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 17 - 23, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

More rare anvils:

File Makers Anvil from Troyes France - Click for more

Our friend Stefaan Meeus of Belgium has sent us a collection of rare anvil images from the Troyes Tool Museum in France. Above is a rare Mousehole anvil from a rasp and file makers shop. So is it a Cutlers anvil or a Filemakers anvil? Or was the same used for both? Isn't it amazing how little we know of such recent technology?

This is a fantastic collection of early tools and rare old anvils. Click image for the gallery.

   - guru - Saturday, 10/17/09 00:58:51 EDT

NIPPULINI, The metal stiffeners in windshield wipers make good lock picks. I know, that's how the illegal aliens stole my van.
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 10/17/09 01:22:05 EDT

Close, but not exactly the intended use. Think more along the lines of escape artists.... remember I cater to the circus/carny/sideshow performers.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 10/17/09 09:21:25 EDT

Nippulini, Couldn't you just surface grind them to the dimension you require, might be worth a try?
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 10/17/09 10:31:24 EDT

Very interesting anvil
I'm over here trying to figure out broken chain dimensioning. We're learning it in class and we're pretty sure the book contains an error in some of the examples. Any one ever worked with this system much ??
   - T Murch - Saturday, 10/17/09 18:55:34 EDT

According to Charlie Sutton author of Under A Spreading Chestnut Tree the formula he had drilled into him is "twice the outside length, plus once the inside width" has worked for me.
   JimG - Saturday, 10/17/09 18:59:49 EDT

The above formula is for finding the length of stock needed to make a new link to repair a broken chain. Re-reading T's question it is quite likely he's talking about something compleatly different...
   JimG - Saturday, 10/17/09 19:04:22 EDT

Kinda hard to figure out just what the question is. "broken chain dimensioning" doesn't mean much to me. Maybe a little more explanation, please.
   - grant - Saturday, 10/17/09 19:08:11 EDT

If you Google the term you'll find a few sites. I think the idea is to leave one dimension out so the stacked tolerances on everything else have somewhere to go.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 10/17/09 19:52:42 EDT

Anyone know a good source for technical info on stone carving tools? As in cutting and relief angles, common alloys used, hardness, tooth dimensions, etc? I live half way between a world famous granite quarry and a world famous marble quarry and feel like I should know a little more about chisel making, if only to fill in the gaps in my architectural works schedule. Thanks!
   Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 10/17/09 20:10:30 EDT

Judson: Would that put you somewhere around Athens Georgia?
   - grant - Saturday, 10/17/09 20:27:07 EDT

Good point Grant, I suppose that my vague locational statements could put me on a small island in the south Pacific but really I live in Vermont, USA. And if we are going to be picky I should disclose that in fact the marble region is about 15 minuets closer to me by car than the granite, but as the crow flies it's about the same distance, there are just some mountains in the way. Either distance is reasonable for weekly or monthly jobs.
   Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 10/17/09 20:59:37 EDT

Perhaps I should also mention that I've done a little demolition chisel re-pointing, and I have looked at my copy of A. Weygers' book for his input on the subject, and have a decent library on basic heat treating.

I'll be meeting with a stone sculptor next week to ask him questions, but I don't expect to get answers to questions like "Why is it 60 degrees? Would a 50 deg. angle work too?"

It sounds like I'm 10-15 years too late to ask the old time industrial smiths around here, I keep hearing things like "You should have met old Euclid LeClair, there was a man who knew how to make a good chisel, not like the ones you get nowadays..."
   Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 10/17/09 21:36:26 EDT

I have a little experience in that area.
   - grant - Saturday, 10/17/09 22:14:16 EDT

Dimensioning Theory:

The following is how we (my Father and I) dimensioned parts. It is based on old pre ANSI systems.

Common practice is give overall dimensions (OAL, OAH) and feature dimensions but never have all the dimensions stack up to the OAL or OAH. Mathematically you may want them to add up BUT nothing is perfect and with each dimension referencing the previous feature you have error stack up that may be out of tolerance for the overall dimensions.

All dimensioning starts somewhere. Either an edge or a theoretical centerline. On rectangular work best practice is to reference all dimensions off one corner OR reference point avoiding stack up errors. This is especially convenient in a digital X-Y-Z world. But when you dimension this way you never place two dimensions in a row that add up to a total otherwise dimensioned. This is done occasionally and marked "reference" and is usually in parentheses. This is for the convenience of the machinist that is using manual layout methods but can (and should be) be ignored in deference to the overall dimension tolerance.

I think this is what you mean by "broken" chain.

BAD (closed chain ?)
|<----------------------4 OAL---------------------->|

|<----1---->|<----1---->|<----1---->|<----(1)---->| Ref.
|<----------------------4 OAL----------------------->|

BETTER (broken chain ?)
|<-----------------------4 OAL---------------------->|

|<-----------------------4 OAL---------------------->|

OK (special cases)
|<----1---->|                                  |<----1---->|
|<-----------------------4 OAL---------------------->|

It is always best not to dimension off a feature, a hole, ledge or such unless that is a critical starting point.

Please don't try to embed <brackets> as above, our filters will block them and everything between.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/18/09 02:32:45 EDT

The "BETTER" example looks like the correct 'broken chain'. I'm not sure that your "BEST" example is actually chain dimensioned. Sometimes a combination of the two is called for depending on the functionality of the part. (Like the "OK" example. However, often dimensioning style caters to shop environments or machine programming preferences and may not be necessarily totally accurate to the actual part.
TYLER can you give an illustration of the confusion?
   - Tom H - Sunday, 10/18/09 04:40:32 EDT


When were you in Vermont? (grin)
   Mike BR - Sunday, 10/18/09 08:01:32 EDT

My "Best" example is not chain dimensioning.

The point is not to "stack" all your dimensions adding up to a total. You do the math but you do not use that last dimension. It is the first of two basic rules. The other is to never duplicate dimensions on a drawing. This is to prevent possible confusion if the dimension is changed in the future.

As you noted there are other best fits for various parts and machining styles. Starting points vary greatly and on parts like castings are often referenced off the first machine finished surfaces.

All our drawings were hand drawn on paper or Mylar and were a very "loose" style. Hadn drawing is still the fastest most efficient way to make drawings. Especially on the type of one off equipment we were building. We also did things that nobody else still did at the time like drawing large threads, gear teeth, ball and roller bearings in cross section with shading and (line) shading shafts. I've drawn hundreds of double lipped seals in cross section. . . We also included real WORD notes rather than ANSI symbology. I still do these things in CAD due to the clarity it brings to drawings. One thing we NEVER got was complaints about confusing drawings. We got a lot of praise from the guys making the parts as well.

CAD is more advantageous when drawings need to be maintained over a long time span. However, software changes and file type compatibility severely hurt this most important feature of CAD.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/18/09 08:18:48 EDT

I have to totally agree with the GURU on hand drawing VS CAD for one offs and so forth. Where a good CAD system, say PRO-E shines is for the long term maintenance of complex assemblies with many inter-related parts. In the valve shop we had forgings that went into hundreds of assemblies. Once machined a forging might go into a hundred assemblies. Same for the other parts. So a revision might affect several hundred drawings, and with PRO-E every drawing was revised as part of the change, as well as looing for interferences. A simple drawing change by hand often took a week of a skilled, very knowlegable draftsman, and with PRO-E maybe a couple of hours.

For one offs and simple tooling, I could do a pencil on paper drawing, with a drafting machine and have it in the toolmakers hand probably three times faster than PRO-E. For a test modification, I would do a sepia, razor knife the area I wanted to change, do a second sepia and pen and ink in the change and have that on the floor in minutes.

At the valve shop we were still doing pen and ink on Muslin for regular drawings, with constructed threads till about 1985, when CAD almost totally took over. We were still using ink on muslin drawings created in the 1860-1880s when the shop was sold and moved to India.
   ptree - Sunday, 10/18/09 08:37:19 EDT

In guru's examples the "better" is broken chain.

(roughly from the book) This method includes the overall length, plus all except one of the step lengths. Tolerance on the overall length and all but the least important step length are thereby controlled. The undimensioned step length accumulates the tolerance of all the dimensions used to calculate it ( so in guru's example, with a tolerance of +/- .05 the missing dimension would carry a tolerance of +/- 2)

w/ tolerance +/- .01 each

The book asks to calculate the tolerance accumulated between letters. I only have trouble when it gets to tolerance between x and G - the undimensioned step.

   - T Murch - Sunday, 10/18/09 11:00:31 EDT

T Murch,

I'm not sure if I follow, so this may not make sense. But don't forget to add the tolerance on the overall length to the accumulated tolerances from the other steps. In other words, the right edge of the plate (G [?]) will be somewhere between 2.89 and 2.91, which will affect the distance between F and G.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 10/18/09 11:13:56 EDT

Guru, I appreciate your position wholeheartedly. I have been engineering manager for over 25 years. My position is that all the rules of drafting, etc., are good default starting positions. The overriding goal is CLARITY. If there is a possibility of confusion and error, the rules need to be bent. If redundant dimensions, or mixed styles, or clear notation, or clearer illustration, or whatever rule you want to deviate from makes the job less prone to error or mistake, BREAK THE RULE for goodness sakes. Sounds like your old shop sort of felt the same way.
I still insist on it but in the digital age we are plunging into, there will be less emphasis on it.
Maybe drafting will go the way of the blacksmith! Not as common commercially but faithfully held to by dedicate folks.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 10/18/09 11:36:44 EDT

Final Tolerance. . . Simple mathematics does not do it. The MAX is total of A, B.... + the OAL.

Theoretically there SHOULD be as many pluses as minus in a chain and should average to the average tolerance. This is part of the assumption of statistical tolerances. However, in reality tolerances creep one way or the other and seem to always add or subtract.

True reality is that on custom and one off work most machinists will hit dimensions to the nominal +/- .001" and better if necessary. Its actually easier to hit the nominals than to deal with tolerance stack up. In some cases we found no tolerances were better than any at all. On flame cutting we found several places did not understand +0" / - 1/4" and would always miss the dimension by exactly the opposite (oversized). So we just gave the size we wanted with no tolerance. . .

Your reality may vary.

My Dad learned the trade in Cincinnati in the early 1950's. The heart of the golden age of machine construction in the United States. The engineering company he worked for did design for Lodge and Shipley, Cincinnati Bickford, General Mills, Bell Areospace (the X-15) and numerous automotive sub contractors. He designed the feeder that put toys in cereal boxes and was part of the project to ground test the X-15 engines. He designed the load distribution fixture for machining the tapered gibs in Lodge and Shipley lathe cross slides. In those days the manufacturers cared more about the quality and durability of their product than the cost. It was a great time to be in the industry.

What Dad learned from those days is what Tom H says. Clarity of communication in drawings is more important than meeting arbitrary rules. While the ANSI geometric tolerances rules have been the standard since the 1980's and add a "scientific method" to dimensioning, few can interpret them properly or specify them properly after all this time. A few clear notes can make all the difference.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/18/09 14:06:00 EDT

looking for a knife stamp/touchmark. Two letters(cm) preferably script style
   c. maccrea - Sunday, 10/18/09 15:20:40 EDT

need to locate a hot stamp/ touchmark. Have one Made (cm) preferably script style.
   c. maccrea - Sunday, 10/18/09 15:22:37 EDT

Judson, The only place I have found to discuss stone tools is in the 1912 book by Holford, "The 20th Century Toolsmith and Steelworker." Jock ordered and received the book a few months ago, and I believe it is on the list to be printed on this site as an "eBook." Holford's work is valuable, as it talks about shapes and angles of some esoteric tools, such as points, chisels, bush hammers, mash hammers, granite hammers, bull sets, and bull chisels. The differences between granite tools, marble tools, and limestone tools is discussed. The text is accompanied by line drawings.

This book was written when octagonal and square plain carbon, high carbon steel was in use, primarily. Today, there may be better alloy steels available for these tools. Tungsten carbide tips can be brazed into holders, as well. When dressing tungsten carbide tools, that is a whole other ball game.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 10/18/09 18:55:05 EDT

I've got another lock book scanned and need to set it up. The Toolsmith book Frank refers to is next.

   - guru - Sunday, 10/18/09 19:30:02 EDT

Frank- THANK YOU! Sounds like just what I was looking for. I can probably translate old shapes onto modern alloys, but it'd be great to not have to re-invent the wheel. For those that are interested, I found one old industrial forging company that still forges stone carving tools here in Vermont, Trow and Holden http://www.trowandholden.com/ and they have even donated some of their old power hammers to the Vermont Granite Museum. Pretty cool.
   Judson Yaggy - Sunday, 10/18/09 19:30:53 EDT

Charlie Sutton: I had his book, but loaned it (and several other books) to a friend who's house subsequently burned down. Is it in print? Does anybody have a spare copy?
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 10/18/09 19:38:25 EDT

Under a Spreading Chestnut tree was published by Dolphin Press. P.O. Box 61005. Postal Outlet. 511 Maple Grove Road. Oakville, Ontario. L6J 6X0

Good Luck.
   JimG - Sunday, 10/18/09 20:43:47 EDT

Last I heard the remaining inventory of Charlie's book was being sold by one of the Canadian blacksmith associations.
   - guru - Sunday, 10/18/09 20:49:43 EDT

Judson Yaggy: Carpenter Steel suggests S2 for stone tools.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 10/18/09 21:20:38 EDT

Bruce I have now had that happen twice! First time I lost a beloved copy of Tim Lively's neotribal knifemaking video (and it was arson! too boot). The second time I merely had a couple of books on physical culture of the inquisition smoked---not a totally bad thing for the subject matter...(Al wiring in a house trailer)

   Thomas P - Monday, 10/19/09 13:41:55 EDT

Last night our heat came on for the first time this season. I woke up to the smell of dust burning off heating elements (another problem). . all I could think about until I fell back asleep was how to save the books. . .
   - guru - Monday, 10/19/09 15:41:14 EDT

Our heat has been on for about a week, burning pine I Jihaded. Burns alot to get any heat, but it would lay there and rot otherwise. The fire is 100' from the house in the new stage 2 EPA approved outside burner. Uses 40% less wood and emitts 40% less smoke:)

And no worries about my books.
   ptree - Monday, 10/19/09 17:38:37 EDT

That's a long way to transfer the heat! presumably you are using tot water circulating thro radiators? how have you minimised the efficiency losses?
   Chris E - Tuesday, 10/20/09 06:06:35 EDT

I do indeed heat water at the outdoor burner, and pump it into the house exchanger through insulated tubeing in the ground. I measured and have about a 5 to 10F loss in temp burner to house.
   ptree - Tuesday, 10/20/09 09:42:08 EDT

We still have a fan in the window blowing night air *in*...
Haven't raised the window shades in the greatroom to start heating the adobe---yet
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 10/20/09 13:08:22 EDT

For me, fire is not an issue I worry about. Now getting the "big one" floodwise scares the pellets out of me. Seeing as how my basement is my workshop I already have the evacuation plan... welders first, hand power tools second, tanks last. The gallon of phosphoric acid will have to just deal. I wonder about the effect of flood waters on all the metal, tools, anvils, hammers, etc.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 10/20/09 16:43:53 EDT

Rust. . .

Flood water types vary. In cities the sewers often back up first filling your basement from the drain UP. Nasty stuff but hopefully it is tempered with flood water. A lot has been done to remove roof and street drains from sewer systems but many older localities still have this problem. Those that do not still have the problem of sewage overflow.

Other floods bring fine silt that gets into everything and becomes slipper mud before it dries to hard clay. You can say good by to many intricate tools . . .

Some floods bring sand, as does our creek in Virginia. The only flood that got into my tools and machinery filled tool chests to the top with wet sand. Luckily most of my expensive precision stuff was up high. However, everything up to 32" was sand filled. It took me days to clean out the drawers at that level, clean and oil the tools and put them back.

All my motors below that level were wrecked including some new ones and some good used ones. The locked rotors indicate rusted bearings. Capacitor start capacitors are generally moisture resistant but under several feet of water for hours they may absorb water. . I still have these motors hoping to have time one day to disassemble, clean and install new bearings.

Note that even if a motor or gear box SEEMS OK, if water gets into ball bearings and they set a while it marks the races with fine rust lines. The bearing may SEEM OK but the bearing will fail in short order.

Some precision things fared fairly well. If the fits kept out water born silt they could be disassembled, dried and oiled or greased as necessary.

Some of the worst things lost were those that had to be replaced immediately like our water pump. I could have fixed it for half but there was no time to wait for parts (a new motor). Fibreglass and blanket insulation (like kaowool) are wrecked by water and silt. Things like water heaters must be stripped and re-insulated. Blanket insulated forges need relining.

That one flood that got into my shop was nearly ten years ago and I am still repairing and recovering. I've got those motors mentioned above, bearings on a backshaft to replace, a box of lathe chucks and accessories that had initial cleaning but must still be fully disassembled, cleaned, derusted and reassembled. I recently found a rough work dial indicator that I thought had been cleaned that needed disassembly and cleaning. . . AND the wheels on a fully loaded tool chest need replacement.

Two local foundries in the Lynchburg James River basin had a well coordinated flood evacuation plan and would have to move out every couple years. Offices were on upper floors but much machinery was at grade level. A fleet of fork lifts would load trucks and then be parked on the highway ramp leaving the area.

Hazards are everywhere. If we have a REALLY heavy snow here I would not be surprised to find Paw-Paws shop collapsed. We are also near the new Eastern tornado zone. . . OR the sky could fall. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/20/09 17:44:34 EDT

Nip, Where I am located, on top a knob above the Ohio River, if the flood is lapping at my door, its 40 days too late for that ark:)
Our roads and the like wash out when we get 6" in 45 minutes or 7" in 5 hours as happened this year, but the house and shop stay dry.
Living in a forrest, in a semi rural area, fire is a multipronged issue. The local fire dept takes about 10 minutes minimum to get here. One reason for lots of fire extinguishers.
   ptree - Tuesday, 10/20/09 17:45:10 EDT

My flood worry is the Neshaminy Creek, a body of water that feeds into the Delaware River. My house sits in a 50 year flood zone. In 1955 there is a photo of my house with a man rowing a canoe down the street in FRONT of the house! I bought the house in 2001, but in 2000 hurricane Floyd made a stop in Hulmeville. There's a mark on the ductwork of my a/c (about 3 inches from the ceiling) says "Hurricane Floyd was here"... funny. Since I've lived there, I've experienced a few small floods, the worst had about 3 inches of water outside the door. I sandbagged the door and caulked it when the waters were a few yards from the house. I got about 6 inches of water. I asked neighbors why the previous owners didn't sandbag for Floyd. They seemed shocked, like "wow, what a great idea". Ever since, I always keep about a dozen 50 pound bags of sand by the back door. The wife hates them and is always asking me to move them. Nuh uh.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 10/20/09 18:33:14 EDT

Oops, not 3 inches of water outside the door... I meant to say 3 FEET
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 10/20/09 18:34:10 EDT

50 year flood plain. . . we lived IN the creek so flood levels were matters of degrees. The annual flood level was about 1-2 feet lower than our front yard. The historic 100 year flood level was only about 5 feet above that which put 3 feet of water in the back of the Mill. However, a new bridge that narrowed the stream flow made that more like the 50 year level.

In recent years I've heard people all over the country complain that they have had 100 year floods every 5 years or so. . . My experience with the FEMA "statistical" flood levels is that most of the maps are BS. Zoning laws and insurance regulations required them so they drew them. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 10/20/09 18:54:43 EDT

Nip, How high was the water in Your area in '72 from Agnes? That was the big one in the Schuylkill floodplain, might not have affected Your place.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 10/20/09 19:56:38 EDT

After the flood of '72 on the Schuylkill [30' above flood plane in Our area] We did manage to salvage all the tools, motors, engines, automobiles & etc. at My cousin's place. We got to everything within a few days of the water going down, there was no silt and the sludge from an oil reclamation refinery all ended up along the other side of the river. The water was 8' high in the 9' high living room.

This was a tremendous ammount of work, a bunch of family members pitched in. He moved to higher ground a few years later.

We bought a workshop full of tools damaged in the same flood, but several years later. They had not been cleaned up. Some of the tools cleaned up OK after wire brushing the rust & fine silt off, others were just junk.

Had these been hosed off & oiled right away they all would have been fine.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 10/20/09 20:16:57 EDT

Anvil Overdose is what Stefaan Meeus is calling it. Another gallery of anvils!

He recently visited the Maison de l'Outil (House of Tools) museum in Troyes, France. He sent us a collection of photos of over two dozen anvils out of over 100 at the museum.

This is a fantastic museum in the heart of Champagne country just East of Paris. If you are ever in France a trip to Troyes should be at the top of your list.

   - guru - Tuesday, 10/20/09 21:07:50 EDT

I would like to forge my own wood carving chisels. What kind of metal (or what doner items) would you recomend?
   Michael - Wednesday, 10/21/09 01:02:14 EDT

Michael, I started blacksmithing by forging a set of palm chisels out of W1 tool steel. I chose W1 because it is water quenching and holds a pretty good edge. You can buy W1 tool steel as "drill rod" in various diameters from about 1/8" through 1" from local industrial supply houses. If W1 is not available, O1 works even better but is an oil-quenching grade. If you are looking for scrounged metal, coil springs from autos, trucks, trains, etc., work well, too.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 10/21/09 08:01:22 EDT

Anvil Shooting Video on YouTube

   - Hudson - Wednesday, 10/21/09 08:12:21 EDT

2nd try for the Anvil Shooting URL

   - Hudson - Wednesday, 10/21/09 08:13:25 EDT

Michael, get a copy of Practical Blacksmithing by Alexander Weygers. He has a whole section devoted specifically to forging wood carving chisels and gouges. Apparently Weygers main reason for getting into smithing was to make wood tools as his primary expertise was wood carving. It's a good read and should be a part of anyones book collection.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 10/21/09 08:40:17 EDT

More steels for wood working: Michael, quenchcrack is right if you plan to buy new steel. W1 is the least expensive of the tool steels and is very good for hand working tools. You will need to practice forging (not too hot, not too cold) and heat treating (also not too hot when hardening and tempering). The heat treating is key to making superior tools of any steel.

Many smiths will recommend junk yard steels such as springs and car or truck axles. This is good cheap steel HOWEVER these steels are almost never what anyone says they are. Manufacturers change steels at their wim and the cheaper the better. See our Junk Yard Steel FAQ before going this route.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 09:12:11 EDT

Hello again,

I've finally gotten around to accumulating blacksmithing tolls again and was wondering if the Alldays and Onions anvils are all marked with their logo on the side. I just got a 1 cwt that has only 1 0 1 on the side but no makers mark. The stand that came with it has the Alldays and Onions emblem on it clearly. The anvil almost appears to be three pieces forged together and is a bit rough on the sides. The face is beautiful and in excellent condition though with out any evidence of being ground down. I'll get it cleaned up for a better look later in the week.
   Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 10/21/09 10:51:16 EDT

Michael: guru is right. the leafspring drops i have are 5260 (not the usual 5160), they are realitivley high end so that might be why they are such good steel.they might be 5160 1080 or some other steel, based on my understanding. for new steel i would go for w1 or o1. i still think that 1095 is a great choice for most things as it is dirt cheap and works great. but in case nobody else said it quench thin sections of water hardening steels in thin oil! based on what i know the water hardening steels harden in water in 1/4 inch or THICKER sections. so you will probably need some oil for quenching. veggie oil from costo mixed with some diesel to thin it works great for me.
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 10/21/09 10:52:37 EDT

Unmarked Anvils: Robert, This is a problem that there are no good answers for. Many manufacturers made unmarked anvils for others to sell under their own trade name and special order anvils were also often left unmarked.

If the anvil is identical in features to an Alldays then it probably is. However, many English manufacturers copied each other as well as workers moving from one manufacturer to another. So it is very difficult to tell.

If its a good anvil don't worry about it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 11:39:34 EDT

I just started using this site and I wanted to tell all, Thank You. You seem like a great group of people and this will probably be my new favorite reading material.
Thanks Again.
   Michael - Wednesday, 10/21/09 11:45:25 EDT

I have another question. I have a customer that would like hand forged, rustic tableware. What would be safe to use (to eat from) and have the black looking finish?
   Michael - Wednesday, 10/21/09 11:52:37 EDT

Utensils: Michael, Common mild steel will work but requires care. After use it needs to be washed, dried and oiled with vegetable oil. Then prior to use it needs to have the old oil washed off to prevent possible food poisoning. This is rare but if you have any folds (cold shuts) in the steel food can get trapped in them so cleanliness is very important. All cleaning MUST be done by hand. Machine washing will lead to rusting.

The problem above, it that the customer will not care to care for the utensils and then will complain about the rust.

A good option is to make them out of 304 stainless steel. When heated to forging temperatures the stainless turns black like other steel. After cleaning up (grinding, filing) the parts can be heated again just enough to turn black. You can also polish highlights on such work and not worry about rust.

Such stainless CAN rust but it is very minor in normal use and MUCH superior to common steel in this application.

Note that stainless must be forged hotter than mild steel and is generally all around more difficult to work by hot OR cold methods. It is hard on saws, drills, files and difficult to polish. So prices should not only reflect the added cost of the material but the cost of labor as well. This is why stainless jewelery is usually more expensive than silver. But then it doesn't tarnish.

Another option for large pieces is aluminium that is black anodized. However, anodizing is something you do not do in your own shop. Parts are manufactured (can be forged or hammered) and then cleaned and carefully finished. The finished parts are then sent to an anodizer. Finishes include red, blue, green, gold, silver (clear) and black. The gold color seems to be the most constant. Silver is a grey white a little flatter than the aluminum. Black is very nice if they get a good dense black. But occasionally it is slight transparent. While finishing and anodizing add cost the ease of working the aluminum balances out the costs.

Note that aluminum should not be used with utensils that the working end gets hot. The metal conducts heat very rapidly and efficiently. The handle end of an aluminum spoon used to stir a pot will get as hot as the working end in seconds.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 12:19:45 EDT

Oiling Utensils: Whoops. . . Steel utensils can be oiled with mineral oil. This does not go bad and is available for internal use as a stool softener. Bakeries use it to oil pans and racks so small amounts of it are in most bread.

This still requires care after washing.

You can use it with the stainless as well to darken the finish.

Mineral oil is also available as "baby oil" but is perfumed so it should not be used on utensils. However, it does make a good clean quenching oil.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 12:27:00 EDT

I'd advise stainless and it would be an expensive commission!

Another ally that unfortunately doesn't have the black surface of forged iron but is food safe is CP 1 or 2 Titanium; but you have to be careful forging it when thin in crossection so it doesn't get brittle. I have a hand forge Ti eating set for camping as it's dishwasher safe. I also have a stainless set and a real wrought iron set---I've seasoned the WI ones like a cast iron pot.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/21/09 12:47:32 EDT

Michael, it is worth having a few small items, such as leaf keyrings, made in various materials and finishes so you can show a customer what his or her commission would look like out of different materials and using various finishes.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 10/21/09 17:22:03 EDT

I must beg to differ on black Anodize. This can indeed be done in the home shop on a table top. Been there done that. Took a DC power supply, and the anodize bath and the dye bath. Lots of clear running water for rinse. We did all kinds of protypes in the lab at Westinghouse Air Brake back in the late 70's with a home shop level rig. The anodize bath is a mild acid. I think I remember 24 volts DC at 500 milliamps per square foot of surface but I would not quote the numbers and my real anodize source passed away in 1986.

Birchwood Casey also sells a black coating called "Tool Black that is quite nice looking, done cool and table top. Probably not food grade.
Birchwood Casey also used to have a 5 gallon pilot line for black oxide. nice home shop line as well.

I use vegetable oil, Spray PAM or equiv for my utensils, made from mild steel and that works very well.
   ptree - Wednesday, 10/21/09 17:44:13 EDT

Hmm the powered scooters for folks with trouble walking often use 24 VDC and so chargers for that show up at the fleamarket fairly often...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 10/21/09 18:25:32 EDT

Thanks to all. Alot of good advice.
   Michael - Wednesday, 10/21/09 18:34:25 EDT

Does any one know of any high strength engineering epoxys or thermosetting plastics?

I've been using bondo polyester resin, made for fiberglass, to laminate layers of a bullet resistant composite I'm working on. The resin isn't strong enough to keep the delamination localized when hit; afterwards I was able to peel off what hadn't already come apart, by hand.

I'm looking for something that can be gotten locally in a major city; I hate ordering off the internet, thanks.
   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 10/21/09 20:12:44 EDT

I saw some black finished stainless tableware at the store recently. I have no idea what the finish was, but the effect was the same as if they'd shot a translucent coat of black lacquer on a polished stainless utensil. I very much doubt it's something you could do in a home shop. Sure made a striking piece, though.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 10/21/09 21:08:20 EDT

Resins: Nabiul, I've used fiberglass and bondo the way you describe (I think) and it works well on soap box derby body work, boat trim repair and decorative wood house trim. But the amount of polyester resin in the putty is very low and the result quite weak.

A couple years ago I purchased clear polyester resin at Lowes. I do not think they had epoxy. Straight epoxy resins are generally sold for engineering applications and are difficult to find. Note that the highest strength stuff is NOT the equal part resins but a resin and a hardener that is mixed at 100:1 ratios. You might try boat shops. . .

The last time I looked there were manufacturers with web sites that had the resin strength data. There are probably very few distributors of these materials and having one in YOUR particular town would be a case of luck. Last spring I needed some common roofing tar and had to purchase it from a regional distributor that covered several states.

These things have a relatively short shelf life. That is one reason there are few distributors. . .

Also note that fiberglass cloth is a bad material for bullet proofing as the weave tends to introduce breaking factors. High strength structures are made with layers of parallel strands with the axis of the layers varying according to the need.

Most "bullet proof" armour and composite materials work by failing gracefully and must be replaced after a hit.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 22:06:21 EDT

Anybody know any tricks on how to keep your slack tub from freezing in the winter time? My slack tub is a round wash tub. thanks,Kelly
   kelly - Wednesday, 10/21/09 22:18:07 EDT


Antifreeze works IF there are no animals that have access to your shop. It is toxic and you don't want to be blamed for poisoning local pets. Makes a good quenchant.

Salt lowers the freezing temperature but will eat up your metal tank.

If you cannot use anti-freeze then an electric stock tank heater will work. These come with built in thermostatic controls and are relatively inexpensive. They should also not be used with salt or chlorine (such as bleach used to keep mosquitoes out of the tank). Farm supply stores will have these in stock this time of year.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/21/09 23:04:46 EDT

kelly, I use the round element, floating stock tank heater as the Guru describes above.
My unheated, N.E. Wisconsin shop will get down to well below zero thruogh out the winter and I have no problems with the slack tub freezing.
I do have to add water every couple of days to make up for loss from evaporation. I just throw in a couple of shovels full of snow befor I go in for the night and that does the trick.
I also wrap my anvil with heat tape and then with an insulated cover to keep it at around 40F. I do alot of smaller, thin work and this prevents an otherwise extreamly cold anvil face from sucking all the heat out of the peice befor I can work it.
Good Luck!
   - merl - Thursday, 10/22/09 01:13:34 EDT

I used plain polyester resin and weaved fiberglass mat, not the chopped strand pre-mixed stuff. It's not the main material, only acting as a flexible layer between layers of plastics and ceramics to 'keep everything in place'.

The fiberglass itself performed fantastically; only local delamination and cracking. The resin had clearly shattered around the impact area but overall the panel remained very flexible. However it doesn't bond well to the plastics or ceramics; at least not in the way that I need it to.

I'm in Toronto, if it can't be found here, I doubt there's anywhere else in Canada where I could get it. :/
   Nabiul Haque - Thursday, 10/22/09 02:29:04 EDT

RV Antifreeze is less toxic and smells much better than the car stuff. My previous shop used to freeze over in the winter and I would put four gallons of the RV stuff in a 16-gallon tub. It never froze over, but would turn to slush if it got below 0F.

   - Marc - Thursday, 10/22/09 07:17:14 EDT

Non-toxic anti-freezes are often alcohol based. This may not be a good idea for a slack tub or quench tank.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 07:38:40 EDT

Industrial Products: I suspect there are industrial suppliers or distributors of epoxies in Toronto but you will have better luck finding them than I since you are there. Start with manufacturer's web sites. Then look to see if they have a distributors list. Note however that for some products these are not stocking distributors but may be local representatives. They might not be able to obtain small quantities of a product as they would have to place a factory minimum order.

International Shipping: The current problem is that international shipping has become very expensive. We used to sell a lot of products globally but in the past few years it has dropped to nothing due to shipping costs. We also lose money on many international shipments. The new higher rates are based on volume, not weight. So we can ship TWO Anvils in America anywhere in the world for the same shipping cost as ONE and FOUR pints of ITC for the cost of ONE. . . On a recent Kaowool order to Canada shipping cost us $25 more than our system charged. . . due to the BULK of the box, not the weight (which we overrate 20%). And I know you folks also pay customs fees and taxes on top of that. . .

While NAFTA made a big difference in shipments from Mexico to the US it did little for goods going to Canada OR from the US to Mexico. Fuel costs caused freight rates to increase but they have not come back down with lower fuel prices. Shipping is one of our largest costs. Some 20 to 30% of all our sales goes to shipping.

On the other hand: I can whip out my MasterCard and have almost ANYTHING I want delivered in 2-3 days to my rural location. Everything from chemicals to gear boxes and electric motors or ebony and harp strings. But UPS and USPS are going to make more than the suppliers in many cases.

Internationally I still buy books on occasion and while shipping is significant it is infinitely cheaper than traveling the world shopping in out of the way book stores.

Transportation infrastructure are part of what makes a great economy. However, costs of using that infrastructure can kill the golden goose.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 08:07:55 EDT

Keeping slacktubs from freezing.
Make a lid for the tub, (mine is just a piece of plywood) and put the stocktank heater and put it on a timer. Most stocktank heaters in my part of the world are 1500 watts.
   JimG - Thursday, 10/22/09 09:31:37 EDT

Jock, why wouldn't the RV stuff be good in a slack tub? I'm not arguing, but wondering if I missed something. I used it for several years with no problems that I know of.
   - Marc - Thursday, 10/22/09 10:04:36 EDT

Non-toxic antifreezes are made from alcohol which is, as we know, flammable. When mixed with water it is pretty benign but that depends on the amount in the solution. There is a point where it will flare when quenching red hot items. So, you just don't want to overdo.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 10:34:08 EDT

Actually they're just reaming US! If I call UPS and get a quote for a 65lb box from Hong Kong to Seattle it's over $800.00! If my supplier in Hong Kong calls UPS It's $160.00! They charge what the market will bear.
   - grant - Thursday, 10/22/09 11:38:26 EDT

I hardly ever use water when forging, toss stuff onto the floor/desert after forging only use water to cool tooling or localize a heat and I don't need that often as I can switch tongs and let them air cool as well.

While I am not as cold as most of y'all, I just bring a gallon or two of water out to the forge and poor it on a deserving bush after the day is done. No power is needed, no fuss, no muss, no bother!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 10/22/09 12:13:46 EDT

Stock Tank Heaters:
The typical floating stock tank heater has an internal thermostat that only keeps the water at 40F and will shut off it is tipped over or runs out of water.
Insulating and covering your slack tub would help keep down the electrical bill but, remember that fiberglass batting is poisonous when it is burning so watch for anything that might cause a fire.
   - merl - Thursday, 10/22/09 12:25:00 EDT

You used to be able to send mail by surface (boat). It was very slow as they seemed to wait until a container was filled before it was shipped. But many preferred waiting 3 to 4 months for a book or package to arrive than to pay several times more for shipping than for the product. The post office no longer offers surface mail overseas.

Many businesses prefer not to use UPS to Canada because their customs agent fees are extremely high. While postal rates are higher the final cost to the customer is less.

When you have a near monopoly overcharging is gouging.

Meanwhile we are back to creeping fuel prices again. Back when retail gasoline prices fell to much less than $2/gal that was probably the fair price. Today it is probably a full dollar higher than it needs to be. Again, the oil companies are getting richer on the back of the rest of the economy.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 12:30:38 EDT

RV anti-freeze is 40 to 60% Propylene glycol CAS# 57-55-6.
The Flash point of 90 to 100% 99C(210F) and the auto-ignition temp is 371C (700F).
While this is very nice stuff used as intended, if heated, the vapor of the propylene Glycol will be ignitable. For that matter ethylene glycol the main part of traditional anti-freeze for cars has a 100% flash point of 111C(231.8F) and auto-ignition temp of 398c(748F).
In other words, in an open container, these materials in the near pure state will make enough vapor to support a flame at the flash temp, and if a heat source at he autoignition temp is in the vapor with the correct amount of oxygen, you will have a flame.
Hence the warning on flame resistant hydraulic fluids containing these materials to maintain the water content.
Water content does change the values somewhat.

The British found that pure ethylene Glycol, used in early WWII fighters tended to leak all the time, and was very flammable when atomized such as thru battle dameged lines.

When using a chemical, it often pays to obtain and read the MSDS. I was able to access 3 MSDS, to obtain all the above info in less than 60 seconds using the google search, "MSDS for RV anti-freze, MSDS for propylene glycol etc
   ptree - Thursday, 10/22/09 13:26:14 EDT

absolutly "spot on" as always, ptree
   - merl - Thursday, 10/22/09 14:48:53 EDT

In the 80 and 90's Ford had trouble with their medium weight trucks having the heater hoses too close to the exhaust manifold. The hoses failed from heat, sprayed coolant on the mainfold and burned. Ironically most of these vehicals were fire and rescue trucks.

Antifreeze; I remember putting special antifreeze in Dad's camper years ago. The potable water antifreeze was mostly grain alcohol with blue dye. But that was several decades ago and the stuff we had was pretty old.
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 15:51:55 EDT


A good marine store should have all kinds of epoxy. But Toronto's a long way from the ocean (big old grin).

   Mike BR - Thursday, 10/22/09 17:22:51 EDT

Guru, the current anti-freeze for RV'c is red, and as described, and has been for at least 13 years as I have filled my RV for at least that long, and have never seen an alcohol based RV anti-freeze.

By the way, most of the car anti-freezes that are not ethylene Glycol are a poly gycol. Easier on toxicity, a little easier on the environment if spilled, and actually perform better. Poly gycols also are the high performance air compressor lube with performance just under that of Silicon oil at a price at least 4 times less.
   ptree - Thursday, 10/22/09 17:59:28 EDT

Hmmmmmmm sure did smell like alcohol at the time but that could have been whatever dad was drinking at the time. . . ;)
   - guru - Thursday, 10/22/09 18:35:19 EDT

Nabiul Haque: West System epoxies http://www.westsystem.com/ss/ are readily available & the company has excelent literature on the use of the products. West Marine carries this line, I don't know if they have infiltrated Canada yet, but they are all over the US side of the lakes, coasts & waterways. Any chandlery in Your area will have West System, or a competing product line.

Epoxy has over 2X the bond strength and elongagation of ortho pollyester resins like You used, and bonds better to a wider range of materials. However, You do need to be sure You are aplying it to compatible materials.

Most of these resins are mixed in 3:1, 5:1 or 7:1 ratios, You MUST MEASURE ACCURATELY or they will not harden properly. Most of the manufacturers make metering pumps that fit right on the cans to get accurate mixes easily.

Pot life & cure time are varied by using the hardener that gives the time You need at the temperature You are working at. These different hardeners work with the same resin, but not all of them at the same ratio.

A more resilient product that might be of interest to You is Gluvit - http://www.marinetex.com/gluvit.html This does not set to a brittle hardness, it is compounded to remain more flexable. It is not the sort of epoxy thet You laminate with, however.

Devcon makes a castable urethane resin, called Flexane. It comes in several hardnesses. These are industrial products, and You will need to get them from an industrial supply or a pattern shop supply.

Devcon makes industrial epoxies, but I think the West system products would suit Your needs better.

Stay away from the "5 minute" epoxies, as these do not develope the properties of the others.

A urethane adhesive selant such as 3M 5200 might be of some use to You. This cures rather slowly, but does come in a faster cure version. These stick well to almoast everything. As these are cured by atmospheric moisture, thick layers can take a really long time to cure to the center. The cured product is a really tough fairly hard urethane "rubber".

   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 10/22/09 19:57:02 EDT

Cheap RV & Marine antifreze is or at least was alcohol based. It may not be available anymore. It was about 1/3 the cost of the propylene glycol formula.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 10/22/09 20:02:23 EDT

Thanks, time seems to be one of those things I have in excess of for this project. (Wish it were true for everything else)
   Nabiul Haque - Thursday, 10/22/09 20:22:24 EDT

There are several marine stores in Toronto, it is on Lake Ontario after all. Nabiul, Noah's in Etobicoke has several types of epoxy, Lee Valley tools also carries several types of epoxy. Composites Canada in Missisauga carries lots of different epoxies and urethanes, however they are an industrial supplier and may not be interested in talking to you for smaller quantities.

I do finding cross border shipping of small things very expensive as a percentive of value. However it is not so bad for larger orders. UPS is terrible for brokerage fees I have paid $50 on a $50 purchase. In contrast I only pay $100-150 to import $2000 of goods or export $15,000. I do still resent paying for the brokerage as I have to do all the filling of forms out.
   - JNewman - Thursday, 10/22/09 21:59:23 EDT

It is surprising where you will find boat dealers and suppliers. It doesn't take being on one of the Great Lakes. Any popular recreational lake or section of river where they run motor or sale boats is likely to have boat dealers near by. This includes out of the way places in the mountains.
   - guru - Friday, 10/23/09 01:55:33 EDT

What is the purpose, (known or speculated) of the sloping surface next to the face of a German or Austrian single-horn anvil? Apologies if this has been noted or discussed and I missed it.
   Dave Leppo - Friday, 10/23/09 07:29:04 EDT

I have three reasons for the slope they may all be correct or maybe none of them are. I find that I use the back edge of my anvil the most, having the angle back there makes it less likely to chip. If you set a 90 degree shoulder on your work and then start forging the corner it wants to fold in, with the wider angle it is less likely to cause a shut. The third reason is related to the second if you are drawing out with a striker working that edge is the most effective way to draw out having the angle helps to prevent shuts. Look at the drawing side of combination dies on the Big Blue or Kick Ass hammers the edge looks much like the edge on those anvils.
   - JNewman - Friday, 10/23/09 08:45:36 EDT

Thanks for the RV antifreeze info. I was running about 25/75 antifreeze to water, so probably never had that vapor problem. Also, I tend to not quench very often, saving it for special things like cooling handles, tongs, and the occasional freezing of one area so I don't deform while working nearby.
   - Marc - Friday, 10/23/09 08:49:14 EDT

Slopped Anvil Sides I have asked this of some of the Europeans and gotten no response. I agree with JNewman's logical reasons. Even more practical is the fact that you see more severely chipped edges on the striker side of anvils and increasing the angle of this corner would reduce that problem (properly rounded edges also helps).

One of the WWI German anvils from the Gil Fahrenwald image collection has 90° corners on the heel, then a slopped side with about 100° side AND a side shelf at the front next to the horn. All the common possibilities.

The so-called Austrian pattern has about a 120° edge which is VERY blunt and curving side that sometimes blends into the horn. This off-side or striker side is almost indestructible with a sledge and very suitable for drawing on the edge.

The Maison de l'Outil No.2 we recently posted is different in that it has a uniformly curved off-side that is different than the slopping side type.

When you study the evolving development of anvil design many of these features seem to have developed out of shapes that may have been artistic and then became traditional. Many of the "church window" designs are quite shallow and have no apparent use other than being artistic. Some evolved into what look like useful shapes as on the one I called an "armourer's" anvil but then the same shape becomes very deep the center ridge developing into a column or bracing support.

When looking at these many shapes one must remember that the political and artistic climate was very conservative. Radical departure from the norm could get you in trouble, so "traditional" was always safe. But traditional styles were also regional and there were often great differences. So you have design by evolution and purposeful new design. I think many features are a combination of tradition, evolution, purpose and even superstition.

   - guru - Friday, 10/23/09 09:55:36 EDT

I am a welder living in Mass and was wondering if you knew of anyone I could do some apprentecing with. I work full time, second shift, but am interested in learning more about blacksmithing in my spare time. If you know of anyone, please let me know.
   Mike Driscoll - Friday, 10/23/09 12:32:15 EDT

Mike- Try here. http://www.newenglandblacksmiths.org/ The Spring meet will be held in Seekonk MA.
   Judson Yaggy - Friday, 10/23/09 13:16:28 EDT

Mike, See Blacksmithing Apprenticeships and our Getting Started Article linked at the top of most of our pages.
   - guru - Friday, 10/23/09 13:45:52 EDT

Hello, I recently acquired a Johnson Gas Appliance Co. Model 133 Forge. I've been using propane forges for years but am puzzled by this one. It has a swing arm refractory and an electric blower. It needs serious cleaning but I'm anxious to get it up and running. Any ideas if this is a good general purpose forge. Thanks for any comments you may have.
   Watermark - Friday, 10/23/09 17:03:52 EDT

Johnson Forges are still manufactured, are well made and were the standard in school shops for decades. However, even the small model is a "large" forge in blacksmithing terms. This makes it a gas hog compared to the modern propane forges.

Being a trough forge the are very useful for some types of work but small pieces often fall in and are difficult to retrieve.

The down side of gas forges is that they fit one size work well. So for greatest fuel efficiency you need more than one forge. This may be a good unit for some type of project you have in mind or that occasional long heat.
   - guru - Friday, 10/23/09 17:28:03 EDT

Yeah, I've been to the Toronto waterfront -- was just lobbing Nabiul a softball.

The most obvious effect of a sloping side is that you get a narrower face without a corresponding decrease in anvil mass. Of course, I can't think of a whole lot of situations where a narrow face would be that important. And a leg that needed to clear the far edge of the anvil might still interfere with the sloping side. But a narrow face does *look* better (at least to me); maybe that has something to do with it.

I suppose the sloping side also puts the far edge closer to the center of mass, so you can work on an edge that's near the "sweet spot."
   Mike BR - Friday, 10/23/09 18:02:40 EDT

Having been around horses most of my life, I'm familiar with "sweet iron", bits. A friend asked me to make one for him and it dawns on me, I have absolutely no idea what the alloy for "sweet iron" is?! Where can I find this out, Google hasn't been any help at all. Thanks
   Thumper - Friday, 10/23/09 20:27:43 EDT

Sweet iron: Old Posts

I was hoping one of the farriers would jump in on that. I've asked and gotten all sorts of answer's. Its either wrought iron, or just plain (non-alloy) mild-steel (I think). References found on the net imply it could be anything and is often used with copper. . . -guru

Here's what I know about sweet iron. I own a horse bit that was made sometime between 1840 and 1860. It is also possible that it could have been made as late as 1870 but the gent I had take a look at it felt that it was an earlier manufacture. The pattern is known as a "Johnny Bit" or carriage bit. Since I have owned this artifact it has always been a dark brown almost the color of chocolate. When I tried to clean it all I did was make it a little glossy. The brown stayed. When I got the bit I had been involved in reenacting and so had pleanty of opportunity to talk to people about old horse tack. I discovered that the modern farriers I met didn't really know what sweet iron is. Frankly I'm still not sure. However, a few years ago I was in Texas and a guy that was in camp told me that sweet iron bits were made by either brushing the steel with a soft copper brush or by hammering thin, soft copper on the steel while the steel was hot. Over the years I took some flak for using a rusty bit but my horse never seemed to mind the taste and even would suck on the bit at times like a kid with a jaw breaker. With all of the abuse I put the bit through it never lost its browning and it never pited. I have always suspected that it stayed brown because of the acid in the sweat of the horse and in the horses saliva. I figure the bit is made from some kind of wrought iron because it would stand up to a variety of weather conditions better than the steel of the day. It would also have been plentiful and easy to work in order to produce large quantities.
Bill - Wednesday, 03/22/00

I have always been told "sweet iron' tasted good, enhanced salivation, just a better bit all around. And it was just 'plain iron'.
I did a little checking. Dennis Bright in his Bits and Bitting article calls Sweet Iron "cold rolled steel, a porous metal that rusts". All the suppliers I checked pushed sweet iron and copper as the two best mouth pieces.
Don't take any flack on the old rusty bit, look at the bits coming out of the mouths of the top trainers, they may be silver inlaid, but the mouth piece is sweet iron or copper. And even without the silver, they are NOT cheap.

Sweet Iron We've gotten several opinions. I see copper on NEW bits and hear of OLD bits that have a wonderful permanent brown color. Rust is not going to last long in the horses mouth but copper oxide is very tough.
Bill Epps opinion was that "sweet iron" was unplated wrought OR mild steel but not plated nickle or stainless. He says the part in the horses mouth stays bright in use. I suspect the old "brown" bits have been copper clad or plated. - guru

Neal, You came to the right place. One of the Spanish words for the old low carbon wrought iron [the material] is "hierro dulce", translating literally as "iron sweet". Presently, mild steel [low carbon] is termed "acero dulce", or "steel sweet". The early-day Hispanic bitsmiths apparently passed this definition on to their Anglo apprentices and counterparts, and it stuck.

I have given this a little thought, wondering why in Spanish, wrought iron would be called sweet. I can't come up with anything really concrete. On the other hand, why do we call low carbon steel "mild"? They all seem to be culinary terms, but they are as good as any, and we have inherited them.

In terms of advertising, the bits are not really made of wrought iron anymore, but "sweet iron" sounds good to a lot of old buckaroos, the prospective buyers. I don't think the advertisers are fudging too much. After all, mild steel is technically an iron with only about 0.20% carbon. It gets semantic.

Frank Turley - Saturday, 12/14/02

I'll wrap this all up in a new FAQ.
   - guru - Friday, 10/23/09 23:45:20 EDT

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