmith did you will need a curved forge pit dug in to the Earth. It is best if the soil is a clay type. The dimensions of the pit will need to be about 400mm wide and 500mm deep. A mixture of clay and cow manure or clay and 10% Portland cement (concrete cement) can be used to stabliize the walls of the pit. You could also use bricks on a flat surface similar to the a first method.

You will need one large blower (about 500 CFM) or five small blowers of about 100 CFM (electric or the hand cranked blacksmith type). If electric they will need some type of control gate. If you use one blower you will need lots of piping placed under the pit. Individual blowers will be easier. There should be three tuyeers (pipes about 35 to 50mm) equaly spaced on the outside of the curve entering at the bottom corners of the forge pit and two spaced between these on the inside of the curve.

The pit will also need at least three bricks to support the rail off the floor. Do not place them near the tuyeers. Some scraps of heavy sheet metal about 600 x 600mm may also be useful for controling the fire. Avoid galvanized steel.

Operation B With the rail in place five small fires should be started in front of each tuyeer using wood kindling. A small amount of air from the blowers may help in this process. Once there are good fires started fill the forge with charcoal. Try to work charcoal under the rail where it is raised off the floor. Increase the air flow so that the charcoal burn vigorously but not TOO hot. The charcoal can achieve temperatures high enough to burn or melt the rail. You want the fire to spread between the tuyeers. Once there are large fires at the tuyeers and the charcoal is burning down add more charcoal to fill the furnace and place the sheet metal pieces over the places where the tuyeers are. This will force the fire to spread. As the fire spreads you may need to increase or decrease the amount of air. You want the least possible air to do the job.

When the rail is hot shut off the air and use rail grips to lift the rail out of the furnace. Covering the furnace with sheet metal may extinguish the fire and save fuel.

Bending: To correct the bend you will need the proper tools. The best tool for the purpose would be a large weld platten (cast iron table with 50mm holes all over its surface) at leat five feet square. The next best tool would be a large steel plate of at least 13mm thickness. The last choice would be a framework of pieces of rail and beam welded together to do the job as follows.

First you need draw the desired radius on the work surface with chalk. Then you will need "dogs" (blocks of steel) located on the curve to work against. When using a weld platten you put large pins in the square holes where they fall on the curve. You often weld spacers on the pins as necessary. On a steel plate you would weld these block in place. This will need sturdy welds. On a framework you will need to use your imagination.

It also helps to have dogs, wedges and spacers (block of metal) to hold one end of the rail in place when you start.

Bending Operation: The hot rail is placed on the work surface. Then using long pry bars in the holes in the platen (or holes torched in the plate) the curve is made or corrected. Spacers (block of metal), made be needed to fit between the rail and the pry bar locations as the bending progresses. Note that the bending may need to be done from either side of the dogs placed in the plate. The dogs are a help but the drawn line is the final reference.

The bending operation may require several teems of men using the pry bars and placing spacers for the men using pry bars and helpers (supplying spacers, tools, working the long end of the rail) in order to do this job in one heat.

Idealy you would make a heavy bent piece of bar (13mm by 400mm) welded to a plate as your guide for the inside of the curve and dog this to the weld platten, then push each piece against it. See Benders 3 for a similar setup.

I hope these ideas help.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/24/06 09:23:21 EDT

Air Hardening vs. Oil Hardening Steel for Hot Cuts

OK, if you have a hot cut that is made from oil hardening steel, and it starts getting hot, you can just stick it in the slack tub real quick to cool it off and it's fine. Now with air hardening steel once it starts to get hot you can NOT stick it in water to cool it off, yet if you don't it will bend/deform. Now if you had two air hardening chisels then that might work better than oil hardening chisels. What do you guys do about hot cutting chisels?
   - Tyler Murch - Sunday, 09/24/06 11:57:32 EDT


Yes, no, and maybe. First of all, don't put an oil- hardening steel tool in water, even though it may be under a red heat. Furthermore, O1 will air harden from a bright red heat, but it is an unstable hardness.

Nothing works perfectly, but I take my clue from farriers who are always entering contests. They have containers of either oil, beeswax, or paraffin, and they quickly submerge the cutting edges of their hot tools after every few licks, BEFORE the tools reach a red heat. The tools do not have to be quenched to ambient temperature each time, but they need to be cooled some. Lots of old manufactured hot cuts were high carbon steel, about 60 or 70 points carbon. I would treat them the same way.

This is a blacksmith's answer, not a metallurgist's. You're in a situation where the tool might fail or bend. If you're a smith, fix it.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/24/06 14:17:24 EDT

Tyler, Frank gave you a blacksmith's answer and it is pretty much the same as a metallurgist's answer. Cool your hot cut every 2nd or 3rd hit. Don't let it get hot in the first place. Re-hardening air or oil hardening hot cuts leaves the edge hardness erradic and probably untempered.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/24/06 15:04:37 EDT


your e-mail bounced. Shoot me a good e-mail address
   Brian C - Sunday, 09/24/06 15:22:11 EDT

Brian C-- Sorry, wish I could but I am a totally fictitious entity and have no corporeal existence offline. Along with Juan De le Terious, Joaquin Murietta, and Goods Inward, among others, we, like Cracked Anvil and his henchpersons, Swarf, Chastity Dangerfield and Yummi deLisch live only in pixels here on your screen.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 09/24/06 16:18:43 EDT


That is as I suspected. (grin) Anyone wishing to know my less than esteemed opinion about said tool can e-mail me. Subject line-mystery tool.
   Brian C - Sunday, 09/24/06 19:13:36 EDT

Mule Shoes

I have some blanked mule shoes. They have a grain that runs the length of the shoes like wrought iron. They have to be forged at a yellow heat and move like very hard steel. Any idea what type of steel they could be? Why they are so tough and hard?

   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 09/24/06 19:53:01 EDT

Hot Cuts: Now, along with Franks, and QC's thoughtful responses, there are very high alloy hot work steels with very little iron in them. These are the type the imported MOB hot cuts that the Kaynes sell. They are very slender and work amazingly well. Atlantic 33 is another such alloy used for hot work tools. But they still need cooling.

The lubricants such as the special industrial stuff Ptree pushes and the Punchieze sold by Big BLU Hammers is used to coat the tool before you use it. The dried coatings have lubricants that smooth the tool operation and high temperature soaps that flame off and cool the tool at the same time. These materials work on all hot work tools.

Old time smiths and many modern smiths that use coal put coal dust in a partialy punched hole before continuing. The volitiles in the coal flame off cooling the tool while leaving carbon and tars behind to lubricate. It is quite an efficient material but is not available everywhere. AND as a powder it works best in holes only. Others used beeswax.

In place of coal dust many smiths use heavy grease. This will stick to punches AND chisles and as it burns off it cools the tool. A high content of molybdenum disulphide and graphite will add to the high temperature lubricating properties. Those are the same lubricating ingrediants in Punchieze.

As Frank mentioned the trick is to work fast, quench in oil or grease and continue. Flames erupt (cooling the tool) and you keep on working.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/24/06 20:09:34 EDT

Hot work tool lube

What about pencile shavings? Would that work as a punch and chisel lube mixed in with grease and old candles.
   - Tyler Murch - Sunday, 09/24/06 20:17:25 EDT

Yo Burnt!

The fibrous structure doesn't make sense. The manufactured shoes were made of 1025 steel. Try a spark test to ID the metal.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/24/06 20:27:07 EDT

Hi Frank

Thank You for the info. I thought maybe the grain structure came from a rolling mill? I will spark test it. It is just amazingly tough stuff and hard to forge.
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 09/24/06 21:49:28 EDT


The is a thing called "grain flow" in steel, which shows fibre-like structures, but usually only seen on an etched specimen under a microscope. Through forging, the grains align along with phosphorus, sulfur, and slag inclusions. It is hardly ever as gross or coarse as seen on the surface of deeply etched or deeply rusted wrought iron. You're interested in cutlery. I've met a couple of bladesmiths who get downright spiritual about forging a blade as opposed to metal removal. It usually has to do with grain flow.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/24/06 22:20:39 EDT

Thanks Frank

Thanks for the info on grain flow. For some reason I can really see the grain flow along the edges in the shoe blanks.
I feel very strongly about the grain flow in knives that are forged as compared to it being removed in the stock removal method of knives as well.

In my head I seperate bladesmithing and general forging for some unkown reason. I seem to forget and not allow the two to overlap in my mind.

I am just surprised at the evident grain flow in the old mule show blanks I have. It really makes them beautiful. I was very perplexed at how tough those shoes are. I am glad to know they are likely 1025, though they forge like 4140 tool steel.

The grain flow does not get wider when heated like wrought iron does. It is just crazy tough. It left dings in my 4140 hammer. It took a yellow to white heat just about sparking to move the metal.
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 09/24/06 22:38:35 EDT

Pencil "lube": Standard pencil leads are made mostly of clay with some graphite. However, there is a class of cheap modern pencils made of plastic with a hard wax and carbon black writing medium and the special filmographic pencils that are also a wax base with carbon black. These later "pencils" are more akin to a crayon than a pencil. Hard to trust anything these days.
   - guru - Monday, 09/25/06 11:32:19 EDT

I'm looking for a place to buy coal in Ohio, preferably in the northeastern part of the state. My goal is to get at least two tons of it.
   Erik - Monday, 09/25/06 15:55:46 EDT

Odd Shoes:, Burnt, I have gotten letters from manufacturers of shoes in the past that wanted to know how to make wear resistant shoes. The only thing that can be done is to make them of a hard abrasion resistant steel. On the other hand that goes not explain the grain. It could be some bad steel. Something with ingotism or other problem. We are used to very good steel without serious defects but you can make some VERY bad steel if you are not carefull. I get letters every day from places in India, Pakistan and China offering shoes and nails. No telling who is actually making some of these products. I have also heard reports from buyers of US steel that found unmelted parts in plate they were sawing, bolts, bearings, other hard items that wrecked saw blades.

   - guru - Monday, 09/25/06 15:59:30 EDT

Erik - For coal in Ohio, I recommend Dennis Coal Company near Delta, OH (about 20 miles west of Toledo). It is not too far from the turnpike. He sells it in 50-pound bags at approximately $8 each. I use about 600 pounds a year.
   Walking Dog - Monday, 09/25/06 16:31:27 EDT

The forgelube that I have been telling folks about is an alkaline salt, and to my knowledge has no soap of any kind. It does not flame in any manner, but rather the water content flashes to steam when applied to a hot tool. The water to steam phase change removes a lot of energy(heat) from the tool, and the dry film left behind is the high temp lube. I do not know about the "Puncherize" as I have not used it.

Many of the older industrial lubricants were graphite in oil, grease, or a water base. All needed to be stirred or would settle, and get very hard to use. The oils and greases flamed and made a lot of smoke. The graphite dust that was left over got on everything and is a combustible dust that presents a real hazard in industry, where the dust can build up in the rafter etc to the depth of several inches. The dust is the perfect size to enter the lungs and there is an OSHA exposure limit for airborne dust. For this reason, and the improved tool life, industry is switching

With these issues in mind, about four years ago, several of the big industrial lube makers begain to work with polymers and salts in the search for a better lube. ALL of the big lube makers, including Henkel, Fuches, ET AL make these. These guys deal in drums as a small order and prefer 350 gallon totes and tankers. They do not tend to deal with gallon and quart orders. Knowing this, I got some samples to various folks who started asking for more. I got a local industrial supplier to start selling it in gallons to our trade. Still, a gallon at 5:1 is a life time supply for several guys for part timers. Tom Clark was one of the first to get a sample, and he has just begun to sell the lube in quarts, and so he is the source I was hoping would develop, a way for a part timer to get a reasonable supply for a reasonable cost. After watching the slitting demo at Quad State, many were very interested in the lube they were using as it allowed slitting that made people sit up and notice. I have sold all my gallons I have been dragging to the few hammerins I visit. I will continue to tell folks that making you own home brew forge lube is much like making your own home brew paint, why bother? You can mix some powder graphite and soap etc and have a mix that falls off a hot tool, smokes, flames and really is a pretty poor lube or you can try the new technology, and get a lube that stickes to a hot tool, does not smoke, flame, make lots of dust, makes the tools last much longer, and does not settle.

I had a sample sent to Mr. Frank Turley to try. He just got same. Perhaps in a week or two he can report on this lube with an unbiased eye.
   ptree - Monday, 09/25/06 18:32:33 EDT

ptree, that sounds like the stuff Tom Clark uses too. Do you know?
   Tyler Murch - Monday, 09/25/06 19:33:00 EDT

It's dark brown, and just as liquidy as water.
   Tyler Murch - Monday, 09/25/06 20:10:39 EDT

I am in search of a "Little Giant" mechanical hammer and don't know where to look. Can you point me in the right direction?
   - Larry Contreras - Monday, 09/25/06 20:55:33 EDT

Larry: This does You no good now, but there were several for sale at Quad State [a really big meet in Ohio that ended yesterday]
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/25/06 21:13:01 EDT

Thanks for the info Guru. They sure do forge like they are a tough wear resistant material.
   - Burnt Forge - Monday, 09/25/06 22:08:52 EDT

It's Sid Suedmeier in Nebraska City, NE. He rebuilds them, has spare parts, and gives weekend rebuild clinics.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 09/25/06 22:36:28 EDT

Quenchcrack - if you want to plan for next year's Quad State, it's the same weekend in Sept. as this year. I believe for 2007 it works out for Saturday as the 22nd and Sunday as the 23rd. I usually roll in very late Thursday evening and spend Friday through Sunday. People get there earlier, I've heard Wednesday for tail gating, but there is usually a good selection still there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Demo's start on Saturday.

Heaven help them if you, Patrick and I make it - we'd exceed the number of metallurgists in Gorbachev's parade by 50 % :) Lord only knows the damage three metallurgists could do versus only two.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 09/25/06 23:10:13 EDT

I am off on the road today. Be back this evening. Ya'll be good.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/26/06 07:55:27 EDT

Eric, if you don't mind a "little" drive, try Reboy Supply Inc. 1300 Maple road, P.O. box 120, Elma, N.Y. 14059
(716)652-4321. They always have about 5 ton on hand in an outside bay. You can have them drop it in your truck with a loader or shovel it yourself. Pricing is good and the coal is very good. call ahead and talk to them. they are within an hour of Erie, Pa.
   kieffer - Tuesday, 09/26/06 08:08:15 EDT

I am a bladesmith who has just found & bought a 100lb bradley hammer. I need to know where I can get any info about this hammer. Setup,specs.servicing. I have 50 & 25lb Giants now & mutch info about them. Thank You Mutch, C.C. Peyton
   clay peyton - Tuesday, 09/26/06 09:47:26 EDT

Clay, try asking "across the street" at forgemagic.com. Lots of Bradley users over there, for some reason. Good hammers, if kinda big!
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 09/26/06 10:39:34 EDT

I'm working an a copy of an old gate which appears to be the material wrought iron as well as the style of work...
I would like to know if there are still ny companies ofering barstock in the US...Ideas?
   Greg Clasby - Tuesday, 09/26/06 11:55:03 EDT

Wrought Iron-
Real Wrought Iron has not been made anywhere in the world since the early 70's. Last new stock available was Swedish Pipe for chemical plants.
There are blacksmiths who have stashes of 100 year old wrought.
There is a company in the UK that is rerolling old wrought into new smaller, usable profiles, but as far as I know they have no US distributor.

There is a material called PureIron, which is a very low carbon steel- available from the Wagner companies in Milwaukee. But it does not have the fibrous, grainy quality of real wrought iron- it is just easy to work a great deal, to stretch and forge more than normal mild steel would.

More to the point though, aside from authenticity issues, why Wrought?
Is the cost, time, and difficulty of working it worth the effort? Especially since it will probably get painted anyway?

   - ries - Tuesday, 09/26/06 13:09:55 EDT

Tyler Murch,
The forge lube sold by Tom Clark of the ozark School of Blacksmithing is indeed the forge lube I spoke of, an industrial product that he is buying and repackaging in quarts. It indeed is very thin, like water, as much of the fluid is water. It cools the tool and carries the solids that leave the solid film that actually lubricates the tool at elevated temp.
   ptree - Tuesday, 09/26/06 19:38:08 EDT

dear guru (or whom it may concern)
I am a starting blacksmith and I have learnt a lot from your website. I am about to make my first helm. Ive done some research on it and all the pictures and essays I have veiwed shows and tells you that you need to rivet parts of the helm together. However, they never tell you HOW to rivet these parts. If you could tell me how to rivet that would be awsome.
thanks a lot,
   callum - Tuesday, 09/26/06 20:36:29 EDT

Larry Contreras

I have a 50 lb LG for sale as I brought home a Big Blu from the show. It was rebuilt by the previous owner, runs great. Email me if you would like to talk .
   Jeff G - Tuesday, 09/26/06 20:52:27 EDT

Hello, I was just getting started smithing, well not really. I have an anvil, but I would also like to know how to make a relitivley inexpensive forge. and any advice on tools or anything for a beginner would be greatly appreciated.
   Ryan Twedt - Tuesday, 09/26/06 22:25:04 EDT

Riveting How-to Callum, see our iForge demo on riveting (click the link). This is also covered in every basic book on blacksmithing as well as armour, jewelery and sheet metal work.

The web is a great resource but you REALLY need to study some books. See our book review page for many of the best on the subject. See our swordmaking resources list for some we have not reviewed (but will in the near future as I have obtained the last few).
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/26/06 23:30:49 EDT

Ryan, see our Getting Started Article linked on the home page, the FAQs page and the top and bottom of this log. It has links to, horror of horrors, BOOK REVIEWS but it also has some basic suggestions as well as a very brief tool list. There are many links from this page with all sorts of information. This is the second version of the article and I am working on a third major revision. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/26/06 23:35:42 EDT

Hi guys I have a question about cutting alu on a compound 12" saw I am using a "Freud LU90m012 blade" the first one we used lasted around two years cutting any type Alu from 6061 to 5051 no problems. We got a new one the first cut 6 teeth came off BOOM.. My question is is there other blades out there better for this job. The blade speed is 6000 the saw is 4800.. help

thanks guys
   Devon - Wednesday, 09/27/06 06:30:17 EDT

Devon, You didn't accidentaly put the blade in backwards did you? That is the first thing to check when you have instant blade failure. You may have also had a deffective blade or was this a different blade than the original? Last. . On occasion slighty dulled blades do not grab instantly and thus teeth last longer. Until they break in the feed and pressure must be very gentle. I've had the "shop monkeys" wreck brand new blades treating them like the old dulled blades. . .

I'm not familiar with the type of blade you are using. Perhaps someone on your side of the pond may know more.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/27/06 07:14:49 EDT

Ryan-- do yourself a major favor and get Alexander Weygers's books, available in one volume, on how to do blacksmithing and making your own tools to do it with. Go to the list of advertisers in the drop-down box on the right of your screen and click on Centaur Forge. They have it, I imagine. If not, try www.campusi.com/ (used books).
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 09/27/06 10:59:33 EDT

On Quad-State visitor/guest: As noted SOF&A has been fairly loose on such. Essentially they say they try to make sure everyone watching a demonstrator is registered, but I doubt it is done very seriously. Same on walk-ins for the vendor area, display area and tailgate tool sales. The tool sales monitor had done it for a number of years and knows most of the sellers. New ones might be asked if they have registered if they aren't wearing a name tag.

Q-S was noticeably different this year. No ladies program or display competition. Don't remember a youth one either. No beginner demonstrator. Didn't notice any of the demonstrators going on Sunday, but they may have for a couple of hours.

I was surprised at the number of people there on Thursday afternoon and Friday. Anvils seemed to be price significantly higher than last year, as were used/old tools in general.

Heard there was a bit of a problem during the Saturday evening competition with one pair likely having a couple under their belt and getting a bit out of hand. There is suspose to be a no alcohol on the grounds policy so I hope this doesn't affect SOF&A's overlooking it as they have done in the past.

Hawkins Knife Supplies was a new vendor this year and seemed to do a goodly amount of business.

Ryan: Check out the propane forges sold my the forum advertisers. You have a wide range from shop built to factory built.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 09/27/06 16:06:01 EDT

Greetings all, I am looking to try some non-borax flux to use while forge welding in a gas forge. Does any one have any experiance with other types of flux? What are the pro's and con's? Rice straw ash? Sand? Ground glass? Any others?
   Jed Depew - Wednesday, 09/27/06 18:26:06 EDT

Jed, Jonathan Nedbor mixes up and sells Forge Magic out of New York state. jonned@hvc.rr.com No borax involved.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 09/27/06 19:06:27 EDT

Whoa! I must've been dreaming about "across the street". The flux is called "Black Magic", and it is a fairly fine grained black material.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 09/27/06 19:09:21 EDT

does Magnetizing a sword blade give it any extra strength or ability to hold an edge?
   bill - Wednesday, 09/27/06 19:10:32 EDT

Magnetized sword,
If you magnetize a sword blade or any other tool for that matter, all it will do is irritate you with all the metallic crap it will pick up. It wont do any Voodoo magic to the steel making it stronger sharper or anything.

PS, I realise some tools are intended or handy to be magnetic, Some screwdrivers and tackhammers for example, but for the most part magnetic tools suck and are degaussed in my workshop as soon as they exibit magnetic properties.
   - Sven - Wednesday, 09/27/06 19:28:36 EDT

Thanks on the Wrought advice...as to the Magnetizing? Hermm...Prolly not.
   pugsley - Wednesday, 09/27/06 19:31:57 EDT

What all is involved with using propane with a rosebud? Do I need a special regulator of fittings? I think I saw one being used a QS.
   brian robertson - Wednesday, 09/27/06 20:22:35 EDT

can you point me in the right direction to purchace a good belt sander for knife making?
   lee smith - Wednesday, 09/27/06 22:20:05 EDT

Brian R: You should use grade "T" hose. The regulator may or may not be compatible, depends on brand, many are. The tip may be different or compatible, depends on brand. If the mixer is a seperate part it may or may not be compatible depending on brand. You should go to a full service welding supply store, as they USUALLY have knolegable help, and check the specs of the gear You have. For those going the other way [converting TOO acetylene]it is important to use a regulator that WILL NOT deliver over 15 PSIG.
   Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/27/06 23:50:30 EDT

Belt grinders for knifemaking:

The industry standards are the KMG (my favorite), available from www.beaumontmetalworks.com.

The Wilton Square Wheel, The Bader B3, and a few others are also top notch. Any of these machins will run you $850-$2500 depending on what accessories you want, from contacts wheels through variable-speed motors, etc. There's almost no end of goodies you can get for one of these things, and almost no abrasive task you can't do with one.

Cheaper but still fine is the Coote series of grinders.

Grizzly makes a 2x72 grinder as well, but you get what you pay for.

All of the above grinders use 2x72 belts. This is because you can get more varieties of grit sizes and types in that size, plus they stay cooler and last longer than shorter belts.

Don't be tempted by the 4x36 or 6x42 sanders meant for woodworking. They do not have sealed bearings and the metal dust will wreck them in short order. Been there, done that, have the remains to prove it!
   Alan-L - Thursday, 09/28/06 08:53:19 EDT

Is hard facing an anvil, like tempering metal?

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Thursday, 09/28/06 09:32:06 EDT

Belt grinders for knifemaking:

Besides the very good commercial brands recommended by Alan (above) if you are looking into this as an ocassional hobby then many folks build their own.

Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop is a good place to start. He shows that you can get by with a lot of wood in machinery which many do not think of. And then we have the Ray Clontz Belt Grinder.

   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 09:40:05 EDT

Anvil Faces: Andrew, Yes and no. Tempering is one step in the Heat Treating process of steel. First it is annealed, then heated and quenched (hardening it) then reheated to somewhere between a few hundred degrees to somewhere below the hardening temperature to reduce the brittleness of hardening. This last step is tempering. It reduces the hardness a little while reducing the brittleness a LOT. Tempering temperatures can be as high as 1200°F for some steels.

How hard steel gets depends on how much carbon and other elements is in it. Carbon is the only necessary element but manganese is also used to improve hardening. Other steels called "alloy" steels have chrome, nickle, tungsten, vanadium and other metals added. These metals have properties of their own which they add to the steel as well as modifying how well it hardens.

The hard face of an anvil is created one of three ways. The first and earliest method was to forge weld a plate of steel to the soft iron body. This was then heated and quenched to make a very hard face on a very tough resiliant body. Later it was found that the body could be cheap cast iron if properly cast against a tool steel plate to weld it the the cast iron.

When steel became cheap the entire upper half or the entire anvil was made of steel and the just the faces heated and quenched to harden it. Later the entire anvil was made of the same steel. Today most anvils are made this way, primarily of solid cast steel. The range of quality varies greatly as high carbon steel is difficult to cast. This means that there are often cheap anvils that cannot be sufficiently hardened. These cheap poorly made anvils are found by the hundreds on ebay and in flea markets. The better high quality cast anvils are usualy sold directly by the makers or from a few dealers.

The last method is specificaly called "hard facing". This is weld build up on a surface using a variety of methods. On anvils it is done by using specialty arc welding rods that make a very hard surface. This method is expensive and labor intensive. The welding rods are expensive (around a dollar each) and the electricity to burn them has a significant cost. The labor necessary is to slowly weld one layer, grind out defects and repair them, then weld another layer and another. When finished you have a surface that is like the results of a volcanic erruption. This must be ground to a flat surface and flaws welded and ground again. Overall it is a long hot dirty job and the manganese smoke from the rods is a known health hazzard.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 10:01:48 EDT

Andrew B.
No. Hard facing is applying a hard metallic face to the anvil through means of an arc welder. We don't recommend using hard facing rod, however. It may be too brittle and crack with use. Tempering is a heat treatment. See "Navigate Anvilfire" FAQs on heat treating.

Lee Smith.
Kalamazoo is still in business. I have one of their early 2"x48" 2FS models, but it is too small as Alan-L pointed out. It has a 5" plastic contact wheel, NO quick change feature, and comes with a v-belt pully (no motor).It was what I could afford at the time.

I tuned into kalamazooindustries.com.belt_sanders.asp and they do list one recommended for knife makers, model 2FS72. It has a 2"x72" belt with an 8" serrated contact wheel. Apparently, it comes without a motor. I did not price these, but you can request prices via the home page.

   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/28/06 10:22:14 EDT

Thanks, Frank, I forgot about Kalamazoo.

If you don't know what can be done with a good belt grinder, go to the beaumont metalworks page. They have a couple of video clips showing the fabrication of a bracket out of tubing and plate, including using a small wheel attachment to notch the tubing. There's clips of other folks grinding knives on there somewhere as well.

I'm partial to the KMG because I have the basic one as pictured at the top of that webpage on the left. I also know the owner of the company, and you won't find a nicer guy to deal with. Mine has a 1.5hp motor and three-speed step pulleys. Variable speed is nice, but the three speeds are fine for most knife work.

I only have the flat platen attachment with a 2" serrated rubber contact wheel on top, but the bigger wheels like the 8" and 10" are preferred for hollow grinding blades.

You can certainly build your own if you have mechanical ability, but my time was more valuable.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 09/28/06 10:39:03 EDT

Kalamazoo: Kayne and Son, BlacksmithsDepot.com sells these machines.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 10:55:27 EDT

Belated thanks, to Tyler Munch & PTPiddler for info on touchmarks.
   Vince - Thursday, 09/28/06 11:09:13 EDT

Wooden Machinery: Over the years I have built and seen numerous machines with wooden components, frames and beds.

When I was in Boy Scouts I built a rope making machine as an attachment to our tack box. It was a wood frame with small metal shafts and wood crank link. Later when I motorized it I used two wooden friction wheels with rubber cement painted on their surfaces. They ran roughly but we made hundreds of feet of rope with that machine (before and after motorizing it) in diameters up to 1.5" (32mm). The rope making tools, the puppet and the tension hook were also wood.

I have seen a primitive floor model size band saw that was all wood including the old wood spoked wheels. It had a small amount of metal in the shafts and ran on an electric motor. But even the table and guides were all wood. The most visible piece of metal was the blade.

In our old grist mill the bins and hoppers were wood. The cabinets and enclosures for the machines were wood. Many of the reel frames, screens and working components were also wood. Then there were the wooden shafts, wooden pullys, gears and crane. The wooden bull gear is seven feet in diameter and had oak teeth in a pine frame. It has 3" iron stubs sticking out of the 16" octagonal wood shaft. The wooden jib crane was used to lift the 3,000 pound mill stones for dressing and placement. It is pine gracefully tapering from about 5" and the top and bottom to about 12" in the middle. The jib was made of oak mortised and tennoned into the pine. A large iron screw at the end of the jib was used to lift the stones.

Since the middle ages a wood horizontal turbine type wheel has been used in mills. The making of one is shown in Foxfire 2, p.142. Wood lathes with wood beds are still built and used today with various percentages of metal ranging from practicaly nill to bearings and shafts. See the Woodwrights Workshop, and Foxfire 2, p.164. For many other primarily wood tools and primitive wood working methods see "A Museum of Early American Tools" and "A reverence for Wood" by Eric Sloane.

Wood framed lathes have also been used for light metal working, finishing and polishing.

In the blacksmith shop the Japanese smith uses a "vise" that is a wood block with a steel staple and wedges to hold work for scraping. We commonly use wood for handles and benches but also use wood anvil stands and wood shaping blocks (wood anvils) for hot and cold sheet work. Wood is the primary component of most bellows and can also be used to build blowers.

The disadvantage to wood in the metalworking shop is that it can burn and chips become embedded into it. However, for many uses its advantages far outweigh these dissadvantages. If fact, for making depressions in wood a smith can start working hot to burn in the impresion then work in it cold later. You do not need hardwoods such as oak, hickory and maple. Construction grade pine, fur and plywoods will do fine. If you need a large block you can easily glue one up from available lumber.

It is easy to overlook this strong, versatile, easy to work with material when you are a metal worker. But it is an important part of shop life and everyone should have some wood working skills.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 11:14:11 EDT

Propane Rose Bud: Brian, See Dave Boyer's post above. As he emphasized, everything depends on brand.

The advantage to a propane rose bud is a softer not quite so rocket like flame AND your propane bottle probably has a higher draw rate than a typical acetylene cylinder. In our shop where we had a bulk tank outside I had a manifold inside with a valve and standard hose attachment for a fuel line. Next to the manifold I had a cylinder bracket and chain for an oxygen cylinder. A very handy setup that got used a lot.

In the Victor line Propane tips and nozzels are marked NG for Natural Gas. Not sure why because there is a great difference in these gases. The cutting tips are a duble shelled afair with a grooved mixer to make a fine circular preheat. The other tips look the same but since Victor tips have internal mixers (near the nut) there may be internal differences.

In all cases of using a large rosebud an economizer valve is not only a money saver but a safety device so that you can just put down the torch and it shuts off. It can also be instantly relit at the pilot flame thus avoiding adjusting the valves each time it is lit. Economizer valves save time as well as gas.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 11:43:24 EDT

Larry Contreras---hunting fopr a Little Giant---where are you at? These things are expensive to ship and so are best found withing easy travel of your location. For all we know you are in Australia or South Africa (*world* wide web).

I ran across a 50# LG that will come up for auction in the Texas Panhandle in about a week---I may be there bidding on it if I can figure a way to get it shipped home to New Mexico USA.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/28/06 13:26:53 EDT

is anyone gonig to forgefest 06' in Oldenburg Texas
   - Andrew B. - Thursday, 09/28/06 16:22:01 EDT

The good lord willing, I'll be in Oldenburg demonstrating, Oct 7. www.habairon.org/Forgefest06/
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/28/06 17:34:00 EDT

I have this really cool old vise that I am curious about. I can tell that a blacksmith made it. The hole that the screw goes thru was forged, and I know that it is not cast. I am a machinist and I am sure that the entire piece is forged except a bracket that is mounted to it that is cast, and the only mark that it has on it is a C in the center. If you know anything that might help me please reply...
   lewis chaney - Thursday, 09/28/06 19:32:29 EDT

Blacksmith Vises: Lewis, These are factory forged using old methods including forge welding. If you test them you will find that there are hard steel jaws seemlessly forge welded to the soft iron body. They are still made this way in India and sold by BlacksmithsDepot.com.

Old English made blacksmith vises are some of the most beautiful tools every designed.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/28/06 19:40:29 EDT


The vise may be a leg vise, and it's probably a Columbian, made in Cleveland, Ohio. Does the fixed jaw-side have a leg? If you go to ebay.com and type in "leg post vise", you'll see several such vises.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/28/06 19:45:26 EDT

Frank Turley, Glad you mentioned the Kalamazoo belt sanders. American made, and good quality. I have had a couple of the Kalamazoo wet belt sanders at day jobs. i always thought a wet belt sander, although a bit messy would be great for knives as you can't seem to heat up what you are grinding. As far as I know they only make them in 4" and 6" wide. Theres one pushed over in the corner at work now, and I am going to gently probe for scrap status:)
   ptree - Thursday, 09/28/06 21:52:41 EDT

This isn't related to forging but I have a question about making my own charcoal. Is the home made charcoal safe for cooking? Can Hickory be made into charcoal and used for BBQ pork? Will it add any hickory flavor or do you have to use the wood for that.

Just seems like home made charcoal would be a good choice instaed of the chemical ladden briquettes that make food taste bad.
   JD - Thursday, 09/28/06 23:47:59 EDT


By all means make your own charcoal for cooking! As long as you don't use either wood that has been pressure-treated or wood that is inherently toxic, you'll be fine. Hickory makes fine charcoal, so does oak. My favorite is apple. If you want that strong "hickory" taste, you can use some uncoaled wood along with the charcoal. A reducing fire for barbecuing gives that nice pink/red smoked color to the meat.
   vicopper - Friday, 09/29/06 01:23:30 EDT

Guru, I am in need of a black finish that will hold up outside. I have tired many, many kinds of paint and find my weld joints rusting within the year. The rest of the piece is soon to follow. Thanks for your help. Betsy
   Betsy - Friday, 09/29/06 08:17:06 EDT

Hi Betsy

I find a person needs to power wire brush the slag off the metal. Wipe it down with VM&P to get any unseen oils or dirts off the metal. Prime the metal with a couple of coats. Then give it a couple of coats of paint. If joints are welded make sure they are a sealing weld, so water can't get in behind or inside and stay damp. I find most exterior rust preventative primers or paints are really good. I personally prefer the cheap stuff sold at Walmart. It lasts longer than the rest.

I think it comes down to more preperations of the metal and sealing welds than actual paint used. I hope this helps.
   - Burnt Forge - Friday, 09/29/06 08:40:26 EDT


I forgot to mention you also want to remove the slag from the surface of the welds. You can use power wire brush, flap discs, sandpaper, scotchbrite or a number of other abrasives.

You can also use joint sealers, such as body fill around joints and over welds after the slag is removed. It is really more prep than paint. I know what you are thinking and I agree sounds like more work. No one said it would be easy...BOG :)
   - Burnt Forge - Friday, 09/29/06 08:53:14 EDT

"Flavored" Charcoal: As Vicopper noted you will need to use some chips of your favorite flavoring wood in your charcoal fire. Properly coaled wood has very little of what adds "flavoring". Charcoal briquetts are made of a high percentage of sawdust along with ground charcoal, corn starch glue AND would you believe, bituminous coal? The sulfur bearing coal is required to keep the compacted mix burning. Self starting briquetts are soaked with oderless petroleum distalate (paint thinner). Mmmmmmm Love that sulfur and kerosene taste!

Anyway, the sawdust greatly reduces the amount of expensive processed charcoal needed to make the briquetts. After many years they discovered that the type of sawdust used could flavor the charcoal.
   - guru - Friday, 09/29/06 09:00:12 EDT

Betsy: Francis Whitaker said he put four coats of paint on his work, such as gates, to be outside, paying particular attention to any joints. He used the best quality he could find. First two layers were primer, with different colors so he was sure all parts were double coated. Then two finish coats, again using two colors with the last one the final color.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/29/06 10:22:01 EDT

I put in a fair number of tool handles. Is there a product specifically designed to be painted on the inside of the eye to provide additional gripping power?
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 09/29/06 10:23:18 EDT

Paint, Welds and Rust: Betsy, almost all welding processes including MIG introduce some flux or surface contaminates. The worst are from stick welding and the heavy slag introduced, the next are forge welds and the least is MIG but there ARE contaminates especialy from flux core MIG wire. All these fluxes contain borax which is the primary culprit in the following.

In all cases these contaminates are anhydrous (without water) from the process of the welding and most are also hygroscopic. A hygroscopic material (literally "water seeking") is one that readily absorbs water (usually from the atmosphere). This chemical reaction is strong enough to occur through paint. As a result of absorbing water these compounds become larger and a loose pocket is created under the paint. THIS then becomes full of water either hygroscopicaly OR from rain and condesation. The end result is a deep rust pit and flaking paint.

IF you set weldments outdoors where there is humid air or condensation you can see the hygrospopic action take place as wet areas that form around welds. You will observe that it is not just the chippable scale but the light smoke deposites that are also problematic.

Besides welding materials you also create and often plate portions of you work with similar materials when you use a coal forge.

These anhydrous hydroscopic materials MUST be removed prior to painting. This is best done by sand blasting, chemical cleaning is also used. Power wire brushing can be substituted but is difficult to get into the places that hold the flux.

You would be surprised to know that water is absorbed by paints, plastics and oils and penetrates finishes. Anything that can chemicaly react in a destructive manner under the paint will do so.

The best paint system is to first clean by sand or grit blasting. This should be followed by the application of a zinc powder paint (cold galvanizing). Over that you should apply a neutral primer (red oxide or dark grey). Then your choice of top coat. Between the sand blasting and the top coat one should be careful not to get oily hand prints on the work.

Once you work is clean you can also have it powder coated. This has advantages and disadvantages. When new it is hard and ready to put into service. It is also applied by someone else, getting the finishing out of your shop. The down side is that it is very difficult to repair when chipped either by installation or in-service AND unless you pay for the very expensive "marine service" finish you cannot get it with a rust preventing cold galvanizing.

Another option is hot galvanizing. Most hot dip galvanizing is proceeded by chemical cleaning. This takes care of the cleaning and the initial coating. A few galvanizers apply a grade of galvanizing that can be powder coated. Before having powder coating applied to galvanized metal check with the powder coater.

The down side to hot dip galvanizing is that the zince needs to age before being painted over OR an etching primer must be used. If you want your work to last nearly forever hot dip galvanizing is the way to go.

Many smiths complain that they lose textural effects by painting. This is usually the result of paint poorly applied. A three step process applied by spraying should show every surface nuance if properly applied.

Many smiths also fall in love with the freshly forged and wirebrushed look of steel. This is fine but it WILL rust. Clear coats like acrylic lacquers absorb water and oxygen. The metal may not "rust" but it will darken under the finish. If you want this look then recreate it using black and silver lacquers. One thing I have repeated over and over is, IF Hollywood can make wood and plaster look like metal, why can't blacksmiths make metal look like metal?

Recently I have seen folks using fancy metalic finishes provided by powder coaters. If you want color (you SHOULD) then consider the millions of wonderful automotive finishes. Dupont lacquers are some of the best finishes ever made and come in almost infinite colors. The rich Cadilac "firemist" colors of the 1960's had tinted clears with floating metalics. A good paint store will have chip books going back to the Model T Ford.

You can make a wonderful art out of sprayed finishes. Using color or silver base coats then translucents based on clear or thinned with clear. Textures can be brought out by shading and blending, highlights and shadows created.
   - guru - Friday, 09/29/06 11:39:06 EDT

Ola, i'd have a beginners question to ask. Fact is, couldn't find any source that would tell me what would be the best choice of wood for an anvil supporting block. If anybody knows, it would be real helpfull.
Thanks in advance!
   Ismael - Friday, 09/29/06 11:40:50 EDT

Bonding Handles: Ken, I've never used anything other than glue. I usualy cut my own wedges from hard maple and use carpenter's glue when installing them. This usualy ends up in other spaces. Ocassionaly this opens up more cracks if the eye is heavily tapered and I fill these with more wedge material and glue. I also use more than one metal wedge when needed. I also prefer to make my own wedges with chisled teeth so that they grip better but I do use comercial wedges if on hand. I recycle a lot of them.

The Hofi hammers you see with glued on handles use an industrial product designed for joints in concrete. These handles are actually a loose fit and are cushioned by the rubber.

I have known people to use two part epoxy but I think it is overkill. Properly fitted and double wedged handles are almost impossible to remove.

One place I have had problems with hammer heads is sharp edges on the bottom edge of the eye. I take a Dremel tool and small grinding wheel and dress these edges round so that they do not cut into the handle.

When replacing handles, don't forget that this is the best time to dress those hammer faces.
   - guru - Friday, 09/29/06 11:59:40 EDT

Wood anvil block: Ismael, It does not matter. I have used hard oak, and I have used soft pine and could not tell the difference. For most of my anvils I use a hollow wood stand. See our iForge demo #144, Anvil Stands it covers wood and metal stands of all types.

In ancient shops it was common to use an oak log sunk about 5 to 8 feet (15. to 2.5 meters) deep in the Earth as an anvil stand. This was also a good anchor for large sheet metal shears. The dissadvantages are that the stand cannot be moved and its height cannot be adjusted. But it was VERY solid.

Today we are a more portable society. We move our shop locations and we move things within the shop. This has the benifit of greater flexibility and often efficiency. If you are doing small work you may want your anvil close to the forge. But if you are doing very large or long work you may need your anvil farther from the forge.

I prefer my hollow wood stands because they sit well on unven floors and are very light for their strength. Others prefer three legged metal stands for the same purpose. If you use a solid wood stand you need to relieve the center of the bottom so that it does not rock on a high spot if used on a hard surface.

The type of wood you use for a solid stand is largely dependent on availability. In the Eastern and central US large trees are often cut down by utilities or when knocked down by storms. Wonderful oak, elm or maple logs are often available for the asking. But other parts of the country are not so lucky or have other types of trees. In the tropics many "exotic" woods are readily available and it would not be unusual for a smith to have a mahogany, rosewood or teak anvil stand.

Use what you have that is available or build from what is available.
   - guru - Friday, 09/29/06 12:25:22 EDT

n.b.: Elm was often used for anvil stands as it resisted splitting.

   Thomas P - Friday, 09/29/06 15:08:37 EDT

And elm was favored for cannon carriages for the same reason. I have my eye on a few elm trees on the Mall, but for some reason the Park Police have their eye on me, too. ;-)


We've lost an entire limb of the huge black oak down by the road to the new barns. The trunk is over 7' across, but unfortunately, we've found it to be hollow. Still, the fallen limb probably tops 3' across. The limb is pushed off to the side to clear the road, and I guess the entire tree will have to go soon, since it overhangs the powwer lines, but if anyone is interested, I got oak!

We're still wrapping-up the Fiscal Year at NPS, and my home computer is packing-up again, so communication is spotty. May catch-up on postings this weekend.

Y'all take care.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 09/29/06 15:50:02 EDT

Gavainh, only a metallurgist knows that joke! LOL!
   quenchcrack - Friday, 09/29/06 16:04:00 EDT

hey, i was wondering if there was a sight to buy a good atmospheric burner, but at a cheaper price than hybridburners.com?
   - Erik - Friday, 09/29/06 17:51:27 EDT

MILL SCALE UPDATE: Soak your scale coated metal in a mixture of vinegar and salt (add enough salt that there's some that won't go into solution), and allow to soak approx 24hrs. It falls off by it's self! Guru, the vinegar idea you suggested worked (incase I didn't say "Thanks" ....... Thanks!! ), but wasn't as fast acting as when salt was added don't know why it works faster, any idea? I'm thinkin' it ups' the acidic content somehow.
   Thumper - Friday, 09/29/06 18:25:41 EDT

The action of pickling, which is what we are doing witht he vinigar, works because hydrogen forms under the scale on the iron surface. The pressure causes the scale to pop off. I am not sure why the salt helps. I always use Habanero pepper sauce......
   quenchcrack - Friday, 09/29/06 18:51:48 EDT

Erik, http://refractory.elliscustomknifeworks.com/ (Daren....Darin.. Whatever Ellis) has both atmospheric and forced air burners from $32 for a venturi burner kit to $85 for an assembled forced air burner.
   - Rob - Friday, 09/29/06 19:03:00 EDT

Quenchcrack, I prefer to mix my pickling bath with fresh limestone spring water, and just a touch of Bourbon.
   ptree - Friday, 09/29/06 19:09:16 EDT

I've purchased some EN8 steel (1045) which I intend to use as an anvil. The size is roughly 6" x 7" x 9". I want to harden every face of the block, not just a single face!! I have 3 x T-Rex burners which I will use in a special furnace that I will make. Any advice on acheiving a good HT for the steel will be gratefully received.
   Bob G - Friday, 09/29/06 19:35:43 EDT

Let's see, if I mixed the habanero sauce and the bourbon in my mouth and then sprayed it on directly through my soon to be blistered lips, wouldn't that remove the scale much like using a blowtorch? It's a shame to waste good vinegar when two such useless liquids would give the same results and in a shorter time :-)!
   Thumper - Friday, 09/29/06 20:03:38 EDT

Wait a minute, we got lime from the spring water, habanero sauce from south of the border, what if I used tequilla instead of bourbon, kept in the salt and dunked the iron in a margarita?!
   Thumper - Friday, 09/29/06 20:06:54 EDT

Burnt Forge,
Thanks so much for the help. I have one question. What is VM&P? Betsy
   Betsy - Friday, 09/29/06 22:20:13 EDT


VM&P is not actually a thing; it stands for "Varnish Makers and Painters", and is a designation used with a particular formulation of petroleum naphtha, a medium-evaporating solvent similar to mineral spirits. Naphthalene is another name for the same compound.

For cleaning grease and oils from surfaces to be painted, I greatly prefer xylene (xylol) as it has beter solvent properties and is slower evaporating. You should wear gloves when using xylene, as it is a terrific solvent for skin oils and will irritate your hands. As with all solvents, use a respirator with cartridges suitable for organic solvents.
   vicopper - Friday, 09/29/06 23:04:00 EDT

I have a question about hand crank blowers. My smithing instructor was of the opinion that the only hand crank blowers worth buying were the Champion 400 and the Canedy-Otoo Royal. Unfortunately, I haven't run across many of these locally and those I have found have been very expensive despite being in questionable condition (seized, missing parts, etc.) I recently came across a Buffalo Silent 200 blower in good shape. I don't know much about Buffalo blowers other than that many people seem to regard them as being not as good as champion blowers.I'm just a hobby smith, so I'm not overly concerned about having the absolute best equipment, but I don't want to buy something that is junk either.

Is the Buffalo blower something I should consider buying or should I keep looking for a champion or canedy-otto blower?

   Steven Galonska - Friday, 09/29/06 23:05:02 EDT

as an aside to the above discussion involving galvanizing, I notice that when I have things galvanized, the mig welds seem to pick up a thicker coat of zinc than the rest of the steel. Why is this?
   brian kennedy - Saturday, 09/30/06 01:44:26 EDT

Can anyone recomend a good book on the selection and heat treatment of tool steels? I have a copy of machinery's handbook but I am looking for something that is a little bit more in depth but also still not something I will need a PHD in metalurgy to understand. Thanks.
   - Leaf D - Saturday, 09/30/06 01:49:32 EDT

References and Steels: Leaf, The selection of steels is a complex subject. Most of us go by what others have found works. Otherwise you are stuck with needing that Phd to understand the graphs, charts and such as applied to engineering models of what you are trying to do. Just how much stress are you applying to that part? Selection of steels starts with the engineering THEN goes to the metallurgy.

If you are looking for in-depth heat treating methods for almost all steels available in North America you want the ASM Heat Treater's Guide, Standard Practices and Procesures for Steel. It has all the steels listed in order by common designation alphanumericaly and has one or more pages per steel including all those graphs and charts mentioned. It is THE reference for heat treating and includes forging recomendations as well. If you are a high tech knife maker or even a low-tech one and designing your own laminated alloys and want to know everything from how to forge it to tempering then this book has the details. However, YOU will have to do all the cross checking to find what works for the group you have selected. I use this reference often because it is SO EASY to find the steel you are looking for.

The next best book which covers more alloys ferrous and non-ferrous is the ASM Metals Reference Book. This compact reference covers all engineering metals and most of the data is in the form of tables and much more terse than the Heat Treater's Guide which is quite verbose in comparison. The ASM Metals Reference Book has a very complete metallurgical glossary and numerous cross reference charts. However, if you need cross references there are more complete publications. If you need more than just the basic heat to this quench in this and the hardness rage is this to this (the type of information in Machinery's Handbook, then you want the Heat Treater's Guide

If you are looking for general information about just a few alloys then Metals for Engineering Craftsmen by CoSira is a very practical reference and much more economical than the above.

Our metallurgists may be able to suggest others but I do not believe there is a reference that says use this steel for this and this for that. The closest thing is the very old SAE recommended steels chart published in Machinery's Handbook for many years. Some steel manufacturer's literature may have general use recommendations but this is a far cry from an engineering specification.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 08:15:39 EDT

Buffalo Silent Air 200: I had one for a brief period. It was the smoothest, queitest blower I have ever seen. Absolutely no gear rattle. However, the one I had had NEVER been run out of oil or left to rust. I would buy one if I needed a hand crank blower.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 08:21:18 EDT

Thicker Galvanizing: Brian, I would bet is is the copper from the wire has deposited around the weld (or flux if you are using flux-core). As I noted, MIG welding IS NOT absolutely clean. A fine mist of sputter balls will do the same. Also the fact that the metal was heated enough to cook off any oil or wax. Most of the reasons that welds cause rust would also cause a thicker deposite of zinc.

Cleaning Metals: ITC says absolutely DO NOT use solvents. They leave traces behind and spread them all over the work. They recommend a dilute chlorox bleach mixture for degreasing.

I've used solvents for cleaning prior to painting but never for spray painting. If you are applying paint with a brush it scrubs the oils and mixes them with the paint. This assures the paint will stick and the amount of oil is very minor and usualy floats to the top of the paint. However, when spraying the oil spreads under the paint and makes large areas that will eventualy flake off. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 08:32:22 EDT

Heat Treating a large block: Bob, unless you are flame hardening then the important thing is an even heat then sufficient quenching medium that has been warmed to 70° or better.

Usually on something this massive the residual heat in the core will reheat the exterior and temper it. However, this assumes you remove the piece prior to it becoming stone cold. Otherwise you will need to temper immediately after the quench. The hard part of these tasks is handling the hot part then removing the part from the tank of water you dumped it into. . . You may be able to handle the 107 pounds but can you do it at the end of a pair of tongs? Practice ALL you moves in advance of the real operation.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 08:40:45 EDT

Cleaning before painting
I often use a product that is sold at automotive paint dealers. It is a Dupont product called "Prep-Sol". It cleans off oil and also silicones and waxs. Not too expensive, and we used it prior to repainting airplanes where the cost of a repaint was often the cost of a small car. Never failed to get a good finish. It is a solvent and therefore Vicoppers wise suggestion to wear gloves and a respirator is again offered. Usually for solvents a set of nitrile gloves and organic vapor cartridge. Read the MSDS for specifics.

Paint failure. As noted, seal weld at every joint is critical. Body putty can help seal pin holes. A useful item is laquar based pinhole putty. No mixing, dries fast, and is a thin mixture that is great on pinholes. Comes in a big toothpaste type tube.

When I once had the task of moving an entire 6.5 acre factory of machines, the task included cleaning and repainting everything. Since we used waterbased coolants in the machine tools, I went to that vendor for advice as the coolants seemed to disolve most paints. The technical sheet they sent me noted that for coolant resistance only chemically cured paints such as two part urathanes and epoxies were recommended. It was noted that the air dry paints reveal microfissures under the microscope from shrinkage when drying and this lets the coolant enter under the paint and float it off. I suspect that the reason Laquars work well is that often many coats were applied, with the fissures not often occuring in the same spot, removing a path to the base metal for mosture. I personally use an acrylic enamel spray, and it lasts for about 3 to 4 years in the weather if I take care. YMMV.
   ptree - Saturday, 09/30/06 09:29:31 EDT

Thanks for the advice on the buffalo blower guru. I decided to buy it and I think it will serve me well.

That being said, I'd like to change the oil in the gear box since I don't know how long it has been in there. What would be the appropriate oil to use? Would standard automotive gear oil (i.e 85W90) suffice?

   Steven Galonska - Saturday, 09/30/06 10:13:00 EDT

I've heard that in electroplating, the "highest" point draws the most current (same idea as a lightning rod). If a MIG weld stood proud of a flat surface, it might pick up a thicker coating for that reason. Of course, if you're having the part hot dipped, this might not be the explanation (grin).
   Mike B - Saturday, 09/30/06 10:15:56 EDT

does an atmospheric burner use more gas than a forced air burner?
   - Erik - Saturday, 09/30/06 10:53:42 EDT

are their any benifits to a square faced hammer aposed to a round one?
   - rob - Saturday, 09/30/06 11:05:13 EDT

Good info from vicopper. VM&P solvent is sold at ACE Hardware if you are unable to locate the other chemicals vicopper mentions.
   - Burnt Forge - Saturday, 09/30/06 11:27:38 EDT

Thumper and pTree, just what, or who are you trying to pickle here?
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 09/30/06 12:02:06 EDT

Blower Oil: Steven, These boxes were designed for more of an average lubricating oil like SAE30. In the past I have recommended gear oil but in the winter it is much to thick. The important thing is that there IS OIL. These devices were invented before seals were common and the leak oil constantly. If they are not covered in oil and do not have an oil slick under them they are not being oiled enough.

A sticky oil helps a lot in open gear boxes and I used to use a 50/50 mix of STP and SAE 10w30 to good effect. I am not sure they even make STP anymore. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 12:26:37 EDT

Square Faced Hammers: Rob, these are prefered by many smiths but particularly bladesmiths. The reason is that the direction of the metal movement is out from the edge. Most of these are ground with what is known as a "rocker" face, that is curved in one direction. This gives better control of the metal movement. But it also requires one to use slightly different forging technique. The Hofi Hammer is a square faced hammer with a rocker grind.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 12:29:59 EDT

Blower vs. Venturi: There is no difference unless you want there to be. A venturi burner is limited within a fairly narrow range where a blower burner can be cranked up a bit more if needed. The blower also created a higher pressure in the forge which increases the temperature and heat transfer.

The ONLY dissadvantage to a blower burner is the need of a power source.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/30/06 12:32:46 EDT

From the above painting discussion it sounds like, if the work justifies the cost, after it is sand blasted it should be taken to an automobile paint shop for priming and painting.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 09/30/06 16:30:57 EDT

Qenchcrack, we started with pickling metal, but you know how is is....metal's in our blood, so it was only natural that he conversation turned to a free for all of pickling everything and everyone. That plus it was Friday. Hic..Hic!
   Thumper - Saturday, 09/30/06 20:24:03 EDT

Before I forget. As vic... Points out VM&P is Naphthalene. It is a weaker formulation. As he prefers it stronger I like it weaker. I know many folks who like xylene. I prefer vm&p. I can use it also to remove sticky goop on some already painted surfaces. You should not do that with the other stuff. It serves a double function for me. I don't have to buy more than one product and warehouse more chemicals and extra cost.

Kenís suggestion
My take is different, though he has a consideration. I donít think it is feasible thing to schedule work with a painter, work around their schedules, trying to get them to use the methods you prefer so you have multiple layers with visible detailing. It is harder to cover small surfaces with many corners and angles like wrought iron. Therefore some painters donít want to do it. It just adds a ton of cost and time. Who can afford to hire a painter to work for them? You can buy a small compressor, sand blaster, paint gun and make a spray and bake booth if you desire at a very small investment doing it yourself. Just my two coppers though.
   - Burnt Forge - Saturday, 09/30/06 23:06:32 EDT

Tool steel book: I learned with and still like "Carpenter Matched Tool And Die Steels" It is not a complete reference, and it is probably out of print, but it was a freebie, and can be found at fleamarkets and places where used machinasts tools are sold. It DOES list AISI grades, however it doesn't include O1, S5 or S7 as they were recomending O2, L6,& A6 in place of these materials. This is an easy to use reference with data for forging and heat treatment, and a comprehensive selection guide, in an easy to use foremat.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 09/30/06 23:31:32 EDT

Sand Blasting and Painting, Finishing in General: A LOT depends on where you are, how big you shop or lot is and the work. It also depends on the availability od subcontractors. Remember this when settin a business location. The availability of subcontractors is as important as transportation, supplies AND a customer base.

Sand Blasting Pros and Cons: Sand blasting grit is considered hazardous waste and where it is done is often controlled. Today when highway departments, ship painters and building cleaners sand or grit blast in public they have a huge tent and vacuume system to retrieve ALL the sand. Another method in use is dry ice blasting. The system has a grinder that delivers ground dry ice at just the right rate. The used dry ice just evaporates. All the residue that is left is JUST what was removed, not the scale or paint mized in several tons of now contaminated sand. Yes, there is not much toxic waste to just removing scale but the EPA makes no difference. You MAY be creating a hazardous waste dump by sandblasting in your yard. If you do large architectural work then you should sub it out. This is tedious boring DIRTY work that is perfect subcontractor work. Besides all the above the sand gets in and ON everything. It makes a mess of machinery and shortens their life greatly. If you have a very small job you may want to do it yourself but it is generally best to hire a sub-contractor. This is not cheap but it DOES put your costs into perspective.

Painting: This is also something that is highly regulated in many places but something that many shops "get away" with. Legaly most spray painting operations must have a paint booth that captures the particulates and in SOME areas all the distalates. . This is done by a complicated water curtain system that air is drawn through and then the water processed. In big auto manufacturing operations they recycle the paint solids. They have also changed to water based paints for the large part but they have had problems in many cases.

In the small shop spray painting is often done outdoors so it is reliant on the weather. It cannot be too hot ot too cold. Dust from the wind or moving vehicals, lawn mowing etc. can be a problem. This is the reason I usualy recommend lacquers. Lacquer paints dry almost instantly. Their offspray (the paint that misses the work and floats in the air) drys fast enough that it does not end up coating everything within 30 feet like enamels do.

Paint Compatibility: You must also know that many types of paint are not chemicaly compatible with each other. If you mix lacquer and enamel the result is a curdled mess like cottage cheese. If you try to apply lacquer over an enamel (oil) based paint the lacque will soften, lift and curdle the enamel. That is why it is best to ALWAYS use lacquer primers. You can apply lacquer or almost any other paint over them.

I have often used zinc cold galvanizing (which is lacquer based for its very small amount of binder) then red oxide lacquer primer over that. THEN brushed on an enamel top coat. Due to lacquer drying almost instantly you cannot apply it with a brush. The advantage to painting with a brush is that you can scrub the paint into corners and crevices then smooth away the overflow. Even though it is ruinous to brushes I often start the cold galvanizing process by scrubbing and running the thinned zinc paint into joint that spray will not get into. I use overthinned paint which will run into gaps and crevices. By turning the work upside down you get places that would otherwise be missed. Then while it is upside down I put on the first sprayed coat of zinc. If all else fails to cover, the zinc will slow rust for a VERY long time. However, this paint is generaly not used alone unless applied very thick.

Simple and complex Jobs: On simple jobs many of us use brushed on paint. This is often done in the field after welding or is left to the customer. Although it simplifies contruction and reduces costs you are leaving an important part of your work to others. Field finishing should include what ever processes you would use in the shop. This is another good reason to use fast drying lacquer. You can lay down tarps and spray multiple coats or colors of lacquer in someone's home IF you are careful and it is just touchup or repair. As mentioned above, enamel offspray will travel considerable distances and due to staying wet for a long time will stick to whatever it settles on. Where the finish is anything complex or artistic you need to be prepared to make repairs in the field.

This whole subject and its costs are often overlooked by blacksmiths. In doing so they do a diservice to their customers and tarnish their own reputation. Overlooking the costs often becomes a bone of contention with the customer when THEY find out what painting is going to cost them if it is done right or done by a contractor. I've known smiths with decades of experiance who have had all the bad experiances continue to overlook proper finishing and the costs over and over. It CAN BE a huge proportion of the cost of the job (30%). Think about, plan for it, have an amount set aside for it.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/01/06 10:34:16 EDT

I gotta agree with the Guru on painting and prep- on anything larger than a breadbasket, I like to leave it to the pros.
First off, you cant do everything- and in my shop, with forging, fabricating, welding, machining, and sheet metal work, along with the wood shop in the back, I am already busy enough.
I have a small sandblast cabinet, 4' x 3' x 3', and for little stuff, I will blast it myself- but I only have a 100 gallon, 7 1/2hp compressor, which means blasting is SLOW. Compare that to Warren, the guy I take my real sandblasting to- he has over 400hp of compressors, a 40 foot long booth, and he can do a hundred feet of eight foot fence for me in a few hours.
So if its a paying job, it goes to Warren- in fact, he picks up for free with his big flatbed. If its a little dingbat, then sure, I do it myself.
Same with painting and or powdercoating- I used to use a powdercoater who had a 8 foot by 8 foot by 20 foot oven- and in a half hour, start to finish, he could powdercoat something as big as a car.
He had 10,000 sq ft, a million dollars worth of equipment, including automated 5 station dip and cleaning lines, automated 6 gun spray stations, and 200 colors in stock, all of which had 50lb minimums at 8 bucks a pound.
Economies of scale I could never hope to approach.

Stashed away on some shelf, I have a few spray guns, but I have to admit its been 20 years since I dragged em out- once I proved to myself I COULD do it, I quickly realized how much cheaper, faster, and better a pro could do it- giving me more time to do what I do best.

In fact, one of the things I have noticed that is common to all successful craftspeople- the ones who actually feed their families, AND do good work- is to acknowledge what they are actually good at, and can do better than other people, and try to spend the maximum amount of their time doing THAT- not doing everything in the world just to prove how self reliant they can be.
When I am in the zone, doing what I do best, I can make real money each hour. When I am driving around fishing old cardboard boxes out of dumpsters to save buying a new one, I am losing money.
When a job requires a couple hundred thousand of specialised equipment, or 20 years experience that I dont have, I hire it out.
And my painting abilities are barely above kindergarten level, compared to some of the pros I have sent work out to over the years- shops with, all told, 2 or 300 years of painting experience between the guys there, versus my 100 hours or so.
   - Ries - Sunday, 10/01/06 12:35:58 EDT

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