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

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

This is an archive of posts from September 25 - 31, 2007 on the Guru's Den
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I'm an amateur knifesmith who is interested in pursuing a master's degree in Blacksmithing/Metalsmithing. Do you know of any resources I can use to find good master's programs in either of these areas?
   David - Monday, 09/24/07 23:20:18 EDT


Check out Cranbrook Academy of Art. They have an excellent metalsmithing program. Also checkout Southern Illinois University at Carbondale for another excellent program.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 09/25/07 00:05:26 EDT

Education: David, Some Masters and many Doctorate programs are "design your own". Find a school (or group of schools in the same area) you like that has the curriculum you need. This would be a combination of art and engineering. You would want strength of materials and properties of materials, metalurgy in-depth study and also design and three dimensional art plus art history focusing on armor and the decorative art of the same.

In engineering you can add production methods and tool and die design. . .

Many art departments have metal sculpture classes (with forging) and all art departments usually cover art history. However, art history is often an aspect of what is in the school library OR local museum. You may also want to study contemporary metalwork (see our book review page for examples that could be used as texts).

The trick is finding a school who has the advisers to take on the task. If you say "blacksmithing" or "bladesmithing" they may draw a blank but if you specify aspects of metallurgy and engineering from the courses they already have then you have a much better chance. You may also need to supplement them with trade school courses from local community colleges and a program of self study.

This is how many unusual programs get started. An individual wants something that is not available and designs their own curriculum. Design your program comparing it to other masters' programs then fly it by the schools of your choice.

Prerequisites: Most engineering and other technical fields require a Bachelors of Science with a specific balance of courses including a lot of math, technical report writing, drafting and so on. If you do not have this as a starting position then you may need to include classes for catching up. The engineering classes require a strong ground in higher (applied) algebra with trig and at least high school calculus. For a field (blacksmithing/bladesmithing) that is almost always an entrepreneurial or self employment situation I would recommend some small business accounting and general business classes. I also remind people that this is ARTIST blacksmithing. To design works of art large OR small you need drawing, layout and design skills. Many of these start in High School but are also covered from the beginning in college for those that have decided on a field requiring artistic skills.

Finances: As with many things MONEY raises it ugly head early in a process like this. Most schools will easily accept an unusual course of study if you are paying cash. IF you need a scholarship then it is a different story. You may want to look into scholarships for the study and preservation of lost arts (without a particular school) and then shop the scholarship around to the schools of your choice. This is a difficult task and full of politics and studying the details of applications.

Many blacksmithing groups give small scholarships for trade schools but I am sure if you told them you needed it for a graduate study program there would be no problem. These are generally $200 to $500 a year and are only available to members. Most go begging for good applicants. Invest $35 in a membership, get $500 back. . . Join all the groups in your general area and you could possibly pull in several thousand dollars a year for your schooling. It all ads up.. .

IF you can find a state University in your state then the cost of this education would be MUCH lower. So it would be worthwhile to write a detailed proposal and shop it around. The proposal itself may show to them how serious you are and that you are capable of the necessary self study and have the communication skills.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 09:08:37 EDT

Got my first post vise at a flea market Sunday for $55!! It is in pretty nice shape and has all its parts (original or not, I can't tell). There are NO makers marks on it and I haven't set it up yet. Here's some shots. If anyone has any ideas as to who made it, how old it is, etc., that would be great! Thanks!

   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 09/25/07 09:49:35 EDT

what are the different forms of chemestry in modern metal working?
   - robert - Tuesday, 09/25/07 09:50:24 EDT

Lineshafts again:

Just to add to the confusion, the main shafts don't turn all that fast, but that's why each machine often had a set of jackshafts to step the speeds up or down depending on what was required. As to why the main shaft isn't very fast, think about it: Do you really want a four-inch leather belt to come loose at 1500 rpm right over your head?
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 09/25/07 10:07:06 EDT

David; you might also look into schools that offer training in Living History as a slantwise method of getting a MS that has some smithing focus. For intense bladesmithing training there is the ABS school, that offers credit from a local college down there; I wonder if they would habe a meta program for such a degree.

TGN: it's not real old since the spring and bench mount are not tennoned through the back post. It's not a columbian since the shafts are faceted. Good Luck; I've only had one vise that was date stamped, 1899, and Sandpile got that one off me.

Robert; sounds like a homework question and we have a stated policy of not doing those for people. I'll just say it varies a lot depending on what type of metalworking you are doing.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/25/07 11:08:48 EDT


It's a Peter Wright, and I'll be a monkey's uncle, if I'm wrong. From the photos, it all looks original.

Some Columbians have chamfered legs; it depends on when they were manufactured. None of them, however, has the beautiful lathe turned box that the Peter Wright has.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 09/25/07 12:33:31 EDT

Do you have any photos of Quadstate on this site?
   mark - Tuesday, 09/25/07 13:28:27 EDT

A PW, eh? Neato!! It's my first PW anything, so I'm happy. Was it too much of a steal at $55? It's in fully working condition, how much is it REALLY worth?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 09/25/07 13:43:45 EDT

Hmm. What about this leg vise?

   Matt B - Tuesday, 09/25/07 14:38:41 EDT

TGN it depends on where you are. I bought a 150# postvise for $50 in OH a couple of years ago that would be $400 here in NM.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/25/07 14:58:18 EDT

Matt the most important part of a post vise is the screw and screwbox; everything else can be fixed fairly easily; but a badly worn screw makes for much more involved repair/replacement scenarios. I would not offer more than US$10 for a vise where they did not show the screw condition!

And yes I am familiar with the name.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/25/07 15:01:22 EDT

I know it's a pretty general question but, with limited tools, (forge, hammer, anvil, tongs.) How are curved panels made?
Currently I'm bending every element over a form before assembly, and am thinking there are more efficient ways to do this.
   JimG - Tuesday, 09/25/07 15:05:54 EDT


I was just wondering about the maker. I bought the vise months ago. ($60, IIRC.) The screw's in great shape, although the nut is missing on the bolt that serves as the hinge for the moving jaw.
   Matt B - Tuesday, 09/25/07 15:15:13 EDT

Hello, I have what I believe to be a Peter Wright leg vise. The jaws are 5 3/4 wide and the weight is 95 lbs. The only problem is someone overtightened the screw and now the legs are bowed inward. When the jaws are closed they have a 1/16th inch gap along upper edge of the jaws. Everything else is great. The threads are good and the price was right. I have a coal forge but I have never worked with true wrought iron. This is a beautiful english vise and I would hate to ruin it, however It is not useable like it is. Please advise me as correct color range to work within. Also any other suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Jason M. Mecum
   Jason M. Mecum - Tuesday, 09/25/07 15:51:33 EDT


What about grinding the lower edge of the vise? Is there plenty of material around the jaws? That would be much easier for one person to handle. If you have helpers and a large heat source, you could bend it back with care. Think out how you will check the new fit of the parts while it's hot so you don't overdo it with the sledge hammer. Adjust the jaws to be parallel for the size of stock you intend to use most.
   Jacob - Tuesday, 09/25/07 16:11:35 EDT

Another thought: Check the pivot point at the bottom. It may be a repair or replacement. See if you can move it out with less effort than heating the heavy jaw.
   Jacob - Tuesday, 09/25/07 16:15:00 EDT

Jacob thank you for the suggestion but that is really not what I want to do. The fixed leg and moveable leg are both bowed about the same amount. The bent portion is from 3in. above the srew eye to about 6in. below the eye. The majority of the bend is in the eye portion of the legs. Thanks again, JM
   Jason M. Mecum - Tuesday, 09/25/07 16:28:23 EDT

Mark Etal, I have some QS photos coming. May be a while.

Straightening Vice: Nip's vice needs this as well. The best route to go is to put the vice in a hydraulic press and correct the bend. Normally the bend is at the screw eyes. If a hydraulic press is not available then a larger vice will work. . .

When the jaws are right the faces will be parallel at about 1/2 to 5/8" depending on the size of the vice. When closed the top edge of the jaws should touch.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 17:55:51 EDT

More Straightening: Remember these are soft wrought iron parts. It is possible to take the disassembled parts and give them a whack across the face of horn of an anvil. Swing and strike with the upper 2/3 of the screw eye beyond the edge of the anvil. You would be surprised at what the inertia can do.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 18:00:50 EDT

Mat I've had vises that didn't use a nut but a cotter pin, and easy retrofit.

I had one vise where the jaws did not line up vertically. I heat shrunk and rivited in a plug in the original hole and then redrilled it to line up better---if the plug ever seems to want to shift I'll probably weld it in place but it's doing fine so far! It was a hefty vise and well worth rescuing.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 09/25/07 18:09:29 EDT

Hey, i have made many small-medium knifes and have always used a belt sander to sharpen/polish the blades. i was thinking of mabye atempting a sword. can i still use a belt sander to acomplish the ginding and sharpening?
   - Erin - Tuesday, 09/25/07 21:07:08 EDT

Jim G,
I'm wondering the same (or similar) thing. I want to find out how to "cup" 2-3mm plate without a swage block.
   Craig - Tuesday, 09/25/07 21:26:09 EDT

Guru, thanks for the advice. That is really what I wanted to do. I have a hydraulic press but was afraid to try it cold. I will give that a shot. Nippulini's photos reminded me of my own predicament. Thanks again, JM
   Jason M. Mecum - Tuesday, 09/25/07 21:53:46 EDT


I'm not quite sure where JimG is regarding his panels, but I can answer your question.

You can easily cup thin plate, (2-3mm or 1/16"-1/8") b y making a ring out of round bar and using it as a sinking form. Make the ring from stock that is a diameter roughly equal to the depth you desire and place it on the anvil and sink your plate into it with a domed hammer.

For deeper forms you can use sections of pipe, just ease all the edges so they don't cut into your plate. There are limits to how deep you can go, of course.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 09/25/07 22:09:25 EDT

Thanks vicopper. I had Bill Epps' candle holder demo in mind. I couldn't figure out how to cup the pan, but I think that's the way to go. Would a simple ball peen be too sharp a point to use for this sort of thing?
   Craig - Tuesday, 09/25/07 22:28:11 EDT

I wasn't clear enough by what I meant as "panels" I was thinking of fence, or balcony panels, or stair rail panels on a spiral staircase, or I've seen pictures of balcony panels that curve in both planes.
   JimG - Tuesday, 09/25/07 22:57:48 EDT

Blade Sizes: Erin, Steel swords were ground on water powered water stones in Europe going back to the 1300's or earlier. Those making pattern welded blades use the stock removal method with belt grinders to completely shape and finish the blade. Note however that other grinders such as disk grinders are better for making flat surfaces. In the end much of the fine work is done by hand.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 23:15:03 EDT

Matt B. Your vise looks to be a Peter Wright.

Peter Wright vises [vices].

I can list some of the ID hallmarks of the Peter Wright vises found in the U.S.

The PW vises are well proportioned and finished. The "ducktail lugs" to keep swarf out of the washer area are large and they terminate in a nice rectangular shape. Some jaws have hatch marks on the faces; some may not have. The box has one lengthwise stop to keep it from turning. Some of the earlier tenoned vises had two. The box finial has a lathe center indent on the end of it's roughly spherical shape. The lathe work is beautifully designed and executed. There is a capital letter stamped on the box which can be seen with the box removed, probably an inspector's mark. The screw has a square thread, and the screw head may or may not have a lathe turned center line.

The mounting plate is smoothly shouldered from the thicker, heavier key-and-wedge portion. The plate has four holes and is roughly a lozenge shape except the end which is circular. The plate thickens so that it has a slight rise where the lozenge ends and the circular portion begins. The shoulder leading into the flat circle will have a set-hammered vee of a bout 100º - 110º. The key will have its corners cropped or forged in, as a safety measure. The legs will be chamfered, usually deeply. The rectangular beam pieces supporting the movable leg are each chamfered. The bolt has a round head with a small bar-like stop forged under the head to keep it from turning. The hole in the one beam receiving this will have a matching notch extending from it. The bolt is threaded and often the nut is missing. If it has its original nut, it will probably be a square one.

If the top of the box is not too worn, the vise may be signed in three lines: P. WRIGHT
The letters are small and often obliterated by wear and rust.

In Australia, the PWs were apparently imported without the deeply chamfered legs. The legs were chamfered ever so slightly, a little deeper at the top and tapering to a point of zero at the bottom. Looking directly at a single chamfer, one sees an elongated triangular shape. I saw one in Scotland made this way, as well. Sometimes, the Australian PWs would have the British coat of arms stamped on them. Other features of the vise were the same as the U.S. imports.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 09/25/07 23:25:10 EDT


I'd recommend a hammer or other top tool with a face that is radiused close to the raidus you want to end up with in your cup, rather than a ball pein. You can certainly use the ball pein, but you'll need to have a mushroom stake to bouge and planish the cup after the ball pein leaves all those nasty little bumps all over it.

There are lotsof things that make decent top tools for sinking such shapes: big rivets, trailer hitch balls, C-V joint cups, etc. Don't get stuck on thinking of only hammers. You can make a quick sinking hammer form a chunk of hard wood that will work for several uses, for example. Hard plastics such as nylon and delrin work well, too. Keep an open mind.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 09/25/07 23:27:51 EDT

Curved Panel Elements: This has been done over wood forms both hot and cold for centuries. If elements are vertical they are bent on one plane then but into the frame which can be bent in another plane to produce a three dimensional shape. Elements that are wide need a slight curve in the second axis. A wood form only needs to be a little wider than picket spacing to do this and can be shaped in both axiis. For the larger curve or radius I would make templates to carve the wood to.

IF elements have a great deal of multi-axis sweep or are diagonal across a compound curve it is a bit trickier. I would do all this by eye. However, if you need a guide you may need some kind of mock up. I would not make a full fledged form unless multiple panels with compound curves were needed. Your three dimensional skills determine what you need. Unless I was making more than two or three I personally would still do it by eye. This is part of the art of being an artist blacksmith. It is a large open sculpture.

However if greater numbers are needed then you are talking about a BIG expensive job where it is expected that these panels fit exactly according to plan without a lot of hand fitting. In that case I would make a fixture to build the panels on both for accuracy and efficiency. If it is three dimensional I would have anchor points in a steel framework and steel and wood as necessary to build the panels against. In this case the fixture is both assembly fixture and bending jig.

This is one of those places where wood working skills and a bandsaw come in handy.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 23:31:27 EDT

Forms for shaping small parts: Wood forms can be used both hot and cold. When cold working it helps to have a shallow shape or depression cut in the wood. When working hot the metal burns its own depressions as you shape it. If you not have carving tools then using hot steel and burning the depressions into end grain works well.

There is a lot of smoke and flame when using wood forms hot so be prepared to quench flames and have ventilation for smoke. Once the shape is close to what is needed it helps to soak the wood to prevent too much more burning.

Quick, easy, simple and inexpensive. The wood can be reused until it is too burnt or useless and then put into the forge fire. This is why you do not see lots of old hot work wood anvils. . . They get retired to fuel.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/25/07 23:37:54 EDT

Would you recommend burning over carving? I would have thought that, theoretically, burning would give you a harder end product due to loss of "soft" volatile material around the area of the burn.
I have been scratching my head for weeks over how to make wooden forms without the equipment or skill to carve, and I must admit that I never even thunk of burning! I feel like a right twit!
   Craig - Wednesday, 09/26/07 00:54:47 EDT

Wood for Forms: Craig, There are advantages and disadvantages. A lot depends on the type of wood and age of the tree (size of log). For most hammer forming of anything other than thin sheet metal or soft metals like copper the end grain of the wood should be used. This compacts becoming denser and harder from working. Old pine, yellow pine or construction grade fur softwoods work. Oak, hickory and other hardwoods work also. For sheet metal forms that do not fit end grain good hard woods should be used.

Burning hardens wood but it also burns more of one grain than the other leaving a rough surface. This depends on the type of wood. Some woods char evenly. However, for many types of fairly heavy cold work the grain texture will wear or compact and is not critical.

While wood forms can be used over and over in most cases they are temporary and replaced as needed.

As to not having the tools to carve the wood this is a good blacksmith project. A gouge (curved edge chisel) is not too hard to forge. You need a bottom swage and a top fuller or round bar to drive the stock into the swage. The bottom swage can be made from a split piece of pipe or a short section of teeth off a grader (tracked equipment) drive wheel.

Often the nose of a chainsaw is used to carve depressions and a chainsaw like wheel is made for 4.5" grinders for heavy carving. A worn angle grinder wheel will also do the job albeit slowly.

Remember that bowl and spoon depressions do not need to be very deep. They are not a form, they are a forging depression that you move the work about in. About 20% of the diameter is all that is needed and the diameter can be larger than needed by about the same (20%) as well. Swage blocks with deep depressions are bad design and do not work well. Shallow, rounded edge, almost faint depressions work best.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/26/07 09:21:08 EDT


Another way to carve with a metal working tool you most likely own is to use a 4 1/2" angle grinder with a ~$20 chainsaw type disc on it from harbor freight. Or you could purchase a better one else where.
   juterbock - Wednesday, 09/26/07 09:21:53 EDT

Slight correction: some makers of PW swords do extensive forging to shape before minimal grinding---you can tell it by looking at the deformation patterns in their blades.

A belt *grinder* is how most professional swordmakers work their blades; 2x72" is an "industry standard" and they usually have 1.5+ real horsepower motors (continuous duty at 1.5 hp, not 1.5 hp when the rotor is stalled and the motor is ruined, AKA craftsmen hp).

If you are using a light duty belt sander making a sword may well toast it if you try to get it done in a reasonable ammount of time. Swords can also be worked with a sen, drawfiled, roughed out with sanding disks on an angle grinder, etc leaving less to be done with the belt sander.

Good forging skills will really shine when sword forging; the saying 15 minutes at the forge will save an hour at the grinder only holds true if you don't have to forge way oversized to be able to grind out all the mistrikes with the hammer!

I make dishing hammers from RR bolts (not RR spikes!) they have a nice domed head and I can slit and drift a handle eye in the middle of the shaft for small work or at the end in the screw threads for deep dishing. I generally dish hot and find that wood is a tad smoky for me so I have ammased a number of steel forms---everything from lifting eyes to the bottoms of scrapped high pressure gas cylinders to 1/2" thick "punchouts". I still use wood at times and my anvil stumps show it. One method is to nail a disposable piece of wood to the stump and replace it when it wears out.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 09/26/07 11:09:37 EDT

Thanks, Frank. I thought it looked a lot like Nip's, which is what made me think to ask about it. Neat.
   Matt B - Wednesday, 09/26/07 12:45:37 EDT

Brenton Morton, Your e-mail bounced.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/26/07 17:27:39 EDT

Hello everyone, I am doing Some research for a project on the evolution of European and early American anvils from the year 1000 A.D. to the end of the 18th century. I was hoping some of the historians and gurus can give me a few paragraphs about the basic evolution and change of the anvils thru these years. I am more concerned general blacksmithing and swordsmithing anvils. I would gladly appresiate some help thanks!
   - Dr. RP Brown - Wednesday, 09/26/07 18:08:52 EDT

Well the native Americans used to use large meteorites as anvils and metal sources. There are several at places like the Smithsonian that have that use listed on their descriptions.

I'm not at my library so I will have to dig out some cites for you later; but off the top of my head: there are several late viking era anvils extant that you can find information on.

"Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel", Gies & Gies, has pictures of smithing illuminations from the middle ages and then into the renaissance there are quite a few paintings with the titles like "Venus at the Forge of Vulcan"

Also look for woodcuts and engravings like that of Maximilian's armourer and the Hausbuchs that show "careers" and their tooling. Also De Re Metallica", Agricola, for industrial sized anvils in the 16th century.

The Deutsches Klingen Museum, Solingen, has a cutler's anvil from your period of interest. I'll see if their book has a pic of it in it.

On into the 1ate 17th early 18th century Moxon's "Mechanics Exercises" has a section on smithing and then late 18th there is of course Diderot's Encyclopedia---look for the full version not the abridged version.

Note that there is not a lot of standardization and each "craft" and country may use different forms. The "modern" london pattern anvil is essentialy the "multitool" version with lots of bells and whistles assembled from various earlier forms---the T stake anvil's horn and heel, the industrial anvils wide face, etc.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 09/26/07 18:37:46 EDT

I am building a gas forge and have found an Argon regulator at Harbor Freight for a very reasonable price. Is an Argon regulator OK to use with Propane?

   very beginner - Wednesday, 09/26/07 18:42:04 EDT

Regulators: No. Regulators are made for specific purposes and chemical reactions. Argon is inert and generally provided at very low pressures to welding equipment. Propane is a hydrocarbon solvent that can dissolve various types of seals. It is also distributed as a cryogenic liquid that can damage parts due to low low temperatures. It is also used at much higher pressures than argon (if the argon regulator is a welding regulator).
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/26/07 20:35:00 EDT

Since we were talking about oxy/propane torches last week, I figured I'd post this. I just bought a "steak saver" adapter that I can use to connect a 1# disposable MAPP cylinder to the POL adapter I use to convert my O/A torch to oxy/propane. The oxy/MAPP flame is easily hot enough to weld with. I just ran a bead across a piece of 14ga with no problem at all. Except for not knowing how to gas weld (grin).

At $8 per cylinder, MAPP isn't exactly cheap. Actually, though, a disposable MAPP cylinder holds 50% more by weight than an "MC" acetylene bottle, so it may not be *insanely* expensive. I don't think it will replace my TIG, but maybe if the power goes out . . .

Anyway, if you have an oxy/propane rig and want to run an occasional weld, this may be an option. Of course if I was planning to gas weld on a regular basis, I'd break down and buy an acetylene bottle.

On using an argon regulator for propane, the regulator will have the wrong fittings, will probably have an orifice that restricts flow to less than you need for a forge, and may not be designed to reach the pressure you need. And that's assuming the propane doesn't eat through the diaphragm and cause a massive leak (and potentially a massive fire).
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 09/26/07 20:44:15 EDT

Dr. RP Brown,

The excellent book and catalog, "Made of Iron", has photos of some European anvils that are sumptuously decorated on the side and are dating from the late Middle ages into the Renaissance. The de Menil family of Houston put the "Made of Iron" exhibition together in 1966, and it was held at the University of St. Thomas, Houston.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 09/26/07 20:52:43 EDT

Thanks for the information. I will probably be taking the regulator back tomorrow. You probably get this alot but any hints on where to procure (preferably cheaply) a high pressure propane regulator?
   very beginner - Wednesday, 09/26/07 21:02:46 EDT

Do we have any train afficianados(sp), out there? We have a lot of train traffic in my area and it brings to mind that once upon a time all engines were steam, either wood or coal fired and back then there was a "smithy car", both for building and repairing the lines. Question(s), in the case of a coal fired engine, would the smith go to the tinder car for fuel,(stoker coal), or did he have a different grade of coal for his forge? Also, he'd probably have an appentice bust the nuggets down to size if he used the locomotive coal, but would he also have an apprentice making charcoal for him if the train ran on wood? Finally, know of any books that reference the subject?
   Roland - Wednesday, 09/26/07 21:27:03 EDT

Thanks for all the good research leads. This information will give me an exellent start, if not finish on the project!
   - Dr. RP Brown - Wednesday, 09/26/07 21:56:18 EDT

Mike BR: You could if You were so inclined get MAPP in larger refillable bottles. Airco was promoting it as a replacement for acetylene some years back as it is a little safer. Other industry experts see no need for MAPP.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/26/07 22:08:54 EDT

verry beginner: Some acetylene regulators, depending on brand are OK for propane, You need to do Your research if You are going this route. Propane plumber's torch regulators cost about $50 from welding or plumbing supply shops.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 09/26/07 22:16:19 EDT

Victor makes a good regulator for propane, it may be a multi-gas regulator not just propane, don't remember, but I've used the same one for over 30 years with no problem.
   Roland - Wednesday, 09/26/07 22:54:56 EDT

I have a swage block that I was told was a number 0. It weighs aprox 165 lb,It appears to be very old. Does anyone out there have any info on this and what would be a fair price.
   - DWAYNE KENT - Wednesday, 09/26/07 23:39:33 EDT

Anvil Development - History: Dr. Brown, for a VERY early anvil see

The Antiquity of the Swage Block: A History and the Bronze Age Cape Gelidonya block/anvil linked from that page.

Anvils have envloved in several ways. There have been material changes, stone, bronze, wrought iron and steel, forged steel, cast iron with steel and cast steel. This is almost a linear change over history with recent changes due to global economic forces. Then there has been changes in shape. The earliest anvils were anything with a suitable work surface (not necessarily flat). The first metal anvils were bronze and being a cast product had many features making them a multi-function tool. The early wrought anvils being difficult to make and the material expensive were small and simple. As materials became less expensive anvil size grew. Patent cast iron steel faced anvils revoluitionized the manufacturing process Steel casting was another revolution

The addition of features was very slow as the hand manufacturing methods improved up until the 18th century when fully modern anvils were forged by hand by a specialized team of blacksmiths. The 19th and 20th century saw further changes as large scale manufacturing processes were applied. Then at the beginning of the 21th century we are left with cast steel anvils only (I could write a couple pages on the changes in the last 10 years), with the exception of ONE maker who is trying to get out of the forged anvil business.

Part of the problem with a study ogf this type is there is very little to go on. Richard Postmans book, Anvils in America is the ONLY reference on the subject other than old catalogs. As Thomas noted there are some decent illustrations in Diderots but you must remember that anvils are used for hundreds of years so that Diderots is a snapshot of all the anvils in use up to THAT date. Then there is the very rare ocassional illustration such as in DeOrganographia by Pratorious and on a few Greek vase paintings by the Foundry Painter.

I've been collecting images of old anvils for an article on the development of the anvil for 10 years. Then there is the question if swageblocks should be included with anvils. However, I've covered that subject fairly well with Swageblocks.com
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 08:44:05 EDT

#0 Swage Block: Dwayne, I've answered this question in MAIL, here previously and there is still a series of posts on the question in the Hammer-In. Do not post more questions until you have read or acknowledged the answers given.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 08:51:20 EDT

RR-Blacksmith: Roland, When the smith had his own car he would have his own stock of fuel either coal or charcoal. It MAY have been tender coal but that would depend on the quality of the coal in use. Bulk coal used for making steam can be very low quality. As you noted these engines were run on wood as well as coal up until they had the automatic tenders with a stoker conveyor system. So there are a LOT of IF's here. However, if *I* were the smith I would keep a good stock of first class smithing coal in my car. These were often dropped off at job sites for a long time and the tender fuel not available as well as the caol quality being an unknown in many places. However, this is all a guess on my part.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 09:01:11 EDT

Care and feeding of anvil?
Just acquired an Peter Wright anvil in a too good to pass up deal.It's slathered in layers of paint that i'm removing.My question is,Do I paint the body or just keep it oiled or some other type of coating? What about the face? Does it get any kind of upkeep like oiling,etc? Havn't found any answers online.I'm ordering some reccomended blacksmithing books today that I assume would have the answers but it could be several weeks before they arrive and I have a rare weekend free and wanted to get it squared away.
Thank you for your time
   Marten R. - Thursday, 09/27/07 09:05:55 EDT

RR & Train Aficionados: I have the Norfolk and Western Railway blacksmiths touchmark from the famous Roanoke Virginia shops. It is a long handled punch with "N&WRY" in good condition. As far as I know it is the only one. It needs a good home at a good price. Serious inquiries only. I suspect I will have to ebay or auction it to get what it is worth.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 09:27:32 EDT

Do you what the basic forms of chemestry in welding,
machining, and modern medal working are?
   - Robert .S - Thursday, 09/27/07 09:27:44 EDT

Yes I do. But we have come to the conclusion that this is a homework or research question (and VERY poorly re-worded and misspelled the second time you asked).
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 09:48:15 EDT

Why do people insist on misspelling such OBVIOUS words here? Medal, mettle, etc. Steal for steel, etc. Not only are these misspellings annoying, but some people will insist on using the improper spelling even after a post has been responded to with the word spelled right! Keystroke errors aside, I think that either there are a lot of kids (who need to spend time at school, not here) or some older guys who just don't care. Either way it looks bad on us as the blacksmithing community appearing uneducated when in fact there's more ammassed knowledge here than in any institution. My two pennies.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:08:31 EDT

Care and feeding of anvil: Marten, you can oil the whole thing or give it a coat of paint. I usually paint the body of my anvils and oil the face as needed. If you use the anvil every day it will not need oiling and possibly not painting. I use what ever paint I have on hand or is easily obtainable. I've used BBQ black that I keep for forges and fireplace tools and hobby/home spray enamel from the local mini-mart. Originally most old anvils had a coat of tar like paint and new anvils have lacquered faces and black lacquered bodies. All paint on anvils is fairly temporary as it burns and wears off from use (even on the body). A lacquered face is strictly for the shelf and showroom.

A lot depends on the amount of use and the degree of condensation in your area. Heavy metal things get cold at night and then as the air warms in the morning condensation collects on them. This is a major rust vector. In a warm dry location condensation is rarely a problem. But in some places it is a daily occurrence.

If your anvil only gets used in a hobby once a week or so with gaps of months then you need to oil it every time you are finished with it. If used daily then the small amount of rust that MIGHT form will be rubbed off by work. The warm anvil will attract condensation less as well.

You will want to wipe off the oil when you go to use the anvil.

While cleaning up that anvil you will probably find a thick layer of rust under the paint. DO NOT remove it. This rust is the anvil's best protection and part of it age and history. The face may also be dinged and edges chipped. The best thing to do is to use a belt sander on the face and horn to clean it up lightly. Corner chips can often be radiused out but severe ones should just have their edges dressed so that they do not mar your work. Do not try to weld them or completely grind them out.

Note that in general buying a completely painted anvil is a risky thing to do. I have seen paint covering large weld repairs, cracks, drilled holes AND even body putty fixing edge chips. Most often these were anvils used as door stops and the owner had prettied them up but in one case several bad anvils were sold by a collector/dealer with paint hiding repairs and defects.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:17:33 EDT

Nip, you ought to try having my name! 9 out of 10 people will spell it "Allen" when responding to posts even though it's right there staring them in the face that it's "ALAN." oh, well.

Guru, that N&W stamp is probably worth quite a bit! I know I could use it on all the unmarked spike sledges I see around here to triple the value thereof. (grin!) Now if you just had an ET & WNC or even better a KCG&M we could make a fortune...
   Alan-L - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:18:44 EDT

Nip, The best thing that has come along in YEARS is the spell check in Firefox! Helps me tremendously.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:22:53 EDT


Uhhhh, I do believe that shold be spelled "amassed." (GRIN)

Dontcha just hate when that happens?
   vicopper - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:24:28 EDT

Very beginner:

The most commonly used regulator for propane forges is probably the "Red Hat" type sold by Larry Zoeller of Zoeller Forge and others. It is cheap and dependable. You can Google for Larry's contact info.

If you want the regulator for cutting/heating with an oxy/propane torch, then get a proper regulator from Victor or Smith through a welding supply company.
   vicopper - Thursday, 09/27/07 10:28:31 EDT

Norfolk and Western Stamp: Forgeries ARE a definite drawback with such a tool and I'd like to sell it to a collector that would revere it enough NOT to use it. If I was a forger I would just have a new punch made. . . Much less expensive.

My problem is I know little about RR memorabilia. But I am sure this thing is worth a bunch. It has a very short traceable provenance, me and the guy who had a contract to scrap out the majority of small tools and equipment of the Norfolk Southern foundry and blacksmith shops.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 11:03:43 EDT

My last propane regulator was one from an outdoor propane deep fryer. It had "escaped" from the fellows trailer and drug on the way to the fleamarket just wearing down the brass tank fitting. Bought the whole kit and kaboodle for US$2 and replaced the brass tank fitting with one from a discarded gas grill that had a large enough hole through it.

TGN I dislike mixing up Heel and Heal when discussing anvils; but as my spelling is bad I try not to throw stones.

Guru; don't forget the Shire book on Egyptian Metalworking for the "early" stuff. Didn't have a chance to hit the books last night or tonight, work peak due to colleagues from Europe over here.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/27/07 11:05:36 EDT

Nip, I think that people are ignorant and don't care. I would be happy If I could get the Chattanooga Times-Free Press to spell things right! This is just a symptom of the don't-care anything will do attitude that is destroying the good things in Our society!

I am surprised and dissapointed by the misuse of such simple homophones and near homophones as sight-site; brake-break; coal-cold; metal-medal-mettle; steel-steal; etc.

We should at least be able to use the worda that relate to our craft. A spell-checker won't pick up homophone errors, because bothe are words. Microsoft says they have a new spell checker that will pick out homophone errors, but that will just make people more lazy and ignorant.
   - John Odom - Thursday, 09/27/07 11:06:29 EDT

The Google toolbar also has a spellcheck feature, and you can use it with I.E. (I prefer Firefox, but I don't have the option of using it at work.) The Google toolbar also lets you store your favorites online, so you can access them from any computer. That might not seem like a big deal, and if you're a big privacy advocate it might even make your hackles stand up. But my hard drive recently crashed, which caused me to lose probably close to a hundred good blade/blacksmithing and other metal working links that I'd collected over the past 18 months or so. Ouch.
   Matt B - Thursday, 09/27/07 11:09:57 EDT

Matt, if things like that are important to you they can be backed up to something as small as a floppy disk. Usually my bookmarks are so full of trash that a crash is time to clean them out. . .

   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 12:38:25 EDT

Can you tell me the history of the moloch power hammer? When they were built,guility,and what a 50 pound hammer would be worth today. Thanks
   kenneth - Thursday, 09/27/07 12:41:38 EDT

I have a new "metalcraft" acetylene regulator that was in a box of stuff bought off ebay. what do I look for to see if it can be used with propane? I actually managed to find a website selling that brand regulators and they sold one as an LPG model....but thats not mine. is it a matter of a higher pressure guage for the regulated output?

I'm not worried about ruining the regulator.....just what else gets ruined if it goes boom.
   Rob Barnett - Thursday, 09/27/07 12:48:01 EDT

Spelling and Writing: John, That is what Aristotle said about righting, that the lack of memorizing would make the people lazy and ignorant. Anyone could pick up a book and read and not need to memorize. He also admonished that the written word could be distorted and misconstrued due to lack of emphasis and inflection in writing. . .

We have only had so called "standardized" spelling in English for less than 200 years and the way it came about was not by use of logic, rules or consensus. It was one man (Webster) saying THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE. The rest of us are just revolting against this dictatorial system.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 12:58:47 EDT

Rob, You need to contact the manufacturer and give them the model and or serial numbers.

As mentioned above the components in the regulator must be compatible chemically with the fuel gas. Some things react explosively with acetylene and many elastomers are effected by propane (they melt, disolve, harden, age. . .). The ONLY place you can get that information is the manufacturer.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 13:03:43 EDT

Kenneth, The Molloch was designed by the Meyer brothers the same people that established the Little Giant Power Hammer Company. They left the company for a while due to conflicts with partner/owner investors. They returned later. I do not know what they were guilty of other than designing a cheap yet popular power hammer.

The Molloch is very similar to an LG but the parts are not interchangable.

I have a Dodge mini-van. What is is worth? You hammer is worth exactly the same (anywhere from less than scrap to whatever someone is willing to pay).
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 13:09:27 EDT

Re;Care and feeding of anvil

Thank you for the quick and detailed answer.I studied the anvil selection guide on this fine site and removed the paint from the face and checked for rebound(rebound,heck it practically throws things at me) before forking over any money.I was wary of the "painted lady" but have been thus far pleasantly surprised.Nice flat face with very few dings and have not uncovered evidence of cracking or repairs.
Ok,don't want to waste too much of your time.Just wanted to make sure you knew that your efforts were appreciated.
   Marten R. - Thursday, 09/27/07 13:30:46 EDT

Prices and More Information: We hate to sound like a smart-ass but when people ask questions about evaluating something without any description of condition or location (which they do repeatedly), it sounds very stupid. In fact, it IS stupid.

What is the condition?

I've seen 50 year old machines still in the OEM crate with cosmolene on them. A rare prize. But most of these old machines have been run to death and repaired by red-necks (Hey Vern! watch how I arc weld this bolt instead of using a wrench!). They almost always have moving damage (dropped from a fork lift. . ) or major parts missing (many need VERY expensive low speed motors and everything else is a custom made part). Frames are often cracked and shafts worn through bearings and into the frame. . . Machines like this that have been supposedly "rebuilt" are often just fixed by Vern's cousin Shoeless Moe and given a coat of paint. What is the condition and WHO evaluated that condition? You? The seller? Or someone that knows the particular type of machine? If it has a motor is it 3PH? High Voltage?

Where is IT?

A machine on a factory floor where a a one million dollar liability policy and a Union card is required to get to it may cost more to move than what the machine is worth. So hopefully you have the insurance, are a member of the Union and are being PAID to remove the machine (Yes it happens and YES the insurance is real requirement many times).

A machine on the left coast may be worth much less to someone on the right coast due to shipping costs. A heavy machine in a small building (built around it) may be VERY expensive to move. And YES people DO build buildings around machines. A machine where only Union riggers are allowed to move anything may add significantly to your costs. A machine at the end of a mud road (or no road) may not be available to access for 6 months. Is there a bridge to cross????

What COUNTRY is it in? Most of these machines were sold in the US and are often quite rare in other countries. But if it is in Europe and you want it HERE????

This applies to everything from anvils and weld plattens to power hammers and milling machines, as well as automobiles.

FINALLY: We deal with working tools and equipment. SOME items are becoming collectors' items. This is an area that prices are totally bizarre and have nothing to do with any reality we know. We cannot help with collectibles.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 13:55:39 EDT

Didn't anyone else notice that the "misspelled" words Nip listed are real words, homonyms or near-homonyms of the intended word, for which spell check is no help.

I have heard it alleged that when the guy who developed the spell checker for Microsoft Word died a while back, they found his diary files chock full of words misspelled into real words. If he gets a biographer in a couple hundred years, making heads or tales of those will be a real challenge. . .

Like Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson used to say:"Proof, then post!"

Try as I might, every once in a while one of these things creeps into one of my writings. Just then "crepes" (as in very thin French pancakes) almost crept in rather than "creeps." No, I did not plan that!

Seems like Firefox may have finally cured the Great Guru of his habit of inserting an extra "h" in "warehouse."
   John Lowther - Thursday, 09/27/07 14:50:44 EDT

Spelling is only going to get worse as time goes by especially as text-messaging continues to gain in popularity. Math and spelling nowadays are akin to fast food...."Screw the content, just do it fast, give me a calculator or an acronym, or preferably, let someone else do the thinking"!! That plus a "My life is just so busy and important, I don't have time to sweat the details", attitude makes people who care a minority. The latter reason is probably why most people don't have time to proof read their words.
If I find anything out about RR smithing, I'll post it. For an accurate value on your touchmark, I'd Google train sites and clubs/collectors/appraisers or an auction house like Southerbys(sp), before going to ebay for a price estimate.
   Roland - Thursday, 09/27/07 14:57:50 EDT

I'm going to offer it to the local N&W RR history organization to start. I have an idea what a reasonable offer is on this. The trick is it's pretty unique
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 16:37:46 EDT

Railroad blacksmith car: If you do an eBay search on blacksmith car you will find a couple of kits for them. Rather makes sense when railroad lines were being built they would want to carry along the capability to sharpen tools, make repairs, etc. Heck, I wonder now many railroad spikes were turned into Indian trade knives as the UP went across the West.

What is considered to be the proper usage of the English language is only going to get worse. From what I can tell today it is not emphasized at all in middle and high school. If a student turns in a report it is reviewed for thought only. Maybe ten years ago I was visiting with a sister. Her daughter had left one of her reports on the kitchen table so I scanned it. Almost painful to read, yet she got a B+ on it. No wonder so many kids fail their first attempted at the freshman year in college.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Thursday, 09/27/07 17:43:06 EDT

U-Haul has a "high pressure" regulator on their website for $25. It looks like it should work for a forge. That's about as good a price as I've seen -- especially if you can find it at one of their local stores and save the shipping.

I find I've been having more trouble with homophones lately. I think it may because email and forums like this are more closer to a conversation than to a traditional written document, so I tend to pronounce the words in my head before writing them.

But it happens to everyone. I corrected a law professor once when he wrote "archaeolgical cite" on the blackboard.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 09/27/07 18:21:05 EDT

Well, at least I *spelled* "more closer" right. (grin)
   Mike BR - Thursday, 09/27/07 18:22:16 EDT

I retired as a high-school chemistry teacher four years ago. Several of our Englidh teachers had NEVER had a course in grammar! I graded only on the chemistry content of esaay questions, butI required the to student to rewrite and correct errors before I would accept the paper.

I used to tell kids that they were limited in opportunity by how well they used the language. I'm not sure that is still true, look at our president!
   - John Odom - Thursday, 09/27/07 19:30:09 EDT


English is a crappy language in terms of learning to spell. For example, in Nip's first sentence, one could add "meddle." Then, we have these many ways of pronouncing the vowel sounds, long "a" and short, as in "lake" and "cat". And these silent letters, as in night.
Why the "h" in why?

Then, there's pronunciation. A friend in England wanted some bitters in his drink, and he conveyed this to the bartender as "bidders", a typically American pronunciation. The bartender politely told him that it was pronounced "bitttahs". The English really know how to say THE "t".

The Americans really know how to say "r". There is a town in Australia called Cairn. The Aussies say, "Can".

I'm not making sport. I simply argue that we have quite an interesting language with which to deal.

Not to forget that many of us are "lysdexic" and have A.D.D.

   Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/27/07 19:37:18 EDT

I don't mean to nit pick, but it's Cairns, and it's pronounced Cans. And the real "Australian" language is called "Strine", not "English". Come down for a visit, and you will see what I mean!
   Craig - Thursday, 09/27/07 20:47:55 EDT

On spelling...
I was taught in high school that we use a ball "pein" hammer, yet it seems to me that it is a ball "peen" to many others. I'm so confused about it, that half the time I speel it one way, then the other in the same piece of writing.
   Craig - Thursday, 09/27/07 21:22:53 EDT

John O: Language, grammer & spelling didn't mean much in Pres. Andrew Jackson "It's a damn poor mind indeed which can't think of at least two ways to spell any word" day either.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 09/27/07 21:30:12 EDT

I was amused that in my post to Nip where I gigged him for misspelling a word, I had a typo of my own. I hate it when that happens! (grin)

The importance of proper spelling and grammar is often underrated in our society, but Professor Higgins is still correct. One is judged on such things, whether consciously or unconsciously. I am fortunate that I have a pretty fair facility for the English language. My brother, who is far and away smarter than I, has terrible spelling. He usually has me proofread his work for spelling errors as he doesn't trust Microsoft's flawed spell checker any further than I do. Conversely, I have him check my writing for grammatical errors, as I am prone to splitting infinitives and leaving participles to dangle embarassingly.

The worst abuses of the English language I see seem to occur in our local newspaper's classified advertising. Many of them would merit collecting.

My biggest difficulty is having "dyslexic" fingers; when I type, I often transpose letters from left to right hand keys. Spell check is useless as it thinks (rightly) that "form" is a word, but I really meant "from." I would be happy to delete form from it's dictionary, but it won't let me delete words, only add them.

Blacksmithing content:

I forged a dandy snarling iron today to repair a copper vessel I picked up at QuadState and the TSA goofs damaged. The repair was completely successful, I'm pleased to report.

   vicopper - Thursday, 09/27/07 21:37:06 EDT

Hi I am an ameture what ever you want to call me an i wanted to know if there was anything else i could use besides boraxo laundry soap to forge weld or wear i would find boraxo laundry soap at anything helps thanks
   Denny - Thursday, 09/27/07 22:09:05 EDT

Ive found an anvil for sale and im looking to get some other people opinion on it. Im not sure how old it is , but it seems to be a nice anvil, its a Soderford. any info on it would be nice, tx
   jwhite - Thursday, 09/27/07 22:28:29 EDT

Borax: Denny it is found with the bleach near laundry detergents in many larger U.S. grocery stores. It is listed as a detergent "booster". Wearing it is not recommended.

Sölderfors Anvils: These are a good old Swedish make anvil. Early ones were forged and later ones cast steel.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 22:37:40 EDT

Writing: I never planned to make a living writing. I suspect most of us did not. I wrote as little as possible in school. Then suddenly PC's became THE writing tool. Prior to the 80's the most I had written were love letters to my wife to be. I wrote at least a novel's worth long hand over a period of a couple years, then nothing for about a decade. In the early 80's most of my writing was machine operating instructions that were typed by someone else. Then about 1984 I got a PC at home and at work, The amount of writing I did increased but was not a large part of my day. I spent more time in the intervening years learning to use a PC for CAD, programming and graphics. I did a bit of letter writing during that time but not a great deal.

Since launching anvilfire my days are filled with more and more writing. I did a bunch or research to write a book before launching anvilfire but it was going to be primarily CAD drawings and tables of dimensions. Lots of research and compiling of data with little writing. I suspect the proposal to write the book would have more full paragraphs than the rather lengthly book. . .

Since anvilfire my days have been filled with more and more writing. Some days I type from dawn to well past dusk answering questions and letters and responding to questions. I can ALMOST type without looking at the keys. . . Spell checking is a real boon. Although I still do not spell well I HAVE learned to spell much better. However, this has been slowed greatly by writing primarily in this forum without spell check or the usual word processor tools.

I honestly believe that a good word processor with instant spell check, a thesaurus and grammar checking is a good learning tool IF you use one enough. Eventually you get tired of making the same mistakes over and over and learn from the machine. Where is the difference between the PC redlining your mistakes and an instructor doing it for you? When a grammar checker tells you that you need to change to an active voice rather than a passive voice and you have to figure out the difference you DO learn the difference. However, when the machine tells me my sentences are too long for a average yaahoo I tell it to pound salt. I refuse to write to a so-called 8th grade level that is REALLY a 4th grade level. People used to be ready for the REAL WORLD after the 8th grade. Being able to read a compound sentence is part of surviving in a technical world.

But as I noted, most of my writing is not done in a word processor. It is done in input boxes and programming tools that check code not linguistics. People can decipher ". . they were built,guility,and. ." to ". .they were built, QUALITY, and. . ". But a machine will generally crash. Was the word guilty or quality? It was MUCH more close to guilty. But I (we) should not have to guess at the meaning either.

Peen OR Pien (Pein): My spell check and google says peen is correct, however, many authors do not use this spelling. In Metal Working, by Paul N. Hasluck, 1907 he uses "pene" for the back sides of hammers. In Metal Techniques for Craftsmen, Oppi Untracht, 1968 uses "pein" and give alternate spellings of "peen" and "pane" but in editing the index "peen (pein)" is used with the second as alternate. In The Art of Blacksmithing Alex Bealer, 1969 uses "pein". Note that both these common and authoritative uses break the rule of I before E except after C. My 1916 Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language gives "peen" with "pen, pinne and pane" as alternate derivatives. The Oxford English Dictionary gives "Pien" as an obsolete form of pane and pain. Under Peen it gives alternates of pene and pean, derived from the Norse, meaning to beat and draw out thin (related to metal working).

Piene, is an old word meaning a type of punishment where weights were piled on a prisoner until it created great pain. A form of torture.

SO, despite the I before E rule the following are correct in this order, Peen, Pein, Pene, and sometimes the archaic Pane. However, given you pile enough ball pein and straight peen and cross pene hammers on someone then you have piene AND pain.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/27/07 22:44:22 EDT

I'm a newbee at blacksmithing. I have a forge, anvil and some tools available to me. I want to make some punches and want to temper them. I only have water available to me at this time. How long do I quench it in water, etc? Can any help? Do I need to temper them?
   Dave - Thursday, 09/27/07 23:32:53 EDT

To day I was at the house of a fellow I work for. Well. actually its his parents house, they have past away and he lives in another town. On occasion he comes down to check on the place. Anyways, after I finished some work I was walking back to the house when I decided to take a look around in one of the old sheds. When I finally got inside I found alot of old stuff. What really spark my eye was an old anvil in exellent condition. After looking closely I noticed it was an old Mouse Hole. I think It weights about one hundred pounds and had a small hardie hole with an indented lower area at the coner with a pitchel hole. Close by was a very large bellow. The kind you pull a rope and pully system to raise and then let go to force the air in. It was three feet in diameter. Could some one tell me what I might be looking at and possible a age on this stuff? thanks
   troy - Thursday, 09/27/07 23:38:42 EDT

Dave, See our Heat Treating FAQ, our Quenchants FAQ and our Junk Yard Steels FAQ. You should also pickup one or more of the books on blacksmithing.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 00:04:06 EDT

Troy, The anvil could have been made as late as the 1920's and the bellows as well. However, they are most likely turn of the century (about 1890 to 1910). Factory bellows were available until after WWII.

The anvil has value as a tool but the bellows leather will have dried and gotten too stiff to use. Generally releathering and old bellows is almost as expensive as building new. Leave them for a collector.

Note that while many illustrations show bellows operated with a rope just as many show levers. Lever operation is much more convenient.

There are probably other tools, hammer, tongs, vice(s).
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 00:13:29 EDT

Just acquired my first coal forge (I've used the gas variety while simulating a farrier)...a pre-WWI cast-iron Champion that measures a bit less than four feet square. After I set her up under the cover of a well-ventilated shed I noticed the words "Do Not Use Before Claying" cast in the pan. Now, I can imagine a lot of good reasons for not putting a layer of brick or clay in this pan (moisture collection, weight, etc.), but I can also think of several good reasons for doing it. The forge is going to remain in place, so portability/weight isn't all that important. The pan is mighty thick and heavy, and spent much of it's last 90-odd years essentially outside on an Idaho ranch....the condition of the fireplace/pan is pretty good in my humble opinion.
So....since my degree of experience with this particular issue is limited, I thought it would be wise to ask the Guru or any other folkks with two-cents worth to go ahead an pitch in. Any comments or opinions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks much, Stumpy
   Stumpy - Friday, 09/28/07 02:15:40 EDT

All language is infinitely variable and aggrivating to boot!. I dont mind occasional mispelling or off grammer so long as ones thoughts are well presented, I do pretty good myself for casual chatter but for something formal I usually need someone else to look at it first.

I really dislike the deliberate crap abbreviation & jargon common of text messages when presented outside of textmessaging.

History repeats itself, Telegraph messages were all acronyms and codes because every digit of a message cost money.
There were codebooks with common phrase segments assigned just a couple digits to create entire flowing text using minimal transmitted digits as possible.
The sender and reciever would create and decode their own messages and could be as elaborate (and thrifty) as they wanted.

Going further off the Smithing topic...
One could pay extra the telegraph operator would do the coding & decoding with a standardised company code at a lesser cost than if the message were sent as full text.
Even if someone were to pay full price for full text transmission, the telegraph operators may code & decode the message anyway simply to reduce traffic on the busy wires, And pocketing the difference. An operators time was cheaper than the extra traffic on the wires and depending how big/busy the office was, an operator may have a lot of idle time anyway before their alloted time segment to send & receive messages.

Bear with me, I am really going off here...
Lots of old catalogues had telegraph code words to describe products for these reasons. One might see it in our old machinery catalogues and wonder what its all about.
Electrical line industry still use alot of telegraph code words in a slang context to describe products or devices.

And back to Smithing,,,
I was taught (in english anyway)Pien is the backside of a hammer, but the act of using the back of the hammer was to peen. "I peened a rivet with my ballpein".
Then to throw more conflict to my damaged mind,,
To directly translate from my Swedish, I would "backhammer" a rivet...
   - Sven - Friday, 09/28/07 03:04:44 EDT

Ooops! Finally managed to get the computer to do it's thing properly and accessed the FAQ regarding the subject of my earlier post concerning "claying." I'd still like to hear any additional comments regarding the topic, pro or con.
Thanks again
   Stumpy - Friday, 09/28/07 03:24:31 EDT

Now for a metalwork question,

I have been given a basketcase Airstream Trailer, Pretty much gutted out, but its a very nice shell with lots of extras But including one horizontal dent in the radiused front corner about 14" long that looks like something flat & straight (think the edge of a plywood sheet)was simply pressed into the sheetmetal. there is the 14" crease along with a sharper but shorter (about 6") vertical creases where the ends of the horizontal crease start and end.
I dont expect to get it to showroom condition, But want as smooth a repair as feasable. I have to remove a front window so I can reach to both sides of the dent.
Its being left as aluminum finish, no filler putty here...

I think the bulk of the dent can be simply pushed back out.
What would the better sequence be for hammering out the creases?
Would one begin just opposite of the denting sequence?
Begin at the ends of the main crease and work toward the middle.
Or Start in the middle and work outward?

Off to dress& polish some of my light hammers...
   - Sven - Friday, 09/28/07 04:39:29 EDT

Body Work, Aluminium: Sven, You need to use two tools, a relatively light body hammer (looks like a medium arc planishing hammer) and a heavier backup or bucking hammer (I use a 3 to 4 pound smithing hammer with well rounded edges). You buck from the back and work around the edges of the dent using many light blows with the body hammer. If the dent is deep you start from the back without a bucking hammer but do not level completely.

The reason for working from the edges in and not leveling from the back is the metal is stretched. As you flatten it you also need to be upsetting it back to its original thickness or greater. The process is a lot like raising and requires some directional "pull" of the hammer. As you get to a smooth surface the buck is ideally a fitted piece. They sell tools called dollies with various shapes for this process. However, you often need the weight and handle of the heavier hammer for this purpose. They also make a gently curved slapping tool from flat bar (an old leaf spring forged or ground hemispherical for working from the back.

Use many light pulling to upset blows to prevent stretching and you should be able to dress it out smooth. If the dent is not too deep you will not need to anneal as this is already annealed high grade aircraft skin aluminium.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 08:17:30 EDT

Troy: On the age of the Mouse Hole the style changed little from the early to late 1800s. What did change was the logo as the forge went through various ownerships. If you can give us what the exact logo (stampings) is we can give you approximate year of manufacture.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Friday, 09/28/07 08:19:51 EDT

More Peen Pain: An Internet search showed dozens of sellers of hammers using "pien" following the I before E rule. Oddly enough this may be partly MY fault as I have always used pien. This includes on others' web catalog pages.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 08:43:20 EDT

I have one of the small imported bandsaws 62.5", that the blade pops off on a regular basis. The guides all seem lined up. All 6 rollers are moving. The adjustable pulley has slop in the guides. It makes a lot of different noises,(it's old) more when cutting hard. It always pops off the drive pulley. I am cutting 3/4 square, lengthwise for Fredreich crosses. I am not making swords. I don't use spellcheck. Any sugestions would be appreciated. Thanks
   Steve Paullin - Friday, 09/28/07 09:10:59 EDT

I was cleaning out my overcrowded basement last night and came across a set of books entitled "Modern Shop Practice" published by the American Technical Society and edited by Howard Monroe Raymond. There are seven volumes, 1930 edition. The list of contributing authors seems like a very competent bunch, judging from their bios. They belonged to my father, but I have so many of his things that I've never gotten around to looking at some of it, and I hadn't really looked at these books until last night. There are volumes on metallurgy, machine drawing, foundry operations, welding, pattern making, tool making, forging, and lots of other good stuff. Anyone here familiar with these books? They seem like a potential treasure trove -- right in my own basement, no less.
   Matt B - Friday, 09/28/07 09:24:49 EDT

Oops. I mean, "I've never gotten around to looking at some of *them.*" All this talk about grammar (that's grammAr, folks, with an "a", not grammEr) is making me self-conscious.
   Matt B - Friday, 09/28/07 09:33:05 EDT

Matt, You never know where you will find a treasure.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 10:13:25 EDT

Saw Troubles: Steve, That upper wheel runs on ball bearings and should not make any noise. The wheels on these saws should not have a slope. They DO have a chamfer machined on the outer edge to clear the set in the saw teeth. The back has a shoulder with a very small relief into the diameter. If the wheel has become conical then it will need to be machined true OR replaced. You could probably take .010 to .020" off these wheels and still have them work (IF there is enough metal).

The upper wheel SHOULD have a tracking adjustment so that its tilt can be adjusted in and out. On this type saw there should be no tilt, the wheel should just be absolutely "coplanar" (on the same plane) as the lower wheel when there is tension on the blade. The tension twists the frame so that the coplanar adjustment must be checked with tension on the blade.

First check the upper bearings. With the blade off spin the upper wheel. It should make no noise, no wobble and be tight as ball bearings should be. Replace the bearings if any noise, vibration or wear is detected. Also check that the shaft is tight and does not rattle around. If the shaft is loose the coplanar adjustment screws are loose (or something else in the slide assembly).

NOTE: Some of the cheapest saws do not have all the necessary adjustments. IF so, you may not be able to fix the saw OR you will need to add the adjustments.

The coplanar adjustment is two setscrews in the upper tension block slide. One above the shaft, one below. Both must be adjusted one letting the other move, the two locking the shaft so that it does not rattle.

Install a NEW blade. Tension lightly. Adjust the coplanar adjustment while turning the saw by hand until you see a slight gap between the blade and the wheel shoulder then adjust back to close the gap. Increase the blade tension and adjust the tracking again. You MAY need to adjust the tracking while the saw runs, do so carefully.

Often on the cheaper versions of these saws (they are made in dozens of little family shops) the parts fit poorly and different items have been left off. However, if the saw worked once, you SHOULD be able to make it work again. The upper blade adjustment parts are simple and you should be able to make new parts, shim and modify if necessary. The best of these are rather primitive but are fully adjustable and can be made snug and track properly.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 10:38:57 EDT

Replaced Parts: The original 4x6 bandsaw was made for and sold by Ridgid Tools in the 1960's. I have one and it is a very nice tool. It is not perfect and adjustments CAN be frustrating. However, it has a plethora of adjustments and much heavier guide bearings than the cheap Taiwan imports. It cost over $600 US in the 70's when they stopped making it in the face of the junk imports. Where the Ridgid saw has 1.5" diameter sealed guide bearings I have seen little .625" plastic cam rollers as replacements on the imports. . .

Here is an example of design down grades on a vice:

The parts on the left are replacements I made that were similar to the original Record vice parts. My dogs are larger due to a modification I made and are essentially the same dimensions as the Chinese parts except in length. The original Chinese thumb screws on the right are made from zinc wing nuts glued to set screws. There were no washers. A similar thing was done on the vise handle. Rather than forged on ball ends the handles have little blocks of steel held on with socket head cap screws. These were working loose before I had completed mounting the vices on my workbench. These are the annoying, low durability, product life shortening little things you get from "cheaper goods". When I get mad enough at the cheap handles I will replace them as well.

Similar vices made from the same basic parts (probably in the same village in China) are made with nice wooden handles which require a T shaped fitting like a pipe fitting on the end of the screw. I suspect the part IS a pipe fitting or a pipe fitting casting. These vices with this one difference sell for considerably more than the ones I bought. In one catalog they were twice the price!

In some cases we still have a choice to pay more and get a better product. However, as the market is dominated more and more by cheap imports these choices are rapidly evaporating. The cheap goods that the idiots in congress and the White House THINK are good for the American economy are cheap short life products that need to be replaced more often with the only benefit going to the makers and importers, NOT the consumer. This includes everything from cameras, shoes, textbooks and clothing to tools.

You can put the blame where you will but when your next door neighbor makes the Craftsman tools you buy they take pride in producing a better product AND YOU enjoy supporting your neighbor (and hopefully he does the same for you). When the tools made are sold ONLY to some distant consumers that are thought to be rich and stupid (will buy anything) the only thought is the bottom line. Lead paint? Who cares if it makes children retarded? Can they get any dumber than their parents that only care to buy the cheapest possible goods?
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 11:39:25 EDT

Craig; don't lure Frank away from us; seems like he just got back from an extended trip to Australia where he was teaching a class!

Bif cast iron forge---note if it's been out in the weather a long time heating it can sometimes produce cracking due to thermal stresses. One thing clay does for these large forges is to cut down on the ammount of fuel you pour into them. For mine I just dug some creek clay and clayed up a trough from side to side through the firepot region. Now I can have a nice big fire without filling the bed off to the sides.

DO Not Use BORAXO Laundry Soap! Use 20 Muel Team Borax; you and the metal do not need the laundry soap, the metal does need the borax.

   Thomas P - Friday, 09/28/07 12:16:49 EDT

Vicopper-- Beautiful job on the copper work!!
Big Old Bellows-- they fetch absolutely amazing prices when turned into coffee tables-- don't let a decorator see it!!
   Miles Undercut - Friday, 09/28/07 13:25:08 EDT

I am looking at a Mouse Hole anvil. It is 135 pounds. It has "M&H Armitage Mouse Hole" stamped on the side. Do you know how they were making their anvils in the early-mid 1800's at Mouse Hole Forge? I am trying to determine if this has a welded-on face or if it is one solid peice or if it is several peices forge-welded together. There is a chip or chunk about 1/2 inch deep, and about 1X1 inches square (but its irregular) out of the face at the heel. Other than being a bit irritating to work around, is that chip going to cause me any grief?
   Aaron - Friday, 09/28/07 13:37:47 EDT

Aaron, ALL Mousehole forge anvils were made of scrap wrought iron and welded on steel face. The faces are often several pieces of steel forge welded together. The Armitage period anvils were some of the best they made. The piece broken off the heel is a piece of the face.

The chip is not going to be a problem in general. Due to being out on the heel where little heavy work is done it would not be too risky to repair. I would take a little piece of something like 4140 and weld it into place using E7024 rod. Note that the wrought iron is NOT going to like being arc welded and much will blow out. However, after some build up it will take and you can fill the gaps. Do not try to weld along the sides any further than absolutely necessary. Preheating will reduce stress and possible damage to the rest of the face. Do not try to harden.
   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 13:58:48 EDT

Im thinking of making a Kinyon style hammer but was thinking about making it smaller, about thirty pounds, similiar to the ones on zoellerforge, to run off a 3hp compressor, has anyone used one like this? what could this hammer realisticaly handle?
   steve t - Friday, 09/28/07 14:06:11 EDT

This morning I was reading a H.P.Lovecraft short story at the breakfast table and was amazed at the use of language in it. It was written to sell to cheap 'pulp" magazines yet was chock full of 5 syllable words and extended metaphors. I eneded up reading parts of it to my wife and we agreed that my Daughter who loved E.A.Poe might really enjoy it.

This was a cheap "throwaway" story; not a piece of literature, yet the writing was better than most of today's best sellers I have read under protest. The big difference is that it was written before television and people were expected to *read*!

Perhaps this thread should follow the mice over to the hammer-in?

   Thomas P - Friday, 09/28/07 14:29:26 EDT

Power Hammer Size: Steve, There is a simple rule of thumb for hammer sizing, For efficient forging you need a MINIMUM of 50 pounds per square inch cross section of mild steel and 75 pounds per square inch of cross section for tool and alloy steel. That means that 30 pounds is good for 3/5 of a square inch. Math time. .

3/5 = .60sqin. = .775 x .775 or about 3/4" square.

However, everything is NOT so simple. Those are industrial forging values that are normally applied to much larger forgings that hold their heat for a long time. My experience has been that these numbers should be double or 100 pounds per square in mild steel and 150 for tool and alloy steel. Those values would give you:

3/10 = .30sqin. = .54 x .54 inches.

SO a 30 pound hammer can forge 3/4" stock but will handle 1/2" and 9/16" much better. YOU CAN forge 1" in it but it will take a couple heats to draw a point. However, it can do this all day while you probably cannot.

TWO important things. The smaller the hammer AND the smaller the work the faster it needs to move. The shuttle valve switching on this style air hammer does not develop nearly the rapidity of blows necessary to do efficient work (thus the 1/2" rating instead of 3/4").

The second thing is that the Kinyon plans completely ignore the fact that for efficiency you need REAL ANVIL MASS, not a hollow tube with a cap on it. For top efficiency your 30 pound hammer will need a 450 pound or greater anvil. Note that the frame does not count unless it is massively connected like the Phoenix.

LAST, Many people ignore power hammer die design. Flat dies are fine for big industrial hammers and the old round drawing dies for crude drawing but the combo and crown dies used by Big BLU are absolutely the BEST in the business. They are the best development to date for artist blacksmith forging and are far in advance of the dies sold by anyone else. When you go to make dies for your hammer STUDY these dies and the many photos in our news and the Power Hammer School page of what they can produce, usually in ONE HEAT. They will make a world of difference on your small hammer.

   - guru - Friday, 09/28/07 15:10:47 EDT

Lovecraft & reading levels: I believe that in the nineteen-teens and twenties (when Lovecraft was active) the intellect of middle class Americans may have been at it's zenith. While many still didn't have much formal education, they could read well and understand what they read. Indeed, there were many successful businessmen who went all the way through the sixth grade, and learned the necessary skills on the job and from books.

My grandfather was one of 'em: He was the general manager of a major mining operation with a sixth grade education. He tutored my aunts in high-school physics too, a course he never had, but he understood and used the concepts on a regular basis.

Almost any mechanical or civil engineering book from those days is a treasure trove: It will actually tell you what you need to know to do to build a boiler or bridge or what ever their subject is without a professor to explain what they mean. Likewise, I'm told that popular editions of piano works from that era were far more challenging than any time before or since.

When my friend Dr. K. was teaching "Administration of Justice," he wrote a book for a graduate course on forensic photography. The publisher rejected it 'cause the computer rated it as being written to a 12th grade reading level. They demanded he re-write it to get the reading level down to the fourth grade level. He just couldn't figure out a way to get the concepts dumbed down to fit in a fourth-grade vocabulary.
   John Lowther - Friday, 09/28/07 18:19:52 EDT

Thanks for the compliment, Miles! It was a good project for a couple of hours on an otherwise lazy afternoon, and the piece was saved. My brother and sister-in-law were very happy to receive it as a housewarming present. Best part is, I get to keep the nice snarling iron. (grin)
   vicopper - Friday, 09/28/07 20:22:40 EDT

All I can make out on the Mouse Hole anvil is a word I can't read, then the word FACE, then it says
Mouse Hole Forge and somethings else I can't read at all.
The fainted word next to the word face is all thats unusual.

----- Face
Mouse Hole
-- -- 14
   troy - Friday, 09/28/07 20:34:27 EDT

Curved Panels. Thanks for the advice Jock. I was hoping for some inspiration to get out of perspiration but bending a round a form worked. (that and judicious tweaking when assembled) And I do have a bandsaw and some woodworking skill. I "apprenticed" in the craft industry as a wood worker, and my mentor happened in my shop today, (he now lives 1,600 km away) as I was judiciously tweaking a scroll into place and I used the opportunity to tease him about how easy it is to work metal, if it doesn't fit, just hit it till it does.
   JimG - Friday, 09/28/07 20:40:39 EDT

Steve Paullin: Be sure the blade is tight enough, if it slips at all on the drive wheel it will pop right off. Periodically I hold a snall pionted stick against the wheels to remove leaked out oil and crud that gets on them, this seems to help.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 09/28/07 21:47:02 EDT

vicopper-- fine how-to, too! One question springs to mind, though: how does one get the snarling iron to vibrating so as to bump up from within, and hold the work and hold the dolly? Or am I totally misunderstanding, as usual?
Lovecraft-- his The Great God Pan is one of the spookiest stories ever scriven!!

   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/29/07 00:03:34 EDT

I have a design for a set of andirons that I want to make but I'm not sure what kind of steel to use for the tail of them where the logs will actually sit. Is three quarter inch mild steel tough enough for this application or should I look for something else?

   Will - Saturday, 09/29/07 00:24:39 EDT

Airstrean body update.
Thanks Jock for the advice on panelbeating. I managed to get the dent and creases smoothed out very well. Its not 100% perfect as there are faint lines still visible, they could probably be sanded out and buffed, But then I would have to take on the entire trailer body that I am NOT going to do.
Understanding the sequence of creation of the dent and working in reverse is the key.
Its sort of counterintuitave as one wants to start with the highest point and pound it down first, when one should start where the denting sequence stopped and work backwards to where the dent started.
   - Sven - Saturday, 09/29/07 03:14:30 EDT

Troy: Logo likely read:


Would date anvil 1854-1875. Around 1820 Morgan and Henry Armitage bought out their partner Cockshutt. Anvils were then marked as M&H ARMITAGE MOUSE HOLE. About 1835 Morgan died with the forge going to Henry. He replaced M&H with HENRY. About 1854 Henry died leaving the forge to him minor children. The forge was operated by a caretaker arrangements for them and logo reverted back to M&H with the addition of FORGE. When Richard Postman wrote Anvil in America he was unaware of the HENRY logo. It is included in his book MOUSEHOLE FORGE.

You can easily get stone weight from scale weight. Divided scale weight by 112, divide remainder by 28 and you should end up with about 14 left. Example, a 154 pound anvil would have been something like 1 . 1 . 14.

Almost all Mousehole Forge anvils are identifiable by the dots between the stone weight numbers. My neighbor has one on which only the two dots remain of the logo.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 09/29/07 07:44:33 EDT

30lb hammer,

I would have thought that lb of ram weight is not indicative of the stock sizes that can be forged as jock has mentioned above.

The (potential) forging energy available is a very differnt thing to ram weight, since (in simple terms energy is mass x velocity squared), the energy of hammers is usually stated as 'ftlbs or KgM' (foot pounds or kilogram meters), which whist not technically measures of energy are good for comparison purposes (you can convert these values to Kj or newtonmeters of your so inclined)

you need to also cosider the 'elasticty' of the blow (light flighty blows or more static blows with a small dwell), blows per min, air pressures / exhaust speeds etc.

One of the key points to cosider is the area of metal being hit (you can massivly increase the energy to a specific point on the work by using fullering / drawing dies, the same as drawing out on an anvil)

On the 33lb anyang hammer I can comfortably draw a taper / point on a piece of 1 1/4" square in one heat, and work bigger stock with more aggresive dies.

Your mileage may vary !
   John N - Saturday, 09/29/07 09:06:23 EDT


The vessel is placed over the snarling iron, with the dent resting on the "knob" of the iron. Then the iron is struck downward with a hammer, about 4-5" (for this particualr iron - each varies) from the bend at the base. This, in turn, causes the end of the iron to flex downward, then snap up and whack the dent, pushing it out.

Since the ball on the iron has relatively low mass, it is necessary to get a good velocity on it for it to be effective. This is the reason that a snarling ironwith a properly tapered shaft work better than just a piece of round bar bent to shape. Much the same way a properly tapered fly rod develops a high tip speed to cast a fly effectively. Of course, as with raising and planishing, the trick is to know exactly where the ball on the iron is located, so you don't put bumps all over the pot where you don't want them. For those who are interested, I have a solution to this problem that is nearly as handy as having X-ray vision.

If your stakeholder is very securely mounted, so that the stake stays in exactly the same spot all the time, it is simple enough to rig a "target projector" to locate the exact point you should be hitting. Just mount a small, low-power laser pointer on the ceiling so that you can beam a spot on the contact point of the stake. Then, when the metal is between the stake and the hammer, the spot from the laser is exactly where you want to hit. It changes the raising, planishing, snarling process from a hit-n-miss, trial-and-error process to one more like precision surgery. I really wish I'd thought of this thirty-five years ago when I was just starting out - what a difference it would have made on those first pieces!

No dolly is used in the snarling process. The dolly is used later, to back up from inside while bouging and planishing the outer surface smooth.

Hope this helps. Sorry I can't post pictures to make this more understandable.
   vicopper - Saturday, 09/29/07 09:14:21 EDT


I would suggest you use something heavier than 3/4" for the andiron legs. A pile of firewood gets heavy, and they do get hot. Most that I have seen are more on the order of 1" to 1-1/4" square bar. Cast iron tolerates the heat and weight better than mild steel, so old cast ones are sometimes smaller. For forged though, I'd go heavier.
   vicopper - Saturday, 09/29/07 09:18:47 EDT

Hammer Ratings: John, Quite a long time ago most of the hammer industry quit trying to rate hammers in energy due to the many complexities of measuring the actual velocity of the blow. AND, for the last century manufacturers fudged quite a bit on their hammer's mass rating to make it SEEM like they were getting more bang per pound while in fact they were using more pounds.

In all hammers other than pure drops the mechanism (mechanical, steam, air) starts reversing the motion of travel before it strikes the work. Due to this the velocity, which is constantly accelerating and decelerating is difficult to determine and varies with the height of the work as well.

While some manufacturers do give energy ratings on their hammers just TRY to find out how they determined the velocity at the moment of contact and was it accelerating (pushing) or decelerating (pulling back). . . In the case of Chinese hammers is that when running at 50hz or 60Hz?

I could never make the Chinese numbers and the Chambersburg numbers agree on the same size and type of hammer. Neither made sense. Both pulling critical values from the thin air.

I commented above that the shuttle valve hammers do not cycle as fast as others (such as self contained hammers). So your 33 pound hammer (IF that is actually what it is) will hit harder and the fact that its blows are closer together it makes better use of the heat. Mechanical hammers run even faster for a given size and will do even more work.

At one time a testing method was devised where a lead plug of a standard size was struck and the amount of deformation used to rate the hammer. Logically it is a very good test EXCEPT for the practicalities. . . First, only single blow drops and steam hammers give their hardest blow in one single action. Other hammers must be accelerated up and are striking too many blows at full power to get the sample in and out in ONE hard blow. Then there was the range of hammers tested resulting in the need to use different size test specimens and the comparison was no longer linear.

SO, the American industry, where at one time there was more variety of hammers than anywhere in the world, gave up on trying to rate these machines by energy and simply went to ram weight. While it is not reflective of the actual energy put into the work it is better than phony numbers that can not be reconciled from one manufacture to another even when talking about the same mechanical arrangement.

Probably the only true measure would be to do it like measuring horsepower. Take a cold sample of mild steel of a given mass and hammer on it for a given time with flat dies then measure the increase in temperature. All these variables do not need to be constant nor measured in the same units and yet they can all be normalized mathematically to give a true comparison between forging machines. Rules would have to be developed for the measurements of time and techniques for the temperature increase but the results would be far more accurate than flattening lead cylinders or the current fuzzy math.

   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 11:12:56 EDT

Andiron Stock Size: This varies from 1/2" square to lengths of 120 pound RR rail. The variables are the size of the fireplace and andirons themselves and if a grate is used with the andirons. In many cases the andirons only support themselves and are decorative OR simply a guard for larger pieces of firewood. Some andirons were also supports for cooking utensils.

SO, you need to make the irons as part of a system OR simply proportionate to their size. I prefer 1" square for the log support and if you know it is going to be used for large fires put a middle support leg under it. This can be a tad short so the irons do not rock, then when hot and overloaded it will contact the hearth floor and stop the sag. Afterward it might need straightening but not a great deal.

I also like to make grates as part of the andirons. Rectangular bars on edge support more weight for a given cross section then does square. They just need to be supported to prevent twisting.

I've seen and repaired very old Colonial brass andirons that only had a 1/2" support leg. But I've also worked on large grates that even though they took two men to move they ended up sagging to the hearth floor. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 11:27:02 EDT

Not to be argumentitive but- I've got a home built air hammer loosely based on the Kinyon plans. I never bothered to clock it myself but Rich Waugh (Vicopper) did when he was up here in February. Flat out die to die with all the valves wide open it does about 380 blows per minute according to his timing. With hot steel in between (no bounce) it slows down to about 240 -260 wide open. This hammer has a 90 pound ram and it's way too fast at that speed for general forging. Shuttle valve hammers can run quite fast if you think the process through and use the right components though most do not. I throttle it back for general use but even when set wide open it will strike a reliable single blow. Without control the speed is useless. I'm running 2 1/2 by 4 flats in it.
   - SGensh - Saturday, 09/29/07 12:55:40 EDT

Hello, I will get to the point, not sure if this is appropriate question for this site but I dont see why not. Anyway I have a 1929 Dodge Bros that I have been looking for a correct rear bumper for over the last few years. The particular style that my car originally had cannot be found so recently I have been lucky enough to purchase a rear bumper that may have been from a 31 Dodge or possibly Chrylser anyway there are three bars that make up these bumpers, two what I call bumper bars and the one support bar that ties everything together and attaches it all to the frame. At this point I have aquired an accurate tracing of the shape of what the bars are supposed to look like for my car and the bars that I have recently aquired are not the same. I would like to have any suggestions on making the bar that I have aquired which by the way is 3/8 thick spring steel into the EXACT same form that I have on tracing. I do not see how to post a pict. of what I have on this forum to clarify what I am after so I hope I am clear. I do have access to mig welders, cutting torches with small rosebud tips, cutting utensils ect. I have virtually no blacksmithing experience but I am in the autobody buisness and have been straightening wrecked autos for years. I have no intention of becoming a blacksmith and would use whatever may be learned here only at spuratic points in my life, I would like to do what I am after with the least amount of out of pocket expense as possible. I figure there has to be a way either my making a jig of some type that is the same curvature of what I have and bending what I have to fit this or something else along those lines. Thanks for any response
   Jason Anderson - Saturday, 09/29/07 12:56:50 EDT

I have some mild round steel stock available to me. Can I make punches out of this and do I need to harden the tips, or quench them in any way. Any suggestion on length of punches. I have 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch stock.
   Dave - Saturday, 09/29/07 13:26:36 EDT

not wishing to be argumentative but in 'self contained' type hammers the point that the ram changes direction is infinate, as the treadle is depressed the ram starts to oscillate, lower and lower as the tredle is depressed more, untill at full work the point of direction change is (theoretically) past the work piece.

I have all of the equipment to measure the ram velocity on a hammer ( we call it a UV recorder, but i dont know what that stands for!), which then makes it easy to calculate the actual energy as the ram weight is constant, this equipment (from the late 70's) is the last evolution of equipment that has been used for the past 100 years.

It comprises a spring loaded wire (like a pocket lanyard) which attaches to the ram, and a paper chart recorder that traces at a given paper speed ( a bit like the lie detector machines in the movies !)

the angle of the line on the graph is measured off and used to calculate the velocity, and thus energy.

every single air hammer Massey made was tested this way, probably over 10,000 air hammers. im not an expert myself but would be supprised if all of the very skilled engineers were wrong for so many years!

Each Massey hammer has a machine construciton file with its 'graph' in, infact they look a little like an ECG trace.

If its of interest I can scan and send a sample trace. (they have the calcs written on each one)

All of my catalogues for Chambersburg (then CECO), Erie, Nazel etc use ft lbs as their size rating ( well ram weight as nominal size of machine, then blow energy ).

On closed die hammers most manucaturers were guilty of including the maximum top die weight when calculating the energy (for some machines this can be 40% of the tup weight)

On the anyang hammers I have been told that the stated ram weight is wrong, (it may have been J. Angele)the 15 kgs hammer is 18kg, the 40 is 48 kg. ive never got round to checking this though.
   John N - Saturday, 09/29/07 13:33:02 EDT

a couple of years ago I supplied a (nominally) one ton ram 'double acting' air stamp to stanley tools in Mexico (this hammer is churning out between 1/4 &1/2 million of the excellent 'anti-vibe' claw (framing) hammers every year. (thats the hammer where the shaft and head are one integral forging)

We used the 'lead test' to measure the energy was up to scratch - I was not party to the clacs used (we paid an independent engineer to do this, and im not clever enough :), but did cast all the lead lumps ( 6" dia / 10" long) - the calculations gave the energy within approx 5% of the catalogue value. (from memory the lead ended up as 2" thick pancakes)

We had to do this because I sold the machine as a direct alternative to a CECO No.23 die forger which was already producing the 16oz hammer in a different plant.

I could have used the UV trace recorder but the spring loaded wire gave up the ghost (not unlike a tape measure thats past its best !!)
   John N - Saturday, 09/29/07 14:02:14 EDT

Punches, Mild Steel: Dave, No, you cannot make punch type tools from mild steels. You need tool steel OR a good spring steel. Mild steel does not have enough carbon to harden hard enough for making punch type tools. Yes, you will need to heat treat the necessary steel.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 15:09:49 EDT

Dodge Bumper: Jason, you can either modify the bumpers you have OR make new. Yes the steel is typically spring steel on this type bumper. When new you SHOULD be able to re-arc the bumpers using a hydraulic press or a very heavy vise. Unless you need a tight bend like a spring eye these should not need heat.

On old used bumpers I have found them to often be very hard and brittle from cyclic fatigue. They will break if you try to bend them.

IF you buy new spring steel (5160 is a common grade) it may be in annealed condition. This is as soft as it gets and you could bend it in a press. Afterwards it would have been heat treated by the factory. In this case I would just make the part and install it. In the soft condition this steel is still VERY tough, springy and strong. To heat treat something this big is a big job.

Both the new annealed 5160 and the heat treated stock can be bent to shape using a hydraulic press. However, the heat treated stock will take a LOT more force to bend. If you bend over large round pins and take your time you should be able to control the bends.

I have an old Dodge Brothers thread on Hub-Cap. Its about 2" in diameter with an octagon end and a fancy Dodge Bro's logo and its about 3" long. It needs a home.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 15:22:34 EDT

Speaking Strine: When I went to Melbourne (Melburn to us) I was dealing with a young metallurgist who was raised in the interior of the country. He was polite and well-educated, but I never understood a word he said. I just nodded a lot. Guru: can't seem to log in anymore. When I click on the pull down and click on the member log in, it sends me to the home page but does not log me in or pop up the screen to let me do so. Must be some Chinese made Quarks in those electrons at your end.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 09/29/07 16:06:24 EDT

John N: That UV recorder sounds very interesting. I would love to see one. Many of the simple mechanical or opto-mechanical instruments were very ingeneous, and made excellent tools for teaching physics. I used to use a steam engine and "indicator" to teach physics and thermodynamics. ( The indicator gave a plot of the pressure vs. the position of the piston in the engine.) Combined with a counter and a stopwatch one could calculate the "Indicated HP." Then measure the brake or output HP and you had the efficiency. Add a modern electronic high=speed thermometer and you could calculate a bunch of stuff.
   - John Odom - Saturday, 09/29/07 19:08:07 EDT

QC, If the member's link goes straight to the home page then you are logged in via a cookie. If it is corrupted you can go to the Hammer-In and scroll the input window down to the "erase cookie" button, click it. Close your browser and try again.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 19:49:38 EDT

Hammer Ratings: On my old Niles-Bement-Ponds the OEM flat upper die is 20% of the rated capacity coming out nearly exactly to 350 +/-2 pounds with the die. On old Nazels they sold the hammers by model numbers not weight, #1, #2, #3. . People assumed this was increments of hundreds of pounds but it was NOT, it was just a number.

My problem has been trying to make sense of and compare the various manufacturers' published data. I have a copy of the tablulation sheet from Nazel where they had the exact weights of the parts and the calculated energy. Sadly the velocity is not given nor the method of calculation. Their numbers do not agree with other's.

It sounds like Massey did a very good job of testing their hammers. However, one of the global problems is manufacturers that are building machinery they did not invent, engineer, and no longer fully understand.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 20:20:09 EDT

I have been asked to help with a grade school outdoor project which includes blacksmithing demonstration. Last year I winged it and just let the kids beat the metal after I heated in the forge the biggest thrill for the parents watching was seeing the water steam when they were done.. Looking for something easy to do with third graders that would be pioneer era any ideas?
   Phillip Koehler - Saturday, 09/29/07 20:30:07 EDT

Phillip Koehler: Perhaps hot punching a hole and then cutting off that end using a hot cut hardy.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 09/29/07 20:52:23 EDT

vicopper-- Many thanks!
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 09/29/07 21:22:18 EDT

School Demo's: Phillip, There are some huge liability issues letting kids get that close to the hot metal. Even when they (WE) know better the wrong end of a hot bar gets picked up. Then there is the issue of flying scale. Did you put safety glasses (or a full face shield), gloves and an apron on every child???

Here is a device I designed to let kids twist a short hot piece of metal that you could afford to to give away.

The extension shaft can be made from a 1/2" socket wrench extension. The vise-grip quick clamping is absolutely necessary. It would help to raise the axis higher than shown if the device is made of wood as the heat will set wood on fire. The quick clamp helps in this regard as well.

Note that it is anchored to the ground. Some of the kids will get rambunctious and turn the whole rig over. Note the fence, there MUST be a fence between you and the children unless they are all sitting at a safe distance and kept sitting.

ALSO NOTE that in today's era of "everything is a weapon and symbolic weapons are as bad as the real thing" you cannot give school kids ANYTHING with a point. Not a nail, not a tapered bar. It will all be confiscated as soon as you are gone.

   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 21:26:20 EDT

Just for my curiosty (and I'm sorry if that's not spelled right) would someone tell me the composition of H type steels, especially H-13?
   JohnW - Saturday, 09/29/07 21:58:49 EDT

A simple twisted 1/8" rod fork is a pretty easy to do with kids and IIRC can be documented to Revelotionary War era in the USA; what country's pioneer period are you aiming for? Boers in Africa, Australia, South America,... ?

Punches: I can pick up a handfull of old star chisels and punches at the fleamarket for a couple of bucks that actually work well to forge punches from. Another old standby is coil springs from an automobile. In general I forge tools as I need then rather than spending my precious forge time makeing a set where 1/2 of them might not be used in years and two of the rest will be worn out several times during that period.

Nice tools: one other aspect of making your tooling *nice* is that folks recognize it as a tool and don't start forging it into something else when your back is turned. I have a hold down for one of my anvils that I have had to paing my tool colour all over it to keep it in the very exacting shape it requires to work.
   ThomasP - Saturday, 09/29/07 22:37:02 EDT

JohnW: H13- Carbon .37% Manganese .35% Silicon 1.00% Chromium 5.25% Vanadium 1.00% Molybdnum 1.30% as per Carpenter Steel
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 09/29/07 23:14:12 EDT

John, The tool steel series are types by use, not composition. Each steel in a series can vary considerably in composition.

The H series steels below H20 are Chromium hot work steels. Those above H20 to H26 are Tungsten hot work steels and those from H42 up are Molybdenum hot work steels.

H13: A chrome-moly vanadium steel.

Carbon .32 to .45%
Manganese .20 to .50
Silicon .80 to 1.20%
Chrome .30 max
Molybdenum 1.10 to 1.75%
Tungsten 0
Vanadium .80 tp 1.20%
Cobalt 0

H19 is similar except it has less manganese 4% Tungsten, 2% Vanadium and 4 to 4.5% Cobalt. An expensive steel. I am not sure of its performance specs but it should be very good at hot work.

Above from the ASM Metals Handbook. Shows H14 4 to 5% Tungsten. . . Checked the ASM Heat treaters guide and it also does not list that high Vanadium Dave listed.

See our Heat Treating FAQ for H13 heat treatment.

Also see

Viscount 44 Prehardened Steel
   - guru - Saturday, 09/29/07 23:42:41 EDT

Making "sets" of tools: Like Thomas I rarely do this either. However, there are times you need sets of tools. Many forge projects like making faces and animal heads need curved chisels, eye punches, nose punches, tear drop punches. . . and they all need to be made in advance of forging the work. You need to think through the think you are going to make then prepare all the tools ahead of time.

I also make sets of clamping tools or machine "furniture". You often need four of everything then certain parts in incremental lengths. You also need the hardware in equal quantities to make up the kit.

When I made radius templates for large curves I made a set running from a 4" radius to a 16" radius out of plywood. If I had the material I would have made them from aluminum and hand filed carefully to shape. Masonite also works for this type thing.

When you can buy tools in sets (wrenches, drill bits, sockets) it always pays to get the set AND whatever storage box or rack they come in.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 00:13:40 EDT

Thanks for the info on 30lb hammers. John N,the 33lb anyang is my plan B if i dont go ahead with the Kinyon, I cant send emails for some reason but when this is sorted i may contact you for youre opinions on this hammer.
   steve t - Sunday, 09/30/07 06:29:36 EDT

Steve, im probably not the best man for impatial opinion as I sell them in the UK, but i am happy to answer any questions. Bob Graham has a nice promotional dvd of the 15 kg machine doing its stuff. Pieh tool aslo sell them.

Ive found 99% of blacksmiths are very happy to 'show off' their hammer, it may be worth asking you local dealer to point you to someone whos got one.

Ive also read good things about the 'tyre hammer' there is a guy who runs workshops making these - Clay Spencer from memory, I believe they are into the hundreds of units now. (some folks 'accross the street' know alot more than me about these things and are very generous with their knowledge)

It is worth spending some time and trying out all the different types of hammers to find the one that suits you best! -
   John N - Sunday, 09/30/07 07:34:04 EDT

John O, I will take some pics of the UV recorder (im guessing the V is velocity, any guesses on the U ?), and scan a sample trace, ill put them over at forgemagic when I get a chance.

I think it would now be very easy and cheap to make one of these now with advances in computers (im sure you wouldnt need a 'paper' trace anymore)

There are hundreds of simple diagnostic tests on forge machines that can be done if you think logically, sadly the knowledge does seem to be getting thin on the ground now. I have a suprising number of ' doh ' moments when I see somthing done for the 1st time.

I work with a few of the original Massey fitters, and an electrician, these guys are all nearing their 60's now. I try and learn as much as I can from them as its stuff you will never find in a book! -

a couple of years ago we had a 1 ton belt lift drop hammer running of a laptop (they are normally run off a piece of rope :) , complete with automatic 12 blow sequencer, shift register etc. I wouldnt have though it possible, but we did it and I learnt alot. (especially that its possible to loose alot of money automating drop hammers :)

   John N - Sunday, 09/30/07 07:54:28 EDT

Re. spelling:
The worst speller that ever graced this and other Smithing websites is Bill Epps.An excellent teacher and blacksmith,but, a lousy speller.I'll take the first two and make concessions for the latter.If gaining knowledge is your aim,spelling and grammar mistakes are truly inconsequential
   dimag - Sunday, 09/30/07 11:15:45 EDT

I can think of a number of contributors here and across the street who had great stores of knowledge, but who apparently had spelling on back order. I think we owe them all a big thank you. It's got to be harder for them to write than for us to read, but we're all richer for it.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 09/30/07 11:44:25 EDT

Guru (and anyone who wants to opine, no bloviating!)
If you were to order steel to make a quality perfect handle type screwdriver from, what would it be?
4140? 5160? or just 1045? or higher carbon? or ?????
Thanks, (and you can spell your reply anyway you want)
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 11:55:21 EDT

As I am often guilty of poor grammar and spelling I will take this oppurtunity to offer my appologies to any who find fault in that area. I really have no excuse as I have a diploma from a real honest Kentucky High school:)
   ptree - Sunday, 09/30/07 12:53:33 EDT

Tom, The alloys in the steels you list are there to allow you to achieve the same hardness deep into the steel as you achieve on the surface. The formation of martensite, and thus the hardness, is a function of cooling rate. The steel will cool quickly on the surface and make near 100% martenstie. Deeper into the steel, it will cool more slowly and the percentage of martensite will decrease as will the hardness. The thickness of a screw driver does not require a deep hardening steel like 4140 or even 5160. Both of these will make an excellent tool however. A good engineering design, one which provides a useable tool at a reasonable cost would be 1045. Now, the perfect quality is up to you, the smith, as the steel mill can produce a very clean steel and resonable price. You do want to order 150 tons, though, right? If not, you need to work with what you can find.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/30/07 12:53:49 EDT

Thanks QC. I was curious what expert opinions might be.
If you were commissioned to make just one of the best screwdrivers you could, what would YOU use out of commonly available tool steels or carbon steels. Professional heat treat is available. (not a commercial venture at all, simply a project) I have been in tool and die for 44 years now, (almost done!), but practically all my experience has been with cutting steels, D-2, A-2, O-1, and mold steels H-13 and S-7, etc.,.
Thanks again. Any other expert opinions?
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 14:04:34 EDT

PTREE. Since I live in Renfro Valley Kentucky I guess it would be OK to pass on something the grandkids brought home from High School.
"Why can't they solve murders in Kentucky?"
1) No dental records
2) Everyone has the same DNA
I didn't make it up, just repeated it!
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 14:08:01 EDT

Six munts agoe I cudent evun spel medalerjist. Now I are one....ptree, my diploma is from a tiny college in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, just down the street from a brewery. Forget spelling, we were only admonished to wear shoes in public.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/30/07 14:37:12 EDT

Tom, O1 or even W1 would make a good hand tool. I would forge it, normalize it twice, then harden the tip, temper it twice and gently finsh grinding it to shape. I make woodcarving blades out of W1 and O1 and I find it easy to buy at industrial supply stores. A three foot long pieces of 1/4" W1 or O1 can be had for under $5 and it is annealed and centerless ground.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/30/07 14:43:17 EDT

Gosh thanks again QC.
I mostly just lurk here and I really appreciate your willingness to share your expertise.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 14:46:25 EDT

Perfect Screwdriver: I go to Sears and buy their 13 piece sets for a little over $13 (on sale) and get decades of service from them. The HANDLE makes the perfect screw driver for me and Craftsman had a darn good designer at one time. The ball end is large enough that you can push as hard as you can with hurting your palm, the sides allow enough friction that you can apply as much force through your flesh as is possible without slipping or pain, the turned down neck makes a very handy bearing for spinning the screw driver OR (horrors) griping it with pliers. Those flats on the sides are an excellent place to engrave your name. ALL other screw driver handles including the high tech Snap-On triangular are distant challengers.

The Craftsman bits are a little soft to prevent breakage but they are hard enough for most work and have a good chrome plating job.

Even though slightly soft I have most of my Craftsman screw drivers from over 30 years ago. Only a few have been lightly dressed. I have also used them to make special tools including a safe combination change key, a brake adjuster, an impact pin spanner nut tool. . .

As long as these perfect tools are available for a very reasonable price I will never make a screw driver.

If I absolutely HAD TO and it needed to be made better I would use a cutlery grade stainless steel for the bit and sculpt the handle out of a piece of Lexan polycarbonate in a shape very nearly the same as the Craftman handles. OR if I wanted fancy I would make the handle out of black Lexan OR ebony with a brass ferrule in place of the concave bearing surface (same shape) and a white nylon or synthetic ivory ball end on bearings. The resulting screw driver would be a $1,000 piece of art and a VERY fine tool. But why do it when you can get almost as good for $1.25.

I recently bought a granddaughter a tool chest, hammer, wrenches AND screw drivers. All were bought in one place but I made a special trip to Sears for the screw drivers.

   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 15:34:40 EDT

Hammer Tryouts:

Trying out a hammer before you buy is a good idea. However some hammers are very picky to run and can takes weeks of practice on them (if not more) to become confident with them. Most old worn Little Giants are in this class. If you can do delicate and hand held tooling work under an old out of tune Little Giant you can probably run any hammer well. The easy of use has to do largely with clutch/throttle mechanical ratios and consistency. Many of these mechanisms are not linear and have sudden changes at some point making the hammer suddenly harder or impossible to control at sme point.

In order of ease of use with no previous familiarity. These are hammers I've run enough to classify.

Chambersburg and Bement steam hammers
Nazels in good condition (rare, 1b's and 2bs best).
Chambersburg self contained.
Bradley and Fairbanks belt clutch hammers.
Chinese Self contained
Little Giants in perfect tune and lubrication
DIY air hammers (can vary greatly)
Tire clutch hammers (also can vary greatly and CAN be near the top of this list - most I've run are tweeky)
Junkyard Hammers other than tire (vary greatly).
Little Giants with clutch wear, old springs or loose guides (the absolute worst).

The reason for old LG's being the worst is that they used a clutch type that does not feather well. Cone clutches are best for engaging and disengaging a machine with just a little slip to cushion the start. But not for speed control. That is why the clutch linings must be oiled.

I have not run a new Phoenix so I cannot place it. The old original Bulls were a little jumpy and I would place them near the bottom of the list. There has been a lot of change since then.

I have not run a Massey as there are few in the U.S. However, they have a fairly complex valving system that I suspect is very smooth, but I cannot say.

The Chinese hammers take practice to do delicate work tending to suddenly hit much harder than you want. With practice you can get used to this touchy spot (like an old Ford clutch). But it is far from a hammer you just walk up to and immediately start forging delicate pieces with.

The Power Hammer School is a very good way to find out just what can be done with a power hammer. However, they ARE using the friendliest hammers on my list.

   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 15:42:09 EDT

Sorry, Perfect Handle was a brand name of old tools by H.D. Smith that had a solid full length shank with wood handles, like a full tang knife with slabs/scales/handles. They made, (and many copied), wrenches mostly but also screwdrivers and even open end wrenches. Think of an old tyme screwdriver with the steel going all the way from one end to the other.

Jock ("The resulting screw driver would be a $1,000 piece of art and a VERY fine tool. But why do it when you can get almost as good for $1.25.") I bet I have between 50 and 100 screwdrivers counting home and work and most of them are Craftsman. Why did you make that hacksaw? Hey, some people don't even like chocolate!
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 15:45:36 EDT

I live in the Boston (MA) area and my daughter is a junior in high school. She has been taking a class called the Viking Longship Project. This is her third year. She has learned how to make chainmail and has run with it. She loves it, completeing 2 full shirts and now is making a line of jewlery and key chains. My question is she wants a job doing this and I am having dificulty finding anything in my area. She would like to sell things she makes and she wants to go on to learn sword making and armor making as well. Any help in getting her started on her way would be great. I know this is not a typical girl profession but hae fastly become her passion. Thank you in advance for any help you could provide her. Loraine
   Loraine - Sunday, 09/30/07 15:52:11 EDT

I'm starting to get into blacksmithing a bit more. My experience so far has been in knifemaking, but I'd like to refine my hammer skills more (read: I do too much grinding) and I figure some decorative and basic blacksmithing is the way to do it! I upgraded my forge, got a decent anvil and then ended up with a newborn baby... put any smithing on hold. Now I'm about ready to start making some tools.

My question is about types of steel suitable for hammers, punches and drifts. My experience so far has been with spring steels and O1 tools steel, but finding those in thicker dimensions is near impossible (or cost prohibitive).

I was thinking of using 4150 for hammers, larger punches and chisels. Would that work well, or should I look for something else?
   Jeremy - Sunday, 09/30/07 16:05:47 EDT

PERFECT HANDLE screwdriver
For examples, see eBay 110169402884 or 150165995883.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 09/30/07 16:25:17 EDT

Saws and Screw Drivers: Tom, The old full length wood handle screw drivers are pretty but the oval shape is hard to get a tight grip on and the butt end while round has seams between the wood and steel that are not conducive to pushing hard against while rotating the screw driver. The ovoid shape is near round and not the best shape to grip. The wood/steel interface tends to fail on these and you find MANY without grips at all. I've had several of these and they are kept in the antique tool collection.

I made my fancy hacksaw when three Craftsman saws failed in the same week. At the time I was hand sawing all my stock because I did not have a power saw and sawed ends made much cleaner work. My replacement saw was sturdy enough to use "all hard" saw blades which FLY through steel. That saw more than paid for itself in productivity and durability. In this case it replaced a common junk tool.

I do not give a blanket endorsement of ALL Craftsman tools. Many are badly designed and many others have been changed over the years from the original GOOD designs to less than what they were. Sears high point is that they still make the red white and blue Craftsman screw driver. I still like their tool chests but they are not nearly as good as the ones I bought in the 1970's. I reject ALL their electric motor driven tools.

The other screw driver I like is the rubber gripped Klein electricians screw drivers.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 16:40:24 EDT

Ebay Screw Drivers. Both show the wood to steel interface problems and the "improved" Stanley has a bulging flat that makes the screw driver less useful in order to put on a large logo and patent number. . . These were very expensive to make and not nearly as cost effective as the current Craftsman and no more durable. The old Irwins ARE a work of art.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 16:55:27 EDT

Hack Saws: I originally tried using a manual hack saw to cut pieces to feed to my forge. I then bought a DeWalt reciprocating saw. This worked well but the cost was about $90 for the saw and $5.00 for a good hack saw blade. Then I found a 36" bolt cutter at Harbor Freight on sale for $12. It cuts up to 1/2" mild steel, and up to 1/4" hardened steel. Anyone want to buy a slightly used recip saw? Now, actually, the saw is better for cutting prcise lengths with square ends but the bolt cutters are very quick and easy to use for most things. For other tools, the Kobalt brand at Lowes is not bad and it has a lifetime warranty. I haven't had to return one yet. No, I don't earn a living with them, either.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/30/07 16:57:50 EDT

Steel Choices: Jeremy, 1050, 4140 and 4150 all make good hammers. Hot punches and chisels need to be higher carbon steel. If using scrap many coil springs are 5160 which is much tougher but still not a "tool" steel. I would save my money, buy a hammer and spend the money on good tool steels including hot work steels.

Most bladesmiths like a rocker faced hammer. This produces smoother work while pushing the steel in one direction. It is hard to avoid grinding in bladesmithing and is the rule for making much fancy laminated steels.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 17:02:51 EDT

Mailer: Loraine, This is a job like many crafts jobs. You design it, make it, promote it and sell it. Craftsfolks generally are either entrepreneurs or starving artists. They are self employed and must understand and run every aspect of their business from manufacturing, advertising, shipping and taxes.

Women in the arts are generally the more successful in business and the men most often the starving artists. Couples where the woman manages and the man does the production are often the best businesses.

In the U.S. the stigma of women in metal crafts is difficult to find. However, it still exists in Europe. Historically women made maile and small chain as well. Decorative maile as fashion accessory comes and goes and the problem is meeting the demand when it becomes hot. One way around this is to produce the goods, THEN create the demand. This is high entrepreneurial skill.

Bladesmithing is a high tech specialty with LOTS of competition. I would recommend she stick with maile, armour, jewelery based on those and items that cross over into the more mainstream areas of fashion.

The problem with this business is profitability. The largest segment of the market is SCA types that spend little money and often make their own.

The area of professional craftsperson is one of self education and self promotion. For those of us that are only happy when self employed it is the way to go. But it is tough to make a living. Most folks find it is good to have a backup plan in the form of a college education.

   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 17:24:13 EDT

Loraine-- Your daughter ought to consider getting a bachelor's degree in ine arts, metalworking, after she graduates from high school. Rhode Island School of Design is tip-top. Also, post your query at www.ganoksin.com, a terrific jewelry-making, metal-working site, lots of artists and teachers in the field read it and will probably respond with advice from the real world school of hard knocks pronto. There are scads and scads of jewelry-makers out there, and other metal artists-- and as everywhere, it is a tight little world where teachers recommend their proteges to studios and gallery-owners. A degree will help your girl enormously-- as will, of course, her bench experience.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 09/30/07 18:30:47 EDT

typo alert-- bachelor's degree in ine arts, metalworking should read: fine arts. Sorry.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 09/30/07 18:32:59 EDT

Thanks guru. Sounds like a few bars of O1 and 4140 are in my future. I don't have access to much scrap (the local yard just stopped letting scavengers in) so I was planning on ordering from McMaster-carr. What other steels would you recommend? I like 5160, but haven't found it thicker than 1/2" and forgewelding a billet is a bit beyond what I want to start out with.

I have a few hammers I use and a few I'd like to modify, but beyond that, no tools. I'm getting a list of projects together that I'd like to try and the tools, punches chisels needed to do them. Making my tools only gives me more practice, which is what I want anyway.

On bladesmithing: there will always be a little grinding, but after seeing a ABS Mastersmith forge a bowie to 90% completion, I realize I've got a LONG ways to go! All he did was grind the edge... hardly a stray hammer mark was visible on the rest of the blade. My stuff isn't bad (http://home.earthlink.net/~jsteflik1306/id32.html) but I can't come even close to that.

This is a great site! Love the iForge section and will be attempting many of those projects in the future!
   Jeremy - Sunday, 09/30/07 20:02:34 EDT

Sorry to bother everyone again, but I have a quick question. I was thinking about making a dagger out of a few old bycicle chains, by cutting them up into 8 or 9 inch lenths and welding them together into one piece of metal. Would this be possible or extremely difficult and are bycicle chains made of the proper steel to weld easy and heat treat? Thanks.
   Troy - Sunday, 09/30/07 20:54:44 EDT


Yes, maybe and no, in that order.
   vicopper - Sunday, 09/30/07 21:02:51 EDT

Thanks for the H-13 information, and I'm sorry I mentioned spelling in my message, as it seems to have contributed to a chain of spelling remarks, even though some are fairly good entertainment.
   JohnW - Sunday, 09/30/07 21:11:54 EDT

H-13 post: I should have used something other than a space between elements in last night's post, the vanadium is only 1.00%, easy to misread as posted.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 09/30/07 21:53:36 EDT

Steels and Blades: Jeremy, Nice work. Good forging CAN speed things along. A friend used to forge Bowies for some local knife makers on his 1B Nazel. They were close enough to size that some were left with the scale finish when completed. Forging that smooth is real art. He was also doing it in 2 to 3 heats complete with distal taper in blade and tang. THAT is profitable art.

Many smiths prefer S7 tool steel because you can just about forge it and forget it. It is shock resistant and as an air quench steel in small sections it is also good for hot work. Many treat is as a universal tool steel in their shops and keep nothing else.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 23:32:13 EDT

Roller Chain Damascus: Troy, see our article on our FAQs page. Junk Yard Steel rules apply (see our Junk Yard Steel FAQ). Also remember that blades made of such materials are made for their curiosity or sentimental value such as from one's favorite motorcycle or like RR-spike knives which are lousy steel but a collectable that some people are attracted to. As a random pattern it is the most common and thus the least artistic. It IS a good experience but not high art.

   - guru - Sunday, 09/30/07 23:41:34 EDT

Loraine; Have you asked the people actually doing this for a living over at armourarchive.org? Mass produced maille from India has really taken a hunk out of the market and was mentioned before many SCA folk make their own.

The comment about becomming a well rounded art metal person is spot on! You never know what you might end up doing in another decade and having the widest skill set gets you the most flexibility.

Custom blademaking is still a possible carreer choice; but the ramp-up time from starting to making a living from it can be quite a long time and the living can be slim; I had a friend who was rated as one of the best american swordmakers back in the late '70's early 80's with swords that started at over US$1000 and went *up* with a 2 year order backlog that could still qualify for food stamps at times.

Generally we advise folks to have a day job and work on blades in their off hours and when their blade income gets close to their job income think about making the switch. Benefits are the killer for this type of thing, a simple mistake with a buffer and you may be looking at US$50K medical bills that will put a craft worker with no insurance pretty much out of the business.

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/01/07 12:38:56 EDT

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