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This is an archive of posts from October 8 - 15, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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I am thinking of buying a samuel plat hercules power hammer can anybody tell me if spares are still avalible or is it a case of going to a local engineer to get any parts made i was concered about the clutch/fly wheel? there is play on the shaft but the machine runs and hits hard was also wondering what size of bar this 160lbs hammer will forge up to and what is the smallist cheers
   david hannah - Sunday, 10/08/06 02:17:00 EDT

I just joined CSI this evening; about time. I'm wondering if anyone knows the points of carbon of railroad tie plates. Specifically, C.F. & I-T.P-[32?]'50. ? Looks like good steel to me, but I'm a beginner. Thanks for hosting this great forum.
   SteelyBob - Sunday, 10/08/06 03:27:45 EDT

Andrew B.: A somewhat rule of thumb is if an manufacturer was proud enough of an anvil to put their name on it, then it is in all likelihood a good one. $75 for a 175 Lb Vulcan would have been an outright steal and I value Fishers about 1 1/2 - 2 times higher than the same size and condition Vulcan due to their more classic London-pattern shape. If the Fisher was in good condition, $300-350 for it wouldn't have been unreasonable.

I lost a good deal on a Peter Wright since I didn't have enough cash in my pocket for it and seller wouldn't accept a hold payment. When I went back to the flea market the next week it was gone. Didn't occur to me I could have gone to just about any local bank and drew a cash advance off of my credit card.

As recommended in the past on the forum tell just about every one you encounter you are looking for a blacksmithing anvil. The clerk in the convenience store may remember her Aunt Matilda still has Uncle Buck's anvil and might be interested in selling it. At flea markets leave your phone number with each tool seller asking them to call you if they come across an anvil. Note needs to be small enough (say business card size) so they can put it in their wallet.

I thought I was familiar with used anvil prices until last Q-S. They had gone up about 50% from what I recall from last year. However, a 300 LB PW in EC went in the auction for $300. You can still somewhat use eBay as a price guide. Just do a completed item search on anvil, asking for highest closing price first. Bear in mind there though buyer still had to pay for shipping/freight. For this reason one would expect tailgate prices to be a bit higher.

If you buy a junker thinking it can be repaired you absolutely must know what the body material was. Vulcan, Fisher and a couple of other brands had cast iron bodies. If pieces of the top plate are missing, or the edges badly damaged, they would be beyond economic repair. However, that isn't to say there might not still be a lot of use in one by working around the damage.

At the junkyard you may well have walked past hunks of metal suitable for anvils. Place where I purchase from sells used steel at $.25 Lb. Weld on a hardy holder on the size, find something to act as a mandrel (horn), and you have a starter anvil.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/08/06 08:05:28 EDT

thanks ken,

where exactly is that place you buy from?

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/08/06 09:30:50 EDT

Andrew B: Copeland Steel in Paris, TN. However, they are pretty well a typical yard selling new metal and buying and selling scrap. Difference over the past couple of years is they pretty well cleaned out their retail scrap and now just keep the more popular types and sizes of such. Normally they don't charge me for cutting to size (such as cutting a 20' length in half so I can carry it), but then I do a couple of $K in business with them a year. Retail scrap brass, bronze, stainless and aluminum is $1.00 Lb. At one time they had a hunk of stainless about 4" x 6" x 8". Man, you couldn't wear that out as an anvil in a couple of lifetimes.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/08/06 10:55:45 EDT

does anybody have any information about a samuel platt hercules hammer cheers
   david hannah - Sunday, 10/08/06 12:00:01 EDT

SOFA/Quad-State is the large blacksmithing event held each year in Troy Ohio on the last full weekend in September.

I drove there from New Mexico this year I almost cried when the beginning smith I was advising paid $200 for an 80# anvil when he could have spent 150 and got a 150# PW in decent shape; but nope he wanted the smaller anvil. He had picked up a *nice* postvise for $35 a couple of days earlier at a local fleamarket in OH---I think what sold him was me telling him that if he didn't buy it I was!

One of the cardinal rules of scrounging is: Never expect it to be there when you come back for it! (So always have gloves, cardboard/something to wrap it in in your vehicle and ALWAYS have some cash to hand and don't spend it on lesser things!)

There was a blacksmith shop selling out in Tulia TX ueasterday that had about 5 anvils, triphammer hossfield bender, etc in the sale.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 10/08/06 16:03:48 EDT

Andrew B.-- for a dynamic glimpse of creative anvil technology, glim this stunning image and the picture in the inset, too, at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wendietalker/87212502/in/set-72057594050140931/ (Thanx to Bill W!!) Also, treat yourself to the 3-volumes-in-one edition of the late, great metalworker/sculptor Alexander Weygers's books (see Centaur Forge website in drop-down box at upper right on this screen)on how to get by just fine by making do.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/08/06 16:11:28 EDT

Thomas-- can you give us a reading on what the Hossfeld No. ? and the ??-pound triphammer went for, please?
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/08/06 16:14:47 EDT

can a *very* thick plaster of paris substitue for an insulated forge lining.

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/08/06 17:01:39 EDT

Andrew, NO. Plaster and concrete (lime based and Portland) are not refractory materials. The water bound in them causes them to make steam and spall (explode).
   - guru - Sunday, 10/08/06 18:56:53 EDT

Samuel platt hercules hammer: We have a book titled "Pounding Out the Profits" about power hammers in the US. However, it does not cover hammers from other countries. Mechanical hammers wer popular from the 1850's until the 1940's. Most makers did not survive the 1929 crash and resulting depression. Those that did were few and closed their doors due to lack of demand in the 1950's. So almost all mechanical hammers are now orphans. The only one that has been "reborn" and parts available is the US made Little Giant. However, most major parts for these are made on demand and cost as much as you would expect custom made parts. The Bradley hammer also has some parts available but forgings and castings are replaced by fabricated or machined parts made on special order.

   - guru - Sunday, 10/08/06 19:05:36 EDT

$100 Rule - Offers: For many years I carried a $100 bill in my jacket pocket as emergency or "mad" money for tool and equipment buying as noted by Dave Boyer above.

There is a characteristic of folks to blurt out a price OR to state a price that they think you cannot afford at the moment and then change their mind later. Sometime moments later. Somethimes they have not thought through the value of the item. At least twice I used that $100 to buy things the INSTANT a price was quoted and came out VERY well. On one ocassion it was a Atlas lathe that had parts that matched my old 6" Craftsman lathe. Another time it was $50 for a 100# anvil at a scrap yard.

The Late Great Bill Gichner was famous for knowing what you could not afford and offering things at fantastic prices. Most of the time his prices were as high or higher than new but ocassionaly he would make these fantastic offers. One time after taking what he knew was ny last penny he offered a rack with over 200 pairs of tongs to me for $200! I SHOULD have sold back the things I had bought and taken the tongs. . . It was an unbelievable deal and most of the tongs were all out of one shop and quite useful unlike many collections of old trade school "farmer" tongs. But Bill knew I could not swing the deal at the time. . .

I have been made many offers when I could not afford the $50, $100 or $200 and the seller knew it. If you are seriously looking for used tools having the capital at the MOMENT is critical. If you have to run home or to the bank it probably will be too late when you return. By the same token, never be too ancious and never appear to have money. .

Again, knowing what things are worth is critical. If you don't know and you do not have a feeling for it then you are probably best off not spending the money. Ocassionaly buying used equipment is a gamble. But at the worst you may have to sell at half what you originaly paid.

Currently I know where there is two pieces of machinery I want to make offers on and an old millwright/blacksmith shop. I risk not making contact now but I do not want to be there without money in hand. In the case of the shop I want to be able to offer $3000 to $5000 on the spot for the equipment (I only know what is outside - anvil, rolls, bar twister, benches). If the owner names a price I KNOW it will be half of what he might want a few days later. So I wait.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/08/06 19:32:38 EDT

Miles: I'm not the one you asked, but I was at the sale in Tulia yesterday. The Hossfeld was not the smaller size, and it was outside and the ID plate was not readable. It brought $420. (I chased it to $410.)

The power hammer was a new style LG 50 lb. It was in need of a lot of work, but nothing major. It needed new toggle arms, new top bearings etc. It went for $850. All I got was a blade for my tractor for $45. A small Dr. Pepper cooler (water type) that still worked brought $1000!

   tbird - Sunday, 10/08/06 20:23:38 EDT

tbird-- Many thanks! Wowee, sounds like a steal for each to me. Although dies or whatever the hoodgies that you insert into the Hossfeld for each task are called technically can run you additional, major, dinero if they did not come with it. My 50-pound Meyer Bros. clone of the LG has broken its portside toggle arm several times since arriving here with one previously broken and badly welded.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/08/06 20:42:37 EDT

Miles; I didn't go to that auction. I tried to put in a remote bid but after most of a week without being able to get the auctioneer to return a call or e-mail I decided that if they didn't want my money; I wouldn't force it on them.

My limit was higher than that though. I hope someone tells the shops previous owner that the Auctioneer's bad customer service probably cost him hundreds of dollars!

While I want another hammer I'd prefer something larger than a 50#'r so I'm saving up my money instead.

As for deals I have a ffriend who goes out with a 10 dollars in one pocket, 20 in another, 50 in a third and 100 in the last just so he can play the "it's all I have" routine when it's really "It's all I have in this pocket"...

   - Thomas Powers - Sunday, 10/08/06 21:34:52 EDT

does anyone in the houston area want to sell me an old anvil??

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/08/06 22:14:39 EDT

Thomas-- fret not. You win some, you lose some, some you tie-- and some games get rained out. And I am starting to wonder if painstakingly-crafted totally hand-wrought is not the way to go, anyway. Your ffriend is Welsh, no doubt.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/08/06 22:36:30 EDT

Hey Guys,
i was just wondering, what is a good clay to make a cruciable out of ? i heard the some people use like, old clay coffee mugs,and some use cast iron pots and pans
i would be casting silver, in the same way that vikings would, poured into a carved out soapstone mold, or , pewter, or bronze , in that same way ,
   Cameron - Sunday, 10/08/06 23:05:52 EDT


The best material for a crucible is silicon carbide, but you can't make your own. Next best is graphite, but again you can't make your own. Third best is refractory clay, which you can work with, but it isn't a cake walk by any means. Forget the coffee mugs, cast iron pans and the like.

Consider the safety issue. If you're casting just a small pour, say two pounds of bronze, you've got enough molten lmetal at a temperature of over 1900į Fahrenheit. We're talking a hot liquid that makes the lapful of McDonald's coffee issue pale by comparison. This stuff will sear the flesh off your bones and then char the bones beyond recognition in under a second. Do you really want to handle such a danger in an unknown jerry-rigged or half-assed crucible? I surely don't! I like all my body parts where they are and the way they are.

Check on eBay, or at Rio Grand Jeweler's Supply or other vendors for a decent crucible and pay a few bucks for a lot of safety. Also get or make (if you're a good smith), the proper lifting tongs, pouring shank or tongs and other handling and safety equipment as required. Your life literally may depend on it.

If you wouldn't ride to the fiftieth floor in a homemade, cobbled-together elevator hauled by clothesline rope, you shuoldn't think of taking shortcuts with molten metal. The risks are about equal, in my opinion.
   vicopper - Monday, 10/09/06 00:01:38 EDT

Cameron, As VIc noted real crucibles are too inexpensive to fret over making your own and they last MUCH longer.

Many folks have used steel pipe with a welded on end to make a "steel pipe" crucible. The problem with these is that most liquid metals are solvents to other metals, IE they disolve them. If you melt zinc or aluminium in a pipe crucible you can 'get away' with it several times but on the third or fourth melt the liquid metal will have erroded a hole through the crucible wall and when you pull it from the fire it will be pissing hot liquid metal on you. Your melting furnace will also have a bottom full of metal which will errode the refractory in the furnace or burn out filling your shop full of fumes. You can reduce this problem by lining the crucible with special refractory clays which we sell, ITC-213 and ITC-296-A. Two pints will cost you about what two very nice silicon carbide crucibles will cost. . .

Besides the melt disolving the steel crucible the disolved iron is now contaminating your melted metal. If you recycle your scrap very much it will become heavily contaminated.

Pipe crucibles also have the disadvantage of straight sides. Crucible tongs and shanks do not work well on them. You have to fabricate lifting ears and your own design lifting tools. It is much better to stick to the standard.

The ancients knew where to dig good refractory clay to make their clay crucibles. Do you? It is much easier to buy the crucibles. You can get a small jewlers melting bowl for about $10. A good silicon carbide crucible for about 3 pounds of metal runs abotu $30.
   - guru - Monday, 10/09/06 00:41:00 EDT

Andrew B: Try asking your question here:

Pres: Richard Boswell
27923 FM 2978
Magnolia , Texas 77354
281-356-5205 farm
713-562-2043 cell
281-955-2900 work

Ed: David Bailey
116 East Mosley Lane
Huntsville, TX 77340
(409) 295-8913

Aff. Liaison: Tee Hines
21803 Ann Circle
Magnolia, Texas 77355

   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/09/06 07:05:51 EDT

okl thaNKS KEN
   - Andrew B. - Monday, 10/09/06 08:33:08 EDT

is Arm and Hammer a good anvil

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Monday, 10/09/06 09:10:28 EDT

Question, Does anybody know what a Aladdin's Resonator is used for? I bought a box of hand files at a flea market and in the fold of the box was a small round cardboard tube with a small china marker "looking" piece, wrapped in a yellowing sheet of paper, The right corner of the paper is missing, But you can still read most of it. It refers to frequency. I think part of it is broke off and missing. The center is metal and the outer shell is similar to ceramic. The typeset looks to be 1940ís or 1950ís. I can't really use it, But would like to know what it would have been used for. Google did not help.
   daveb - Monday, 10/09/06 10:10:46 EDT

Andrew B: Some consider the A&H to perhaps have been the best anvil brand ever made. Certainly among the top three or so.

Just be careful it isn't a Vulcan. Both had similar logos. A&Hs were long, sleek and with a thin heel, while Vulcans were somewhat squat with a thick heel. About the difference between a Caddy and Vega.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/09/06 10:23:23 EDT

The Vulcan's Arm&hammer logo projects out from the side of the anvil because it was cast. The Arm & Hammer Arm and Hammer Logo is incisedc into the side of the anvil because it is a forged anvil and the trademark is punched into the side.

Cast Iron and a lot of clays will not take the temp of molten silver or copper; but will do fine for pewter---over 1000 degF difference between the melting points IIRC! I remember the first time I tried using a terracotta flowerpot in the forge to make an enamelling oven and how surprised I was when *it* melted before the glass did...

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/09/06 10:43:25 EDT

Spurs - I am a beginning blacksmith and I am planning to make a pair of western spurs for my class project. I have a basic idea of what I want to do, but I can find little information on the process used by others to hand forge spurs.

How are the points on the rowells made? Is the shank forge welded to the band, then split and punched for the rowell? Or is it best to forge the spur out of one piece? Any other ideas would be great! Thanks!
   ernhrst - Monday, 10/09/06 11:20:39 EDT

Thomas P - can't argue with about Vulcan vs Arm & HAmmer anvil logos. On the other hand, just because a name is recessed rather than raised is not necessarily an indication of cast vs. forged. While with Airco, I worked with a foundry that produced pipe fittings - they'd switched to a recessed vs. raised name for a material cost savings - I forget how much they saved, but it was in the tens of thousands of dollars annually in the late 1980's. When you produce hundreds of thousands of something, even a couple of grams adds up over a year in time.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 10/09/06 12:13:34 EDT

I brought it up to cherry red and quenched in warm water, then polished the tip to down about an inch and heated a couple of inches below till the polished part went to purple (highest temp color) and quenched again. Still worked like butter.
Ken, didn't have a maul to spare so went with the leaf spring idea and ended up with a good useable tool.
   Thumper - Monday, 10/09/06 12:24:01 EDT

Hello! I have a steel striker for lighting fire with a flint that I bought at an antique fair. It is said to be from 17th century and it was, of course, rusty. I cleaned the striking area using sandpaper.

The problem? No sparks and, consequently, no fire! I can make nice sparks using strikers made from modern, high carbon steel, but this old one just is not hard enough.

I analyzed it using SEM-EDAX, it is pure iron, nothing else. For what I can say, it is mild steel. Now, how would the people who made it long ago make fire with it? How is it possible that staying in the ground for a few centuries made it soft? Is it possible that case hardening would do it? Does anyone know of a trick to make it work again?

I am a chemistry teacher, this is hobby, but I do teach metallurgy (as well as I can) to students in materials science



   Ugo Bardi - Monday, 10/09/06 13:43:24 EDT

Ugo, Normally flint and steel needs steel so a wrought iron piece would do little good. There is a possibility that originally the piece was case hardened and it has rusted off. Case hardening is not very thick and could easily rust off. It would also wear off quite rapidly when used to make fire.

Other possibilities, it was never a proper striker, we have folks come here all the time that have made strikers that did not work. It is also possible that it was in a fire and is no longer hard. OR it could be a fake.

You said it was "pure iron" and then "mild steel". There is a big difference. 17th Century wrought iron would not be "pure" iron. It would contain layers of silica slag in a wood like grain layering. If the piece had been burried and well rusted the grain should have been very obvious. The most common steels of the era also had distinctive patterning OR grain boundries from being worked in the forge and repeatedly welded. This results in layers of the original material and decarbonized steel. These layers corrode at different rates and display a grainy look as well.

If the piece was homogenous then it would be something else, most likely modern, but not always. There is very little effort that goes into making something like this then artificially rusting it to make it look old. Heavy rust covers a lot of details but SHOULD bring out the type of steel to the observant eye.

   - guru - Monday, 10/09/06 14:21:54 EDT

Raised and Sunk Lettering: The difference between hand stamped letterning and most cast lettering is fairly obvious. Cast lettering has depth and width (raised OR sunk) while stamped lettering is cut into the surface in fine chisel like lines that are often incomplete due the surface not being flat or the punch not being held square. No maker of anvils used forging methods that lettering could be mistaken for casting until the 20th century. I think Peddinghaus is the only one.

However, there is one caveat, Patterns ocassionaly had the lettering scratched into the surface and it could possibly be mistaken for stamped lettering. This is common on Kohlswa anvils. But the cast logos and lettering are generally very obvious if you think about it.
   - guru - Monday, 10/09/06 14:29:56 EDT

ernhrst: I'm sure there are guys here that know more than I know, but I have made several pair of spurs. The old way of making them was from one piece. You split it (hot chisel, or hacksaw) then spread it to form the bands. After forging to shape, saw cut the slot for the rowel.

The rowels are cut out, then filed. The final shape would dictate how much you could do with a saw before you start filing.

The old timers liked old axels for the material, but if you are new to forging I would suggest using mild steel--it moves alot easier. Also, start out with plenty of material. It is easy to get a spot too thin while forging it to shape. Hope this is of help.
   ltbird - Monday, 10/09/06 21:43:56 EDT

erbhrst: Another reason for starting with plenty of material is that after you forge the bands and shank to the shape you want, then you grind, file, polish, buff to the desired finish. All this is removing the fire scale and excess material.

As for which is best, you can weld on the shank and grind and file it to where the weld is not visable. That is the way most spurs are made today. I make them out of one piece just so I can say they are one piece spurs. The blacksmith can do it, but a welder can't. Not sure that's worth anything to most people.
   tbird - Monday, 10/09/06 21:53:28 EDT

Ugo, at Quad State this year Kim Thomas, one of the demonstators brought an antique fire starter he had purchased on ebay (14th/15th century time frame) - if you looked at it closely you could see where a small bit of steel had been inlaid into the wrought iron. Most of the stiker was wrought iron, with only a small piece about 1/2" long being steel. It was still able to produce sparks, and was used to start the fire for Saturday's demonstration. He also had another one with him that was worn out - no steel left just wrought iron. My guess would be that your purchase once had a piece of steel inlaid into the striking surface and that that surface either was worn out, or rusted away quicker than the wrought iron base, either of which would explain the absence of sparks.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 10/09/06 22:51:35 EDT

What is the best metal to use if you are making a sword?
And how do you decide to the size of them??
   - becky - Tuesday, 10/10/06 06:32:33 EDT

there's no simple answer to your question, true period swords vary greatly in the content of the steel because steel production was not a uniform or standardised process. Wootz steel is completely different to modern steel for example. The idea of a 'best' metal to use is entirely subjective depending on the characteristics you want from the blade. The size of the blade also falls into this catagory. While a roman gladius may be a uniform size because it was mass produced for the infantry other swords were taylor made for their owners. If your five feet tall then a four foot broadsword might be a tad impractical. There are several articles within the site that may help you to refine your question a little so the guru's can give you a much more concise answer than myself. Look down the list on the Navigate bar for ideas
   Ian Lowe - Tuesday, 10/10/06 07:15:37 EDT

I live in Thunderbay Ontairo would like to learn more anything I have done is self taught looking for smiths in my area to learn form please help
   MacLeod - Tuesday, 10/10/06 08:06:47 EDT

Macleod, See the listing for OABA Ontario Artist Blacksmith Association on ABANA-Chapter.com. You just missed their October meeting. Nest meeting is Novemeber 11.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/10/06 08:35:59 EDT

a while back i found a website that had a guy making a tomahawk from a ball pien hammer.
But i can't find it again fro the life of me.
does anyone know where that is?

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Tuesday, 10/10/06 08:56:05 EDT

Best Sword Steel: Becky, As Ian pointed out this is a difficult question. Modern steels are much superior to ancient steels for most purposes. For durability and near indestructability a modern steel like SAE 5160 would probably be best. However, for cutting contests against everything except metal and mineral some have found the ancient wootz to be best. But in all cases the craftsmanship but into the entire processing of the steel from forging and heat treating to grinding and polishing makes more difference in most cases than the specific steel.

For artistic purposes (the reason for most "real" modern swords) a custom made laminated steel especially created for the specific project would be the best. Collector's art swords use the finest most labor intensive steel of the blademsmiths art and this is it. Besides beautiful patterns these steels can have metoric iron slabs or one's mottoe or battle cry written in steel, fine laminate cutting edges and other specialties of pattern welded steel. In this case the "best" ignores economics and engineering and goes for art first. However, many of these works of art are quite servicable and due to modern metallurgy are generally better than any ledgendary sword of old.

Ian also covered size fairly well. This starts with the weilder, then the period of time or style of weapon. Practicality is most important. Many swords of myth and especialy popular modern anime and video games where the rules of physics do not apply are way out of proportion and in many cases would be impossible for anyone to lift, much less weild in battle.

I was watching an old movie last night, David and Bathsheba and noticed one of the key items in the main set, the spear of King Sol. Most things in this movie were well thought out to the questions of practicality and reality since actors had to use them. But this spear was scaled to be a wall hanger, a stage decoration. It was central to the plot. The metal spear tip had to weigh 10 or 15 pounds. At one point Gregory Peck (King David) goes to lift the spear off its rack and is stopped. . . Good reason. The unbalanced weight of the tip of this piece would be very difficult if not impossible to support single handly. It was more battering ram than spear. . . This was art over reality and practicality.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/10/06 09:36:18 EDT

It has been many years since I saw David and Bathsheba, but maybe the spear was the one David had captured from Goliath, a Giant. In the bible is this verse:
1 SAMUEL 17:7 "And the staff of his spear was like a weaver's beam; and his spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.

The best equivalents I can come up with put 600 shekles of iron at about 15 pounds.

A previous verse stated Goliath's height was "six cubits and a span." or about 9'4" (using 18" as a cubit and 4" as a span)

No wonder the spear in the film was huge!
   - John Odom - Tuesday, 10/10/06 10:14:14 EDT

John Odom; I am left to wonder; Since Goliath was said to be a Philistine,a race of giants, and the Arabic word for Palestine is "Philistinia", whatever happened to all the 9 foot Palestinians?
   3dogs - Tuesday, 10/10/06 11:13:49 EDT

John, I suspect that is where the spear description came from but it was clearly stated that it was King Sol's spear. However, it may have become his after David slayed Goliath.

We had gotten on an historical movie kick lately, mostly classics but also a few recent films. A Man for all Seasons, Elizabeth, Nostradomus, The Lion in Winter, Joan of Arc, Kingdom of Heaven. . Some good some bad and of course all to be taken with a grain of salt. Many I had not seen in 35 years.

I was noticing the very poor replica weapons in many of the old movies. Many blades were obviously cut out of flat stock. . a detail I would not have noticed 35 years ago.

One thing that is nice is that they are restoring many of the old movies. Some of the movies we had on VHS were made from terrible old prints with fading color. Many converted to DVD are much better than I had seen in years.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/10/06 11:16:03 EDT

Weapons: Tradition has it that David gave his king, Saul the weapons and head of Goliath, and that the weapons were kept for many many years as royal treasures. David later succeeded Saul as king.

So many things in movies are so fake, if you take time to look criticaly. I find spotting the fakes is often more entertaining than the plot. I don't watch many movies.

According to scripture, the giants were Gathites, a small clan among the Philistines.

   - John Odom - Tuesday, 10/10/06 12:59:56 EDT

Yes but did you notice that firegrate with the fleu du li's in nthe Lion in Winter? I can document that---not to the period of the film but at least it's historical...

Thomas---I've got a knife!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/10/06 13:24:02 EDT

this may be very annoying but my dad would like to know if anyone knows what the original 'Bowie' knife was made out of and if it is kept anywhere to day having being lost at the Alamo?
   - Becky - Tuesday, 10/10/06 13:50:52 EDT

Thank you for answering my questions. i ask them because i am doing a GCSE project and i have to find out about all the different processes and materials! Thanks again i may come back soon with more questions.

By the way my dad would like to know if any of you know what was the original 'bowie' knife made from and where it is today as it was lost at the Alamo?
   - Becky - Tuesday, 10/10/06 13:56:10 EDT

how long would a standard sword be to fit a 5ft1' person?
can you design a balanced sword that would be practical in the modern style but can also be used for ornamental purposes?
   - Becky - Tuesday, 10/10/06 14:20:38 EDT

Bowie Knife: Becky, There is a lot of controversy about the original Bowie knife, how big it was, who made it. . . As best I know it was long lost and Bowie was known to have had several made. Here is a nice piece on the Bowie.

The Orignal Bowie Knife

Note that the article says the Bowie lost the capital B. Nothing named after a person loses is capitalization.

Sword length still varies by style. However, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold the sword downward and just clear the ground as a maximum length. This helps prevent it being an impediment to moving. Long swords and double handed swords break this rule. The logic with them is that if you have a longer total reach than your opponent you can strike him while he cannot strike you (The Bowie knife logic). This only works until you get tangled up in your sword and your more mobile short sword opponent rushes in for the kill. . .

Almost anything can be balanced. Where do you want the balance point?
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/10/06 15:05:40 EDT

Hard Hammer

I am trying to forge a tomahawk/crash axe for one of our younger parishioners presently in Iraq. So I decided to try the old dodge of using a surplus ball peen hammer head I had lying about. Iíve reforged lots of tools before, but I cannot imagine what this one is made of. It simply will not move under the hammer. Iíve spent about four hours working on the front end (it took about two [in between other irons in the fire] just to get the ball end into a decent, and not overlong, spike) and it barely moves even under a three pound hammer. Iíve tried fullers, and over the horn, and keeping it at a high yellow and soaking it; and so far Iíve flattened each side by maybe ľ inch (6 mm).

Iím beginning to believe Iíve fetched up with a piece of unobtainium. Iím quite sure that I will end up with a wonderful, tough and sharp blade when Iím finished (given proper heat treating) but his tour may be over by the time I complete it.

So; do they employ any whacky alloys in hammers that one might pick up at a yard sale? Should I give it up and start on another piece? Am I getting that much weaker from constant floggings by the auditors?

Curious Viking needs to know. ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 10/10/06 15:13:52 EDT

Bruce, it usually takes a couple of the college kids with sledges to do the beginning shaping on a ballpein hawk---why I'm glad I found them that big old battered bridge anvil to work on instead of one of *MINE*! Of course I've run into a cast iron one once---cottage cheese all over the place.

Becky the standard sword length for someone 5'1" would be between 20 and 60 inces DEPENDING ON THE TYPE OF SWORD!

The number of questions don't phase us; it's just most of them can't be answered without info that you are not providing. What is a "standard sword"---Roman Gladius, viking langseax, high middle ages falchion, renaissance rapier or greatsword or estoc or cinqueda or katzbalger, cavalry saber, japanese katana, keris, barong,... I've been stydying swords for about 40 years now and I don't know what a "standard" sword is.

So think about what you want to ask and give as many details as possible. If you don't know specific terms don't worry just try to explain what it is that it's supposed to do and we'll argue the hairsplitting points out in front of you!

Exp: what would be a good steel choice for a double edged sword based on ones from the viking period. Put in if you want it to be a using blade and again if you want to make it yourself and tell us what skills and tools you have and how much money you want to spend. (back in the 1980's I had a friend who was a swordmaker who often spent US$200 for the *metal* he started out with...)

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/10/06 15:35:11 EDT

Hey Bruce,
I would guess it does have "whacky alloys" in it if it's being that difficult. Is it air hardening? May be a PITA to heat treat....crack in quench, or who knows what. Try a common Vaughn ball peen hammer.
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 10/10/06 16:37:02 EDT

I have an antique bell that is need of replacement of the top. Is there anyone who restores iron bells?
Diane Wink
   Diane Wink - Tuesday, 10/10/06 17:16:26 EDT

Diane: is the iron of the bell actually broken? describe the damage more in detail, or post a photo.
   - John Odom - Tuesday, 10/10/06 18:11:45 EDT

My brain can't take it!!!
In making a cross such as the one in i-forge demo #79.....if you were to make one out of 2" square bar, would you make the cuts twice, or four times as long as making one out of 1" square bar? I can't figure it out....twice of 1 is 2, but 4 1" bars fit in a 2" bar :>( help me please
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 10/10/06 18:33:32 EDT

hello I was wondering if you could tell me how much this anvli of mine is worth it has stamped on the side armitage monce hole it also has 2 stamped on the corner of the same side it is 11 inches high 22 long 4 inches wide the base is 12x11 I don't know the weight but I believe it is around 80 to 100 pounds and it is in fair condition. please reply thanks
   mark - Tuesday, 10/10/06 19:14:38 EDT

hello I was wondering if you could tell me how much this anvli of mine is worth it has stamped on the side armitage monce hole it also has 2 stamped on the corner of the same side it is 11 inches high 22 long 4 inches wide the base is 12x11 I don't know the weight but I believe it is around 80 to 100 pounds and it is in fair condition. please reply thanks
   mark - Tuesday, 10/10/06 19:16:20 EDT

Mark: There is a line missing above ARMITAGE. If it had read M&H, anvil would date 1820-1835. If HENRY, anvil would date 1835-1854. You are also missing stone weight marks on the left and center. First number is likely 0. Second may be 3. 0 3 2 would work out to 86 pounds. If it were 1 0 2 it would work out to 114 pounds. You can use a bathroom scale to get a weight, which is usually off from stamped weight a couple of pounds.

Mouse Hole Forge was in Sheffield, England.

On value, depends somewhat on condition. However, Mouse Hole anvil don't sell as high as say an English Peter Wright. I suspect it has to do with the feet being the old English style, rather than the more blocky feet of say a PW. If in good condition I would put value at $1.00 to $1.50 pound. However, really comes down to what a buyer is willing to pay.

A 117 LB English anvil with a fifth foot and no pritchel or hardy hole recently sold for $1,050. It may also have been made in Sheffield. It would likely date from say 1820 and earlier.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/10/06 19:27:37 EDT

Tyler MUrch,

Forget the numbers and just use the visual proportions. Don't overthink the thing.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/10/06 20:30:02 EDT

hard hammer

Bruce: Maybe it is cast steel? it can be forged I have heard but tricky to heat treat probably. Don't forget to normalise it. I made an kindling hatchet out of an old 16oz. blue point/snap-on hammer, a file can just barely cut it at the edge, that is the good stuff, forged easily too.
   - Leaf D - Tuesday, 10/10/06 21:10:27 EDT

Bowie Knife: I read [a long time ago] that the first Bowie knife was made from a worn out meat cleaver. Fact, fiction or legend?
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 10/10/06 23:34:06 EDT

A modern useable sword is something that few people make these days, there are many who could make you a sword but there aren't so many who really know exactly what makes a sword useable, after all they aren't the weapon of choice these days. Things like distal tapers, nodes of vibration, balance points, ability to withstand taking a 'set', ability to hold an edge and many other factors are involved in forging 'true' combat swords and the guys who know all that are thin on the ground. One of the best 'real' Sword makers in Europe was a chap I met called Peter Johnsson from Uppsalla in Sweden, try looking him up on the net or Jim Hrisoulas (an american Sword maker and Author)
   Ian Lowe - Wednesday, 10/11/06 04:38:42 EDT


There's a wealth of information and opinion available on Sword Forum at:


Visit your national Parks: www.nps.gov
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 10/11/06 08:40:22 EDT

Forged Cross: Tyler, The amount of overlap of the two cuts determines the size of the hole in the center of the cross. However, for the cross to come out flat there cannot be no hole. Since the pieces at the center twist and this is often a key feature you want roughly 1 to 2 times the depth of the piece in overlap. The overlaped amount becomes the length of the sides of the diagonal square opening. Some people leave this tight with the twist showing and others open it up, forge and smooth the opening into a circle. Other things could be done with this if you wanted.

In this case scaling is direct. If you use 2x the stock section, then all the dimensions are 2x.

   - guru - Wednesday, 10/11/06 09:02:43 EDT

Yes, I am interested in attempting to reinvent the wheel. Any suggestions?
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 10/11/06 09:15:53 EDT

Bowie Knife: There is so much legend about the Bowie Knife it's hard to find the facts. They are not even sure if Bowie "invented" the Bowie Knife.

wikipedia says Bowie had several versions of the knife and the 1st one was made from a file (ymmv)
   - Hudson - Wednesday, 10/11/06 09:59:34 EDT

Thanks Guru.....found some 2" sq at the machine shop..
   - Tyler Murch - Wednesday, 10/11/06 10:52:36 EDT

I tried making it this morning out of the 2"...Will need someone to hold a wood splitting maul while I swing a sledge...a hand held chisel and six pound hammer doesn't cut it.
   - Tyler Murch - Wednesday, 10/11/06 10:54:15 EDT

Bowie knives and ball-pein hammers:

Becky, tell your dad to get the following two books at the library through inter-library loan, as they're expensive to buy if you don't want to keep them forever:

"The Bowie Knife: Unsheathing an American Legend" by Norm Flayderman, Published by Mowbray, Inc. 2004, ISBN 193146412X.


"James Bowie and the Sandbar Fight: Birth of the James Bowie Legend and the Bowie Knife" by James L. Batson, privately published by Batson Engineering and Metalworks, 1992.

These two books are all that's needed, as most of the others are total fiction. Dr. Batson is the recognized authority on the subject. I heard him speak about that very topic two weeks ago in fact, and that very question was asked. The answer? Nobody knows. The knife Col. Bowie was carrying at the Alamo was not the one he had at the sandbar fight that made him famous, that much is known. Bowie had a habit of giving a big knife to people he liked and saying it was "the" knife. There are currently at least three knives in museums that claim to be "the" knife.

Bowie himself never claimed to have invented it, he just made it famous. In the story that made him famous the knife was described as merely "a large butcher knife."

Ball-pein hammers: I made a handled hot-cut out of one once that did require a BIG hammer to move. I had to put drawing dies in a 75-lb treadle hammer to start it moving, and finish it up with a 12-lb crosspein sledge.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 10/11/06 11:41:39 EDT

May be more than one Jim Bowie movie, but one I remember has the knife being forged out of a meteorite and him throwing it into the Mississippi after killing someone with it.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 10/11/06 14:41:27 EDT

Ahhh, movies are not known for their historical accuracy...I once read a several page critique of the opening minutes of Braveheart and almost all of that was just scenery! (but it was the *wrong* scenery for the area Wallace was from...)

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/11/06 14:55:12 EDT

What! Movies aren't 100% historically accurate?

Heads-up: ABANA is trying to get rid of their surplus of back issues of The Anvil's Ring and The Hammer's Blow. If you order 20 or more copies of TAR and/or THB the cost is $1.00 each plus S&H. Otherwise individual copies are $5.00 each for TAR and, I think, $3.00 each for the THB. From a reliable source I have heard they are considering stopping the quantity discount as having accomplished its purpose.

Go here: http://www.bookmasters.com/abana/index.html and the offer is towards the bottom of the screen. You do not need to be a member of ABANA to purchase.

Be aware it takes a while for BookMasters to update the ABANA list to remove issues when they have sold out. Thus, you might not get all ordered, but will only be charged for issues and S&H for those which they can provide.

You snooze - you may lose.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 10/11/06 16:31:33 EDT

I'd start with something round!

I do special effects for films, and everything we do is historically accurate and follows the laws of physics, whether it takes place in the past, present, or future!BOG
   blackbart - Wednesday, 10/11/06 19:26:47 EDT

i have been looking into how to become a blacksmith/steelsmith for a little while now and i was wondering if you knew the best way to get into it. i am mostly interested in make armors/weapons but would also love to have knowledge in all aspects of the art. if you could just let me know some information on how i can go about doing this living in north carolina it would be most appreciated. thank you very much for your time and i hope to hear from you soon .
   jeremy - Wednesday, 10/11/06 20:39:57 EDT


I'm new to blacksmithing as well, but you might want to look at the "getting started in blacksmithing" page. I know it helped me alot

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Wednesday, 10/11/06 21:43:02 EDT

ok thanx alot man i will look over it
   jeremy - Wednesday, 10/11/06 21:49:42 EDT

Jeremy what part of NC are you in. North Wilkesboro here.
   daveb-Treasurer - Wednesday, 10/11/06 22:12:48 EDT

Does anyone know the specific manufacturer (and location) of the foundry making the USA cast iron anvils? Trying to find information for Richard Postman. Heard location is possibly Birmingham, AL.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 10/12/06 07:40:41 EDT

Guru, my dad gets a lot of knife catalogs and raves over the sales pitch descriptions listed under the pretty pictures. Sometimes I have to set facts straight and he won't budge from his standpoint basing all his "facts" on catalog listings. The most recent BS he's read is a manufacturer making production run knives made from meteorite. I tried to explain how meteorite is not metal and if it did have metallic content it would have to be treated like ore and it would take an extremely large amount of it to get a decent amount just ot make ONE knife. Or am i wrong? Is there globs of pure iron floating in our planets orbit?
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 10/12/06 10:10:39 EDT

Thanks for the heads-up on the ABANA mags. What a Bargain!
I ordered them all. My winter reading is set.
   Jim Curtis - Thursday, 10/12/06 10:30:02 EDT

Movies: You can't mean National Treasure and The DaVinci Code aren't historicaly accurate!!!

I recently caught "W" in a Reaganistic lapse atributing an historic act to a movie scene. I searched a while for the movie but could not find it. I don't have the resources for that kind of search. But I have a great memory for movie scenes and that was what the President described. I am surprised the press didn't clobber him with it. But maybe I was the only one that caught it. . . On the other hand in this time of war it has become very dangerous to disagree with the President. But will HIS version of events be what history records?

Movies can be very educational but there are great dangers to believing every moment of every scene. Of course those that often scream the loudest about movie errors also believe everything written in history books. . . Although they might be more accurate in general they are often very slanted when it comes to the reasons given for certain actions.

Most ot the list of movies I listed in my earlier post focus on events in France and England from about 1050 to 1600 and follow the well known events of the time. But the dialogue and moment to moment stuff is all some writer's imagination. If the writer was 1% accurate it would be a coincidence of being human and having some insight into how we behave, no more. Locations are ocassionally the actual places but even then they have changed a lot in 500 to 1000 years. Often locations have changed so much that completely different places must substitute.

Very often in historical movies in order to move the plot along they skip certain events, compress time and combine various characters into one. This is common story telling and mankind has been doing it forever. Many early histories taken from story tellers are assuredly full of editorial errors. The great Greek stories of Homer are full of historical fact woven into the mythology of the time and dramitized editorialy. They are the earliest historical fiction we have.

Blacksmiths in Movies: What still drives me crazy is that they will give an actor who has never used a hammer of any kind, and the director that knows less will direct the actor how to use it and then with no practice whatsoever the actor will go "thunk, tink, think, tink" on the anvil. . . and make all of us that know better gringe at the stupidity.

Somewhere between the low budget Highlander (1986) and the third Highlander movie Highlander the Final Dimension Christopher Lambert picks up a few forging pointers but not much. He is definitely is hitting the metal hard but is using a much too heavy hammer which slows him down and makes him rather clumbsy even in the fractional seconds he is shown working.

This movie has a nice Jappanese forging scene at the begining that is very brief but quite good. There are some technical inaccuracies (like a billet arc welded to a porter bar in the 16th century, machine sawn billets. . ) but the overall shows that they had an honestly knowledgable technical advisor. Hopefully this trend will continue where it applies to our industry.

   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:06:29 EDT

I would like to make a garden hoe. I have seen some that have a perfectly formed eye. The blade seems to be wrapped half the way around the eye with no visable signs of a weld. Does anyone know how to do this? I have made one by putting a lip on the eye and forging the blade to it, but this doesn't have the look of the above one. Thanks for any help you may be able to give me.
North Carolina
   Rick - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:20:49 EDT

TGN there are nickel iron meteorites; but it's not "pure iron by any stretch lots of contaminants some of which can make it pretty unforgable. One of Hrisoulas' books discusses forging meteorite for blades. I'll try to check which one it is tonight---show that to him and perhaps he'll cave.

I'll admit I have done my bit to confuse people about blacksmithing sometimes---eg: when I was hanging with the MatSci club on the NMT campus I set them up for their "homecoming parade" float. We were not allowed to use fire so I got the forge set up and used dry ice and water to produce "smoke" and spray painted the ends of some steel bars red/orange/yellow and had several anvils for them to "forge" on. I even showed them Emmert Studebaker's old percussion routine on the anvil---well the result of it all was that the float won the "Best Band" award...
   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:26:38 EDT

Metoric Iron: Nip, In fact there IS tons of metoric iron available. There are several well known large meteor "strikes" where the meteor is being mined for collectors and bladesmiths. These are gigantic old meteors that would mean world wide devatation if one hit today, and the "mining" process consists of using diamond edge saws to cut out slabs of material. Diamond saws are necessary due to the extream hardness of crystaline particles in the meteor.

A large number of meteors in our system are believed to be stay bits from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is believed to be the remains of a planet that did not fully coalesce or broke apart from some other reason. The heavy portions from the core are assumed to be much like our Earth's core made up of iron and nickel plus other heavy elements. As such they are primarily metal and many are an iron nickel mix. Not all meteoric iron is suitible for working into blades.

The trick is how the meteoric iron is handled. Improper working of the metal can destroy any crystaline structure that makes it uniquely identifiable. Due to the lack of carbon this is an elemental alloy and not hardenable or useful as edge material. Most bladesmiths that use it cut thin slabs for the sides or body of a laminated blade and forge weld the whole together.

Although a small shop can produce a large quantity of such blades it is not a production process. A couple of years ago I remember Jim Hrisoulas haveing a commission to make a number of blades from meteoric iron.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:28:17 EDT

Bladesmithing Hype: Nip, Other than this there IS a ton of hype than is pure BS in the blademithing world. "Living Steel" which gains strength from the energy put into it by the smith, "Titanium" blades which are a steel alloy with a microscopic amount of Ti which has nothing to do with anything to make a better blade other than sell it via hype and faux technospeak.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:33:17 EDT

Forged Hoe: Rick, There is a big difference in the way a factory forged hoe and a hand forged hoe is made. Although you COULD do it the hard way. A factory forged implement of this type is forged from one solid billet in a closed die operation in one or more operations.

Hand forged implements from one piece start with rounding and punching the eye in a heavy billet. Then drawing out the working edge. There is little of no support around the eye.

Hand forged from two pieces the lump to be the eye is forge welded onto the blade then the eye punched through both the eye and the blade. There are other methods as well including folding the front of the eye UP from the blade, seperating a portion of the blade from the eye on each side, then wrapping the eye and forge welding the back side of the eye. Done properly this creates some of that supporting edge you are talking about.

The efficient modern way to do it would be to arc weld the eye (made seperately or from a piece of tube) onto the blade.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 12:50:20 EDT

Im trying to find a very simple for figuring out pounds per cubic inch(lb./cu) and a formula for pounds per sheet(lb./sheet)for steel,bronze,brass,rectangle bars,flat bars just for example in fact is there a publication in regards to alloy and the correct measurements
   hasan - Thursday, 10/12/06 15:26:32 EDT

I have an authentic forged anvil aproximatly 250 lbs. in good condition does anyone there know of it's aproximate value?
   Tom Furniss - Thursday, 10/12/06 15:54:02 EDT

Hasan, The information you want is in Machinery's Handbook including sheet metal gauges. However, they warn to always supply the actual thickness in standard units when dealing with sheet and gauge thickness as there are numerous standards.

For a simple on-line calculator that will do most of what you need for common materials see our Mass3j calculator. Click on the drop down menu and select "Mass3j calculator". It has the densities of 31 common materials and reports the weight of calculated shapes in those materials.

Actualy determining weight per cubic unit is normally done by using a balance scale with specific gravity attachment (a pan submersed in water). You weigh the sample dry, then put the sample on the pan that is immersed in water and weigh again, divide the difference and you have the specifc gravity. Due to water having a density of almost exactly 1 g/cm3 (.999973 @ 3.98°C) specific gravity is very nearly equal to density for most purposes.

IF you want actual density then you want an accurate scale and a sample that is geometricaly true and carefully measured. Simply determine the exact volume by measure and calculation and then weigh the sample. If you use a small sample near a cubic inch and measure with micrometers to the nearest thousandth of an inch and weigh the sample on a scale accurate to 3 decimal places in pounds you will have as accurate a density as is published in any publication with the exception of a very few materials that have been intensly studied.

I have made weights for scales using the reverse of this process using the density of mild steel as .2385 lb/cu and produced weights acruate enough to weigh things to within milligrams.

   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 15:55:53 EDT

Tom, there are many brands of forged anvil and this effects price somewhat. Then there is condition. What some consider "good condition" is just an anvil that is all there but beat to pieces. Weight, condition, make (and sometimes age) determine the value.

On average about $2/lb. (more or less).
   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 15:58:36 EDT

What is the temperature of (a) spatter and (b) slag from wleding on a 6010 carbon steel welding rod? What about after 5 seconds?
   DannyN - Thursday, 10/12/06 16:12:13 EDT

Danny, Spatter, due to self cooling is a little below the burning point of steel or about 3,000°F more or less. It starts out at around 5,000°F. The covering slag is considerably less, around 2,500 to 2,000°F when liquid. Hotter and it boils. At 5 seconds or so both are the temperature of the base metal they are stuck to whatever that is.

The base metal temperature is nearly impossible to predict as there are too many variables. How much wind is blowing if any? Ambient air tamperature, humidity? Mass or thickness of the object being welded and its starting temperature as well as size of the weld. That is at least six variables.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/12/06 16:56:50 EDT

Thanks! Do you happen to know of a good source or text that would contain that kind of information?
   DannyN - Thursday, 10/12/06 17:33:45 EDT

Value of anvil---don't forget *LOCATION* too; Here in America the price of an anvil can vary quite a bit depending on if it's in an anvil rich or anvil poor location. I've noticed that anvils go for about twice as much here in NM as I was finding them in OH.

I don't know how it varies in whatever country you live in Tom

Thomas Powers
   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/12/06 17:51:35 EDT


i am actually in swannanoa nc whitch is just outside of ashville nc. why do you ask?
   jeremy - Thursday, 10/12/06 19:14:29 EDT

Movies: I recently watched "The return of a Man called Horse" and the smith was alternating between striking the metal and the butt of the handle on the anvil to tighten the head. I can only hope he was making a wedge for his hammer.
   habu - Thursday, 10/12/06 21:49:57 EDT

Thanks for the advice on the spurs. I like the idea of forging them each out of one piece. Is there anywhere on the web with info about the spurmaking process? I'd just like to get some ideas and see some pictures, but I haven't found much of anything.
   ernhrst - Thursday, 10/12/06 22:22:36 EDT

TGN: Knife catalogs have a very high "sizzle to steak" ratio. There is always some new "ultimate" or "super" steel or alloy being touted in the magazines, and some of the writing is amateur hour, promoting myths both modern and ancient.

Hey; it sells knives!

As for meteorites, one side effectr of their sudden popularity for both collecting of and by themselves and as furniture or raw material for blades (and once you forge it, you tend to lose all the neat patterns and crystal structure), is that there is a shortage of research specimins for actual scientific study by folks like my brother-in-law at Cal Tech. They've found themselves priced out of the market for many specimens. Market forces and fads have funny results on research and the search for knowledge.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 10/12/06 23:06:02 EDT


Check with your local library to see if they have access to Books in Print to do a subject search on cowboy spurs. If you find a title they may be able to get you a loaner copy for a nominal fee from another library.

Do a www.Google.search on cowboy spurs to see what turns up. Also do an inquiry within books and then on cowboy spurs on Internet book sellers, such as www.amazon.com, www.half.com, www.overstock.com and www.buy.com. I found several titles which emphasized cowboy spurs there.

I suspect you won't find much about how-to, but rather examples. You can then somewhat do reverse engineering. Actually it couldn't particularly surprise me if you find out many cowboys simply mail ordered their spurs from Sears & Robuck.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 10/12/06 23:22:48 EDT

how do I re surface an older anvil that has a slight dish running down the middle lenght wise at about 1/16 inch or a bit more.It appears to have a cast bottom with a hardened surface of about 3/4 inch. Thanks
   - greg harrison - Friday, 10/13/06 04:17:19 EDT

how do I re surface an older anvil that has a slight dish running down the middle lenght wise at about 1/16 inch or a bit more.It appears to have a cast bottom with a hardened surface of about 3/4 inch. Thanks
   - greg harrison - Friday, 10/13/06 04:18:28 EDT

Greg Harrison,

You don't. Leave it alone other than maybe running a belt sander over it to ease any tiny dings and smooth the edges. Almost anything you do to try and make it flat will only wreck a perfectly usable anvil.

That shallow dish is going to be your friend when you want to straighten stock, as you need that room for the metal to go beyond flat a bit to take care of springback. If you think about it, the area of the anvil that you actually use with each hammer blow is exactly equal to the area of the hammer face; no more. All the rest of the top surface is just there to give you a place to rest the stock, so to speak. Check the die size on a powerhammer, for instance. Or the size of the face on a stump anvil or sickle sharpening anvil. All are much less than the size of a regular anvil face, and some are no bigger than the hammer face. They don't need to be, nor does your anvil need to be perfectly flat.
   vicopper - Friday, 10/13/06 08:26:37 EDT

Most things I read about forging, decribe how to use coal. I saw something about the lower part of the fire will oxidize steel, the upper part will carbonize steel, and the middle part is neutral. Is this specific to coal, or does it also apply to charcoal? I forge with charcoal, one of the popular forge designs, similar to the wash tub forge, and I use fairly fine charcoal, similar to black smith coal in size.

I don't really know how to tell if I'm oxidizing or carbonizing the steel. When I put it in the fire, it gets hot, when I take it out and pound on it, it gets flat.
   JohnW - Friday, 10/13/06 09:02:26 EDT


You have hit the jackpot. You live about ten miles from Kayne and Son in Candler, home of the WNC Blacksmiths' Association. Kayne is a major supplier of smithing tools, and the Association meets at the Kayne shop on the second Wednesday of each month, at 7pm if I recall correctly. I guess you just missed this month's meeting.

John C. Campbell Folk School is an hour southwest of you in Brasstown, and they offer classes in smithing from beginning to advanced year-round. Take a weekend class to see if you really like it, then take a whole week to give yourself the equivalent of two years trying to teach yourself.

You're an hour south of the Penland School, where our subguru Frank Turley has been known to teach. What I said about J.C. Campbell also applies to Penland.

The Big Blu shop is in Oak Hill near Morganton.

Heck, I'm an hour north of you in Johnson City, TN! We have a guild that meets up here too, on the second Sunday of each month. You could conceivable go to a meeting of smiths within one hour of your house every week of the month.

This is kind of like being on a small island and asking where the water is, as you are literally surrounded by smiths, smithing schools, and smithing suppliers. (grin!)
   Alan-L - Friday, 10/13/06 09:58:21 EDT

Fire Zones: John, Charcoal has the same zones as coal but it takes a slightly deeper fire to get all three. When your fire is perfect and you have your steel in that middle to upper zone it heats quickly without scaling (or very little scale) and is easy to achieve a clean welding heat.

Toward the bottom of the fire you get excessive scaling. This is usualy thicker and rougher than it should be. If your fire is always shallow or you consistantly use too much air then it will all be scaling and you have no zones. No zones, nothing to detect. . .

The top zone is the most difficult to detect as carburizing is very slow. However, when forging high carbon steel decarburization is significant and can be detected when you go to grind the piece if you are very observant.

When your fire is the condition to produce these zones you usually notice that it takes very little air to achieve the maximum heat and your work is quite clean.
   - guru - Friday, 10/13/06 09:59:46 EDT

Ernhrst, SPURS.

As with any subject, one could write several tomes with pictures about spurs, and there would still be more to cover. The thought of cowboys comes to mind, but spurs were used in different parts of the world, Africa included. You have the old Moorish "gaff", simply a protruding point. There are English styles, most of which are sans rowel and have a rounded "nubbin" to tickle the horse. Nowadays, we have a clip-on spur with a springy, rounding heel band which sits on top of the boot heel "ledge". Some early spurs used by European knights were works of art with openwork and chased work. Some of the early and contemporary Western and Hispanic spurs had silver inlay and/or overlay; less frequently, gold was used, if they were made for a notable person. A rowel with many "points" was less severe that than a rowel with few points, the latter being more subject to jabbing rather than rolling. The so called chap guard on Western spurs does nothing unless it's of a shape to tie off the rowel. The cowhand could, if he desired, tie the rowel to the "chap guard" with a leather string in order to keep it from turning, thereby making the spur a little more severe.

When mounted, the average sized rider will have the stirrup and spur just below the horse's belly, not much chance of accidentally jabbing the horse. In some picture books dipicting spurs, they are often shown upside down. Same way with bridle bits. It's because the authors are not horse people; they are "too far from the tree". If a spur shank is curved, it curves downward, not upward.

There are different methods of attaching spurs. Some have slots for the leather straps; some have hangers with buttons for strap attachment. Some California style spurs have heel chains.

The early spurs, at least Mexican ones, were nearly always tenoned together. The tenon was often rectangular in section and carefully fitted throught the center of the heel band. The hole receiving the tenon was countersunk on the inside of the band. Sole-leather vise jaw caps could be used to protect the shank while the tenon was peened. Later, the inside was filed smooth and burnished.

When peening up the rowel rivet, a slightly oversized spacer was used between the slot and then removed. This was to allow the rowel to spin. Otherwise, you've riveted the rowell tightly, and it will be "frozen" in position.

A one piece spur needs oversized stock if you're a blacksmith, maybe 3/4" square. You hacksaw or hot split down one end and open it up to get the heel band. The "disappearing point" at the termination of the cut is difficult to get rid of. I put the piece in the vise and use a ball faced hammer. When you do, you will lose some of the thickness either side of the cut. Some guys drill a hole at the base of the cut; however, you're losing a little of the stock when you do.

   Frank Turley - Friday, 10/13/06 10:24:53 EDT

Jeremy, *that* is why we wanted your general location! Don't need specifics---Central NM works fine; but hard to point a person at what's available locally if we don't know the locale.

I just got a comission to make a set of spurs using scrap off their family's old home place. I was planning to rivet the shank on with a sq hole/tenon---seemed like the way to go to me.

Last time I did a single piece spur I used RR spikes and used the head as the knob was a gag gift for a fellow who wore the biggest ugliest spurs I had ever sceen and was awefully proud of them to boot! (OTOH I once made a set of spurs from foam rubber so another fellow could wear them on his waterbed...)

Medievally spurs were often a litery device to indicate how stunning a victory one side had won---several places there are mentions of something like "and they collected 3 bushels of gilt spurs from the fallen knights".

Thomas in Central NM
   Thomas P - Friday, 10/13/06 11:20:09 EDT

Location: I just recieved a nice note from a fellow from Slovenia. Imagine him asking "where to find tools". . .

I just shipped an order to Sweden another to Iraq and one to Malta. The Intenet is global and asking for something location specific without saying where you are from is pointless.

Jeremy is in blacksmithing central. Besides the places listed by Alan-L, Georg Dixon blacksmith and publisher of The Artist Blacksmith Quarterly is in Swannanoa, NC and there are smiths in Brevard, Black Mountain, Boone. . . Not only is John C. Campbell School in the area but so is Penland. The 1998 ABANA conference was held at UNCA and a blacksmith shop built on campus. The Kaynes BlacksmithsDepot is in Candler and they have a meeting of the Western NC blacksmiths the 2nd Wednesday of every month. As noted Big BLU is just down the road in Morganton and they have a big annual meeting in the spring. Dave-B is building his shop in Wilksboro and I am over in Boonville just south of Mt. Airy.

Now. . if you are on the Coast of NC there may be smiths but I do not know them. I do know several in the Charlotte area. So location makes a big difference.
   - guru - Friday, 10/13/06 12:10:48 EDT

Speaking of the international nature of the Internet, my copy of Nuevo Manual del Cerrajero Y Herrero o sea Tratado Simplificado de este arte, esctrito en Frances, 1858, just arrived.

(New Manual of the Locksmith and Blacksmith, Simply Treated about this Art. Written in France)

It is an interesting book. This is not just a reprint but a reproduction in style of the original. All the plates are seperate fold out engravings at the back of the book.

I do not yet have enough Spanish to read the text but it gives me reason to learn.
   - guru - Friday, 10/13/06 12:43:53 EDT

Habu, "Return.. Horse" is an incredible movie!! To me, the movie BEST represents the "Oh-Kee-Pah" ritual, often confused with "sundance" that involves a central "maypole".
   - Nippulini - Friday, 10/13/06 14:15:12 EDT

I did a paper on the "Oh-Kee-Pay" ritual back in college. The Hollywood depictions are pretty tame compared to the real deal. It wasn't uncommon for people to die during the ceremony.
   Mike H - Friday, 10/13/06 15:02:26 EDT

I just aquired, free, a 24" OD X 42" long 3/8" wall section of pipe. I thought I was getting a piece of 16" pipe, and I wanted it to make a slightly bigger gas forge. It is amazing how much bigger things are when seen close up!

Steel is like money in the bank, especially if it is free!

Any Ideas for a good project?
   - John Odom - Friday, 10/13/06 16:06:35 EDT

Meteorite: I skimmed Hrisoulas' three books but didn't find the section on Meteorite I thought was there---so now I'm scratching my head as to where I read it.

Forge welding slabs of meteorite will mess up the widmenstatten pattern. It's strictly cold work if you want to preserve them.

IIRC over at swordforum.com one of the forums had a quote about a ruler (Mughal?) being offered a meteorite and the trouble his swordmaker had using it until it was alloyed way down with "normal" steel. Nice to see that things haven't changed in the last couple of centuries...

   Thomas P - Friday, 10/13/06 18:16:02 EDT

I think I posted this once here, but I received an order a few years ago to forge a Tibetan ritual 3-sided blade, a phurba. The client wanted a small meteoric piece to be a part of the blade. I gave him no guarantees, but with repeated effort, I was able to forge weld it into the manufactured steel. It took quite a few sweating heats to get the piece to "relax" and blend.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 10/13/06 21:10:46 EDT

What I've wondered is, what happens to the crystalline rectilinear latticework pattern of the meteorite slab, (if it is a slab to start, and not a nugget) when it's beaten upon in forging? The pattern survived the heat of entering the earth's atmosphere, or perhaps it was created therein, whatever, but I have hesitated to try to make anything-- even via hard soldering-- with the several pieces I have for fear of spoiling/losing that uniquely beautiful surface.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 10/14/06 00:25:51 EDT

John Odom-- Gas forge shell(s)? Many armillary sphere sundials? Other versions thereof-- such as hemispherical sundials? A handsome pedestal for that sculpture you've been secretly working on?
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 10/14/06 00:34:55 EDT

I have been doing ornamental and reenactment 1800's blacksmithing for some time, been stuck in the world of cook sets it seems far to long. I have a gentleman that is wanting me to make some tomahawks that are forge welded. I have done rings, chains, and other forge welding but never anything quite as wide a weld as this. Anything I need to pay attention too to get a good weld all the way accross the blade? Will be welding on coal. What are your recommendations for junk pile metal and new? Thanks
James R
   James R. - Saturday, 10/14/06 05:02:50 EDT

James, We have a FAQ on Junkyard Steels. The weld will take several heats to complete and close cleanly, so have patience. If you are steeling the edge the small piece of steel reaches welding heat at a lower temperature than the low carbon steel body.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/14/06 08:43:52 EDT

Meteoric Steel: In this age of well known methods of creating patternwelded steel and mosaic Damascus I would be inclined to make a steel with a subtle crystaline or star like pattern and give is some scientific otherworldly name (it would be my right to name something I created) and let the public believe what they want. It might not be meteoric but it would have the price/value and be beautiful as well.

OR I could be staight forward and call it meteor pattern welded steel. That is honest but confusing enough that buyers would assume it is meteoric iron. . . OR it could have a small component of actual meteoric iron.

Related to this subject. I have spent the past year living with someone that has a hot tub which we spend late evenings in before bed almost every night. What a great way to star gaze and see shooting stars! I almost always see one of more a night while floating comfortably in the warm water. In fact I have seen more, and larger shooting stars in the past year than durring the entire rest of my life (and I have made it a point to observe some spectacular meteor showers in the past, observed satellites, spnet time at observatories. . .).

To many that live in cities where the sky is obscured or those that have spent little time watching the stars this may seem like a tall tale. However, it is a fact that on average, on a clear night you should be able to see one shooting star every 15 minutes. We are out in the country where the skys are quite clear and we spend a little more than 15 minutes a night watching the stars. Then there is an art to seeing those brief flashes of light. Relaxing one's focus so that you are as consious of your peripheral vision as that directly in front of you gives you a better chance of seeing a shooting start than the average person. Combine that with letting your eyes adjust to the darkness and on a clear night your average sighting will be greater than one per 15 minutes.

However, the real treat is that if you go out every night you eventually see some fantastic shooting stars. Boloids that explode or repeatedly have bright bursts, those that skip and make a dot dash line in the sky or those that slow to the point that you are sure thye are falling in your back yard. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 10/14/06 10:14:28 EDT

James R.:

Cut and paste that link into your browser. My method as well as the methods of several other smiths for making hawk heads are illustrated there.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 10/14/06 10:48:41 EDT

Dear Mr Guru,
I have recently bought a 3cwt Peter Wright anvil. The face is a state with score marks marks that look like woodworm and a few holes, and is very thin about an eigth of an inch at its thickest. Although quite straight. The table is worn down flush with the horn. I am a Farrier here in the UK and understand that this anvil originally would have had a hardened steel face fire welded on about half an inch thick. Would I be better building the face up to its original thickness with hard welding rod then milling it, electric welding a plate of tool steel onto it or selling it. I paid 180 pounds for it with a cast stand. Any advice you can give me as to the best way to repair the face and table would be greatly appreciated. Thankyou. H.
   Harwill - Saturday, 10/14/06 12:48:20 EDT

Anvil Repair: Harwill, This is a sad situation. From your description this anvil really does need repair. I usually tell to people to avoid repairs unless the anvil is completely unusable.

Yes, the face would have been hardened steel of 1/2" or more. This one sounds like someone machined it flat, found it ruined and then left it to rust.

The step and table on English anvils is the result of the end of the hard face plate. Its height is the thickness of the face more or less. I have seen numerous anvils that when machined too much they realized that no step was left so they ground the top of the table at a slope to create a step. . . To anyone that is observant it is an obvious problem and indication that little face is left.

Welding a plate on around the edge is a poor repair and the plate does not have the proper support and the energy transmission will be very low. The result would be dead anvil except at the edges.

To get the anvil back to shape will require a LOT of welding. You do not want to do the entire thickness with hard facing rod. There are several reasons. It is very expensive as well as labor intensive and too brittle.

The bulk of the welding can be done with a high strength build up rod like E7024 or an equivalent MIG wire. The MIG wire would avoid the repeated clean up and be quite fast. Over this I would build up no more than about 1/8" of hard facing. This requires a couple layers with clean up inbetween. When you think you are finished you grind to clean up, repair the divots, grind again, peen all over looking for hollow places and grind out and repair as necessary (again).

When you are done your total investment will be greater than the cost of a new anvil or equivalent replacement in good condition. It sounds like a beautiful old anvil so it may be worth it to you. I would personaly pass on it and look for another anvil.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/14/06 16:14:34 EDT

have you ever heard of hardening steel in sugar possibly case hardening and or the process thank you
   ed venditelli - Saturday, 10/14/06 18:59:35 EDT

Ed, This comes up once in a while. I believes the source for the story is as follows:
During WWII, some RAF air crew held captive in Germany did their own hardening of steel in order to make wire cutters, to use in their break out from the prison camp. They could only scrounge low grade, low carbon steel, which no matter how hot you heat it, and how severely you quench it, cannot be hardened. So they raised the carbon content of the steel, by heating it red in a pot bellied stove, and sprinkling sugar on it. The carbon in the sugar was absorbed by the glowing hot steel, transforming it into carbon steel. A quick plunge in water and the steel was hardened.

This is a somewhat mythical story. First, case hardening depth is determined by time. To get a very thin case takes hours in an oxygen free environment. Just a few moments at a red heat is insufficient to produce a detectable case.

If the part was packed in sugar and the sugar burned off in a fairly well sealed container and held at a red for hours you MIGHT get a noticable case hardening. However, if you are going to all this effort it would be best to bone charcoal as is traditionaly the best method.

See our FAQ on Case Hardening
   - guru - Saturday, 10/14/06 19:31:12 EDT

Thank you,

It has been quite some time since I wandered around the Anvil Fire site, and after I posted the question stumbled onto the scrap list... how could I have forgotten about that! Thank you for your time and help, looks like I need to visit more often.

   James R. - Saturday, 10/14/06 20:41:07 EDT

Have you noticed how many vises are on ebay claiming to be
"hand forged blacksmith made"!? I've got two Iron City vises I'm positive are factory made, but the same vises have been offered as hand made. If I'm wrong I stand corrected, but if I'm right, when did smiths start going to tool suppliers for their vises instead of making them?
   Thumper - Saturday, 10/14/06 21:15:17 EDT

hi I bought a champion blower for a blacksmith shop i think it is a champion 400 it stands on three one inch pipe legs the air comes straight down toward the ground. My problem with the blower is it leaks oil through the front from the shaft that has the blower fins. How can i fix this problem
   mh44962 - Saturday, 10/14/06 21:26:23 EDT


I think that most smiths went to tool suppliers for their vises. It would be quite a feat for an ordinary country smith to make a good looking vise. Occasionally, you'll find a "homemade" vise, but they usually look funky.

I have a collection of early English vises and one German one where the mounting plate is tenoned through the upper portion of the stationary leg. The tenon goes through a hole in the spring and is wedged. These vises are all shop made, essentially hand made, but forged and assembled by specialists and made for sale. This style of vise is old, and it is difficult to put a date on them. I have a gut feeling that they date from around 1770 to 1840. There is a lot of brazing of the screw box in their assembly. Later, the vises in England were forged without the brazing, and the solid box came about, as with the Peter Wright vises.

The question arises, just what was a "factory" in the mid and late 1800's? I'm fairly certain that the vises were not made as in an auto assembly line, although there were specialized jobs. I think it would be more correct to call the building and shop a "manufactory", an old fashioned word in which the finished product had hand work done to it by artisans. The hand work may be combined with machine work, for example the lathe turning of a screw box. Measuring was being done, but so was eyeballing.

Iron Citys were made in Pittsburgh with a combination of techniques. The split and splayed mounting plate is a nice forging. The screw box looks like a casting. The legs and jaws are forged.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 10/14/06 22:20:04 EDT

mh-- all this old stuff leaks like a government official. Don't sweat it. Oil is cheap.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 10/14/06 23:25:50 EDT


I think Jim Hrisoulis posted here (or Blacksmith's Virtual Junkyard, or on Sword Forum, or Armour Archive) a request for sources for metalic meteors. I distinctly remember it was a few years back. That's probably what we're remembering.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 10/14/06 23:37:49 EDT

What seems to be the problem, 19th century factories often employed large numbers of smiths hand forging parts!

   Thomas Powers - Sunday, 10/15/06 00:07:58 EDT

There is a couple of pictures of Billy Merritts meteoric blades in the gallery of Iforgeiron.
   Jerry - Sunday, 10/15/06 01:31:58 EDT

Thanks. I will get another one.H. P.S. Great site!
   Harwill - Sunday, 10/15/06 05:52:28 EDT


No problema. If you know the specifics of how a vise factory operated, I'm open to hearing it.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/15/06 09:41:39 EDT

On a factory made vise bear in mind the possibility of out-sourcing. For example they might have purchased the screw, handle and screw box from one or more sources specializing in them.

I suspect Richard Postman could tell you a good bit about how they were likely made as he retired from a career in metal forging.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/15/06 11:39:32 EDT


What Miles is saying is, these things are designed to leak, that's how the bearings stay lubricated. If it isn't slowly dripping oil, there's not enough oil in it.

In other words, it's not a problem, it's a design feature. (grin!)
   Alan-L - Sunday, 10/15/06 11:56:25 EDT

"Hand" Forging:

In modern industry "open die forging" under a hammer or press of any size, with an individual smith OR a crew is also called "blacksmith" or "hand" forging. The tools and work are manipulated by hand even when suported by a crane or manipulator (modified fork lift). The work is judged by the eye and skills of the blacksmith even though he may personally not touch the work. He is there directing the work.

Since almost the beginning of the iron age machines have been used to do the heavy forging. Old fashioned water powered tilt hammers wer used to consolidate wrought iron, weld it into bars AND to make finished goods from anvils to hand tools. In technical terms there is no difference between a smith manipulating work under a 25 pound Little Giant, a 150 Pound BIgBLU or a 1,000 pound Chambersburg. It is possible for an individual smith to operate these machines and hold the work. However, at the high end we are at the safety limit of what is possible for an individual.

Work that is created with the 25lb (11kg) hammer OR the 1000 pound (450 kg) hammer is no different in character except in size.

In the small shop it was common for multiple workers to produce heavier forings than was convienient for a single worker. Strikers with sledge hammers do the heavy work under the direction of the smith making the part. In many cases the entire crew knows exactly what is to be done and no single person needs to direct the work even though it was traditional to do so. The work was 100% forged by the hand of man, no question.

However, over time labor became expensive and machinery relatively cheap. Steam, the internal combustion engine and finally electricity freed the small shop owner from the expense of owning a large animal powered operation or a hydro power operation and being tied to locating on the falls of a river or in well watered hill country. Anyone, anywhere could have power machinery to replace brute labor using inexpensive energy sources.

So the small power hammer was invented and it replaced strikers. The blacksmith still manipulated the work and guided the tools. The difference was the smith could produce much more working alone than he could even when he had strikers. The machine did not tire or need breaks or need to go home at night and come in late in the morning or drunk on Monday.

In early anvil manufacture the large billets were built from small slabs under the trip hammer (if one was available). One of the great advantages of Mousehole Forge was that it had water power for blowing the forges, powering hammers and turning grinders. But most of the anvil making was done by hand with a team of strikers. The body of the anvil was built from hand shaped blocks that were forge welded together and the dressed with sledges until you could not see the joints. The horn was a finish shaped completely seperate piece when it was forge welded to the front of the anvil. The face was welded on and the final dressing of the anvil done from the welding heat. All by men with sledges.

Where the demarkation between hand forged and machine forged comes into play is when closed dies are used to complete the part and every piece is identical.

The definition "Hand made" does not differenciate between something was not made in the thousands by teams or a one-off made by an individual.

Vice manufacturing of the time was no different except for the turning of the screw and nut on a lathe. The parts were forged by teams, the hard jaws forge welded on and final dressing at the last heat. The split for the screw and box hole is standard wrought iron technique. Rather than punching a hole that would cut the grain and weaken the part the wrought is split with the grain.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/15/06 14:31:57 EDT

My question is about an anvil that I have multiple times on E-bay. It is the one that is for "Knife Makers". It is 110 lbs. that is a regular on their auctions, my question is this, "Is it a good one to buy?" I don't know that much about them to say if it is a good anvil, and not a piece of junk. Seller name is frankie8 to help you know which one for sure. If you can help then I would greatly appreciate it. thanks for your time. S.G.
   Shawn Gilley - Sunday, 10/15/06 17:23:03 EDT

Vice Manufacturing:

The early vises were all 100% hand made in specialty shops by a team of men and machinists. The screws have all been turned on lathes of one form or another.

The earliest vises had many built up components includeing the "box" or nut. The vise I put on the Portable Forge is an old style tennon mount vise that had a built up nut. It is made of at least two pieces, the center threaded portion and a ring about 1/2" square forge welded around it to provide a shoulder. The weld, while strong enough to last centuries has gaps and a crevice aound the entirety.

On this same vise you can see that the leg support knob is a welded on ring as well. On other vises you can see a lap weld where the leg attaches to the jaw under the side plates which are flat welded to the sides of the let at the same point. These early vices were also held together with small forged wedges that held the pivot pin in place and the back jaw to the tennon of the bench bracket.

Later the English vice makers changed to the wrap around bench bracket system which had a difficult to make thin rectangular hole for the keeper and wedges. Although of high difficulty level these were still hand forged parts and had large rams head scrolls to attach to the bench. I suspect the rectangular hole was made by forging an offset then bending around a drift and welding at the offest. However, I have not had enough of this type apart to determinine the manufacturing steps.

This bracket is where the manufacturing changes. On late models and I believe most American made vises this part with its difficult to make rectangluar hole was cast. These are easy to identify by their clumbsy shape and greater thickness. This is no longer a hand made part.

The "box" on many vises is drop forged and the cut flash line is easy to see where the threaded tube extends through the jaw. Most of these are not well finished and are not "hand made".

However, the early "solid box" of the Peter Wright vices may have been forged by open die methods. Then machined.

On these early vices the machining was as much a hand operation as any other work. The machines had hand feeds and much work was done with a file. The beauty of many of the old English vises is the hand turned and dressed box with little decorative lines cut into the nut and the acorn end dressed to emphasize its lines.

Until the era when machines became semi-automatic and the machinist was no longer a craftsman but a "machine operator" these part could be considered "hand made" even if the forging was made in a closed die.

On all the old vises I have examined the legs and jaws appear to be open die forgings. At some point Vaugans of England started having the jaws drop forged and made only one size vice. The front and back jaws were identical with the differences arc welded on (leg, pivot and slabs). These vises looked similar to the old style vices but were no longer hand made and had no hand forging. They were fabricated from machine made components and quite expensive. Centaur Forge last sold them in the US but at $1400 are quite rare.

Where things get tricky is that the old English manufacturers continued making the same product using the same methods to the very end while the American manufacturers having started hundreds of years later used slightly (not greatly) different manufacturing methods. However, the bulk of the vise was open die or "hand forged". But I could not call them a hand made product. I have had several that were made so fast that they had sharp manufacturing burrs in many places that SHOULD have been hand dressed with a file. Before safely using them I had to finish what the factory did not 75 years earlier. Meanwhile the majority of English vices where made by craftsmen who cared about the product they were making. Those I have had were "fine hand made products" even though the factory methods may have been very close to the same. The difference? Two open die forgings and about an hour with a file.

At some point even the cast bench bracket became too much on American made vices and was replaced by a U-bolt and a piece of angle iron.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/15/06 17:58:23 EDT

Ebay Anvils: Shawn, See our FAQ on ebay scams and product review of the Cheep Russian Anvil. For the same money you can do much better buying a used OLD anvil in any condition.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/15/06 18:04:36 EDT

Thanks all for the info on vises. Lot's of techniques, lot's of man power and hours, and most all can be had for under $200.00 on ebay....go figure!!
   Thumper - Sunday, 10/15/06 21:09:05 EDT

hey y'all

what would be a reasonable gas forge for a begginer? I was thinking of "NC whisper baby atmospheric forge" or spend alot of money and get a professional quality "forgemaster blacksmith single burner" i was thinking about making one but i wasin't sure about the quality of the matirals a would use or how hot it would get, becasue i want to be able to forge weld, that's one thing that i know how to do. Any comments or ideas??

thanks y'all
Andrew B.
   - andrew B. - Sunday, 10/15/06 21:43:14 EDT

Hi Andrew

Get at least a two burner in a NC or a Forge Master if you want to do forge welding. I love my three burner NC Daddy. It has a large area to fit bigger parts such as a scroll when bent.
   - Burnt Forge - Sunday, 10/15/06 22:01:45 EDT

Hand made Vs Machine made : The turning point comes to when the concept of interchangable parts was used. This is generally atributed to Eli Whiteny [the cotton gin guy]. Prior to the use of individual parts every bit of a device needed to be fitted to it's mating parts by skilled labor. When parts are manufactured to close enough tolerances that they become interchangable, in theory any shmuck could put together a complicated assembly.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/15/06 22:50:45 EDT

Andrew: For an inexpensive starter forge look at Ken Scharabok's "Poor Boy Tools" on E bay, If You have a good ISP the link in the Navigate box in the upper right corner of this page will work. His forges are pretty typical of home made starter forges - only He made it for You. They are inexpensive and usable, but could be improved easily if You coated the inside with ITC-100 from the Anvilefire store. Ken doesn't guarantee You can forge weld in them because He doesn't know if You can forge weld at all, but He says some people are forge welding in them. They have 2 burners, and the one with 2" of insulation damn well should get hot enough, especally if You coart the inside with ITC.
   Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/15/06 23:03:07 EDT


On your old tenoned vise, you might check to see whether on the the built up nut, the threads, the two stops, the rings and the finial were not all brazed. You may find traces of brass and verdigris. I think the only forge welded part is the tube around which and within which the parts were brazed. After lathe work, it is difficult to discern the braze lines. This is shown in "Restoration of Leg Vises, Part 1V - 18th Century-Style Screw Box and Conclusion" by James R. Meschor and Peter M. Ross. ANVIL MAGAZINE, October 2001. Pages 16 through 23. The article call this style of box a "composite".

I think that the gaps and crevices that one sometimes finds on the box are a result of imperfect brazing, areas where it didn't take.

   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/15/06 23:46:02 EDT

Thumper: At the time they were manufactured a post vise might have sold for $10 or so. They were cheap enough to be mass produced and sold to farmers and such also, which is likely why you see so many around today - plus their being almost indestructable.

Dave Boyer: I thought it was when rifles became to be mass produced standardization of parts occurred.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/16/06 07:49:50 EDT

There's an excellent outline of Eli Whitneys's manufacturing techniques for the firearms industry at: http://www.eliwhitney.org/arms.htm (from: http://www.eliwhitney.org/) There's also a good description of John Hall's use of similar techniques at Harpers Ferry: http://www.nps.gov/hafe/historyculture/john-h-hall.htm (from: http://www.nps.gov/hafe/)

These were adapted all across the country, especially in New England. The Superintendent of Springfield Armory National Historic Site (www.nps.gov/spar/), contends that much of America's industrial base was pioneered by the arms industry, and Springfield displays this development well. (This, as compared to Harpers Ferry Arsenal; raided, looted, burned, flooded, abandoned... several times! ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/16/06 09:08:06 EDT

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