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This is an archive of posts from August 16 - 24, 2005 on the Guru's Den
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   Gronk - Tuesday, 10/11/05 21:48:37 EDT

Hi my first name is Jacques. I live in Quebec Canada.
In june was the first time for me to tap with an hammer on hot metal, start a fire, light acetylene..... I make a litle
in making a base for flowers put. Now l would to have a shop. And my question is what is the specification for the security in the construction of the shop ?

   jacques - Sunday, 10/16/05 00:21:34 EDT

T. Gold,

When I made the anvil and bolt-on dies for my powerhammer, I did everything the poor man's way since I don't have any big machine tools.

The anvil is welded up from eight pieces of 1" plate stacked side by side and welded onthe edges. Very deep chamfer and full weld witih penetration 7014 rod. Then the top of the anvil "machined" flat on the top with the 9" angle grinder.

After that flattening, a piece of 1" plate was drilled and tapped with six (6) 1/2"-13 holes for the die bolts. Then the anvil was heavily chamfered, (on the order of >1" deep), and *very* slightly crowned. Only about.005" crown, done with a sanding disc on the angle grinder. Then I welded the "sow block" cap plate on, again using 7014 rod. The shrinkage of the weld bead pulled the edged of the plate down really hard, resulting in a very tight fit to the crowned top of the anvil.

The dies are blocks of steel that were given to me with a pretty smooth finish, and I did the sandpaper on glass
routine to check them for flatness. Then they were chamfered roughly 5/8" deep all around and welded to 3/4" plate that had been drilled to match the tapped holes in the anvil cap. Again, the weld bead shrinkage pulled the plate up around the perimeter about 15 or 20 thousandths, resulting in both a very tight fit to the die blocks and a slight crown on the bottom. When they are bolted down to the anvil, they pull down so tightly that they are pretty effectively one solid piece.

Any force exerted on the top of the die is transmitted clear to the bottom of the anvil base. I'm extremely pleased with the effectiveness of the method, and with the effectiveness of the hammer in use. It is only a 65# hammer, but it hits as hard as most 90-100 pound hammers that I've used. I attribute its effectiveness to the very solid matchup of the dies to the tup and anvil, and the fact that I have about 650# total anvil weight. I just couldn't get any more plate or I would have made the anvil even heavier. Even with the marginal anvil weight, it hasn't yet cracked the cheesy concrete floor it sits on.

I hope this information does you some good. You'll definitely love having a PH once you get it built, believe me.
   vicopper - Sunday, 10/16/05 01:26:44 EDT

T. Gold,

I nelected to note that all the welds on the dies were done with pre-heat at about 450-500F., then normalizing after welding. They seem hard enough in a normalized state so I haven't hardened them yet. I may do so after a couple more months use. We'll see.
   vicopper - Sunday, 10/16/05 01:32:23 EDT

Flat Surfaces: Not too many years ago precision surfaces were made with a chisel, file and scraper. The reference flats were made by a process of blueing and hand dressing three flats working one against the next. The reason for three was to avoid matching two curves to each other. Surfaces flat enough to stick together dry from air pressure alone are possible.

Precision surfaces included every dovetail, guide or way on every sliding surface of every machine tool. It was not until the 1840's that machines replaced hammer and chisel and not until the 1900's that precision grinders replaced hand scraping. In fact most machine tools were hand scraped well into the mid 1900's. Today a "checked" or "chipped" surface is put onto machine ground surfaces for apearances and to help hold oil.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 07:53:08 EDT

Copper Rivets: Tyler, yes these are done cold. In fact many rivets are done cold including small steel rivets. I give rivets one hard solid blow with a heavy hammer to upset them then come back with a lighter hammer to finish. If you have a rivet header you would want to do the same, make the upsetting blow then finish with the header.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 07:57:12 EDT

Surface Finishes Again: If you want the technical details on the RMS surface finish system they have a good article in your Machinery's Handbook. However, the reference samples, many made of plastic, are the best way to get a handle on the system.

McMaster-Carr catalog page 2118
microfinish scale image from McMaster-Carr catalog American-made scale has 22 machined surfaces from 2 to 500 microinches. Includes: lapped (2, 4, and 8 " RA), ground (8, 16, 32, and 63 " RA), blanchard ground (16 and 32 " RA), shape turned (32, 63, 125, 250, and 500 " RA), profiled (63, 125, 250, and 500 " RA), and milled (63, 125, 250, and 500 " RA). Scale is 5 3/8" x 2" and is made from pure nickel. It comes with a carrying case, engineering data, and instructions.
Scale without Calibration Certificate 8555T12 Each $63.04 Scale with Calibration Certificate 8555T16 Each $241.20

The above is a typical machinists gauge but they also have an economy model in plastic.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 08:17:14 EDT

Burntforge, I did not say I COULD not dent the top of my Czech anvil, only that it was not dented. Now, I have developed so better hammer control since I reviewed that Russian anvil so there are fewer occasions where an errant hammer blow is likely to strike full force on the anvil face. However, I remain impressed with the Czech anvils for hobby use. Regretably, the drop in the value of the US Dollar has driven the price of the 167# double horn from about $370 to about $540. This makes it less of a bargain.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 10/16/05 09:28:39 EDT

Hardening a cheap anvil,
I bought a Russian 50Kg for 60$ at HF on a 'Managers Special'.
The plan was, play around with it, Evaluate in my mind its good-bad aspects then use it simply as a cutting block so I dont have to fuss with placing a sheet over one of my good anvils for chiselcutting.
Anyway, After sanding off the machining markings, I paid one of the neighbor kids peen its entire face, row upon row of dents and then more rows working high spots down and so on ending up with again a fairly smooth surface.
(10$, Plus he mowed the grass too!,
What an exploitave SOB I am !. Seriously he is enthuastic about metals, His parent approves 100%. I expect I will end up giving him the Russian plus a few starter tools in a couple more years.)
Nothing scientific here, But this work hardening seemed to help its surface alot. Does not seem to dent as easily as before. I have no idea just how deep the hardening is affected either.
After all that work I dont have the desire to ruin its good surface. As far as chiseling,, Its laid on its side when I am cutting.
   - Sven - Sunday, 10/16/05 13:49:17 EDT

For a chuckle of the day, go to eBay auction #6217853911.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/16/05 13:56:05 EDT

Making an aluminum nail?

I am looking into making an aluminum nail for a non-load bearing use. I do not have an aluminum set up on my MIG and was wondering if aluminum could be disturbed like iron into a nail head shape. What would be the easiest and best method of doing this? Is it even possible?

NIPPULINI UPDATE: I have lifted a 55 pound A.S.O. and have been listed in the 2005 Guinness Record Book. I have also built a propane pipe forge shell, hope to have it working by Winter.. by then you'll see me here alot!

   The Great Nippulini - Sunday, 10/16/05 17:23:32 EDT

Peening Anvils: Many years ago when Centaur was selling Kohlswa anvils under the Kohlswa name they reprinted the peening instructions. This was stress relieving that they expected the buyer to perform. As I remember the instructions said start at the center of the anvil with a small hammer and tap it sharply at about 1/4" spacings making larger and larger circles until the entire face was covered. I thought this rather odd and a job that should have been done by shot peening or some other mechanical method rather than having the purchaser do it. . .

Good work hardening requires many more blows than just denting the surface.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 17:42:13 EDT

Aluminium Nail: Different alloys of aluminium behave very differently. Nearly pure alumininum can be forged cold but will work harden. Alloy alumininums vary from springy to very hard. These do not cold work.

When cold upsetting (or heading) copper, brass or alumininum you want to do so in as few blows as possible. The initial upset should be in one heavy blow. This can be done in a vise in the case of heading a nail or on an anvil when riveting.

As always more detailed questions help formulating an answer.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 17:49:18 EDT

Thanks for the tips, Ptree. I think I might know someone who can hook me up. I was just going to use sandpaper -- when lapping glass I usually used loose grit on plate glass but of course then your surface goes off true very quickly. Hence the sandpaper. We'll see.

Vicopper, sounds good :) I managed to find a 350lb block that I plan to use for an anvil, so fortunately I've only got four surfaces to lap (anvil top, bottom die, top die, ram).

Cloudy but warm in Hawaii.

   T. Gold - Sunday, 10/16/05 18:51:55 EDT

I recently re-worked my "brakedrum" forge to have a deeper duck's nest and the results are that I finally have adequate welding heat for prolonged periods of time. Natch' I had to experiment with forge welding and decided to keep it simple by making a cable damascus patch knife. The welding process didn't go all that smoothly (finally worked but not as planned. Had to keep chopping off bit's that wouldn't weld right till I ended up with a useable billet). So, I was wondering if the rust on the cable inhibited the process and if so, is there an acid bath I'm supposed to use or is it some obvious thing I'm overlooking cause I'm a "FNG" at forge welding (yes, I used plenty of borax and had a good orange heat)? Thanks.
   Thumper - Sunday, 10/16/05 20:07:06 EDT

I recently got a 140 lb Trenton farriers anvil. Looks like the serial # on the foot is 42254.

Does any one have an AIA handy and willing to give me any more info on this one? It has an hourglass depression in the bottom, Trenton "Solid Wrought" on the side. I figure the year is about the only other thing I could find out, but I figured I ask.
   armorbimbo - Sunday, 10/16/05 20:37:24 EDT

I recently purchased a sword that is said to be made of carbon and pucker steel. It is said to be pre-1945. I have searched, but I cannot find anything about 'pucker' steel. From what I have read, 'pucker' is some kind of weld defect. If this is true, why would the sword be advertised as 'carbon and pucker steel'? Any info will be GREATLY appreciated. Also, do you email the answer or do I have to go somewhere here to read it? Thank you. Marvin
   Marvin - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:20:29 EDT

Thumper orange may have been too cold
   Ralph - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:20:57 EDT

Marvin, In English the term is "blister" steel made by highly carburizing wrought iron. The carburization process produces blisters of scale on the surface which must be removed and the steel worked by hand to mix the high carbon surface with the lower carbon core. This would date the material to before 1800-1820 when crucible steel replaced blister steel except by primitive makers in frontier locations. However, there is so much BS in the antiquities market that any dealer that can't even tell a good yarn about the material probably has no clue on the age of the blade either.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:27:10 EDT


Rust can certainly cause problems when forge welding. It is an oxide of iron and the flux will reduce it to iron, but that uses up some of the magic in the flux. Enough rust and there's no magic left to make the weld stick. (grin)

The best way I know to deal with the rust is to remove it electrolytically. Put a cupful of washing soda (sodium carbonate, not to be confused with baking soda) in a gallon of water and hook one lead of a small battery charger or a battery to the cable and the other lead to a piece of scrap steel. If you see bubbles coming from the piece of scrap, you need to reverse the polarity. In a couple three hours, the rust will be removed and you're good to go.

I would agree with Ralph that an orange heat (as *I* see orange) is probably a bit on the low side. Try a bit higher heat and also try un-twisting the cable a bit at red heat , then flux. That opens up the strands and gives the flux a bit better shot alt getting to the inner strands. When you get up to a bright orange heat, twist it real tight, then take it to yellow hot and start welding it.

   vicopper - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:34:49 EDT

Flat surfaces : a belt sander after the angle grinder will help. Guru's comment about scraping to hold OIL is for real, My Grandad was in the machine trades in the 1920-1970 era, and told of a new machine that came in with an un-scraped slide that would stick fast when the oil film broke down, scraping made it operate properly. When lapping, the abrasive tends to "charge" the softer part,bite into it, so to speak, and the harder one gets abraded. This makes soft steel a poor canidate for lapping. The sandpaper will work much better.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:35:07 EDT

Cable Damascus: It is not recommended to use rusty cable. Light surface rust will be removed by the flux or cleaning the scale prior to fluxing but interior rust will make the weld very difficult to make. Derusting compounds like Naval Jelly and phosphoric acid will appear to remove the rust but replace it with a phosphated surface that is also difficult to weld. Vinegar or citric acid will remove some of the rust but also converts some and leaves it in place.

If you are ending up with frayed pieces then you are burning individual wires by over heating or heating too fast. You will need to add a pan for a coal reservoir to your forge to pile the fire high enough and to keep a sufficient supply of fuel.

One of the tricks to welding cable is to tighten the twist as it is heated. This closes a lot of the air spaces in the cable.

The video by Wayne Goddard is very good on this subject as well as being full of tips on grinding and finishing.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/16/05 22:40:01 EDT

guru - Thank you VERY much for your input. Your information helps me very much with this item! I am so glad that I found this site!
   Marvin - Sunday, 10/16/05 23:05:39 EDT

armorbimbo. 1904 plus or minus one or two years. Looks like the Columbus Forge and Iron Company made a clip horn farrier's pattern and a "plain horn anvil" (no clip horn). Both have two pritchel holes.

Their brochure drawings show that the farrier's pattern, clip horn and plain horn, were available with a choice of a moderate swell to the horn or an extreme swell to the horn.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/16/05 23:36:10 EDT

Frank Turley, thanks. Looks like I got the one with the clip and what I'd call a moderate swell. I appreciate the quick response! It's kinda neat to find out the 'history' of a new toy.
   armorbimbo - Monday, 10/17/05 08:10:20 EDT

TGN good to hear from you again and congrats on the Guiness Book entry.
   adam - Monday, 10/17/05 10:33:48 EDT

Al nails can be bought, probably the easiest ones to find are the very long ones used to hold gutters in place. You could purchase one of these and cut to the length you wanted and re-point it and then have the left over piece to experiment with upsetting knowing it was a suitable alloy! I would probably try it cold with regular annealing runs.

Thomas---ready to try it with my 500# fisher?
   Thomas P - Monday, 10/17/05 10:55:23 EDT

Work Hardening:

So the more I work at my older USSR 100 kilo anvil, the better it will be? (Actually, that model does seem to be sufficiently harder than the 50 k version so that while it will ding with misuse, it seems to be holding up pretty well.)

Another very late note in "rapid oxidation" of steel wool:

When my future brother-in-law was in his teens, he would delight in loading a small wad of fine steel wool in his carbide cannon, and firing it across the back yard. It was especially spaectacular at night; sort of a multi-faceted tracer round.

Still catching up on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org (w/ new picture of the S Hrafn)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/17/05 11:31:32 EDT

Thanks for the tips on my cable project. This knife looks nice and old with all the imperfections, but I'd like to compare it with one done properly. Maybe I'll take the first one and bury in in the field over the winter, then dig it up in spring and sell it as an antique (LOL).
   Thumper - Monday, 10/17/05 13:11:09 EDT


Two of my friends and I have recently built a small forge in my friend's garage. We haven't been able to get our hands on a real anvil yet so we've been using an 85 lb railroad rail, once used on a farm as a substitute anvil, as our own.

The problem is, we get huge rebound when we're hammering on it. Often our pieces bounce up out of the tongs and we all have to scramble out of the way as the red-hot metal sails through the air. Obviously this is not what we want to have happen. How can we reduce the rebound, short of getting a new anvil?

Would bolting it to a heavy stump help, or do we need to actually do something to the metal itself?

   - Orming - Monday, 10/17/05 15:05:32 EDT

Orming; first get better tongs!

Now is the top of the rail *flat* if it still has a slight curve to it you will be pulling the metal out of your tongs and flipping it

How heavy a hammer are you using?

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/17/05 15:20:14 EDT

It's slightly curved, but only slightly, it's almost completely straight. We use 3 pound hammers.

For tongs we've tried everything from normal tongs to lock wrenches to pipe wrenches...
   - Orming - Monday, 10/17/05 15:55:42 EDT

I have a 1915 English book "Cementation of Iron and Steel" showing blister iron being made in huge quantities. It was cheaper than crucible steel and rather than being replaced it was in fact the raw material used in crucble steel making for over 100 years. Blister steel was broken up and melted in crucibles to make it homogenous.
   - grant - Monday, 10/17/05 16:26:15 EDT

Blister Steel. . but that was not the final product as it was in the days before crucible steel.

Orming, see our article on the FAQ page on selecting an anvil and the ratio of hammer to anvil. See also RR-steel Tools iForge demo on tools made from RR-rail.

RR-rail is designed to be flexible and springy. It has a section similar to an I beam. That is why it makes a lousy anvil for its weight. When you hit it, the rail flexes then bounces back pushing the hammer back. All this motion is wasted energy and little energy goes into the work. Bolting the rail tightly to a stump will help the flexing and hopping up and down. It helps the effeciency some but does not make the mass 100% efficient. See the anvil design in the iForge demo linked above.
   - guru - Monday, 10/17/05 17:18:53 EDT

Blister steel actually was the final product fo the most part. Only about 25% of the production in 1915 was going to the making of the much more expensive crucible steel. The rest was used as-is or further refined by piling, welding and drawing as had been done for centuries. It seems it was actually a pretty good product, just not as homogenous as the crucible steel. Crucible steel was a premier product and manufacturers advertized it's use to differentiate it from the more common blister steel. Many edge tools from the first half of the 20th century era stamped "cast steel" for this reason.
   - grant - Monday, 10/17/05 18:39:28 EDT

Dave Boyer. If the lapping pressure is light, then the grit will not charge into the soft part to any great degree. I have lapped soft plastic parts that were sealing parts. Any grit charging into the plastic would have degraded the seal. Normally, to charge a lapping plate the slurry is rolled into the plate under pressure. On mordern lapping machines, ie Lapmasters etc the slurry is a continous feed as the pressures used are not sufficient to charge grit into the lap to any great degree. We production lapped about 7000 pieces per day, and the materials ran from Monel, solution annealed 316 SS to Stellite and hard 410 SS. All lapped on a soft cast irom lapp with aluminum oxide abrasive. All were sealing surfaces, requiring an 8 micro inch surface and very good flatness. All were sliding surface seal members used in high pressure stem service. Any grit charging would have cut the softer surface leading to steam cutting. Another term for lapping is free abrasive machining, as the abrasive rolls along the surfaces and knocks off the high points.
I also suspect that the grit from the sandpaper will be freed and would have a similar effect if charging were to be a problem.
   ptree - Monday, 10/17/05 20:00:06 EDT

RR Rail Anvils:

Shorter RR rail anvils, with or without horns and well mounted on stumps, have some utility as bench anvils and for light work (3/8" and under).

Perhaps the worse setup for a RR rail anvil is one shown in a how-to book from the 1920s or '30s, which (alas) has gone through many reprints. It has the rail mounted to a saw horse, which provides minimal support where it is needed most. I thought it would be useful for straightening sword blades and such, but from all reports it is almost impossible to use, bouncing and walking all over the place.

Just another example of "what looks good on paper" not being of much use in reality.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/17/05 22:08:45 EDT

Grant - blister steel as a final product, maybe in Great Britain. I've got to believe that in the US more Bessemer, electric arc furnace and open hearth steel was being made, though top of the line for fine cutlery was probably still crucible steel. Heck, great grandpa's obituary has the line "the first american steel melter" (I don't think I actually believe that.)and he died about 1925, and had been out of Mr. Carnegie's mills for quite some time. Didn't like what Pittsburgh had turned into and went out to the country in Beaver County, PA to go back to being a farmer and raise his family properly.

I will bet either job was better than handling mules during the Civil War, and having to steal the oats for some food. That story, I do have on pretty good authority - definitely enlisted, and definitely a drover, the balance was from my father, who as the oldest son of his youngest son was the apple of his grandfather's eye.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 10/17/05 22:50:53 EDT

ptree: I was refering to trying to lap 2 pices of machine steel together as in making a mounting surface for the powerhammer anvil, don't see it as the way to go. We used diamond paste rolled into a cast iron plate to lap hardened tool steel, the intention was that the diamond remain charged in the lapping plate, rather than roll around on top of it, this was a hand operation to remove a surface ground finish. There were a type of parts that were finish lapped on a ground glass plate with finer diamond grit and then polished, but the amount of material removed in this stage was maybe half a micron, if that.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 10/17/05 23:16:07 EDT

Guru, thanks for the info about the aluminum nail. I haven't procured the stock material for it yet, once I have adaquate info I'll post about it here. So far the only tech I have is it will be made from 5/16" round bar. Is there any specific type of aluminum I should look for?

   The Great Nippulini - Monday, 10/17/05 23:23:53 EDT


I'm sure you're right, the Brits have a hard time letting go sometimes, 'specially something they invented. But we are talking TOOL steel here I guess, and they never made high quality tool steel in the converter or open hearth. They were concentrating on rail and construction steel. Electric arc steel manufacturing started about 1910, but didn't get rolling 'til about 1918 (The Manufacture of Electric Steel, by Frank T. Sisco, 1924).
   - grant - Tuesday, 10/18/05 00:39:50 EDT

TGN & Aluminum Nails:

Just a quick note in case anybody forgot to warn you:

If you do any hot work, non-ferrous metals really need tongs due to the rate of heat conduction. (Ask me how I know! 8-0 ) Also, the melting point of aluminum is below the incandescent glow, makeing it a bit tricky to judge. (I still have an unpublished shop visit from Florida, where the smiths had a gas forge set for exactly the right temperature to forge their prefered alloys of aluminum.) So, if you plan on duplicating classic blacksmithing techniques in aluminum, it's a bit tricky. (It certainly was for me, anyway. ;-)

Cool and very clear on the banks of the Potomac; crisp autumn blue-sky days of late, after all the rain last week.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 10/18/05 08:36:28 EDT

Aluminium Nail: TGN, If you want to cold head the nail you want 1000 series which is dead soft (1050 AL). If you anneal the material or work it hot either 2024 or 6061 are common grades of aluminium. Both are used in the aircraft industry and are used for other things. 2024 softens more when annealed but work hardens more the 6061.

There are hundreds of aluminium alloys but these are the two you will find most commonly available. The above age harden so you need to work immediately after annealing if you are going to make large deformations like upsetting a head.

Although the hot working temperatures are fairly low (1100-1200F) the high heat conductivity results in the entire piece being the same temperature in a very brief time. Tongs are absolutely required even for heating the end of a fairly long piece.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 08:43:25 EDT

I'm interested in setting up an oxy/propane heating torch in my forge for setting tenons, rivets, and heating pieces that won't fit in my forge. But I'm not sure what torch head to use and gas pressure. Any input would be most helpful (torch head brand and model, gas pressure suggestions, safety, etc.) See you all in Seattle! Thanks. CG.
   Chris Gulick - Tuesday, 10/18/05 09:46:08 EDT

Dave Boyer and ptree,

Lapping as a method of fitting up surfaces for T. Gold's powerhammer bolt-on dies is a waste of time and energy. They simply don't need to be that flat to do the job just fine. As I posted earlier, mine were "finished" with a 36 grit wheel on a 9" angle grinder and worked out just dandy. I did use the wheel flat to reduce gouging and produce a fairly smooth finish, but that is really pretty immaterial.

The slight warp from welding the die block to the mounting plate produced just enough swell on the bottom that the six 1/2-13 bolts holding the die to the "sow block" pull the die down into very intimate contact with the sow block. I can detect absolutely no loss of energy or transmission of sound from the top of the die to the bottom of the anvil.

Perhaps if I was only using two bolts to hold the die in place it would be more critical to have perfectly mated surfaces, but that isn't the case. I think it's a lot easier to drill and tap a few more holes than it is to grind and lap endlessly on the dies and anvil trying to make homemade Johanssen blocks.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/18/05 10:14:41 EDT

First is sounds that you are new to torches. If I might suggest, go take a simple welding ( I choose arc welding ) class at a local CC. There you will learn how to use torches and all the other VERY NEEDED SAFETY stuff that is imperitive.

in ref to an oxy/Act torch. Get a good name brand if possible from a local weld supply store so you can get parts etc for it. Also good relations with places like that will pay dividends in help etc.
For set up I would say use the biggest rosebud for the size stock being heated. small stock wil obviously be a smaller tip etc.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 10/18/05 10:26:25 EDT

Chris again, mis read you ??? propane...... still the same thoughts. But if I remember correctly propane does not get as hot as act. Does it have to be propane?
   Ralph - Tuesday, 10/18/05 10:27:56 EDT

Oxyacteylene Equipment: Chris, First you need to purchase the best NEW set you can afford from your local welding supplier. A good relationship with a local supplier is necessary for cylinder refills, parts, supplies and service. Start with them. There is a wide range of equipment available from the import catalog folks but I would not waste my money there. For a blacksmith shop you want a full size professional outfit. One of the most popular is the Victor Journeyman set. It comes with a selection of welding tips, a heating tip (rosebud), a cutting attachment, hoses, regulators, goggles, tip cleaners and lighter. There is also a small instruction manual. AO Smith and others make similar outfits. What is important is that your supplier supports the set so that later you can purchase other size tips and replacement parts.

Your specific questions depend on torch brand and size and the specific job. Pressure settings will be listed in the user manual. For small rivets you might use a medium welding tip, for large ones and typical tennons the cutting tip is a good size and for heavy work you use the small rosebud. Note that the smallest rosebud requires full size cylinders due to the amount of gas draw.

For everyone considering purchasing this equipment I always recommend taking a course at your local trade school or community or junior college. It will cost a small fraction of the cost of the equipment and besides how-to it will teach you the dozens of safety rules and safety features of the equipment. Alternatly you can purchase the text book, Modern Welding published by Goodheart-Willcox and study it very closely. Note that every set of equipment has its specific settings and that those in the text books may or may not be useful for YOUR equipment.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 10:33:01 EDT

Oxy-Propane: Chris, the posts above all apply. The equipment is the same except for the tips which are purchased seperately from the sets. There are two grades of hose and one will work for aceytelene AND propane but the cheap grade only works with acetylene. Ask your supplier.

I highly recommend oxy-aceytelene as it is much hotter and easier to use for many purposes. However, oxy-propane can be used for the same things and is more economical for gross heating. I keep NG (propane) tips handy for ocassions when I run out of aceytelene OR for large heating jobs with a rosebud.

Oxy-Propane can save you a little on cylinder and fuel costs but is generaly not cost effective in the small shop.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 10:43:09 EDT

i am trying to find a good book on the history of blacksmithing any suggestions?
   - Sam - Tuesday, 10/18/05 11:30:42 EDT

Marvin Pucker

I repeat Pucker with a PEE, is an English slang term for true, real thing, genuine. As in: - talking pucker English (not the funny international version sometimes called English (LOL)). I dont know the origin, but it was popularised by Jamie Oliver a TV chef over here.
OA/OP + welding in general

It is so easy to hurt yourself when working at high temp that these courses can pay for themselves in pain alone. Then you add in savings from car (and other) work. I had a set stolen inc. bottles (bottles are rented in the UK) and paid for the replacements with the next bit of work on my car. Where I learned they had a safety display bolted to the wall, an exploded acetylene cylinder. 5ft wide with a 4inch wave, done in thick steel. Impressed me.

   Nigel - Tuesday, 10/18/05 11:40:13 EDT

History of Blacksmithing: Sam there is no one book. The history of blacksmithing is practicaly the history of mechanical technology from the beginning of the iron age at around 1500 BC to the early 20th century. Starting in the 19th century the use of cast iron and the development of the steam engine spawned new technologies that seperated from blacksmithing. However, blacksmithing has a continuing history of its own from that point until today.

The best historical snapshot of blacksmithing at the end of the 19th century is Alex Bealer's book The Art of Blacksmithing. There is a brief chapter in Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, the Doctrine of Handy-Works. This is a simplified how-to manual written in the 18th century. Also covering this time period is Diderot's Pictorial Encylopedia of trades and Industry. Prior to that there is very little written. Agricola's De Re Metalica (1556) is primarily about mining and metals extraction.

Then there are the sparse references on Locksmithing which was a part of blacksmithing that was also an early specialty. Armor making and instrument making were other specialties. James Watt the man famous for advancing the stam engine was an instrument maker before he became interested in steam engines.

The history of blacksmithing continues. After coming out of a virtual dark age where knowledge was not shared and the trade faded due to machine made goods, there has been a renaissance in blacksmithing starting with the publishing of books, the inclusion of new technologies and now the distribution of information via the Internet.

Recent changes in technology include the introduction of a new class of small air hammers specialy designed for the artist blacksmith, use of computer guided plasma torches, small hydraulic forging presses, mini-rolling mills, technical developements in pattern welded steels. . . and the list goes on.

See our book review page for reviews of some of the books above as well as many popular books on the subject.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 12:25:00 EDT

History of Blacksmithing

Two more books on metals in general, with some useful blacksmithing content. They're probably out of print, but possibly available through an interlibrary loan (ILL):

Raymond, Robert
Out of the Fiery Furnace
The Impact of Metals on the History of Mankind
1986; Pa. U. Press; U. Pa. & London
ISBN 0-271-00440-1

Fisher, Douglas Alan
From the Iron Age to the Space Age
1967; Harpers and Row, New York

Most "Histories of Blacksmithing" end at the beginning of the 20th century, although some of Donna Meilach's (sp?) books would be useful for updating to the contemporary blacksmithing practices and projects.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 10/18/05 13:16:51 EDT

Wow, that is some excellent information I didn't know about aluminum. Thanks a lot guys, this is really helpful. Now can anyone tell me why the British insist on mispronouncing the word "aluminIum"?

   The Great Nippulini - Tuesday, 10/18/05 14:19:53 EDT


Actually, the Brits are being more correct, rather than less. It is somewhat standard nomenclature in chemistry to use the ending "ium" for metalllic elements. Such as; sodium, chromium, vanadium, rhodium, ruthenium, etc. One of the first chemists to understand aluminum was Sir Humphrey Davy, a Brit, who called it aluminium, as it was the metallic base of a number of compounds called "alum" by the Romans. We Yanks later corrupted it to aluminum.

BTW, aluminum is the most prevalent metal in the Earth's crust, though it only occurs as compounds and not as the pure metal.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/18/05 14:49:58 EDT

There are no books that discuss blacksmithing in particular but there are some books like Tylecote's "Metallurgy in Archeology" that discuss the role of the craft. Also "Iron and Man in Medieval Scandanavia" (IIRC) and not to forget Theophilus' "Divers Arts" written circa 1120 CE and including quite a bit of process information as part of his goal of telling *how* to do things necessary to produce works of art for the church. (Tempering files, making engravers, casting bells, etc)

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/18/05 15:02:49 EDT

More on History: In the earliest times the smith was closely associated with animal drawn transporation. Shoeing of horses and oxen, fitting of tires and wagon furniture were a large part of his business. In the old world these became specialties and thus you have the Farrier and Wheelwright along with Locksmith and Armourer among others.

These remained closely related but seperate specialties until the settling of the New World and Austrialia. In both places there was a shortage of skilled craftsmen and thus the pioneer blacksmith that did it all came back on the scene as they had been thousands of years earlier. What we think of as the "general blacksmith" as illustrated in the romantic poem The Village Blacksmith by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a New World pioneer blacksmith.

Then there have been social changes that came with technology. Where the smith was once an independent businessman the 19th and 20th century saw their work move to great factories where smiths were production workers feeding huge machines. Some of these were skilled jobs as well as unskilled jobs but the smith was no longer independent. The "village blacksmith" become the service station operator as the automobile replaced the horse and wagon.

The artist-blacksmith has retained their independence but nearly died out in the mid 20th century. Today there are more artist-blacksmiths world wide than ever in history. Small industrial one an two man shops still exist to produce tools that are needed in too small a quantity for big industry to tool up for.

When you take the long view the only thing that is constant is change. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 17:50:26 EDT

Elements and their Names:

In school you learned that Na was Sodium, K was Potassium and Pb was lead and that was just the way it was. . . MEMORIZE IT! In much of the world they use the official latin names for these elements and it makes much more sense. Na is Natrium and K is Kalium and Pb is plumbum, Fe ferrum. . .

Over simplification made things more difficult. To learn the latin names AND the common English names would have made more sense to me. I do not know what they teach in American schools now but it would benefit students to be taught so that they are prepared for the new global economy rather than a colloquial one.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 18:00:58 EDT

Leaping Lizards! I remember the violent rebounding of the workpiece when I first started smithing. It was due to two things: a really LOUSY set of tongs I made that were not properly shaped for the piece, and not putting the piece FLAT on the anvil face. Yep, get, or make, some proper tongs.

Nippulini! Nice to see that the rumors of your demise due to tetanus were exaggerated!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 10/18/05 19:17:23 EDT

I have a two burner gas forge. Due to the rising cost of fuel, I would like to valve the second burner so that when it is not needed, it can be turned off. When I called a supplier to purchase the proper parts to do this, it was suggested that this would be a waste of money,it would take too long to pay back the cost of the parts and using only one burner when the forge was designed for two will damage the unused burner. It was also suggested that too much heat would be lost through the unused burner and therefore I would need to increase the fuel pressure to the first burner. Somehow this doen't sound right to me. If I can, I would like to reduce cost and save energy. Am I wasting time and money by valving the second burner?
   Bill Stanley - Tuesday, 10/18/05 20:43:35 EDT

We are learning about atoms right now in my 10th grade gifted physical science class. We have not learned anything about the Latin names. Interesting info: The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonder Land was named that because he had mercury poisoning. They used to use mercury to put a shine on top hats.
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 10/18/05 20:49:39 EDT

Question: I'm thinking about doing some brass forging using a torch. Would an ordinary propane torch work fine or should I use mapp gas?

   - Zak - Tuesday, 10/18/05 21:35:26 EDT

Bill Stanley,

I have two-burner and a four-burner gas forges, and both of them are set up with valves for the individual burners as well as a "gas saver" bypass needle valve for idle heat. I can assure you that unless you pay way less for fuel than I do, you will certainly pay back the cost of a $4 valve and a wad fo Kaowool.

For simple on/off valves for the burners, a WOG rated ball valve works just fine and cost about $4 for the 1/2" size. The wad of Kaowool should cost nothing (scrap) and is used to block the unused burner opening inside the forge to keep it from being a chimney. I also close the choke all the way. The Kaowool plug is only needed when running for more than an hour or so one one burner. For short times, just closing the choke works fine.

Both forges have, as I said, "idle" circuits for minimizing gas consumption when not actively heating a piece of stock. The idle circuit is just a 1/4" copper line that comes after the main on/off valve but before the secondary on/idle valve. It is controlled by a needle valve ($12) and feeds the gas back into the supply just before the individual burner valves.

In use, I open the main on/off valve (1/2" ball valve) and the on/idle valve (1/2" ball valve), then open the ball valves for the individual burners and light the forge. After it has warmed u a few minutes, I open the idle control valve (1/4" needle valve) a turn or so and close the on/idle valve. The burners are now being fed gas only through the needle valve and I adjust it so that the burners will just burn without too much "huffing." This condition will keep the forge at an orange heat using very little gas. When I'm ready to heat stock, I lopen the on/idle vbalve and let 'er roar.

With a bit of practice, you get so you pull the stock out to forge it and automaticall close the on/idle valve, and turn it on again when you put the stock back in. It isn't any more complez than fire management with coal, and I figure it nearly doubles the amount of forging time that I get from a 100# cylinder of propane.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:14:42 EDT

Zak, You do not need the extra heat. However, you need to consider the size of the work. Small bar up to 1/4" can easily be heated with a common propane torch but larger pieces may need a bigger heat source (not hotter).

Tyler. . that is one I forgot. Hg = Hydragyrum, which means liquid silver. Also Au, aurum and Ag, argentum for gold and silver. Argentina is the land of silver. . . If you study latin you get some of these but many are also Greek.

I like to know the reasons behind things. For me it makes them easier to understand or apply.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:14:51 EDT


It won't make that much difference. Unless you're working with very small stock like 3/16", you'll find that a torch won't be very satisfactory as a heat source. I suggest you do some exploring on this site and check out the "One-Brick forge" or the Bean-Can forge." Either one will tremendously improve the heating of stock, and both use just a propane or Mapp gas torch like the Bernz-O-Matic as a burner.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:18:49 EDT

And tungsten is Wolfram, as I recall, from the German.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:20:55 EDT

Are the Auto Arc 135 and the Millermatic 135 about the same welder and if not what makes the auto arc 135 better than the millermatic 135. Thanks
   Kevin - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:23:54 EDT

Two to One burner conversion: If you have ever used a small one burner forge you would know that you are probably barking up the wrong tree.

Each burner only works with a given volume. To use one burner instead of two you will also need a refractory wall to reduce the volume of your forge by half. Note however that heat loss is relative to surface area and the smaller the forge volume the higher the proportion of surface area to lose heat from. Thus a two burner forge of exactly double the volume of a single burner runs hotter and more efficiently than the single burner forge. To run as hot the single burner half forge must run harder (use more gas) than
as a two burner.

Often folks with long tunnel forges with 3 or 4 burners reduce them by one or two effectively. But unless you are doing VERY small work the reduction to a single burner in a commercial forge (I suspect you are talking about an NC-Tool Forge) you will be unhappy with the performance.

In the world of gas forges what is the most efficient is to have a forge for every size of work. Micro forges work quite well for the size work they are designed for. . .

   - guru - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:24:47 EDT

Thank you for the informative responses, I will go buy myself a propane torch and check out those plans for a bean can forge right away.
   - Zak - Tuesday, 10/18/05 22:29:39 EDT

Ran across your site and wanted to offer my help to any of your readers. I own/operate a commercial heat treating/brazing facility in Nevada. Feel free to have anyone contact me if I can be of assistance to them.

Patrick McKenna
   Patrick McKenna - Tuesday, 10/18/05 23:48:31 EDT

Hi my first name is Jacques. I live in Quebec Canada.
In june was the first time for me to tap with an hammer on hot metal, start a fire, light acetylene..... I make a litle
in making a base for flowers put. Now l would to have a shop. And my question is what is the specification for the security in the construction of the shop ?

   jacques - Tuesday, 10/18/05 23:56:17 EDT

"pucker" ?? perhaps you mean "pukka" a Hindi word which the Brits adopted to mean "Genuine, authentic"
   adam - Wednesday, 10/19/05 00:07:41 EDT

Does anyone have information about temperatures that can be reached with different species of charcoal? We find mainly Oak and Field maple in prehistoric iron production pits. Is this because they produce the hihgest temperatures?
Henk van Haaster, Netherlands
   Henk van Haaster - Wednesday, 10/19/05 04:21:12 EDT

PUKKA - thats the word i was looking for
   Nigel - Wednesday, 10/19/05 04:39:38 EDT

pucker = v. gather into wrinkles / n. wrinkle or crease.
(collins english dictionary)

Pukka = regional dialect from the east end of london, usually meaning good or ok , when used by anyone other than a 'cockney' makes them sound like a complete to*%er (ie a certain fat tonged celebrity chef) people who want to think they are from the east end of london and use the word pukka are often refered to as 'mockneys' (or to*&ers again!)

This information bought to you by the north of the UK :)
   John N - Wednesday, 10/19/05 06:09:52 EDT

Grades of Charcoal: Henk, as far as I know the maximum temperature reached and the BTU per pound of all charcoal is very nearly the same or too small a difference to categorize. However, there ARE differences in the burning characteristics that I can only address in general.

The density of the wood determines the density of the charcoal. In some cases denser charcoal will make a hotter fire in a given volume of space as well as last longer. But per pound there is no discernable difference.

Certain woods, particularly those with a high amount of oils that do not coal out, and other woods such as walnut burn with bursts of fleas (hot flying sparks). It is sort of like wood "poping" in a fire but on a very small and numerous scale. Using charcoal that makes numerous amounts of these excited little fleas is disagreeable work resulting in the smith needing protective clothing or getting thousands of little burns all over as he works. Almost all wood charcoal produces these little fleas but they are not the excited type from little explosions in the fire.

There are also woods that do not coal and produce mostly ash when you attempt to coal them.

I suspect the coaled woods found were what was easiest to gather and coal, was most numerous or was the traditional fuel. Tradition can have more to do with such decisions than any other. You did not differ from what worked. I would bet that the oak and maple were common woods used traditionaly.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 09:07:58 EDT

Jacques/Shop: Welcome to blacksmithing and congratulations on your first project.
Your question is a little vague. Perhaps you could be more specific about your concerns? The word "security" implies defense against criminal activity - making sure you dont get ripped off. Do you perhaps mean "personal safety" - avoiding injury? Tell us more about the equipment you will be using and the kind of work you will be doing and the kind of space you have for your intended workshop - is going to be in your house, your garage, a commercial location?. Most importantly are you using coal or gas or both?
   adam - Wednesday, 10/19/05 10:49:34 EDT

Henk; an important factor in the nature of charcoal used for smelting is it's strength; if it crushes easily it will clog the furnace not allowing enough air to move through it to burn and produce heat. I know that oak charcoal is supposed to have good crush strength. I don't know about field maple.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/19/05 11:04:28 EDT

Jacques/Shop: I appologize for not responding to your question. However, as Adam noted there is some loss in translation.

If as Adam suggests you meant "personal safety" then the most important thing in blacksmith shops is good ventilation. There are many things we do that make fumes and dust that are toxic or can produce problems over a long period of time. General shop ventilation is helped by the size of the shop. High ceilings give a place for smoke to move. You should have an overall ventilation fan and localized vents or chimneys for forges and welding equipment.

The most obvious safety equipment is eye protection. The type varies with the work but it is best to wear safety glasses at all times in a shop environment. For welding you need appropriate filter lenses to protect your eyes from infrared and ultraviolet radiation. For heavy grinding you should wear a full face sheild. You should also have eye protection for visitors.

Hearing protection is recommended for some types of work and is up to the worker in many cases. If you are working on heavy sheet or plate with a hammer then hearing protection is absolutely necessary. Hearing protection is also recommended for using many hand held grinders.

Foot protection is also helpful in any shop environment.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 13:31:53 EDT

Jock et al,

A couple of steam hammer questions;

I'm going to go look at a 600 pound steam hammer and have been told "you can run it on air too" I understand that a steam hammer can be converted to run on air, but needs some things changed usually, is there a good way to check without dissasembling to see if the conversion has been made?

I've not run a steam hammer, but I'm expanding the shop, and a hammer this size would be a nice compliment to the machinery I have already, I'd rather run on air than steam, but I wonder what kind of air consumption a hammer this size will have.

Thirdly, what is a fair price for a complete C frame steam hammer of this size? The owner says the frame weighs 7,500# and the anvil another 10,000# other than that, I know only that it's been in storage for about 10 years, and that the current owner says "it's hardly been used" kinda hard to go on what is a relative statement from someone trying to sell though.

Thanks for the responses,
   - YsForge - Wednesday, 10/19/05 13:45:44 EDT

On tanks, I use to go with a group swimming at a rental pool. They also taught scuba diving there. In their display room was a tank which had blow while being filled. Note said no one was injured. A nephew of a cousin in FL was filling a portable air tank when it blew, severely injuring him.

Consider any tank under pressure as potentially dangerous.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 10/19/05 14:33:37 EDT

Repousse pitch recipes:

I've started playing with repousse, using someone else's shop. He uses red German pitch, but I don't want to spend $50 for a minimum order until I know I'll stick with this. I did find various recipes for pitch on the 'net, the simplest uses beeswax and plaster-of-paris. How does this compare with the red german? And could I substitute paraffin for the beeswax?

Other recipes use all sorts of other ingredients that aren't all that easy to find. Roofers pitch can't be gotten in small quantities, and would smell pretty bad anyway. Anyone know of other home-brew pitch recipes?

   - Marc - Wednesday, 10/19/05 15:08:57 EDT

Repousse: I forgot to mention I'm using copper sheet, some thick gauge flashing, as the medium. I'll probably try steel some day. Anybody ever use aluminum flashing?
   - Marc - Wednesday, 10/19/05 15:12:20 EDT

BIG hammer (660#): YsForge, This is a really NICE size hammer. A friend of mine has a 750 Niles Bement that is great fun to operate. However, it takes a LOT of air. A 30HP screw compressor filling a big reciever will run the 750 for a few minutes. . It runs a 500 Chambersburg quite well. Without sufficient air the big hammer will still give you a greater capacity for work like sinking dies and die work where you have time between parts or run just a few parts.

The conversion from steam to air is primarily the addition of oilers as the air does not lubricate like steam. Packings may need to be replaced in any case and they are different for steam and air.

Operation on air is actually easier than steam as there is much less condensation. In cold weather steam devices would build up sufficient condensation to be a freezing hazzard. Draining regularly is required. Steam hammers were often run "loose" and air hammers waste a lot of air unless fairly tight.

Operating time is always a question. Often hammers in this size range were the little tooling hammers used to support the BIG hammers in a major forge shop. These saw very little use. However a 600 pound hammer could be a serious production hammer making small items. Die wear and guide wear (noted by remaining adjustment) are often good indicators of wear.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 15:13:01 EDT

Thanks for the input Jock, Any idea what a fair price would be to offer for this hammer?
   - YsForge - Wednesday, 10/19/05 15:36:09 EDT

Big Hammer Prices: These machines are still selling in the scrap price range as big forge shops are junking their tooling hammers. Less open die work is done on big hammers and tooling is purchased from outside suppliers. Eventually these machines will become rare and in demand but not yet. I've seen them sell for as little as $500 or less in recent years.

The cost of setting up these big two piece hammers and the size compressor needed keep most small shops from purchasing and setting them up. The price of the hammer is usualy less than the moving cost much less putting in a foundation. But once setup they are wonderful tools to have. They will punch hammer eyes in single gentle "pats" and turn 2 inch (50mm) cylinders of steel into flat disks in a couple mid force blows. The efficient forging size rating is for a 4" mild steel round or a 2" round in tool steel.

   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 16:31:42 EDT

Big Hammers for Little Shops: One reason for the decline of these hammers was brought up by Bob Cook, a Canadian, demonstrating at SOFA. He was demonstrating something he had made thousands of times and in dozens of sizes on a "tooling hammer", lifting hooks. These are now illegal to use in most places in North America (and probably elsewhere). Shop made hooks, lifting eyes and other parts that were commonly made in plant forge shops do not have the load rating, serial number, bla, bla, bla. . . for the QA and rigging inspection folks. All this is required to meet OSHA rules in the US and safety regulators in other countries as well.

If your budget for a tooling hammer and crew to operate it depended on them making much of your plant's lifting equipment and then suddenly this significant work was dropped and all that was left was the ocassional use to make a pair of tongs, the hammer and the crew were now expendable. Many plants kept the smiths on the payroll doing various things but when they retired eventualy the machinery went as well.

Tooling hammers and R&D hammers from metalurgical research facilities are the source of most of the 300 to 500 pound hammers on the market today. The hammers such as the Nazels owned by University and Government research shops were the real prizes. Many of these had more hours of being cleaned and oiled than run time hours. Tooling hammers saw a lot more use but were rarely used in production work. It was not unusual for these to be in pairs as a 300 pound and a 500-750 pound hammer. The smaller hammer usually did most of the work as it was big enough and much friendlier to operate.

The fact that metalurgical research facilities all over the US have scrapped their hammers is yet another indication of our industrial decline. There is still an infinite amount of materials research to do and these machines would be part of it IF it was being done. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 17:07:45 EDT

Just out of curiousity, how is "Kaowool" pronounced?
   - Drake - Wednesday, 10/19/05 17:42:54 EDT

MILESTONES: 7,000,000

On Monday the 17th we passed the 7,000,000 visitor mark! As an accumulated number since 1998 this may not mean much. However, we just passed the 6,000,000 visitor mark in April of this year, just a few days short of six months ago. This means that our traffic is over the 2,000,000 visitors per year rate. In our first year we had 120,000 visits. We are now at 18 times that rate! Where we were once archiving 180Kb of data per month eight years ago we are now archiving 7 times that much. Our reported traffic from a sampling of our pages is equal to the total of the top 15 sites on the Blacksmiths Journal's Top-50 list.

   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 17:49:04 EDT

Kaowool, kay - oh - wool: The name was the trademark of Babcock & Wilcox ceramic fibers division which was sold off to become Thermal Ceramics Inc. Babcock & Wilcox were the original inventors of the product. It is a trade name, not a generic product. I believe it comes from Kaolin-wool. We sell two grades by the foot or roll in our store.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 17:55:23 EDT

Finally got a refrigerated air dryer. Now, does it work best closer to the compressor or my Big blu?
   goodhors - Wednesday, 10/19/05 18:43:42 EDT

The farther down stream the more condensation there is due to cooling in the lines. This takes load off the air drier. You may want a reciever beyond the air drier to make up for the restriction in the drier. This was a recomendation by all the big commercial makers to relieve line losses and insure full air flow at max speed.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 19:24:32 EDT

Thanks for the quick reply. The installation is set for Sat. Seemed like I had an artisan well flowing most of this summer. Can hardly wait to try it out. brian
   goodhors - Wednesday, 10/19/05 19:31:37 EDT


You get the most bang for the buck by putting it close to the hammer. The air that has traveled down the line from the compressor to the drier has had some time to cool and begin to condense the moisture out, starting the process. The drier will finish it. It's also good to put another receiver just before the drier, if you want really, really dry air. When the air gets to the receiver, it slows down and cools, losing more moisture. The refer drier has less work to do this way.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 10/19/05 19:37:18 EDT

That's what I get for going out for a smoke; Jock was working while I was smoking. (grin)
   vicopper - Wednesday, 10/19/05 19:38:29 EDT

Jock, Great news about the visitor numbers! Well Done! I wonder how many more we could get if some of the folks who post questions here would ever come back and get their answers!
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 10/19/05 20:26:02 EDT

Refer driers.
In comercial practice the method is to place the dryer close to the compressor. That way the lines stay dry and do not rust. While placing the dryer close to the end use will allow some of the moisture to drop out, it then must be removed mechanically, and allows rusting in the pipes which then sends rust particles into the dryer. A filter to stop the gross water, and remove the rust tends to quickly clog.
I much prefer to run the compressor into a large receiver. The gross water drops out in the receiver. Run the air in at a 90 degree angle to the most distant outlet that can be arranged. This stops carryover when in high demand. Place a ball valve drain on the receiver to remove the condensate. If in high use, use a time delay motor operated ball valve. Then take the receiver into the dryer, and if the dryer is properly sized, there is little to no chance of rusting in the lines leading to the end use device.

I have set up two factories this way, and fed air to 50 an acre compound and suffered no water problems in the air. Granted, this is in commercial service with 4-200 Hp screw compressors and a 1700Hp steam recip air compressor, but it is a good system. Pror to this set up, rust and mosture was indeed a problem.
   ptree - Wednesday, 10/19/05 20:34:47 EDT

Anvilfire visits.
The Macon Telegraph did an interview with me today about blacksmithing. Of course, I praised anvilfire for how much I learned there.
   Tyler Murch - Wednesday, 10/19/05 20:43:00 EDT

Two to one burner conversion
Thank you Vicopper and guru for the comprehensive advise. I like the idea of the "idle" circut on a gas forge. This is the approach that I will take for reducing my fuel comsumption.
   Bill Stanley - Wednesday, 10/19/05 20:45:29 EDT

Howdy all! i just finished building an inline treadle hammer( Bob Warner style, not Clay Spencer), and the guide system consists of a sqr tube(ram) inside a tube(guide). I am wondering what kind of grease would be suitable for applying to the ram for lubrication? I know there will probably be exposure to heat, but i am unsure if that will make a difference.i appreciate any help you guys can offer. Thanks!

Ian Wille
   Ian "Blueboy" Wille - Wednesday, 10/19/05 21:45:43 EDT

I'm in the process of writing my second book and one of the main characters is a blacksmith - originally from Caledonia (Scotland) and living in Rome as a slave about 100AD. (Originally I was thinking farrier, but horses apparently weren't shod back in the day. Oops!) I'm aiming for a young adult market, so I don't need every last detail, but I'd very much like to be historically accurate. Credit will gratefully be given.

My questions are as follows:
1. Would a blacksmith in that time have used both hammer/anvil -and- casting methods, or would those have been exclusive specialties? If one would cast, what method would be used back then? Sand? Wax?
2. What manner of forge was used with what sort of fuel? A general description would be great!
3. What items would an accomplished blacksmith commonly be expected to fashion in the normal course of a workday? (I'm assuming simpler things like nails would be the purview of apprentices or assistants, but I could be wrong.)

That's definitely enough to start with! If it's too much, I'd really appreciate it if someone could point me in the direction of a good historical resouce.

Thanks so much!
   Sue - Wednesday, 10/19/05 22:35:19 EDT

Sliding Lubricants: It is a mess if you spread it around but Never-Seize is the best for this type application. It is also non-flamable (works as a hot punch lube).
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/19/05 23:22:33 EDT

Re: big hammers in the small shop


Would you then recomend a smaller hammer for a 1 man shop? I'm currently running a very good 65# champion, which will work far beyond it's rated capacities without complaining, but does struggle with anything over about 2.5" round in tool steel. (I think it's rated at what, 1.5" round mild, or something like that?)

I don't do a lot of work with larger size stock, but would like to be able to do some larger work when it's called for.

There's also a 200# compact Bradley I've been eyeing, but when I found the steam hammer, I thought about the demo's I've seen using them, and the control that the operators seemed to have, I do recall all of the demo's being done with hammers in the 200-300# range though.

Given the choice between a 200# Bradley upright helve with good mechanicals, and motor, but needing a replacement helve, or a 600# steam hammer without a way to run it, both for about the same price, which is more practical in the small shop?

You mentioned that the smaller steam hammers where more "user friendly" so to speak, what exactly is it that makes them so?

I do appologize for the bombardment of questions, but with the comment that these are going for scrap rates now, I got to thinking that if the hammer doesn't work out, it might not be the greatest investment for resale afterwards, especially considering transport and set up costs.

Thanks again,
   - YsForge - Wednesday, 10/19/05 23:23:45 EDT

Ancient Smithing: Sue, Most smiths would have been smiths and left foundry work to others but this is an unknown. The bronze smiths did both casting and forging the foundry work being a specialty. However, it would depend on the the smiths background and training. In some crafts such as locksmithing both might have been done in the same shop. Others such as armourers divided up work among several specialists in seperate shops (forging, grinding, fitting furniture. . ). The fact is we know VERY little about details of this time period.

1) If casting, the material would be bronze. Mold materials could be carved soap stone, plaster for lost wax, sand for rough heavy castings. Lost wax was highly developed and carved stone molds were used to rapidly produce bronze swords for a military build up. Iron swords are all forged.

2) The fuel was charcoal as it was for a thousand years before and after. Both smiths and founders used the same fuel. The forge could range from a hole in the ground to a cylindrical stack. In either case the smith worked sitting on the ground or a short bench (see illustration below). The bellows would be the classic "wine skin" and pumped by an assistant. During this period it is possible (not actually known) that they may have used a primitive version of the vertical board bellows (see Southwestern Colonial Ironwork - review detail). The common ground forge is still in use today in poor or primitive parts of the world. This consists of a hole in the ground lined with clay often bonded with cow dung (by-product of the Holy Cow as one Indian smith put it). The shallow pit about a foot deep and a foot and a half across has a horizontal air passage that connects the bellows to a place low in the pit. The air passage may be lined with stone or nested ceramic tubes similar in shape and size to a styrofoam Dixie cup with the bottom cut off. Large versions of these tubes were commonly used by the Greeks and Romans for water pipe. The small versions were used by glass blowers, founders and smiths.

Greek Forge and Anvil by the Foundry painter 5th century BC
Greek Forge , Anvil and Tools by the 'Foundry Painter' 5th century BC

Clothing varied from the naked greek smiths above to leather garbed foundrymen with high lift protective iron shoes to prevent getting burned walking on foundry floors with hot metal on them.

3) Products ranged from locks and keys (Romans used iron locks, brass keys) to agricultural tools (knives, scythes) to weapons and armour. The smith would have made tools for the other crafts including hammers, plane blades, bits and chisles for the wood worker, hammers and chisles for the stone carver and so on. They would have made door and chest hardware as well as fittings for ships if the worked in a seaport or shipyard. In the Roman Empire they made lots of iron chain and padlocks for the military.

To REALLY get a feel for this and to be able to write about the details you might want to TRY blacksmithing. There are lots of us around to help you.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/20/05 00:41:58 EDT

Power Hammer Choices: Tony, The Bradly "compact" is the toggle arm version similar to a Little Giant on steroids. I think the one you are talking about is the strap hammer.

The Bradley would be much easier to setup and get running and will do fine work.

My option to run a big air hammer is a big portable gasoline powered air compressor. These produce a LOT of air and do not impact your electric service (over 10HP you are talking a BIG 3PH service).

Hammers over 500 pounds can be kind of scary. . . Even with a gentle touch they can smash a black walnut to powder. With a heavy mis-blow they can disintergrate hand held tooling or launch someone with badly placed steel across the shop. The most common injury in forge shops of this scale are dislocated shoulders. If the steel is not FLAT on the dies the hammer will make it so along with the tongs and the arms supporting them. . .

On the other hand this is in the range that can do some nifty closed die work or appreciable size.

Have you considered that you must LIFT the entire hammer over the anvil to set it up?
   - guru - Thursday, 10/20/05 00:58:44 EDT

Jock, You're right it's the upright helve (rather than the rubber cushioned, or toggle link) that I'm talking about. I misspoke, the owner refered to it as a "compact" so I did too.

I do have access to a small crane that I can use to place the hammer, (I did think about that, and called a friend) and I've not broken ground on the new shop yet, so it wouldn't be too much of a problem there as far as building a propper foundation, I don't have to re-engineer an already existing shop. I'm gathering the rest of the major tooling for the shop before I start building so I won't have too many surprises or headaches later on, I learned that lesson the hard way when I outgrew my current shop with the addition of a few simple tools. I'm sure that there will always be something else I need to find room for in the shop, but I'm building large to try and anticipate this. (I've currently got 2 lathes, a surface grinder, a small rolling mill and a hydraulic forging press, not to mention a lot of hand tools in storage due to lack of shop space!)

I Do like mechanical hammers, but I think my main problem with all the air hammers I've run has been the lack of power, that said, I've never run one much larger than 100 pounds. I have run several of the new 50-120 pound air hammers currently, or recently on the market (not extensivley, mind you.) I do like the control, but could never justify paying that much for that little hammer.

I'm also not sure I'd be happy with "just" a 200 pound hammer, as I plan on having this shop running for the next 20+ years, and I'm afraid I might outgrow it, since I don't know what the future holds.

Maybe I'll have to buy both.... now there's an idea *G*

I guess I've got some pondering and figuring to do on this one, thanks again for the input.

   - YsForge - Thursday, 10/20/05 01:38:52 EDT

V. Zamora: One of the forum advertisers, Centaur Forge, carries an extensive line of books relating to metal working. There is an entire section on Blacksmithing Ideas, which includes several more or less picture books on ornamental ironwork, and another section on Ornament and Design, which is mostly adds on.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 10/20/05 08:18:22 EDT

Scuba tanks...

In regards to what Ken posted above.

The vast majority of documented cases of tanks bursting were with tanks made from a specific alloy refered to as 6531-T6 (or was that 6351-T6?). Anyway this aluminum alloy was used pre 1988 or 89 in tanks under several DOT exemtion numbers. The failure mode is refered to as sustained load cracking (I hope I got that right) which hasn't happened enough for any one to order a recall although at least one manufacturer has offered partial rebates and at times replaced tanks which fail visual inspection.

The remainder of the blown tanks that I've heard about were related to the use of pure O2 which some of us use during the final stages of decompression. As you know there isn't an easier place to start a fire than in an O2 rich environment especially at high pressure. Enough O2 and almost anything can be considered fuel and very little heat is needed to get it going.

The failure of non-damaged tanks during filling is almost unheard of. They are hydrostatically pressure tested, in most cases, to 5/3 the rated capacity and most/many compressors won't even get that high. In addition, valves used on scuba tanks (in the US)are equiped with a burst disk which will release at much lower pressures although some people, in violation of law, plug them. That may be bad for firemen entering a burning building but good for cave divers who don't want to risk a total gas loss a mile back in an underwater cave (the burst disks do fail once in a while which represents an unacceptable risk to some of us). If you're dead you don't have to worry about being put in jail.

With the exception of O2 fires, I haven't ever heard of a steel scuba tank failure during filling.

Still we use pressures ranging from 2250psi on up to 6000psi (with some composit tanks) and 3000psi - 3500 psi being the most common these days and anything filled to those pressures with compressed gas deserves respect. There is lots of stored energy and when they go they often take the whole building and any one who might be in the area with them.
   Mike Ferrara - Thursday, 10/20/05 09:08:16 EDT

Jock, I take offense at the display of two nekkid Greek smiths. NEITHER of them is wearing safet glasses!!! what kind of example are we setting for the children? What will mothers think when they see this appalling display of recklessness?

Interesting that the smith uses a two fingered grip on the tongs. Also I does the striker have lerft hand in his pocket? Then what is he wearing?
   - adam - Thursday, 10/20/05 09:27:35 EDT

Books, Books Books: Artisan Ideas and Pieh Tool also have a considerable stock of books as does Centaur Forge. BlacksmithsDepot also sells a couple. All advertise here and we also sell Richard Postman's anvil books.

Something to be aware of is that many of these books go out of print for long periods and some may not be reprinted until the copyright runs out in another lifetime. It is not unusual for very interesting books on odd subjects (like blacksmithing) to be self published or a run of a couple thousand printed by a publisher and then due to sluggish sales never printed again. Authors die and copyrights go into limbo or the heirs have no interest. Some books like Anvils in America cost tens of thousands of dollars to print and take many years to sell a printing. Richard Postman is doing one heck of a service for the blacksmithing community and it will be unlikely that his future heirs will be willing to put in such an investment in time and money. The works of the late Otto Schmirler are some of the finest books about our craft that have been published. Currently his beautifuly illustrated Werk and Werkseug des Kunstsshmeids is out of print and the publisher is promising to print it again. . but who knows?

Institutions print books and then consider their duty done and often never reprint. Blacksmiths' and Farriers' Tools in the Shelburne Museum, A catalog of Tools for Watch and Clockmakers, Sears, Roebuck Tools, Machinery, Blacksmiths' Tools 1916? and Locks from Iran are all in this category and out of print. Archaeological studies of famous sites are also in this category. The book on the Mystermyer find was out of print for many years and is now only avaialable as a photocopied reprint. Other more recent studies are printed once as part of a masters or doctorial thesis and then never again. These books are available to researchers in the Library of Congress or University libraries but not in general circulation.

Other books that are becoming more and more important to researchers are industrial catalogs. Until farily recently many of these were printed in durable hardback and are an excellent source of information about defunct brands of tools and changes in industry. I have machinery and tools catalogs from 1899, 1926, 1930, 1955 and 1958. Cary Machinery and Supply Company sold machine tools and industrial supplies all over the Eastern US for nearly 100 years and printed numerous catalogs. These are an important resource that libraries do not maintain and many were not copyrighted or sent to the Library of Congress. Unlike the reprints of specialty catalogs such as the Champion and Buffalo catalogs these are massive books with over 500 pages. The probablility of seeing them in reprint OR electronic format is slim to none.

Many of us are continously building libraries. Authors and researchers often have very specialized libraries. Paw-Paw had a significant but small collection of books on the US Revolutionary and Cival wars for researching his writing and reenacting. Sheri will try to sell them as a collection but they will probably end up broken up.

   - guru - Thursday, 10/20/05 09:42:40 EDT

450BC Greek Smiths: I think the striker is resting is hand on his hip and the fingers are behind. Try the pose and you will see what I mean.

The Foundry Painter was one of the first technical illustrators to use dotted or hidden lines to show something that was behind another as some of the tools are in the above illustration.

The other interesting thing is what appears to be a tongs rest.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/20/05 10:56:33 EDT

Roman Smiths: as a slave he might be associated with the large roman "plantations" or proto factories and as such be rather specialized rather than a general ironworker.

Basically you need to find a book on roman iron work and see the range of work that roman smiths were involved in, a few I recall off the top of my head are nails for boots, window grills, tools, the pins to hold columns together, a wide range of nautical smithing; army requirements, etc.

If you get the chance there is a good roman museum near Bad Homberg (near Frankfurt, Germany) called the Saalberg that has quite a bit of roman iron work from just a bit later than your period of interest.

I don't believe that bronze swords were being used by the romans in 100 CE.

BTW look into the properties of real wrought iron, especially that produced by a bloomery since the iron/steel you see nowdays became common only after the American Civil War and the rise of the Bessemer, Open Hearth, BOF, etc processes and the real wrought iron of earlier times works a bit differently.

Also in the year 100 tempering of increased carbon iron as a means of hardening was not widely practiced, most stuff was just plain wrought iron.

Charcoal is the fuel of course and there is a good example of a roman anvil in the museum in Bath England---think of a mushroomed cube of iron...

You may want to pose a request for sources on the Archeological Metallurgy mailing list, arch-metals.

I'll see if I can dig up some more info---my area of interest is more towards Y1K but I do research and re-create early smithing so feel free to send me e-mail to continue this off the forum.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/20/05 11:55:11 EDT

The scuba tank alloy was 6351. They were made by Luxfer (the largest aluminum scuba tank maker) in the 2001 - 2002 time frame. The alloy was contaminated with bismuth if my memory serves. There were some problems with a Walter Kidde aluminun tank in the early 80's but those should have all been retired by now.

Steel tanks are remarkably forgiving. My gas supplier has a set that were in a garage fire. The bust disk let go so the gasses vented (adding to the fire) but they did not explode. From what I can gather, the weak point on a high pressure tank is the valve. If you break the valve off you have a 200+ pound steel missile flying around. So keep the caps on those tanks and store them in a secure position (chained to a good stand) so that you don't knock them over!
   Stephen G - Thursday, 10/20/05 12:08:44 EDT

I was curious I have a battle ready war maul, only it doesnt have any metal securing bands on it. Any suggestions on how to strengthen the maul with metal bands?
   Richard Biggs - Thursday, 10/20/05 12:44:27 EDT

There's mauls and then there's mauls- banding can run from hot shrinking to a few well-placed nails. There's archers' mauls and sculptures' mauls and barn-building mauls (like the wonderous "commander") all of which could equally serve as tool or weapon.

Can you direct us to a picture of the item in question?
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 10/20/05 13:06:02 EDT

please please please get us a picture of your maul
   buck - Thursday, 10/20/05 14:06:09 EDT

YsForge-I recently rebuilt and put in service a 300lb Bradley Upright Helve hammer. There are two versions of this, one in which the ram is suspended by straps and one in which the ram is in contact with the wooden helve. I have the latter, and what describe sounds just like my machine (see the pictures on the Power Hammer page for some shots of my machine before the rebuild. If you ask Jock, he may post the pictures I sent him of my hammer in use as well). I think that you would not be disappointed if you chose the Bradley and your set up costs would probably be significantly less than with the steam hammer. I have talked with other smiths who have run Bradley's as tooling hammers and they have an excellent reputation. The capcity of my machine (I've been told) is at least 6" round. I have quite a bit of litterature on these machines which I'd be happy to share with you. Feel free to email me and if you'd like, I can send you my phone # and we can discuss my experiences with rebuild, use, advantages, drawbacks etc.

Patrick Nowak
   Patrick Nowak - Thursday, 10/20/05 14:09:50 EDT

Roman Blacksmith Illustrations with notes: Provided by Bruce "Atli" Blackistone
   - guru - Thursday, 10/20/05 14:44:04 EDT

I am trying to find out how much weight and how much height I would i need in a fall-hammer designed for plate-work. Ill be rough forging blanks for armour details so blank size and thickness will vary, but 2 mm thickness would be common. My books from my tool and diemaking days has nothing to say about fallhammers and are mostly concerned with shearing and punching.
   Olle Andersson - Thursday, 10/20/05 16:02:26 EDT

Scuba tanks: A friend of mine, an experienced diver, had his aluminum tanks painted at a body shop and the paint was baked on with a heat lamp. While filling, the tank exploded. He was seriously injured but recovered enough to take a jet to Nicaragua and rescue a diver lost in a cave. (The rescuee said he thought the angels were speaking English). Anyway, the heat from the baking was enough to alter the molecular structure causing a catastrophic failure. Don't play around with high pressure air cylinders.
   Ron Childers - Thursday, 10/20/05 16:09:53 EDT

Ian Wille
May I commend to you Dow Corning, Molykote GN Assembly Paste. This is a very viscous paste of about 70% moly disulfide. As a sliding lubricant it is beyond compare for wear reduction and friction reduction. I have used the GN paste for neversieze and it serves well for that purpose as well. I have lubricated valve stems in an 1000F hotbox test, and the product turns white, but lubricates until the powder falls off. As long as the oil carrier is still there the stuff sticks like the devil. A VERY thin coating will allow that inline to slide but if used in a thin film will not run. Dow also has other products in the MlyKote line that are good also. They have a dry film moly coating that comes in an aerosol and is quite good. The GN assembly paste used to come in a toothpaste sized tube, and is a lifetime supply for a small shop. One caution is that the moly is so fine that if it gets on your skin it gets in the crevices and is very hard to wash off.
   ptree - Thursday, 10/20/05 19:10:28 EDT

How functional is a 8"circular saw bolted upside down to a bench top with a cutoff blade to use for cutting knife size steel billets?
   Jlw - Thursday, 10/20/05 20:33:44 EDT


"[T]empering . . . as a means of hardening"? Just so you know I'm reading (grin).
   Mike B - Thursday, 10/20/05 20:35:31 EDT

What kind of stainless is "forgeable", and where can I get it?
   Wil - Thursday, 10/20/05 21:36:42 EDT

Jlw :I have a small cast iron table saw that I use for cutting steel. I use 1/16" unreinforced cutoff wheels in it. There are a lot of sparks, and a really hot buildup of material where they land, remove all sawdust and make the stand out of metal. The grit will soon wreck the saw if used continuously. My little table saw has a mitre gage and a crude rip fence, it would be better if it had spray mist coolant, as the work gets too hot to hold.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 10/20/05 21:57:29 EDT

I recently purchased a 25 # little giant hammer at auction, that was shipped to Dallas in 1948. I was wondering what would be a guess as to what it would be worth if fixed up. It looks like the $25.00 machine will wind up in the $700.00 range with replaced arms, links, pins, bushings, spring, and new babbits.
Just wondering if the experts on the list think it is worth it. Have become hooked on reading what ya'll are posting. Thanks david
   David - Thursday, 10/20/05 22:28:10 EDT


My opinion would be that it would be of little or no use whatsoever. Circular saws have open vented motors that are barely capable of handling wood sawdust, if kept blown clean regularly. They will pretty promptly digest their own innards if fed metal-cutting swarf. If using abrasive cut-off blades, they will hork up their moving parts even quicker due to the abrasive particles that are as attracted to the motor parts as bugs are to your windshield.

You would actually get much better service and life out of a Sawzall or similar tool, using high quality bimetal blades, if you want to use an adapted woodworker's tool for metal work. Or get a 14" cheapie bandsaw and jack-shaft it down to a low blade speed. I've done this with good success, though after twenty years I figure the saw is definitely on borrowed time.
   vicopper - Thursday, 10/20/05 22:34:02 EDT

Jiw: The only reason to use the abrasive saw is that it will cut hard metal, files, springs, etc. that can't be cut with a bandsaw or hacksaw. I use My setup for anything that would likely ruin an $18 sawblade and won't setup in the chopsaw. I also have a radial arm saw fitted with a chopsaw wheel for larger work.
   Dave Boyer - Thursday, 10/20/05 23:08:00 EDT

I have seen portable circular saws set up like chop saws, with various hinge arrangements, and the saw turned around backward to throw the sparks away from the operator, (and the saw). Make the mount to accept any old garage sale saw, (but NOT Grampaw's worm gear Porter-Cable!!)
   3dogs - Friday, 10/21/05 04:45:31 EDT

JLW, to 3dogs' post I would suggest that you add a supplemental table surface. Cut a slit just wide enough for the blade so as not to have the wide gap. Safer that way, and less grit in the motor. Buy a $5- $10 7&1/4" circular saw at the flea market, bolt the table to it, tape the switch, mount it in the vise and use a foot operated switch. A car dimmer switch works fine. Wear safety glasses AND a full face shield.(A welding helmet with clear lens will work) but you do have a full face shield, right? An old table saw as Dave suggested makes a more stable rig and a magmet would catch some of the grit
   Ron Childers - Friday, 10/21/05 07:08:53 EDT

Saw arrangement and conversion: Machines that look like a pivoted circular saw are made called "cold saws". These run very slow and have high torque motor/drives. They are a very specialized machine.

Converting a wood working circular saw to a friction cutting "chop saw" is not a good idea as noted above. Although abrasive wheels are made to use with them it is often one of the last things the saw does. Depending on the brand of saw there may be nylon bushings for the blade guard, shaft seals and other places that will absorb grit and lock up.

Machines designed to do what you want to do safely are made for that purpose. This is not a good place for a conversion.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 07:18:50 EDT

Forgable Stainless: Wil, All grades of stainless are forgeable. 304 is the most common non-cutlery grade. It comes in rounds, squares, flats and sheets and even a few structural sections. You can buy stainless from specialty metals suppliers and a few steel service centers. You can also buy it on-line from places like our on-line metals store. Stainless hardware (nuts, bolts, screws. . ) are available from most good hardware or fastener suppliers.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 07:23:45 EDT

Value of Little Giant: David, If you want to make money on it and it is functioning now than sell it now. Unless it is in VERY bad shape you can probably get $700 for it as-is. Yes you could invest in rebuilding this machine and still sell it at a profit.

If you intend to use it then study it very closely. There are several types of 25 pound Little Giant. Early wrap around guide, transitional with heavy cast guides and late model with dovetail guides. The best is the so called "transitional" model. In reality this was a heavy duty version that was built as a marketing test. The only other models made in this design was the the 250. The late model dovetail design is the worst of the lot. When the guide surfaces wear they must be remachined to make them straight. The curved wear cannot be adjusted out so the most adjustable guide system LG built is fairly worthless unless the machine is VERY carefuly maintained.

LG's also came with and without sow blocks. Those without often ended up with broken anvil die dovetails. This is a very expensive and difficult repair.

There are two types of LG toggle arm. The early types had a T end that hooked into cast pockets in the ram. These were loose to start and do nothiung but get looser. They work fine but they will never be tight. Replacing the parts is a fools errand. The correct fix is to make hand fitted toggle arms that fit the worn in ram surface. Since the original surface is rough cast the worn surface is actually better, just loose.

Repairs on Little Giants are often badly thought out and badly done. Many of the so called experts are hacks with little or no experiance with repairing machinery. They will chase down minor things that can be let go and botch or avoid the real problems.

Weighing in at only 700 pounds and capable of running on a long extension cord at 120VAC these are very handle little machines. However, they ARE a little machine and as such are most useful doing small work.

The best and only guide to tuning up Little Giants is the Bang-tap-blues Little Giant video by Dave Manzer which we sell in our store.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 07:45:48 EDT

chop saw blades in a ww saw. Like Jock says this is a cruel thing to do to a piece of ww machinery. OTH I have a cheapy tablesaw (about $75 new from HF but I got it for free) and a cheapy old circular saw and I use them both ONLY with metal cutting blades. I use the tablesaw without modification. They are extremely handy. I had expected them to die quickly and that I would replace them with more cheap tools but both are still going after 5+ years. Also I use the old blades from my chop saw, when they wear down past 8". in my tablesaw.

I would *never* put one of those blades in my good tablesaw or circular saw for fear of getting grit in the works.
   - adam - Friday, 10/21/05 08:23:29 EDT

Using a 12 volt car dimmer switch on a 120 volt circuit sounds scary to me. Especially because many car electrics use the case as part of the circuit.
   Mike B - Friday, 10/21/05 09:41:25 EDT

David: There is a 25 LB Little Giant now on eBay. Seller said it was completely rebuilt. Just go to www.ebay.com and do a search on Little Giant. Then under the Collectibles/Tools, Hardware & Locks/Tools/Blacksmithing category. Likely the seller would be happy to talk to you about their rebuilding experience.

I also use a chopsaw blade in my 220v, 12" table saw. I just do pass after pass, raising the blade a bit each pass. No noticeable problem with saw after about five years of occasional use and one year of somewhat heavier use. I also use it to cut cardboard and wood. It is fairly stand alone so if it were to catch fire likely it would just smoke up the shop some more than it already is.

I have long maintained the most dangerous tool in my shop is the radial arm saw. I don't even like to use it for wood, much less trying any metal cutting with it.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/21/05 09:57:48 EDT

I see things listed on my local ABANA chapter like: hammer in or open forge night. These seem like some type of casual get together. What typically would occur at these things?
   reggie - Friday, 10/21/05 10:33:54 EDT

While I don't advocate cheap Chinese tools, Harbor Freight has their 14" abrasive chop saw on sale $50. Buy the $8 warrentee, use it, burn it out, get another one. Don't ruin a good table saw by using an cut-off blade in it.
   reggie - Friday, 10/21/05 10:39:56 EDT

Thanks guys, I will digest the info, consider how long I want the circular saw to last, check the state of the visa card and get on with it.
   JLW - Friday, 10/21/05 10:51:54 EDT

MikeB; back in the *old* days the term tempeing usually included the hardinging aspect as well as they would generally use the interrupted quench and residual heat to "harden and temper" turing a two stage process into a 1 stage process.

But you are right it's sloppy use of terminology now days when the "two stage" process may actually be a multi stage heat treat process with multiple normalizations, quenches, temperings and perhaps even cryo's!

Thomas---blame it on the pain meds...
   Thomas P - Friday, 10/21/05 11:07:23 EDT

reggie: A hammer-in usually has a designated demonstrator. An open forge night is just that. The facility is made available, usually under supervision, for use for individual projects. Some might combine them with open forges before and after the hammer-in. If the group doesn't offer structured beginning classes, the open shop can be a good way to learn. You do simple projects using the step or process desired to be learned with an experienced smith there guiding you.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/21/05 11:59:56 EDT

Has anybody here made a base for a Little Giant with Railroad Ties? I've read about this on other sites and am looking for feed back. Its a 100# Little Giant.
   blackbart - Friday, 10/21/05 12:40:42 EDT

Hammer-Ins Reggie, These vary from place to place. Some groups call their regular meetings "Hammer-Ins".

Blacksmith group meetings vary from casual get togethers to structured meetings with demonstrator, business meeting, meal and iron-in-the-hat and tailgating. Many meetings have an open forge or green coal lessons but not always. Our local BRBAVA group is having a dinner and business meeting this weekend without shop time. CVBG has a "Christmas Party" that includes all the above with a big meal and a gift exchange.

Groups also have conferences were there may be several demonstrators, large displays of work and generaly all the things that go on at a hammer-in but on a larger scale and over several days.

You can almost alwasy learn something at any of these meetings.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 12:52:50 EDT

LG foundations: Wood foundations work to float a hammer on soft ground or raise it to a better work height. The important thing is that it is well anchored together and leveled, the hammer bolted sown securely.

   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 12:55:36 EDT

Post-vice woes...

I broke the screw on my 4-1/2" post vice last night about an inch down from where it transitions to the ball end with the sliding handle. If I had and knew how to use a lathe, I could probably make another one in short order. However, I don't have one, nor the money to buy one.

Would it be worthwhile to try to forge-braze the screw back together? Off hand, that doesn't really seem to be a worthwhile venture. Other than putting up a couple of hundred to get another post vice(bigger one, of course:) ), what are the possible repairs?
   - Tom T - Friday, 10/21/05 14:41:19 EDT

There are a lot of repair options.

Brazing, if done well, is worth a try IMO. Is the metal weldable?

If its std Acme thread then you can buy thread & nuts from mach supply houses like McMaster Carr. You dont need the hi precision stuff. You could also check out ebay. A couple of weeks ago someone here found a jackscrew & nut being sold in a WW catalog for a woodworkers tail vise and used that to repair his vise.

You can also scavenge acme thread & nut from old construction jacks, water valves and the like. I may have something - what dia?

Finally in a pinch ANY piece of threaded 1" or larger rod, even 1" allthread " with a matching nut can get the vice operational until the right stuff comes along.
   adam - Friday, 10/21/05 15:07:10 EDT

KEN SCHARABOK: I agree wholeheartedly about the radial arm saw. The holdin' hand and the pullin' hand tend to lose track of one another. I have a fellow worker whose left hand could be used to lay out 45 degree angles.
   3dogs - Friday, 10/21/05 15:16:56 EDT

One of my gas forges is getting pretty old and while looking at it, I realized i have this innate fear about propane canisters and torches.

i always cringe when I use a torch, even though i've been using it for years, becuase I'm afraid it might somehow flashback and explode in my face. I've always told myself it wouldn't have enough oxygen to combust inside the gas canister but is this really true? Is there possibility of a flashback explosion? From both torches and larger propane tanks used for gas forges.
   - jim - Friday, 10/21/05 15:17:54 EDT

Yeah I think I can get you a picture of it how do I post it in this forum? The maul itself is I believe made of a telephone poll and it is shaped to a hammer type head very very sturdy. I just want to keep it from fracturing. We are going for the hot shrinking method as it would probably be the most effective. Dimensions are octogonish.
   Richard Biggs - Friday, 10/21/05 15:36:52 EDT

Repairing Vise Screw: This is a job for someone with an arc welder. Brazing will fix it but be a marginal repair. Same with replacing the screw and nut with generic parts.

This is an unusual break and probably there is something wrong with the vise alignment. The nut may be too tight and cannot tilt as needed or the front frame is bent at the eye. Some of these vises had hemispherical washers under the screw shoulder and I have seen those that were supposed to have them without. .
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 17:47:49 EDT

Mauls and Hub bands: Richard, mail me the photo and I will post it.

Note however that shrinking does not work well on small diameters and is almost impossible on non-round shapes. If carved octogon it will need to have the ends where you want to band it turned round on a lathe.

Bands on hubs and large mauls are made with a very low taper like a barrel hoop (5° or a little less). These are then driven onto a turned surface with a similar low taper. The large end of the band should be just large enough to start on the wood part. Once it is driven on past the end the wood should expand beyond the end of the band and keep it on. In many cases small brads are used to keep the band on mauls as they tend loosen and fall off due to inertia when using the maul.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 17:54:37 EDT


I think the screw breakage is due mainly to user error. In this case, I was upsetting the pointed end of a railroad spike in the vice, with the head down. I was hoping to keep the head in pristine condition this ways. The spiked slipped down during the upset process, such that the head came to rest on the screw casing. I guess the sledge blows were too much for the screw to take.

In retrospect, I should have clamped the spike off center from the screw casing, although this would have required me to reposition the spike as it slipped, thereby losing some heat in the process.
   - Tom T - Friday, 10/21/05 17:54:52 EDT

Now I need to buy that arc welder :)
   - Tom T - Friday, 10/21/05 17:55:47 EDT

Tom T. If you want to send the broken pieces to me I'll weld them back together with you just paying the two way shipping. I am in TN. If interested just click on my name for an e-mail form.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/21/05 18:10:21 EDT

3dogs: I am much more comfortable cutting 2 x 4s and 2 x 6s just using my metal cutting bandsaw. Cuts fast and clean and I can even do 45 degree angles on the 2 x 4s, something I can't quite do with my chop miter saw.

I once had rental apartments. One tenant's father had his hand taken off by a radial arm saw. Reattached, but he will never have more than about 75% usage. He said he was just doing routine cutting. One second he had his hand and the next he was looking at a stump. If I want adventure I'll go out and play with the bull.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/21/05 18:21:25 EDT

One reason radial arm saws can be so dangerous is that in normal use (pulling the saw out) the relatively exposed blade is essentially climb cutting and tries to feed itself into your work. Not so bad on your typical wood part but really nasty when cutting aluminum or very tough woods. You can reduce this tendancy to grab by pulling your saw all the way out with the blade stopped and locking it in that position with the locking knob before positioning your workpiece. After the workpiece is in position you can start the saw, unlock it, and then feed the saw into the workpiece from the front without climb cutting for more control. It's still a potentially dangerous machine but so are many others in our shops. To reduce the chances for injury always keep a solid fence in place with only one kerf for the angle you are cutting. Never ever hold any work by reaching under the saw motor. Fit your table with hold downs or clamps for short work. Don't rely on any guards for your safety- use your brain and your eyes before you move the saw!
   SGensh - Friday, 10/21/05 18:44:05 EDT

RS yes I dislike them too for the same reasons. Just sold my old 10" Rockwell from the 60's when men were men. I also hated climb cutting and always pushed the blade into the cut.

I recall reading that the accident rate for RS are no higher than for table saws but almost all the incidents of limb amputation involved RS. augh!
   adam - Friday, 10/21/05 18:54:47 EDT

Hello, maybe you can help me. I've been working on what i would call "primitive" knives for a little while now, and i have several books on practical knife making. Not really into show knives, just a blade to get the job done (i intend on using my knives), and a pretty decent handle. In the past I've attempted a forging method, but now i have a question for a new approach that I'm using, and that is the "stock removal" approach. I'm using old crosscut saws for the blades, and I used an oxy-ac. torch to cut out the bits and then the grinder to shape to form, quenching in water to keep it from over heating while working. My books seem to conflict about how to finish out a knife blade like this: After I've shaped my knife, and I've gotten the edge down pretty good, do i NEED to heat it up and quench? Heat treat it? I'm wondering, because if it USED to be a saw then can i assume that it would be fine to just finish it out and sharpen it up and be done? Or has all the cutting with the torch and grinding away on the bench grinder cooked the metal too much to where i need to "re" treat by heat treating. Just wondering if you could give me a clear, simple approach to best finish out the blades, because my sources are confusing to me on this point. Thanks so much for your time.
   - Ron King - Friday, 10/21/05 19:27:46 EDT

Hello, maybe you can help me. I've been working on what i would call "primitive" knives for a little while now, and i have several books on practical knife making. Not really into show knives, just a blade to get the job done (i intend on using my knives), and a pretty decent handle. In the past I've attempted a forging method, but now i have a question for a new approach that I'm using, and that is the "stock removal" approach. I'm using old crosscut saws for the blades, and I used an oxy-ac. torch to cut out the bits and then the grinder to shape to form, quenching in water to keep it from over heating while working. My books seem to conflict about how to finish out a knife blade like this: After I've shaped my knife, and I've gotten the edge down pretty good, do i NEED to heat it up and quench? Heat treat it? I'm wondering, because if it USED to be a saw then can i assume that it would be fine to just finish it out and sharpen it up and be done? Or has all the cutting with the torch and grinding away on the bench grinder cooked the metal too much to where i need to "re" treat by heat treating. Just wondering if you could give me a clear, simple approach to best finish out the blades, because my sources are confusing to me on this point. Thanks so much for your time.
   - Ron King - Friday, 10/21/05 19:28:02 EDT

Ron, When the primitive makers used saw blades they cold cut the blank using a chisel or saw (hack saws are usualy harder than wood saws). Then the profiling and grinding is done with constant quenching to prevent overheating. The finished blade is the same temper as the saw IF the maker was careful.

As soon as you torched the blank you did terrible things to the steel. The heat effected zone is both hard and soft as well as burnt. The heat that created color in the steel reduces the hardness. The very hot zone at the cut is often self quenching meaning that it is rock hard. All this is very bad in a critical application.

To remove the heat effected zone requires removing 1/4 to 3/8" along the cut edge without overheating the steel. Yep, that is a LOT to remove.

SO. . you are faced with a complete heat treat, annealing, hardening and tempering. See our Heat Treating FAQ and Junkyard Steel FAQ.
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 19:39:23 EDT

Vise Abuse: Although a Blacksmiths Leg Vise is designed to take pounding none are able to withstand using a sledge on them, not even the big 250 pound monsters. When using a sledge find another way to support the work such as in a swage block, weld platten or anvil with a bolster plate.

When doing heavy clamping to one side of the vise you need a vise spacer. BlacksmithsDepot sells a set of these or you can make your own. These are a short length of steel with a short cross bar to support them on the top of the vise jaws. When you clamp the work on one side the spacer keeps the jaws parallel.

Another tool that improves work and takes load off the vise is the Vise Angle Block. These are an angled block of steel that rests on the top of the vise jaws and have a plate that clamps with the work in the jaws. The block prevents stock rotation while hammering or chiseling. The support lets you reduce clamping force thus less damage to the vise and the work. BlacksmithsDepot also sells these.

Use that vise furniture and NO SLEDGES!
   - guru - Friday, 10/21/05 19:54:12 EDT

Thanks for the information on the little giant hammer. I will order the video next week.
It is the new version with dovetail hammer, & toggle links with hole in each end. The pieces look straight, but havent put straight edge on it yet. Any guess on how much variation it will work with?
Main problem is one toggle arm and one toggle link have been broken and poorly brazed. Little giant suggests replacing spring, and I figured do both arms and links, pins, bushings, and half of one babbit is gone so do babbits also. Only other problem is about 1 / 4 of one side of sow block is broke off (missing) down to bottom of dovetail.
The one on ebay is older style and he wants 3500.00 to buy now. If they get close to this price, surely mine will worth fixing right. I plan to keep it and get heavier into forging.
I appreciate the answers I have received. Keep up the good work.


   David - Friday, 10/21/05 22:24:55 EDT

A BIT OF CLARIFICATION : I don't use the good equiptment in our wood shop for abrasive cutting metal. The machines used are resurected from scrap heaps, and modified as needed for the purpose. The radial saw has a steel table to clamp work to, and a blade guard was fasioned from garbage can lids. It was pretty much built for 1 job. I would use it more, but it is packed away in a corner and I now have 2 chopsaws, so I keep them set at 45 & 90 degrees and havn't needed the radial recently. A Belsaw "Sharp All" makes a handy cutoff saw with the adition of a drilpress vise, if You happen to have one amongst Your stuff.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 10/21/05 22:44:58 EDT

My brother (the now inactive "13th level")was a fairly active blacksmith throughout his high school years, and i apprenticed in his makeshift shop. As i was in elementary school at the time, i could not stand to be in the actual shop too long because of a childs lungs tolerance to the smoke.

My brother has since moved out and left the shop to me, to be fixed up and used or sold off. i have chosen to use it, hence why i am posting.

My main worry is the smoke. The shop is set up in a cylindrical 8 foot high 5 foot radius grain bin. The roof is almost completely covered, although it is missing one triangle from the now flat conical roof. The design is such that i am not certain that there will be enough air circulation to keep all the smoke out (by all i mean to where it is tolerable inside). i made an improvised chimney out of some old ventalation ducts, but i was wondering if there would be a better way? Maybe a shorter smoke stack or just leave it as a hole in the wall? i would like to keep the building intact as much as possible.

i appreciate any advice you could give me.

   Big Red - Saturday, 10/22/05 00:11:18 EDT

guru, i'm a 2nd year apprentice boilermaker with some degree of experence ( mostly in the form of doing striker man work at work ) and limited tools at home ( break drum forge of sorts , short section of 150lb rail way iron as a anvil , chisles ect.... but can sometimes do little jobs at work - a decent sized anvil, oxy lpg heating torch with 1.5 inch head, oxy cutter welder ect.... ) i live in an Australian semi-large city

i was wanting to make a rabit trapers tool with a sturdy hoe head on one side and hammer head type end on the other side and a short handle - maby 1,5 to 2 foot long

would a thick section of spring steel do for the head in your opinion? ( exotic steels are in limmited supply in my area or even at work - l.c.s, 304/316 stainless and aluminum is all we do at work)if not is there any common-ish materials you would sugest in eather new or scrap metal ( i know its pot luck there ). also any idea on heat treatment would be appreciated ( it might be limited to a heating torch and reading the colours )

i was going to roughly cut it out with the oxy torch if kneed be then shape it out with hammer (2 to 10 lb , not power ) if that makes any difference (i will do it at work if i kneed to ...... i think i may do - the boss is resonable about such things when the work is slow or luch time)

any help would be apreciated( the email address is real), thanks for your time - wayne
   wayne - Saturday, 10/22/05 01:35:03 EDT

Hello Guru I have started forging knives about a year ago in my spare time. My job as a diesle mechanic for a trucking company gets me lots of different scrap metal to play with, truck leaf springs, large roller bearings ect. Iam wondering large roller bearings should be 52100? and would all the parts of the bearing be the same, the outer race, the rollers, and the inner race? Also large leaf springs should be 5160? which would make a better knife? Any info would be a great help and appreciated. Thank you and great web site!
   matthew - Saturday, 10/22/05 04:45:44 EDT

Junkyard Steels: Matthew and Wayne, See our Junk Yard Steel FAQ and linked Heat Treating FAQ.

Bearings of the type you mentioned are usualy SAE 52100 but not always. However their heat treatments should be similar. Some rollers were case hardened on top of being very hard steel.

Spring steels vary greatly. The blanket statements made by people that springs are SAE 5160 are poorly informed misinformation. Springs are made of whatever steel any given manufacturer wants, is cheapest and available. Many are SAE 5160 but more are other steels ranging from mild steel to work hardened stainless. SAE 1095 is common in music wire and small springs as well as large leaves.

In general, automotive springs WERE good steels. Do not overlook coil springs. They are not as hard to straighten as you would think and are a much more convienient size and shape than leaf springs. Note however that you can purchase three foot lengths of drill rod for a little more than the cost of the fuel and labor of straightening a spring AND you will know exactly what you have and can look up the heat treating. . .

   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 09:11:52 EDT

Just a quick question. How many square feet is in a 50# bag of blacksmithing coal? I am going to order some online in a bit and they sell it in 50# bags.
   Rhordae - Saturday, 10/22/05 09:14:08 EDT

Wayne & Matthew,

I see the head guru has dealt with your question, but I will add my 2 worth.

Wayne. It is difficult to follow your approach. Maybe it is your spelling of 'rabit trapers'. If you torch the tool out of spring steel, and IF the steel is 5160, you will need to normalize, harden, and temper the business ends of the hoe and hammer, because the torch cuts and forging will require this. Do each tool-end separately; don't harden the eye. If 5160, quench in oil at bright cherry red to harden. I would suggest tempering each end to a full blue tempering color. Then do your final sharpening and dressing. When using any scrap steel, you're always "guessing at tomcats".

Matthew, What I've said to Wayne applies somewhat to your situation. Not all ball bearings and races are of 52100. For example, some bearings are made of 420 stainless. I have not had experience with making knives of 52100, but I googled "52100 heat treatment" and found some forging/heat treatment specs. As a high carbon/chromium low alloy steel, it looks as though one could make knives from it, but it would be a matter of experimentation in terms of edge holding ability, etc. `

   Frank Turley - Saturday, 10/22/05 09:30:29 EDT

Rabbit Trappers Tool: Wayne, I have no idea what this looks like but have a general idea. See the ax demos on our iForge page for various methods.

You sound like you have the skills to build a decent gas or charcoal forge. I would start with building a good forge. You can use an oxy-fuel torch for ocassional forging but they are expensive, noisy, hazardous and inconvienient. A forge is much more fuel efficient and better for repeated heats, especialy of large masses. Torch heating also tends to produce a surface heat where it is easier to get a through heat in a forge.

Rough cutting with a torch works. I've done my share. However it is bad for high carbon steels and you spend a LOT of time grinding to clean up. Forging is much cleaner and generaly better for the steel.

RR-rail anvils are only good for small work. If you have tried your anvil at work and compared to doing similar work on the RR-rail I'm sure you know the difference. Forging any tool with an eye for a handle is a relatively heavy job. Any compact lump of steel from 4"x 4"x 4" (100mm3) up makes a better anvil. Also see our iForge demo on tools from RR steel for a better way to use rail. I'm sure that somewhere in your city there is shop or steel supplier that handles heavy plate or bar and somewhere there is better scrap for an anvil of decent mass.

Hammer and eyed tools can be made from auto and truck axels. These are often large enough in diameter to have good mass for hammers and other tools and are the right kind of steel (SAE 1050 or similar). Springs are also good steel that can be heat treated but are often too small for heavier tools. If you have scrap RR steel available then ocassionaly RR-car springs are available. These are often 2" diameter (50mm) "wire" or larger.

See FAQ on Junkyard steels.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 09:45:17 EDT

Knife and/or sword making forums?

I have a buyer in France who makes knives. He said it is very much of a small cottage industry there, not fairly widespread as in the U.S. He is seeking some forums on which he can obtain information, advice, etc. Which ones, which primarily use 'kitchen English' would you recommend for him? I suspect he would like to avoid the 'martial arts' ones.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 10/22/05 10:23:33 EDT

Coal, Density, Volume, Area:

Bituminous coal is 70.28 pounds per cubic foot (density).

50 pounds of Bituminous coal is 1089.76 Cubic Inches or 0.630 Cubic Feet (about 2/3rds).

The average lump size of blacksmiths coal is about 1" +/- 1/4". 50 pounds spread out 1" deep would cover about 7 to 8 square feet or an area 2.6 x 2.6 to 2.8 x 2.8 feet. Typical fines are about 1/16" and would cover an area of 121 square feet.

Now if you walk in it 50 pounds of ground coal it will cover thousands of square feet including all of your shop, house, car and truck bed. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 10:23:36 EDT

Old dogs and new tricks...

Thank you for the information on pushing a radial arm saw backwards. Have been using one off and of for about 40 years and hadn't seen this technique before.
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 10/22/05 10:26:16 EDT

Knife and/or sword making forums: I don't know what "kitchen English" is, but I do know of a number of knifemakers forums. http://knifenetwork.com/forum probably has the most variety of information, everything from neo-tribal forging to stock removal tacticals with everything in between and on pretty much every tangent. The only decient forum for swordmakers I know of is http://swordforum.com in the professionals area, there are a number of martial artists on the forum, but quite a few smiths as well. If I knew more of his style and methods I could reccomend another knife forum or two that might fit his needs, but other then knifenetwork (formerly CKD)they're all a little more specialized into their specific styles.
   AwP - Saturday, 10/22/05 13:23:41 EDT

Roller bearings: I believe Patrick Nowack told us once that a lot of bearing races are now low alloy steels that have been carburized. No good for blades. Also, check out Don Fogg's site: www.dfoggknives.com. Go to the forum and register. Some really gifted bladesmiths post there.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 10/22/05 14:30:35 EDT

I asked this question before but I think it got lost in the mix, or maybe I missed the answer:

What are the dangers of using a propane torch, and having a propane gas forge?

For instance if my propane torch pressure gets too low, is there a chance it might explode? Obviously commercially available items like this should be relatively safe but I'd still like to know the physical mechanics involved in torch use and where the dangers lie.

Thank you
   - jim - Saturday, 10/22/05 14:50:14 EDT

Fuel and Explosions: Jim, There is always the hazzard of an explosion when you mix a flamable substance with an oxidizer (air).

Properly used a propane torch will not explode. However if you lay a propane torch on its side and liquid fuel enters the nozzel and blows out the flame the liquid fuel will continue to flow and vaporize filling the local area with a gas and air mixture. Add a point of ignition and you have an explosion. A liquid fuel cigarette lighter like the classic zippo is worse, lay it on its side while lit and the metal shell (fuel tank) heats rapidly producing a jet of flaming fuel that will turn into a major conflagration in seconds. . . don't ask I how I know.

A propane forge will not explode but if there is a flame out the common forges without automatic valves will fill a VERY large space with a fuel air mix in a very short time. However, this hazzard is no different than common gas stoves and old fashioned gas lights. Used properly, that is never leave it unattended, there is little danger of things getting out of hand.

Any fuel container, fuel oil, kerosene, gasoline, propane, acetylene or other flamable substances such as paint thinner, alcohol, fingernail polish remover is a hazzard in fire. Even high flash point liquids like cooking oil and motor oil can create a possible explosion if in a hot enough fire.

The greatest hazzard using any heat creating device whether it produces a flame or not is the possibility of setting something else on fire. As one of our guru's puts it, "Little fires become BIG fires in hurry." Avoiding uncontrolled or unexpected fires is the important thing.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 16:44:36 EDT

Thank you for the extensive information, I have a much better idea of what to watch out for now, and I feel more comfortable handling my torch.
   - jim - Saturday, 10/22/05 18:00:15 EDT

I was wondering where one might find information on the whereabouts of iron bearing dirt. I intend to refine it in the ancient japanese style (except with electricity at my disposal). I was just wondering if you happened to know where the best (or any) iron ore is (or was) found.
   Matthew Marting - Saturday, 10/22/05 18:36:49 EDT

Matthew; Tie a string on a magnet and drag it across a dirt lot. The little "whiskers' you see sticking to it are iron. If you're looking for red iron ore, try Minnesota. Also, scattered around the country are little chunks of meteorite iron and bog iron deposits. Several years ago, at the Quad State conference, one of our own, Ric Furrer, dragged a magnet around the Miami county Fairgrounds, and made a blade out of what he got off the magnet.
   3dogs - Saturday, 10/22/05 18:50:56 EDT

Iron Ores Matthew, Go to your local state or province department of mines or mineral resources and ask for an iron resources report. In Virginia it is the Virginia Division of Geology. If you are willing to travel to more than one state then you wil need to contact each.

However, these reports will cover only commercialy developable deposits. But it IS a good place to start. Then go to your local University geology department or Library. They will have all kinds of detailed reports on various mineral deposits. Do not overlook the university collection of thesees. Every geology masters and doctorate candidate had to study and write about SOMETHING and it is often the local minerals. Also note that not every mineral is found everywhere. . . Otherwise we would ALL be living on gold mines. . . If your University has a significant geology department then they may have the collected mineralogy reports from all the states and provinces, possibly globaly.

When you figure out WHERE to look then you will also need to know how to identify what you are looking for AND most importantly you will need to have permission to be mucking around on someone elses property. Even state parks are picky about folks digging holes and carrying things away from public lands. . .

It will also help to get you terminology right. Dirt is generaly what you grow plants in and has a high organic content. Soil and clay are usualy what you want to know about otherwise you will get sent to the agriculture department.

The Japanese use "iron sands", not dirt. It is a specific type of sand found in one province of Japan. In other parts of the world most iron ore will be hard rock ore that must be broken out of solid deposits. The other primitive ore is bog-ore which is the result of a type of bacterium that inhabit bogs and swamps. They produce iron rich nodules that can be picked up off the bottom of bogs. Much early iron industry ran on bog ore.

If you insist on doing it the hard way you will also need to know where to dig your own refractory clays (more mineral reports).

Time to hit the books. Geology and mineralogy were my favorite subjects in school but all the rocks I came across in my daily life were pretty boring so I let it go. I still enjoy driving through West Virginia and Kentucky where every highway cut is a study in geology and palentology. Coal seams in WV and limestone full of mud worms and trilobites in KY. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 19:34:57 EDT

Iron at Miami Fairgrounds: 3dogs. . . that is cheating! With a huge annual gathering of ironmongers every year as well as the county fairs and horse shows there is bound to be TONS of loose iron near the surface there. . .

In fact, one of the important maintenance jobs at airports is to roll the long rotary magnet up and down the runways to pick up all the stray metal that falls off aircraft and might accidently get ingested by a jet engine or cause a flat. So many loose parts. Doesn't give you much confidence in the aircraft. Of course what is often found are tools left under the cowl. Auto mechanics are bad about the same and I have a fair collection of pliers and screw drivers found on the roadside to proove it.

IF you use the modern carryiron appraoch and pick up every stray piece you find on the highway (its very dangerous) you can finds tons of iron. . . Paw-Paw and I came home with about 100 pounds from ONE weekend trip of about 800 miles round trip. A month later we could have picked up hundreds of feet of the 1/2" square bar that supports mud flaps IF we were crazy enough to stop every mile or so on the PA Turnpike. Don't know why so many were breaking off but they were EVERYWHERE. . . Looked like too hard a temper on the coiled spring end. May have been the results of ONE shops bad workmanship. . .

Disturbances by man make it really difficult to find what was left only by nature!
   - guru - Saturday, 10/22/05 19:52:32 EDT

I've recently aquired a post vice from around the 1800's its in a really good condition considering its age, but i think it is missing leaf spring of some sort between the jaws?if so are there any plans/info that I may make a new one?
   coops - Saturday, 10/22/05 20:41:10 EDT

Guru, your answer is a bit confusing. My coal bin will hold about 100 cubic feet and it is empty. How much Bituminous coal would I need to buy to fill it (by lbs.)? These online carriers sell it by 50# bags or in 100# increments.
   Rhordae - Saturday, 10/22/05 21:14:07 EDT

Rhordae : Guru mentioned that 50# of coal is about .63 Cubic Feet, and that coal is 70.28 LB/ Cubic Foot The problem with Your first question is that You had asked how many SQUARE feet is in 50# [Area, not volume] The bin might hold close to 700#
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 10/22/05 22:20:30 EDT


The Guru's answer was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, since you originally asked, "How many square feet is in a 50# bag of blacksmithing coal?" I think you meant *cubic* feet, not square feet, right? Still, it is impossible to give an exact answer to your question, as the Guru pointed out, because the size of the coal pieces affects the weight/volume ratio.

If you are getting nut-sized coal(1"), then I would imagine that 100 cubic feet would hold about 4-5,000 pounds of bituminous coal. That figure is based on a density of coal of 70lb/sq ft; with 1" lumps, there will be a fair amount of air space, so I'm guessing the average density would only be about 40-50lb/sq ft. If the coal has some pea-sized pieces and fines mixed in, the density will climb up closer to the 70#/sq ft and your 100 cubic foot bin will hold a bit over three tons.

You don't say where you are located, but you should seriously consider trying to find coal by the truckload (ton weight) rather than relatively expensive bags. Bought by the ton, good coal can be found for under a couple hundred dollars a ton. Fifty pound bags at $20/bag would drive the price of a ton up to $800 before shipping.
   vicopper - Saturday, 10/22/05 22:35:07 EDT

Rhordae: Pardon My Typo, meant 7000#. As vicopper stated ammount of fines & smaller chunks will cause an unpredictable density.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/23/05 01:38:45 EDT

CHEATING ?? I didn't mean to imply that Ric was picking up chunks of scrap iron, he was after those little whiskers. I seem to remember that ThomasP was his assistant on that demo.
   3dogs - Sunday, 10/23/05 02:53:46 EDT

Coops: I make my replacement vise springs out of mild steel the same width as the inside of the bracket. If the front jaw moves freely, mild steel will be fine. You will need a piece about 10". Heat one end and fishtail it out. I use a propane forge for this, trying to heat just the end 3" or so. At the other end you will need to put a 90 degree bend about 3/4" from the top. I do this in a vise using a torch to heat above the jaws. For the second bend move the spring up in the jaws to where about 1" more of it is up then the height of your bracket. Here I use the torch also, then quench. Angle is eyeballed to where the spring has very little tension when the jaws are opened about 3". Assemble and then peen over the ends of the fishtail at the bottom along side the front jaw shaft. If you are not familiar with them take a look at eBay listing #6218647812 for design.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/23/05 04:15:44 EDT

Rhordae: Go to the NAVIGATE anvilfire box and then go down to Coal Scuttle. There may be a bulk source close enough to drive. At $800/ton, may well be worth your while to drive a bit to purchase directly from a coal yard. Drawback is you may not get an analysis with it, and they might give you stoker coal rather than blacksmithing-grade coal.

On coal, I have found a useful rule of thumb to be a 5-gallon bucket holds right at 50-pounds.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/23/05 04:22:41 EDT

Iron bearing dirt...

I live on an old place and lots of construction/destruction has gone on here over the years. So...we get nails, barbed aire and all sorts of things working up through the ground all the time which is a hazard to my tires and the two horses we have running around. Recently we dragged some magnets over an area just trying to clean up some of the human left junk and much to my surprise I found that if you drag a magnet around anyplace on my property the soil sticks to the magnet! I don't know much about geology or minerology but I find myself thinking of trying to make some steel out of my yard (like I need another project). For those who do know something about minerology, I'm in north central Indiana. My ground is very sandy. Mostly sand on the high spots and sandy soil in the low spots. I sure will cover a magnet in a hurry though.
   Mike Ferrara - Sunday, 10/23/05 07:50:45 EDT

hi , im planning on building my first forge....... im looking for plans to a propane forge.... all the ones i found are either too small or the plans are not comprehesive enough.... i`d be happy if you could maybe give me a link or two to a comprehensive , detailed page , so i can get accurate , safe info and drawings
   michael - Sunday, 10/23/05 08:20:20 EDT

I live in Hixson, TN (Chattanooga). I can't find any coal anywhere in this state. It's very frustrating. The only source I could find is commercial carriers which is by the semi-truck load... 40 tons... way too much.
   Rhordae - Sunday, 10/23/05 09:14:39 EDT

I navigated the coal scuttle and found two places in north Georgia. Does anybody know if these places sell Blacksmithing coal (Bituminous)? One of them is a farriers supply so I guess they do. Thankyou SO much for pointing out that resource. Thankyou for all of your feedback.
   Rhordae - Sunday, 10/23/05 09:25:41 EDT

Forge Plans: Michael, The best on-line details are to be found on the Ron Reil page. Then the best book on the subject is Michael Porter. It has detailed plans. See our Gas Forge FAQ.

You will find few detailed forge plans on the web due to the libility issues in the US. If you give general guidelines then the builder is on his own and you have not provided the plan that burned down someone's home. The other problem with even the most detailed plans is that folks either cannot follow them or don't have the sense to figure out minor things on their own.

The rolling mill plans by Huge McDonald use a mixture of metric and English stock sizes becasue that is what is available in Australia (as in many other parts of the world). Several US builders have complained to me because they could not make substitutions without making some adjustments. The plans are fine, the builders lack the skill to build in the modern world. . . Mixed metric and English is the standard today.

The recupritive forge plans sold by ABANA make a fine small forge. The only problem is that the materials to make it are very expensive. It is made with stainless parts, a complicated shell and Kaowool board (over $100/sheet) and has some very picky dimensions and welding. I've seen half a dozen of these sitting in the corners of shops unused while other forges are in use instead. I suspect the complexity of construction is the problem.

If you follow the rules on the Ron Reil page you will be able to build any size forge. Note carefully that there is a proportion between burner capacity and volume as well as vent size.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/23/05 09:31:26 EDT

Iron Whiskers: I have seen the same in many places. However, when you have metal working going on you also have fines not just lost pieces. Grinding and arc welding create many pounds of swarf that easily spread as well as being spread by the processes. Machining while producing nice curly chips tat we dispose of also produces many fine whiskers which often get swept out the door or tracked on our feet. THEN there is the residue of any kind of junk, automobile or lawn or farm tractor from wear and rust.

My property in Virginia has been inhabited by Europeans for 200 years. As a Grist Mill it has been repaired and rebuilt over and over. The ground is full of nails, wire and various hardware. Then there are the fines from hack sawing shafts, sheet metal curls from the tin roof and lining bins, the rust from the above and all the vehicals that have come and gone including shod horses, wagon with iron tires and various automotive junk. Add to that my decades of operating a shop and welding. Flooding over the years has spread this residue miles down stream to sites much less inhabited.

We do not just leave large visible junk, we also leave fine particles, dust and rust.

I suspect man has greatly increased the amount of iron near the surface over the past couple thousand years he has been workin it. It still IS the most important metal to us technologicaly. Remember those magnetic parts I mentioned falling off aircraft? How often do planes fly over YOU as they shed bits of bearings, tools left under the cowl?

Then there is the metoric iron. Did you know that so many iron-nickle meteorites strike the Earth that at least one person is hit by a meterorite each year? When you see one burn up it is shedding many pounds of melted droplets of metal that rain down on the Earth as fine dust. . .

I'm off to the BRBAVA meeting! Will be back late tonight.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/23/05 09:56:21 EDT


Have you looked at the ABANA-Chapter.com link in the navigator? You are close to a BUNCH of smiths, at least one of whom posts here sometimes. TN also produces a lot of coal, but not down in your area anymore.

You're in the home territory of the Appalachian Area Chapter of Blacksmiths, and a short drive from the Brasstown smiths. If you were a mamber of the AACB, you'd see our newsletter advertises things like coal sources and so on, including at present one source near Crossville for $50/ton picked up at the mine. Get yourself to a meeting!

Your local subgroup is ChooChoo Forge, which meets the first Thursday of every month at the TN Valley Railway museum. The contact info from the current newsletter lists Mitchell Latsch of Harrison, TN, littledipper@comcast.net, as the go-to guy for questions. Click on my name and you should be able to email me for his phone #. I don't know him in person as he's down there and I'm up in Johnson City, but we're in the same organization.
   Alan-L - Sunday, 10/23/05 12:43:01 EDT

Where in the US are you located?
   Christian - Sunday, 10/23/05 13:57:05 EDT

   Christian - Sunday, 10/23/05 13:59:30 EDT

Propane forge design. Michael, what kind of work are you going to do? This may not apply to you but a very common mistake with a first forge is to go for something way too big. One can make a whole garden gate using a gas forge whose chamber is 5"x8".

Of course if you are feeding a power hammer and you want to heat several complete pieces at the same time you will need a larger box.
   adam - Sunday, 10/23/05 14:46:35 EDT

Fire Pot Question. I have been working with a propane fire for the last couple years in my shop. Well now I am in the process of building a masonry forge outside my shop and need some help on a firepot. I know they are available at just about any blacksmith supply in Cast Iron. So the question has come up as why cast iron? I have a full machine shop and capable of making my own from steel and no cost except the time do fab it up. I have the materials and was planning on using a butt weld tee and making the tuyre from bar stock in a say 4" square pattern with bars across in a grate type layout. I have seen this tuyre arrangement for sa;e on Ebay and can see why it wouldnt work. The table extending from the chimmney will be approx 30" sg with the firepot located 2" back from the opening. I was planning on using 3/8" plate supported by the masonry and cutting a hole to drop the firepot into just as you would a cast iron unit. The blower would be mounted behing the chimmney with the outlet going thru a pipe embedded into the masonry to supplt the air to the side of the tee. I have aquired a old Buffalo forge blower with the variable speed switch.
Any suggestions will be appreciated. Hope to start laying the brick next week Oh yea I will be using a 12 X 12 Flue liner from what I hear this should be attiquate.

Thanks Don
   Don Robertson - Sunday, 10/23/05 16:24:37 EDT

Howdy again. I want to first of all say thank you for the reply to my lubrication question i posted earlier. I come to with another question, this time concerning a propane forge i recently built. First, though, let me say what happened.

I was using the forge, which is like the style posted on Don Fogg's webpage( vertical). the burner is roughly the same, though I am using a hair dryer with a dimmer switch instead of a little blower like he uses. Now I had been running it for an hour or so, when all of a sudden the dryer completely shut off,though power to the rest of my shop and to the dryer remained on( the gas was still on at this point) When this happened, a very sooty flame began coming out of the forge. I immediately shut off the gas, and within a few seconds the hairdryer came back on.

Now I assume that the hair dryer got too hot and that was why it quit. What I am curious about is the source of the sooty flame. It turned the Kaowool black right in front of the burner port.

I really appreciate any help that you guys can offer. I don't know if this problem is a minor one or if it is something serious, so i won't use it till I know what happened. Once again thanks!

Ian Wille
   Ian Wille - Sunday, 10/23/05 16:50:14 EDT

Sooty flame is typical for almost any carbon based fuel that is burning but starved of oxygen. Theres enough heat to to break out the carbon but not enough oxygen for it to burn. Anytime I shut off the air to my forge with the gas still flowing, I too get a sooty flame from the partly burnt gas escaping the forge.

I dont think the soot or the flame are particularly dangerous but incomplete combustion means that you are generating some CO while its happening.
   adam - Sunday, 10/23/05 17:36:50 EDT

Thanks Adam, that makes sense. Now that I think about it, when i light my cutting torch, which i use propane for, it does the same thing, except with a smaller flame. I really appreciate your help!

Ian Wille
   Ian Wille - Sunday, 10/23/05 18:35:51 EDT

I have soft coal that converts to coke readily. The problem is that it is smokey and has a high sulfur content. I just got a 55gal drum and a 35gal drum from work to make a converter to produce coke. I know that the 35gal just need holes punched in the bottom. I will line the bottom of the 55gal with furnace cement (This worked well when I built my forge), but I'm not sure how to direct the air flow. How much do I need to restrict the air flow at the top of the 55gal drum? Do I need to be able to adjust it? How do I know when it is right? Any help you could give would be much appreciated. I would prefer not to get black lung.
   Trock - Sunday, 10/23/05 21:32:41 EDT

Blown Forges: First, that hair dryer probably has an over heat sensor in it to shut it down. This was to prevent setting you hair on fire NOT to protect the dryer which would have been better served by shutting off the heating element and leaving the fan run. If you haven't removed the heating element do so. If it is too close to the forge then move it away.

Also note that you cannot run these fans but so slow on a speed control or they will stall repeatedly. The best thing to do is put a restriction in the air pipe then the control will be running the motor faster and will not tend to stall.

As a safety feature on my blown gas forge I use a normaly closed solenoid valve to control the gas. If you lose power the gas shuts off. But this is also part of an expensive control system I built which also included electric ignition that runs all the time the gas is flowing. No fan, no spark, no gas. . .

   - guru - Sunday, 10/23/05 21:32:56 EDT

Trock, Coking by fire is as varied a process as there are grades of coal. In commercial coke ovens the coal is sealed in a retort with a pipe leading from it to the fire. The coal is heated with a small fire until the coal gas starts burning and then the process can continue with the coal gas as fuel. However, in many cases OR when there is excess the coal gas is seperated into producer gas (mostly methane) and the rest of the heavy volatiles cracked to make coal oil, tars and various other products.

If the coking coal is exposed to air or directly to flame it will burn. If the gases are alowed to accumulate in large volumes mixed with air it can explode.

Most smiths that make their own coke do so by just building a large fire and continualy wetting down the coke as it forms. You can produce about 75% coke if you properly tend the fire.

If you have smokey coal and the smoke is in your shop then you need to rethink your forge or venting system. Good side draft hoods are very efficient if you have a large enough stack.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/23/05 21:42:52 EDT

Fabricated Fire Posts vs: cast: There are three reasons they are cast not fabricated.

1) Tradition.

2) Cast iron is more resistant to oxidation from fire and rust than steel plate.

3) Heavy wall (usualy 5/8 to 3/4") firepots are much more economical to cast than to fabricate. Their design predates the cutting torch and arc welder

There is no reason not to make your own as long as you stick to convention proportions. Steel plate will corrode more than the CI but I have built forges with 1/4" wall fire pots that lasted for years. I have also seen them made from recycled hot water heater tank steel (less than 1/8") that lasted for years.

   - guru - Sunday, 10/23/05 21:49:06 EDT

How can I find out what year (circa) my anvil is? I have an eagle branded Fisher. Any other marks, if any, have worn off as far as I can tell. It has a cast iron body and a high carbon plate (or it did until I ground it off to recondition it). Any thoughts? It's really not that important, I would just like to know.
   Rhordae - Sunday, 10/23/05 21:52:57 EDT

Alan L

Thankyou for your reply. If you can give me any information on a coal source in Crossville I would greatly appreciate it. That would be much closer than the one I found in Georgia.
   Rhordae - Sunday, 10/23/05 22:02:21 EDT

Alan L

I tried to email you but it wouldn't send. Please email me at Rhordae@comcast.net and I can reply. Thanks
   Rhordae - Sunday, 10/23/05 22:14:26 EDT

Don R: There are a lot of pictures and info [and opinion]on forges and forge building at www.beautifuliron.com if You havn't finalized Your design.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/23/05 23:01:56 EDT


If you ground of the steel plate on the Fisher what you basically have now is a buoy anchor or gluing weight. The cast iron under it will be soft and there is no economical way to put a new steel top on it. If it was really badly beat up you might have been able to salvage the top plate via welding. Once down to almost no plate or no plate it is almost beyond hope.

Without the mold date under the heel you can only guess as to a manufacture year by shape and logo. From Anvils in America by Richard Postman: The older Fishers, before about 1913, tended to me more blockly, particularly fat under the heel. The first logo was an Eagle in a circle holding an anchor with the prongs to the left (cicra pre-1860). Second dropped the circle (cicra 1860 to sometime in the 1870s). Third had the prongs to the right (cicra sometime in the 1870 to 1882. From cicra 1882 to early 1900s eagle and anchor were recessed. After cicra 1910 the shape went to basically the London patern with the anvil more graceful than blocky. You know it is a Fisher so likely it has the name on the front foot. They apparently started putting it there cicra 1870s. They apparently started adding the mold date about 1890. Thus, my WAG is it may be cicra 1870-1890.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/24/05 03:23:06 EDT

re : rabit trappers tool : thanks for your time guru and frank. i think that armed with your sugestions and a phone book i think i'll be right. we do have drifts at work for making eyes for various handels ( one of the blokes at work used to be a spring maker , its probibly why i thought of truck spring initaly . i thought i would come to him with half a clue , thus the post ). we used to have a gass forge untill we moved work shops but due to space restrictions, we only have a heating torch now. (we are only matenence boilermakers) Space is also a issue at home and know the difference it makes to use a good anvil :)

i also was going to ask about bearing steel and knives , but matthews question awnswed it aswell .... ha ha ha .... thanks
so thanks for your time, i realy apreciated your help - wayne
   - wayne - Monday, 10/24/05 05:37:50 EDT

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