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

This is an archive of posts from October 16 - 23, 2006 on the Guru's Den
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There's an excellent outline of Eli Whitneys's manufacturing techniques for the firearms industry at: http://www.eliwhitney.org/arms.htm (from: 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

If it wasn't too hard I was wondering if you could give me instructions on how to make a ring using mideavel teqniques i was thinking of starting with something simple like the one ring and moving up to something like the witch kings ring. pictures of each are at:

witch kings ring:

one ring:http://www.kowloo.net/hirotsu/gallery/misc/one_ring.jpg
   Joe McLachlan - Monday, 10/16/06 07:53:11 EDT


First thing. Although the author of the books and the narator of the Ring movies uses the words, "forged" the process shown in the movie (act I, scene I) is casting, a completely different method of working. This gross technical error in the very first scene of the movies illustrated the lack of accuracy throughout.

The first ring you linked to is easy, it is cast, you model the ring in wax, cast the ring in silver. See our iForge demo #137 about Lost Wax Casting and the article linked to it.

Modeling the ring can be done two ways. The one shown was done with a soft wax like beeswax or parafin. They are warmed in the hand and then modeled to the shape you want. If you want fine detail start with machinable or hard jeweler's wax and carve it to desired shape. This is much more controllable. The only tools required are a small pocket knife or exacto knife.

THE ONE RING: The second ring you linked to requires a magic known as CGI. The physical ring does not exist in our world, it only exists in the realm of quanta switching, color phosphors and matrix math. This is not to be confused with "The MATRIX" a different world of magic, this is a type of mathematics that is quite magical and requires a wizard to understand. It is used to create smooth curves that are the framework of many objects in the magical world of CGI.

As CGI wizard 3rd class I could advise you on the path to enlightement but this would break the guild law and I would be banished.
LAW 1. All would be, IE apprentice, CGI magicians must have the magic of the true path within them. If they must ask where to learn the magic then they do not have the seed of the magic or "the art" within them. Any master or apprentice of the guild that gives up the secret to the true path will be banished from the world of CGI and all their magic (IE software) licenses revoked.
Now, this is the complete reverse of our blacksmith's gurus' creed where we MUST teach anyone, anywhere, anytime, no matter how unworthy they seem. WE would have gladly taught the CGI masters the magic of FORGING a ring including the lettering rather than casting, which was incorrect. But the CGI masters thought they knew all. . . or did not believe that other magics existed.
   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 09:22:29 EDT

Leg vises (or vices for some of us...)
I am not sure whether it was on here or on a forum over at iforgeiron, but I seem to remember a while back there being a rumor about a book, similar to Anvils in America, except about leg vises that was in the works. Is there still enough about this to believe that the rumor will someday be fact, or has it become dead in the water??
-Aaron @ the SCF
   thesandycreekforge - Monday, 10/16/06 10:03:29 EDT

I was interested in making a small blown propane forge for small propane bottles. I remember a while back there was a write up about a reliable design, I think there were some photos posted by Jock. If I remember correctly a small pool float inflator was utilized as the blower. Thanks!
   - Nippulini - Monday, 10/16/06 10:11:07 EDT

Making the ONE RING: Joe, This can be done with ONE exception. It requires true magic for the lettering to glow in firelight. It may be possible with an unknown alloy of phosphorus such as mithphosium. Even in the real world of metallurgy there is a great deal of unknown and unexplained that requires centuries of trial and error to learn.

Assume the ring is gold with silver unlay. Gold was probably one of the first metals worked by mankind since it is the most maleable. It is worked both by forging and casting and can be worked cold indefinitely. While casting is much easier it is a higher level of technology than just hammering.

To make a gold ring without welding you would start with a suitable sized nugget. Your tools could range from stone age, to bronze age, to iron age which included steel in your time period. You need a hammer, anvil, ring mandrel and small chisles.

Round, smooth and flatten the nugget slightly. then using progressivly more pointed punches working from both sides pierce a hole in the center. Then working the ring over a tapered mandrel, hammer it gently to make it larger. As it flattens you will need to work its width on a flat surface (anvil) to prevent it from becoming to wide. Alternate from mandrel to flat as needed. Working with a fine finished hammer alone you will be able to produce the finished ring.

Once the ring is finished the lettering is chisled into its surface while supported on the mandrel. This will require fine chisles a magnifying glass and a great deal of patience. The channels for the lettering will want to be slightly larger at the bottom than the top and the top may have raised edges. To obtain this shape chase the channels with a thin flat ended tool. When the channels are complete silver wire will be placed in them and the edges of the channels closed over the wire with a burnisher, then the wire will be gently hammered into the gold. Hammering the entire surface gently with a polished hammer should produce a nearly finished surface.

When complete the surface may need to be scraped or filed where silver is raised above the surface of the gold. Burnish again and buff lightly. Generaly you do not want to file or buff gold heavily as you are losing the valuable metal to dust.

For magic lighting effects replace the silver wire with mithphosium.

Note that modern chemists believe there are toxic effects from mithphosium (believed to be a berylium, phosphorous, uranium alloy) that produce severe paranoia (the world is after you) and hallucinations (you think you can make yourself invisible).
   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 11:14:33 EDT

Micro Forges: TGN, I vaguely remember the forge you are talking about. Due to the controlability of both the gas and air in a blown forge they are much more reliable DIY projects.

You need to be sure you have some pressure (squirl cage rather than fan blowers) and that the burner inlet to the forge is small enough to maintain a velocity faster then the flame front. Otherwise you just adjust until it works.
   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 11:20:42 EDT

I was just skimming a few old catalogs- in 1925, a post vise would run you from $12 to $56, depending on size- the cheap ones were 3" and weighed about 25 pounds. A 100lb 6" vise ran $25- and that was a lot of money back then.
   - Ries - Monday, 10/16/06 12:05:01 EDT

Forged vices are still made. BlacksmithsDepot imports a line og blacksmith vices made in India and Peddinghaus makes a line of bench vices for Ridge Tool Company (actually Ridge owns the Peddinghaus anvil and vice forge shop.) They have a lifetime warranty and are very expensive. They are just ugly as sin.

At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th Century iron became really cheap and there were small manufacturers with foundries everywhere. Heavy cast vices replaced the more expensive forged vices. The best of the heavy cast vises had ductile iron and cast steel parts. They were great tools but just wern't forged except for the screw.

   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 12:42:50 EDT

End of the 19th. . .

Seems that when I compared vice prices per pound in an old catalog they were more expensive than top quality anvils. And this is they way it should be since they had more parts and were more complicated to manufacture.

They are also used as much or MORE than the anvil in the blacksmith shop thus are that much more valuable as a tool. An anvil can be quite primitive and still be very useful. But a vice must be what it is. .

   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 12:58:53 EDT

Dear Guru,
I appreciate very much your site and all it's information. I finally bought an anvil & leg vise at a farm auction and am planning a coal forge. What do you think of the following for a forge: used clothes dryer with a layer of fire brick on the top and a brake drum as a fire pot fanned by the dryer blower?

Thanks for your time and brains.

   Denis V. - Monday, 10/16/06 13:39:34 EDT

Forged Jewelry: As I understand it, the last holdouts for hammered gold jewelry are the goldsmiths of India.

This is why 22k gold is used extensively in Indian jewelry and hardly ever anywhere else: Hammered 22k gold work hardens to be at least as hard as cast 18k, the purest commonly used in western work.

A friend living in India once tried to get the local goldsmith to make her an 18k necklace. He gave up ‘cause the gold kept cracking. . .

Since the invention of centrifugal casting in the late 19th century most American and European gold has been cast.

   John Lowther - Monday, 10/16/06 14:31:43 EDT

Gold Jewelery: Well, I started with a "nugget" assuming 24l gold. . . ;)

Paw-paw had some old gold including (un beknownth to us) some plated brass. We melted it into a small nugget. The excess copper and zinc resulted in a lump nearly as hard as mild steel. While it was at least 70% gold the added metals really increased the hardness!

Drier Forge: Denis, Sounds like it may work. Note that drier fans are not very powerful, they move a large volume of air at very low pressure. Forges typically use a small volume of air at a moderate pressure. If you keep the opening for the air small (no bigger than 2") and stick to small fires the dryer fan may work.

Using old appliances for a stand makes it a little high for coal but it will work. Old appliances have lots of sheet metal and various bits that can be applied to making forges and various equipment.
   - guru - Monday, 10/16/06 14:54:07 EDT

This question in mostly un-related to blacsmithing. (please forgive me) Does anyone have a small, gas engine with a belt-drive on it, or know someone who does in the southern New Mexico area? I am making a wooden go-cart, and the chain saw engine I was using is not powerful enough. Also, (here's blacksmithing) what is the strongest shape to use for 1/8" or less steel as wheel-mounts? Should I temper the brackets for safety's sake? Many thanks!
   - Rob - Monday, 10/16/06 17:44:28 EDT

Way back when Vicooper and I were going to different schools together, I made a magic ring by turning a silver half-dollar "inside-out" so that the inscription on the outer edges of both sides of the coin were turned into the inner surface of the ring. Instructions can be found at http://homepage.mac.com/johnhuber/CoinRing/PhotoAlbum20.html
   habu - Monday, 10/16/06 18:37:29 EDT

New Idea (to me):
I weld with a O/A torch exclusively and have been semi successful in hammering the weld while it's still cherry red, after that it tends to crack. I figure the mild steel welding rod is higher carbon content than mild steel so, if I allow it to air cool or normalize it in the forge over night, then reheat it in the forge would it be more workable? Or would the differences in the metal come into play. As an alternate method of working welds, has anyone experimented with welding using wire made of mild steel instead of welding rod? I'm thinking crystalization might be a problem there. Sorry if I seem a bit lazy, sometimes it's just easier to ask questions than recreate someone-elses failed experiment.
   Thumper - Monday, 10/16/06 21:55:33 EDT


I was considering an article, a pamphlet or something of the like on leg vises. I am a ways past what most folks think of as retirement age. The energy level ain't what it used to be. It is difficult to research the subject too thoroughly without having the bucks to travel to Europe and search around. I have a small body of information. I have done a bit of research online by googling images under "schraubstock" (German) and Etau a pied (French). There were much fewer signed leg vises than anvils. In February of 2006, I xeroxed the 4 part Anvil Magazine restoration articles and sent them to Carl Matthews in Houston, Texas. He was supposed to do a pamplet or booklet or something, but I never heard back.

When I started shoeing in 1963, the Kennedy-Foster blacksmithing catalog was selling different sized box & screw assemblies as replacements. My 1894 catalog was selling box & screw assemblies as separate entities.

My 1894 catalog shows an engraving which looks like a Peter Wright and is touted as a "solid box". A 7" jaw vise was selling for $33. An 8" jaw vise was selling for $56.00

I do not think I have enough information for a book.

   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/16/06 21:59:01 EDT

Thumper: The welding rod is supposed to be mild steel, unless You are using some high strength rod. You could use old coat hangers or unplated bailing wire to gas weld. There may be some carbon gain from the flame, but it should be minimal if You keep a neutral flame. That's My opinion anyway.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 10/16/06 22:30:28 EDT

I too think gas welding rod is MS but may have some work hardening from being drawn -that should have no effect on the weld. Coat hangers are like rebar - very undependable. But soft tie wire is good. I have welded with 18ga soft wire since I couldnt find welding rod in that range - works just fine although I havent tried to work the weld. It is possible that the weld is quenching from cooling too fast and annealing might help.

As an experiment, you might do one of the gas welds that doesnt require filler rod and see how well that works. If the same problems occur then its not the rod.
   adam - Monday, 10/16/06 23:17:17 EDT


When fusion welding, you get a puddle, a weld melt. When it freezes, solidifies, you get a different grain structure than the parent stock, and you get the heat affected zone. That's why you sometimes obtain cracks when attempting to forge a fusion weld.

Forge welding is not fusion welding. There is no puddle, the metal is not molten; it is in a solid state, although "pasty" soft. Forge welds, therefore, are forgable. That is one reason blacksmiths still do them in 2006AD.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/16/06 23:21:56 EDT

Your local welding boutique (our motto: "we don't care if you live or die") ought to have a spec sheet on everything they sell, including gas welding rods.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 10/17/06 00:20:12 EDT

Thumper: I would think you would only need to normalize (heat to critical and then let cool) rather than anneal (heat to critical and then cool very slowly).

One of Francis Whitaker's techniques to hide file (or grinder) marks was to heat the area to not quite forge welding temperature so they blended in.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/17/06 06:59:08 EDT

Welding Rod, Forging: The steel in bare rods and MOST electric rods is exactly the same low carbon manganese bearing steel. The difference between an E6010 and E7024 and most of the others is just the coating. The coating includes various ingrediants (including CI powder) that changes the characteristics of the bead as well as the slag puddle. High priced specialty rods are often a different steel and this added to their price. They are made in low quantity from special material. And of course SS rods are SS.

Regular mild steel is higher carbon than welding rod which has a tightly controlled chemistry.

I have not sucessfully forged gas welding beads but I have forged lots of arc welded beads without trouble. However, like forging a forge weld I have worked quite hot at the start. I suspect that after a few blows at a high forging heat the weld is now quite similar to the base metal.

A good weld joint is very similar to cast steel (not CI) and with care can be forged. I suspect my problem with forging gas welds is bad chemistry resulting from oxidation (red short). If you want to forge a weld bead start at a yellow heat, tap gently to orient the remaining crystal structure and then forge away. Cracks most likely existed before you started forging if they still occur at high heat.

Hiding Grinder Marks: I've found that they do not forge away or dissapear with heat. You have to get to burning temperature to hide them with heat. My preference is to NOT grind but dress by heating and forging. Heating WILL remove shiney places. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 10:37:58 EDT

in iforge demo 137 by modeling the object does it mean I carve the ring out of wax and than use that to make the cavity in the plaster. oh and thanks for the help its helpful(lol)
   Joe McLachlan - Tuesday, 10/17/06 11:10:26 EDT


The ring is carved out of wax, then the sprues, risers and gates (also made form wax) are attached to the ring. The whole wax model is now coated with the plaster investment compound and allowed to set/dry. Once thoroughly dry, the plaster mold is baked in a kiln to melt/burn out all the wax. This process leaves a cavity in the plaster that is identical to the wax. That cavity is filled with the molten metal.

The critical thing about the whole "lost wax" casting process is that the temperatures must be correct at every step of the process. The wax must be worked at the right temperature so it is either hard and carvable or soft and manipulable (depending on what you want).

The plaster mmold must be burned out at the proper temperatures for the proper amount of time. This means that you must start out by bringing the mold up to a temperature just above the boiling point of water and hold it there long enough to let any free water in the plaster boil off. Then the temperature is raised to the calcining point; the temperature that chemically bonded water is driven off from the plaster. This is about 550°F. The mold must be held at this temperature for about an hour for each inch of thickness to the center. After that, the temperature can be raised to about 1100-1200°F for sufficient time to incinerate all the wax in the mold. This usually takes about an hour for a one-ring casting. The mold is now ready to pour the molten metal into it.

The molten metal must be at the right temperature. This is a temperature sufficiently over the liquidus point of the particular alloy to allow it to flow into the mold without chilling and blocking the gates. It must not be at such a high temperature that it boils off the alloying elements.

When you have the temperatures correct for the correct periods of time, you will have a successful casting.

May I suggest that you obtain and thoroughly study some good books on casting of jewelry such as "Creative Casting" by Sharr Choate. Casting is dangerous but lots of fun. If you know what you are doing it is less dangerous, but if you don't know what you're doing it can be absolutely deadly.

   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/17/06 11:45:58 EDT

Vises and Vice Book: It has been bounced around by a number of people but the lack of information is the problem. And a Frank noted the lack of identification marks is a significant problem. You would have a book full of "Example Vice A, Example Vice B. . ." and so on. Unlike anvils that went through great changes in recent history most of which were pattented in England or the US leg vises were nearly perfect from their first appearance and well developed by the early 1700's. As soon as the sliding handle replaced the wrench they were nearly perfect. There MAY be a few pattents hiding away on small late details but that does not change the fact that the makers are unidentifyable in large part. Although a booklet on the details would be intersting to some the vast majority would want to know "Who made my vise, when and where?"

This is the problem Richard Postman ran into with European anvils. There were many makers but anvils were sold localy and were almost never marked like the English and later American anvils that were exported all over the world. Research would also require someone that spoke at least all the romance languages and some German. And that still leaves out a lot of countries. . .

Now here is interesting pricing. In the 1916 Sears Catalog they sell a complete vice for $3.45 and a replacement screw and box for $2.82. 82% of the total cost! The box and screw sets each fit two sizes of vice (35/40, 45/50, 60/70, 80/90, 90/130).

As Frank points out there is also a significant expense to researching a book of this sort. Sample vices to buy, dissasemble, examine (even cut up), as well as travel to places where they were made or pattents registered. Without all that the result would be less than satisfactory.

And even with all that we are back to the identification problem again. The Sear's catalog I mentioned called their vices "Solid Box". This was a Peter Wright trade mark of sorts but the drawing of the vice in this catalog is obviously of a late American vise.

I have numerous catalogs that carry vices including a Dutch catalog and none indicate the manufacturer. The Dutch catalog shows a design quite forign to English and American vices. It has high side plates with the spring hidden, forged bench bracket makes a U bolt affair and the back jaw has a little anvil flat. There is also a chip guard over the part of the screw that is exposed on Englsh vices. Fourteen sizes ranging from 85mm/11kg to 400mm/92kg.

There is enough literature for a good couple web pages but not hardly a book.

Brazed Joints: Frank, that oldest vice I had is on the Forge Trailer which I no longer have. I remember looking at the nut fairly closely when I had the vise apart but that was 30 years ago. I do not remember seeing any braze but that makes the thrust ring joint make more sense. I have a later tennon mount vice made by Brooks and Cooper (according to the box) but the box on it appears to be all one piece. It was machined all over. However, the vise was missing many parts which I made replacements for (spring, pin, wedges, bracket). One day I will wire brush all the paint off the box and see if I can detect any joints.

Another problem with identifying old vises is mixed parts. The vise mentioned above marked Brooks and Cooper (one of the proprietors of Mousehole forge) is only marked on the box. This part is easily removed and will fit other vices. In fact I have bought numerous leg vices over the years that had missing parts and assembled complete vices from the parts. One time I picked up a vice bench bracket at a flea market for 50 cents. Just the bracket. I sold it (or gave it away) with other vice parts that needed small parts to assemble the total. I suspect that this is common and the results could be quite confusing to a historian.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 11:52:16 EDT

I'm in need of some advice on making fireplace shovel pans. They are shaped like a truncated triangle, but rounded with about a one inch radius on top. The stock I'm making them from is about one millimeter thick. These aren't going to be made in a huge quantity, at most a dozen per year. When I make my form for bending them around, which is more effeicent? To shape the blank over a form, or into a form.

Tools availible, forge, anvil, hammer's, Stick welder, grinders. Skill level, intermediate. I currently make them freehand on the anvil but it is way to slow. Any other suggestions welcome as well.

   JimG - Tuesday, 10/17/06 12:05:13 EDT

More on Lost Wax: The metal is usualy poured in a hot mold. This prevents inadvertant freezing and bad parts. Generaly the mold is held in the burnout oven until just before pouring the metal.

So far my experiances with lost wax have been disasterous. Most of the problem was not burning out all the wax. It it quite exciting when you pour hot metal into a mold that is still half full of wax! I have had much better luck with two part plaster molds and petrobond molds. However, many of the undercut parts of the ring pattern cannot be gotten out of such a mold.

There IS a way to make undecut two part molds. Model the part in modeling clay. Then let cool and slice it in two using a razor blade or knife on the best straight parting line. Make a plaster mold of the first half, then carefully put the two pieces back together on the first mold half. THEN apply parting (soap) and pour the second half of the mold. The mold is them opened and the clay removed. This wrecks the original but so does lost wax. You may have to pick small pieces of clay out with dental tools. Cut the sprue and vents as necessary, calcine the mold and pur your metal. The advantage of this process is you avoid burnout of the wax. The disadvantage is cutting the part to make the two piece mold.

Note that plaster for metal molding usualy has sand added to it to reduce the total amount of plaster (and thus bound up water). The more sand the better as long as it does not hurt the strength and texture of the plaster surface. Another filler that is used is talc. Using talk makes a fine dense plaster that is good for details.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 12:12:43 EDT

Shovel pans: Jim, the shape you are making requires the metal to either be stretched at the bottom and heel OR upset along the back edge. In this case upsetting is probably most efficient. However, that is a LOT of material to upset.

I would make two V cuts a little ways from where the straight side bends start. Then clamp and work down over a form. Where the edges of the cut meets I would weld them, then dress flat. This would require the least upsetting and stretching. The problem here is the weld in thin stock which I would do with gas and the strength of the weld area.

I've made a few round backed shovel pans in a press but did not like the finished looks or the need to cut them out. I went with a square cornered shovel instead. They were relatively easy to make and the riveted corners looked good. Your triangular shape could be converted to a folded and riveted pan.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 12:26:31 EDT

The reason I want to go with a round back is that I don't like the look of the square cornered pan with the design of my stand and tools. One option I am thinking of is to do a cut and riveted pan, and use the same rivets that hold the handle to the pan to hold the cut together.
   JimG - Tuesday, 10/17/06 13:24:08 EDT

Any way that lets you cut a split to take up extra material will make making that shape much easier. Plan on at least two rivets to hold the handle on. I put one at the edge of the pan and down on the back about 1.5 to 2". This makes a strong enough joint for years of service.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 13:30:17 EDT

One other aspect of hammering a weld: steel goes through a blue/black brittle phase where it is more likely to fail than at higher or *lower* temps.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/17/06 14:40:10 EDT

Do some steels work harden more than others, and if so, what alloys make it work harden more?
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 10/17/06 16:21:43 EDT

hey ya'll

what do y'all think about the "poor boys double burner, , forge with rear opening." Is it really worth the price. i know i said that i wanted to be able to forge weld, but it's just my first forge and i don't have much money. any comments

Andrew B.
   - andrew B. - Tuesday, 10/17/06 17:11:26 EDT

Tyler, the higher the carbon and the higher the alloy the more steel work hardens. Stainless is terrible about work hardening.

Andrew, Ken sells a lot of them and I have never heard any complaints. The price is low enough that you would have a very hard time building one for less. Ken also has experiance building them. They work. You can easily invest more money and get somehting that doens not work very well.

Disclaimer: Poor Boy Tools is one of our sponsors.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 17:42:41 EDT

Andrew, if you don't have much money then Poor Boys Tools should be the first choice. Most other forges are over $400, and some are even over $1000 (believe it or not). "Is it worth the price?" Absolutely.
   - Rob - Tuesday, 10/17/06 17:55:23 EDT

Tyler, IIRC Mn is often used in work hardening steels like RR rails.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/17/06 18:07:36 EDT

Jim G: When you figure in the material cost, time and effort is it really worth your while to make shovel pans? Kane & Sons (a forum advertiser) sells finished pans in mild steel for $6 and brass, copper and stainless steel for $8.00 (9/05 catalog). I've seen them at Quad-State and the quality is quite high. Spend the extra time on the handles.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/17/06 18:31:57 EDT

Thanks again guru. one last thing i have decided to make the ring at this address:
http://www.council-of elrond.com/castdb/witchking/witchking.html

so i was wondering how should i make the eye, and also what cheap metal do you suggest for practicing casting(i am going to use sling casting? I will look into the books as you said. Thanks again
   Joe McLachlan - Tuesday, 10/17/06 18:48:24 EDT

Yes it is Ken, but only for the reason that I can get the shape (in theory)of the pan I want, rather than have my tools look like everyone elses. I don't think they could make them to the shape I want, exclusively for me ecconomicaly, in the small run I need.
   JimG - Tuesday, 10/17/06 19:24:09 EDT

Hello Guru's den!, Can anyone give me some information on Vulcan Arm and Hammer Anvils? I have an oppertunity to buy a 100#er for 150 bucks.It looks like it was never used.I am concerend because it does not hardley ring at all when hit with a hammer.A park ranger at a state park in Georgia showed me the Vulcan Arm and Hammer 100#er he has and it does'nt ring either.Is this the nature of this anvil? THANKS for any info you can give me......
   ringer - Tuesday, 10/17/06 19:31:08 EDT

ringer: Vulcan anvils had a body of cast iron with a steel plate bonded to the top. I believe on some the plate extended over the top of the horn. Since the body is of a relatively soft material it absorbes the blows to the top plate and/or horn and thus don't ring. I've seen references to this type anvil as a 'city' or 'dead' anvil. I would say $150 for a 100 pound one in excellent condition (with no shipping costs) would be a pretty good deal.

My only concern is it is on the light size for general purpose blacksmithing. Somewhat better suited for a workshop or farrier anvil than blacksmithing.

I started out on a 100 lb Fisher (same construction technique). When I move up to a 160 lb Fisher I was really suprised at how much easier metal moved with the bigger mass under it.

Vulcans were made by the Illinois Iron and Bolt Co. of Carpentersville, IL.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 10/17/06 19:40:31 EDT

Thanks Ken for the info.I think I'll buy the Vulcan and use it as a portable set-up at re-inactments and such...Now it looks like I need to keep my eyes open for a larger anvil for home use.....Better save more money!
   Ringer - Tuesday, 10/17/06 20:21:47 EDT

Rings and Stones: Joe, the stone is completely different specialty. When you get into stone cutting, even that for costume jewelery you are into another specialty.

The material I would bet the ring pictured is really made of is Fimo® Soft Polymer Clay OR Precious Metal Clay (a "clay" made of powdered metal that can be fired to produce a metalic object). It is probably the plastic, the flat surface screems I AM NOT solid metal.

The "eye" in one looks like glass and may be a CGI image. The detail of the flat silver ring appears to be plastic and has been poorly buffed (probably tumbled). These could be made a variety of ways but all are the art of the costume jeweler or model maker. With a little research I am sure you could find some kind of plastic to make this with. I am partial to epoxy and have worked with acrylic and Lexan. Avoid Lexan and polycarbonates for projects where you heat the plastic.

Example: McMaster-Carr sells translucent red acrylic and opaque black acrylic. Starting with a rod of red I would carve a "V" notch in the end. Then I would fit a piece of black into the V. The whole would be heated until the acrylic melted and fused. Then I would carve the "eye stone" shape from the piece. Acrylic can be filed, sanded and polished to a high gloss. Common Tripoli and rouge are used on a soft slow turning buff. If the buff runs too fast it will melt the acrylic and wreck it.

If I needed a lot of these "eye stones" I would make long strips on a milling machine and then fuse them. For production I would use a 90° corner and square strips for the black. A profiled flycutter would be used to partialy form and blank the stones. Then they would be hand dressed, tumbled to smooth and then hand buffed. Once in production a one man shop could produce hundreds of these a day if needed. . .

Mirroring the back of cut glass stones is yet another specialty. But it gives them wonderful brilliance.

There are probably dozens of other ways including making custom glass beads. But this is a technology I am not knowlegable in.

A real jeweler would purchase a star ruby and design the ring around it. Note that a star ruby is not a true ruby but the best are beautiful stones.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 20:44:05 EDT

I am in heaven. the burn ban in Henderson County, Texas is recinded. I was able to fire up the coal forge for the first time in 3 months!!
Funny how you forget how many muscles are used when pushing iron.
I'm still a newby and am having problem when making a sharp point. The metal splits at the point. Am I getting the iron too hot or not not enough?

   bob d. - Tuesday, 10/17/06 20:51:19 EDT

Ringer, although I am not a fan of Vulcan and Fisher anvils when the price is right, buy it. This is a good price as Ken noted. You can always trade OR as you noted it is nice to have a light portable anvil.

Several years ago I sold all my small anvils then immediatedly regretted it. . 200 and 300 pound (90 and 130kg) anvils require helpers with very strong backs OR a hoist to move. Besides demos there are the odd jobs and the times you need an anvil setting on the floor or outside the door of the shop. .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 20:51:52 EDT

Split points: Bob, this is almost always caused by working too cold. Since the point cools the fastest the tendancy is to work it cold while the rest of the iron is hot.

It is good practice when forging a point not to go right for the tip but to forge a taper with a small lump at the end. The lump stays hot longer due to its mass and can be worked later. IF the steel needs a second heat the lump also helps prevent burning the tip.

Steel quality also enters the picture. Good quality low carbon steel can be cold pointed if worked hard and fast. But most construction grade "mild steel" is not this quality and often splits if worked cold.

If you actually burn the point it can cause problems as well. But this is usually an obvious problem.

   - guru - Tuesday, 10/17/06 20:57:33 EDT

Thanks, Guru. I'll try that. I was going to the tip as I tapered it and thought the problem was too low a heat. I'm still adjusting the air flow to be consistent. If the burn ban isn't reinstituted, I'll get more time to practice-practice-practice.
   bob d. - Tuesday, 10/17/06 21:04:26 EDT

Joe McLachlan,

I would probably just check with my friendly local taxidermist and get me a spiffy glass eye for that ring. Another option that I have used very successfully for costume stuff is to fiind a nice "cat's eye" marble (the kind kids play with) and slice it in half with a diamond saw and pollish the back side. After polishing, the back side can be gilded with gold leaf to increase the brilliance and bring out the color. A lapidary shop can probably cut the marble for you for a few bucks if you explain what you're doing and get them interested.

When you use low-melting metal for casting, I suggest that you use either babbit or pewter, the lead-free kind. These are both mostly tin, with some antimony added to control shrinkage. This stuff melts at around 450 to 600°F, so you need to let the investment flask (mold) cool down to where you cannot see any glowing color in absolute dark before you pour the metal in. If you introduce the metal while the flask is still at a thousand degrees, you'll vaporize the metal and have all sorts of dangerous problems. The flask should be a hundred degrees cooler than the metal, for choice. Keep in mind that the interior of the flask may be hotter than the outside if you try to use it too soon.

Try not to think of the mold material as "plaster" if you can avoid it. The term is properly called "investment" and it really is different from Plaster of Paris, so you don't want to confuse them. Plaster of Paris wil lwork, if mixed with some sharp sand and maybe some talc or gypsu,. but real jeweler's or dental lab investment is several orders of magnitude better. It is stronger, more forgiving of inaccurate mixing and "breathes" much better, allowing gases to escape more rapidly when the metal enters the cavity. My old standby favorite was always Kerr SatinCast™. If it is still available, try it. If it isn't available any longer, get whatever the current crop of silversmiths recommend. You can get recommendations online at www.ganoksin.com

If you're goin gto try the centrifugal sling casting, be sure the area all around you is free of flammables and living, breathing things. You'll be fairly safe at the center of the swing, but everything will want to be flying outward from you so be sure it is okay if you screw up and let the flask fly or spill molten metal from it. Remember that for sling casting the flask should have a bottom, for just that reason.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/17/06 22:40:14 EDT

Bob D,

Another thing that can cause "split" points on tapers is actually cold-shutting from a fish-mouth fold. When you draw the taper from the thick to the thin, the metal has a tendency to want to stretch over the end, forming a pucker that folds in on itself and causes cold shuts. These then become splits when you forge it further.

To avoid the fish-mouth problem, start your taper by forming a quick, short point on the end of the bar by working at the very far edge of the anvil with the work tilted up at an angle. Use hammer blows that are both downward and slightly back toward yourself, as though you were both trying to point the end and upset it at the same time. After the very end is close to a point, you can extend the taper as far up the bar as you want, working from thick to thin, keeping the thinner part off the edge of the anvil to preserve the heat longer.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/17/06 22:45:23 EDT

bob d, Probably not hot enough. Put the MIDDLE of the hammer face on the end of the stock. Lift with the holding hand. Use angle blows.

A shovel pan idea. Francis Whitaker used to make shovel pan muliples over a shop- made form in the vise using a torch tip for heat (not a rosebud). The form is made of maybe 3/8" x 1¼" x 15" M.S. Whitaker did not show us how the heel of the form was made, but if you bend the stock on edge at the center into a "boomerang" and then bend it on the flat in the same area, you will get a natural "bevel" or slope to the heel area. It is then shaped to your desired shovel shape. You'll need to level it. A strut of scrap stock is arc welded from "wing" to "wing" to keep it from spreading open in use.

The sheet steel is cut oversize of the form by say, 3/4", 1", or so. The sheet is placed on the smaller side of the form, and the two are clamped in the vise, radiused heel up, The lower 1/3 or so in the vise. Francis hammered the heel away from him and down onto the form. The metal doesn't want to behave. It wrinkles and bunches up. AS SOON AS a wrinkle starts, Francis would use the broad radius of his cross peen to "iron it out" over the form. The heel and a portion of the middle of the shovel will be completed in the vise. The heel will have a fairly sharp bend at the base. However, when removed from the vise after shaping, the top line of the shovel is uneven and looks awful. It is trimmed level, and rest of the shape finished free hand.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 10/17/06 23:03:39 EDT

Ringer: Use at a reenactment may or may not be allowed depending on how strict they are about period usage. Vulcan's weren't made until about 1875. Way too late for either colonial, mountainman or Civil War usage. Fisher Norris started making anvils in 1843, so the early ones are suitable for Civil War reenactments.

Thus, you may or may not get called on it.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 10/18/06 07:57:53 EDT

while i was reading your instruction i caught the words "gates and risers" what are these terms? also i dont have a forge at home do you have any tips on doing the heating without a forge? Thanks vicopper and guru you guys have been a HUGE help!
   Joe McLachlan - Wednesday, 10/18/06 07:58:34 EDT

Joe, These are the places liquid metal flows into a mold and the gases OUT.

Sprue - The main pouring hole, usualy funnel shaped and holding enough metal to "feed" the part.

Gate - The small area between the sprue and the part. Controls the feed and makes it easier to remove the part from the sprue.

Vents - One or more small vents that let out air and gases generated by the hot metal hitting the mold. When risers are filled with metal you usualy know the pour is complete.

Runner - When there it more than one part in the mold the runner connects the parts to a central flue.

Riser - Sometimes confused with vent but can double as same. A riser is a large cylindrical mass on the opposite end of a part from the sprue that feeds metal to the cooling part. Not always necessary. Generally necessary on thick heavy parts and long parts.

For the actual shapes and application of these you need to get some books on foundry work.

Forges are generally not used for melting and casting metal. Crucible furnaces are most commonly used, followed by and oxy-fuel torch for small work like jewelery. You can melt and pour pewter (tin alloy) using your kitchen stove top due to the low melting temperature (see VIcopper's post above). One advantage to pewter is the low temperature is less sensitive about moisture in the mold material. A dry mold will work. Hotter materials require a "calcined" mold which means the water bound in the mold material must be seperated and removed by heat. This is an actual chemical change.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/18/06 09:15:38 EDT

Note that small amounts of pewter can be melted in a steel or cast iron melting bowl using a propane torch. However, this is marginal to the point that it may not work in cool weather or where there is a breeze. The melting pot or crucible must be small as well to avoid heat loss or you will not get there.

Propane torches are commonly used for this but it takes a good torch and the right conditions. Mapp torches are hotter and will work better. Jewlers would use a clay "melting bowl" as well for silver, gold, pewter, brass.

The new lead-free plumbing solders are effectivly a type of pewter. The best have a small amount of silver as a hardener.

Pewter is a common substitute for silver in low cost or costume jewelery. Its dissadvantage is that it tarnishes much faster than silver and is a sofer metal.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/18/06 09:24:33 EDT

Eyes: I'd just go to a good bead store and buy them as needed---that's what I did to get eyes for my rasptlesnakes. A *LOT* cheaper than spending the time to make them yourself!

Re-enactment: that anvil will still work for 125+ years of re-enactment, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, etc...
The Vulcan I had on display at Quad-State had the steel plate for the face and horn---you could clearly see it where the horn had broken off

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/18/06 10:41:18 EDT

Hello, I am from NC and I am intrested in recreating an ancient greek shield. I already made the wooden sheild blank and I would like to know how I can cover the face of it with a soft brass or bronze sheet. There is a picture of the shield I want to replicate on the website: www.manningimperial.com under the greek sheild section. What I like to know is what approach or method can a novice like myself use to get a good result? What gauge sheet metal in brass would be best, will it be soft enough to work, what repousse hammers will work and how to anneal the metal? The demensions of the sheild are 36" diameter by 6" deep (basically a big bowl)Also, is it possible to cover the entire sheild and the part where it transitions to a ring with one whole sheet or do I have to cover the ring separately? Any feedback would help!
   andreas - Wednesday, 10/18/06 11:44:36 EDT

Aside from mechanical manipulation of the material (work hardening), is there a heat treatment process one could use to harden brass?
Thank you kindly
   Wendy - Wednesday, 10/18/06 11:54:28 EDT

One more inquiry:
I was told that the rays from a plasma cutter are not harmful and all the protection one needs is a pair of sun glasses. I'm thinking more protection is necessary. What does the Guru say?
Thanks again
   Wendy - Wednesday, 10/18/06 12:45:31 EDT

The litrature that came with my plasma cutter says shade 10
I would also strongly suggest a quality respirator, plasma dust is nasty. Wear a respirator while doing a bunch of cutting take a good look at it afterward and think about all that black junk going in your lungs!
   Aaron - Wednesday, 10/18/06 14:44:37 EDT

Investment: Years ago Dave Boone used to use plaster of paris and silica flour (or perhaps microbeads) he bought from a fiberglass plant. (He may still, but I haven't seen him in 20 years.) He got a good enough impression that it reproduced his fingerprints quite clearly. . .

Safety glasses: The optical dispenser at the local Sam's Club is going on their third try at getting lenses to fit the Bouton safety glasses the Guru sells. The first try they stretched the frames getting the factory lenses out, the second try they got the lenses to fit, but the frames had been damaged beyond repair (The rivet holding one corner of a side shield had been ripped out.) I think I might have come out ahead if I had taken 'em to a dispenser who really knew about safety glasses. . .
   John Lowther - Wednesday, 10/18/06 14:51:49 EDT

Copper Alloys: Wendy, some brasses are precipitation hardening or age hardening. This means they can be heated to a given temperature and held at the temperature to accelerate the precipitation process. Hardening is slight and work hardeneing is recommended if you need full hardness. The problem is that there are thousands of copper alloys. Please see the following article.

   - guru - Wednesday, 10/18/06 15:01:38 EDT

Sunglasses for protection: In most cases this is one of those "Hey Vern, I can get away with. . ."

The filtering materials for sunglasses and IR protection are different. The sunglasses may take care of the UV but maybe not. I would go with what the manual calls for or at a minimum a #3 welding shade.

I see guys using torches and plasma torches all the time working without any protection. They are "getting away with it. ." today. But the kind of blindness that occurs in old age from this kind of exposure is not curable or treatable.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/18/06 15:07:51 EDT

What is the correct formula to calculate bend allowances for plate? Specifically, I am trying to figure for a 90 degree bend in 5/16 steel. This isn’t an item that has to be 100% on the money but I would like to have the information for when it does.
The formula I found in some of my old paperwork ‘BA= (0.01743R + 0.0078T)R’ where R= Degree of bend, T= Thickness of plate, and BA= Bend allowance’ seems to be incorrect as I am NOT adding 142 inches per bend.
   Nomad - Wednesday, 10/18/06 15:16:54 EDT

Melting pewter:

I have had good results melting pewter in a small castiron pot I picked up at a kitchen store. For a heat source I use my kitchen stove it takes a few min for the pewter to melt but I find that it works quite well for smaller ammount of pewter, say 1 lb or less.
   Jed Depew - Wednesday, 10/18/06 15:29:21 EDT

I bought one of NEBs swage blocks last weekend. The finish is rough (sand mold I assume).

My question is, should I dress it to a smooth finish and if so with what?
   Stephen G - Wednesday, 10/18/06 16:12:05 EDT

Casting: if you want to safely experiment with casting, there are low temp metals out there, there is one called "Temp-Flow"? that melts in boiling water.

Micro-Mark sells alloys that melts at 160f, 280f, and 500f.

The "nice" thing about these alloys is that if it goes wrong you get a nasty burn, not burn a limb off.

   - Hudson - Wednesday, 10/18/06 16:17:12 EDT

I have the formula writen down slightly different than yours BA=([.01743 x Radius]+[.0078 x T])x degrees which gives a bending allowance of 0.341 of an inch by my rather shakey math. I copied the formula from Francis Whitaker's cookbook
   JimG - Wednesday, 10/18/06 17:15:14 EDT

that's the bending allowance for a 1/4 inch radius. ptp
   JimG - Wednesday, 10/18/06 17:17:06 EDT

A friend of mine passed on the following ebay item number for a source for pewter: 200036410058
   Mike B - Wednesday, 10/18/06 17:54:34 EDT

Melting Pewter:
Molds for low melt metals can be made out of High Temp Silicon (see www.artstuf.com). You can reuse the molds a number of times, and they will capture all your details.

Burner Info:
This is the burner I have used for both my forge and my foundry; do a search for Hans Peot, then open the pdf titled
"GAS PIPE FORGE Plan 1". The blower came from Surplus Center on the web. It will get to forge welding temperature and the foundry melts about 45 lbs. of bronze easily. YMMV
Good Luck
Bart (Special Effects Film and Real Effects Life)
   blackbart - Wednesday, 10/18/06 18:33:31 EDT

Swage Blocks, Dressing: Stephen, Not sure what block you are talking about. However, modern as-cast blocks need a lot of work.

There are also some poorly designed swage block patterns where the parting is on the middle of the side of the block. This puts a high spot of about 1/16" or more in the center of all the shapes making them almost useless unless they are completely reshaped. On a 6 x 12" block 3" thick this is over 4 cubic inches of material to remove! That is like taking a block 2 x 2 x 2 and turning it to dust or chips. It does not matter how you do it, that is a lot of material to remove ans it is all that hard sand embeded cast surface stuff.

If you have one of these blocks with the parting on the center line of the block I would return it or sell it and buy a good block from one of the major blacksmithing supply dealers. I have one of thes blocks that I inherited from a friend. I will probably dress some of the surfaces for an article but not all. To do them all it needs to go to a machine shop and have all the surfaces that can be machined made flat. Then those that are not easily machined ground by hand.

On good blocks the dressing is still a serious chore depending on what you want the block for. All the sand texture should be removed from the working surfaces (bowl and spoon impressions, V's, half rounds). This is done with a collection of grinding and dressing tools. Many of the wheels needed must be ordered from an industrial supplier. You will want a small 4-1/2" angle grinder for a good block and a big high speed HD 7" angle grinder for those bad blocks. You will need a bunch of wheels for that big grinder, dust mask and ear muffs. You will also need an air or electric die grinder that takes 1/4" shanks (not a Dremel).

I would start with a heavy grinder and go all over the non-working surfaces of the block and then anywhere that the big grinder works. This is a general clean up and survey of the block. Large radii and flats can be finished with the heavy grinder to start.

For bowls and spoons you want high RPM dense (industrial quality) flap wheels of 80 grit for roughing and 120 for polishing if you are going to use the block for non-ferrous work. You will probably need a couple sizes at $4 to $6 each. Large bowls require wheels that may cost as much as $24 each. No, this is not an inexpensive task. You will probably use up a large percentage of the abrasives you buy.

For small half round side grooves you can use a combination of hard small diameter stones and narrow flap wheels. I like to take the flap wheels and profile them to a half round using an old rasp or a star wheel dressing tool. You can also use a standard angle grinder held at an angle to the axis of the groove and move like a machine. . this takes skill and a good eye for lines. Some people can grind shapes others cannot. You will have to judge yourself.

On the initial grind I also chamfer and dress all major corners and edges. Swage blocks are not steel and corners are easily damaged. Sharp corners also mar work and have no place except on tools specificaly made for making sharp corners. Swage blocks are not. You want large healthy chamfers or radii. Besides making it a better tool it also makes the block easier to handle.

Side V grooves can be dressed with a file but it is rough going. A well dressed cylindrical stone also works but you need a diamond dresser to keep the edge square and sharp. I start with a small grinding wheel and dress what I can then go after it with a file. The inside corners are the hard part (collect embedded sand) and they are rough on the file edges.

When done smoothing all the surfaces then go back and final radius all the contour edges. Spoons and bowls almost always have a sharp edge that should be be removed to a large radius. Otherwise the edges cut and mar the work as you try to drive it into the bowl.

Many folks consider "dressing a block" to be taking the obviously rough sandy feeling surface off. This is the minimal dress and it SHOULD have been done at the foundry but none do that I know of. They cut off the gates and clean off the sand and that's aboit it. They will tell you it only takes a few minutes and they use the same grinding wheels for weeks. .

To make a swage block a good tool every working surface needs to be smooth. Not polished but no sand texture. There may be rough places that will not dress out, this is common, don't sweat it. But all the surfaces that cast well should be able to be brought down to what looks like a machined finish. This takes a good day of grinding and a stack of abrasives. This is on a GOOD block, not on of those parted down the middle blocks or bad (rough) castings.

When you are done you will appreciate the art of making the original pattern and will have developed new grinding skills.


I have a cute little 8 pound block that Burntforge sent me (the one Centaur Forge sells). It is a beautiful casting as modern block castings go. Burnt spent a few hours dressing the side grooves using a die grinder or a Dremel type tool (it IS a small block). But the spoon and bowl are undressed and the half rounds have radial grinding grooves in a couple. As soon as I order the couple flap wheels I need I will do an article on dressing this and the BAD block I also have. Its a job, and an art.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/18/06 21:48:58 EDT

I cast 8 hard pewter bail type drawer pulls in one cuttlebone mold, one at a time. I only needed 5, but what the heck, I wuz on a roll. I just had to find out how many could be done before the details started to fade. The natural grain of the cuttlebone leaves a nice kind of "woodgrain/Damascus texture on the casting.
   - 3dogs - Thursday, 10/19/06 03:36:23 EDT

The block was cast for New England Blacksmiths (ABANA associate). There isn't a parting line which is why I'm assuming it's a sand casting. However one side has some very rough grinding marks that I think is where the foundry ground the sprue off. It only cost me $105.00 and is similar to the SW1 that Blacksmith Supply sells (145+ shipping), but it larger and has 3 more spoons and another hemispherical indentation. I'm also guessing that if I had bought one of their's I'd still be in for a major grinding task.

The casting itself looks pretty clean - no flaws in any of the shapes (a couple of the ones in the pile had flaws in one of the spoons but I got a good one).

I already have a 1/4" pneumatic grinder so this will be the excuse I've been looking for to buy the Dremel. I also have eye/hearing/breathing protection in my shop already so no new cost there.

I'll post some pictures if you want.

   Stephen G - Thursday, 10/19/06 06:30:26 EDT


I have a Dremel (well really a Ryobi) and one of those minature (1/8") pneumatic die grinders. I almost always pick up the pneumatic one first, even though it's a cheap one that has less torque than the electric tool. It's much more comfortable to hold, and gives better control for that reason. Of course being able to plug a tool in anywhere you go has its advantages as well . . . .
   Mike B - Thursday, 10/19/06 08:06:51 EDT

SLACK-TUB PUB: Is temporarily offline due to a computer glitch. Will be back shortly. Same glitch is effecting the web rings.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/19/06 09:46:59 EDT

Parting Lines: There is always a parting line with sand castings unless they are using lost foam which is highly unlikely. Properly parted swage blocks are parted at the corners so the parting is not on a working surface and generally not obvious. When a block is parted in the middle (like the Saltfork block) it shows the pattenmaker either did not have a clue what he was making or he dictated to the customer where the parting was to go.

Blocks are parted and drafted two ways. The simple way is they are all drag and drafted to pull out of the sand with the parting at the top edge. A well made pattern can be drafted this way but all the round grooves must have a slight side taper as well as the sides of the block. My first two blocks are made this way and you cannot hardly tell there is a taper to the half rounds. Generally if you cannot see it then its good enough for blacksmithing.

The second way used "loose pieces" for the sides of the block. These are made in seperate boxes like cores. The block pattern has large additions to the sides where the loose pieces fit into the mold. This results in a block with no draft on the sides. The little BurntForge block is this way. The features must be drafted to come out of the sand but the sides of the finished block have no draft.

In years past some swage blocks were machined flat. However, the most important feature of old blocks was that they were smooth castings. This was done with facing sand, a hand process that is no used in most modern foundries. These blocks did not require all the grinding and hand finishing that modern casting do. This is NEW in the blacksmithing world. So much for technological progress. . .

Note that for the cost of some small blocks you can get precision CNC machined and polished dapping blocks from folks like Phoenix Jewelers Supplies. They have very nice hardened steel blocks as well as solid brass blocks.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/19/06 11:35:04 EDT

Hey any one live in Wisconsin ( oshkosh area)? I have a 50 lb. mayer hammer that I want to sell needs rebuilding. And a small punch press and small floor shear...
   Carl - Thursday, 10/19/06 20:47:08 EDT

NO GOOD DEED SHALL GO UNPUNISHED! 2 X 2 X 2? Ain't that 8 cubic inches? Sorry Jock, couldn't resist. Pretty hard to catch you in a math mistake.

Couldn't a swage block be cast with the parting line on the diagonal? Seems like that would allow TWO edges to have true shapes. Kinda like when a drop forge engineer once told us that you can't drop forge a square part with parallel sides. I showed him that it could be done easily on the diamond. In fact you can drop forge a perfect cube, the dies just look like two pyramids.
   - grant - Thursday, 10/19/06 22:12:58 EDT


Are you bending hot or cold? In hot bending with a near zero inside radius you usually figure the neutral axis which is pretty near the center. If you're cold bending then your formula must take into account the bend radius.
   - grant - Thursday, 10/19/06 22:20:27 EDT

MATH: Rats. . . Well the 4cuin was right. . 2x2x1 or a 1.587" cube. It is still a lot of material to turn to dust with a hand grinder.

Diagonal parting. It works for a flat surfaced rectangular or cube but the side grooves of a swage would not extract from the mold (unless they were at very odd angles).
   - guru - Thursday, 10/19/06 23:01:58 EDT

Parting line - This swage has a very fine parting line along one corner. I wouldn't have noticed it if you hadn't written about it.

All in all, I think they must have found a pretty good foundry to do the casting work (lacking the facing sand) and whoever made the pattern had some idea what they were doing.
   Stephen G - Friday, 10/20/06 05:57:35 EDT

Parting Lines: The interesting thing is that open die forgings do not have parting lines while closed die forging do. This makes telling a forging from a casting difficult to tell.
   - guru - Friday, 10/20/06 10:52:03 EDT

No way this is a forging. The folks I bought it from were talking about shopping around for a foundry to do the work. Plus some of the foundry paper work was kicking around when they unloaed them.

Anyway, having the dies made for a forging would have been prohibatively expensive, especially for a small group like NEB.

Plus, (I know this will sound like voodoo but) this block "feels" like cast iron (no ring when it's hit, grey grainy texture, etc).
   Stephen G - Friday, 10/20/06 11:24:53 EDT

I wan't implying it could be forged, but many forgings do look like castings with the parting line.

I have looked at making a small forged block. It would take a signifigant hammer for a small shop (500 to 1000 pounds) and a little die making ingenuity. But I think a very nice little forged block in the 8 to 10 pound range could be made competetive to a casting. Short cylindrical piece goes in. . cute rectangular block comes out. Finish would be consistantly better than cast and material much better, even alloy steel.
   - guru - Friday, 10/20/06 11:44:38 EDT

Stephen C.: Voodo or not, Cast Iron does feel different! Especially grey iron. Hard to tell, with some irons though.
   - John Odom - Friday, 10/20/06 12:05:03 EDT

Long length heats in a propane forge: I continue to get inquiries from folks seeking a forge in which a long length heat could be obtained, such as heating an entire length for making a scroll in one operation. What do ornamental ironworkers use to do so when using scroll forms vs cold shaping?
   Ken Scharabok - Friday, 10/20/06 13:00:53 EDT

Ken, Most do it cold or in sections. Gentle bends are not hard to make with a heavy work table and good leverage. Normally the end of the scroll is worked hot then the rest is pulled around a fixture cold. This works fine up to about 3/4" square stock. If it cannot be bent cold then an oxy-fuel rosebud is used and the bend heated as it goes.

Most of the folks I have asking or talking about long forges want them for making swords. This is also done in short heats. Heat treating is different but can also be done by moving the blade through a short furnace.

There ARE forges that make long heats. The Johnson trough forges an exampls. But their size makes them gas hogs. They WILL NOT operate of anything less than a 250 gallon bulk tank. Normally they are run on NG and a 1" or greater line. If you build a long forge you will have to have a very large or several small cylinders just to test it.

I have seen long forges for production work. They could take 20 foot lengths. One problem with these is that they must be vented every few feet. If you make modular units to put end to end each one needs venting or venting at the joint. Another problem is that they need to be hard refractory (brick) lined. Sliding long bars through a long tunnel will unavoidably dig into the side walls and maybe even the ceiling.

The only thing I have seen long forges for were for re-rolling bar and for automated lines making RR-spikes from 5/8" square bar.
   - guru - Friday, 10/20/06 14:03:39 EDT

I just picked up a "BARTH" metal shear, anyone know anything about the co.? I can't find it on the net. There are no #'s anywhere but the front stock guide accepts up to 1/2" sq bar stock and the rear wire shear accepts up to 3/8" rnd stock. The blades are in almost unused shape and I don't want to overwork the unit.
   Thumper - Friday, 10/20/06 19:40:57 EDT

Thumper, Use the cross sections of the pieces it can shear as a guide to flat stock. If those sections are at the back of the jaws then they are about double the section that can be sheared flat. I would suspect 1/4 x 1" max., maybe 3/16 x 1". Bolt it down and try a piece that size. If it does not strain of the frame seem like it is springing then it is OK. Don't forget to oil the pivots.
   - guru - Friday, 10/20/06 21:02:05 EDT

Jock I was just looking at your comment about swage block sides. My blocks (the ones sold at Blacksmith Depot) have draft on the sides but there is no taper to the grooves. If you wanted square sides loose pieces will work but another way to do it would be cores all the way around.
   - JNewman - Saturday, 10/21/06 08:35:35 EDT

Cores all around. John, I think some of the old blocks, especially those with lots of cored holes may have been done largely with cores but I have not seen a pattern that would prove it but many of the old blocks look like they were made that way. It is also common to see old blocks where cores were missing and there is a solid place in them

On my blocks only the half round grooves had a little taper mostly in width, much of which is lost to corner radii. These were full half rounds where the sides which are almost perpendicular to the side start to have draft problems. Square grooves have this problem from the start.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/21/06 11:25:24 EDT

Grant, you reminded me of an old machinist who worked where I began my career as an engineer. He found a gullible young man in me and bet me he could turn a perfectly square cube from a 2" round bar on his lathe. He did it, too. Strangely, he ended up working for me in the metallurgical lab and we became good friends.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 10/21/06 16:52:59 EDT

Does anyone know the original manufacturer of this bowl and spoon block: eBay #110032006925?
   Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 10/21/06 17:28:56 EDT

Never saw one like it. However, the markings and numbers on the back look a lot like lot and heat numbers or such from blocks of hammer die steel. That would possibly make it a machined block.

There are literaly thousands of blocks out there and 99.99% are unidentifiable as to foundry, seller or patternmaker. I have a collection of photos of a couple dozen blocks that I am reworking to put on a page. Every one is different but the same. Only a small handfull are atributable to specific people. JNewman's, mine, Wally Yater's and Josh Greenwood's.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/21/06 20:38:24 EDT

i have a candle stand with a stamp on it how do i find out how made it
   - cj - Sunday, 10/22/06 03:09:49 EDT

i have a candle stand with a stamp on it how do i find out how made it
   - cj - Sunday, 10/22/06 03:12:27 EDT

cj: If your candle stand was commercially made you might find the manufacturer's stamp identification in price guides which include them. If shop made, and likely one of a kind, it is likely just someone's touchmark (stamp). Chances of finding out who it is are slim.

I've had a bit of luck doing some research via eBay. I find a similar item being sold by a retailer (such as antique shop), rather than individual, and ask them. Quite often they can provide a good bit of information. Even on individuals sometimes their item description indicates they are quite knowledgeable in the area.
   Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 10/22/06 06:02:50 EDT

Hey Y'all

Quick question, Is it possible to use an ordinary camp fire as a forge and a big rock as an anvil. I know Wayne Goddard used granite in his "primative knife making seris"
but what about just a piece of limestone or the like?
thanks y'all
Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/22/06 09:15:54 EDT

Ansrew, you CAN use a camp fire as a forge, but it wont get nearly as hot as it does in a specifically made forge. It should get hot enough to work the metal, but no where near close enough to weld with by my experimenting. If I'm not mistaken, I believe powdered limestone was used as a flux in earlier times. I'll let the good Guru take that part of the question though- Grin!
   - Rob - Sunday, 10/22/06 09:51:12 EDT

Forge Fire and Bellows: Andrew, The only difference between an open fire and a forge is a forced air supply from a bellows or blower. The open fire works if there is a slight pit with the forced air coming in from the bottom.

You start fairly large and burn down to coals. At that point the forced air will produce a white hot fire. Once you get going you feed a little more wood in at a time. However, this makes a very smokey fire that if hard on the eyes and lungs. If you coal the wood first then the fire is cleaner, hotter and much more efficient. Many places where you see indoor fire pits with no chimney and a roof vent and burned charcoal, not raw wood.

There are many primitive bellows types.

The most primitive type is blanket or hide over a pit, the esges stakes down and sealed with dirt. The hide is lifted by the center with a corner held open to let in fresh air, then the corner hled down as the center as the hide is pressed down slowly. This requires one or more helpers that can withstand kneeling or squating on the ground for hours (as is the case with many primitive bellows).

Slightly more developed is the wineskin. This is the stomach of an animal that has been prepared to carry water or wine. Two are used to pump air into the tuyeer (the pipe or passageway leading into the fire). A hole in the end that is opened and closed by hand acts as an intake valve for fresh air.

Paired bellows were the next step in the evolution. These were boards seperated and hinged with leather and had an internal flap valve (check valve) for the intake. A pair was used to create a steady flow of air. They could be operated individualy with short handles or as a pair with a rocker handle that leift one up while it pressed the other down. Properly built the outlet nozzels were close together and blew air into a seperated tuyeer creating a pneumatic check valve preventing hot air from sucking into the filling bellows. Most are not properly built in this regard.

The Great Double Bellows was the apodeme of lether bellows development. These are two bellows built one over the other with a common stationary board. There are wood or leather check valves in the bottom board and the center board. The bottom chamber pumps air into the top chamber and the check valves between them positively prevents the air from going back. This was a true positive displacement pump and is the style of bellows used for hundreds of years.

The Oriental Alternative is the box bellows. It is a long wooden box with a board that acts as a piston to move the air. The piston is moved by a long slender round or square wood rod that passes through a snug hole in one end of the box. Each end of the box has intake valves. There are two designs for exhust valves. One style uses two valves and a manifold on the side of the bellows. The other has air passages in the bottom and a single valve that closes the outlet of each chamber alternately. The second type is a very clean design but takes a little more knowledge and skill to make.

The advantage to the oriental box bellows is that it uses no leather and is cheaper to construct as well as more durable. While it provides an almost continuous blast of air there is a brief moment of switching similar to the paired bellows.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 10:22:16 EDT

Stone Hammer and Anvil: These have been used by primitive or very poor people well into the iron age. There are films and engravings of African smiths working with stone hammer and anvils. This would be a common situation any time wrought iron or steel was so valuable that tools were not made from it. This also includes the Bronze Age where the same peoples would have worked bronze with a stone hammer and anvil. However, this is a different situation due to fact that copper alloys are worked at a much lower temperature than iron and with much less force. Where stone tools work quite well with copper alloys they break down from both the heat and force of forging iron. However, it can and has been done.

The interesting tool seen used by early 20th century Zulu smiths in the film King Solomon's Mine is a pair of wooden tweezer type tongs. As long as they are used to hold the metal where it is not above 350°F they will not char greatly and they give the smith great advantage in holding hot metal that would otherwise burn him severely.

These are tools of the Stone Age used to bootstrap into the Iron Age, skipping the Bronze Age.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 10:36:43 EDT

Bellows, Brief addition.

Another advantage of the oriental box bellows is that it takes up much less room that the great bellows. The Dominy Craftsmen of East Hampton, N.Y., put their large bellows on the second floor of their small shop. A hose carried the blast down to their forge on the ground floor. A cord with a wooden dowel handle was arranged to raise the top board on the pull stroke. ref "With Hammer in Hand" by Hummel.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/22/06 11:10:52 EDT

This is also a safety and durability issue with leather bellows. It is very easy to be moving a bar of steel and poke a hole in a leather bellows. I had mine for 20 years and never did but Paw-Paw poked two holes in them in 4 years. I suspect the differece was in pride of manufacture.

In the Williamsburg blacksmith shop the high mounted bellows have numerous patches in the thick leather. Undoubtedly the result of misshaps with long bars of steel. . . Leather is also prone to molding and rot. Those bellows I made for the Portable Shop Trailer 30 years ago are now thin and nearly crumbling. Perhaps the weak leather is why Paw-Paw poked more holes in them than I did.

As noted they are are large and can be in the way. In a small shop with low ceilings or a crowded shop they certainly get in the way.

A wonderful book that Frank Turley recomeded, China at Work by Hommel had very nice photos of Chinese box bellows that were carried by itinerant craftsmen. These doubled as a work bench and tool chest, balancing an equal sized tool chest the two being carried by a shoulder yoke. These are deffinitely more durable, thus more suited to be portable than the European bellows.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 12:28:27 EDT

Primitive and Early Ironworking: Early iron working was very labor intensive but labor was usualy readily available or cheap. In the small African village described above they were forging spear points for hunting or warfare. Either meant survival and the betterment of the village and there was no shortage of helpers. This was typical through feudal times and until the Industrial Revolution. When metal became more avaialble there was still a need for labor to work it and this remained true until well into the 20th century. At that time there was less need for the blacksmith and more need for laborers in other industries. However, mankind's inventiveness provided us with the electric motor and the small one man shop power hammer as well as other "labor saving" power tools. Thus a single craftsperson could continue to produce a product without a shop full of workers used only for their muscle power when needed.

The problem is when the individual wants to try to replicate ancient processes working alone. The reality was the ancient processes required many people. If nothing else an entire family. However, the extra labor was often provided by part timers or if you can imagine the village slackers, do nothings or the otherwise unemployed. They would hang around and lend a hand to appear productive while much of their day would be spent "hanging around and jawing". There was also the large shop where apprentices and journeymen were employed.

Your first problem is the bellows. The more primitive, the more labor intensive. When using a bellows alone your forge fire fire will quickly cool or go out while hammering the steel. So you need that helper willing to just keep rocking back and forth for hours at a time.

Then there is the forging. Large pieces of steel need a helper to strike either with a sledge hammer or a large stone. Stone is much less dense than steel so the size is considerably larger. However, I would not ask someone to strike today with a stone because it is a good way to lose fingers are become severly injured. Authenticity often bows to modern safety sensibilities. Only a couple generations ago it was common to see workers missing fingers, toes, eyes. . . this is no longer acceptable in modern society. These are now huge economic losses as well. So, it is not unusual to see an historic reenactor wearing saftey glasses and gloves, or ocassionaly ear protection and steel toed shoes as well. Where the ancient foundryman wore as little as possible today's foundryman looks like a knight ready for battle in their fire and heat resistant armour.

Options: In many places they still use pit forges. However, you can do away with two helpers by using a small hand crank or electric blower. Depending on the fuel and your production goals (time) the electric blower is by far the best way to go.

There is no cheap way to avoid strikers. The modern replacement is the power hammer. While these are available in small models that only weigh 800 pounds (~360kg) they are a significant investment and are a big jump for a "primitive" setup. So you back off and stick to working small stock. Nothing bigger than 5/8" or 3/4" (16 or 19mm) square and preferably smaller.

Using certain modern tools greatly increase one's efficiency. While that stone anvil is quiant it is also inefficient. Unless it is a high grade granite it will have little rebound and not hold up well. It will have to be three times as large as a steel anvil for the same weight. A very small iron or steel anvil is better than a stone anvil.

Modern tongs are a joy to work with and increase your safety and efficiency. Modern files and drill bits are made of infinitly better steel than the ancients had and are manufactured to a much greater level of quality. Reenactors often forget that these hand tools are not as primitive as they seem and are a cheat if you want to be absolutely authentic.

So, you have to balance modern sensibilities, safety and availability of man power to your goals. You CAN do it alone using the most primitive of tools. However, the learning curve is longer and more painful. If your goals are to learn to forge and have an enjoyable hobby then don't try to go back to the stone age. However, if you are intensly interested in how primitives managed and do not care about producing something right away then by all means go at it the "hard way".

I always thought it would be an interesting project to start with the most primitive tools (stone anvil and stone or brass hammer)and see what could be produced to improve the level of technology. Make an iron hammer and tongs and other iron age tools using stone age tools. Then improve the forge with wood working tools made at the forge. Make hand made files and drill bits. Build a lathe and beam drill using mostly wood and forged metal parts. Bootstrap through levels of technology.

However, as projects go it would only prove to disbelievers what blacksmiths already know. Knowledge is the key and having the knowledge of millinia of technological development takes the discovery out of the project. So in the end all your are proving is that YOU can do it. A reasonable and often satisfying goal.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 12:35:56 EDT

What would be the best method of removing the teeth from a file in preperation for making a knife blade?
   - Donnie - Sunday, 10/22/06 16:04:16 EDT

A heavy duty 7" angle grinder with agressive (soft) wheel. After that a HD 4 to 6 belt grinder/sander or a 12" bench grinder.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 16:39:33 EDT

Has anyone here ever made there own gears? I'm restoring an old lathe and I'm using a 1.5hp motor. I don't think pulleys would be able to handle the torque the motor will put out once its been steped down, so I'm planing on making so gears instead. Any helpful tips?Thanks, John
   John Scancella - Sunday, 10/22/06 20:22:49 EDT

A hammer question. Today I saw a hammer in a flea market, it looked like a cast donut with a handle through the hole. Does anyone know what it would be used for. It seemed to be about 1.5 to 2 lbs.
   habu - Sunday, 10/22/06 21:12:27 EDT


I think it's a harness maker's hammer, but I need to find out more about it's use.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/22/06 21:49:13 EDT

John Scancella,
I have seen many many machine that were belt driven and were transmitting several hundred horsepower. Granted there were many belts ganged on a multi groove sheeve, and they were big cross section belts. I have seen single, cog belts that are transmitting several hundred horsepower, in car engines converted to aircraft use to reduce the engine speed to propeller drive.
If it must be gears, I would buy them, as ready made from the factory gears are going to work the first time and are reasonably priced.
   ptree - Sunday, 10/22/06 21:52:10 EDT

Gears: I agree with ptree on this one. I have made gears, had gears made and bought off the shelf gears. When you can use off the shelf gears, do it. Although it is not cheap to modify off the shelf change gears (to fit existing shafts) it is still cheaper and easier than making gears from scratch.

A 1.5" flat leather belt will transmit 1.5 HP without a problem. This HP and belt size were common on old lathes. The belt was usualy run off a back shaft with about 3:1 reduction to start. That drove the mate to the spindle step pulley. If you do not have the mate to the step pulley drive the lathe by the large front spindle pulley as this will deliver the most torque.

If your idea was to avoid some reduction and drive the lathe by one of the small spindle gears DON'T. They do not have the durability or life cycle for constant use under this condition.

Making gears in a small shop requires:

1) A lathe to make the blanks
2) The precision tools to measure the blanks
3) A good rigid milling machine
4) A dividing head, expansion mandrel and center set.
5) Gear cutters for the range of teeth to be cut.
6) Gear measuring tools.

7) Someone with gear design experiance to spec out the gear design details to provide to the machinist.

This is for common spur gears of low precision class. At best they will be slightly noisy and not capable of very high speeds. Precision gears must be cut on a machine that generates the curve and then are laped to a perfect fit.

   - guru - Sunday, 10/22/06 23:48:28 EDT

Round Hammer: I have seen these but I cannot remember where. They are used by a variety of craftsfolk. I think they are used in stone work.

In one catalog they show a cylindrical wood mallet for stone carving and another round steel hammer called a "macadamizing" hammer which is a flat ovoid shape. Part of the definition of the word is "to form a smooth, hard, convex surface".

Will have to search more.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 00:15:45 EDT

Twas a good night for seeing shooting stars here in the East looking North. Five in 15 minutes, several large ones.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 00:16:52 EDT

John S: Yes I have made gears. The best way is to use a horizontal mill, gear tooth cutters and a dividing head. The other way I have done it is with a shaper and hand ground tools, using another gear and a section of rack for indexing. More to the point, ptree is right, You shouldn't need to use gear drive. How was the lathe driven when it was built? Most *OLD* lathes were driven with flat belts, which are not particularly efficient. For engineering a proper "V" belt drive refer to "Machinery's Handbook" the bible of machine shop practace.
   Dave Boyer - Monday, 10/23/06 00:20:20 EDT

I am doing an illustrated teaching about forging. What is the approximate temperature of the fire to change the shape of steel?
   WS - Monday, 10/23/06 00:44:31 EDT

WS, From 1,800 to about 2,400°F (~980 to 1315°C)
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 07:41:43 EDT

Restore the machine to use the belts it was intended to use. My friend here has a 26" swing X 30 ft bed lathe with a 15 HP motor all on flat leather belts. The ONLY place you NEED gears is in the thread-cutting drive. I found that I could replace some missing change gears for my lathe with off-the-shelf stock gears by slight modification of the hubs.

Unless you are set up to engineer and build gear drives, nost any belt drive system designed by the simple rules available anywhere, will be more satisfactory, and definitely cheaper! If you were so set up you would not be asking here.

Yes, I have made gears, both with a mill and dividing head, and with a shaper.
   - John Odom - Monday, 10/23/06 07:54:01 EDT

The hammer sounds like a common form of old stone worker's hammer.

BTW Frank in a double lunged bellows it's usually the *bottom* board that is raised filling the top chamber with air where it acts as the storage tank. Were they really using it inverted?

Also re single action paired bellows: Guru, you mentioned a check valve in them; but when Theophilus gave instyructions on building them in 1120 he does not mention a check valve for the metalworking furnace bellows but does for the organ bellows. So when I built mine I did not use a checkvalve and found out two things: 1 that by carefull alternation of pumping you did not need a checkvalve to preven inhailing hot coals into the bellows (quite a danger with charcoal!) and 2: that leaving a slight gap between the bellows' snouts and the tuyere pile helped prevent inhalation as well---about the diameter of the pipe ID is what I used. It was interesting that when I was reading a book discussing ancient forges and furnaces they mentioned this gap being found in some of them but only discussed it as it would entrain outside air like an aspirated burner and not the morte important "save the bellows" aspect. (I corresponded with the author on this as I don't think he had actually used the set up like I had)

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/23/06 11:11:10 EDT

Were animal stomach or animal hides used as bellows? Perhaps both? While I know cured stomachs were used as vessels, I seem to recall also seeing more or less intact hides used. As I understand process a cut is made around the neck and then the hide worked off, cutting at ends of legs as needed, then cut around anus. Inside cured and then it was turned hair side out for use.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 10/23/06 11:53:49 EDT

vicopper and Frank,
Thanks for the info on split ends when tapering- being new- I didn't catch I was using the top of the hammer when tapering instead of the middle and I do remember seeing the fish mouth but assumed it would 'weld' itself back together. That's why I need forums like this!!
   bob d - Monday, 10/23/06 12:56:52 EDT

i made a gas furnish for hardning my plates which i use to make sheet metal dyes, usally i use K-100, 4140,4340, 5150, all oil quenching materials, very rare some time carbon steel which are water quench, as the furnish is run on low pressure gas it is not possible to attain hardning temp. like 1000 or 1200 cc , some one told me that iron can be harden using salt bath technique, i want to ask how this salt bath is done, is common salt (sea salt) is melted in furnish and then iron is keep in to to get it hot then take it out and let it come to normal, or there is other way, pls let me know
   Amin>Tejani - Monday, 10/23/06 15:28:54 EDT

Bellows: All accounts that I have seen is leather, not internal organs. Probably a matter of durability. A pig's bladder might make a good balloon, but I doubt it would hold up long pumping air for days and weeks and months and years. Pigskin is fairley durable for smaller bellows, and bull hide was mentioned for some large ones.

As for things that can happen to them; I really hate mice. They can eat the leather, or build a nest inside,, or eat the flapper valve, or the nests can catch fire or... Yep, I keep a good supply of blacksnakes around during the summer, but come autumn, thay all sort of sneak in again. Nothing like a mouse blowing out of the end of the bellows! :-P
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/23/06 15:52:07 EDT

I hope I can explain this well enough without a picture.

Some background; I am constructing a dragon head for a vent cap on a pellet stove. The dragon was inspired by Jock's Draco, it got a little more elaborate when my son showed up with the draganomicon (D&D manual on dragons).

Anyway I am trying to amorphise the eyes, I have tried in vain for hours to make a single piece of sheet look like eyelids from the brow to cheek bone and temple to brige of the nose. Imagine if you will a single piece that looks like the skin around your eye, with all the compound curves etc. I have eyes made over a small mushroom stake, I can get eyelids the same way but when I try to fold it back and up to the brow, and the bridge of the nose it fails. I gave up on using one piece for the eyelids and have decided it will be made from several pieces and welded, them after some grinding, bondo and paint it will look great.

My question is how would this be made? I assume it can be done, and am stuborn enough that I will keep trying, perhaps on my next dragon. I tried hot and cold, from 16 gauge to 28 gauge and just cant seem to get the complex bends mainly at the corners without folding the sheet. I started freehand and finally carved the shape I was after into the end of a 6x6 still no luck. At least most of the scrap is usable as scales. How do I make such a piece? does one start in the middle or the edge? Any help would be appreciated.
   Jeff G - Monday, 10/23/06 16:03:09 EDT

Hi guru
What is best practice for using propane forge and tank during the winter.I am using a garage where I can open the door

   Jee - Monday, 10/23/06 17:07:58 EDT

Jeff, I am having a difficult time envisioning the piece you are trying to make.

I suspect that some of the problem is how you are supporting the work. In repousse' the work is held flat by the pitch while the area to be worked is stretched (sinking) from the flat plane. Stretching is the key word here. In the type of work you are doing it is almost impossible to shrink but it can be done, with difficulty. So you approach the work as all stretch. Imaging the shape you are making rising from a flat plain. All of this is stretched.

Where folds occur is where loose pieces are bent and need to be smaller than they are. OR you try to fit the flat plaine to the shape. With great care you can take a series of these folds and hammer them into the desired surface. This is a form of "raising" where the extra material is upset to make thicker thus reducing the area. Upsetting is more difficult than stretching so you avoid upsetting when you can. It is done to hot and well annealled metal.

The disadvantage to stretching is that it makes the material thinner. But this is easy enough to offset by starting with thicker material. Either way you go, raising or sinking there must be thick areas and thin.

Ah, Use NO bondo on chimney caps. It is inflamable and once burning is like the Greek fire of old.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 17:15:32 EDT

Insufficient Hardening Heat: Amin Tejani, Gas forges easily reach forging and welding temperatures so there is something terribly wrong with your furnace. Depending on the size it is often the lack of sufficient gas flow. Small propane bottles will not provide enough gas to supply a large furnace.

Salt Pots: These use a variety of salts depending on the purpose. They are used for hardening and tempering. Yes the melting point of common table salt is high enough for hardening.

Salt pots are usualy made of heavy wall stainless steel to resist corrosion.

The problem I think you are going to have is that the salt pot requires a heat source. They use any fuel but gas is common. In the case of a salt pot you must heat the salt, the pot, AND the work placed in the liquid salt. If you did not have enough fuel to heat the parts in your furnace you may not have enough to heat the salt pot either.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 17:26:49 EDT

Propane in Winter: Jee, You have two problems in winter, ventilation and keeping the propane bottle warm.

It is required by many organizations that your gas forge be properly vented with a hood and a flue. We often get away with both in open air but not in a closed space. Besides the hood and flue you will still need good ventilation. One of the best methods to KNOW is to install a good carbon monoxide alarm. Be sure it is located where it reflects accuratedly what you are breathing. Add ventilation accordingly.

Propane or bottled gas freeze up is common in warm weather and greatly aggrevated in cold weather. If you have any problem with your gas bottles frosting up then actual freeze up will be a problem in cold weather. Depending on where you are the cure can be as simple as a galvanized pan of water to a heated battery blanket.

Note that it is not safe to store or use propane bottles in closed buildings. It is also not normal practice to heat propane bottles other than the ambient air around them. Doing so is at your own risk. The normal solution is to get a large enough bottle or cylinder that it will provide the gas needed at the expected temperature.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 17:41:20 EDT

Guru, Thank you very much.
I plan to leave the garage door open and be safe.
   Jee - Monday, 10/23/06 17:46:48 EDT

Mice and Bellows and Forges: Mice loved small closed spaces and they like to chew leather. Leave a bellows alone and they will find their way in through the outlet even if attached to the forge tuyeer.

Surprisingly mice LOVE Kaowool. They love to shred it to make their nests. They can be highly destructive to forges and furnaces of all types. You may THINK you have the forge closed off but we have had them get in through the burner pipe. . .

An interesting feature of the Chinese box bellows mentioned above is that the intakes are often bridged by several heavy wires or light iron bars to make a grate to keep mice out.

As the weather gets cooler this is the time to think of such things and make preparations to keep the little critters out of the equipment.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 17:51:23 EDT

Open Garage Door: Depending on the direction of the wind a large opening may mean nothing. Edies and stangant air conditions can occur at any time. Even forced ventilation can be defeated by breazes going the "wrong" way.

Every winter you hear of a number of carbon monoxide deaths because of some unusual air flow that filled someone's house with their neighbor's furnace fumes OR the flow down a chimney was stopped by a steady wind or change in air pressure filling a house with CO. It is always an "unusual" situation but the result is always the usual, death.
   - guru - Monday, 10/23/06 17:57:50 EDT

Leaving the garage door open may not be safe as CO will build up in your system over time. You may need positive ventilation as well. The monitor is the best way to find out what you need and *VERY* *VERY* *CHEAP* compared to 1 vist to the ER!

I open a 10'x10' door at either end of my shop. Though if it's very windy (20+ mph) I may only open it 1/2 way on the upwind side.

Salt pots---since he mentioned low pressure gas I'm assuming he doesn't have enough umph for a salt pot. Also a safety warning---moisture and molten salt can be DEADLY!

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/23/06 18:01:07 EDT

So Bondo burns, good to know. I figured I needed to stretch and your right the problem is support. What I am trying to make is an eye socket, imagine that from the eye brow down to the check bone vertically and from temple to bridge of nose on the horizontal. I was hoping to make this all one piece, just like human skin but of metal of course so it needs no supporting structure to hold its shape, I have eyes that will weld in from the back, so I just need a shaped hole for the opening of the eyelid. Where I fail is the curve where the eyelid is no longer over the eye but is now heading up the eyebrow, its really bad at the corners of the eye. I can't seem to support the work in a way that I can still get a punch much less a hammer to it.

I guess I will just use four pieces one for each eyelid and one for the lid to brow and lid to cheek bone. then I only need two dimensional bends. Thanks for the heads up on the bondo I will just spend a little more time in fitment, welded from the back side the seem should be hard to see. Heck I guess I worry about the details to much, everyone but me will see this from a distance.
   Jeff G - Monday, 10/23/06 18:59:46 EDT


Weld from the back side and then use chasing punches to chase the welds together on the front. You should be able to end up with something where you can't even see the seams with a good glass.

Part of what you need to do to make it a single piece is fold forming, and part is repousse and part is chasing. The combination of them is the only way I can see to do it, and it would take a fair amount of time and some extensive practice.

On the fold forming, one way to envision where you need to start is to fit the piece up out of cut pieces of manila file folder taped together. When you get the curves and folds worked out, you start taking it apart one piece of tape at a time to see how near to a flat sheet you can get. You may see that you can start by chasing the area around the eye opening, then fold the upper lid/brow portion forward a bit, chase some more and fold it back to form the brow ridge. Likewise with the lower lid/cheekbone area.

Sometimes the trick lies in "getting rid of" excess metal by pulling it inot the areas that need to be raised up, rather than depending entirely on stretching. The cardboard is a good way to see where things start "bunching up" and may need to be worked first, and where to work them.

A good pitch pan and a large sampling of different chasing/repousse punches will be a necessity to pull this off.
   vicopper - Monday, 10/23/06 20:16:32 EDT


Yes, the bottom board is raised on the big bellows. I was thinking of my ole mentor, victor Vera, taking a ride on the top board when he was a little boy in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. He said that when his dad and uncle where "doing a big job", they would sit him up on top where he could take a ride. I've used large bellows at Taos Martinez Hacienda museum, at Rancho de las Golondrinas just south of Santa Fe, and at the Moravian Smithy in Bethlehem, PA. Just a little "visual dyslexia" when setting in down in writing.


I'm a little out of my zone on the "donut" shaped hammer, but I think it was used to shape the heavy horse collars, the kind that were filled with flock. There were also rounded mallets of lignum vitae for the same purpose. The collars needed to be shaped when made and also when they might have got out of shape through use. The collar was placed horizontally on a wooden collar vise, which was a large split mandrel which could be expanded inside the collar with a screw.

ref: "The Harness Maker and his Tools", San Joaquin County Historical Museum, 1976.

"Saddlery and Harness Making" ed. Paul Hasluck, 1962 reprint, J.A. Allen & Co Ltd., London.

   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/23/06 20:41:24 EDT

I have a huge drill press-it is made by the Champion Blower Forge Co-Lancaster, PA. It has No. 2031/2 on one side along with the patent number 767282 Aug 9, 1904-I would like any information on it if possible.
Thank you
Susie Bird

   Susie Bird - Monday, 10/23/06 20:42:03 EDT

Centaur's (see advertisers in drop-down box at upper right of your screen) reprint of the 1909 Champion catalog has a full description and engraving of the Champion 203 1/2 drill press. It sold for $70, weighed 600 pounds set up for hand-cranking; for $75 set up for motor, weighing 625 pounds. (Was available with cone pulleys for both, weighing 700 pounds, cost $85.) Drills to center of 21-inch circle. Catalog copy is a masterpiece of vintage hard-sell hype: "No. 203 1/2 Champion 'Patented' Self-Feed and Lever-Feed Upright Drill fills a long-felt want of a strictly first-class up-to-date Power Drill and Hand Drill and a pracical Drill for machine shops, blacksmith and carriage shops. ... Workmanship represents our very best...."
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 10/23/06 21:16:08 EDT

Dear Guru -
Are you aware of anything going on with the distribution of Victor equipment? I had to go to two stores before I found a moderately heavy propane cutting tip. . . Seems like both of 'em used to stock nearly a full range of tips &c. Even at that I wound up with a "Victor compatible" tip.

It looks like support for Victor, which used to be rock solid may be declining. . .

Or is oxy-fuel cutting in decline and they are cutting back support for Victor to encourage more people to buy expensive plasma cutters?

   John Lowther - Monday, 10/23/06 21:16:22 EDT

Long forges:

At on time I had need to heat 20 feet of flat bar at a time. Not wanting to build a long forge, I rolled the bar up (cold) like a clock spring and chucked it in the forge to heat Slip the hot coil over a fixed mandrel, grab the end and run twenty feet!
   - grant - Monday, 10/23/06 21:19:50 EDT


We heat up garage door springs, drop 'em over a vertical rod fixed in the vise, and using vise-grips, pull to get a decent length. We make scratch awls out of the stock. We don't use tongs, 'cause if they slip off, you've got a hot piece flopping all over the place.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 10/23/06 22:05:53 EDT

More Mice: Just about now I usually throw two to four mothballs in each drawer of my tool chests. Amazing what they don't chew up they pee on, and mouse urine can make a mess of nice tools.

Off to Cumberland, Maryland on Tuesday & Wednesday to help C & O canal NHP. (www.nps.gov/choh/) We'll see if my new laptop works.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/23/06 23:33:26 EDT

Bruce, up where Adam and Miles live rust is the least of their mouse pee worrys---remember Hanta Virus?

I've been letting the cat in my shop and just putting up with him knocking things off the shelves as he attaempts to scale to the roof peak.

   TPowers - Monday, 10/23/06 23:53:42 EDT

John L - Victor: The trend in retailing is to stock fewer items to cut inventory costs. Here in the US, industry in general is in decline. Altho Victor is owned by Thermal Arc, who does make plasma cutters, I don't think there is an intent to influence the market towards plasma. Victor is one of the companies that is positioned to stay arround I think. I wouldn't worry about getting a non Victor brand but compatable tip if it works OK. There are compatable tips made by US companies and those made elsewhare. There can be a big difference in price.
   Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 10/24/06 00:02:16 EDT

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