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Ask the Guru any reasonable blacksmithing or metalworking question. 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 October 1 - 15, 1999 on the Guru's Den

New to blacksmithing? Check out our FAQ Getting Started.

The Guru has four helpers that have been given a distinct colored "voice".
  • Bruce R. Wallace of Wallace Metal Work (purple) as of 12/98.

  • "grandpa" Daryl Meier of MEIER STEEL (green).

  • Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson, of Paw Paw's Forge and official demonstrator at Bethbara Historical Park, Winston-Salem, NC (OD green).

  • Bruce "Atli" Blackistone, asylum at of the Longship Co., color "ink" to be determined.

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-- guru Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
I'm working on a case study for a Manufacturing class. The problem is that I want to find a producer to make a minimum (500) 1870-vintage blacksmith anvils. Mechanical properties call for a yield strength in excess of 70 ksi, an elongation greater that 2%, and a Brinell of 200 or more on the top surface. The top surface must be resistant to wear, deformation and chipping. The proposed design is a large forging anvil that has a total length of 20". I'm looking for the various properties that the anvil must possess to adequately perform its intended task, variuos concerns that would influence the proposed method of fabricating the anvils, properties of the various types of cast irons and steels with regard to this application and a proposal on how a production run of 500 anvils to be produced. Any help would be appriciated.

C. Coufal -- ccoufal at Friday, 10/01/99 11:01:17 GMT

C. Coufal:

No blacksmith would be interested in an anvil of 200 BHN (Rc 13!). They usually run from 500 - 600 BHN (Rc 50 - 58). Where are you going to sell 500 anvils? Casting would probably be the best way to go. Many today are made of alloy steel, but 1060 - 1080 with an induction hardened face would probably work well. At the desired hardness they can chip if struck on the edge with a hard hammer. Supposed to have hot iron betweem the hammer and anvil!

grant -- nakedanvil at Friday, 10/01/99 19:14:05 GMT

ANVIL MAKING: Glad you looked up the hardness for me Grant!

Mr. Coufal, In 1870, first class anvils were made by forge welding a crucible steel (60 to 80 point carbon steel as Grant mentioned) to a wrought iron body. The face was then hardened after rough finishing and then ground. The techniques are known but there are none practicing it today. Wrought iron of the type used in anvils is difficult (and expensive) to obtain. The necessary manpower was also expensive (see color image in review of Anvils in America on the review page). Anvils were made by this method in Europe as early as the 1300's (maybe earlier) and as late as the early 1900's.

Cheaper anvils were made by casting iron against a steel plate making a weld "in the mold". This process required special gating in the mold to create the necessary turbulence to produce a clean HOT surface for the iron to bond to. Fisher-Norris made anvils by this method.

In the early 1900's the best American made anvils were made by welding a forged tool steel upper body to a mild steel base. The upper parts were selectively hardened and tempered. Hay-Budden made anvils this way.

As Grant mentioned, today most anvils are cast tool steel. One maker, Peddinghaus, still makes anvils similar to the method of Hay-Budden and then induction hardened.

Weight/Size/Proportions. . . Check our ads for Peddinghaus. There is a chart with dimensions and weights. A 200# anvil is considerably longer than 20". My 200# Hay-Budden is about 32". A 220# Peddinghaus (which has a comparitively heavy waist) is 28". The most beautifuly proportioned anvil I've ever seen is recored in Anvil, GR.

For a start on a fabricated anvil check out our plans page. The drawing at the bottom is that of na anvil sold under Uri-Hofi's name. The design would be relatively efficient to make from plate as alternate blanks can be nested on the plate.

A smith's anvil is a deceptively complex tool. The neophyte sees it as a large lump of metal. The smith sees the subtle nuances of shape and knows which parts are hard and which are soft. Every part has a use and the practiced smith makes use of them.

OBTW - Modern anvils sell for $5.00/$7.00 a pound and should cost half that (in production) to manufacture. You'll need $250,000 to $350,000 to make that first production run!

-- guru Friday, 10/01/99 20:50:28 GMT

Anvil, GR

I too think the German pattern looks most useful. Nice to have the hardie hole closer to the center of mass rather than out on a "spring board". Germans must do more heavy swaging at the anvil. I sill prefer the more voluptuous English horn. My favorite was on a “Kolshwah” (?spelling) from Sweden.

grant -- nakedanvil at Friday, 10/01/99 21:20:23 GMT

A lot of people will argue about the usefulness of the shape of an anvil and I myself prefer the late London pattern as used by Peter Wright and sometimes called the "American" pattern. That Swedish Kohlswa (I've still got a 325#) is that same classy shape. However, for perfect symmetry, lines and class design that old German anvil of Josh's (the one in the drawing) is as near perfect as they will ever come.

-- guru Friday, 10/01/99 21:40:41 GMT

I just acquired a Hossfeld Bender. Where do I get directions on how to use it correctly and where do I find what dies have been made for it? thanx

Doug Adelmann -- adqc at Saturday, 10/02/99 03:52:07 GMT

HOSSFELD BENDERS: Doug, Hossfeld is still in business and Centaur Forge carries their line. Their catalog (Hossfeld's) is as close to a manual as you will find. There are dozens (manybe hundreds) of dies and accessories for the bender. They are relatively expensive unless you are doing production bending of the same item.

I think almost every blacksmith I know (including myself) has an old Hossfeld (without dies) that never got used and probably never will. They are the second biggest dust catcher next to a tire shrinker. I'm not saying that they aren't useful, but they are useless without dies. Universal tools of this type are useful in a general shop ONLY if they have a complete set of dies. You can make dies for it but you will find it easier to make a complete bender if you are doing anything special (See Benders on the 21st Century page).

One of the problems with leverage type benders is that that must be anchored to something that can take ALL the force you can apply with a six to eight foot (2m) lever. I've seen 4,000 pound weld platens skid around the shop when this kind of force is applied! Yes, you can anchor a plate to the floor but it takes serious anchorage. A handful of 3/8" (10mm) drive anchors will NOT do it (I ripped out 10 holding a manual tire changer). 3/4" studs set through the typical concrete pad using epoxy is just barely sufficient. A large rooted tree stump may work until it starts to rot. Its more difficult to setup one of these little benders than a small power hammer.

The other problem is space. The anchorage above is pretty permanent. Now draw a six foot (1.5m) radius (12 foot diameter) circle around it. This is space that must be clear to use the bender (not including swing space for the material). If you are in a LARGE shop this is still a lot of space.

Just a few things to think about. . .

-- guru Saturday, 10/02/99 14:58:46 GMT

ANVILS - NOTES: In the paragraphs above about anvils I did not make it clear that Peddinghaus like Hay-Budden, forged the anvil parts prior to welding at the waist. Both are arc welded. Peddinghaus uses modern induction hardening methods and the one I have is the hardest most resiliant anvil I have ever tested (see Anvils - Testing Rebound) Hay-Budden and some others used cheaper mild steel for the base, I do not know what Peddinghaus uses.

The Kohlswa Swedish anvil is cast steel. The face is hardened (second only to Peddinghaus). Kohlswa recommended that the user stess relieve the anvil face by taking a light hammer and tapping the face repeatedly using a circular pattern that extended over the entire face. This is a TON of work to put into a new product! About 20 years ago Kohlswa's management changed and they had some serious quality control problems. At that time Centaur Forge was selling Kohlswa AND was having their own "Centaur brand" anvils made by Kohlswa. Centaur stopped importing both. I've found old Kohlswa anvils to be excellent.

Quality control problems also plague other manufacturers. My new Peddinghaus needs a full day's rework to the horn before it is usable. Many cast steel anvils made in the U.S. are not nearly hard enough and those using 4140 may never get a really GOOD hard anvil face from that material.

Just a few caveats for those that may want to go into the anvil business. If you are serious about it, purchase a copy of Anvils in America.

-- guru Saturday, 10/02/99 15:45:11 GMT

dear sir ,i have a sand blasting pistol and i was wondering if you have some suggestions as to how i could arrange the supply of sand to the pistol so that it would not clog.i seem to recall seeing some one using an old gas bottle as a chamber yet i have no idea as to how it was set out.if you could suggest a way or a sketch of how one would do this.
regards craig

craig stephenson -- putski at Saturday, 10/02/99 20:55:42 GMT

I am 17 years old and interested mostly in traditional blacksmithing. I learned to smith from a farrier, though am not currently involved in that art, and have my own forge and am experimenting with a railroad anvil at the moment. Beyond what is described in the Learning to Smith section, I would like to know what careers in blacksmithing, not more modern metalworking, are available. I only need a pointer, once on the right track I can find out anything else I need. Thank you.

Scott -- allegro at Sunday, 10/03/99 06:28:48 GMT

Guru, can you tell me howthe cast ornaments on bed frames? Were they heat shrunk on? Can I find them anywhere to make a bed of my own using them around the posts? Thanks, Scott

Scott -- vickrey at Sunday, 10/03/99 07:03:26 GMT

JOBS IN BLACKSMITHING: Scott, These are far and few between.
The vast majority of decorative and architectual ironworkers are self-employed craftspeople. Some of the busier shops have employees but you can probably count these in the low dozens.

Fabricators are still more common and getting a lion's share of the railing and gate work. Fabricators purchase stock components and assemble them (usualy by arc welding). The component industry is getting VERY good and the average person can't tell the difference between original hand work and assembled from a kit.

Industrial blacksmithing job are more common than decoeative blacksmithing jobs but they are still far and few between. These jobs are hard production work. One machine may make the same part for years. Even fewer shops produce work by "open die forging". This is like traditional blacksmithing except on huge pieces. Normally this is a team effort. See the Beche' poster on the Power hammer Page and the James Nasmyth illustration in the review of his autobiorgaphy.

They claim Farriers are more numerous in the U.S. than ever before. Although working horses are the minority, there are LOTS of riding horses and they all need shoes every couple weeks.

-- guru Sunday, 10/03/99 14:11:35 GMT

BED FRAMES: Scott, There are numerous methods varying mostly in material. A few are actually cast iron, requiring sand molds and a foundry. Most are cast lead using metal bolt-on or clamp-on molds. The same method can be used for zinc potmetal and is recommended for the environmentaly consious and those that don't want their shops to be listed as an EPA hazardous waste site.

A modern option would be cast epoxy like one of the Devcon powder filled materials. The only problem with epoxy is it even sticks to silicon rubber molds! There are "casting" resins that are less aggressive but ar also not as strong. Molds can be metal, rubber, wax or plaster. Plaster molds are one-use but easy to make (a whole different business). Wax molds may be used several times but are easily damaged.

To go the zinc route you will need a small graphite crucible and a furnace capable of 1,000 degrees F. Melting point is around 800 but the metal is cast a little higher.

You will need to make your own molds. I'd recommend 1/8" (3mm) steel with a 1/2" (13mm) wide edge perpendicular to the parting line. The sprue will need to be nearly equal volume to the part and should be heavily drafted to make the mold easy to remove. The mold should also be a very good fit around the bars to be cast around.

Clamp or bolt the mold in place around the joint in the bed. It helps to "soot" the inside of the mold to prevent metal from sticking. The mold AND the bars will need to be preheated using a rosebud torch. Normally the mold wants to be hot but the sprue area even hotter. The point is for the metal to solidify in the mold first and the sprue to supply replacement metal as the metal in the mold solidifys and shrinks. The preheat method takes some experimentation but once it is worked out castings will be fairly clean and only need the flash filed off.

The same method can be used with lead except that a graphite crucible isn't required (liquid zinc disolves steel) and preheating is not so critical. The advantage to zinc is that it is as strong as mild steel.

-- guru Sunday, 10/03/99 14:43:16 GMT

Where can I find information on Tripp air hammers and Little Bull air hammers? Where are the most complete variety of fullering dies for air hammers listed? Thank you guru.

Jane Spencer -- RLeeSpencer at Sunday, 10/03/99 16:17:55 GMT

I just got a Whitney #2 hand punch at a flea market in like-new condition, and I was wondering where one might be able to find punch & die sets for it? It has a 3/16 set in place, but I would like a 1/4 inch set as well. Also, how much would a set run? I've tried Roper-Whitney, but they do not seem interested in the older models of hand punch.

Alan Longmire -- longmire at Sunday, 10/03/99 18:20:55 GMT

AIR HAMMERS: Jane, Go to our Power hammer Page for a list of manufacturers. Bull Hammers by FireDesign is one of our advertisers and has a nice list of dies for their hammers.
WHITNEY PUNCHES: Alan, Roper-Whitney sells strictly through industrial distributors. Find one of them to order from. Punches and dies are still available. However, IF you want a pair in less than several months it would be faster to have them made by a local machine shop. Ordered from Whitney they would be cheaper (about $40). I've bought a lot of dies from Whitney over the years and have always been amazed that they are still in business. Your industrial supplier MAY be able to get replacement punch and die sets from someone like Cleveland Punch and Die.

OR. . Try McMaster-Carr. Their current catalog has the small Roper-Whitney hand and bench punches and they sell punch and dies sets individualy. The problem is going to be that McMaster-Carr doesn't tell you what BRAND things are. I can assure you the photos are of R&W tools but they MAY be knock-offs. See our links page for a connection.

-- guru Sunday, 10/03/99 20:03:09 GMT



CHRIS MAROTTA -- WOW414 at RCN.COM Sunday, 10/03/99 22:29:11 GMT


Leaving town tomorrow morning, going to Norris, Tn, Museum of Appalachia. Will be pounding iron there from Wensday the 6th
through Sunday the 11th. If you're in the area, stop by and
intoduce yourself, I'll be wearing Union Army Blue! (grin)

Jock and Kiwi, don't forget to keep an eye on the Pub Log while I'm gone. (grin) Behave yourselves!

Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 10/04/99 02:10:30 GMT

How Would you make a fleur-dea-lea THe French symbol of royalty. I also need help with making spear heads. What Size Iron should I use? How do I make a blood channel?

Thomas Szafarek -- szafarek at Monday, 10/04/99 12:23:09 GMT

I hadn't planned to do anything but check mail this morning, but I had several emails asking about what I'm doing this week, so decided to post the following.

Norris, Tn is 16 miles north of Knoxville at exit 122 off
of I75.

Norris is the home of the Museum of Appalachia. Their "Tennessee Fall Homecoming", held every October has been voted one of the top 20 craft shows in the South East for the last 10 years. In addition to all the craftsmen, they will have 7 stages of mountain music. I did NOT say country music, I said mountain music, though of course there IS a lot of crossover. As much fun as the staged music is, I personally enjoy the strolling musicians and groups that get together just to "jam".

They only invite two blacksmiths per year to demonstrate, so I feel honored to be going up for my 8th consecutive year.


Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 10/04/99 12:35:58 GMT

Anvil Seasonong: I like mine rolled in oregano and garlic. . .

Chris, In general anvils are ready to use as-is. As mentioned above Kohlwsa recommended carefull piening to stress relieve.

The 55# weight makes me suspicious. Where did you purchase your anvil and what kind of material is it? Currently there are thousands of hardware stores selling Chinese cast iron anvils. They are door stops! Try forging on them and they will crumble. Rebound (hardness) is less than concrete! This group was found at a popular NC farm supply.

Cast Iron anvils

Anyone telling you the anvil he is selling you needs to "age", "season" or "work harden" is selling you junk.

-- guru Monday, 10/04/99 13:17:04 GMT

Guru, The oregano and garlic sound fine buy your missing one important thing, THE HOT SAUCE!

Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Monday, 10/04/99 14:04:38 GMT

Thanks to everyone for the info on Whitney punches and dies. Paw-paw, say hi to my old buddies from the Clinch River Blacksmith's Guild! they're based one exit past the Museum. I recently had to move to western Kentucky and change my name (they are SERIOUS about criticizing the road construction round Knoxville - give yourself two extra days to get there and don't speak out, or you'll be out here too;) )But they may remember me. Of course, that may not be a good thing... Anyway, thanks again for the info, and I like MY anvils with a little bbq sauce!

Alan Longmire -- Longmire at Monday, 10/04/99 15:03:02 GMT

Thanks to everyone for the info on Whitney punches and dies. Paw-paw, say hi to my old buddies from the Clinch River Blacksmith's Guild! they're based one exit past the Museum. I recently had to move to western Kentucky and change my name (they are SERIOUS about criticizing the road construction round Knoxville - give yourself two extra days to get there and don't speak out, or you'll be out here too;) )But they may remember me. Of course, that may not be a good thing... Anyway, thanks again for the info, and I like MY anvils with a little bbq sauce!

Alan Longmire -- Longmire at Monday, 10/04/99 15:03:29 GMT

Guru: I am re asking my question, I was not clear in what I asked before. Question, why heat treat hot tools (like drifts, punches, etc), when they get heated way over the temper temp in use. I know that I should keep em quenched, but they do get stuck (and I know about coal dust and all that, but they do get stuck, heated to dull black and there goes any temper? so why bother heat treating em anyway.

Tim Monday, 10/04/99 17:17:42 GMT

I am doing research on anvils of the late 1800's. I am having trouble finding much about anvils. What type of materials were most commonly used in that day and what material would make the best anvil today?
My Great Grandfather and his father were blacksmiths and would like to know more about this occupation. Unfortunately, no one really knows much about wht they did.
Thanks for your Help.


Mike -- dpec at Monday, 10/04/99 17:27:05 GMT

Mike get a copy of "Anvils in Americia" by Postman you will find a review of it here on the home page.

Bobby Neal -- bbneal at Monday, 10/04/99 18:23:21 GMT

Mike, Bobby steared you right! But look at ALL the reviews. If your grandfather was a "general" blacksmith (ie, he had his own small shop and did a little bit of everything) then the classic Art of Blacksmithing by Bealer is about what he did. Its one of the best historical treatises on the American Blacksmith.

In North America and then later in Austrailia and New Zealand we had "frontier" blacksmiths. In Europe the trade had become numerous specialties but when a smith came to the new world(s) he had to do it ALL. In Europe farriers (horse shoers), tool makers, decorative ironworkers all were specialties hundreds of years earlier. On the frontier one man did everything he could with the tools at hand.

Long after the "frontier" era had ended the general blacksmith remained a sort of Jack-of-all-Trades. However, the specialists came back as we became more civilized and there was demand for the quality that can only be produced by specialists. The final blow to the general smithy was the automobile. Most general smiths shod horses and did wagon, coach and buggy repair. Factories had already filled the demand for the rest of their products. The automobile not only replaced the horse but it put the blacksmith out of business too. It took 40 years for blacksmithing to make a comeback. Bealer's book and the establishment of ABANA during the 60's introduced a generation that had been without the neighborhood smith to the magic and mystery of blacksmithing. Get a copy, you won't regret it.

-- guru Monday, 10/04/99 20:00:22 GMT

While we are talking about history, anyone know how many blacksmiths columbus took with him on either of his voyages?

Andrew Hooper -- andrew at Monday, 10/04/99 20:11:44 GMT

TEMPER of HOTWORK TOOLS: Tim, These tools are generaly a high carbon steel OR a high temperature alloy. Cold and annealed (soft) these steels are tougher than the hot iron. Good high temperature alloys such as L-6, H-13 or H-27 are HARD at a low read heat. Most blacksmith tools ARE NOT made of these better alloys unless you made your own. Other alloys such as 5160 are really tough at a low read and also make good hot work tools. One of the best (but hard to get) is Atlantic 33 non-tempering tool steel.

When these tools are made they are hardened by air quenching (cooling in room temperature air) and then are tempered at temperatures up to 1,000°F (see specs for specific steels). Tempering is required to bring the tools back down from being glass hard and nearly as brittle. It also helps stress relieve the tool which is why double or triple tempering is sometimes recommended. Generaly the as-hardened condition is much too hard for the striking end.

In use these alloys can take that low read heat AND retain most of their strength and hardness. It may reduce their temper at the working end a little but not enough to matter.

Plain carbon steel tools are pretty much the same in use however they DO get softened and there's little you can do about it.

Sticking is something that you CAN do something about. It in NOT normal. When your tools and technique are right it should not happen.
  • First step is to be sure your tools have plenty of taper. Long straight sided punches do not work well.

  • Second is to radius the edges. Cold punching requires crisp square corners but hot punching works better with radiused corners. Sharp square corners get hot and mushroom in the work causing sticking. The metal also flows better around round corners.

  • Third is to use some type of lubricant/coolant. Plain grease works. So does the coal powder.

  • Last (or first) is your punching technique. You should never punch more than 2/3 through from the first side. If the steel has cooled too much (below a red heat for mild steel) then take a second heat. Make sure the work is over a hole when you punch through from the second side.

If you need a straight sided hole use a drift to forge the work around after punching. If punching under a power hammer the punch can have straight sides but must be short and have those radiused corners.

The rule of thumb for COLD punching (press work or otherwise) is that you cannot punch more than one diameter of thickness. I do not know of a limit for hot punching but I expect it is about 3:1.

In a pinch soft mild steel tools can be used as punches, hot cutters and forming dies for hot work in mild steel. Shaped correctly they last a surprisingly long time and are easy to redress. If you learn to make these work you will have no trouble with good hot work tools.

-- guru Monday, 10/04/99 20:53:34 GMT

Bruce(or any other Guri) I just picked up a Beaudry #2 very cheap, but it needs a lot of work, ie: a treadle, brake band, welding of the guides. Anyway there are a lot of parts missing or broken and I was wondering if you have, or know of where I could get copies of the prints or scetches of this hammer. Thanks, Ryan

Ryan -- Rustboo at Monday, 10/04/99 23:46:01 GMT

Can't add much to what the Guru said about punches and punching. Even softened most alloy steels will stand up better if hardened and tempered. Nothing wrong with cooling them off 2-3 times while you're punching. Usually cool them before they show color. Besides the taper Guru mentioned, it's real nice if the punches are really, really round (like turned in a lathe kind of round). That way you can loosen them by twisting with the handle. I like anti-seize seein' as how there's no coal around this place.

grant -- nakedanvil at Tuesday, 10/05/99 01:53:40 GMT

Just got done drawing out a bunch of titanium for a set of tongs to go in the auction at our big N.W.B.A. 20th anniversary get together this next weekend. Cool stuff, forges out real nice, half the weight of steel yet stronger. Should bring a tidy sum at the auction. Even making titanium rivets for them! Funny white scale. Any painter will tell you that's "titanium white".

grant -- nakedanvil at Tuesday, 10/05/99 01:54:58 GMT

Oh, Guru, I don't think there is any depth limitation in hot punching except mechanical. I've punched FAR deeper than three diameters, kinda like sticking your finger in a ball of clay. Shoved a one inch bar crosswise through a six inch round once so it stuck out about two inches on each side. Didn't have to drill a hole that way and I just KNOW it ain't ever commin' out!

grant -- nakedanvil at Tuesday, 10/05/99 02:06:50 GMT

Talkin' about punching, anyone ever use a "treepan". In heavy forging they're used a lot in punching large holes. They're basically a hollow punch. I've used them where I don't want to distort the surrounding metal too much. Outside and inside are tapered about 7degrees with maybe a 30degree bevel inside the hole. Smallest practical size is probably around one inch. Sure nice if you want to punch a three inch hole with too small a hammer though! They take a LOT less power to drive. These should be made of good hot work steel. Think of it as a round hot-cut!

grant -- nakedanvil at Tuesday, 10/05/99 02:18:34 GMT

Ryan, Send your snail mail address to my e-mail address. I have a copy of Beaudry Champion sales flyer I'll send you. It might be some help but I can't offer much more then that. If your hammer is a Champion type, they are very complicated machines. Alot diffrent then most spring, guide and ram system on other hammers.

Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Tuesday, 10/05/99 12:55:09 GMT

I'm looking for an online source from which to buy some ceramic wool. Can you help me? Thanks.

p.s. nice web site

Paul -- bazzetta at Tuesday, 10/05/99 15:06:26 GMT

Dear YOUNG and well seasoned one,of immense knowledge, In reference to the information you provided concerning fiberglass grating,I have some information to share.I located a catalog through a metal working friend,who graciously provided me with a catalog.Their name is Brown-Campbell Company.They make all different types of grating.They can be reached at 1-800-472-8464 or at thier Web Site have a very descriptive catalog,one worth having.Their Web Site isn't too shabby either. So long from the RUST,on the links,of the chain of command!

BUB -- hagiumetti at Tuesday, 10/05/99 16:07:28 GMT


E MEISTER -- 76255.3641 at COMPUSERVE.COM Tuesday, 10/05/99 18:38:13 GMT

i was giving a demo in indiana this weekend , i have a old step vise i aquired years ago ,had some people asking for plans on how to build one,also i use a bending fork in the hardy hole which i think works easer than the horn of the anvil would make it a lot easer bending items especialy for people just starting out.
got your email adress from a gentilman this weekend name is birdlegs at - nice guy
good site i will recomend to other people
have a great year Richard Heinicke

rich heinicke -- RanvilH at Tuesday, 10/05/99 20:53:59 GMT

Rich, Thanks! Jerry "birdlegs" is one of our regulars. If you have plans you'd like to post drop us a line. We have regular on-line "demos" on our chat (The Slack-Tub Pub) on Wednesday nights at 8:00 Central. Check it out, we are looking for more volunteers!

-- guru Tuesday, 10/05/99 23:03:47 GMT

TREPAN PUNCHING: For those of you that don't know what Grant is talking about a trepaning punch is a tube that you drive through the work under a power hammer. They are often short and stacked for doing deep holes (bury one, add the next). Because of the small cross section pushing through the billet it takes a lot less force. Since they are removing most of the hole instead of displacing 2/3 of it there is very little swelling or "frog eye".

Grant's sound more sophisticated than the standard variety. According to the forging manuals they are a "throw-away" tool because it is almost impossible to get the "biscuit" out of the cutter. The long taper he describes is new to me but sounds like it may make then reuseable. A great way to hot punch large holes.

-- guru Tuesday, 10/05/99 23:13:35 GMT

You got it, Guru! Yeah, many times in heave forging they go incredibly deep. What I'm used to using is only for relatively shallow holes. Even one diameter deep is a lot in decorative work, say a 1-1/2 inch hole through 1-1/2 inch material. Used this way they can be used over and over again.

grant -- nakedanvil at Tuesday, 10/05/99 23:27:18 GMT

Grant,Can you give more INFO on trepaning punching?
do you punch over a bolster, how do you get the punch out?
Anything else on how to do this would be helpful,

Glenn -- ridgart at Wednesday, 10/06/99 01:26:12 GMT

Grant,Can you give more INFO on trepaning punching?
do you punch over a bolster, how do you get the punch out?
Anything else on how to do this would be helpful,

Glenn -- ridgart at Wednesday, 10/06/99 01:26:32 GMT


Generally when punching through fairly thick material, say over 1/2 inch or more than two punch diameters it's not necessary to use a bolster. Usually the slug is clear before it hits bottom. Punching usually shears out the best if the work is only at a red heat when doind the second side (don't want it gooey, at this point you want it to shear). This is even more true with a treepan. As I said earlier think of it as a circular hot-cut. Both the inside and outside should be tapered, 7degree works well. I've only made them from H-13 tool steel. The wall thickness should probably not be less than 1/4inch. You can grind a bevel on the inside, outside, or both. As in regular punching, drive the punch in 2/3-3/4 of the way through, turn the work over and center on the colder ring that should be showing. Keep the punch cool - you don't want it curling over! I like to use a bucket of fairly HOT tap water, cold water can crack H-13 or other hot-work tool steels.

grant -- nakedanvil at Wednesday, 10/06/99 02:08:51 GMT

Just to add to the list of steel that are good for hot work, in addition to L-6, H-13 and H-27. I used 4340 alloy to make some crane hooks for a customer. Made a hot cutter from a drop off for under the Nazel. Was a bit surprised to how well it worked. It is a cheaper alternative to some of the more exotic steels.

Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Wednesday, 10/06/99 04:45:11 GMT

Thanks to everyone for the responses on where to get punch & die sets for the Whitney #2. Turns out Centaur has them for about $15 per set, And I had been avoiding them because I thought they would be too expensive, since they are kinda steep on many items. That figure of $40 the Guru suggested scared me, since I am a skinflint by nature (only paid $12 for the whole punch at a flea market!). Note to the Guru: McMaster-Carr punches do look like Whitneys, but do not use the same dies. They do sell die sets for Whitney punches, though... every model but the #2! Oh, well.

Alan Longmire -- longmire at Wednesday, 10/06/99 14:21:15 GMT

How hard should the face of an anvil be? I know this is a broad question because of different preferences. Should the hammer be able to mark the face.

Bobby Neal -- nealbrusa at Wednesday, 10/06/99 18:13:26 GMT

Dear Sir's
I have been lucky enough to find and buy a Haybudden anvil. I do not own a scale and would like to figure out what it might wiegh. It is 14.5 inches tall 33 inches long and the face is 5.5 inches wide any guess Thank you for any input Dan

Dan -- thornton at Wednesday, 10/06/99 18:16:20 GMT


I'll second that! 4340 is probably still the best material for hammer dies unless there is some sharp detail. At 50-54 Rockwell they're just as hard as H-13 and a LOT tougher. I've seen more than a few well-made H-13 hammer dies shatter. We mark all our dies with the material spec. so we can draw them back again after extended use to relieve work hardening stresses.

grant -- nakedanvil at Wednesday, 10/06/99 18:43:31 GMT


Most anvils I've seen can be dinged with a hammer, at least a hard blow with the corner of a hammer. Most of the cast anvils sold today are a little softer (some more than others)than SOME of the older welded face anvils. You're not supposed to hit the ANVIL with the hammer, just the work! Most hammer dings can be peened out by working around the edge of the ding. The steel does not get compressed, it just raises up around the mark sorta like knurling. You gotta peen it back right away or the high stuff can get worn off.

grant -- nakedanvil Wednesday, 10/06/99 19:14:25 GMT

Patron would like to know how to pour a Babbitt bearing.

B. Wilcox -- blackft at Wednesday, 10/06/99 19:51:29 GMT

Hey-Budden ANVIL: Dan, it should have the weight marked on the side. You may have to wire brush some dirt out of the marks to read it. We be under the Hay-Budden name and address.

Anvil weight is marked in one of several ways. Old anvils are marked using hundred weights (112#), quarter hundreds (28#), and pounds. You have to multiply then add them up. Normaly there is a dot between the marks. An anvil marked 1.1.3 would be a 143#.

American made anvils were marked both this way and in actual pounds. Late Hey-Buddens made for the domestic market were marked in pounds. Cast anvils were general marked to the nearest 10 pounds and the 0 left off. So an anvil with a raised 12 is a 120# anvil. Modern European anvils are marked in kilograms.

From your description it is a pretty heavy anvil. However, size is deceptive. Many heavy anvils have the extra weight in the waist. You can add 50# to an 150# anvil to make it a 200# and hardly see the difference.

-- guru Wednesday, 10/06/99 22:51:36 GMT

BABBITT: B. Wilcox, The method is fairly simple. There are several variations. The simple method is to cast the babbitt around the shaft with the bearing journals in place.
  • The shaft is sooted to make running clearance
  • It is then placed in the machine frame or journal bearing and aligned in proper position
  • Dams are placed to keep the babbitt from running out. These are made of sheet metal sealed with a product called Dam-Tight.
  • A sprue (funnel like place) is fabricated from same.
  • The babbitt is then heated until when a pine stick is dipped in the molten metal it chars. At the same time the shaft and housing is warmed to prevent chilling the babbitt.
  • Then the Babbitt is poured. A steady unstopping stream is required and pouring should continue until the sprue is full and as long as the metal is shrinking into the sprue.

The next method is to cast the metal around a precision arbor (a dummy shaft). These are often fabricated with the dams and supporting means integral. Casting method is the same. In split journals sooting is not required.

The last method is to cast the babbitt around a rough undersized mandrel and then machine the bearing surfaces in place.

More detailed instructions will be found in most machinists texts and handbooks. Older copies of MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK have excellent instructions and Centaur Forge sells a booklet about babbitting.

-- guru Wednesday, 10/06/99 23:06:19 GMT

ANVIL HARDNESS: A gentle tap to the face of the anvil should not leave a mark. A heavy blow generaly does not on a good anvil IF its with the slightly radiused face of a forging hammer. Anvils that easily show marks are too soft. Quite a few modern cast anvils are not properly heat treated even when made out of a sufficient grade of steel. Hardening and tempering an anvil face is THE most difficult part of making a good anvil. Manufacturers that don't believe it takes a skilled, experianced workman (and occasionaly some trial and error) to do this task end up producing a lot of bad anvils.

In the past it was unthinkable to NOT do the best possible job and that attitude included management and worker alike. Today it is common to do what you can get away with. I personaly like OLD anvils because they were made by REAL craftsmen during an era when making the BEST possible product was as important as making a profit.

-- guru Wednesday, 10/06/99 23:26:10 GMT

Greetings. I'm writing because I would like to learn more about blacksmithing. I'm a computer programmer, now. But for six years I worked in a steel foundry. My interest in 'smithing would be more for arts and crafts type stuff, not industrial strength product. My questions are this, do I start out on this by going to a trade school? Or is it better to slowly buy some used equipment and just learn by doing? Can I just go to a hardware store and buy an anvil? I don't think I've ever seen one on display. I'd hate to have to buy something that big through the mail. The shipping charge would be a killer. Finally, do most people set up a forge in their back yard, or garage, or do I have to arrange for a place to use it? That is, do I have to add more to the expense of this by renting some place to burn coal, and make noise? Has anyone mentioned getting into trouble with neighbors or zoning people about their hobby/vocation?
Thanks for the time.

Ed Stone -- edstone at Wednesday, 10/06/99 23:27:56 GMT

Ed, You've pretty much answered your own questions. See our article Getting Started (link at top of page) for one way to do it. The neighbors thing depends on your neighbors, how small your yard is and how up-tight THEY are. Some might LIKE having a blacksmith as a neighbor (had one of those GIVE me an anvil!). If you live in an older city you might be surprised to find out a blacksmith shop could go in a residential neighborhood (they were like service stations when everyone used horses for transportation). Other places are less charitable. One option is a gas forge. They are clean and quiet. They run on small propane bottles like a barbeque! Don't ring your anvil too much and your neighbors may never know you are there.

If you DO find an anvil in a local hardware or farm supply DON'T BUY IT! See the posting above with the anvil pictures. Then read the anvil series under 21st Century before buying a used anvil. Working in a foundry the guys there can probably tell you a lot about the difference between cast iron and tool steel (real anvils are tool steel).

If you need more help, that's what WE are here for.

-- guru Thursday, 10/07/99 00:44:18 GMT

Thanks for the post on the hardness of anvils. The reason I posted that was I bought an old anvil and the face was marked up and I sanded the face some not much to get some of them out. Before when working with the anvil I didn't notice the face marking up. But now that its nice and shining I notice it. I was hammering the edge of a knife I was making and the hammer struck the face at an angle.

Bobby Neal -- nealbrusa at Thursday, 10/07/99 13:22:55 GMT

Guru , last night I seemed to accidently heat treated all my tools ,anvil lawn mowers bikes and forge. OH yeah and my barn also .
What I need to know is will my anvil need any special treetment after being cooled so rapidly by our local fire dept. its a PW
This method is a little hard on hammer handles and all things wood and plastic

Gary Robinson -- mustardseed at Thursday, 10/07/99 14:32:50 GMT

Guru, We're making dies for 75# several Kinyon air hammers. The mat'l being considered is S7, which will be professionally heat treated to 50 Rc. Any thoughts on the mat'l selection or hardness? We would like the dies to outlast the hammers.

Dan Jennings -- danshammer at Thursday, 10/07/99 14:34:04 GMT

also if anyone finds my big propane bottle, you can keep it


Gary Robinson Thursday, 10/07/99 14:40:58 GMT

Bummer. I trust all family members and yourself are OK? How did your 'heat treatment' get started?

Ralph -- ralphd at Thursday, 10/07/99 15:09:53 GMT

Hi guru i am looking bor basic ornamental iron tools/plans for scrollmaking,bending,twisting plans for simple projects thanks denis

Denis -- mariej at Thursday, 10/07/99 17:05:12 GMT

I was recently at the cloisters in NYC and noticed that the their is a lot of forged work ie. handrails, light fixtures and so on. do you know who made them? it isn't the work in the collection it is the museum.thanks

David T.Snelbaker -- LUNCHBOX3d at Thursday, 10/07/99 18:18:09 GMT

Hello Guru. Hensley is a steel foundry in Dallas, Texas. We have cast anvils for AP Tool in Conroe, Texas over 25 years. Sales of anvils have been very slow. Our anvils have been in use at Oklahoma Horseshoing School. We cast the anvils in a wear resistant steel. Other steels are available. Our anvils have a very long life and perhaps due to the high alloy content tend to be priced high. Perhaps people think short term and want to spend less more often. We would like to explore selling direct to the end user or if volume increased we could supply one of your retailers at quantity discounts. Can you help us serve blacksmiths? Interesting note: I have a photo of my Great Grandfather in front of his blacksmith business, downtown Forth Worth, early 1900's and other photos of the business.
Thank you. Steve.

Steve Smith -- ssmith at Thursday, 10/07/99 19:16:25 GMT

I am 15 and have been blacksmithing for about 3 years I have pretty much mastered forge welding chains and the like but was thinking of forging a gun barrel in the somewhat near future. I was wondering where I could get some info or tips on this subject as the only place i have found anything is in a foxfire 5 book. thanks for your time, alex

alex bender Thursday, 10/07/99 22:55:27 GMT

I am 15 and have been blacksmithing for about 3 years I have pretty much mastered forge welding chains and the like but was thinking of forging a gun barrel in the somewhat near future. I was wondering where I could get some info or tips on this subject as the only place i have found anything is in a foxfire 5 book. thanks for your time, alex

alex bender Thursday, 10/07/99 22:55:56 GMT

Dear Guru,
What is the triangle shaped item on top of an anvil, used to cut hot iron by striking with a hammer called? My wife is translating an article on knive making from Japanese to English and she doesn't know the Japanese word.

Thanks so much for your help.

John T Worm -- JTYUKOWORM at Friday, 10/08/99 04:10:24 GMT

John, In English the tool is called a hardy. The hole it goes in is a hardy hole. The origin is very old and the meaning unknown. It is the name of the item. I don't know if it is used in other languages.
BEEN VERY BUSY the past couple days. Will get all you folks questions caught up ASAP.

-- guru Friday, 10/08/99 11:59:51 GMT

I am a jewelers apprentice. Recently, we got a request for a silver
dagger. I know nothing about bladesmithing and neither does my employer. How do we start?

Stacey B -- chs at Friday, 10/08/99 15:04:30 GMT

Alex, You may want to watch the video from Colonial Williamsburg about the Gunsmith. It does not go into detail as how to do it all, but it DOES show him welding a barrel.

Ralph Douglass -- ralphd at Friday, 10/08/99 15:05:28 GMT

Jim Kolff-not a smith-have 4'-6

jim kolff -- jkolff at Friday, 10/08/99 20:20:19 GMT

not a smith-have bellows with mark D.Berrien New York 4'-6'' high 3'-6"across.want to research source.need help getting started.any ideas

jim kolff -- jkolff at Friday, 10/08/99 20:37:29 GMT

I own a craft and gift shop and make some of my own crafts. Recently i've been seeing common tin items that are rusted to look old. Someone told me there was a simple recipe to rust metal and tin quickly. It involves vinager and ?. It would be great if you knew the answer and shared it with me. Thanks in advance. Jane

Jane Mcdermott -- janemcd123 at Friday, 10/08/99 21:08:08 GMT

Jane, Vinegar is kind of slow. Chlorox bleach makes INSTANT rust. Be careful on thin items or they may disappear. Dilute it some, brush on and let work outdoors, use unchipped enamel ware to contain. Be sure to clean thoroughly when done.

-- guru Friday, 10/08/99 21:18:33 GMT

BELLOWS: Jim, I do not know the maker, however belows were factory made for a period of time in the 1800's. Prior to that they were all hand made. Being hand made is not necessarily a clue to age because many smiths made or continue to make their own. I did.

In either case please do not turn them into a table or wall hanging. They are more valuable as-is.
DAGGER: Stacey, If it is a one off you want to use the "stock removal" method. That's sawing and grinding the blade from a bar. This requires a good belt grinder/sander but so does most forged knife work. If it is to be VERY fancy then check into Damascus steel blanks from someone such as Daryl Meier (see his banner ad, or listing at the top of this page).

There are VERY good books and videos about knife making. Get a catalog from Centaur Forge or Norm Larson (listed in the article Getting Started). Pick a couple and start studying. If you call Norm he may even make a recomendation based on your needs and skill level. You may also want to check the web site of Don Fogg. He makes some beautiful blades and has a very artistic page (see our links).

-- guru Friday, 10/08/99 21:31:42 GMT

FORGE WELDING GUN BARRELS: ALex, Do not attempt this unless your welding skills are very good AND the barrel is to be used for black powder only AND you proof the barrel. That Foxfire book is pretty good on the subject and the Williamsburg video mentioned above is also recommended by many. I think the video is available from Centaur Forge and Norm Larson.

-- guru Friday, 10/08/99 21:38:02 GMT

FIRE in BARN/SHOP: Gary, sorry for your loss. I would test the anvil's hardness before doing anything drastic. As you know your Peter Wright is wrought iron and tool steel. It is reported that manufacturers ocassionaly had trouble with the welds failing entirely with a loud pop on new anvils! This is due largely to stress from heat treating. Its one of the many reasons that you don't want to do it again.

IF the anvil didn't get hot enough to anneal the face or portions of the face it is also unlikely that the fire dept hurt it. Quenching anvils took the controlled equivalent of several fire hoses aimed directly at the face AFTER getting the whole hot enough. See the article on testing anvils on our 21st Century page. A PW should test somewhere between 65% and 85%.

-- guru Friday, 10/08/99 21:50:28 GMT

What is the best method to form 90 deg. angles by bending and forging only.I have researched various opinions on this. It seems that upsetting first and then bending 2nd works best. How do you do this and have an equal amount of materal on the outside of the angle?

Bryan Scott Absher -- bryan at Friday, 10/08/99 22:19:31 GMT

Thankyou for the spark test table it helped me alot, because I passed the test for the Milwaukee ironworkes DPW and now I am an employee for them now thanks to your help.

thanks for every thing, Robert Hartling!!

Robert Hartling -- rhartling at Saturday, 10/09/99 00:27:06 GMT

Guru, Grant, Bruce Many thanks for your info on steels to use for hot punching and drifting, now the next question presents itself. Where can a blacksmith out in the middle of nowhere (oregon) get these steels in smallish lots. My nearest machine and tool steel is 150 miles away, and is a bandit in my estimation. I would appreciate any help on a supplier who dosen't want me to buy a truckload.
Also, same question, where Can I buy rivits is managable quanities, my local fastener business types claim they can not buy less than a thousand of any size, and Bee Industries wants a minimum order of over a thousand (dollers - gasp). I want lots of different sizes (dias and lengths) but not (again) truckloads... does anyone out there cater to "the little one".....thanks in advance

Tim Saturday, 10/09/99 03:41:06 GMT

I have just come into some great luck today, I got a new anvil! Of course new is a relative term when talking about anvils, new to me, but probably 100 years old. It is a hay-bodden. It weighs 132 pounds. The words on the side of the anvil are partially gone, but still understandable. It says, Hay Boden on top, Manufacturing in the middle, and Brooklyn NY on the bottom. I can not find a date or a weight anywhere on the anvil. It is 25" in total length, and the face is 15"long. I did a spark test on the anvil and the face was obviously high carbon steel. The body actually looked like a wrought iron spark, it was a clean straight line with a slight bend towards the end, no bursts at all, the color was slightly orange at the begenning and almost yellow at the end. I found another internet sight that talked about hay-bodden anvils, they said that it was a high carbon face welded to a wrought iron body, is this true? It needs a little bit of work, the face is cupped about 1/8" over the length, there does not apper to be any corrosion damage at all. Can you tell me a little bit about the anvil, what would a typical face hardness be,what should I do to restore and maintain it, and how much it might be worth. This is my first anvil, I have been forging and bladesmithing for about a year and a half with out one. I am excited about using it.

Stewart Alexander -- spalexan at Saturday, 10/09/99 05:52:01 GMT

Tim,Truck freight and UPS goes almost everywhere. I buy my alloy and carbon steels from Turret Steel Corporation, 1-800-245-4800. Tool steel comes from Carpenter, 1-800-654-6543. The only problem is you pay a premium for small orders. It's better to find someone else who needs steel and order together. I have some H-13, 2.5" x 4.5" x 48" hammer die steel that I'm selling. I bought the steel for a hammer I no longer have. It won't fit my Bradley or 3B so I'm offering it for sale. I'm willing to sell it cut to length at cost just to get ride of it.

Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Saturday, 10/09/99 13:51:39 GMT

Tim, What size rivets are you interested in. I have bins full of them. Lenght is not to much of a problem it they are to long.

Bruce R. Wallace -- Wallace Metal Work Saturday, 10/09/99 14:17:14 GMT

UPSET CORNER: Bryan, There are two ways to go depending on the part. Upsetting and controlled upseting is difficult at best and called "an upsetting experiance" by a friend of mine that does it VERY well.

The traditional method is to use a controlled heat (quench extra as necessary). The second is to reduce the stock from a larger piece. Stock reduction is easier if you have a power hammer, however it is not very fuel efficient. Both methods require thought AND practice.

You actually only need a little material. Draw the corner and put a radius on the corner equal to the width of the bar. That little traingle outside is the material you need.

Another method is to forge weld the corner. This requires upsets on and scarfs on both bars. However, being on the end of the bars it is easier to work. AND there are even ANOTHER forge welding method. Weld on a lump where the corner is to be (instead of upsetting).

The tricky part is when you have more than one corner. . .

-- guru Saturday, 10/09/99 15:23:43 GMT

HAY-BUDDEN: Stewart, Hay-Buddens were made two ways. The early anvils were wrought iron with a tool steel face in the classic method. Later ones were made with a tool steel upper body and mild steel or wrought iron base. Do a spark or rebound test on the underside of the horn to tell. These anvils were arc welded together at the waist and sometimes you can see the weld.

Hay-Budden went out of business in 1928 so your anvil is at least that old. Hay-Budden's were the finest of the American made anvils. See our 21st Century articles on anvils for more info.

-- guru Saturday, 10/09/99 15:48:37 GMT

Jock, what do tinsmith's blow torches burn? The kind with fuel tanks you pump up, and a little pan under the fuel line to the spout for a fire to get the fuel vaporized. Local welding supply shops say they haven't seen a soldering iron in years. Have a small one made by Primus, replete with hook and a V-slot on top for positioning your torch, and it burns white gas (Coleman fuel). Now need to use big one-- my gas forge is, I think, cooking the outside of large soldering irons before the inside gets hot through and through, and the blow torch should be just right for the job (flashing a chimney), that being what it was built for in the first place. Old Sears catalogue (1898) sez they burn gasoline. But what kind? Want to be sure. Many thanks for info-- and also for a great site!

john neary -- jneary at Sunday, 10/10/99 02:29:14 GMT

oops-- meant to say a hook & slot for the iron, also meant the pan is under the fuel line to the muzzle. sorry.

john neary -- jneary at Sunday, 10/10/99 02:47:56 GMT

what kind of hammers should i have

scott -- scottgresh at Sunday, 10/10/99 03:33:42 GMT

Guru: I'm sure that you know a lot more about the history of the "Haye-Budden" anvils than I do ( never studied the history of the company, just owned and used them), but wanted to point out that all 4 of mine seem to be forge welded at the waist. Visible lap scarf, plus no difference in the color any where on the anvil except the top plate which is blue/gray rather than red/brown. Trenton anvils that I have owned in the past had evidence of arc/gas welding at the waist. Weld bead present plus color difference in patina.

grandpa -- darylmeier at Sunday, 10/10/99 04:15:18 GMT


Where in Oregon are you? (you can e-mail me if you like) I live just outside of Portland. I am guessing you live in Central or Eastern OR.
I am sure we can find a suplier that can work on smaller loads. Or I can help you find other smiths in your area who might want to go in with you on a steel shipment.

Ralph Douglass -- ralphd at Sunday, 10/10/99 04:25:07 GMT

Gary:to bad to hear that accidental heat treatment is a wery bad thing (I know iv had one) it tends to put a lid on things for a while.
Hope no people got hurt and that you soon get going again.

OErjan -- pokerbacken at Sunday, 10/10/99 11:12:45 GMT

How can I find information on fifty lb. Tripp air hammers?

Jane Spencer -- NET">RLEES at BELLATLANTIC>NET Sunday, 10/10/99 13:12:08 GMT

John Neary,
Since you own a Swedish blowtorch already: The ones I´ve used here in Sweden burned "fotogen", lampfuel, wich i THINK is the same as kerosene, and we used alcohol for the pre-heat. Of the blowtorch, that is.

Olle Andersson -- utgaardaolle at Sunday, 10/10/99 13:46:55 GMT

Grandpa, I'll have to look up the weld used by Hay-Budden. I do know I've seen a bunch that were are welded. However, these may be repairs as I know someone that had one that had seperated at the waist. Its even possible that some of these were factory repairs where the weld was imperfect on some anvils.
Jane, Look on our Power hammer Page manufacturer's list. The last time I asked Tripp Air had a video but no literature. . .

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 15:10:29 GMT

HAMMERS: Scott, What kind of work do you want to do? For blacksmithing, hardware stores can sell you a standard blacksmith's crosspien. Something in the 2-1/4 pound (100g) range is a good starting weight unless you already regularly use a hammer for long periods such as being a carpenter. A lot of smiths use a 4 pound hammer but it takes years to work up to that weight and have the necessary control. Control is much more important than power.

Now, there are all kinds of "patent", "name" and imported blacksmith hammers. However, I've found that a hammer is a hammer is a hammer. The rest is hype. What is important is that you reshape the handle to a comfortable grip and that the face have a slight arc and smoothly rounded corners. Most factory hammers are OK when it comes to the face but the pien always needs a LOT of reworking. I like factory "standard" hammers because I can always get a new one just like my old one - blacksmiths DO wear out hammers.

Some smiths learn to work using a ball-pien hammer and are uncomfortable using anything else. I use them for riviting and small work (because I have small ball pien hammers). I also use a tinsmith's "riviting" hammer for some small work. But mostly I use the same size hammer for EVERYTHING from forging 1" stock down to little 1/32" (.8mm) or less tapers for light scrolls. This is where practice and control come in.

Most smiths find they need an 8 to 12 pound sledge occasionaly but if you work alone a sledge will rarely get used. The current popularity of power hammers is due to the fact that most modern smiths work alone and don't have a couple helpers to swing a sledge.

On the other hand, IF is a smith has a couple of employees then they need power hammers to be productive enough to pay for the employees! Power hammers also come is various sizes and styles. Unlike the smith that is most comfortable swinging one size hammer you can easily make use of a wide range of power hammers. A 50 or 100 pound (20 - 45kg) power hammer can be used to do both heavy and delicate work but if you want to forge tool steels then a bigger hammer is better. In industrial forging anything less than 1,000 pounds (450kg) is considered a toy but most of these shops keep 350-500 pound hammers around for "small" work :)

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 15:51:15 GMT

ANTIQUE BLOW TORCH: John, these did indeed burn gasoline. "Coleman" fuel is a clean additive free fuel that will work fine. Most gasolines are pretty much the same except for additives that automobiles require to run smoothly. Formerly a lead compound I think they use cadnium now. . Have we gone from bad to worse? My old lead burners never had sulphur fumes come from the exhaust.

In a not too distant past you would have gone to an Amoco service station and bought their premium "white gas". Not because of its high octane but the fact that it was additive free.

Beware, these things work on the same principle as a flame thrower. Several major fires in our area were caused by roofers blow torches.

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 16:04:18 GMT

hello, my question is how can i get started in making small knives? where can i get the eqipment and who do i contact? can i get a book of instructions? thank you.

dan lambert -- hatchrooster at Sunday, 10/10/99 16:23:54 GMT

DANGEROUS TERMS: In one of the popular blacksmith videos the smith describes starting his forge with "lamp" fuel (meaning lamp oil or kerosene). A corespondant wrote that when he tried what we call "lamp fuel" in this country (Coleman lamp and stove fuel = gasoline) he blew up his forge and nearly burned down his shop! He was more than a little shaken by haveing flaming lumps of coal rain down on him for what seemed like an eternity!

Kerosene is approximately the same as desiel fuel and is used in primitive wick type oil lamps and is often used for starting fires.

Gasoline or Petrol is used in auto engines and pressureized camp stove burners and thoriated silk mantle "lamps". Its vapors are explosive and it is NOT suitable for starting a fire.

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 17:55:46 GMT

KNIFE MAKING: Dan, There is LOTS of literature available about making knives. Call Centaur Forge or Norm Larson about books AND videos on the subject (See Getting Started for the numbers to call. There are also numerous web pages on the subject. See the Don Fogg web site and BladeForums.COM from our links page.

Starting small is good. Most requests I get are "How do I make a Sword"? Once you are good at small then YOU can decide how big you want to go. There are two basic methods to making blades, stock removal and forging. In stock reduction you cut out a blank with chisle or saw, then grind the blade to shape. The grinders used are generaly the belt grinder/sander type. These can be very aggressive or put on a fine finish. Forging requires a small forge and blacksmithing skills. It often requires much of the same grinding/polishing equipment as stock-removal. Pay close attention to the process of heattreating (hardening and tempering). This makes all the difference between a "blade" and junk. After you've studied the literature a bit feel free to ask about anything you are not clear about.

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 18:10:11 GMT

Jock, many thanks! For the info and the caution. Fear not. A friend accidentally killed himself back in 1960 starting a barbecue when the unbeknownst-to-him already-smouldering coals ignited the stream of starter fluid, exploding the can, and covering him with flame. I've gone totally paranoid about fire, from that and from my many burns on hands, arms, even feet (don't wear open-top cowboy-style boots around a forge or a cutting torch, ever! that slag goes right through jeans!) and the seemingly inevitable infections (sulfadiazene works best, and put it on right away!) Thanks again. I appreciate your kind help a great deal.

john neary -- jneary at Sunday, 10/10/99 18:17:12 GMT

Jock, you say "Gasoline or Petrol (is) explosive and it is NOT suitable for
starting a fire." So: is it OK nonetheless to squirt a dab of Coleman fuel into that preheat pan and light it to vaporize inside the line to the muzzle, as with an Optimus or Primus camp stove (they have pressure relief ffiller caps that will blow out if the tanks overheat) or the little Primus blowtorch? Or is that dangerous atop the fuel tank on the big blowtorch (which has no such relief cap) and I should start with something else--like maybe kerosene or denatured alcohol-- to heat for vapor?

john neary -- jneary at Sunday, 10/10/99 18:33:29 GMT

John, I don't really know the manufacturer's procedure for starting those devices. Coleman stoves and lanterns atomize the fuel to a clear vapor via pressure. You light the vapor directly. On the lanterns it takes a few moments for the preheat tube to warm up and the flame to burn clear after lighting. Neither requires a preheat to light. I suspect spilling liquid fuel anywhere on similar devices is dangerous. The less volitile fuels are less problematic but still dangerous.

I should have stated that gasoline VAPORS are explosive. I've had my stupid experiances too. When I was a teenager I poured a pint of gasoline on a stack of carboard boxes and fire wood to start a fire. It was in a snowstorm and the cardboard was damp and didn't want to light. My matches didn't want to light either so I got some more. In the interum the gasoline had evaporated inside the hollows of the boxes. WHOOM! It rained smoldering 8" (200mm) fire logs for a brief time! If my matches had worked the first time I wouldn't have learned anything. To paraphrase what has become a cliche'
What doesn't kill you makes you smarter (IF you have the sense to pay attention)

-- guru Sunday, 10/10/99 20:24:02 GMT


I am looking for direction regarding forging small brass parts. I am
a musical instrument maker in Gardner MA. Untill now, I have been fashioning brass keys for woodwinds by cuting, filing and finishing brass bar. I would like to learn to forge the keys. The keys would have a more consistent fit and look better, with less waste if I could do so. I have tried it with a torch and hammer/anvil. The Metal keeps keeps splitting and cracking. I know I don't know enough about it, so I figure I had better find out and not waste any more metal. Would you be so kind as to point me in the proper direction with the basics. Or where I can find information.

Yours in metalwork,
BC Childress

Bruce C. (BC)Childress -- bcpipes at Sunday, 10/10/99 20:45:50 GMT

Jock, thanks again! Thrilling denouement dept.: just found (yup, before lighting) that the bottom (rolled) seam of fuel tank leaks, as does packing on pump. Some earlier owner may have had an interesting, as in the Chinese curse, day with this old gadget, when that bottom solder melted. So, once again, study here at Entropy Research shows that the 2nd Law can indeed be reversed-- it just takes time and money (and more soldering and packing).

john neary -- jneary at Sunday, 10/10/99 21:08:58 GMT

Bruce C.......Should ot be a difficult tastk to cast those in brass useing lost wax technique. Some areas have local jewelry classes that teach this and It works wonders. Rich

Rich Hale -- rjhale at Sunday, 10/10/99 22:17:44 GMT

FORGED BRASS: Bruce, Forging of any type requires skills gained only by practice. You may have to forge 200 keys before you can repeatedly produce clean parts the shape you want. That said, here's how:

First, not all brass is forgeable. Brass designed to be machined has lead in it to make it more machinable. When heated the lead seperates leaving a crumbly mess. It CAN be forged but it is very tricky. The best lead free material I've found is common brazing rod. You can get it in a variety of sizes but I expect you will want 1/4 or 3/8". You may have to find a large well stocked welding supplier to get the 3/8".

Temperature control is critical. Brass melts about 100°F above the forging point. I set the brass on a fire brick and heat it with an oxyacetylene torch. The surface will show a slight change in color or a whiteish haze just as it gets hot enough. In very low light you may be able to see a faint red glow but not in daylight. You only have a few moments to forge the part before heating again. If you work too cold the metal will crack and split. An oxy-propane torch will also work but requires care in learning when the flame is right and not too oxidizing.

If you are going to do a lot of this an "economizer" valve for the torch saves gas and is much safer than setting the torch down or hanging it. These valves have a lever on them on which you hang your torch. This shuts off both fuel and oxygen. When you pickup the torch you wave it past the pilot light on the valve and you are back in business. You don't have to readjust the torch everytime you relight it.

An advantage to this type work is that you can actually weld brass pieces together instead of silver soldering them. This produces parts that do not have color differences and tarnish evenly. On the other hand, I liked to use wrapped joints that were silver soldered. If the solder wets the parts just right you get a clean fillets between each wrap.

You will also want to use hammers and anvil polished to jewlers standards. Because of the low heat and mass to retain it you will find much advantage to warming you tools to where they are just a little uncomfortable to touch. Do so carefully, you don't want to reduce the temper of your tools.

I learned these techniques from Dona Meilach's Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork (and some practical work). See our Book Shelf book review page for more info.

-- guru Monday, 10/11/99 15:36:37 GMT

Good source for tool steel in small quantity is Cincinnati Tool Steel in Rockford IL, (800) 435-0717. Nice folks, don't seem to mind small orders and they have great prices!

grant -- nakedanvil Monday, 10/11/99 17:40:09 GMT

For Bruce Wallace, Thanks for the additional info on hot work steels.
As for the rivets, I would take any size from 3/4" down. I don't know where the bottom is, 1/16"??. I want solid steel, round or button head, and oh lets say 100 of each for starters, Lengths of about 1/4 on up on the smallish ones, up to 2"+ on the biggies. If yo can supply them, I am interrested in buying. Email at leepil at and many thanks

Tim Monday, 10/11/99 18:49:14 GMT

Hi i am looking for information/books/anything with step by step information on how to build a scrollformer,circlemaker,tubing/pipe bender and step bystep directions on how to use these tools to make very simple ornamental iron projects thre must be someone out there who can help me. someone from an old time ornamental iron shop that does basic railings and such .not having much on the internet. and losing hope.again just a very basic instruction book thanks denis at mariej at

denis -- mariej at Monday, 10/11/99 21:17:07 GMT

MORE ON FORGING SMALL BRASS PARTS: If you should happen to overheat a part and melt it DON'T move it. You can generaly see the slightest slump in the part if it is just barely or partialy melted. Let it cool to room temperature before starting again. Even if the melted place looks localized and resolidifys. If you move the part with a melted place the partialy melted area around it crumbles and you've lost the part. You can save a lot of parts by paying close attention and being patient.

I've never forged brass with a controlled temperature furnace like a small kiln but I'm sure is would relieve a LOT of frustration.

-- guru Monday, 10/11/99 22:03:20 GMT

BENDER: Denis, I'm afraid that not EVERYTHING is on the web yet!
We have a series on simple benders on our 21st Century page. Its not plans its pretty much show and tell. Eventually we will have some serious plans but that is still in the future.

Blacksmiths generaly make scroll benders as needed (see article mentioned). The so called "universal" benders (such as the Hossfeld) are only as universal as the set of dies you can afford to buy for them. The bender is easy. Dies are hard. Centaur Forge carries a book called How to make a Metal Bending Machine. It sounds good, I havn't seen it. Order their catalog and get in touch with Norm Larson (see Getting Started) for other books. Centaur Forge sells Hossfeld benders and has videos and a bender manual.

-- guru Monday, 10/11/99 22:47:55 GMT


-- guru Monday, 10/11/99 22:54:58 GMT

i am a coal broker in pennsylvania, i have shipped blacksmith coal to acouple people over the years but only truckloads (24 tons) my question is. is there enough demand for me to consider smaller amounts in boxes or bags?

dave wilson -- drwilson at Tuesday, 10/12/99 03:41:24 GMT

COAL: Dave, A number of folks are in the bagged coal business, including Centaur Forge and Wallace Metal Works (also in PA). I can't tell you if its worth while or not. Shipping is generaly the killer. However, there are less and less places to selling coal on the local level.

If you have a really good grade of coal the various ABANA chapters occasionaly purchase coal in bulk then redistribute to members. It may pay to contact them to get on their distributors list. Fred Holder maintains the Coal Scuttle list we reproduce from his Blacksmith's Gazette web page.

-- guru Tuesday, 10/12/99 12:47:30 GMT

HI, My GreatGrandfather was a blacksmith. I resently got all his tools and a mug. On this mug is his name,a skull and crossbones, two swords and a triangle in which there are three letters. FCB or FBC. My question is was there a Faternal Order of Blacksmiths in the 1880 - 1900 ? And what do these letters mean. I can't seem to find any info. on this. Thanks

Randy Smith -- RANGINSMIT at Tuesday, 10/12/99 14:02:05 GMT

I recently bought a candleabra at a antique mall. It appears to be black iron that was dipped or coated in brass. The bottom is stamped with the name Coberg. My question is what can you tell me about Coberg. I live near Milwaukee WI and am slightly familiar with Cyril Croenig's work. My interest in blacksmithing is as a new novelist. I am courious if I paid too much for the item or if I got a good deal. So if he is a well known craftsman I will feel that I paid a fair price.
Thank you,

Todd -- timmra at Tuesday, 10/12/99 15:28:22 GMT

Randy, I don't have a clue. The AFL-CIO branch that has blacksmiths is the Blacksmiths and Boilermakers Union. Maybe someone else here might have a lead??
Todd, I'm afraid we aren't an antiques clearing house. Sorry. We DO occasionaly value common blacksmith tools but that's about all.
Geezz! Is this "stump the guru day" or what? :)

-- guru Tuesday, 10/12/99 18:28:19 GMT


Do you know where your grandfather worked? Perhaps the letters on the cup have something to do with a location or a company?

Ralph Douglass -- ralphd at Tuesday, 10/12/99 20:54:00 GMT

What is a good book or web site to learn about making roses and other decortive orniments

Bobby -- frisco89 at Tuesday, 10/12/99 21:09:42 GMT

Bobby, Try our iForge page. Every Wednesday night for the last 23 weeks we have had "live" illustrated demonstrations on the Slack-Tub Pub and they are archived under on the iForge page.

-- guru Tuesday, 10/12/99 21:39:00 GMT

How do you make damascus bar stock?

jerome wheeler -- jwheels at Wednesday, 10/13/99 00:49:55 GMT

Jerome: With a great deal of care and effort! Stack up 2 or more different types of steel, in an alternating manner. Forge weld the stack into a solid mass, draw it out to three or four times it's original length, cut into three or four pieces , and stack up again. Forge weld the new stack into a solid mass and repeat the drawing and cutting,and stacking and welding until the bar has as many layers as you want. You now have a bar of random pattern patternwelded steel.

grandpa -- darylmeier at Wednesday, 10/13/99 02:16:41 GMT

I have been considering making a swage block for myself. I have a machine shop in my garage and have a good friend that owns a machine shop. We have thought about using 2" or 3" thick and about 12" to 16" square 4130 or 4330 to make it out of. We would machine the outer surfaces and broach the inner surfaces, then have it heat treated to perhaps about a 48 ROCKWELL c. Should the holes be tapered like on a nail header plate or straight through? Is this a good choice of material and hardness? I know the older blocks were cast steel or iron. What do you think? It is mostly just our time and process costs. Thank you for your time.

Wayne Parris -- benthar at Wednesday, 10/13/99 13:23:14 GMT

We are looking into removing and selling our 2500lb Chambersberg hammer. Could you tell me where we might sell it? I'm also interested in replacing it with something a little more manageable (less than 500lb one-man operation) any suggestions? I only wish we had the old Nazel that is now long gone.


Jud Marte -- marte at Wednesday, 10/13/99 14:00:39 GMT


charles -- drglnc at Wednesday, 10/13/99 15:05:52 GMT

Charles, I'm not the Guru, but saw your question and thought I would answer it. No, hardy holes are not all the same size. The most common sizes are 3/4", 7/8", 1", and 1 1/4". Buffalo blowers are good ones, I have two hand cranks and one electric. I like them because they are simpler than Champions inside. If the one you bought on E-bay is the one I'm thinking of, it has a cast fan case which means it's one of the older Buffalos. The newer ones had stamped sheet metal fan cases.

Phil -- rosche at Wednesday, 10/13/99 17:28:06 GMT

STEEL SWAGE BLOCK: Wayne, I've thought about making blocks this way. Made a few small ones. It takes some heavy machinery for big ones. Although you could harden one, most were just plain grey iron castings. Modern ones are generaly ductile iron. Mild steel is not quite as hard but then it won't chip, spall or break. The alloy steels you mention could be flame hardened (to take the wear and tear) with less effort than a full heat treatment.

Cast blocks have straight holes made with sand cores. I'd start with a flame cut blank with a couple of the BIG shapes flame cut. Most blocks are 3.5" - 4" (80-100mm) thick. A good convienient size is 10" x 10" (250x250mm) or 12" x 12" (300x300mm).

Best way to make the half rounds on the sides is to drill a series of holes then saw with a power hack saw or cutoff saw. Then you have a half round swage left over. Bowls are difficult to machine but it can be done on a lathe with a radius attachment or by tracing a template by hand. Shallow bowls work best. The bowls on most blocks are too deep. Don't forget to sink all the ball-end mills you've got! Small ones on the sides near the corners are good for riviting.

When finished put a nice radius (.09" - .12") on all the corners and edges and don't forget to but your name and date on it (you'll wish you did years from now).

-- guru Wednesday, 10/13/99 19:12:07 GMT

Am helping my father sell 2 large bellows (4-5 feet in length and about 30 inch diameter)--one cloth and one leather. What can he realistically expect to get for them?

A. Crews -- lcrews at Wednesday, 10/13/99 20:22:16 GMT

PRICE OF BELLOWS: This is a question for an antique dealer. Old bellows rarely have any value to blacksmiths unless they are also collectors or are buying for a museum. The problem with old bellows is that even if they are in good shape the leather/cloth will be old, dry and brittle. In use is will fail in a short time. To recover a bellows is a task that most do not want to take on.

I'd guess that you should get no less than $250 US for each.

-- guru Wednesday, 10/13/99 21:12:53 GMT

Jud Marte, You are welcome to place an ad on our Virtual Hammer-In page. We do not charge commission.

A friend of mine just purchased a 2,000lb Niles-Bement. He's the only one I know crazy enough and I asked if he was intrested in another. . . Nope, sorry. He says ONE hammer that requires two tractor trailers to move is enough!

-- guru Wednesday, 10/13/99 21:18:43 GMT

I am a third grader doing research on blacksmiths. I need some facts that you think my class would like to know about blacksmithing. My dad thinks some of the history would be interesting and my mom thinks that some of the stuff you make would be. Please send me some of the information.

Thank You,
Colton Pagano

Colton Pagano -- npagano at Wednesday, 10/13/99 22:13:21 GMT

I've just bought a Royal Forge Blower. Works great but has the sound of a machine that need some lubrication. There is an oil hole in the top. What is the best oil to use in these blowers. It's a pretty big unit - over 12" in diameter. What other maintenance issues should I be aware of? Thanks

Dan -- dan at Thursday, 10/14/99 00:09:14 GMT

Dear Guru...
I am making a Scottish Targe (shield). It is a wooden shield covered with tooled leather and metal fittings. No problem. However, it also has a metal spike 6 to 8 inches long, that is removable, which screws into a base "plate" (which is slightly domed, you would need to look for a picture of a targe on the internet to get a clear picture). Do you know anyone that can make this spike and base plate at a reasonable cost? I have tried about 10 different blacksmiths, weapons shops, etc and no one seems to be able to do it. Please let me know!!!!

Carl Larsen -- hylnder at Thursday, 10/14/99 02:02:14 GMT


Where are you located. There must be someone in the area that can do it! But if not, email me, and I'll see if I can get one together for you.

Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Thursday, 10/14/99 03:18:40 GMT

Thank you for your last advice about copper nails in once fire. I could not find any, but I sure will check my wood shaving before I make a fire...Now I have another dilemma I have just build an mechanical power hammer,well Im 58 my poor aging arms.. back to my hammer I have used a 20" flywheel by 1" and a 3/4 horsepower electr. Motor with an 30 to 1 reduction gear. and an adjustable ram crank and an 25lb ram which is cushioned by 4 auto valve spring.. it wont squash hot I took outthe springs replaced it with rubber cushions it hits to hard. Now I like to us an chock absorber maybe from a car.would that or would it not work.please advice.

Heinz Zach -- zach_dae at Thursday, 10/14/99 04:49:33 GMT

Your Royal blower is in my opinion about the best blower made. I use either chainsaw bar and chain oil, or something like Slick 50. Only put in enough oil so that the bottom gear slings it up on the rest of the gears. You might just want to clean it out good with kerosene first and make sure all the bushings are relatively tight.

Phil -- rosche at Thursday, 10/14/99 11:01:07 GMT

Looking for INFO on how to layout ovals using a string and two push pins?
What is the calculation for the string and the distance between the pins? Based on the finished size of oval.


Glenn -- ridgart at Thursday, 10/14/99 14:28:11 GMT

Good Afternoon,
Simple question... what is the difference between galvaneel and galvanized, and when would you use one above the other?? different metal?? different process?? different application??

Dennis Purcell -- dpurcell at Thursday, 10/14/99 19:48:42 GMT

Good Afternoon,
Simple question... what is the difference between galvaneel and galvanized, and when would you use one above the other?? different metal?? different process?? different application??

Dennis Purcell -- dpurcell at Thursday, 10/14/99 19:49:40 GMT

OVALS: Glen, I wrote a program in QuickBASIC to do this some tme ago. I'll try to find it for you. Seems to me you started with the H/W ratio. . . Its a simple bit of geometry, but too much for me tonight.

-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 02:07:48 GMT

POWER HAMMER DESIGN: Heinz, A 25 pound power hammer is a little light unless it is well designed. The standard toggle linkage on a power hammer does several things:

  • Adjusts to varying stroke conditions
  • Increases stroke and velocity axialy providing "overtravel"
  • Increases force to the spring at the neutral position and reduces it at the ends of the stroke giving the spring more advantage when it is needed
In other words it gives power hammers that so-called "snap".

Shock absorber linkage does only one of the above, it compensates for stroke length. They do this very well but they do not readily provide the "overtravel" provided by the toggle linkage. In fact, the faster you run shock linkage the less force it applies. I had to slow the EC-JYH down from 300 SPM to 140 SPM and increase the ram mass from 30 pounds to 68 to get any work out of its dual shock linkage. It still didn't hit nearly as hard as one would expect but it had excellent controll AND height compensation.

One plan to improve this performance is to use a flat horizontal spring on top of the ram with the shocks attached to the ends. The spring would provide the overtravel and the shocks the height compensation. I've been looking for a good method of attaching the shocks to the ends of the spring. One method could be to use two parallel springs made of round bar stock. The ends could be bent into loops for the bolts to pass through.

See the articles in the first editions of the anvilfire news for more about home built hammers.

-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 02:45:43 GMT

Dear Guru,I was a farrier for about ten years,most of the forge work I've done was making horseshoes,I learned on a coal forge.I have recently decided to get back into the forge after not using one for 20 years,obviously I found an easier way to make a living than shoeing horses,
I found a small "Champion"three legged forge in really good shape,it needs to be "clayed".I bought a bag of fire clay and was told at the store that it had to be mixed with mortar,which I did,it cracked quite a bit when it dried,was I told right?or should I have just used straight fireclay?Does it matter if it has cracks?There was no directions on the bag as far as parts to parts ratios.Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated,Dave

Dave Lookingbill -- davel at Friday, 10/15/99 03:02:12 GMT

What type of forge would you reccomend for a beginning blacksmith?
Keep in mind I will need something I can use in my garage.
Propane, coal, or natural gas( which i don't have at my house).
Thank you,
Michael Sobrado

Michael Sobrado -- Dragnsteel at Friday, 10/15/99 03:38:19 GMT

Colton Pagano,

There are two stories on our 21st Century page that were written for students. Both are about life as a blacksmith in Colonial America (300 years ago).

Blacksmithing is as old as metalworking (over 6,000 years). Its methods start with tools developed in the stone and bronze age. The bronze age was when the most commonly worked metal was copper and mixtures of copper with other metals. When ironworking was invented it replaced bronze as the most common metal. Iron is important because it can be made into steel. Steel can be hardened to make tools that can cut bronze, iron and unhardened steel.

The word blacksmith comes from the black color of fresh iron and "smite" which means to hit. The Blacksmith works the black metal by hitting it with a hammer while it is hot. Heat makes the iron soft like stiff clay. To get the fire hot enough the blacksmith uses a bellows or a fan to blow air on his fire making it hotter.

Many people think blacksmiths are all "horseshoers" but this is wrong. Blacksmiths are metal workers. Horseshoers are called "Farriers". In early America many blacksmiths were also farriers so people still think all blacksmiths are horseshoers too.

Most modern blacksmiths are "decorative" ironworkers. They make fancy handmade ironwork such as railings and gates. However, there are also blacksmiths in industry that operate big power forging machines. Industrial blacksmiths make tools and parts for cars, ships, airplanes and machines. Modern blacksmiths are also tool makers. All those shiney tools you see at Sears are forged with big machines by blacksmiths (see our Power hammer Page for pictures).


-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 04:28:28 GMT

FORGES: Michael, coal forges must have a chimney OR be moved outside for use. Moving a brake drum forge like the one on our plans page is easy. Bigger forges can be put on wheels. Gas (propane) forges can be used indoors with as little ventilation as an open door or window. They are clean, quiet and relatively efficient. Your neighbors won't have a clue what you are up to. They can be home built but small commercial units such as those made by NC Forge are very convenient, affordable and safe.

Because the properties of the two types have different advantages many smiths have both.

-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 04:53:11 GMT

CLAYING FORGES: Dave, I generally do not recommend claying forges unless you are doing really HEAVY work. However:

Cement is not necessary for claying a forge. It IS required when used as mortar for firebrick. Then it is used as about 10% portland cement.

IF using plain clay it needs to be worked up like modeling clay. Mix as stiff as possible and then work on a plaster slab "bat" or "vat" to absorb moisture as it is made smooth and pliable. Its the extra moisture that causes the cracking. Some cracks are inevitable.

A popular homemade refractory mix has about 10% portland, 40-60% vermiculite, balance sand and clay. The vermiculite is a good insulator and doesn't absorb a lot of water so the mix shrinks less than others. - Try vermiculite in your clay.

-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 05:10:00 GMT

Galvaneel: Still haven't found what the heck it IS

-- guru Friday, 10/15/99 05:11:03 GMT

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