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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Click's and my distinguished ancestor, Sir Verely Undercut, once expressed it as he reached for the spray can of red lead, one can do anything, but one can't do everything.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/01/06 13:01:19 EDT

Concerning painting. Everyone has wonderful input and techincal info. Our opinions all vary, though each has great validity.

My personal take: If a Blacksmith hires someone to do any portion of their work it is not craft or art. It is just fabrication and a job.
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 10/01/06 15:10:12 EDT

Burnt Forge, high-dollar bladesmiths hire people to haft the blades and make sheiths for them. There is still a great deal of art and skill in the smithing.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 10/01/06 16:52:58 EDT

Sole Authorship: This is somewhat of an American idea, to do it ALL. However, as a blacksmith we do not make the iron or roll it into specific sized bars, do not make the paint, grind the pigments. . . and many do not make all the pieces. Artists do not make their canvas and very few grind their own paints even though they DID historically. Historically engravers have engraved, painters painted, jewlers cut and set stones and other craftsfolk went to them for these tasks. The Japanese Swordsmith makes the steel, forges and finishes the blade, to a POINT. But then a polisher polishes, a furniture maker makes and fits the furniture and the scabard maker makes the scabard and often fits the matching grip. It is a cooperative effort.

Today in the US almost all gun engraving on production OR custom weapons is done by specialists. If you want a jewel set into a piece of work do you mine it, cut and polish it? Never. You purchase the finished stone and perhaps even pay and expert to mount it.

In custom book binding the binder starts with the printed signitures, cuts and trims them, sews them, makes the cover and fits the leather. He may tool the leather and often guilds the lettering. However, he does not make the paper, he does not tan the leather, he does not make the gold leaf, he does not make the marbled end papers (despite the faux-pax in the old Williamsburg print shop - marbling was a specialty). On books with metal work the binder does not make the parts. However, the printer delivers the printed pages and the book binder delivers the finished book to the printer. The binder MAY sub out leather tooling and metal work but he generaly designs it and does the fit and assembly. Some custom binders may do more, some less but is the work any less theirs?

As a modern hobby book binder I COULD tan my own leather (do I have to slaughter the cow as well?) and marble my own end papers (do I have to mine and grind my own pigments as well?). These are both things I can do but not nearly as well as an expert or a factory. I could make my own metal fittings and have the capacity to formulate my own brass, cast it and make it into plate or cast fittings, locks and keys as well which I probably WILL DO on a future project. But is every step required to be my own? I HAVE written my own words, produced my own illustrations and did the custom binding in total several times. Am *I* more of a book binder than the fellow that binds someone elses work? No.

Does a woodworker have to fell his own wood, dry it and mill it? Many do. Most do not. Does controlling this step in the production of a wood item make them a superior wood worker? A friend of mine not only mills his own wood for furniture making but grows his own exotic hardwoods in Central America. Does THIS extra step of putting the seeds in the ground and caring for the tree for 25 years, then cutting it down make him better than a wood worker in Europe who buys his mahogany boards and rosewood verneers from Brazil and ebony from Africa?
   - guru - Sunday, 10/01/06 19:09:44 EDT

Using This Steel for That: As the Alpha Guru says, there is no book that can tell you what steel to use for a given application. You can reverse engineer an item and determine what the original designer used. Or you can hire a Metallurgist who will review your designs, determine the appropriate alloy for the strength required, prescribe a heat treatment, and send you a modest solicitation of recompense for his efforts. Every design and application is slightly different and there are about 25,000 alloys to choose from. Just remember, a Consulting Metallurgical Engineer must be licensed by the State and not every graduate metallurgist passes the test. However, if you feel really lucky, pick one out yourself and go at it. Guru and I will wait WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY over there..........
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 10/01/06 17:03:57 EDT

Metallurgists: QC, Also do not forget the engineering libility insurance most PE's carry.

Disclaimer: The above post is a blatatent advertisement for licensed metallurgists.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/01/06 19:09:26 EDT

hey everyone
i don't know if i've said this or not but i work as a blacksmith down in texas, at the George Ranch Historical Park. but i need an leather apron, to go with my costume. does anyone know of anyplace that sells historic wear like that, or if anyone knows of any plans on making one. Anything will be helpful
thank you
Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/01/06 18:46:05 EDT

Aprons: Andrew, a standard leather welding appron (for smiths) or a standard farriers apron (for shoers) is no different today than in 1880. You can get either from Centaur Forge. The welding apron you can get from any welding supplier. The difference between the two is the welding apron is a standard apron made of soft split cowhide and a farrier's apron is made of heavier leather and is split at the legs. A few are now died bright colors which you would want to avoid in a historical situation.

While NEW neither is going to look very historical. Only wear a tear and LONG LONG hours gives leather the right look. It will need to get sweat stained, dirt and scale stained and conform to your body before it look right. So when you get that shiney new appron wear it 24 hours a day for a month or two, play football in it, cook, bathe and make love in it and it will look about right.

Mine cost me $24 in 1976, I cut off 8" so that it came above my knee (too hard to walk in a longer unsplit apron), then wore it protect from welding, forging, grinding, painting. I wore it for all day (12 hour) blacksmithing demos in heat and sun and rain. It only took a year to look well worn.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/01/06 19:07:24 EDT

"Sole Authorship" is the major reason that most of the famed painters of the renaissance are not considered artists; after all they used a lot of help from their "schools" in many of their works. Leonardo Da Vinci is only a fab man after all!

Note: most japanese swordmakers do not smelt their own steel but buy it from one of the few tamahagane producers still working in Japan.

Thomas who has smeled his own iron from ore
   Thomas Powers - Sunday, 10/01/06 19:49:51 EDT

Andrew B: Check out this one on eBay: 280034148013.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:20:37 EDT

While ThomasP has smeled his own iron, my wife's cats do that all the time. They just sorta lay on their side and raise one back leg and...
Oh wait, he meant smelted iron. I bet he would a funny and disruptable hat whilst doing so.

Jeff who used to be an anvilhead, and recently for a few shining hours was a gearhead, But alas who has now stripped his gears.
   ptree - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:23:26 EDT

Thanks Ken
it looks like it's exactly what i need
thanks alot
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:35:28 EDT

Hi Quenchcrack

I understand and agree.

Bladesmithing: I am a cutler in addition to blacksmith. Most bladesmiths are not cutlers or they would do the complete finish work on the knife and make the sheath themselves. It is much more of a specialized and dead skill compared to blacksmithing that has such a strong revival today. You pretty much would have to had worked as a cutler to know how to do it.

Please understand I have strong opinions on some things. I agree with you all too. I am like Francis Whitaker in many ways of opinion. I don't think much of a forged knife if it hasn't been made from start to finish by the same person. I forget the sword smith's name that smelts his iron then makes his billets and forges his sword, whitesmiths it and finishes it. He is a true bladesmith. One of only a few.

I don't think much of a custom knife if the person forges it. Then sends it to heat treat. the it is sent to someone to hollow or flat grind it and then assemble a handle and whaft, color and poilsh it. It is pretty much a mass produced product. It isn't worth the cost to produce it in my opinion. You can buy just as good and pretty knife for $50.00 instead of several hundred.
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:35:58 EDT

Even in the old days, a smith must have had to buy a new apron *sometime* . . .
   Mike B - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:38:32 EDT


You're point of sole authorship is very well taken. I myself just view view art and craft differently than partial production and fabrication. I just personally think the item created from the raw materials needs to be done by the same from start to finish. Then we see the real picture and creation.

Please understand this is, but my opinion that means nothing other to myself. This is the big 100 year debate that is still raging isn't it?
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 10/01/06 20:45:28 EDT

Andrew B.
Two things. I'll be demonstrating for the Houston area blacksmiths in Oldenburg this coming weekend, and If you come over, you'll probably get 50 different ideas on apron patterns. www.habairon.org/Forgefest06/

For the period you're working in, I take my cue from a book called "Frontier Iron", written about the Meramec Iron Furnace near St. James, Missouri, operating from 1827 into the 1890s. There is a nice photo in the book of several iron plantation blacksmiths standing side by side. All of them have aprons without bibs and without neck straps. The aprons are simply folded over on top for 3" or so, the tie strings probably wrapped around and tied in front under the fold. The top fold is worn high, well above the belly button. The bottoms appear not trimmed off neatly, but remain roughly the shape of the original hide. They do come below the knee.

As Jock has pointed out, the farriers apron is heavier, sometimes made of mule hide. The farriers apron is worn lower, it is a "hip hugger" and has the vertical split down the center. On the old ones, There was an overlap of leather in the center, so that the shoer had a couple of flaps he could fold partially around his inner thighs.

Check with your local Tandy/Leather Factory store.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/01/06 21:04:18 EDT

thanks frank
and yes i will be coming this weekend only on saturday though
see you there
Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/01/06 21:39:17 EDT

Personal preference for pickling : Single malt over a single cube.
Bob G - general rule of thumb for heat treating large pieces of steel - austenitize for 1 hour of inch per thickness (use the smallest dimension as the controlling factor) - desired temperature - 1550 to 1650 F, Quench - lots of water at 100 F or cooler - but not below 50 F, and preferably 70 F up. (Lots = fire hose, swift flowing river, high pressure pump hooked up to a cooling tower with recirc, etc.) Temper immediately after quench - WAG 500 F or better. You still won't through harden the piece - just not enough oomph in 1045 that size to reduce to martensite all the way throug. Best gues is a mixed bainitic structure under martensite, with possibly bainite in the center.

Personally, I think it's be a lot easier to just flame harden the surface - not necessarily as good, but easier. Or, find a friendly heat treater.
   - Gavainh - Sunday, 10/01/06 23:31:31 EDT

what are the pros and cons of using corn as a forge fuel?
   Cameron - Sunday, 10/01/06 23:48:38 EDT

Leaf: In the real worold the choice of tool steels becomes one of availability. There are a handfull that are comonly used and readily available, most shops only have 4 or 5 in stock to choose from. The other 24,980 alloys are used by about .01% of the customers. The machine building and toolmaking shops I worked for didn't have any lisenced consulting metalurgical engineers, and didn't hire out to any, and somehow we struggled and made usable equipment in spite of our selves. If You want to know how We selected the tool steels, E-mail Me. For heat treatment We followed the manufacturers specs.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/01/06 23:51:37 EDT

One interesting thing is that in the medieval and renaissance times that's exactly how swords were made!

The smith would forge it; someone else would grind it, a third shop would hilt it (and known as cutlers they would often handle the "order" and arrange the subcontracting) and even another shop would make the sheath.

This is clearly evident by the guilds involved---all seperate ones---and the severe punishments on people caught with tools of another guild in their workplace---pulling the shop down was not unknown...

Since tools were quite expensive it made sense to specialize so you were using all your tools all the time. We have a very different environment where tools are relative cheap and we can afford to have them just sit when we aren't using them.

There are several bladesmith/hilter partnerships that have done such georgeous work that *none* dare call it not art---Kemal for one set.

I recently sent out the first blades I have ever sold unhilted; early medieval WI ones that the owner will do the simple hilt common to the times---whittle tang into a fruit tree branch most likely.

   Thomas Powers - Sunday, 10/01/06 23:57:45 EDT

About the "sole authorship" issue: I was talking to a potter from California who was showing his work in Japan and he pointed out that in Japan, a Japanese potter would always involve other people to do things like make boxes to hold the pots, rather than try to be independent and "self-sufficient." I was thinking about the contrast between this approach and the value we Americans place on "self-reliance." It occured to me that in a highly populated island setting it would make a lot of sense to share work to avoid social friction caused by envy of people who are working by people who feel left out.
   brian kennedy - Monday, 10/02/06 01:38:51 EDT

I am not sure if anyone here is all that familiar with glassblowing or how blown glass works are made. Perhaps you've heard the name Dale Chihuly, or seen some of his works. Dale Chihuly has not blown glass for DECADES. He is in fact missing one eye, which would make it extremely dangerous for him to pick up a pipe. Instead, he has a team of gaffers and assistants who blow. He describes, points, gestures, paints, sketches. He directed the execution of this piece, for example:
Now, with this in mind, I would dearly like to see someone walk up to him and tell him he is not an artist.

In my not-so-humble opinion, artistry is in the idea -- the execution is an afterthought. (An afterthought which I take great pleasure in, mind you.)
   T. Gold - Monday, 10/02/06 02:58:53 EDT

Samuel Yellin also quit hammering after he had some health problems, but his shop was still producing the things he dreamed up.
   - Jeff G. - Monday, 10/02/06 07:53:50 EDT

The Great Alexander Calder, maker of mobiles and "stabiles" and some of the largest public art in the world operated a forge and was somewhat of a blacksmith. He would cut and grind and forge his scale MODELS. Then a large fabricating shop, often a shipyard would carefully scale his pieces up to the size required by the commission.

Many people do not like his art but he IS the inventor of the mobile and hand crafted many of the smaller ones. His large public art was made by engineers and craftsmen.

In the field of sculpture only a few hard core artists cast their own small bronzes. Large bronzes have been cast by foundry experts since the time of the Ancient Greeks.

In the field of blacksmithing most architects are lousy ironwork designers but there have been a few that were quite good. When an artist or designer takes a drawing to a craftsman to be produced they expect it to be faithfully reproduced. However, the drawing provided to many smiths is either inapropriate for forged work or is mearly a silhouette. In this case the work becomes a piece of art for the smith. But if I gave a smith a drawing with details of joints, how each element was to look, specified the finish. . I would be the artist and the smith the craftsman that produced it.

There is an age old argument between what is art and what is craft. The fact that an artist must also be a competent craftsman if they produce their work directly and that many craftsfolk are also artists who design their own work blurs the lines to the point of extinction. But the difference is clear to one that understands both aspects of creation. There is creation of art and creation of a THING without art.
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 08:48:13 EDT

Corn as Fuel: Cameron, Fuel for what? Are we burning corn cobs in the forge (been done, works poorly but if the forge is deep enough and you have lots of cobs it works OK - NOT great). Are we making sugar or alcohol and burning that in the forge? I've never heard of an alcohol forge but for millinea jewelers have used alcohol blow pipes for brazing and welding. I suspect a blown alcohol forge would get as hot as other types.

Dried corn kernels will burn but are much more valuable and useful as animal feed and oil, sugar and alcohol production as noted above. Actually there have been a lot of economic studies that say that producing alcohol costs 71% more in energy per unit than produced by the fuel. 61% of the cost is the production of the corn it self. So you are better off burning whatever fuel you have on hand in your forge rather than putting it into corn production. Producing ethonal WILL NOT make us portable fuel independent.

The only economic use of alcohol produced from corn is the type that is drunk. There are huge profits in making corn liquor and no comparison to energy consumption applies.

Even if you hand till the earth, plant and harvest by hand this is not an economical fire fuel. There are fast growing trees that can be grown on a wood lot that are much more efficient makers of fuel in pounds AND that fuel can be coaled to raise its efficiency. They grow and you harvest for decades after one planting. There is no continual tilling, fertilizing, shelling. . .
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 09:21:45 EDT

Thank You Fellas for your opinions and history. It is all well taken and very interesting. Tought provoking. I still hold to my opinion as it serves me well. I agree and respect yours as well.
   - Burnt Forge - Monday, 10/02/06 09:34:53 EDT

Scale, Craft, One of a kind, Multiples.

Re more than one guy involved in the finished projece, sometimes it has to do with scale (size) and whether it is considered "craft" or not.

Our daughter, Patricia Michaels, is a fashion designer: dresses; stoles; vests; jackets, etc. When she was starting out as a teenager, she made mostly one-of-a-kinds, dyeing store bought material, and doing the sewing herself. At that time, she could enter "craft fairs" with her work. Presently, as a professional, she makes a line of clothing directed toward a specific runway or stage fashion show. Because of the large volume of work involved, she has hired seamstresses. She now has helpers for dyeing, layout, and cutting. Patricia is the designer in all aspects, and she oversees all operations.

As Jock has pointed out, there are a number of factors involved in producing a final project. I don't know of anyone who's made and installed a large, heavy, forged gate by themselves. Something like that presents a materials handling problem. I'm told that the Williamsburg gunsmiths are backlogged with orders for flintlocks, and some of their rifles have pre-made, bored, and rifled gun barrels. It's a money saving for the purchaser as opposed to ordering a forge welded barrel.

Calder. I still have a sheet of 1994 U.S. stamps which honored Alexander Calder.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/02/06 10:30:25 EDT

Selecting Steels Revisited - The Engineering Office or Shop Library: In shop settings we use primarily what is on hand as noted by Dave Boyer. Most shops have mild steel, A2, O1, H13 and a few others as well as 2024 and 6061 aluminium and 660 bearing bronze. However, we have a small mountain of short drops from pieces of specific specialty steels and bronzes that were bought for specific purposes as needed. When the design calls for a specific alloy you use it. We have had stocks of 4145HT, 17-4PH, 305 SS, Nylon, Delrin, oilite bronze, SS Acme all thread, cast iron. . .

In the blacksmith shop we have mild steel and structural steel for product and a one or two tool steels for tools. Many smiths have had good success with S-7 so that is what most use. But different folks have what they are used to dealing with and favor that. Those that have access to W1 use it. I know a few smiths that prefer Atlantic 33 non-tempering steel for everything and others that use H-13 for too many things.

Manufacturer's catalogs (old and new) are often one of the best sources for application information and most engineering offices have a large collection of material as well as component catalogs. In the past many of these were wonderful hard bound editions with all kninds of engineering information as well as product specs. Often what you find in references like the ASM Metals Reference Book is gleaned and condensed from multiple catalogs. After that the data takes on a life of its own. But most started as catalog data.

When we setup our engineering office in the late 1970's we started with references we had on hand then went to folks like New Equipment Digest and Design News and started checking off reader service cards for everyone that provided catalogs in our areas of interest. We also called old suppliers for updated catalogs and purchased a set of Thomas Register and got a new McMaster-Carr catalog. We continued this process for years. When my Dad retired the engineering catalog library consisted of about 50 to 75 running feet of book shelves and a full 5 drawer filing cabinett.

In 1999 I had to setup a new office and much of the old stuff was way out of date and did not apply to the new project. I ordered a new Thomas Register and called a bunch of local suppliers of engineering products and had them send me catalogs of what they carried. In a few weeks I had several full book shelves on needed information. The ONE item I had been searching for for months was found in the Thomas Register the day after it arrived. That one bit of information paid for the $800, 32 volume (each 3" thick) set.

Things change fast and I have since junked the Thomas Register. They are on-line or on CD now. More importantly so is McMaster-Carr on-line. There are many others as well as metals suppliers. However, some print catalogs are still the best source of information. The Omega temperature measurment catalogs are also a temperature measurment reference library and consist of half a dozen hard bound books.

Your personal shop reference library is almost always focusd on a particular area. My library for anvilfire ranges from turn of the century catalogs, to the Foxfire books through numerous ASM references and almost all the books on our book review page. Most focus on blacksmithing, tools, toolmaking and basic engineering subjects. If you were setting up a general engineering firm that expected to do business in the millions per year then you would want a complete set of ASTM standards, the ASM Metals Reference Library, Thomas Register, Encylopedia Britanica, The Chemical Formulary . . and others that I may not know of along with standard engineering references like Machinery's, Marks, CRC, and that large catalog library.

Law offices are the same. Ever notice that EVERY photo you see of a laywer is taken in front of the shelves full of his law-library. . . It is an investment that costs. . . well the sky is the limit. But as a minimum it is tens of thousands of dollars. They are very proud of that library and it is a lot of what you pay for when you go to a lawyer.

Books, particularly references are important tools in the modern shop. Books are perfect memories of details which we may never need to learn or have long forgotten. They are the tables of data that is impossible to memorize. Data that took hundreds of people hundreds of years to produce. They are the sources of things we have learned and are going to learn. Next to our brain they are the most important tool in our "shop".

BOOKS: I harp on this now and then because I know many looking for information on the web have forsaken books. The vast majority of technical questions we answer here can be found in a $15 used copy of Machinery's Handbook. Even though I have worked harder on our book review page than any other it is still one of the lowest traffic pages on anvilfire. The VERY complete Sword Making Resources list sees only 1/5 the traffic of the main article and our book review page sees 1/3 relative to our getting started article. Do not overlook books. Not everything is to be found on the Internet and often what is found is lacking details or may be in error.
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 12:02:23 EDT

I go through phases of collecting books. Sometimes it is for research, sometimes for personal interest. Some are quite rare, others out of print. Prior to anvilfire I was collecting books on the construction of musical instruments as research for a book project. Most were hard to find out of print books. Now I am collecting books about locksmithing, a subject with few really good books. But I have had other interests as well so I have a rather eclectic library. Amoung the unusual that are not packed for moving. . . .

The Steel Drum, by Peter Seeger
Syntagma Musicum II, De Organigraphia, 1619, by Richard Praetorious
Architectural Graphic Standards, by Ramsey & Sleeper
Architectural Graphic Standards 7th Ed, by Ramsey & Sleeper with AIA
CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (a collection dating from the 1930's through 1991).
The Secretary's Desk Book, Brown, 1941
James Watt and the Steam Engine, Dickenson and Jenkins, Oxford Press, 1927
The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary
China at Work, Hommel (suggested by Frank Turley).
Andrew Wyeth: The Helga Pictures
The Eloquent Light, Ansel Adams
Time Life Library of Phototgraphy
The Practical Guide to Marbling Papers, Anne Chambers
Spanish Colonial Furniture, Bruce
The Elements, Emsley, Oxford Press
Matrix Mathematics, Vol I. II, III

This is just a few. Of course I have been buying books for most of my life, just like I have been collecting other tools. . . Surprisingly many of these "off topic" books often have something to do with anvilfire.

To work.
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 13:41:27 EDT

I'm searching for a source of low-carbon iron. Is this what used to be referred to as Pig Iron? I only need a small quantity...perhaps 12" x 3" x 1/4". Can you suggest any firm or craftsman? I would be very grateful for your advice. Peace. Kim.
   Kim Eric Lilot - Monday, 10/02/06 13:55:29 EDT

How dificult is H-13 to forge? Thanks for the book info BTW, tool steel can be expensive, might as well know what I am doing.
   - Leaf D - Monday, 10/02/06 14:02:47 EDT


This gets into language usage. It's not pig iron. Wrought Iron, the material, is a low carbon iron, but is no longer manufactured. One of the most widely used materials in the world is "mild steel", which metallurgically speaking, is a low carbon iron. It is over 99.6% iron with the rest being carbon and trace elements. It is considered low carbon. It is readily available in any metal scrap yard or from any steel service center. The centers normally sell it in 20 foot lengths. It is common, everyday stuff.


It's not difficult to forge H13, but it must be done at the correct temperatures, 1950F - 2100F, and not below 1600F. Bright Orange through Yellow and not below Bright Cherry Red. For a given reduction, you'll be hitting it more times than you would if it were mild steel. H13 should then be annealed. Get the heat treatment temperatures from the manufacturer.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/02/06 14:43:12 EDT

Kim; *how* low carbon do you need? Will 1020 (0.2%C) do or do you need 0.00002% C?

If you go into a typical steel store nowdays and ask for mild steel you will probably get A36 which can have an appreciable ammount of carbon in it as it's not spec'd by carbon content buy by yield strength.

If you can tell us what you want to use it for we can probably give you some ideas on where to find it.

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/02/06 15:37:56 EDT


Pig iron is cast iron, they called it that because someone thought the shape of the ingots looked like piglets nursing.
   - Leaf D - Monday, 10/02/06 15:57:02 EDT

Besides "Pig Iron" being cast iron it is VERY high carbon. . 3% or more. WAYYY beyond high carbon steel.

The best bet on low carbon steel is cold drawn SAE 1018-1020. This is good mild steel but is not really "low carbon". SAE 1008 which is what much soft wire is made of is low carbon. If you want pure iron (no carbon) you can go to Wagner Industries but it is VERY pricey.

H-13 specs are in our Heat Treating FAQ.
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 16:39:12 EDT

hey guys,
i jsut have a random question.
i've heard people talk about like a #500 anvil and a #175 anvil.
What do the numbers mean?
thanks again everyone
Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Monday, 10/02/06 17:15:34 EDT

# is the symbol for pound so a #500 anvil is a 500 pound anvil and of course that refers to it's weight.

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/02/06 19:08:10 EDT

Guru, While this is a blacksmithing question, it is off the wall, but I pass it on for the attention it deserves.
An older gent, whom I know from my 'civic activities' wandered into my shop last weekend and wanted some info. It seems his Grandaddy was a Blacksmith, had a shop in Philly, and died at an early age in 1899. He lived right near where the currend Library is now, and he wanted to gather info. His question: "was/is there any sort of Organization/guild/union/commercial club that his grandaddy may have belonged to?" Yeah, a long shot, but there it is...thanks for any info. Tim
   - Tim in Orygun - Monday, 10/02/06 19:15:40 EDT

PIG IRON: is also usually very high in phosphorus and sulfur. It has little or NO quality control, and is highly variable.
   - John Odom - Monday, 10/02/06 20:18:50 EDT

Tim in Orygun: Business directories long predate telephone ones. Have your friend contact the central library in Philly. For a fee (likely about $20 hours) they can research directions from say 1890-1900 for various organizations he might have belonged to.

Ken in Tenn-ass-see.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/02/06 20:25:33 EDT

thanks thomas
   - Andrew B. - Monday, 10/02/06 21:01:06 EDT

GAS FORGE: I just got 2 freon tanks, the 30lb size, are these the size talked about on the make your own forge info page(s), or do I need to get the 50lb size? Also, has anyone ever welded 2 together end to end to make a longer 2 burner forge and is it worth trying?
   Thumper - Monday, 10/02/06 21:25:24 EDT

Thumper, I think the small forges are from 13 pound bottles which are 10" dia. Two inches of Kaowool results in a 6" diameter interior. For larger forges the propane cylinders up to 40 pounds are all 12" in diameter.

For long work you are better off with a short forge with holes in the ends UNLESS there is a real need to heat long pieces. Long bladesmithing is done in short sections. But if you need you can build modular forge sections and line up 10 foot long forge from 16" long sections. . . Most smiths do short tight bends and scrolls hot and long sweeping bends cold.
   - guru - Monday, 10/02/06 22:58:52 EDT

Guru, I must have misunderstood the fridge repairman I got them from on the canister sizes. Being a one man shop, I'm figuring that more hot metal would make for shorter heat time ergo faster work overall. On stuff I know how to do this would be a real plus especially with metal on/over 1/2" diameter. I'm not a bladesmith, just a hot iron junkie with cobbled together jigs and my ducks nest only get's about 6" hot at a time.
   Thumper - Monday, 10/02/06 23:31:15 EDT

re: Pig Iron - as a blast furnace product, I won't disagree that it's high in phosphorous, sulfur and carbon - it's usually used as feedstock for a BOF where you can reduce those elements without major problems. I will disagree that it has little or no quality control and is highly variable - we were controlling for those elements in the early 70's at the first steel mill I worked at - perfect QC, no, but a lot of effort went into it because you needed good material to produce low carbon auto-body sheet grades like 1006. We did have major problems when starting up after a blast furnace had been relined, variable as all get out for the first 3 to 4 weeks until the bloody thing stabilized, but we were still trying to control it.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 10/02/06 23:47:11 EDT

TIM; If Grandpa was a Protestant, he could have been a Freemason. (They hold Tubal Cain in rather high regard.)Your friend could contact the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, ATTN: Grand Secretary. He could also have been in the Oddfellows, they've been around for a while, too. He might have been too busy smithing to be a member of anything, except maybe his church. If the denomination is known, he could seek out the oldest church of that group in Philly, and see if they have a record of his membership.
   3dogs - Tuesday, 10/03/06 00:04:00 EDT

Leaf - Tool steel selection: The Carpenter book I suggested starts You out making all Your tool steel parts from plain carbon tool steel [W1] unless there is a reason to use something else. This is for the sake of economy. The reasons for using a different tool steel are as folows: need less distortion and chance of cracking in heat treat, need greater toughness, need greater wear resistance, need red hardness, or need greater depth of full hardness. There is always a compromise made between wear resistance and toughness, You give up some of one to get more of the other. Oil hardening steels are less likely to crack and generally warp less than water hardening steels, air hardening steels warp the least and are the least likely to crack in heat treatment. Cracking becomes more likely if there is a great change in section thickness within the part. Hardening depth is often not an issue, but water and oil hardening steels generally dont get hard all the way through in thick sections. This can be a benifit as the core is really tough and not brittle while the outside 1/4 to 1/2" where the wear resistance is needed is fully hardened. Air hardened steels get hard all the way through even in thick sections. Hot work steels have a property known as red hardness- they stay hard at temperatures up to dull red. For tools that don't ever get hot this is not needed and a presumably cheaper alloy could be used. In summary: for safety in heat treat go to O1, O2. For more safety use A2. For greater wear resistance than this group use F2 [water] D3 [oil] or D2 [air]hardening. for greater toughness than W1 use S2 [water] L6, S5 [oil] A6, S7 [air] hardening. In hot work steels H13 is for toughness, H21 has a bit more wear resistance, M2 has lots of wear resistance [lathe toolbits, drillbits, HSS taps, etc.] M42 has even greater higher temperature wear resistance. You can't heat treat M2 or M42 Yourself, however. These are the most comonly used grades, and will do most anything You need.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 10/03/06 00:36:12 EDT


Ah haa, something I know a bit about as I make up several forge furnaces a week out of them. The standard H&A/C Freon bottle is 30 pounds. If you put in one layer of 1" ceramic blanket you have an inside chamber of about 6" x 6" x 10". If you double layer it is then about 4" x 4" x 9". In my opinion there is no real benefit from 2" of insulation in these over 1" with ITC coating. Most of the benefit of additional insulation is to reduce the size of the chamber, somewhat concentrating the heat.

(For some reason empty Freon tanks are now apparently considered to be low-grade hazardous waste so likely most places would be happy to give you a couple of empty ones. In addition, if you know of someone who sells inflated balloons, helium tanks also come in the same size and are of a slightly thicker wall material.)

My standard front door opening is 4" x 5" simply because that is the smallest I cut get the rolled up sidewall blanket in to.

I made up a double tank one for a buyer as a special order. I cut the back off of one and the front off of another using a chopsaw cut-off blade in my tablesaw. I then used 1/8" x 1 1/4" banding to make a hoop and screw attached it to both to join them. That one had four burners, with the last two able to be cut off via on/off valve between second and third burners. In my opinion a double tank with just two burners would be undersizing the burners required.

You can put a rear opening in one of these. It is a bit trickly to do so due to the bump out stand-up nubs on the bottom.

My standard model has the burners coming in from the top. Coming in high from one side is more efficent as you then have a swirl flame rather than jet engine blasts. However, tanks are so light they can become side heavy doing so.

For a base brick I simply use a standard clay-based tan-colored fireplace brick, which should be available at most places which sell bricks.

I do no sell my forges as forge-welding capable, but have had several past buyers tell me they do so on a regular basis. However, they somewhat souped up my design with extra insulation and ITC.

Take a look at the models I make to see if you can use one as inspiration for something you might cobble together. While you can wait for the Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools banner to come up, likely easier to go to www.ebay.com, Advance Search and do a seller search on scharabo. Then do a keyword search on propane. (Not necessary a brag, but I have had several people tell me they could not put one like mine together for the price I sell them for.)

It has already gone into the archives but last week someone recommended a source for burner parts or complete burners. Their prices seemed very reasonable, but many of the parts they sell are off-the-shelf hardware store items, such as 2" x 2" bell couplings and 3/4" or 1" pipe nipples. MIG tips should be available a welding suppliers. Perhaps the one who mentioned them can give the link again.

You can also take a look at the ones Larry Zoeller offers. Just do a Google search on Zoeller Forge. I readily admit his forges are superior to mine.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/03/06 06:05:53 EDT

Ken, Your link is also on the drop down menu when you scroll down. . .

Archives will be posted shortly

Thumper, if you have a long heat on a slender bar it acts like a limp noodle. For long forging heats on anything large enough not to act like a limp noodle you had better have a good power hammer. Both reasons make heats over a foot in length impractical for average work.

There are reasons for long heats. Re-rolling bar stock or automated forging where long hot pieces are cut into short pieces in the process (forge and cut). Heat treating long pieces but this does not require foring heats, and it often requires special handling methods (tilting forges, car bottoms. . ).

In much architectural work where long sections need to be heated it is more efficient to take short progressive heats with a torch.

In the same architectural work where you see long forged pieces they often started as short pieces that required short heats and were rapidly drawn out with a power hammer. The long sections of bar that are textured all over are done cold with a power hammer and high grade steel dies OR in a rolling mill cold under very high pressure.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/03/06 08:53:40 EDT

Guru, A foot of hot metal would double what I have now and with a lot of my stuff is 8-10" of heated metal would be a real time saver, so no problem with "noodling".
Ken, I'll re-check your site, I know it well!! I like your forges ( a lot of your "Poorboy" tools are very innovative and sweet also), but I was born with the "do-it-yourself'er" gene....hence my JYH and brake drum forge so I'll be piecing the thing together myself. I'd like to get the insulation and ITC from you. If it's not a problem, I'll send you a PM with my PH# when I start the project and pick your brain some. Thumper
   Thumper - Tuesday, 10/03/06 14:05:29 EDT

Re low carbon Iron

This is sold in the UK by Don Barker Ltd as 'Pureiron'- Full tech specs on the link below, Apparently it forges like butter, and can be used cold for repousee work

   - John N - Tuesday, 10/03/06 14:11:26 EDT

What two steels give the greatest contrast for pattern welded blades?
   - Rob - Tuesday, 10/03/06 15:27:22 EDT

Pig Iron: Gavinah, thanks for the input. My comment was based on my 1957 experience in developing instruments for the QC control. At that time the samples sent to me were all over the place. Perhaps (probably?) I was being sent the worst of the samples to use in my development work, so the customers could be sure the instruments could handle the actual production samples.
   - John Odom - Tuesday, 10/03/06 16:00:44 EDT

Thumper. I don't sell ITC. Anvilfire store does though - and they also sell ceramic blanket material.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/03/06 17:42:17 EDT

Rob; greatest contrast vs best edge or easy for someone starting out to weld up?

If you go over to Don Fogg's site he has a webpage on "contrasting steels" for pattern

A simple high carbon like 1095 and a high nickel like 203E is pretty contrasting.

I really like both components to have some carbon in them so I'd go with 1095 and L6 myself...

Pure Ni is the brightest but does *NOT* help the edge holding ability.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/03/06 18:33:00 EDT

High-contrast pattern welding:

Thomas is being kinda old-school; 203E is currently out of fashion due to low carbon content (grin!)

L6 is good, but for an easier to weld combo I'd go with 1095 and 15N20 for maximum contrast and 1075/15N20 for maximum ease of welding. 15N20 is high nickel and thus will etch bright. It also has around .7% carbon and holds an edge on its own quite nicely.

1095 and 1075 both have abundant manganese which etches dark; 1095 usually comes out almost black while 1075 ends up a very dark blue-brown-black.

Supplies of 1095 of late have been reported to be inconsistant as to hardenability, i.e. the nose of the hardening curve can leave you with under a second to drop the temp 600 degrees F. 1075 has no such issues, and will harden enough in warm oil to skate a file with no problems whatsoever.

15N20 may be thought of as 1070 with enough nickel to stay shiny, thus there's not much stress during heat treatment if mixed with 1075.

As Thomas also mentioned, pure nickel sheet, aka nickel 200, gives a blinding silver line and does not compress in the billet. It also robs carbon from the high-carbon layers and will not harden. A few years ago a 1095/pure nickel billet was considered the best in terms of contrast, but with today's emphasis on performance any pure nickel at the edge is considered poor form at best.

Kevin Cashen and Jake Powning (if you don't know those names and are at all interested in swords, get thee to work!) tend to use an O-1/L6 combo for maximum toughness with good contrast. They also use fairly involved heat treating procedures such as marquenching (look it up).

In conclusion, study your steels. Visit the knife forums for information. Educate yourself. To get the most out of cutlery steels you MUST have a working knowledge of elementary metallurgy that you'll never (or rarely) need in ornamental smithing.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 10/03/06 19:00:08 EDT

More Contrast: And if you are looking for furniture steels there is pure nickle and wrought or pure iron. The Japanese invented Mokume' Gane' to match steels and wood with non-ferrous laminates. Silver/copper, Copper/brass, silver/gold, gold/copper. . . Infinite alloys to choose from and many coloring techniques.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/03/06 19:37:44 EDT

Patina on zinc?

At work awhile ago we had to replace a couple of panels of this solid (not galvy) zinc sheet metal, the replacemets are slightly lighter in color, I was woundering what the chances of getting an exact match with some sort of patina are. They are exposed to the weather slightly but don't get much direct rain, it is a garage door and the panels are off now, so it wouldn't have to be done in place, but they are attached to wood so no heating them. Thanks.
   - Leaf D - Tuesday, 10/03/06 21:29:49 EDT

Leaf D: Suspect it is too late now but you might have worked in the new panels so they formed some sort of pattern with the others. This might have required installing more new panels than required to achieve one.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 10/04/06 08:26:38 EDT

Leaf, Zinc oxidizes rather slowly. The rate and the color depend on the surface contamination. Oily hand prints tend to turn black but I think this has much to do with the salt. In order to paint new galvanized surfaces they must be treated with acid to break down the as-deposited gloss and remove rolling oil. Various acids are used such as vinegar or muriatic acid (a common name for slightly impure dilute hydrochloric acid). In nature it is the VERY weak carbonic acid that forms naturaly in rain and condensation.

When finishing metals this way you should experiment on a sample. When using acids you should alway neutralize them when you are finished. The safest product to do this with is baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). It is rather benign in itself, soluable in water and the neutralized acid results in a low reactity sodium compound (salts). After neutralizing be sure to rinse the results well.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/04/06 08:29:39 EDT

Gentlemen: Do any of you have any experience with setting up an old hammer mill (like most farms had years ago) to grind lump coal down to the size used in a forge? I heard a guy in Missouri is doing it with a 10 hp motor, a 4 speed transmition from a pick-up, and pullies. He also took out some of the hammers.
Was wondering what speed it would need to run.
   Tbird - Wednesday, 10/04/06 09:46:51 EDT

A lot of the old hammer mills were set up to run directly off the power take off on a tractor, which is around 540 RPM.
   - Bernard Tappel - Wednesday, 10/04/06 10:13:25 EDT

What angle works best on a V block used under a power hammer? How about depth to width ratio?
   brian robertson - Wednesday, 10/04/06 10:37:02 EDT

Brian, For what purpose? Dressing square stock? Forging rounds, pipe, making triangles?

For round and pipe forging most V blocks are more than 90°. To use with a flat upper die 120° is optimum. The size is directly related to the size work you are wanting to do. Generaly you are limited by the depth of the V being equal to the smallest diameter that will fit. However, this is offset by how wide the top die is. If the top die is narrower than the V then it can extend down into it. Where the die corners contact the V is the absolute minimum limit. The maxiumum limit is set by the stroke of the hammer.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/04/06 10:51:49 EDT

Making charcoal: I have read many charcoal making tutorials and many prefer to use hardwoods to make charcoal. Oak and hard maple are two that were mentioned. I have a large supply of hedge "Osage orange" at my disposal. Would this wood be suitable for making charcoal?
   oljoe - Wednesday, 10/04/06 16:43:49 EDT

Pretty much any wood can be made into usable charcoal for forging. The japanese swordmakers prefer a softwood, for blackpodwer making willow has often been suggested.

The only issue I know of with bodark is the high silica content helps with clinker formation.

BTW besides bows hedge apple is also know as a dye wood. I like it for knife handles myself.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/04/06 17:40:04 EDT

Coal and Hammermills: Most coals go to powder in a hammermill. The small lumps I like for forging are best produced with a Jaw crusher. Farm feedmills were designed for a 540 RPM power source.

The lab where i work (mostly retired now) crushes to powder a LOT of coal, and most of it ends up as waste. I tske it to our Choo-Choo Forge club meetings. It works well, but requires special techniques of fire management.

I hope you are successful.
   - John Odom - Wednesday, 10/04/06 19:56:56 EDT

I would be hesitant to crush coal in a hammer mill designed for farm use. Pulverized coal is a combustible dust, and a spark, with the right amount of air in that mill could be exciting.
Jeff the safety man, who like to be busy at work, but never excited at work.
   ptree - Wednesday, 10/04/06 20:14:24 EDT

Sole Authorship: Actually, I have always forged or ground my own blades, heat treated them, hafted them and made my own sheathes. I did not try to make my own steel. Yet.

Guru: I am not really soliciting any business as a consultant. I do it for free here and that implies no liability. I have only one other steady customer who provided me with a hold-harmless letter for all of my reports. Cheaper than liability insurance.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 10/04/06 20:20:42 EDT

Oljoe: where is the Bodark located? I like to use it for making malets for woodwork and coldforming metals. It is also good for dishing blocks.

I live neat Chattanooga in SE Tennessee. It is not common here.
   - John Odom - Wednesday, 10/04/06 21:01:39 EDT

Leaf D
Try lemon juice or ketchup on your zinc panels. I did some samples for a client and that is what the supplier told me to use. Both will discolor the zinc.
   - Jeff G - Wednesday, 10/04/06 21:47:32 EDT

hi i was wanting to lern to weld what would be easy for me to practis welding to start out with
   - newbsmith - Wednesday, 10/04/06 21:57:32 EDT

I just finished a project out of 3/4" mild steel, which for me is "Heavy Metal", and for my hot cuts, I used my cold cut hardy, which is all I have. I figure I've got to make a hot cut hardy cause the the other one is way too much work. So, can I make one out of railroad iron which is plentiful here, or will it be too brittle even after normalizing?
   Thumper - Wednesday, 10/04/06 22:10:21 EDT


You don't say what kind of welding you want to learn; forge welding, oxy/acetylene welding, stick welding, MIG welding, TIG welding, friction welding? We can't very well suggest projects or exercizes without knowing what type welding you're talking about.

If you're talking about O/A. stick, MIG, or TIG welding, you should check into your local community college, high school or vocational school for a basic welding course or two. All welding has serious safety concerns that are best learned in a classroom setting with competent instruction. It is too easy to teach yourself very bad and dangerous habits trying to learn it on your own. It only takes one mistake of the wrong kind to make your birth certificate a worthless document in a second or so, or to leave you in a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator for the rest of your life. The risk/reward ratio just isn't favorable, in other words.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 10/04/06 22:39:59 EDT


Those railroad track clips are some really hard stuff and should make a fine hot cut. I've made powerhammer tooling from them with no problems, so I don't see why they shouldn't be good. Do a practice piece for hardening/tempering tests to find out what works best for the use. Since you'll be using it on hot iron only, there shouldn't be any issues with brittleness.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 10/04/06 22:43:31 EDT

QC, It a generalization that you were stirring up work for metallurgists in general. A joke. .

If you were done with that blade and wanted plated or engraved I suspect you would take it to a specialist. . . hmmmmm?
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/04/06 22:49:48 EDT

Osage Orange: I agree with Thomas that even small pieces are fairly faluable to wood workers. When you are talking knife slabs the pieces are a mite small. . .

Some woods coal better than others and there are a couple that turn to dust. . a real mess. Once coaled some of the very resinous woods and others with peculiar inclusions like walnut tend to make a LOT of "fleas". Almost all charcoal makes some fleas but SOME charcoal fleas are worse than a constant stream of arc welding sputter balls. I would test a small quantity of any unsual wood before coaling a lot of it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/04/06 22:55:09 EDT

Perfect power hammer: Theres a "perfect" power hammer by Macgowan & Finigan for sale locally. It appears to be fitted with a flat leather belt pulley for power. What size motor should be used to power this thing (3phase???) and how would one transport a power hammer??
   speedy - Thursday, 10/05/06 00:42:14 EDT

Howdy Quenchcrack

Sole Authorship: I figured you made your own lnives from start to finish. I sure have enjoyed everyones opinions on sole authorship. It really was interesting and thought provoking to me. I am glad we have so many folks of all walks of lives with different experiences and views on things here. I truely learn something new everyday.
   - Burnt Forge - Thursday, 10/05/06 02:45:50 EDT

Oljoe: where is the Bodark located? I like to use it for making malets for woodwork and coldforming metals. It is also good for dishing blocks.

I live neat Chattanooga in SE Tennessee. It is not common here.
   - John Odom - Thursday, 10/05/06 07:29:52 EDT

Perfect Power Hammer: Speedy, This is a not so perfect machine. Some parts are problematic and the machine has not been made in 100 years. Needless to say, there are no parts. However, this is true of all the old power hammers except Little Giant and not all LG parts are available.

They came in three sizes (maybe more), 30, 40 and 80 pounds. They should weigh in the range of 900 to 1500 pounds more or less for those sizes. You move them like any other machine, with levers, rollers, chainfalls and trucks. Note that more damage to machines is done by moving them with inadequate equipment than by wear and tear.

Horspower requirements for this size machine is not much. The 30 and 40 pound machines can run on 1 to 1.5 HP. The larger 80 pound machine will need 2 HP. Three phase is not needed unless the machine came with a 3PH motor and you intend to use it. The problem is shaft speed. The line shaft that most machines of this type operated from ran 500 to 800 RPM and there would have been reduction between the line shaft and the hammer. These machines would have run from 450 RPM for the smallest to 300 for the largest. This is 4 to 6:1 reduction from an 1800 PRM motor.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/05/06 08:53:05 EDT

"It only takes one mistake of the wrong kind to make your birth certificate a worthless document..."

In some cases it was a mistake that led to the birth certificate in the first place. So it all kind of evens out in the end.
   adam - Thursday, 10/05/06 09:50:03 EDT

Crushing coal. I once worked on a chain gang crushing coal for Master Frank Turley in the mornings before classes. What seems to work best was a heavy tamper - about 3" dia - on a concrete pad. Didnt take long to make 50# coal - enough for a day's work
   adam - Thursday, 10/05/06 09:56:43 EDT

Perfect; the one in Albuquerque for $750 ? I'd get it myself but I have a champion about that size.

It's on the smaller end. If you look at the pictures closely you can see that it was last running using a v-belt on the flat belt pully and for speed decrease you would probably look for pully ratios---to get from 1725 to 450 you would want the drive pully on the motor to be about 1/4 the diameter of the pully on the hammer---no problem as the hammer pully is of goodly size...

As for moving it; my little truck wouldn't do it; but a good sized pickup would do it---better with a trailer though. You can often get a auto wrecker to do the lifting for you a lot cheaper than a crane.

I have moved a number of 25# & 50# LG's using rollers and then laying them down with come-alongs or block & tackle. If you don't know what your doing DON'T! Breaking a machine is dirt cheap compared to breaking people!

I'll be up in Alb Friday morning picking up some solar panels if you would like another person's evaluation of the hammer in person.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/05/06 10:35:40 EDT

Osage orange: Thomas, I have used this wood for knife handles and it is very tough durable wood. I just dont like the brown color that that it turns after awhile.
John: This wood is in the form of old fence posts that have been cut and piled up for 15 years. Im located in east central Missouri. The local saw mill doesnt want to cut it. He says that it dulls the blades. I have cut some with a chainsaw and it will throw sparks.
Guru: I burned some in the fireplace and I have the burned spots on the carpet to prove it. This wood burns very hot and will melt down a sheet metal wood stove if not mixed with another type of wood. I thought that since it burned so hot that it might make better charcoal.
   oljoe - Thursday, 10/05/06 10:53:17 EDT

If you use a UV blocking finish it helps prevent the colour change in woods like Osage orange or purpleheart; keeping them out of the sunlight helps too.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/05/06 14:22:01 EDT

Thumper: Here is the cite for the do-it-yourself burner parts:

   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 10/05/06 15:29:46 EDT

Thanks for the comments on crushing coal. Since we need to work up a ton or so at a time, the tamper deal might be a little slow.

John: Any idea where a person might get a jaw crusher about the right size for this work?

Another question. A guy gave me some coke. It is the size of grapefruit and smaller, and looks like black cinder block material. I broke up some and tried it in the forge. Takes alot of blast and was bad to block off the air when putting in or taking out the piece being heated. Anyone use this stuff?
   Tbird - Thursday, 10/05/06 16:05:48 EDT

I am trying to figure out the best way to heat treat dies for my little giant hammer. The dies were machined out of annealed 4140 and are still in the annealed state. The resources that I have available for this project includes a gas forge and an oxyacetelyene tourch. Would this be a worthwhile exercise to do myself? Could you point me to a resonable reference on the heat treatment of hammer dies? Thank you.
   TSC - Thursday, 10/05/06 20:52:52 EDT

Metal Type:
I made myself a hot cut hardy today out of an old axe blade. First, the torch created holes (like pores), in the metal as I was welding and second, no matter how I tempered it it remained as soft or softer than mild steel!! I have my second attempt at a hot hardy out of leaf spring material normalizing in the forge right now, but what kind of metal was the first one, it behaved almost like a kind of cast iron under the torch.
   Thumper - Thursday, 10/05/06 21:50:26 EDT

Thanks Ken.
   Thumper - Thursday, 10/05/06 21:58:50 EDT

Thumper: Was the axe hard before You started? It MIGHT have been a piece of junk all along.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 10/06/06 02:02:19 EDT

Tbird Laboratories use a small Jaw crusher called a "chipmunk." I have seen them go for penuts when asphalt pland/ cement or quarry type labs have closed and been auctioned. I know a man that made one of heavy plate and heavy pillow blocks. The main shaft/eccentric needs to be machined, though. His worked well, it was a slightly scalled up copy of a chipmunk.
   - John Odom - Friday, 10/06/06 07:54:39 EDT

hey guys,

a quick question for those of you who are gonig or have been to the Texas ForgeFest in oldenburg.
this is my first year, and i don't know how much money to bring, whether there's going to be food there. Anything really, so really just how much money do i need to bring??

thanks y'all
ANdrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Friday, 10/06/06 08:46:18 EDT

Ax to Hardy: Thumper, an ax is a very soft wood working tool designed to be easily sharpened with a file. Although some are made from very good steel and well tempered there is no need to make one of steel over 40 points. Old axes were edged with steel but that was because the alternative metal, wrough iron, was unhardenable and much too soft.

The torch or welding creating holes often indicates either a cast steel that already had porosity OR wrought iron with the inclusions melting out. Most cheap modern axes are cast.

Converting many wood working tools to metal working is not a god idea. If made excellent wood working chisles out of steels that would made lousy metal working tools.
   - guru - Friday, 10/06/06 08:51:54 EDT

Money for FOOD? At a blacksmithing event? Eat cheap and spend your money on tools!
   - guru - Friday, 10/06/06 08:54:00 EDT

that's what i was planning on doing but like, do people take checks or credit card or do i need cash
   - Andrew B. - Friday, 10/06/06 09:05:14 EDT

One of the first tools I made was a hot-cut hardy. I made mine out of a splitting wedge that was made by Hong of Kong and sold by Harbor Freight. Cut it shorter, weld it do a base , and weld on a hardy post. I am not sure of the temper or hardness, but i made sure that i never let the edge get more than somewhat touchably hot during the whole process. As long as I dont accidentaly hit it with a hammer face (cringe) it seems to hold a pretty good edge.
   thesandycreekforge - Friday, 10/06/06 09:07:57 EDT

Cash and Carry: Andrew, some folks will accept checks if they know you but I would not count on it. Selling used tools is a CASH business. A FEW big tool dealers like Centaur Forge and Kayne and Son accept credit cards but the average tailgater does not.

Now days, for most businesses to accept credit cards they must have a phone, usualy a ground line to connect their credit card processor. Very few just swipe the card any more or simply take your CC number. Those that do are gambling that the card is good and that the information they copied down is good and that you can be found by phone if the information is incorrect.

In some venues like big dollar arts and crafts shows the booth fee includes a telephone hookup for processing credit cards.

The advantage of taking CASH is that you know what you can afford to spend. When it is gone. . . you are done.
   - guru - Friday, 10/06/06 09:29:56 EDT

Thumper. You can actually get three hot cuts out of a log splitting wedge. Cut off the top 3" or so and weld on a shank for a hardy. Weld on a shank on the bottom and forge what is left down to a tapered point. Cut it off and weld on a shank... Now taper down the stub you have left. If you want you can also make fuller hardys out of the bottom two-thirds. Tough stuff which may challenge your JYH unless you can get it pretty hot.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/06/06 13:06:07 EDT

I have sold blacksmithing tools on and off for about 20 years. So far I have not taken a bad check from someone doing so. Two didn't make it through first try, but they were immediately made good, plus the bank service charge.

As noted though, at a tailgate tool sales party cash rules.
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/06/06 13:08:18 EDT

thanks y'all
   - Andrew B. - Friday, 10/06/06 13:46:00 EDT

Guru, an old post comments on conatminants during welding procedures. You didn't mention TIG. Compared to arc, MIG, oxy/acy, forge welding how does TIG fare? I'm looking into getting a TIG so I can join 316L to 316L without adding bad filler metal or inclusions/contaminants.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 10/06/06 14:41:17 EDT

Thumper, A jack hammer bit makes a good hot cut. Nothing wrong with truck spring in a guillotine tool, though
   Ron Childers - Friday, 10/06/06 16:09:57 EDT

is tungsten carbide able to be forged...no smelted into another metal cuz this guy tells me its imposable...ofcorse we used the word "fuse"...
ps: thanx in advance
   thomas mayhugh - Friday, 10/06/06 18:04:16 EDT

TSC,Normalize at about 1650F, re-heat slowly to about 1550F, oil quench, temper to your desired hardness but do not temper in the 450F-700F range as this will make them brittle.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 10/06/06 19:17:06 EDT

Guru, I just didn't want you to think I was using this site to gain any consulting work. Osage orange: A church behind my property in Longview TX, bulldozed 5-6 BIG Osage trees. They had trunks in the three foot diameter range. Then they just pushed them into a pile and burned them. I salvage one good staff before I just about broke down and cried.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 10/06/06 19:22:24 EDT

Thumper, old wrought iron was my first guess on what you described but could you tell us how you HARDENED the axe first? Tempering is making it softer so if you just tempered it of course it would not harden. My first go would be to take it just above non-magnetic and quench in oil. If still soft repeat and quench in brine. And then temper it.


   Thomas P - Friday, 10/06/06 19:27:35 EDT

Carbides: Thomas, Technically this is a ceramic. As a compound, not an alloy, it is no longer a metal and thus no longer forgable. Metal alloys are mixtures, not chemicaly bonded compounds. While they may contain trace amounts of compounds they are primarily metal. Even the carbon in steel is a very small part of the metal AND carbon is classified both as metal and non-metal chemically.

The curious thing about alloys is that they do not follow simple rules as do most chemically bonded compounds. Mixtures of of metals can have lower or higher melting points than either metalic element, they can be much stronger than either alone OR much weaker. Their thermal and electrical conductivities can be greater or less than the individual components. The same with ductility and corosion resistance. The world of alloys is more a more complicated problem than the unification theory of physics.

Anyway. . metals and metal alloys (mixtures) are ductile and thus forgable. Ceramics, metal oxides and carbides are not.
   - guru - Friday, 10/06/06 20:12:34 EDT

TIG and contaminates: TGN, Normally TIG if done properly does not add any contaminates due to the process. However, if there is an imperfect gas shield oxides can form. But there are no fluxes or coatings added in the process. If you start with chemically clean metal you can end with chemically clean metal. This means that you may want to lightly abrade and wash the surface prior to welding.
   - guru - Friday, 10/06/06 20:16:19 EDT

TGN: As Jock said TIG is the cleanest method of welding, and well suited for stainless. You would be using argon for shilding gas, and need to keep the gas flowing over the work untill it cools slightly. The machine will have a post flow timer to protect the electrode, just keep it close to the finished work while they both cool. For stainless You don't need AC or high frequency, there are some small inverter machines that work on 115V or 230V and are the size of a shoebox. If You ever plan to TIG aluminum You want a machine that has AC as well as DC output.
   Dave Boyer - Friday, 10/06/06 23:24:43 EDT

Thanks! HF has a small inverter TIG/Stick machine for 230V, about the size of a boot box and has a shoulder strap. I think it is going for around $250. I dont ever want to mess with aluminum (yet)....
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 10/07/06 08:25:05 EDT

There is a Little Giant P-1080 that will open for bids in a few days on the Government auction site. Located in Aniston AL. and it looks complete with a motor and fairly cood shape from the phote. Wish it were close enough for me.
   ptree - Saturday, 10/07/06 09:41:53 EDT

I acquired an inexpencive (probably cheap) spring tooth harrow that needs the springs resprung. The metal is about 5/16ths x 1 1/4 stock . I use an oxy/ace torch for heating and bending but need info on the proceedure for keeping or reintoducing the "spring" in the steel. Thanks, Will
   - Will - Saturday, 10/07/06 14:14:45 EDT

Will, Springs of this type can be rearced simply by over bending them so they spring back to the shape you want. If you have heated them with a torch you will have to figure out what the type of steel is and the specific heat treatment by trial and error. This will probably mean breaking springs. If you have no extra then . . well you are going to be short.

Most spring steel that is cold worked is tempered carefully to what is often called a "blue spring temper". This is about 590° to 600°F.

See Junk Yard Steels

It has links to other articles that apply.

   - guru - Saturday, 10/07/06 15:13:17 EDT

hey y'all

say i want an anvil, not a real big one, just maybe 100-150 lb. but i have absolutly no access to railraod rails or alot of money to put down, say i have a $175 buget. Any sugestions??

Andrew B.

P.S. i went to see Frank Turley at ForgeFest 06' in Oldenburg Texas today!!!! yeehaw!!!! that was fun.
   - Andrew B. - Saturday, 10/07/06 20:22:15 EDT

TOOLS:Andrew, At best RR rail gets you a little 10 to 25 pound anvil mostly suitable for sheet metal work or very very small forging.

In the size and price range you have stated you will need to do a lot of searching and have a lot of luck. $50 anvils are still out there but they are getting rarer and rarer. But if you find it from another smith or tailgater it will run about $250 to $400 USD.

If you settle for a not so perfect anvil you can do well in your price range. I would pay good money for an old beat to pieces REAL anvil than any amount for an ASO. That means avoid all the cheap new anvils on ebay.

So you have a choice, pay $500 - $600 for a new anvil and get on with it, or spend a lot of time scrounging.

For the cost of the PC you are reading this with which will have a life of only about 5 years MAX you can purchase a new anvil and forge that will last centuries in the case of the anvil and decades in the case of the forge. For the cost of a loaded iPod you can have a new blacksmiths leg vise. Or for the cost of a 10 year old economy car (a beater that may last three years) you can outfit a fairly decent shop that will last a lifetime.

If you spend enough time going to flea markets and blacksmith gatherings and searching for tools you can put together and amazing shop for a thousand dollars or so. I suspect this is true only in the US where old tools are very plentiful and prices low. In two years (while primarily looking for armouring tools) I purchased the following:

120# English "Mousehole" anvil in fair shape $75.
150# English Leg vise in perfect shape $200
#2 Beverly Shear needing blades $200
#2 Beverly Shear blades $80
10# Sledge hammer $5
Handle for Sledge $5
2 ton Whitney Jensen Punch w/o punches $15
3pc punch and die sets for W-J punch $85
4 ton Whitney Jensen Punch (uses same as above) $25
6" ball mill ball (solid steel "cannon ball') $30
4" ball alloy steel forging on shank $45 - 755
Beakhorn Stake $85
Blowhorn Stake $90
Dozen ball pien hammers ranging from 3oz to 5 lbs. $100
Universal machinists vise ($15 iron in the hat tickets).

That totals up to just about $1050 if I added it right. An anvil, two vises, a sheet metal shear and punches, a couple stakes and a bunch of hammers. New it would all total up to about $5000 and some is not generally available as tools (the balls). If I had been looking for basics I would have passed on the balls and stakes and gotten tongs, chisels, hammers. . .

There WAS an added cost to all that. Travel. Much was bought at the Southeast conference (Georgia) and SOFA (Ohio) and some in West Virginia. Some was purchased at local flea markets and chapter meets. On the other hand I was not trying very hard. I was just taking the opportunities at hand and I was not in a hurry.

If you have a tight budget then you cannot afford to be in a hurry. But you also need to have sufficient cash on hand to take advantage of deals. If you want to be setup tomarrow then get out your credit card. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 10/07/06 22:16:42 EDT

Buying used tools - more: You may have noticed above that twice I bought tools that needed parts and the parts were a significant cost. Sometimes this is a gamble. In the case of the Whitney punches I did not know that there were THREE Whitney punch companies in the same town making roughly the same product with minor differences (like punch fits). I was lucky and found the right supplier (McMaster-Carr). On the Beverly shear there was no gamble HOWEVER the new blades did not fit very well and needed a bunch of grinding to fit.

I've bought old hand crank drills for $25 then spent $150 on a good Jacobs chuck and arbor to fit. The chuck makes the drill useful otherwise it is not. AND the chuck can transfer to another machine.

Tools often need repair. The first two leg vises I bought were missing springs, pins and brackets. I made them all with nothing but a forge, anvil, hammer and some scrap. The effort was well work the time and it was one of things that only a blacksmith can get away with.

Other broken tools are bad investments. Almost anything that is cast iron that is broken should be avoided no matter how cheap. Things that need machined parts beyond your capacity may cost too much to be worth while.

Educating yourself as to what tools are good and bad, which ones have parts available and their value is an important part of the game. THIS takes more time than the searching and can be a costly education.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/07/06 22:29:06 EDT

thank you

i went to a scrap yard a couple of days ago and i saw an old 175 lb. fisher anvil (i don't know if that's a good anvil or not, like i said i'm a new smith trying to buy my very first anvil)but the guy at the scrap yard was selling it for around $75 it looked like it was in good condition, judging by the spesifications off this website, but becasue i didn't have cash right then i couldn't get it and when i went back to buy it, it was gone. I almost cried.

but i'm gonig to keep looking, and good Lord willing i'll have one by 1st of November

thanks y'all
Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Saturday, 10/07/06 22:30:37 EDT

Andrew: A tip I got from Dave Shingle who was a couple years ahead of Me in school was to always try to have $100 in Your pocket[this was in '75 so that was a bunch of money then], because You never know what kind of bargain You might get from somebody who NEEDS $100.
   Dave Boyer - Saturday, 10/07/06 23:23:46 EDT

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