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, 2009 on the Guru's Den
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Generally when someone needs something made and they are very coy or secretive, it is an inventor. Generally inventors are nuisance customers to every sort of shop and always want a sample made in exchange for part of the royalties or future profits. Most have products that are not well researched and have been patented over 100 years ago. . . OR they have no real market. Many "inventors" need samples because they are not sure enough of their design skills to know if it will work or not . . .

In any case, it is almost always a waste of everyone's time.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/01/09 12:20:24 EDT

Does q-180 work well for coating 1" duraboard? How do you mix it. Should you fire the forge first before applying it or should you use it at all? Do you also have the plans for your homade power hammer?
   rick - Thursday, 10/01/09 14:12:54 EDT

Rick I do not know what q-180 is and could not find it.

ITC-100 and ITC-286A (which we sell) can be used to coat any type of alumina-silica board, block or blanket and greatly increases the life of such products. They also increase fuel efficiency. ITC-213 is used on graphite and silicon carbide crucibles as well as metal.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/01/09 14:55:43 EDT

How do I get a hold of your Junkyard Hammer plans. Do you sell them?
   rick - Friday, 10/02/09 10:42:59 EDT

No plans, Just photos. .

The point of a junkyard hammer is it is made from whatever you find. If I spec a Buick part and a piece of 4" thick steel plate and you cannot find them then what? OR if I call for a 17" 3 groove V-belt pulley with the middle machined flat will you need to buy a new (~$350) pulley and pay someone to machine it?

Shop capacity is another point. I have big drill presses and a magnetic base drill that I can take to the work. I can build things with bolted construction that many people cannot. On the other hand I had to pay several hundred dollars to have some 8" round bar sawed into pieces. I also spent time in another shop using a milling machine.

Step one it to study the various designs. The Tire Hammers and the Spring Helve (Little Rusty) work best.

Step two is to start scrounging steel and parts. Steel is the expensive part and you need quite a bit. About 1,000 pounds to make a decent hammer. Frames can be anything from big H or I-beams to pipe or angle iron welded in a framework. But plate for flanges can be hard to find and expensive to buy.

Anvil material is the tough part depending on your access to steel. A big piece of 10" round shafting is perfect but hard to come by and MUST be sawed flat on the ends (or at least one end). Bundled material works well but it must all be straight and sawed accurately.

Motors sometimes come to you but can also be hard to find or expensive to buy. If you can run 3PH motors are easy to find from folks that have taken them off and replaced them with single phase. You can also you phase generators but that is an extra cost. Motors need to be 1 to 3HP depending on the hammer you are building.

Step Three is to look at what you have scrounged and figure out how to best use it and what you are missing. Do you need to buy tools or pay others to do some machining or cutting for you? Has your hammer type changed? Make a list of what you need.

Step Four is to make sketches of what you are going to build. Do any reverse engineering you need to do (accurate measurements of stock parts). Comfortable anvil height is from 30" to 36" for most people. If your anvil material is short you may have to put the hammer on blocks or a heavy base to raise it. The guide assembly is usually 8 to 12" above the lower die. The guide is normally about half or one third the length of the ram but varies depending on the mechanism. The longer the guide better. Most power hammers have a short crank distance (3 to 6") and then the mechanism doubles or triples it.

The most important point in hammer design is that the ram cannot go further than X point without wrecking something. If you use replaceable dies you can over travel the machine and crash it. This usually results in bent toggles or push rods, sheared bolts or something wrecked. .

The second most important point is the upward end of the stroke. Be sure the ram does not come out of the guides OR reduce their engagement too much. Be sure the ram cannot crash into the crank. This is where the springs in hammers are important. They absorb that upward motion and give it back.

Step Five: Once you think you have a plan double check the parts. Then start building. As you build you will find better ways to do what is on your plans OR that you have to change your plans for an unexpected reason.

Building a Junk Yard machine of any kind is an art. There is art to scrounging, art to planning. With a combination of luck, skill and hard work you can often build amazing machines for almost nothing.

A machine built to a specific plan becomes a fabricated machine. If the plan calls for drilled and taped holes you drill and tap holes. If the plan calls for a machined shaft then you machine a shaft. There is still some flexibility but not nearly as much as building your own machine from junk.
   - guru - Friday, 10/02/09 12:45:25 EDT

STEP 4? Rarely make even sketches. My favorite is "visegrip-CAD! Sorry, had to throw that in.
   - grant - Friday, 10/02/09 15:05:30 EDT

Homemade powerhammers,
I would recommend anyone wanting to build a powerhammer to get a copy of Dave Manzer's DVD "how to cure the tap,miss, bang blues" it explains in great depth how the dupont linkage works, and once you understand that, everything else is just someway to hold it in place.
   JimG - Friday, 10/02/09 17:06:44 EDT

A friend of mine gave me some lawnmower blades and my brother in law said he had several in his barn. Can you give me a rough guess as to what the steel is.
   Mike T. - Friday, 10/02/09 17:17:51 EDT

Mike, They used to be higher carbon than they are today. All Junk Yard Steel Rules apply. . .
   - guru - Friday, 10/02/09 18:02:53 EDT

Grant, I am a great believer and user of CAD-0.5mm. That would be a 0.5mm pentel:)
I often used paper dollies in plant layout. Cut scale paper floorplans of the items to arrange and use a grid to the same scale. Once you have what you think works, I used my magic "Floor-cad-chalk" Railroad chalk duct taped to a broom handle, to trce the layout on the floor. Then I had fork trucks "Service the machines with real tubs and racks, looking for interference. At the valve shop, I could layout, chalk walk, move and start the machines before the Pro-E guys had the first layout done. And mine could be serviced by fork trucks and the mechanics since they alway stopped by by invitation to advise on repair access.
In R&D I often sketched the part, took it to the tool room, and had 100 years worth of the best toolmakers I have know advise. I ended up often with a totally different concept. And the parts usually were cheaper.quicker to make on the equipment/tooling we had.
Nothing like 6 experienced toolmaker, all who had worked the production floor for years advising on part design:) They always made me look good.
   ptree - Saturday, 10/03/09 08:27:12 EDT

Ptree, I also use the cutout machine template system along with a plan view "man" template with elbow space and reach zones. Sometimes the worker space is attached to the machine template. Maintenance also often requires squatting and this requires a different space.

These kind of things are more important in tight spaces than when you have lots of extra space.

The guys in our shop were setting up two milling machines side by side and had a fair space between them. I asked, "What happens when two people are trying to work in that space?" "Hmmmmmmmm", they said, "Didn't think of that."

SO they scooted the machines apart another 18". Then I asked, "What happens when the tables are extended toward wach other?". . . They scooted the machines apart another two feet. In the end there was over five feet of space between the ends of the tables when centered or about nine feet between centers. While it looked like a lot there were many occasions then the guys were bumping elbows between the machines.

This problem can be avoided by not putting the machines in a straight line, but offsetting them. However, we wanted the two machines in a line so that extra long work could span the two machines, one acting as an HD adjustable stock support for the other.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/03/09 10:06:25 EDT


Did you end up building a stock support to put in the gap between the machines? (grin)
   Mike BR - Saturday, 10/03/09 12:06:29 EDT

Actually, we had a large job that hung off the front of the mill that had to be supported by a hoist on a mono-rail. . . A part modification on a part MUCH too big for a Bridgeport style mill.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/03/09 15:48:49 EDT

Ahhh parts hung from monorail. At the valve.boiler and Ice machine shop, one thing we did have was a machine shop set up just for boilers. Had a floor mill with about 30' of right left traverse, 20' vertical and about 6' horizontal into the floor plates. And it was a CNC. Back in the day, bent tube boilers often had several hundred tube hole in the drums. The drums would be clamped in a rotation fixture and the floor mill would traverse along the drum shooting 2.5" holes through a 2" thick drum.
Nice 100 ton bridge cranes to move the drums.
Ahh the olden days, the CNC was a punched tape reader:)
   ptree - Saturday, 10/03/09 19:55:23 EDT

I've seen photos of the same operation in the Roanoke, VA RR-shops from back in the early 1900's. The crane trolley and hoist were manually operated and the drilling was being done with a huge radial drill.
   - guru - Saturday, 10/03/09 23:06:25 EDT

On a much smaller scale we have keywayed the end of 15' shafts on a milling machines with a 4' table, just keep the 'other end' on the crane, and there is enough flex in the shaft / lifting straps etc that you dont need to adjust the crane at all if your only milling 4" long!
   - John N - Sunday, 10/04/09 04:27:45 EDT

Back in the '70s we made glass-lined stainless steel smokestack sampling probes up to 20 feet. We had a 10" atlas-craftsman lathe. The probes would not fit through the headstock, but both ends needed to be threaded with special threads. We chucked an expanding plug in the end of the probe. used a steady rest and supported the other end on an adjustable support. For the long ones that was clear outside the shop!
   John Odom - Sunday, 10/04/09 09:05:41 EDT

Guru, the radial drills were still in place, the floor mill had been put in to speed the operation.
We also drilled tube sheets for the Tube Ice Machines with radial drills to a laid out and prick punched blank. Some of the big tube sheets had 340 holes. That was replaced with a CNC mill. Much quicker, and accurate.
The real interesting job was the prilling and weld prepping od tube headers for the new style biolers. Visualize a 10" tube with a 1" wall, held horizontal.Now look at holes drilled vertically, but offset from the tube centerline by about 3", and staggered off the centerline for maximun spacing. The weld prep followed the hole top edge and was a 55 degree bevel. And it was done in a pair of radil drills. We favored Carltons, mostly 24" column models, for the radial arm drills, Bickforms for the straight drill presses above 16" and Barnes for those little presses of less than 16" but over 2Hp.
I once had to sell?scrap a rom of freshly overhauled 24" Bickfords, that had been part of a pipe flange making line. Very nice in their fresh grey paint, cosmoline on the bright surfaces, and just awaiting the flat belts from the line shaft to turn over:(
   ptree - Sunday, 10/04/09 09:07:11 EDT

I make candle holders and I have a new design that would be easier to produce if I could twist one inch square tube so that I got a nice even spiral. I have an idea that I think might work but since you have greater experience in such things I figured I would run it by you before I spent time and money. I think if I were to take the tube and heat it then slide it over round bar, lock it in my vice and then do the twist I might be able to get what I'm after. I know I need to heat the round stock before I slide the tube over it so that the tube won't cool down before the twist is done. I'm wondering if I would even need to have the tube hot while I was doing the twist. If I anneal the tube before the twist I might be able to get the results I want with less risk of getting burned. What do you recommend?
   Bill - Sunday, 10/04/09 09:54:24 EDT

Bill, Using a round bar as a mandrel to support the square tube is one method for twisting square tube. I would use a good grade of punch lube on the mandrel and not heat it very hot. Tools for handling the tube while twisting may be critical needing internal and external support and designed such that they slip onto the ends of the tube quickly and easily.

Note that tubing varies in many ways. The thinner the wall the more difficult to bend without kinking or collapsing the tube. You may have to select a thicker wall tube (and smaller mandrel) to make the twist.

Also note that structural tube is roll welded and the welds may not hold up. The welds vary in internal shape from fairly flat to peaked to jagged. You may need to clean these up prior to twisting. A snug fitting chisel type tool used like a one edged broach may do the job on short sections.

Since the tools to do the job hot, or annealed are the same you may try both.

The other way tubing is bent or twisted is to fill with a low temperature melting metal such as Cerrabend. The tube is filled, formed, then heated to remove the fill alloy. The alloy is then reused. Note that the forces are going to be less than twisting solid steel but greater than hollow tube.

Last, it is possible to forge round tube into square with a twist as you do so. It takes skill but avoids other problems.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/04/09 11:22:17 EDT

I was looking at butted chainmail for the SCA, and was wondering if butted would hold up? It is mild steel.
   - jacob lockhart - Sunday, 10/04/09 11:54:25 EDT

i need coal for my forge.do you know of any places in alabama to buy any coal?
   dustin cranford - Sunday, 10/04/09 13:08:11 EDT

i need coal in the central alabama area, any solutions?
   dustin cranford - Sunday, 10/04/09 15:01:16 EDT

Dustin, ABANA-Chapter.com and contact one of your local groups. They will know the best places and the quality of the coal.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/04/09 15:19:11 EDT

Jacob, There are reviews on this subject in many SCA publications and armour sites. Since it is not a life and death situation the common mail should be good enough.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/04/09 15:42:42 EDT

For square tube, in some sizes it is possible to buy a more expensive grade know as "skived" that has the internal weld bead removed. Not always available, and not in all sizes.
   ptree - Sunday, 10/04/09 16:40:00 EDT

I bought a hay budden 143# I think with serial number 154732, does anyone know when it was made and some other info. about it?

   bigcountry - Sunday, 10/04/09 17:31:47 EDT

Hi. Is there such a thing as a left hand or right hand blower? I am right handed and I would think that the blower handle should be turned with my right hand, so that I can hold the work with my left hand and take it straight from the forge to the anvil without switching hands. I have seen a lot of blowers and they all seem to be cranked using the right hand. Am I missing something? Thanks
   - Ed - Sunday, 10/04/09 18:04:12 EDT

Ed, You know the routine. . we live in a Right Hand world. Very rarely is machinery made for lefties. Some RH tools are down right dangerous when handled LH such as Skill Saws and angle grinders. Pick up almost any electric tool with a locking trigger with your left hand and it is LOCKED as soon as you turn it on. . . And those are modern tools. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 10/04/09 18:22:43 EDT

Ed I can tell you that most if not all old blacksmithing equipment is right handed.
I'm left handed so I use the hammer in my left, hold tongs and crank my blower at home with the right.
Last August I was at a three day weekend show using the forge and anvil provided to me by a club I belong to.
All the forges and blowers the club owns are set up so that you have to turn the blower with your left hand.
After hammering with my left hand and then turning the crank with it too all week end, my arm was SHOT!
Within a week of that I had a case of tendinitis that did not clear up until two weeks befor that same show this year.
How ever you are set up make SURE you can give your arms a brake. Hammer with one, crank with the other so each gets a rest in turn.
This year I braught my travleing anvil and my own forge to that show. The anvil is at the correct higth and the blower is hung at the end of the forge for use by my right hand. It makes all the differance in the world!!
   - merl - Sunday, 10/04/09 21:14:16 EDT

Ed: Many hand cranked bloweres can be turned in either direction, and most fire pots could be assembled with the clinker breaker handle sticking out the other side. You could assemble Your forge for left handed operation qand position Your equipment accordingly. If You are the only person who will be using it, You may as well set it up left handed.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/04/09 21:44:46 EDT

Some blowers discharge straight down and the plumbing can go any direction. Many others however point to about 4 o:clock from the crank side. They can be plumed the other direction with a little extra piping. However, factory cast iron forge and blower combination's do not go together the opposite (left hand) direction.

An option is any kind of bellows. They can be setup any way you want. Note however that box bellows plans all show left hand use for right hander's. But since you would need to build one it could work either way. I personally do not like a hand crank (hard on the elbow) and find bellows much better.

Then there are electric blowers. . . You could put your switch on either side OR even operate it by foot. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 10/04/09 23:11:10 EDT

I agree with the Guru on the use of a bellows instead of a crank blower.
I am going to build a bellows for my forge at home and maybe a smaller one to take to my club show.
   - merl - Monday, 10/05/09 08:23:17 EDT


The rule of thumb for butted mail, providing that it's cold-drawn modern steel wire and not annealed or aluminum or such, is as follows:

1/4" = 16 or 17 gauge
3/8" = 14 gauge
1/2" = 12 gauge

My byrnie (3/8" 14 gauge) has held up for over 30 years in Markland and Longship Company reenactments. You can go heavier and denser (with the subsequent penalties of weight) but if it's lighter than these guahges, butted mail tends to pull apart from its own weight.

I hope this helps.

Sunny and fair on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 10/05/09 09:38:38 EDT

Shark bite resistant gloves are made of thin rings of higher carbon steel TIG welded together. This prevents the rings separating from weight and/or stress of being bitten. But if you're going for historical re-enactments I would avoid arc welding altogether.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 10/05/09 12:16:27 EDT

Oh, BTW I saw this poor little anvil at the flea market yesterday. What would make a person intentionally do this to an anvil? Check the side waist... it says "1880"

   - Nippulini - Monday, 10/05/09 13:37:20 EDT

Upon further inspection, it says 1883 or 1863. I took a closeup pic of the eagle.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 10/05/09 13:39:02 EDT

I doubt that was intentional Nip.
But I'll bet it happened on a cold day.
   JimG - Monday, 10/05/09 15:07:01 EDT

I just assumed some numb nuts wailed on it to see if he could break it. Otherwise, it's obviously cast iron anyway.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 10/05/09 15:32:00 EDT

I found a chart online that shows what a spark test should look like on various metals,looks like a useful chart. The long sparks, forks , further forks and solid flashes have seperate terms. I didn't know how to post it. :)
   Mike T. - Monday, 10/05/09 15:53:15 EDT

I know cast iron can't withstand sharp blows without breaking, but if heavy bar steel can be fixed to it ( with big machine bolts ) I would think it could withstand any pressure.
   Mike T. - Monday, 10/05/09 16:47:04 EDT

The tool steel face of that Fisher is in great condition! It's got a lifetime or two of use left in it.

I say ABUSE---look where that edge was cracked off---sure looks like a single blow from a sledge hammer to me! Face has almost no wear so the tail being broken off still seems like ABUSE!

Fisher's are great using anvils as they are quiet due to the cast iron body---but the tool steel face is thick and hard! (usually several times thicker than the face on a vulcan anvil made the same way)

I'd be happy to own that anvil! I have a loaner anvil that's missing the heel, $40 for a 100+ pound anvil with a clean face and a usable horn. A great loaner for new students while they find their own one.

(Why the heck would you bolt a steel face over the steel face that anvil has anyway?)

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/05/09 18:34:38 EDT

Thomas: Just goes to show how two people can interpret the same statement in totally different ways. I thought he was talking about bolting a new heel on. Yeah looks like good "user" that should be had for a great price.
   - grant - Monday, 10/05/09 19:08:02 EDT

Spark Chart: Mike we have a chart as part of the review of Metals for Engineering Craftsmen that may be the same or similar.

The problem with posting this sort of thing is that it is probably under copyright. And just because you found it on the net doesn't mean the person there had permission to use it. Our use comes under the "fair use" clause of copyright where excerpts can be used in book reviews.
   - guru - Monday, 10/05/09 19:26:23 EDT

Spark testing: this process was used 50+ years ago to separate scrap in steel mills. It takes a lot of training to do it. It also takes the same type of grind stone EVERY time and it has to be the same stone used to make the chart. You have to apply consisten pressure and the wheel rpm has to be constant. We hear a lot of people casually say "go spark test it" without a clue as to how to do it. A portable spectrometer put spark testing out of work years ago. I can identify high carbon tool steel from mild steel but don't ask me to separate a 4140 from a 4340. Charts on the internet make it look too simple and it is not.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 10/05/09 19:50:10 EDT

Could that Fisher have been broken by something wedged in the hardy hole? It seems odd to me that the break went right through the center of the hardy hole rather than through one or more corners. (Though on second thought, I'm not sure a wedge in the hardy hole would explain it either.)
   Mike BR - Monday, 10/05/09 20:14:41 EDT

I'm with Quenchcrack on the spark testing. Takes a trained guy, the right (same) wheel, and the same light level. It does work to seperate grossly different steels and if you have known good samples to compare against a little easier.

Another trick is to use ultrasonic in some cases. We once received a shipment of several hundred thousand handwheels for valves, and the foundrey had poured some in grey cast instead of the specified Mallable cast iron. They calibrated an ultrasonic tester and would pick up a wheel, tap t with a little hammer and look at the meter. it was able to tell from the frequency of emmitted sound one from the other. The foundry paid for the sort, and we really needed those wheels.
   ptree - Monday, 10/05/09 20:28:15 EDT

Mike, you're right. Most of the broken ones I've seen were indeed broken through the corners of the hardy hole. I suspect someone was sledging on the heel. I'm often surprised by people hammering on the heel, I mean just regular forging too. I don't know what the attraction is, but the heel seems to attract some.
   - grant - Monday, 10/05/09 20:41:17 EDT


I've just recently watched a bunch of beginners at green coal areas in a couple of meets and noticed them gravitating to working on the heel. I asked one of them why he was doing it there and he replied that the anvil face was "better" there. The anvil in use was, coincidentally, an old Vulcan with a good bit of dings and chips in the center area. When I got the guy to work over the sweet spot, he was surprised to find out how much more effective his hammer blows were with more mass under them, but he was still concerned that the rough face was going to mar his work. Of course, his errant hammer work was marring it much more than the face...
   vicopper - Monday, 10/05/09 21:15:47 EDT

Broken Anvil: Breaks at the hardy hole are common. What is unbelievable is that a number of ASO makers now use diagonal hardy holes because they require no draft of skill to install. Not only is it a weaker spot but now you have stress concentration at the corners.

The best anvil designs are those with the hardy hole immediately flush to body of the anvil. This is the strongest place you can put a through hole in an anvil open at the bottom. However, the depth of the hole make it difficult to make, thus more expensive.

In the case of steel faced cast iron anvils the face must be ductile enough to prevent the iron from breaking. Often anvil faces are TOO hard. In the case of Eagle anvils the face can be hardest at the iron to steel interface and exacerbate breakage problems. I've also seen the subject break where the face is broken at the hardy hole and the iron is steel there.

The best repair for this anvil is to grind the heel end smooth and let it go.
   - guru - Monday, 10/05/09 21:31:55 EDT

Well, I don't like "right up flush to the body". Too many times where you need to get underneath to drive a stuck tool out. Also when you're upsetting in a bolster over the hardy hole, if it's right up close, there's often interference with the base/stump/stand. But yeah, it sure is the strongest place to put it.
   - grant - Monday, 10/05/09 21:40:13 EDT

Hello. I've been smithing for many years but would like to learn more about forming non-ferrous metals. Could anyone recommend a good resource to start learning? Thanks.
   Watermark - Monday, 10/05/09 22:05:01 EDT


I'd suggest two books as a starting point: Metalsmithing for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht and "Silversmithing" by Rupert Feingold. Both explore forging, raising, chasing and repousse quite well and prepare one for further explorations in those areas as well as many others.
   vicopper - Monday, 10/05/09 22:15:34 EDT

Thanks, I'll give them a try.
   Watermark - Monday, 10/05/09 22:31:58 EDT

There are some simple demos about forging brass in Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork, and we have a demo I wrote on Brass Candlesticks.

Forging is easy, temperature control is the trick. Most non-ferrous are forged just below the melting point which is also below or just barely at a red heat. Great care or a temperature controlled furnace is needed.

When forging brass hot it is like butter under the hammer. As it cools you are forging annealed metal which moves about like hot tool steel or softer. Heat again and forge away.

The hard part is if you want bright and shiny. A combination bright and dark can be done with sandpaper. All bright needs chemical cleaning using a compound such as Sparex, available from jewelery suppliers. Polishing is, well, polishing. I setup two buffing stands with four different size and type wheels for the candlesticks in the demo referenced above. Jeweler's also use rubber wheels with abrasive compound in them for cutting and leaving a smooth surface. Hand work requires lots of 180, 240 and 320 grit Wet-or-Dry sandpaper.

All non-ferrous metals have similar forging and clean up similarities and problems.

I find an OA torch indispensable for working non-ferrous. Heating to forge or anneal, welding and silver soldering are all much easier with OA equipment. For large scale heating or annealing a common propane torch or Propane Oxygen rose bud can be used.

Its fun. Not hard to do. Polishing is a lot of work but sure is pretty. . .

If you are going to do a lot of non-ferrous then casting is also one of the techniques you want to setup for and learn. But that is another LONG story. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/06/09 00:14:45 EDT

Let me quibble a bit: some nonferrous metals have quite different problems with hot forging---magnesium and mercury for example. However others work very similarly indeed, eg: copper is a common stand in for silver when learning to silversmith.

Heels: I noticed one of my students last Sunday wanting to do some heavy hammering on the heel of one of my anvils---4# sledge two handed on a piece of leafspring being held by another person. So I explained again why they should work on the sweet spot and what terribly bad things could happen if they did sledging on the heel. Some students I have had to take the chalk and mark the zone they can work in as they can't seem to judge where there is iron all the way down under the face and where there is not.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/06/09 10:22:39 EDT

I'm doing a presentation for one of my classes on blacksmithing, and I was wondering what some of the tools are that are used and what they're purpose is.

Much appreciated if you can help me with this.
   Monica Willis - Tuesday, 10/06/09 11:14:59 EDT

Never mind.
   Monica Willis - Tuesday, 10/06/09 11:19:53 EDT

Monica, We don't do homework but we will point you in the right direction. Our advertisers such as Blacksmiths Depot have many pictures of blacksmithing tools. We also have 2 blacksmithing books on-line (see the eBooks link on the home page). The books would be better as they show how the tools are used.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/06/09 11:29:26 EDT

Thomas, have you actually tried to forge mercury?
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 10/06/09 12:28:13 EDT

Can anyone see any reason not to use the counterweight off a forklift (scrapped) as the base of an anvil for a junkyard power hammer? LOTS of mass, and pretty bulky and wide, but if I add a bit of a pedestal on top for clearance and as a die holder, I think it would work. Any thoughts? Thanks!
   Dave F - Tuesday, 10/06/09 13:34:04 EDT

Is the forklift counterweight cast iron?

TGN---no; but I'll bet that some grad student somewhere has!
Ran across a thesis once in the bowels of the Engineering Library at Cornell that included charts of the dielectric constants of different foods---2 types of potato's, freeze dried coffee, etc...All I could come up with was they had watched the Gilligan's island show where the professor built a radio from foodstuffs too many times.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/06/09 13:47:41 EDT

Forklift Counter Weights are normally CI. One might possibly be ductile but there is no reason for it. The couple I've worked on were cast iron. Major holes for attaching them were cast in and minor holes were cast then had expanding lead concrete anchors installed. No machining of any type. A few light parts were bolted on
the top via drilling and tapping.

The tough thing to do will be fitting a die holder to the curved CI surface. Lots of grinding. . . or paying someone to machine a flat. But they are a LOT of mass and can be obtained fairly easily. I see lots of old lifts going to scrap.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/06/09 15:02:30 EDT

I think the counterweight is CI. It is an old Allis-Chalmers, and it is an unusual shape in that it is perfectly flat on both top and bottom. I'm not sure if the top and bottom are parallel, however.
Will the CI take the repeated impacts of say a 100-150 lb hammer, assuming I have a pretty substantial die holder? Probably impossible to know for sure, I just don't want to invest a ridiculous amount of effort on something that is doomed to failure. :) BTW, many thanks for this website, I have learned so much from the dialog here! Thanks,
   Dave F - Tuesday, 10/06/09 16:53:23 EDT

Dave F- the hammer I'm currently building has a CI anvil mass off an old steam shovel (I think). I had been looking for forklift weights, but hadn't figured out how to get around the usually odd shape and large holes one sees in most lift weights. I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted the block I've now got at the scrapyard as it is perfectly rectangular and has just a few porter bar/mounting holes. 17x17x22", 1600# as far as I can tell. I was also somewhat concerned about it holding up to hammering, so I bolted a short pyramid of 2" thick plates topped with a length of 7" round as a sow block to the top to spread out the force as much as possible. I'll let you know how it worked in a few years;).
   Judson Yaggy - Tuesday, 10/06/09 17:25:03 EDT

Cast Iron Hammer Parts: Most of the old hammers had cast iron anvils and sow blocks. The CI is plenty strong in compression but low on tensile.

Parallelness is not an issue other than shimming so the die is level. The anvil needs to be well supported. When the bottom is rough, not flat or out of square the wood pad in the foundation is carved to fit. This may require some lifting on and off, marking the wood, chipping to fit. A heavy epoxy grout job would also work.

What is an issue is a good flat fit under your die holder and how it is attached. I would use fairly large bolts (1/2" min, 5/8" recommended) to hold the die plate on the anvil. As long as the plate is a good fit the hammer load should not be a problem.

   - guru - Tuesday, 10/06/09 17:50:05 EDT

Hi again. Thanks for the input to my last question. Very helpful. I have another. I am putting a chimney in my shed so I can start blacksmithing. What should the inside diameter be?
Also, do I have to go out the roof with it or can I put it through the wall? Is there anything else I should know?
   - Ed - Tuesday, 10/06/09 19:00:21 EDT

Flue Size: Ed, 12" Dia. is the minimum for a "standard" forge. You can get away with 10" only if the forge is quite small and the hood system very efficient.

Note that side draft "hoods" require the smallest stack and work very well with 12". While called a hood they are in fact a close side vent (see our plans page). Overhead hoods are very inefficient and require very large stacks to work well.

You can penetrate the wall or ceiling with your stack. Bends reduce efficiency so the minimum of 2 should be all you use. Horizontal runs also reduce efficiency so they should be kept short. Note that when you go out the wall you need a significant distance from the side of the building and eves to meet building codes. Same inside. While these stacks do not get very hot there is always a possibility that they MAY so 24 to 30" between the stack and any flamable construction material is required. This assumes non-insulated single wall pipe. The insulated triple wall is allowed to actually contact wood supports.

When you start considering offsets and wall thimbles going through the roof starts looking more economically practical.
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/06/09 23:11:47 EDT

Just got comissioned to make an oversized straight razor for a sword swallower. Blade length will be about 14" x 1" forged from 1/2" round 316L steel. My across-the-street neighbor is a carpenter, so we will collaborate for the sheath/handle. Funny, he calls me for welding and repairs and I call him for framing and woodwork.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 10/07/09 08:42:59 EDT


Sounds like a good symbiotic relationship to me! :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 10/07/09 09:42:51 EDT

Guru, et al, thanks for the input! Judson, I don't think I can wait to hear how yours worked out, since I am already an old codger. :) Thanks again, guys. I'll let you know how the build progresses.
   Dave F - Wednesday, 10/07/09 12:44:30 EDT

TGN: A "Sweeny Todd"?
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/07/09 15:35:48 EDT

I am still wet behind my ears. I tried very hard to make sure this question was not answered elsewhere on your site. My anvil is a 80 pound vulcan that my grandfather used. It is on the light side for what I want to do. I have a 150 pound rectangular piece of hot rolled steel. Would this anvil act like a larger one if I would bolt the steel on the bottom? An other option is to use wedges. I have the skills to do either.

Thank you, Milton
   - milton - Wednesday, 10/07/09 16:48:16 EDT

I am still wet behing my ears. I have tried to make sure this question was not answered else where on the website. I have my grandfather's 80 pound Vulcan anvil. It is lighter then I would like. I also have a rectangular 150 pound hot rolled steel. Would the anvil act larger if I bolted it to the steel? I could also use wedges. I have the skills to do either.

Thank you. milton
   - milton - Wednesday, 10/07/09 16:52:26 EDT

I am still wet behind the ears in blacksmithing, and navigating these forums. I have an 80 pound vulcan anvil that my grandfather used. I also have a rectangular 150 pound piece of hot rolled steel. Would my anvil act larger if I bolted the steel to it's bottom? I have the skills to do this. Thank you.milton
   - milton - Wednesday, 10/07/09 17:01:23 EDT

That vulcan is a "fragile" anvil being made mostly of cast iron with a thin steel face. Most likely bolting it onto the mass will result in it getting broken.

Why not use the rectangular piece of steel as an anvil? It won't be softer than one of the cast iron ASO's or even the early medieval all wrought iron anvils? Use it for your heavy work serene in the knowledge that anything you do to it can be fixed by welder, grinder or the combination and that the lighter vulcan will make a good travel anvil and have a hardy hole for tooling and a horn for when you need one.

My shop usually has 3 anvils usable and 5 within reach of my forge---each is best for some things!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/07/09 18:35:37 EDT

Milton, I agree with Thomas. Putting that little anvil onto a heavy block is just going to put it in harms way by greatly increasing the force of any blows applied to it.

Many of the mixed CI and steel anvils were "budget" anvils when sold. The were not made like a HD anvil and a short life was expected to start with. Putting it on an extra heavy base would really be the last thing it needed.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/07/09 18:49:08 EDT

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