WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

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 1 - 7, 2007 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Hello, smith from Sweden here. I saw the neat self-contained hammer made by Patrick Pelgrom in Belgium (?). I would like to come in contact with him to ask all the things you always have to ask when building a machine from scraps. Ive tried the phone directory but nothing came up. Is it possible you have an e-mail? Or even an oldfashioned phonenumber? And, by the way, thanks for anvilfire, we visit the site often in Sweden, a lot of very good stuff. Everyone profits from shared knowledge!
Per Chenon
   Per Chenon - Monday, 10/01/07 09:27:23 EDT

Loraine; Have you asked the people actually doing this for a living over at armourarchive.org? Mass produced maille from India has really taken a hunk out of the market and was mentioned before many SCA folk make their own.

The comment about becomming a well rounded art metal person is spot on! You never know what you might end up doing in another decade and having the widest skill set gets you the most flexibility.

Custom blademaking is still a possible carreer choice; but the ramp-up time from starting to making a living from it can be quite a long time and the living can be slim; I had a friend who was rated as one of the best american swordmakers back in the late '70's early 80's with swords that started at over US$1000 and went *up* with a 2 year order backlog that could still qualify for food stamps at times.

Generally we advise folks to have a day job and work on blades in their off hours and when their blade income gets close to their job income think about making the switch. Benefits are the killer for this type of thing, a simple mistake with a buffer and you may be looking at US$50K medical bills that will put a craft worker with no insurance pretty much out of the business.

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/01/07 12:38:56 EDT

Guru and Co.,
Three questions on tempering.

First: I know that quenching needs to be done when doing color-run/differential tempering (obviously), but does it also need to be done when oven tempering? Clearly the whole point of quenching in the former case is to lock in the temper zones. But when an entire item is being drawn at a uniform temperature, does it still need to be quenched?

Second: In the case of oven tempering, what is a reasonable heating time? I've heard between one and two hours (and between one and three tempering cycles). I don't know if the type of steel matters in this case, but I'm using 5160.

Finally: I've seen plenty of tempering temperature-to-HRC hardness tables (including one for 5160). And we've all seen those nifty temper color charts for given tools. But I've not seen any that combines the two and lists a given hardness number for a specific tool. In other words, what is a generally accepted HRC number for hatchets, plane irons, hand saws, widgets, etc.? I understand that there is no one magical number, but I'm trying my hand at making a few different tools, and I'd just like a rough base number from which to start.

As always, gentlemen, my thanks.

Prof Newbie
   ProfNewbie - Monday, 10/01/07 12:59:25 EDT

Calculating hammer " umpty ",

Jock / John O

Ive dug out one of the chart recordings from hammer test, its not an 'easy scan' document though - (For me it is not a 2 min job working out what all the formulas used are :)

It does show all the calcs used though, the test was done for single and automatic running, and the a whole load of things worked out, efficency ratings / h.p. consumptions etc, as well as the blow energies,

I am happy to let you both have a copy of this info (you can decode it for me :), pls PM me if you are interested, -

it may take me a few days to respond as work is hectic to say the least !

   John N - Monday, 10/01/07 13:00:56 EDT

I read your artical about the difrent kinds of Press , Fly press & OBI Press an others . I am Glad for once someone said it. I have seen so many adds On & off ebay ,stating that an OBI Punch press can be made into a Power Hammer . Finnaly Your Page spelled it out for them . NO It can't be done. They Need to Know that if set up with the right dies . Only a spring die that fits under & above the Bolister Plate that uses a larg spring to soak up the shock from the ram can an obI press be used to drop forge apart . Now this is not like a Power Hammer in any way shape or form . you get a seam on the peace & the dies have to be machined exactly to fit each other . Also it is Done when the Metal is at whelding Heat . this is How alot of Hammer Heads use to be Manufactured & other things of that nature. It is Good for Large Runs of the exact Part . The Better Mechanical Power Press to use Is at least a 45 ton machine if not more. I wanted to learn all I could about hot stamping with an OBI Punch press & I did. But, It is Far cheaper & more pratical for a Blacksmith to just invest in a good Power Hammar. Sincerely yours, John
   john M. C. - Monday, 10/01/07 13:08:54 EDT

This question came up at the shop today.
I thought I might see what some of the other brilliant people here might say about it.

Example, a Steam hammer banging away...
Is it heat doing the work or water molecules doing the work?
I understand heat is the energy, the water but a link in this example system of motion,
But without the water, heat itself is not going to move that hammer.

Anyway my perspective,
Heat itself can do no work.
Heat applied to another medium changing its properties is what does work.

(Ok, Heat itself moving by conduction or radiance is a form of work, But thats not really my point here)

Thanks in advance for any thoughts of this... Sven
   - Sven - Monday, 10/01/07 13:33:17 EDT

Would you be so kind as to give some general guidelines on the correct way to heat treat a small blade? The blade is 1.5" long, .125" thick, .188" wide, 0-1. The bevel is across the .188" end, skewed at roughly 40 degrees. This blade will not see shock/impact, but will be subjected to gentle use in marking highly abrasive woods, so I would like it to be very hard.

The problems I'm having are keeping it sufficiently hot during transport from charcoal grill to oil can, and with warping. (belly)
   jgourlay - Monday, 10/01/07 14:36:00 EDT

Loraine: Since you are in Boston, try the local SCA groups: I'm sure there will be other mail makers along with armors, jewelers and blade makers as well.

Google "Society for Creative Anachronism" for contacts, since mine are fifteen years out of date.

I learned about armor making in the SCA from a pair of brothers who had learned their techniques from their blacksmith/welder/machinist dad and working for race car builders.
   John Lowther - Monday, 10/01/07 14:39:22 EDT

Troy, here's a tutorial on roller chain damascus to augment what's on the FAQ page here: http://www.knifenetwork.com/workshop/tut_chainsaw_burnett.shtml That's actually for chainsaw chain, but the same basic approach should work for bicycle or motorcycle chain.

Even though it may not be high art, as the Guru says, I've seen some roller chain damascus I personally liked a lot. (And it's definitely got the "wow" factor that Jim Hrisoulas talks about.) But if you want a blade that'll take and hold a working edge, consider folding and welding your bicycle chain billet around a core of real blade steel, san mai style.
   Matt B - Monday, 10/01/07 15:00:50 EDT

Blade Heat Treat: jgourlay, Where you start makes a difference. If you used stock removal from an annealed blank you may be ready to heat treat but if you forged the blade there may be some other steps. So you have the material and its starting condition.

The necessary heat for the hardening of most steels is at least non-magnetic. You can test with a magnet. If it is not uniformly non-magnetic then you don't have a sufficient heat.

Transport distance is up to you. The smaller the item the closer the quench needs to be. Using 0-1 a thin blade properly heated may air quench and the edges certainly will.

A charcoal grill may not get the steel hot enough. You need a blower and real charcoal. The ash and none fuel elements in briquettes tend to burn the steel and the scale sticks making a mess of the surface.

Tempering varies according to use. See our Heat Treatment FAQ. For small pieces I prefer to heat a large block of steel then set the polished hard piece on the block.
   - guru - Monday, 10/01/07 15:58:32 EDT

sven, its the energy stored in the 'excited' water molecules, think of them trapped and wanting to escape when under pressure (to much energy in the molecule from the heat)! 1st law of thermodynamics at work.
   John N - Monday, 10/01/07 16:13:41 EDT

Punch Presses: John, You post rambled a bit. .

A punch press cannot be used for a power hammer.

A punch press CAN be used as a forging machine if it is carefully engineered for the specific purpose. Generally a LOT of overkill is applied in the application to prevent wrecking the machine. The springs do two things.

1) They act as emergency travel to prevent wrecking the machine if a cold piece is put in the dies.

2) The press action is generally two fast, the steel needing a little time to flow. This DOES absorb shock that but is not the primary reason.

When a huge amount of overkill (100x1) is used and OBI press can be used for open die forging. However, the only person I have know to do this scraped his press when the table broke from too much stress.

The point is the engineering. You can setup the machine to do specific well defined jobs. But you cannot safely use it general purpose forging.
   - guru - Monday, 10/01/07 17:03:12 EDT

Prof. Newbie, no you do not need to quench after oven tempering as the entire part will be at the same temperature. You do not need to stop the oven tempering action by quenching it as you do in differential tempering.

The heating time is dependant upon how much heat mass is in your oven. If you put a large, cold piece into a small oven, it will suck the heat out, diminishing the temperature differential that is needed to transfer heat. This will slow down the heating time considerably. If you put a large, flat piece of steel into the oven and let it heat up with the oven, you will get a much larger thermal mass. Putting a large, cold piece into the oven will suck heat as before but here will be more heat to heat up the work piece. Note that heat and temperature are not the same. Heat is a quantity of energy measured in things like BTU's. Temperature is the measurment of the thermal activity of the heat. Heating can be slow as in an electric oven, or very quick as in an induction coil. The faster you heat, the hotter you must be to achieve a specific hardness. This will require some experimentation on your oven. Tempered hardness will be different for different steels. Alloys tend to slow down the tempering reaction, especially Moly. You will have to find a chart somewhere that gives you typical tool hardnesses as I do not have that information.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 10/01/07 19:12:01 EDT

Temper Color Chart with Steel Hardness Click for more.

Prof. Newbie,

I created the chart linked above with the most commonly available plain carbon steels because those are the steels the colors are good for. You can easily extrapolate steels that are not shown.

The four following reasons combine to make it a very low priority to determine temper colors for modern alloy steels. Temper colors are affected by the alloy content of various steels. Since many alloy steels have temper temperatures out of the color range then colors do little good. Temper colors vs. temperature and their color descriptions were determined through much effort a very long time ago. Temper temperatures are now measured using more reliable methods.

Frank Turley claims that if you watch the colors run on many alloy steels they do so in two bands or waves. I think he uses the second band of colors. This may vary depending on the steel and the finish.
   - guru - Monday, 10/01/07 19:34:05 EDT

Guru, and Quenchcrack,

My thanks to you both.

In your opinion, which of the above carbon steels would most closely resemble 5160? 1070? It's a close carbon point count, plus the chromium. Well, I suppose it is just a guess, as you say. Still, this is very helpful.

Good stuff on the mass, temp. and heat relations. That makes sense. I had a hunch that oven heating didn't need a quench, but wanted to be sure. Now, does time matter? The tool I have is pretty hefty (about three pounds). If I keep it in an electronically controlled oven, at a constant temperature, is it possible to overdo? I'm guessing the primary concern is complete and even heating to a given temperature, and, unlike food, this isn't something that can be overdone or hurt by additional time at that same temperature. I'm also guessing this is why double or even triple tempering is done, simply because the tool doesn't always get to critical temp evenly. Is that correct?

Would one hour at temperature (heated with the oven) do the job? Two? This is where I'm unclear. But if additional time can't hurt, I'll just throw it in for three hours or so, just to be sure.

Am I close? Ballpark? Way off base?

Thanks again, gentlemen.

Prof Newbie
   ProfNewbie - Monday, 10/01/07 20:27:42 EDT

ProfNewbie: Most heat treat specs I have used call for 1 hour at temperature. The easy way to check thios would be with a temp crayon that melts at the tempering temperature. If You are working within the temper color range a polished spot on the material will give a good balpark estimate of temperature. Some steels are recommended to be tempered more than once, but for the others 1 hour at temperature 1 time works well.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 10/01/07 22:33:55 EDT

Prof Newbie: I guess I forgot to answer the actual question. I don't think You will have a problem with 3 hours at the tempering temperature, but I am not sure You will gain anything by it.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 10/01/07 22:42:18 EDT

Steel Comparisons: Alloying greatly changes the depth of hardening, the rate of hardening, the actual hardness (Manganese increases the hardness for a given amount of carbon). If you want to know the temper temperature vs. harness you look it up. HOWEVER, for every batch or make within the specs of a given steel there may be differences.

Hardness vs. temper temperature for most steels are plotted on a curve. The curves of alloy steels are different than plain carbon steels. My chart with all carbon steels works to extrapolate other plain carbon steels but not alloy steels.

For the hardness vs. temper temperatures for SAE 5160 see our heat treating FAQ.

For through tempering the hot block method will provide the most uniform temper in a blade thickness in just a few minutes. The point is to get a good uniform temperature. This is more critical than time. After tempering let it cool to room temperature and put back on the tempering block for a second tempering. Double tempering often gets the parts that did not transform the first time. This is different than an extended temper.

After a uniform temper you may want to reduce the hardness of the back of a blade further by selective tempering. Any place that is softer than the edge needs to be strengthens a blade reducing the likelihood of cracking of breaking.
   - guru - Monday, 10/01/07 23:13:41 EDT

Thank you, Guru, and Dave.

Finally, this makes some sense. (And my apologies, Guru, about the stupid question regarding comparison of 5160 to the carbon steels listed. Duh! I already have the temper table for 5160, compliments of your helpful FAQ.) The block vs. oven heating, this I did not understand. So, two one-hour sessions may well be different from a single two-hour session, which is different again from a block heating session.

And tempering crayons? What will they think of next?

Again, indebted to you both.

Prof Newbie
   ProfNewbie - Tuesday, 10/02/07 00:10:29 EDT

Tempil Sticks: They are "temperature indicating crayons" sold under the trade name Tempil and commonly called Tempil sticks. They are made of various clays and waxes that melt at various temperatures and can be used up to about 1500°F I believe. The company publishes the most famous and most used steel temperature phase chart in the world.

The "block method" is where you heat a heavy block of steel up to the temperature you want to temper a piece at. You may judge ITS temperature by temper colors, Tempil sticks or thermocouple. I heat mine on an electric stove top. When it is hot you lay the piece to temper flat on the block. The heat at exactly the same as the large block is conducted into the smaller piece.

I found that one setting on our electric stove top produced exactly 570-580°F and a brilliant dark blue. I used a large block (1" x 6" x 6") heated on it to put a temper blue on polished parts. The color was very even.

   - guru - Tuesday, 10/02/07 09:01:18 EDT

When I read your post, I didn't think of heat and water so much as I did reductionist thinking and holistic thinking.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 10/02/07 10:24:18 EDT

Prof. Newbie, yes time at temperature is important. However, a 3 pound piece is going to take some time to get up to temperature. This will depend on the heat input of the furnace and the geometry of the part. Remember it will be tempering the part as it heats up past about 300F to whatever target temperature you choose. Just because the surface is at temperature, it does not mean the interior is up to heat, however. I would allow at least one hour per inch of thickness to get up to heat, then soak for 1 hour at temperature. Do not exceed 1300F as you may re-austenitize the surface. As Guru notes, double tempering can help with carbon and alloy steels with carbon contents about .70% These higher carbon steels tend to retain austenite after the quench and double tempering gets it all back to martensite. Time and temperature are inversely proportional in tempering. You can achieve the same hardness by tempering hotter for a shorter period of time as from tempering cooler for a long period of time. This is the part that takes some trial and error efforts.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 10/02/07 12:42:18 EDT

Guru, nice job on the temper color chart!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 10/02/07 12:44:33 EDT

Thanks! Its been built a little at a time. Extracting HRC values from all those graphs (some in HB) was the hard part.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/02/07 14:10:30 EDT

Thanks Guru. I have some coke laying around. I'll try that first. If that doesn't work, I'll get the MAPP gas torch--or maybe just pony up for one of the small oxy-acetylene rigs.

I'll try the air hardening first, then the big block. This iron comes from a piece of Starret "precision ground flat stock". I was surprised to find voids in it. Fortunately, none where in a bad position for me.
   jgourlay - Tuesday, 10/02/07 14:46:59 EDT

Hej Frank !
I am not sure what you mean by reductionist and holistic thinking, Must be a translation thing...

My point of the question, (my belief anyway) is to say "heat does work" is incorrect.
To say "heat combined with another material does work"
Is the correct expression.
   - Sven - Tuesday, 10/02/07 15:44:53 EDT

Once more, Guru and QC, I am thankful to learn from you, and appreciative of your patience (not to mention the detailed chart. I agree with QC). So many questions!

Okay, if you will bear with me for two more:

1) Both of you (and Dave) suggest a double cycle, for reasons which are now much more clear to me. But let us say that I have a tool that has been hardened and then tempered at a given temp (450F). I check the tool and decide that it is still a tad too hard, and wish to draw out a little more hardness. Surely I can then throw it back in the oven for another cycle at a few degrees higher (say, 500F)? If so, should this higher cycle also be doubled?

2) Guru's talk of block tempering is most fascinating. But on a funky shaped tool with no "back" per se, this could be tricky. It would require a smaller, shaped block, to match the curves of the tool (which is flat). Now, Guru, you mentioned setting the block on an electric stove top, the dial and color set to a known temperature. The item to be tempered is laid on the block which, by virtue of its heated mass and the heat from the coil below, quickly tempers the waiting steel to the same color as the block. Correct so far? Since shaping a large block would not be feasible for me, could I simply shape a thinner piece (1/4 inch) of the same material as the tool and set it on the larger block on the stove? If I take a few samples of the same piece I'm working, shine them, and heat them to known temperatures, I'd have a pretty good color scheme to look for.

So, the whole thing would look rather like a giant printer's block, upon which I would lay my tool (and hope like crazy I didn't screw it up!).

Would this work? I'm guessing that, if anything, the extra shaped piece would simply add mass to the big block beneath. Man, I'm excited to try this! But will it work?

Oh, yes! Because I'd have to lay the tool on its side, and because I imagine the heat would run faster on the bottom than the top, wouldn't I have to temper it twice, once on each side?

As always, gentlemen, my thanks, (and apologies for the novel-length questions.)

   ProfNewbie - Tuesday, 10/02/07 16:43:07 EDT

Prof Newbie,

If the tool is flat, you don't need a shaped block; a flat block wil do the job. The key thing is to have reasonable contact betweent the block and the work piece.

Since the block is brough up only to the tempering temperature, you don't need to temper on both sides of your piece. Simply leave it on the block long enough for the heat to work its way through the entire piece. As QC mentioned, an hour per inch of thickness will let the heat soak into/through the piece, and then some additional time to allow all the austenite to go back to martensite. Since th epiece is physically in contact with the heat source (block) it will probably heat much quicker than an hour per inch, but taking more time won't hurt, I don't think.

Tempering twice may still be a good idea, for the purpose of converting any stray austenite that didn't get changed to martensite during the first cycle.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 10/02/07 17:10:03 EDT

Prof Newbie, No do not extend the cycle time. The time vs temp thing really applies to the first temper. Dang, this is getting complicated. If you temper a second time, go hotter for the same amount of time. As for the tempering block, try putting two blocks on end and put the part between them.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 10/02/07 19:33:05 EDT

Thank you, vicopper.

The only caveat in this case is that the tool has cutting edges, so I will need to prevent a full temper. I want to keep the cutting surfaces harder than the main body, but since the thing is oddly shaped, I figured a smaller rough blank in the general shape of the main tool would do the trick. Not unlike, I suppose, the tempering process of two-edged swords, wherein the center channel is heated.

Except that this is not a sword, nor is it nice and straight.
   ProfNewbie - Tuesday, 10/02/07 19:44:10 EDT

I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to answer my questions regarding my daughter. You have been most helpful especially with your encouragement and enthusiasm. Other people I asked kind of made fun of the fact she was a girl. I tried to respond directly to your e-mail as I wanted to show you some pics of the things she has made but came back to me as undeliverable. Thank you again very very much. Loraine
   Loraine - Tuesday, 10/02/07 21:21:00 EDT


I've got more questions about that gas burner I talked about a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering: Do you really need to use an fuel welding hose for the gas hose (which is what I guess would fit onto that NPT->LH fuel welding hose adapter), or would any sort of gas hose work?
   mike3 - Tuesday, 10/02/07 22:35:38 EDT

I re-read your posts, but I guess I missed what you've made or what you intend to make. The shape of a piece determines how it's tempered. On a tool with a striking head, you harden and temper just the business end. If a tool has an eye, it remains normalized. If you're good enough to harden a blade just on the cutting side, say one half to two thirds of the blade width, then the back stays normalized, and you're tempering only what you've hardened.

Other ways of shop tempering are over a forge fire, but the soot and the flame reflection may cause confusion. I've tempered with the oxy torch, but I'm careful with the little blue inner cone; I'm told it's tip is at 6,000ºF. If I'm chasing color on say, a cold chisel, I direct the inner cone away from the cutting end. Eventually, the colors will run. Patience. If you're unsure and you mess up the hardening and tempering, you normalize again. Start over.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 10/02/07 23:31:45 EDT

Prof Newbie: Temper tha part at the temperature that is right for the cutting edges, then draw the other parts of the tool back to a softer degree in an aditional step that doesn't heat the cutting edges more than You want. Another posibility would be to make the tool out of an alloy with better wear resistance at a lower hardness. What arte You making anyway?
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 10/03/07 00:13:29 EDT

Gas Hose: Mike3, you absolutely must have hose rated for LPG Propane. Propane is a hydrocarbon solvent (just like paint thinner) and it can attack many types of rubber. Even standard oxy-acetylene fuel hose is not the correct hose.

You can get properly rated hose from your LPG supplier or any welding supplier.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/03/07 00:59:52 EDT

Heat Sink "block" tempering revisit: You have to use some common sense here. This is merely a big heat sink. How you use it is up to you. What it DOES do is keep what may be a delicate part out of the fire reducing the danger of over heating thin sections. It allows you to use temper colors to judge its temperature while doing so may not be appropriate on some alloy steels. It results in a very uniform heat in one of the easiest most controllable ways possible.

Flat parts DO work best on the block but it will radiate a lot of heat and your part will eventually achieve an almost even heat. To speed the process you could toss a piece of Kaowool blanket over the part on the block. This would reduce cooling of the exposed side and get an even more uniform heat. Some folks also use Kaowool as an annealing medium.

The drawback to using the temper colors to judge the heat of the block is that once you have gone beyond the temperature you want you have to polish the surface clean and start again. In other words, you cannot back up.

Another way to judge the temperature is with a bunch of polished "coupons" or flat steel samples. If you have over heated and are waiting for the block to cool to the right temperature you can toss on a fresh coupon and watch the color it changes to.

THINK. Its not rocket science. It is the manipulation of heat. Something we do every day when we cook and eat. Just at lower MUCH more critical temperatures.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/03/07 01:16:34 EDT

This Tempering discussion would make a fine addition to the FAQ on the subject.

Another subject, Coal and pricing. I spoke with my Dad, who still live in WV, about buying a pickup truck load of coal. He said there is not many small mines left and the ones that do sell direct are backlogged. The last he heard it was about $70.00 USD a ton.I'll pay that but I have to find one that will sell. The problem is the mines are contracted to sell all coal extracted to one or two buyers. When I grew up, coal was as common as grass in people's yards, now it's getting hard to find. I can only imagine what it's like in the midwest.
   daveb - Wednesday, 10/03/07 08:39:46 EDT

Smithing grade coal, termed "metallurgical", is the coking variety, and it can be difficult to find. On the Western Slope of the U.S., most all coal is shipped in, and the shipping cost can be more than the coal cost. Our King Mine near Durango, Colorado, sells three sizes: stove; stoker; and mine run, all of which can be picked up at the mine. King is also constantly loading trucks with about 25 tons each, and I suspect that coal goes to the Four Corners Power Plant. Each chunk of stove size is about 6" to 12" across. The stoker size is approximately 1" to 2.5" across. The mine run is cheaper than the other two grades and is pea size with many fines; usable, though, especially if wetted. King does not necessarily cater to blacksmiths, but the coal is fairly good for forge work. The coal is also sold to those who still heat their homes and businesses in that manner.

This is hearsay, but I'm told that U.S. coal is often sold in trainload lots and 100,000 ton lots, and much of that goes to Japan and elsewhere to stoke their steel making industries.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 10/03/07 09:28:57 EDT

Back in AR there was a mine doing metallurgical grade coal and it all went to Belgium; however if you showed up on a Friday Afternoon with a sixpack there would sometimes be the possibility of an industrial accident where a bunch of coal would accidently drop out of a loader into your pickup. Didn't happen when any of the upity ups were around but the folks with coal dust on them were willing!

Perhaps you could arrange to get a "sample" for "testing" that wouldn't violate their contract.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/03/07 10:48:41 EDT

My wife's cousin is an accountant for several small operations, I think I will give her a call. I have used coal from mostly Mc Dowell Co. Wv, What we called the Poca seam. I will find a way to get it. :)
   daveb - Wednesday, 10/03/07 11:04:31 EDT

Coal Exports In Virginia and the Carolinas coal from West Virginia and Kentucky Travels down hill to the ports in nearly endless trains. On the less smooth routes the empty cars make their way back to coal country. In Norfolk VA they have one of the largest and most automated coal loading docks in the world. I understand that the same is true on the West Coast.

We are exporting coal, scrap iron and ore like a third world nation. In the Northwest and Canada logs are leaving the ports at a fantastic rate. None of these materials should ever leave our shores except as finished goods.

The origin of all true wealth comes from "found" raw materials (natural resources) and is further enhanced by converting the raw materials into finished goods. Everything else in a healty economy stems from this. Exporting raw materials is a shortsighted economic sin and will be our downfall. It is worse than exporting manufacturing jobs.

While I much prefer the compact intense fire of coal I am resigned to converting to charcoal and propane for my forge fuel when my meager supplies of coal run out.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/03/07 11:09:59 EDT

daveb: There is a company in Louisville, KY called Cumberland Elkhorn Coal & Coke (or similar) which is said to have excellent blacksmithing coal. Available by the bag, pick-up load or dump truck delivered via a third party. Go to www.switchboard.com and do a business search on coal within KY.

If you are near Southwestern, OH, The SOF&A Chapter of ABANA does an annual coal buy. Members can reserve quantities, but must work alongside the coal to bucket to storage crew. At Quad-State one member told me they are close to buying another semi-truckload.

Other blacksmithing groups may also do a periodic bulk buy. Check with those in your area.

Don't remember name but I have heard there is a hardware chain in the Northeast who can special order a good grade of PA coal in 40 or 50 pound bags.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Wednesday, 10/03/07 14:09:25 EDT

Peter Wright and ENGLAND question:

In Anvils in America, as near as I can determine, Richard Postman gives 1910 as when Peter Wright started to put ENGLAND on their anvils. However, I've read in several places the law requiring county of origin in England went into effect in 1891 or 1892. Which is correct as far as PW goes?
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Wednesday, 10/03/07 14:11:15 EDT

Ken, Specifics of many industrial policies are details that are lost even in THIS century. Try to look up the details of "lifetime" warranties on tools you bought 30 years ago. . .

Most of Richard's dates were based on example anvils that could be fairly reliably dated as to when they were delivered. A lot is guess work or how well you trust the memory of a 90 year old. . . or what they told their children.

The earlier date MAY be correct, but then you have to prove it. The catalogs at the Museum are your best bet but those are often laging behind the product and imported goods often had the source removed on illustrations.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/03/07 15:17:34 EDT


One thought on tempering. If you have the block on a burner (as you described in an earlier post), adding a kaowool blanket on top will probably increase the equilibrium temperature of the block. No big deal, unless you're relying on the block being a specific temperature to avoid over tempering the piece. Just one more thing to look out for.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 10/03/07 18:26:36 EDT

Cumberland Elkhorn Coal co, on Swan Street in Louisville indeed has EXCELLENT blacksmiths coal. The fellows are a joy to work with and will ship. The last time I was there, they had just bagged up a skid to ship to ABANNA Seatle. The cost is half the bagged price if you haul it loose. They gently load it in my pickup with about the biggest front end loader in the city. Call ahead as they are not there every day, they are out hauling and selling.
950 Swan St. Louisville Ky.
   ptreeforge - Wednesday, 10/03/07 18:37:45 EDT

ProfNewbie, you've got me wondering what it is you're making? Letting everyone in on that may go a long way to helping figure out the best way to do the heat treatment.

There are several ways to achieve a differential temper. The first is to harden the entire piece, temper it to the hardest you want the cutting edge and then draw temper out more on the remaining - direct flame from a torch, induction (from a block or heated rod) etc. This can be tricky with multiple cutting edges.
The second is a differential hardening, followed by tempering at a temperature to reach the maximum hardness you want. No need to draw the remaining back, b/c it was never hardened fully. This can be done by a partial quench (quenching only the cutting edge) or - what hasn't been mentioned yet - by coating the areas you don't want hardened in an insulating material and putting the whole thing in your quench medium. I'm a fan of this method to get decorative hamons on my knives. I like using high temp fireplace mortar (rated to 3K-5K degrees depending on brand) to coat the backs of my knives, but satanite is popular as well. Finish it off with a light etch to show the hamon and you've got a real looker.
As others have said the shape, configuration and mass of the tool you're making determines what method(s) you'll use to heat treat it.
So.... whatcha makin'? :)
   - Jeremy - Wednesday, 10/03/07 20:28:19 EDT

ProfNewbie, you've got me wondering what it is you're making? Letting everyone in on that may go a long way to helping figure out the best way to do the heat treatment.

There are several ways to achieve a differential temper. The first is to harden the entire piece, temper it to the hardest you want the cutting edge and then draw temper out more on the remaining - direct flame from a torch, induction (from a block or heated rod) etc. This can be tricky with multiple cutting edges.
The second is a differential hardening, followed by tempering at a temperature to reach the maximum hardness you want. No need to draw the remaining back, b/c it was never hardened fully. This can be done by a partial quench (quenching only the cutting edge) or - what hasn't been mentioned yet - by coating the areas you don't want hardened in an insulating material and putting the whole thing in your quench medium. I'm a fan of this method to get decorative hamons on my knives. I like using high temp fireplace mortar (rated to 3K-5K degrees depending on brand) to coat the backs of my knives, but satanite is popular as well. Finish it off with a light etch to show the hamon and you've got a real looker.
As others have said the shape, configuration and mass of the tool you're making determines what method(s) you'll use to heat treat it.
So.... whatcha makin'? :)
   Jeremy - Wednesday, 10/03/07 20:29:00 EDT

I am a mechanic, not a metal worker, but my mouth has gotten me in trouble. I need to make repetitive bends in 1/4 x 1 1/2 HR steel, approx. 34 in. radius, about 36 in. oal. Which would serve me best, to make a wooden or steel form to bend it over, or to build a ring roller?
   - Rentaratchet - Wednesday, 10/03/07 21:20:22 EDT

As for what I'm making, Mwuhuhahahahahaha!!!! I'll never tell!

No, it's just that I don't know what to call it. I guess maybe a chopping chisel. Sort of. I'm a woodcarver and usually do really small very finely finished stuff, but have lately been doing larger pieces. I'm also getting more interested in rough work on logs. I despise power tools (though I'm often a hypocrite there), and I wanted something with which I could quickly hog out sections of logs and such. And I also just wanted to try my hand at tool-making.

Anyway, this tool can be banged on with a mallet like a chisel, or swung like a hatchet, or used for finer work. This invariably means different cutting surfaces for different kinds of work. It is not a complicated thing, but it is EXTREMELY ugly. With the banging and knocking around, I kind of wanted some flex in the main body, but I also wanted to keep the edges reasonably hard. And because the edges are on multiple sides (and angles), there's a bit of complexity. I may have to just stick with an even temper, but I've gotten this far, and I want to keep pushing myself. The learning is the most fun, anyway. Well, except for the cool stuff you get to make with what you've learned.

Maybe after this I'll try making a knife or something. By then I'll be an old pro!
   ProfNewbie - Wednesday, 10/03/07 21:29:40 EDT

Production Bends: Rentaratchet, This is a big gentle bend with a LOT of spring back. The wooden form OR a steel form to do this can be made in minutes and produce thousands of parts.

Here are the problems:

Spring back, you will need to trial and error the ammount of bend to put into the parts. This means making the jig a bit tighter than you need. The gentler the bend the higher proportion the spring back. In this case you are just barely springing the steel. When you severeely yeild the steel it is a lot like hot working and lays right there on the shope of the bender, this will not. I would laypout the bender with several radiuses and cut a little more off at a time until the bend is right. About 2" increments should do and ALWAYS test a fresh piece to be sure it works in one pass.

Temper is the next problem. Because you are working in the springy range of the steel every batch of steel may bend different. The biggest difference is between good soft hot rolled steel and workhardened "sheared and edged plate" which is often sold as "hot roll". It is NOT. Then in between you have the more expensive cold drawn or DF bar. This is usually much more consistent but it has crisp corners, a smooth oiled finish and is as noted, more expensive.

It does not matter which steel you get as long as it is all the same. Good old fashioned round edged hot roll with a tight mill scale finish is the best for this type thing but steel is getting more and more inconsistent since most is now imported. . .

These problems are even worse with a roller.

See our benders article for ideas. Be sure to find all three pages.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/03/07 21:47:06 EDT

Prof Newbie: I think I would temper the whole thing at 400 deg F in an oven and if there are parts that will be struck with a steel hammer or a tang that will see bending loads I would draw them further [dark blue?] with a torch.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 10/03/07 22:34:38 EDT

Prof Newbie : If the striking faces are to be struck with a hardened hammer, I would draw them back even more.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 10/03/07 22:50:39 EDT

"Gas Hose: Mike3, you absolutely must have hose rated for LPG Propane. Propane is a hydrocarbon solvent (just like paint thinner) and it can attack many types of rubber. Even standard oxy-acetylene fuel hose is not the correct hose.

You can get properly rated hose from your LPG supplier or any welding supplier."

Well that's what I'd use. I was just wondering if I needed the fuel welding hose as I don't have any available around here. As long as the hose is rated to run propane it should work, right? What about those hoses used to run propane for a gas grill or something? Will that work?
   mike3 - Wednesday, 10/03/07 23:56:14 EDT

Hello all, my name is Matt. I'm currently building my first propane-fired forge and i'm trying to decide what method of refractory to use, Kaowool/durablanket or refractory cement.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of these and which one should i use?

   Matt - Wednesday, 10/03/07 23:59:54 EDT

Matt, It depends a lot on personal preferences as well as budget AND access to materials.

Kaowool lined forges are easy to build, heat up fast, are light weight and portable. The lining holds up well but is obviously a blanket product that you can poke holes in and snag items on. It should be covered with ITC-100 to increase durability and reduce the spread of possibly hazardous ceramic fibre dust. The Kaowool is the more expensive refractory to build a forge from.

Castable refractory is heavy and more durable than light weight refractories but not nearly as durable as hard fired refractory brick. It takes more time to build a cast forge and drying cannot be reduced to much less than a week. Done poorly castable will crack and fail. It makes very heavy forges that take longer to heat up than light weight refractories but if you are working all day the heat is in storage and helps maintain a constant temperature. Castable refractory is cheap compared to kaowool (if not you are getting it from the wrong place) but shipping can add greatly to the cost. Castable can also benefit from a coat of ITC-100 but is not as critical.

So you have light weight forges with a fast heat up and cool down that are portable and heavy forges that heat slow, cool slower and are far from portable. The light weight refractory is also better insulation keeping the outside of the forge much cooler than castable which can get so hot you don't want to stand within several feet of it when hot.

Castable has the disadvantage that changes are difficult to make if you screw up. Kaowwol is easy to cut, manipulate, patch and use loose pieces for temporarily plugging holes and such. Many folks feel it is worth the extra cost and the occasional maintenance.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 00:39:36 EDT

Propane Hose: Mike, The hoses sold for grills and on recreational vehicles (travel trailers) is actually a better grade of hose than the properly rated welding hose. Travel trailer and RV dealers are a good source for a lot of your propane parts needs including tanks and refills.

You can also run a small copper line with a coiled section for flexibility as long as the forge is not moved around too much or the tank has a fixed location near the forge.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 00:46:31 EDT

Four to six square feet of insulating blanket should be more than enough for the average forge. Look in the yellow pages of a nearby larger city under Refractory Supplies. They may sell it in less than a full box. It is also available at the Anvilfire store and on eBay in smaller quantities. The Anvilfire store also carries ITC coating. I have not seen that on eBay in a while.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Thursday, 10/04/07 07:33:49 EDT

Ken: The McKinley Tariff act of 1891 is what required all durable goods imported into the USA to be marked with country of origin. So far so good, but many English companies were marking items for *export* due to their own laws starting in the 1870s. In other words, there's no telling without seeing the company records.

Dave and coal: Go to Asheville,NC. Grace Fuels has Blue Diamond seam metallurgical coal bagged and bulk for a price that'd save you gas money. They've also started carrying coke. 828-252-2436 They may even give you a discount on a truckload shipped to North Wilkesboro, couldn't hurt to ask!
   Alan-L - Thursday, 10/04/07 09:43:47 EDT

How to physically remove firescale from gaswelded mild steel
   Bob - Thursday, 10/04/07 09:44:34 EDT

Bob, Wirebrushes (power or manual), files, grinders, a tumbler or vibratory finisher, grit blasting OR strong acid.

All the above work depending on your needs and means.

I like a powered stationary wire wheel, 6" fine stainless (.010" wire)at 1800 RPM. A slow soft wheel does not cut the work and leaves a smooth finish. I also use this wheel for removing rust from tools of all sorts. On hard steel it does not leave a mark, on soft it may frost the surface a little.

The larger, faster and stiffer the wire wheel the more likely it is to grab the work. This IS serious. See Paw-Paws safety demo on our iForge page. Almost all of us that use these wheels have had similar near misses.

   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 10:00:57 EDT


Hose for regular outdoor gas grills may be related for only 1 or 2 PSI -- not enough for a venturi forge. I'm not really sure why it's rated so low; the stresses from, say, 20 PSI, gas in a 1/4" ID hose are pretty minimal. Still, given the potential consequences of a hose failing near a forge, I'd stick to hose rated for the appropriate pressure. On the other hand, last time I looked at Home Depot, they were still selling turkey fryers with a 10 PSI regulator feeding a ball valve with "1/2 PSI" cast in the handle.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 10/04/07 12:41:06 EDT

Prof. Newbie, I too am a woodcarver and enjoy making woodcarving tools. In fact, that is how I got into smithing. You sound like you are making a variation of an Adz. Send Guru a picture of it when it is done. We are all curious. Ok, at least I am curious.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 10/04/07 13:21:09 EDT

The best prices I've run across for a propane regulator/pressure gauge/hose kit is from www.tejassmokers.com. As I recall, free shipping also. Likely all comes from China.

They are also the only source I have seen for stainless spiral handles.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Thursday, 10/04/07 14:05:47 EDT

I have already read through your page on sword making and found it to be very helpful. I am a craft student in Ireland and am in my second year of metal work. this years project is a repousse piece and i know your probably gonna say dont do it but i want to work it into a sword more specifically the hilt/handguard. Don't worry i have no desire to use it i just find swords to be a beautiful piece of art work even though i would admit to being a fantasy fan not really conan but more Robert Jordans other works, The Wheel Of Time. I do own a couple of swords and daggers that although fakes are beautifully decorated and i would like to say to myself in years to come "I made that one." Anyway my question is this i have to decide now whether to make the blade myself of use an existing one as the project only covers repousse so the blade dos nt really come into it. In your opinion which should i do will it be more rewarding to make my own blade or will i cheat and save myself alot of hardship, i need an outside,expert opinion. thankyou.
   fiona - Thursday, 10/04/07 16:20:50 EDT


Hose for regular outdoor gas grills may be related for only 1 or 2 PSI -- not enough for a venturi forge. I'm not really sure why it's rated so low; the stresses from, say, 20 PSI, gas in a 1/4" ID hose are pretty minimal. Still, given the potential consequences of a hose failing near a forge, I'd stick to hose rated for the appropriate pressure. On the other hand, last time I looked at Home Depot, they were still selling turkey fryers with a 10 PSI regulator feeding a ball valve with "1/2 PSI" cast in the handle."

But it does not need to be a _fuel welding_ hose, right? As I can't find them where I live. Provided it meets the requirements (pressure and fuel type), it should work, right?
   mike3 - Thursday, 10/04/07 16:48:49 EDT

Yes. Note that while grill components are low pressure I believe the hoses are designed for worse case situations where liquid fuel gets in the lines from tipped over bottles. This can result in much higher pressure than the regulator is set to. Go to the dealer read the label and ask questions.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 17:24:02 EDT

Decorative Arts: Fiona, What a wonderful Irish name. You almost never hear in the states!

The thing to remember is that most fancy swords and such items were a group effort. The smith made the blade and someone else may have ground and polished it. The furniture was made by another artist and the hilt by another who probably put the whole together. Each was a specialist that did things the others could not do nearly as well.

You are best off to learn one task well rather than spreading yourself too thin. Find an existing blade, buy a cheap import and take it apart OR even fit your art to a dummy piece (wood or plastic) the way they do archaeological relics to give them a place.

I am not sure how repousse' which is normally fairly thin or relatively thin would apply to a blade. Furniture is usually solid sculptural work such as lost wax in brass. I could see it possibly as parts of a sheath. But I think you have an idea of what you want to do.

Good luck on your project!

   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 17:51:23 EDT

Fiona; If you are doing good repousse I would suggest getting as good a blade as you can and then dressing it up with your work. A great hilt on a cheap blade will never look as good as one on a decent blade.

As for repousee work may I suggest looking into doing something like a spanish cuphilted rapier? Some of them were very well done indeed. Look for a copy of the Wallace Collection Catalogue for examples. They sell bare blades for Western Martial Arts recreation that would convert to a cup hilted rapier very nicely indeed.

OTOH Have you seen the repousse in Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance (ISBN: 0300086180) Stuart W. Pyhrr, Jose-A. Godoy. It will truly knock your socks off what the Negroli's were doing in wrought iron for helmets, shields, etc as a metalworker it makes me want to cry that I'll never be 1000000'th that good.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/04/07 18:38:54 EDT

ok, one more question

Is there a better-to-use ceramic blanket to use?

A local store carries ceramic blanket that is used inside fireplaces. It's called 'Homesaver Flexwrap'

It has no silver backing, just the ceramic blanket.

Anyone know anything about this stuff?
   Matt A - Thursday, 10/04/07 19:48:39 EDT

Foil backing is a specialty that you can get on high temp blanket except you cannot use it a high temp. It is aluminum and melts at about half the rating of the blanket. Most comes without. The stuff used in fireplaces (outside a steel liner) can be the lowest rated blanket made as it should never see more than about 1200 to 1500F. However, we sell high temperature rated Kaowool quite often for this purpose.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/04/07 20:31:22 EDT

Matt, ceramic blanket materials are temperature rated. I would bet you a big orange drink that the fireplace stuff will not work at normal propane forge temperatures. You need stuff rated at 2300F or better. YOu can buy it from the Anvilfire shop or from Poorboy Blacksmith tools.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 10/04/07 20:31:59 EDT

Fiona-- When I was in Ireland in 1998 they were just completing work on the Heritage Center's new smithy at Crossmolina-- which was to have a German smith in residence! I did not come across another forge between Dublin and Westport and back, but there was a national crafts center down at the foot of Grafton Street on Temple Bar. Naybe somebody there or at Crossmolina could give you on-site practical help in deciding. Forging, hardening, tempering a sword would seem a bit farther down the road than second year. But-- never underestimate the power of a woman, right?
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 10/04/07 21:00:50 EDT

While my girls have not made swords, both started in the forge at about 6 or so. Started forging, standing on a platform to reach the anvil. The oldest paid for two used cars in High School, mostly by sale of iron work. The younger at 15 years is still working with me from time to time. They have both have discovered a social life, and this greatly cut down on the desire to blacksmith. I do have faith that they will return to the fold as the iron work gets in the blood.
Good luck, and let us know how the work progresses.
   ptreeforge - Thursday, 10/04/07 21:11:49 EDT

Thanks guys.
I'll just buy from anvilfire. This place has been a treasure trove of information for me.
   Matt A - Thursday, 10/04/07 22:54:23 EDT

Ptree,et al, my 4 year old (great granddaughter) wants to "make stuff like Paw Paw makes". I started her on soft cold aluminum rod for her first hook last week. She has been driving nails in wood for about a year so she has good hammer control. Hot iron is too dangerous for a 50 # kid and the aluminum was pretty hard by the time she got it pointed. I don't want her to use lead; would bizmuth be a feasible alternatine for her forging practice? Does anyone have an idea on this? Thanks
   Ron Childers - Friday, 10/05/07 12:53:26 EDT

How about antimony? I'm not too sure of HOW toxic it is, but old sideshow performers would pour it in their mouths while it was molten. The secret is anitmony's very low melting point. The performer would then spit it out onto a cold plate. Of course they called it the Molten Lead Spit.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 10/05/07 13:17:34 EDT

Soft Material, Kids and tools: If you want soft aluminum you want a pure 1000 series. It has the highest ductility and least work hardenability. Some copper alloys are very soft. . But I think pure iron has less work hardenability.

You would think there was a malleable plastic harder than a wax. . .

At this age it is hard to give kids real tools that they they won't hurt themselves with. I had a small vise on a bench/desk, small wrenches and some other odd tools at that age (I still have the wrenches and I gave my son the little 2.25" vise). I was VERY VERY disappointed when at about age 8 someone gave me a plastic tool kit with one of those cast iron hammers that break about the third time you hit a real nail. . .

We've been giving our kids tools (for Christmas, birthdays) since they were very young. At about 5-6 I built two small work benches with vise's and each had a small steel tackle box with a small but real carpenter's hammer, a four in hand rasp, small channel locks, needle nose pliers and a set of screw drivers. At about age 13 both were given Milwaukee 1/4" (1/2" shank capacity) hole shooter drills. A year or so later they each received Dremels in the full accessory kit. When my daughter graduated from college she asked for a tool chest. She received the large Kennedy 11 drawer chest she described. Several years later I helped her shop for wrenches and other tools to fill in the gaps. She is not a mechanic or carpenter but she has the tools to do the things she wants.

   - guru - Friday, 10/05/07 14:54:47 EDT

Okay, but what about antimony? I didn't mean to scare anyone with it seeing how close it looks like alimony.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 10/05/07 15:46:35 EDT

Antimony is used as a hardener in many alloys. I'm not sure of its actual properties as a pure metal but seeing as it is not normally used in its pure form I suspect there are problems with oxidation, toxicity or ductility. So we Google it. .

Metallic antimony is an extremely brittle metal of a flaky, crystalline texture. It is bluish white and has a metallic lustre. It is not acted on by air at room temperature, but burns brilliantly when heated with the formation of white fumes. It is a poor conductor of heat and electricity.

Antimony and its compounds are toxic. It is found mostly with other minerals and in stibnite.
I didn't look up HOW toxic since it is not workable. Bismuth is also brittle alone and is alloyed for most application. Bismuth alloys can be made with very low melting points.
   - guru - Friday, 10/05/07 17:08:17 EDT

When I worked at the Stockpile, we were more worried about the lead than the antimony (which we had in billets). However, antimony is in the same series as arsenic, and once was used a medicine to treat worms. I think a side effect was temporary hair loss.
   Mike BR - Friday, 10/05/07 18:02:23 EDT

Ron childers,
For a 4 year old, I would use the smallest hammer I could find, and make one to fit. Then I would use somewhat cold modeling clay. No its not metal, but the thing is the young one can hammer, and see the material move, and the proud great grandparents can ohh and awww, and the effect will be quite nice. The clay if the right type can be baked to hardern if desired.
Aluminum, if used can be annealed to soften.

May I suggest that small proper safety glasses do exist for the little ones. Most have adjustable temples but a glasses strap really helps. For the little ones I found that it is very difficult to fit earplugs, and also hard to tell if they are working properly. I always suggest ear muff hearing protectors for the little ones. Easy to help them put on, and if they are over the ear, they are working.

I put my oldest on a box, and sorta wrapped around her from behind. I held the hot iron, and her hand was also on the bar, but on the side away from the heat, so that my hand felt it first. I used a long handled hammer, and held behind hers, so that I guided the hammer, but she swung the blow. Once she was able to guide a hammer well, and hold the iron with confidence, I let her stand on her box, with a custom 6oz forge hammer, and I stood on the other side of the anvil and struck for her with a 2.5# hand hammer. That way she hit, and I moved the metal, so she would not get quickly frustrated with her lack of metal movement. she was of course in cotton bibs, cotton long sleeve shirt, and a hat or cotton bandana over her hair. Her mother being a tiny person, had worn size 4 ladies combat boots in the military, so my daughter wore those.
I will say that in all my shop sessions with my kids, they were never ever once burnt, or hurt. I do not recall that they ever burnt or hurt me either.
Good luck.
   ptreeforge - Friday, 10/05/07 18:27:22 EDT

If money is no object, then the easiest metal to forge, and one that won't work harden is fine gold. Okay, so that's a bit pricey for a 4 year old to play with, but fine silver might not be too bad. It too, doesn't work harden much and is easy enough to forge cold. While the price is astronomical compared to steel, you can re-melt it easily and cast it into small bars to re-forge time and time again. A couple of troy ounces would do a LOT of forging practice. When a piece is "complete", take a couple of photos and print them to hang on the door of the fridge. Then start over.

You can melt silver in the forge, flux with borax/boric acid and cast little ingots in grooves routed into hard wood. Run a torch over the wood first to char the surface slightly. The layer of charcoal will keep the silver clean when you pour into it. It will still smoke and flame some, but it will make a very serviceable ingot mold.
   vicopper - Friday, 10/05/07 19:55:18 EDT

Rich, old jewelers never quite get that out of the system, much iron work:)

I actually have done quite a bit of silver and gold forging, and it is just about as easy as Vicopper says.
   ptreeforge - Friday, 10/05/07 20:15:13 EDT

I THINK, Naval Bronze AKA Forging Brass is softer and more maleable than fine silver. Cheaper and just as recylable. It also polishes up just as pretty (looks like gold rather than silver).

In all cold forging if you stick to a relatively large hammer relative to the bar/wire size the metal seems softer.

   - guru - Friday, 10/05/07 22:16:00 EDT

I am making left and right flintlocks for a double barrel,and I am making main springs.The quench temperature of the stock is 1475F, and the draw temp. is 740-810F.What is the best way to go about this? What is the melting temp. of lead, and would it be near constant in a forge? Would it be better to cover the springs in non-detergent oil and let it flash/burn-off in a forge? Thanks for your help!
   nelson - Friday, 10/05/07 22:52:07 EDT

Is it possible to judge varing carbon content in a peace of steel by the different coloration when it is hot?
   Troy - Friday, 10/05/07 23:21:46 EDT

No way in this life is forging brass as easy to forge as fine silver, believe me. I've forged both and I know whereof I speak on this. If you really want easy forging, forge fine silver hot - like warm clay.
   vicopper - Friday, 10/05/07 23:22:15 EDT


Funny you should mention an adze. I was thinking my description came off that way. No, an adze is an elegant tool. Not mine. In fact, it is so ugly I'm not sure I want to use it, even in the deep woods at night. But for now, I'm going to go back to the lair, throw it in the oven, take it out, and then play around with some hot blocks. I'll report back. If all goes well I may work up the courage to send a picture. Maybe put one of those glasses/mustache disguises on it, so as not to offend the children, or small woodland animals. Thanks again for all your help, gents, and wish me well.

Prof Newbie
   ProfNewbie - Saturday, 10/06/07 00:28:14 EDT

Troy, No. However, various high alloy steels scale differently and of course alloys like stainless show temper colors at a completely different range. But I do not think anyone uses the differences to identify steels. The spark test is the most common shop test.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/06/07 00:50:39 EDT

Nelson, The best thing to do in a case like this is to test some samples of the material of near the same size to find the best method.

Due to toxicity lead is no longer used for heat treating. However, salts are still used. We have a brief bit about salts in our heat treating FAQ. In either case you would need temperature measurement and control equipment. Just a few hundred degrees off the hardening/tempering values you give and you can end up with a very toxic cloud of lead vapors.

There are many ways to heat treat small parts. To prevent oxidation you can use coatings, a filed case hardening box, or stainless foil then heat in a forge or oven. For tempering I discussed using a larger block of steel as a consistent controllable heat source heat source a few days ago (look UP). Salt baths are also used but more difficult to setup.

Think simple and controlled. Don't skip steps and be prepared for each (proper tongs, set down areas. . .).
   - guru - Saturday, 10/06/07 01:04:02 EDT

Lead-free plumbing solder (tin with a little silver or antimony) might be suitable for cold forging. Not sure how fast it work hardens, though.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 10/06/07 07:39:36 EDT

Insulating castable refractory:
There's another type of castable refractory, the insulating kind. This, when cured, has about the same properties as insulating fire brick - weight, insulation, cutting ability,... It's not as durable as hard brick, but it's much more than Kaowool. You can shape it pretty easily with any saw or rasp.

Just another option.

   - Marc - Saturday, 10/06/07 11:32:20 EDT

On tool kits when a niece or nephew would move into their first apartment I could make up a tool kits for them. Tackle box with hammer, assortment of nails/screws/nuts & bolts/metric & SAE wrenches, metric & SAE screwdrives, etc. Cheap imports, but good enough for light usage. Almost all have told me how valuable they found that housewarming gift.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Saturday, 10/06/07 12:30:48 EDT

i jsut got home from HABA forge fest. it was a great day where all the more experienced smiths were demoing basic techniques ot the more novis of the group. i did pretty well, in the tailgating department as well. befroe today i didn't have myself a post vise. so i was gongi back and forth between my forge and a felllow smiths vise. untill a guy walked up to me and said i think i have something you might like. i go over to his truck and he has a 250+# 6" post vise. it needed a spring but i had a coil spring with me that fit over the threads perfectly. i put some 90# grease on it. and he only wanted $50 for it. it came with a stand and everything. somrrow i'm gongi to get some bearring grease and a wire brush and make a mess. but $50 for a 6" post vise ain't to bad i don't think. i also got 25# of 1/8"-5/16" 25# of each for free. so my truck left heavier than it came.

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Saturday, 10/06/07 21:40:35 EDT

Andrew B: great score on the post vise. Thomas P would have found somebody who would PAY HIM to take one, but that only works for Him.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 10/06/07 21:51:58 EDT

HAHA....Dave you got that right!!!!!!!!
   - Sparky II - Saturday, 10/06/07 21:56:24 EDT


Is there any way to anneal or other wise bring color out on copper?

   Ryan Twedt - Saturday, 10/06/07 22:33:25 EDT

Andrew, Good Score. I paid $250 for a slightly smaller vise in better condition. But a missing spring is not a big deal. Things will get caught and tangled in that coil spring. It also uses up vertical depth and side clearance around the screw. You will find that you want to fix it sooner than later.

Things like this come along now an then, even at Hammer-Ins where you would expect there to be buyers for everything. It always pays to have enough cash in your pocket to take advantage of super excellent deals. There are a lot of times that sellers want to go home with an empty truck, at any cost. AND times when buyers want to take something home at any cost. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 10/06/07 22:40:41 EDT

Copper: Ryan, Annealing has nothing to do with color. In non-ferrous metals annealing is the heating to a low red and quenching of the metal to remove work hardening. It often leaves a terribly heat discolored surface.

To "bring out" the color of copper requires chemically or physically removing oxidation or corrosion. Jewelers use a compound called "sparex" that is dissolved in water to remove heat and flux discoloration. This is followed by polishing. You can also go directly to cleaning with fine sand paper and then polishing. Scrubbing with SOS pads works just like it does on the bottom of coper clad Revere ware. It also works well on aluminum. However, this leaves fine scratches. However, they are hard to see on the brilliant surface.

If you want to polish to the most brilliant start with fine sandpaper such as 320 or 400 grit (after removal of oxidation with a coarser grit or chemical). Then power buff with Tripoli buffing compound (orange compound) OR by hand with DuPont Orange automotive rubbing compound. When the finish looks perfect change to jeweler's rouge (red compound) and lightly polish. By hand you get a similar effect using the faint dry remnants of compound left on your second polishing rag.

On copper this brilliant finish will last a while (like an new penny) but eventually copper starts to oxidize, first showing fingerprints and then rapidly turning a brown.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/06/07 22:56:38 EDT

N.B. There is Sparex No. 2, for non-ferrous, and Sparex No. 1, for ferrous. Put anything ferrous (such as tongs) into No.2 and the tongs, etc. will acquire a spooky coppery hue. I think I am recalling this correctly. But whatever, there are two kinds and you gotta use the right one. And it works best when heated-- (thanks, Thomas!!!)-- so get yourself a Crock Pot at Goodwill. And don't let it freeze.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 10/06/07 23:58:54 EDT

Color in copper-- polish is one thing. But if you want wild colour (love them Brit words, love 'em!) then heat the living bejesus out of it. In a semi-darkened room, use the torch to bring it to a dull red, and quench. It will look like something flown in from Betelguese, something exhumed from a sacrificial cenote. You'll love it.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/07/07 00:10:36 EDT

Oops! Forgot to mention, after the above, the quench is in water. Sparex whatever will take the weird oxides brought out by the heat right off the piece and you will be back to square one.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/07/07 00:12:38 EDT

Oops again-- if you are thinking of getting seriously into imparting spooky hues upon the surfaces of stuff, get a copy of The Patination of Metals, forget who wrote it. (Untracht?) Expensive as hell and worth every single penny.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/07/07 00:15:31 EDT

I have been interested in Blacksmithing for quite some time and am seriouly considering it as a career, if it is possible to make it a career the way I see blacksmithing. I will gladly accept any extra information you can give me past the Getting Started in Blacksmithing link you have in another part of the website. I would like to get into things like making silverware and knives and selling them at our many local festivals.I know a few blacksmiths who live a few hours from me and am considering asking them for guidance as well. And, although I have access to these experinced proffesionals I would accept ALL HELP anyone can give me at this point.
   Tyler J. - Sunday, 10/07/07 01:43:49 EDT

At Quad-States I'm told there are folks who come in on Tuesday so they have first access to new tailgaters. What they are looking for is underpriced or rare items at a decent price. As Guru mentioned, someone loading up to leave is also a nice opportunity to make an offer.

On technique is to pull out your wallet, open it and make an offer. It shows you have the money and are ready to turn it over if the answer is yes.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy) - Sunday, 10/07/07 07:37:25 EDT

I just purchased a great set of andirons with the hallmark of ( Marvin and some kind of initials underneath the name) There is also a number that is much furthure down on the andirons. That number is 1019. They are of hessian soldiers. Can you tell me anything about this blacksmith foundry?
Thank you much
   Derrick - Sunday, 10/07/07 08:14:58 EDT

Copper Patina: Probably known by most of you but a small amount of powdered sulfer in vasaline and rubbed onto the surface will return that old brown look to copper if you happened to have over-cleaned it. Say like a new coil collector might do to an old penny. Not that I did that, of course. Honest.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 10/07/07 09:23:50 EDT

Getting Started: Tyler J., There were many links from that article to book reviews, organizations, events, tool articles, more book reviews, book sources and numerous articles (at the bottom). These included our FAQs and glossary pages which also link to more articles. . .

The books and videos listed on our book review page are filled with detail how-to.

If you are looking for specific projects see our iForge page. It has over a hundred projects and step by step demos.

There are also hundreds of other articles on many subjects including making tools and machinery to blacksmithing stories and fiction. In the archives of of our forums we have discussed just about every subject in blacksmithing from health and safety issues to business concerns.

What more do you want? Blacksmithing is largely a self employed occupation. To be self employed you must have the ability to research, study books, find suppliers of difficult to find tools and materials. . .

You should also have a plan (many do not). We live in a global economy where you will be competing with makers from all over the world including slave wage states. GO to your local festival and LOOK closely. You will find a lot of what is there is made in China, Mexico, Malaysia. To compete and make a living in THIS economy you must have the necessary tools and machinery. The best plan is NOT to compete head to head with imports but to have a niche product that no one else is making (yet, or in quantity).

To make money in manufacturing (YES, a blacksmith shop is manufacturing, a factory) you need employees. You cannot earn but so much. To make it on your own and make a decent living you must charge $100/hour for your work. OR you must have employees that you can charge half to 2/3rd's that much for.

You are also talking about the decorative arts. Making fine things is the work of an ARTIST blacksmith. Many gloss over the first part of this job description. It IS the most important part. Are you an artist? How well do you draw? Have you considered art classes or art school?

More . ..

   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 09:38:12 EDT

Craft Shows: I know a little about this, having worked craft shows through Virginia, West Virgina, Maryland an NC for a number of years for little or no profit.

If you are going to sell your wares at craft shows and festivals you will need to research how many there are and how much you will need to travel and what THAT costs? You will find that there are lots of shows but many conflict on the same dates and some are good places to sell your items, some are not. Most shows in parking lots are BAD, most events focusing on food are bad and the shows that are the best are often hard to get into (juried, waiting lists, high fees). LOTS of research to do and it is not simple. The knowledge changes and is out there among the gypsy craftsfolk.

Note that getting into some shows requires an application filed many months in advance. Some need fees in advance, some are juried (you will need professional quality photos of your work). This means a schedule planned out many months in advance OR constant advance planning.

IF you are very good at doing shows, have a product that sells then you MIGHT sell between $1500 and $2000 in a weekend. This is what top craftsfolk gross except in some really prime markets. There are also sub-prime markets where you will make less and craftsfolk that make much less. . . Out of that you might have $750 to $1000 in gross profit (probably less). Take some meals out of that, transportation (you will need to camp out in your car or on-site to make a profit, motels now run in the $75 to $120/night range. . . take $250 out of the gross profit and you have $500 to $750. Do this EVERY weekend of the year and you have made $25,000 to $37,500. However, due to travel you must manufacture the product in 3 to 4 days, EVERY week. AND, to cover every weekend you will have to travel thousands of miles and often pay those $100/night rates. . . Covering every weekend in the year AND making the product is impossible and expenses (including wearing out the transportation) will increase the farther you go. Reduce that income by half at least. Now you are down to $12,500 to $17,750 IF you are amont the best. And don't forget that you are SELF EMPLOYED. Uncle Sam wants you to pay the "contributing" share of social security which is equal the amount you normaly see taken out of your pay check (See IRS Form 1040 SE). This is 15.3% of your self employed income even if you do not owe taxes (lots of dependents?). This is what most of the BEST make. A few make more, MOST make much less. Can you live on $5,000/year?

There are three types of craft show sellers. The first is the local merchant that does the local shows for advertisement and meet possible new customers. They will do shows only within their home range. They will make money because they have no travel costs and can afford to bring lots of inventory AND often have regular customers. The second is the part timer who travels to a handful of shows in the summer and mostly pays for their travel. They do it for fun and sometimes make a little extra. Ocassionaly they pickup special orders while on the road. The third is the full timer, the gypsy craftsfolk. Some are actual gypsies that hawk everything from cheap imports to stolen goods. A very few are actual craftsfolk who manage to make a LOT of sales selling many $10 to $20 items and gross more than the folks with higher cost items. They know their business, they live on the road like the gypsies and manage to produce their wares while traveling or in the short gaps when there is no show. It is not a life for everyone. Few make money at it. Most that do burn out or age fast and quit after about 10 years. That sounds like a long time if you are young but your working career is going to need to span 40 to 50 years (or more). SO what do you do for next half century?

Would I do it again? Knowing what I know now, probably not. I could not be a gypsy craftsman. Making ironwork and hauling it all over the country does not fit the lifestyle. We DID have a lot of fun, met a lot of interesting people. The last shows I did were after a gap of 20 years and these were PAID demos. But even with fees waived, the demo and room and board paid for, there was no money in it. Prior to that the last shows I did for FUN. I demonstrated at Patrick Henry's last home and resting place, an historical site. What better place to be on the 4th of July than in the front yard of MR. "Give me Liberty, or give me death", Henry?

The folks I knew that made money had products that sold to teenagers and they sold hundreds. They also lived cheap and followed the money and the weather. Today the folks that make money have other people making the product. Even when the rules say "work only made by the individual craftsman" these folks do the shows and claim all the work is theirs. It is the only way to get around that 3-4 day manufacturing period cycle I mentioned above. These folks make money on other people's labor. The only way to make more than a certain limit.

Think about it. Research it. Ask questions and make a plan or look at other alternatives.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 10:19:44 EDT

I would agree with the Guru on working demo's and shows. I am in the catagory of working in my home range, that is, 75 miles away or less. I do mostly local heritage festivals and usually can pay for fuel and so forth. I do these for fun, and to meet and trade with the other artists. I also do shows at my biggest retailer to support them. They sell my work and represent me every moment they are open, and since they are high end garden stuff they bring me some nice bespoke work every year.

I do NOT pay entry fees. I usually do not pay ANY $ to the festival, but they get to advertise a Blacksmith.(exception is to festivals that are fund raisers for things like the arts council, arts education etc) I have never had to pay for food. The garden folks feed me at every demo. Usually very nice food to boot. I recently did a weekend Bluegrass Music festival at the garden place and they fed me and my help lunch both days and dinner on Saturday. They however get 25% of sales, but do allow me to send folks that want to use a credit card through their till. I make many more sales if the credit card option is available. I actually made some money on that weekend, even with the 25%. And It has opened negoations for several nice bespoke jobs.
Most shows I manage to find a food vendor that need a long steak turner, or something. Since it says "Will forge For food" on the side of my trailer away from the crowd, the other vendors see that. I usually eat VERY nicely:)

I do not expect my demos to make money, but if they pay the fuel etc, than I have contributed to a small towns heritage festival, had a good time, ate well, visited with new folks, and my hobby did not cost anything.
Your milage may vary.
   ptreeforge - Sunday, 10/07/07 10:53:38 EDT

PBS, Ch. 5, Albuquerque, Tuesday night at 8, will have a show, NOVA, re: making a samurai sword.
It sez here-- in no less a source than The Santa Fe New Mexican Saturday. So maybe they will and maybe they won't.
And maybe it will air in your area, too.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/07/07 11:42:54 EDT

Selling Trenton Anvil
I am looking at selling a 155lb Trenton anvil #8068 it has the extra flat spot on the horn, has two round holes. Top is good. How much should be worth? Located in Stratford On Canada. (Iam keeping my mouse hole)
   - M Chambers - Sunday, 10/07/07 12:04:16 EDT

Demos: These are different that just doing shows to sell. I did a couple my first year and got very tired of the "did you make this?" question AND smiling and just sitting all day long. Once in a while you will hear of a new celebrity or politician complain about smiling all day. . . yes, you can get cramps from smiling! SO, I built my portable shop trailer. I had seen too many people try to haul anvils, forge and tools to shows and spend a lot of time setting up and tearing down, and repacking and unpacking. . . You still have to do all this but my portable shop provided a ROOF that kept me, the bellows and tools dry.

In the 70's when I was traveling the shows expected you pay large fees and the best I usually got was the waiver of fees. However, I DID get paid one time and was given room AND board at a nice ski resort on another. But sales were NOT worth the cost of doing the demo. I found myself educating the public at my expense. That is fine if you can afford it. I could not afford it.

TODAY, I would have to be paid a significant fee to show up with the kind of show I put on then. I had a full sized bellows, coal forge, leg vise, hand crank drill press, grindstone and a full complement of tools. There are far more efficient ways to demo but we were putting on a SHOW.
We demoed all day with few breaks (just when there were no people). I did everything except wear period clothes.

Even though the shop was completely self contained you had to clean and sort between shows, refill cut stock and fuel. That did not include the packing for personal travel.

When you demonstrate full time for the public you burn a lot of unnecessary fuel, burn up a lot of stock and rarely make enough product to worth the time. THAT is a fact of doing an educational demo. If you try to make something more complex than a hook or poker you will quickly lose your audience. They want to see fire, sparks, hot iron and action. Even taking too long to answer a question will lose you audience. So you must learn to multi-task, pulling the bellows and forging steel while you talk.

THERE ARE folks that do crafts demos for a living. They demo at public and private schools for a fee. There are all kinds of traveling educational shows. Some do theater, some do fantastic science demos. . all kinds of things. They live like the gypsy craftsfolk I mentioned above, camping and living cheap. Many do more than one school a day.

How they get into the schools and get paid decent fees I do not know. Often the PTA pays, sometimes the schools (good luck squeezing cash out of public schools). Perhaps a local business pays as a good community member. There ARE organizations that act as booking agents and help schedule these things. The goal is to do one or more demos a day, travel at night and do a demo or two the next day. . . If you get several demos in one town then GREAT.

But demoing full time and making and selling product are two different things.

WARNING NOTE: In today's touchy feely PC world where every pointed object is a weapon of mass destruction or tool of terrorism. . . You CAN NOT give away OR sell anything made of iron (especially nails) to school children. They can't have it in class, on the school grounds OR on take it home on the bus. IF you plan on making something for the kids to remember you by, give it to the teacher or principal.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 12:07:02 EDT

Value of Trenton anvil: The flat and the extra pritchell hole says it is a farriers' pattern anvil. Value depends a lot on how you advertise and how long you can wait to sell. $300 to $500 (North American). Get in a big hurry then $50 to $100. . . Yes, the used equipment market is that volatile.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 12:13:03 EDT

Anyone know of a supplier for 10-12" single wall galvanized stove pipe and fittings? Need to upgrade my exhaust system.
   Roland - Sunday, 10/07/07 13:41:04 EDT

Roland, For pipe you can use two pieces of a smaller size put together. An idea from Frank Turley

2 x 5 = 10"
5 + 6 = 11"
2 x 6 = 12"
6 + 8 = 14"
2 x 8 = 16"

McMaster-Carr has fittings in all these sizes.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 13:52:25 EDT

I was thinking about that but these pieces (locally), are pretty tightly pre-curved, I'm not too sure that they'll go to round when snapped together.
   Roland - Sunday, 10/07/07 14:33:41 EDT

A cable TV show 'WOOD WORKS' by David Marks had an excellent illustration and instruction on getting different colors (colours Miles?) on copper. (Some part of a table or something he was making.)
I'm sorry I can't recall the specific show. Maybe a search of the DIY network could find it.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 10/07/07 14:51:19 EDT

Demo's: our local club does demo's all during the state fair; the fair board gives us a very reasonable rate for the space and a great location--- tree shaded and leading to the livestock barns. Club members that participate are allowed to sell and the club takes 25% *and* pays the sales tax---a great deal! We had 3 members that made over US$1000 this year if I recall correctly. I made enough to pay for my gas; but I didn't build up stuff to sell ahead of time.

Next Month I will be demo'ing at the Festival of the Cranes; it's local to me and has a real nice crowd attending. Lots of wildlife art, the wild horse and wolf sanctuaries, raptors etc will be there. Recently they put in a no sales under $25 rule to try to keep out lower grade "crafts" and imported junk snuck in. This hurts the smiths a lot. So the hand forged chili peppers I was selling at the fair for $5 as "cat proof Christmas tree ornaments" will not be sold only in sets of 5+.

But I enjoy the weather, site, crowd; so if I break even I'm ahead. You could not pay me to make a career of selling at craft shows---even if you paid my my current salary on top of whatever I could make at the shows! I lived out of my van when I worked in the oilfield; it was ok when I was in my 20's but I'm a lot wiser not!

   Thomas P - Sunday, 10/07/07 15:04:01 EDT

Looking thru the Anvilfire site I was qiute intrigued by the sheet metal forge in the armour section. in the raising a norman helmet and the subsequent tools and methods section.
My question is..what is the acronym MK 1-4 stand for...is this hood (MK1-4) simply a forge design ie. a metal cone lined with Kaowool or other heat resistant items, Essentialy a forge in itself.
thanks for any and all responses
humbly yours
   SMccarty - Sunday, 10/07/07 15:55:37 EDT

There is a whole nother level of craft shows- not that Tyler can expect to be selling at them any time soon- but the shows you are discussing are the ones that the serious blacksmiths I know would never consider.

The "A" list, so to speak, are shows that are juried, cost significantly more to get into- at least $200, and sometimes as much as $1000 for a booth- and are very tough to get juried in.
But, if you can get in, the customers are on a much higher level, both in education and in willingness to pay.
Some of these shows include the Beverly Hills Show, the Coconut Grove show in Florida, The Armory shows in NYC, Cherry Creek in Denver, the Smithsonian show in Wash. DC, and the ACC shows in Baltimore, San Francisco, and other places.

I used to do the ACC show in Baltimore, and it would cost me, including airfare, motel, shipping, and fees, around $2500 to do this one show. This show is both wholesale and retail and lasts almost a week. The best show I ever did there was $25,000, combined retail sales and wholesale orders. At the time, I was doing 2 to 4 shows like this a year. Certainly not making $25k at each one, but $10k to $15k was not uncommon. Do the math, and with callbacks, re-orders, and the odd walkin commission, you can see that its possible to do better on this circuit than in a parking lot.

But- you must have the right mix of products, at good price points, both for you and the stores- you must be professional, with catalogs and cards, a website and shipping accounts with UPS, the ability to fill orders on time, and so on.
You usually must have a new line of products twice a year or so, to satisfy buyers.
You cannot even get into a show like this with plant hooks and steak turners- the blacksmiths doing these shows back then (I quit doing these shows in the late 90's, ten years ago), people like Jack Brubaker, or John Graney, Steven Bronstein, or Craig Kaviar, were selling pieces that started at $50 or so, and would frequently have work for a thousand or two that sold, cash and carry, during retail days.
Of course, it costs $14 just to get into these shows.

It is not uncommon to see $500 candlesticks, $1000 chairs, and $5000 tables selling, not just sitting, at these shows. Fireplace tool sets for $500 were common.
Virtually all the blacksmiths who do these shows- (in the 90's, there were probably about 25, nationwide, who consistently did these shows and did well at em) pretty much always did smaller items that they wholesaled, and bigger stuff either on consignment or commission.

The work has to be impeccable. It also has to be well designed, the smith needs to be both well versed in historical work and cognizant of current trends, the finishes need to be professional, and the prices need to be high enough that you can afford to wholesale the work and still make money.

Its not a huge field- but its there, and anybody who has the cojones to take the risks, and make the investments involved can give it a try.

Then, just when you think you are doing really well, the glassblower next to you will start bragging about how he sold $350,000 worth of orders at the same time. This happened to me once at Baltimore- and I about plotzed, as my mother-in-law would say. And his work wasnt even that good.
   - Ries - Sunday, 10/07/07 17:14:47 EDT

i have a question about I-forge #115 i was racking my brain to try to think of something i could do wit the end of the piece liek a hook or something but still have it be used for the same purpose but be usable for something else very practical as well. any ideas guys

Andrew B.
   - Andrew B. - Sunday, 10/07/07 18:46:37 EDT

When I do a demo, I do have lots of premade stuff, and lots of "preforms" I do a lot of things like stek turners, and fire place pokers. On these I usually make a ring hanger with a leaf on the stem. I preform these at home on the power hammer. The leaf is already a bud, and the stem is drawn out. So all I have is a heat to make the leaf a leaf, and that has a little wow factor. The ring and forming the stem around the handle also gets them. Then I do a heat and split the other end and make the poker. Folks love the twist also. I can do a poker in quick step, and keep them watching as I don't have any "just hammering" everything makes a big visual.
Not even at the level of the guys that Reis notes, but I have a good time and it pays for my hobby. I also usually get one kid in welding class, or metal work etc that hangs around all day. If he/she is polite etc, I always find time when no one else is around to make a little welded key ring for them. The are usually agog, and we have a possible convert:)
   ptree - Sunday, 10/07/07 19:07:35 EDT

I used to do shows years ago, and I think I met that glassblowers, brother, sister, twice removed nephew etc at every show. Seems to me, some crafters tell better stories than most fishermen!! The other big time story tellers were the ones who said,"love your stuff, stick with me and I'll make you rich kid", how many of them did you met?
   Roland - Sunday, 10/07/07 20:42:29 EDT

Armour Forge: SMcCarty, That is designer/builder lingo for Model# or Mark #, Mark #+1. . . each version built and tested.

Eric Thing has sent a nice article on building the forge and it will be posted in the future.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:06:16 EDT

The BIG Show: The problem with the "Class A" shows is that there are a lot of Class B shows that charge as much, brag as much (or that they are Class A, and the buyers never show. . . I did one and lost about $3,000 and this was in the 70's when you could buy a NEW car for that. Most of the vendors lost money as well. This was an established big city show that the new operator killed by changing the date and not advertising. I had applied two years in advance and the change occurred inbetween. . . There was smoke but not being local to the show I did not see the fire of disaster until there. . . too late.

You have to do your research, and be very very professional. AND if ANYTHING seems fishy ask the hard questions and do not take BS for an answer. A lot of promoters are professional BS artists. THAT is what they get paid for but they also need to perform. Some do not.

Ries, I should have adjusted my numbers UP for inflation in the 80's. . . But there is also a HUGE difference between the the high ART craft shows and the common crafts events, even the better Class B shows are a big drop down.

   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:18:13 EDT

Bodice Dragon: Andrew, This piece of jewelery would have likely been a knife. Not too sharp but pointed enough to do damage. . . As for practicality. . . Not sure. The thing attracts attention where there is no need to attract added attention in most cases. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:20:54 EDT

Andrew B.

The bodice insert end could be made into a bottle opener - the bow loop king, not a hook type, of course.
   vicopper - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:22:27 EDT

High Art and Craft: The level Ries is speaking about is also the level at which you had better have a good bullet proof line of BS about you, your work and the meaning of life. Even if your work is absolutely insanely fantastic someone with a line of BS that blinds the customer with psycho-babble may leave you in the dust with JUNK. This is the level at which Andy Warhol was a "great artist". NO, he was a great BS artist that could mesmerize rich old ladies into thinking he must be great because they could not understand the line of BS. . . These are the guys that make the client feel stupid if they do not understand that the stuff really IS junk. Its the old story of the "Emperor's new Clothes". The BS artist tailor made the Emperor BELIEVE he had clothes that he was too (artistically) blind to see. . He would NEVER admit it. . .

AND the problem is, even when your work IS the best and there is no competition, people still want the BS sales line. . .

Sadly many of these guys dominated 20th Century art. Its why I bailed out. Maybe that is what I mess by not going to art school. . .

   - guru - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:34:06 EDT

Re: colours-- love them Brit words, simply love 'em!! Has to do with my great grandfather getting starved out of County Mayo by the lovely Brits a while back.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 10/07/07 21:39:39 EDT

Actually, the BS stuff only works for retail, and rarely for that- for wholesale, which is a lot of this level of business, the store owners KNOW what sells, and what doesnt. They might take a small risk based on your ability to talk a pig into a ham sandwich, but not much more than a few hundred dollars. For the guys who consistently write orders for 2 grand per store per show, BS is not much help. If the store isnt selling your work, they never reorder.

It has a lot more to do with hard work, and homework, at that level. It would be nice to think that the guys who succeed are just like us, only more full of it, but that can only work once. And the four guys I mentioned above, along with a good dozen others I could name, got to where they are because people who have never met them walk into a store, and pay double what they get for their work.

As for glassblowers- well, sure, they tend to BS a bit themselves. But I stood next to enough of em, watching em write 50 grand worth of orders a day for 3 days, to know its true. I made friends with a few, and when you have 25 full time employees, as my friends Cary and Denise did, you gotta be writing those orders, or you are broke quick.
Sad to say, they really are selling that much- some of em, anyway.

I had an employee quit at the beginning of the summer, because doing the west coast B list weekend shows, he was consistently selling 3 to 5 grand a weekend- and it sure beat what I was paying him.
This was not forged work, but fabricated metal stuff- fun, and wacky, simple and mostly mig welded.
In Seattle, Bellingham, San Francisco, Salt Lake, and other places he could drive to in a day or two, he is making a lot more than he did with me.
And he is a pretty shy guy- he doesnt BS much at all. He just hit a sweet spot in the market with his work.

As for Andy Warhol- well, maybe over on the hammerin, I would be happy to argue that point with you- I have a completely different opinion about the man and his work, based on looking at a few hundred pieces of it, visiting his museum every couple of years, and extensive reading.
Nobody says you have to like it, but he was not a fraud.
   - Ries - Sunday, 10/07/07 22:42:53 EDT

If anyone is interested, there is a study being conducted in Australia at the University of Wollongong on the health effects of welding fumes. Should have been done a long time ago, I guess. The article I read is at the following address:
   Craig - Sunday, 10/07/07 23:20:54 EDT

Ries, thanks for throwing those names out there. I checked out all their websites last night. My interests run more toward bladesmithing, so I'm not really familiar with modern artist-blacksmith work. There's some very impressive stuff on those pages.
   Matt B - Monday, 10/08/07 09:54:15 EDT

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