WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.0

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 November 8 - 16, 2004 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Thanks to your help, we've found a blacksmith for our Living History Days. Now I'm wondering if you have any contacts with a tin smith, a cooper, and a wheelwright and a farrier who might be interested in demonstrating their skills at our living history day on July 1, 2005.
Tomah, WI (on I-94 is about halfway between Madison & Eau Claire) is celebrating her Sesquicentennial0 next year 0n July 1 - 3 2005). As part of that celebration we will be holding a Civil00 War Reenactment on July 1,2, 3 & 4. This is an event they hope to make a yearly event although future reenactments will NOT be held on a holiday

Because most reenactors work during the week Friday has been designated a Living History Day when (mostly) local crafters will have a chance to demonstrate period skills (e.g. pottery, soap making, candle dipping, et
al). We are looking for a tinsmith, a farrier, a cooper & a wheelwright and a woodworker who will use period tools and who can demonstrate making period article -
We can offer $100 to help cover the cost of mileage and/or a rider on your own insurance policy to cover you for those days. You would be asked to demonstrate your skills on Friday. Demonstrations on Saturday & Sunday
would have to be scheduled to not conflict with the reenactors program and are optional. You would be free to sell your crafts on all three days. The reenactment is over on Sunday about 4:30 after the last battle. Monday is devoted to the parade and other activities. We also offer a free meal for two on Saturday night (a steer roast). We expect between 3 to 5 thousand people for this event. There will be food available for all three days (at a price) including two pancake breakfasts (Saturday & Sunday) & a grilled Chicken Dinner on Sunday. The reenactment will be held at Monroe Co. Fair Grounds which has excellent toilet and shower facilities.

If you would be interested in demonstrating your skills on Friday, etc, as described above please contact me. If you know of other crafters who might be interested please let me know. We will also have a large secure display area where people can display period artifacts, tools, etc.

Thank you for your help.

Marcia Staton
   Marcia Staton - Monday, 11/08/04 04:25:58 EST

Farriers, Tinsmiths and Coopers; Marcia:

You might call Centaur Forge over in Burlington, WI (262-763-9175). Since they sell the necessary tools and have regular farrier and blacksmithing workshops, they might be able to recommend some folks in the area.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 11/08/04 08:53:03 EST

Larry: You might do better if you tell us roughly you are. Also we might be able to help online if you give us some more details about what and how you are trying to do
   adam - Monday, 11/08/04 10:59:03 EST

If I came across a Sullivan pointer, as them things are often called, I would drag it home. But it isnt a power hammer in the normal sense. They were designed to shape and point small parts over and over again. And, as mentioned, they require a big compressor. They are the machine Grant took off from when he designed the KickAss, which works in a similar way- short stroke, usually used with fixed top and bottom dies. You could learn a lot about how to use one from the way Bob Bergman demonstrates using a KickAss, and he does a lot of usefull things with it. So if the price is right, say, $1000 or under, its worth having, with the understanding you are gonna want a real powerhammer as well.
   - Ries - Monday, 11/08/04 11:16:45 EST

Dear Guru
I am a sargent in the 26th NC. I'm a 41 year old confederate reenactor. I have been reenacting for the past 14 years or so. My question is for a friend of mine who has jioned a different regiment as a blacksmith. He wants to set up an authentic 1860's blacksmith shop. He has a good knowledge of metals and how to work them but has come to me for information on how his shop should look. I can't help him because our regiment is an infantry regiment and we have no blacsmith. Myself, I know little or nothing about it.
What he needs are photos to show how it should look and lines on where to find or how to make equipment to fill it with. I think he needs a source for coal. Iron, I think he can get. We've been picking up lots of scrap from here and there, also. Can you help him? A belows is the big thing, right now. We could probably build one if we knew what it should look like. You know, size and such.
I spotted a belows this past weekend at an event but did not have a chance to get a close look. It was a large one set up on wagon wheels.
You can E-mail me with any information that might help. I will also give him the address to this site so that he can speek yo you personaly.
Thank you
Sgt Kenneth Holland
26 NC, Co.F
   Kenneth - Monday, 11/08/04 11:53:35 EST

Nazel Wayne, Contact Bruce Wallace through Nazel.com. He has most of the old Nazel sales records.
   - guru - Monday, 11/08/04 11:59:19 EST

NC Forge - How to use: Larry,
  • Connect to a propane cylinder
  • Check for leaks
  • Adjust pressure to about 5-7 PSI to start
  • Open the valve on the forge and quickly press the igniter button.
  • If the forge doesn't fire click again and if it doesn't fire shut off the gas and wait for the air to clear.
Normally they fire right off. However, if the igniter tip is pushed against the far wall of the burner it will not make a spark. Loosen the igniter button and swivel the igniter so that the tip has about 1/32" clearance (inside the burner, by feel). Then try again.

Adjust the gas until you have a nice roar and about 4 to 6" of "dragon's breath" coming out of the vent. If takes 15 to 20 minutes for these things to get up to heat sometimes longer. Then put the steel in and let it heat.

Note that NC's CAN be welded with but take some tweaking. Flux is also VERY detrimental to the Kaowool lining and I personaly do not recommend using flux in NC forges, but many do. Most of the welding done in these is making laminated steel where the pieces tend to protect the faces to be welded from oxidation. Welding loose pieces is more difficult. Using a coal forge is much easier for welding.

My experiance with the little one burner Whisper Baby is that you cannot weld in one. The bigger two burner forges are better (and three more so) but sometimes you need to close vents with a piece of brick or Kaowool to to get the necessary temperature. Another method of adjusting the forge is to put a fire brick or piece of Kaowool in the back (on the end door models) to adjust the volume of the forge.

If you insist on using flux in these forges we sell ITC-100 which will give the lining some protection as well as increase the efficiency and prevent the generation of dust which can be hazardous.
   - guru - Monday, 11/08/04 12:19:43 EST

1860's Forge Shop: Kenneth, The place to start is with a copy of Bealer's "The Art of Blacksmithing". See our book review page and getting started.

Most shops of the period would have a double chambered bellows. I built mine from the description in The Art of Blacksmithing. See the article on it on our 21st Century page.

For a typical rural mud and wattle type forge see my article on our Story Page, "Blacksmith of 1776". Brick forges were mostly found in the city. Many forges were open air and the smoke just went where it went.

Fuel at the time would have been charcoal if you want to be accurate. Coal was in use but not for making iron or by blacksmiths in the US in general until after the war.

Material at the time would have been mostly wrought iron but this is too rare and expensive to try to be 100% accurate unless you are Williamsburg VA and have a huge budget.

Early anvils looked a little different than modern ones. See the drawing at the bottom of the pages of Paw-Paw's "The Revolutionary Blacksmith" on our story page.

Most of the rest of the tools would have been pretty much the same as today with the exception of electric tools. The average rural shop of the time would have been 20-30 years behind the city shops. Many tools would have dated from the 1700's as many date from the 1800's today. Colonial anvils are not so rare and many are still used.
   - guru - Monday, 11/08/04 12:42:37 EST


In the last couple of days, I have noticed a long time lag when signing in to the site. I thought it might just have been my machine at home, but this morning I see the same on my computer here at work. It doesn't seem to be routing problem, as only Anvilfire is affected. Seems to be the same whether I come in with my member log-in or without. Is there a server issue, or am I missing something?
   vicopper - Monday, 11/08/04 12:55:18 EST

Does he want to build a blacksmith's shop; or a portable rig like would be used by an army smith? If the latter there are probably still specs on file for them. ISTR someone who had dug out the required tool lists for the ACW.

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/08/04 13:42:37 EST

Civil War (or WBtS)Forge:

The Library of Congress has an excellent photographic collection. I did a quick search and pulled three shots showing some of the people, structures and tools; more research would certainly provide more information. The main LoC site is at: http://catalog.loc.gov/

Bents Old Fort in Colorado has an 1840s style blacksmith's shop, which can be viewed at: http://www.nps.gov/beol/blacksmith.htm

The Amana Village blacksmith shop exterior, dating from the 1840s may be viewed here: http://www.cr.nps.gov/NR/travel/amana/bls.htm and the one at George Washington's Birthplace (with a much later anvil) can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/gewa/explore/craftshop.htm .

There are a multitude of other sites.

Good luck to your friend.

A sunny day on the banks of the Potomac, but starting to cloud up a bit.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone - Monday, 11/08/04 13:45:32 EST

Actually, I and Paw Paw have the tool lists, but I'm a little tied up at the moment. (Might be a good project to post at Anvilfire in the future, along with the portable forge and early MilSpec tool plans.)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 11/08/04 13:47:38 EST

Slow login: VIc, I have not noticed anything. These are often network issues effecting one host from one network. I have days when I have difficulty connecting at all and I'll call someone else and they will say it is fine. . .

Amazing how quickly we have become dependent on these things. . .
   - guru - Monday, 11/08/04 13:55:54 EST

Ain't it the truth, Jock? Anyway, the mojo worked, it seems. As soon as I mentioned it, the problem seems to have gotten better. The funny noises in my truck quit when it gets within sight of a mechanic, too. (grin)
   vicopper - Monday, 11/08/04 14:44:09 EST

vicopper, your mechanic must have cold hands...

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/08/04 15:14:52 EST

I have a copy of the plans for a Civil War Army forge.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 11/08/04 15:56:40 EST

PayPal/ebay SPAM: The spamming of my e-mail address by PayPal/ebay and Proividian continues even though I closed my PayPal account a week ago. Against all their privacy policies PayPal/ebay has given my e-mail address to a third party (Providian) and asks that I opt out of the Providian list every time I am SPAMed by PayPal/ebay.

I guess these guys feel like they are too big for us to complain about OR the law to apply to them.
   - guru - Monday, 11/08/04 17:10:23 EST

I came across what appears to be a complete and original Buffalo forge with halfhood, electric blower, damper and firepot. I think the whole thing is from the factory because every single part is marked "Buffalo" in some fashion. Unfortunately, the half hood was rotten so I had to remove that but all else is in usable shape. An interesting note is that the blower is way overkill and makes a great fire on the first setting with the damper cracked open. I suppose they were designed to run multiple forges.

At any rate, the firepot is sitting in the stamped steel hearth on the lower set of lips so the upper lips are a good 1-1/4 above the hearth. Were these patent forges intended to be filled with fireclay/brick to that upper lip's edge or are they just used "as is" by raking the coal up and over the edge? Filling the hearth with clay would make it smoother to use but it would also probably trap moisture and make it rust out. Opinions?
   - HWooldridge - Monday, 11/08/04 17:27:55 EST

I have a two burner NC Whisper Moma and it gets to weld temp easily at about 12lbs on the gauge.
   Chris Makin - Monday, 11/08/04 17:30:23 EST

HWooldridge, I have been known to cut away the tool- rest and re-weld it in a lower position on the pressed steel hearths. I have been lining my hearths with a Portland/sand mixture to the height of the firepot flange. I usually wet the coke ring and I get some rusting, but it is negligible. I have rusted out one Buffalo steel hearth in the area of the firepot, but was able to tack in place a 1/8" plate with hole to receive a new firepot. Cemented it up again. It took about 15 years for it to rust away. Some of my firepots are from Laurel Machine and Foundry, Laurel, Mississippi. The firepot walls are about 1" thick.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 11/08/04 19:13:13 EST

Can anyone do a demo on the iforge page. I might be completly wrong but whatever.
   - Bjorn - Monday, 11/08/04 20:19:56 EST

How serious are the risks of uncoated Kaowool?

In specific, the forge I have is a Whisper Baby with about 10-12 hours on it so far.

   DaveW - Monday, 11/08/04 22:19:52 EST

About welding in an NC gas forge.

NC suppliers often carry a welding plate, which is a kiln shelf cut to fit inside an NC forge, and it is supposed to protect the forge insulation from flux damage. They wearout as well, but do protect the forge pretty well. Of course painting it and the inside of the forge with ITC100, and ITC 296 will help protect the sacrifical welding plate and reduce the heat wasted keeping the forge body hot, hopefully putting more heat into your metal:-)
   Fionnbharr - Monday, 11/08/04 22:27:59 EST

Dave how likely are you to develop some form of respitory problem? What kind of risk factors do you have for breathing problems? Do you have a family history of lung cancer, emphazema, asthma? You might be one of those people who could crush piles of the stuff, snort it like cocaine and never suffer any ill effect? Or it could wreck your health and put you in your grave eventually?

The nice thing about just being safe and painting it with ITC100 is that, not only does it make it safer... It also make it last longer between rebuilds, and it boosts the efficiency on the forge...
   Fionnbharr - Monday, 11/08/04 23:03:44 EST

Howdy all. I would like to make an adjustable lantern stand with a solid rod going into a pipe. Can you tell me if Black Pipe like plumbers use can be forged and or welded?
   Lefty - Tuesday, 11/09/04 01:37:11 EST

Anvil noise...I have recently been flooded out of my shop which I rented out at a friend's farm. I now have do my heavy forging in my backyard shop until spring time.I do this full time. I live in a tight subdivision with neighbours very close by and I kid you not when I say that my wife can hear loudly and feel the pounding when she's inside the house, even in the basement with windows closed and all. If this keeps up, I'm definitely going to have neighbour problems. My 200lbs anvil is presently attached to a 250 pound 3 foot diameter stump/log. The floor of the shop is concrete. I have heard of a sand based type of stand which apparently works well at reducing noise and vibrations but I cannot find any info on the matter. I've searched your FAQ's and all and still can't find the info so I'm now asking. I could really use some good advise/info.
   Louis - Tuesday, 11/09/04 02:47:47 EST

Ok. I'm (literally) sold on the ITC100.

So, I mist the inside of the cold forge (and the door) with water, and then paint all the surfaces? Then let it dry, fire up the forge, let it cool, and then paint and cure all the surfaces again?

Am I right in thinking I should paint the edges of the Kaowool on the door as well?

Thanks again,
   DaveW - Tuesday, 11/09/04 07:46:09 EST


Yes, you can forge it, weld it, forge weld it, etc just fine. Avoid the galvanized stuff, of course.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/09/04 09:25:17 EST

Welding black pipe, Lefty, yes.
There are a few precautions. First check 3 times to make sure it's not galvanized, and then double check that.
Second, if it's a long enough peice of pipe your using to beable to hold it bare handed, plug the end of it with something. If you don't it will act as a chimney and get a lot hotter quicker than you expect. I use a plug of wood, or a rag.
Third if you go to cool the hot end in the slacktub, make sure it's not pointed at you or anyone else. Think of the pipe like the stem in a coffee perk. It can spit hot water out of it further than you may think.
This answer brought to you by the letters C S I and the colour blue.
   JimG - Tuesday, 11/09/04 09:32:24 EST


Start out by making a few little gifts for your neighbors, real quick. That will at least make them think that your work is of value.

Make sure that anvil is securely chained down snugly to the stump. The tighter, the better. Then take several wraps of exrta chain around the waist of the anvil. Try slapping a big speaker magnet on the anvil, under the heel. All these will help, but unless you get a Fisher and Norris, there will still be some noise.

Do whatever you can to absorb the noise inside your shop so it doesn't leave. Acoustical tile on the ceiling and walls, or carpet or Homasote™ board, or anything else that absorbs and deadens sound waves. Even fabric will make a difference. The best top-end soundproof walls are made of a sandwich of absorptive material over a non-transmitting dead core of lead sheet. That should give you an idea of what you're trying to achieve. Fabric, Homasote and other flammable materials can be made fire-resistant by treating them with a solution of borax and water, but you still need to be aware that they are flammable and you are playing with fire, so to speak.

If working outside, or working with the door open, build yourself a portable "baffle wall" of 1/4" plywood covered with absorptive material as above. Make it like a two or three panel room divider screen so it stands up and can somewhat enclose you. You place this wall or walls between your noise source and the neighbors to stop the worst of the sounds from carrying to them.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/09/04 09:35:28 EST

Lewis - ringing anvil
Go to the archives and there have been several discussions on how to make the ring of the anvil less loud. They include magnets under the horn and heel, chain wrapped loosely around the anvil waist, strapping the anvil feet to the stump, different materials between the anvil and stump, and etc.

As you said you use the anvil outside so watch for sound "reflective" surfaces, like a flat wall that will reflect the sound toward a neighbor. Weather is also a factor in how well sound travels. Think of the anvil as a tuning fork and aim your efforts at killing the vibrations.

Make friends with the neighbors and shift your work schedule to end, before their bed time begins.

I have not used sand as an anvil base, but have used the above methods.
   - Conner - Tuesday, 11/09/04 09:36:41 EST

Lefty-- Be sure there are no enclosures up inside that pipe lest it explode.
Louis-- a cut-down oil drum full of compacted sand with a plywood seat atop the sand can work. Mine are sitting on sand inside 3/16 plate pedestals, mainly so I can move them a bit now and then as needed and to discourage theft (they are chained, chains welded to boxes) but I don't notice any significant noise reduction.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 11/09/04 09:51:15 EST

Louis, The sandbox idea came to me by way of Schmirler's book, "Werk und Werkzeug des Kunstschmieds". I have two anvils sitting directly on sand in plate-welded boxes. They're clamped with bars of steel and threaded rods, the latter welded to the boxes. It does not dampen the noise at all, but the hammer rebound is very good...very similar to mounting on a wooden stump.

American Lore. For luck, put a silver dollar under your anvil when you mount it.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/09/04 10:25:44 EST

Noise reduction:

I have a #225 Peter Wright which is now reasonably quiet, even in a concrete floored garage. It rests on three or four asphalt roofing tiles, and then it is firmly secured to a large wooden block (which is under the tiles) with 4 3.5" lag screws (there were 1/2" holes in each foot of the anvil). Then the whole thing is on a half dozen or so roofing tiles.

   DaveW - Tuesday, 11/09/04 10:56:01 EST

   - JOE - Tuesday, 11/09/04 11:34:42 EST


Personally, I prefer stick for heavy work, because you can get better penetration than you can with a MIG, unless the MIG is a really honking big unit.

For small stuff, TIG is the way to go, in my opinion. Or a good O/A torch with the right tips.

I tend to avoid MIG, mostly because I have seen so many people produce miles of really pretty little weld beads that had no penetration and no strength. There's no substitute for knowledge and skill, regardless of the method you choose. MIG just makes it easy for people with no knowledge or skill to paste things together that will fall apart right away. Do I sound biased here? (grin)
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/09/04 14:19:25 EST

MIG vs Stick: Joe, it depends on what you want to do. MIG is cleaner and faster. But the equipment is more expensive to purchase and maintain AND it will not weld rusted or dirty metal. MIG is usualy a production or large shop machine. A stick welder will do more things for its size and they last virtualy forever. MIG machines are limited in their capacity and have a lot of high tech electronics that can go bad.

If you are going to make your living metalworking you probably need a high end MIG machine. But if your metalworking is a hobby a buzz box will do everything you need except weld aluminium and most MIG machines will not do that either.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/09/04 14:38:40 EST

Sand anvil base: I was having noise problems as well, and a sand base did work for me. I did mine a little different then the other people described though, I don't use a plywood base and the andvil isn't on the sand, it's IN it, buried about 3" or so. Downsides of this method are that when doing heavy work, your anvil will shift a little over time and need readjustment. Upside is that besides the noise, when you want to readjust it it's very easy to do. Twisting motions will bury it deeper, and lifting one end and then the other will let you raise it without having to pick the whole thing up.
   AwP - Tuesday, 11/09/04 14:56:56 EST

magnets: I tried it and hated it! After a few weeks my anvil turned into a giant fuzzball with all the scale and shavings that stuck to it
   adam - Tuesday, 11/09/04 15:02:47 EST

Well I bought my *old* lincoln tombstone stick welder from a fellow who made his living welding up railing and fence, (till he drunk the business down the drain---I bought it at the eviction sale and still kick myself over the small ironworker I could have had *free* if I could have gotten it offsite in about 5 minutes!)

My reply is "What are you better at welding with? Do you like to buy expensive toys and leave them sitting around in the garage?" (address please) "Do you plan to use it after the railing, if so for what?"

Stick is more tolerant of being left sitting in the corner for long periods of time. Mig wire tends to get fussy.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/09/04 15:09:21 EST

Forges and Respiratory Problems: First, depending on the type of ceramic insulation the testing has put some Koawool products in the "known carcenogen" category and others in the "possible carcneogen" category. The testing on mice or rats required a super fine dust that had to be specially ground in order for it to effect the rodents. Natural dust was not fine enough. However, SOME grades of these products contain silca which is always listed as a problem ingrediant.

Second, you asked about a very small forge. But the real question is how big a space is it used in and how well ventilated. To create the particulate density in the air that is a hazardous level you would probably suffocate from the exhust fumes first. Small source, big space or big source small space? How many hours are you going to spend in the presense of the source? These are all factors.

Third, As Fionnbharr astutley pointed out there is also the personal sensitivity and other environmental issues. If you smoke then that is far worse a problem BUT it also compounds the problem. If you work in a poluted environment breathing heavy deisel fumes, smoke, solvents or other dusts then those are probably more significant contributory factors.

Everything we do in life has risks. The most risky thing that almost everyone of us do every day is get into an automobile and drive on the road with other people passing within feet of us at 100 miles an hour or more. One moment's hesitatation or inatention from anyone near you could mean maiming or death. Do you wear seatbelts? Do you commute on the beltway around a major city?

In a well ventilated shop a small gas forge is probably not a health problem. But lining it with ITC removes any doubt AND has other more immediate benifits.

Covering the floor in a forge with a tile or proctant helps but flux can blow around and if it gets on the walls or door of the forge this is the most sensitive to flux.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/09/04 15:10:54 EST

noise reduction:

Well, my smithy is basically a small open sided lean-to. If I do anything on the horn or the heel, my anvil rings like the devil. I usually cut out the loud stuff by 8 on a weeknight, or 9:30 on the weekends. This seems to workout fine with the neighbors. Besides that, I have to listen to my neighbor's infernal incessant lawn mowing and leaf blowing. By comparison, the anvil ring is a peep. Local ordinances usually state 9:00 or 10:00PM or so as quiet time. Keep it within the legal time, and do what you need to.
   - Tom T - Tuesday, 11/09/04 15:30:38 EST

Hello All

I am wondering if anyone has used Ron Reil’s EZ Burners and did the Tweco tip modification.

I was not getting a burn that seems good from the burners that I made and thought I would use these tips. I am going to build a couple more burners just to learn more about them and how they work.

The welding supplier had not heard of “14T” tips but had a sample pack of 14 and 11 tips this has 4 different jet sizes (.6, .8, .9, 1.2 mm) for both the 14 and 11.

These do not seem to match his description however. They do not have what I would call a taper. They are a tube with a rounded front where the jet hole is.

Would anyone know if these are the same ones and if not would they work?

Was surprised that the set of eight tips was only $1.00 so if I got the wrong ones I am not going to cry about it.

   Aaron - Tuesday, 11/09/04 16:01:47 EST


Those tips will work just fine. The .9 or 1.2 mm would be the right size for a 3/4 " burner tube I believe. the taper is not critical.

hope this helps
   lazarus - Tuesday, 11/09/04 16:28:53 EST

Aaron, what Adam said! :) I have done this but it doesnt make much difference on an EZ burner. EZ burners are an easy to build but inefficient design. The advantage is that they dont need much tuning. The disadvantage being that tuning doesnt help much. I suggest Michael Porter's book on burners for gas forges - he gives a useful explanation of burner dynamics and design
   adam - Tuesday, 11/09/04 17:33:07 EST

Forge Welding

This set of instructions helped me alot when I was first struggling with the art of forge welding. Perhaps others who are having trouble mastering the technique will find it as useful as I did.



   lazarus - Tuesday, 11/09/04 17:35:38 EST

Well, folks. I just renewed my CSI membership. How 'bout y'all?
   Monica - Tuesday, 11/09/04 17:37:12 EST

Stainless Steel Knife Blades: Personally, I really don't like stainless for any blades where a fine cutting edge is needed. Virtually all wood caving tools are carbon steel. I think the problem with stainless is that the chromium combines with enough carbon to form a lot of very hard chromium carbides. These carbides are harder than woodpecker lips and act like little ball bearings as the edge is abraded. Properly sharpened, a stainless blade WILL hold a good edge. The problem seems to be more related to very few people having the skill to properly sharpen a stainless blade. I would suggest you visit www.knifenetwork.com and review their FAQ's and reference materials on stainless steels. There are a lot of professional knifemakers on this site and I value their opinions on what grades are best. You will find a LOT of them prefer the carbon tool steel grades over stainless, however. Hope the information helps, BOBBY!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/09/04 18:25:25 EST

Thanks Lazarus and Adam

I do not have much money to build the forge with at the moment [my truck is sick =( ] and after dropping $180 on what my friend said should be a good anvil (link at bottom) I should have enugh still set aside to build the forge with. When Truck is running again I will have a easer time of things.

   Aaron - Tuesday, 11/09/04 19:22:32 EST

Wow I wish I could move into a home where they left over 14 new anvils in the garage!

Has anyone seen one of these in person?

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/09/04 19:29:37 EST

Looks like the Russian 110 cast steel to me. Bruce, what do you think?

I wish that would happen to me!
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 11/09/04 20:06:42 EST

Dear Anvilfire Guru,
I have just discovered your website, and have had a great time exploring it. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction with some research. A friend and I are trying to find out about blacksmithing techniques in use by the Union Army ca.1850's. Specifically bits. It seems around 1854 -ish, one Henry Lafayette Dodge became Indian Agent to the Navajo at Washington Pass and brought with him a blacksmith he described as, " a man of sterling character and fine soldier" by the name of George Carter. We don't know much about Mr. Carter, except that he was an African American. He is of interest to us because he is the earliest known blacksmith to become a resident of that area. There are a slew of Navajo manufactured bits from the late 1800s that have several unique features that don't seem to be present on Spanish bits of that era, and seem to be made by a few individuals, perhaps related. I just took Frank Turley's three week course and tried to pick his brain as best I could when there was time. I will definitely try to talk with him more about this, but it would be nice to have some clue as to where those Navajo got some of their techniques from, especially when blackmithing was only a few years old in that area. Assuming George Carter was a smith in the Union Army, where would I look to find out what kind of features he might have put on a bit? A shot in the dark, I know, but thought I would ask.

Thanks a lot. -Liz

P.S These Navajo bits have copper ferrules holding rows of tennons on the sides, and every one has a visible set hammer mark above the S curve on the side to give it a nice squared off look. There is one or two pictured in Turley and Simmons' book on blacksmithing in the Colonial Southwest.
   Liz - Tuesday, 11/09/04 20:24:59 EST

The Russian anvils now on Ebay are being offered by the same person who stole the photos of the Russian I reviewed and Guru posted on Anvilfire. This took place a few months ago and it took threat of legal action to get him to abandon his use of copyrighted material. Yes, they are the same Russian anvils that HF used to carry and sell for about $80. If you can get one for $125 INCLUDING Freight, it is not a bad buy. However, the Russian anvil is NOT a professional anvil and YOU WILL want to replace it with a real anvil within a year if you make normal progress in blacksmithing. Please note that this is NOT an endorsement of the person now selling them on eBay. You pay your money and take your chances with this guy.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/09/04 20:26:49 EST


You sure it's the same guy? Certainly could be and I'm not dis-agreeing, just looking for some confirmation. His wording doesn't seem to be the same, but he's only had this ID since June.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 11/09/04 20:56:10 EST

Forging and welding pipe:
JimG mentions plugging the end that you are not working on to prevent the chimney effect. This is a good idea. BUT do not I repeat do not solidly plug it, or you will have pressure problems. I usually just take some LOOSELY wadded up paper and use it. All you are trying to do is to stop the air flow up the pipe.
I used to do a fair bit of pipe forgings. It is not too hard to taper down and then forge-weld the tip. If you are trying to taper the tip, remember that you need to get it HOT and then lightly hammer. You are in fact upseting the side walls, making them thicker untill all four are touching. Nice and easy.
Once it is done they look very nice.

   Ralph - Tuesday, 11/09/04 21:04:44 EST

to make you smile: look @ ebay item #6129994536; "when you come pick it up, you can check out my blacksmith shop". i wonder what he is forging......
   - rugg - Tuesday, 11/09/04 21:35:35 EST

I need some help on making a set of trunk hinges. I want to use 1 x 1/8" flat stock. My problem is trying to visualize the best way to roll the ends to accomidate a 1/8" round pin. I understand how to cut and file the ends to mate the hinges, but I am unsure how to make such a tight curl and keep it uniform and un-distorted. Any ideas?
   Don A - Tuesday, 11/09/04 21:40:10 EST

I just took a peek at what master knifemakers Bob Terzuola (a review of his superb book about how he does it is on this site)and Jay Fisher http://www.jayfisher.com/technica.htm have to say about how cum it is they like stainless, including ATS 34. Quoting their remarks would fill up this page, Basically it's because the steel holds up, keeps an edge. (Fisher, who makes knives and swords for Tom Clancy and various special services military types, says his motto is the knife has to be "stick it in a rock and stand on it tough." Terzuola tells of a cop who chopped open a car trunk with one of his beauties. Their knives start out at well over $400 and the wait is months or longer. That doesn't happen unless the product warrants it.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 11/09/04 21:41:08 EST


For rolling hinge barrels, I start by making a quick bevel on the end of the bar, so that it will lay smoothly against the strap when rolled tightly. Next, I go to the far edge of the anvil and start rolling the end with glancing blows, feed the stock very slowly until enough is bent to be able to flip it over and work it. Then I take another heat and lay the bar on the anvil with the curled end facing up and just barely off the far edge of the anvil. I use gentle blows back toward myself to roll it a bit further and then begin hammering a bit more downward to close it up. Next step is to flip it over and work it over the back of the anvil again, working against the offside of the anvil to finish closing it. With a bit of practice, you can do it in two heats easily. The real trick, for me, is to do the tightening up at a low heat so the metal resists enough to get a smooth, uniform barrel roll. Then, mark, cut and file to get mated leaves as usual.

If you check out Donald Streeter's book, "professional Smithing Techniques" (?), he shows a jig you can make that will allow you to roll aperfect barrel in one heat. NOt a quick jug to make, but it certainly looks like it would work just great.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/09/04 21:59:24 EST

Don, In addition to what vicopper said, there is the possiblilty of using a larger pin and forge welding the barrel. Many Mexican trunk hinges are made by forge welding to accommodate approximately 3/16" and 1/4" pins, and the strap stock is often less that 1/8". It takes practice. The welding setup is as shown in Robert H. Harcourt's old book, "Elementary Forge Practice", 1st Edition, 1917. Mine is the 3rd Edition, 1938. The weld takes place on the far radiused edge of the anvil with half face blows, the barrel overhanging the anvil edge. Then you work toward the point of the scarf. The hinge is "upside down", scarf up, barrel down. If any shuts show, they'll be against the door and not seen when the hinge is mounted. The iForge drawing on anvilfire #90 is NOT drawn the way I've described; It shows the scarf up, barrel up, weld up.

Jock in iForge #91 shows his schema for a hinge barrel roller that is a little different than Streeter's.

I saw Peter Ross use a welding technique on a dovetail (butterfly) hinge. He cut a rectangle of 14 gauge sheet, bent it in the middle, and with the pin inserted, closed both "leaves" on each other, preparing for a fagot weld. Ross welded the leaves together into one leaf WITH THE PIN STILL ENCLOSED. The piece was quenched at a red heat and secured in the vise with just the hinge barrel/pin showing horizontally at the top of the vise jaw. You can work the pin out with moderate hammer blows and a pin punch, if needed.

Ross was asked if he wasn't afraid of welding the pin in. He said that most young smiths have trouble forge welding, so maybe this is a time to have that trouble, so the pin WON'T weld in. (lol)
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/09/04 23:03:43 EST

Pending yahoo aproval I'll have photos of the Sullivan hammer and the general site posted soon. This hammer is in a remote area and would take some serious effort to extract.
   Geoff Graham - Tuesday, 11/09/04 23:37:26 EST

Thanks to all of you that answered my "Black Pipe" question. This site is the greatest.
   Lefty - Wednesday, 11/10/04 00:29:21 EST

I'm finally starting to read (books rather than just online info) and the first book I could get through the local library was "Practical Blacksmithing" compiled by M.T. Richardson (I'm just over 1/2 way through it).
Any comments on this book?
   Elliott Olson - Wednesday, 11/10/04 00:43:01 EST

Thank ye, Rich & Frank. I've got 20'of stock to work with, so I'll probably try a little bit of everything.

On the Ross method: do you think there would be any advantage to using a stainless pin to hold the shape while welding? I have heard that stainless resists welding to mild steel.
   Don A - Wednesday, 11/10/04 08:04:56 EST

Speaking about low pressure:

My propane company has become a big PITA lately. I was scheduled to get a 5PSI connection yesterday, but they cancelled because they just found out they need to get a town permit for anything over 2PSI. So now I'd like a little advice, please.

I've got my forge running at 2 - 3 PSI pretty well with a blower, in anticipation of a 5PSI connection. There will be some loss through the plumbing, 1/2" copper tube. I'd prefer aspirated, but I like the idea of less expensive propane, automatic delivery (my house is heated with propane), and not having to buy a 100lb tank and lug it for refills. I live in NH, so would need a large-ish tank to keep from freezing.

The least expensive way to go, from a setup point of view, would be with their 2PSI. No permit, no fire inspection to schedule. But is it the least expensive way to operate? Does a blown burner use gas as efficiently as a naturally aspirated one? Are there any other issues running at the lower pressure? I figure I'll be down below 1PSI by the time it gets to the forge. So my "jet" will probably be an open 1/8" nipple.

Another thing I'm thinking of is drilling multiple orifices in a 1/8" or 1/4" pipe cap to give the gas a little more velocity and maybe mix better. Does that make any sense at all?

Thanks for any, and all, opinions.

   - MarcG - Wednesday, 11/10/04 08:16:16 EST

Yahoo is being a PITA. I'm still trying to get the problem sorted out. Hopefully, I'll hear something from them today.
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 11/10/04 08:49:02 EST

Don A, The stainless pin idea is OK. In any event, don't hit the barrel by accident so that the pin loses its round. Bear in mind that Ross was constantly researching mid-18th century forging methodology, and 18-8 stainless didn't come along until the early 20th century.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 11/10/04 08:51:10 EST

Plugging pipe: we usually just went over to a patch of clayey dirt and rammed the pipe in creating a plug.

Well a blower forge is generally *more* efficient than an aspirated forge IMHO cause you don't have to maintain the gas jet to draw the air into the burner and mix it. You can set the gas and the air levels to whatever pleases you at the moment.

I'd say that the 1850's was about 200+ years after the NA were first exposed to blacksmithing, least ways out here Onate strolled by in 1598---and named the Town I work in! Don't get too anglocentric when researching the history in these parts!

Practical Blacksmithing is a collection of articles from a late 1880's and early 1890's smithing journal---yup smiths could read! As such it's a useful period piece for research into those years. It is also of interest as it covers some of the change over from wrought iron to mild steel and the changes in process used to work these different metals.

It's pretty useless to learn smithing from and most of the "tricks" refer to things you probably never need to do in your life.

I enjoy it as a research book and I have drug out useful info---course I do a bit of historical stuff. I own a copy all four volumes in one and have bookmarks in the 4 seperate indexes to make it faster to hunt stuff down.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/10/04 10:44:37 EST

Russian Anvils on Ebay: Yes this is the same crook. Can't you tell by his line of BS? "Found" a stack of anvils in his garage. . . I if you believe that do *I* ever have a deal for you. . . You were better off saving a few more dollars and buying a REAL anvil.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 11:09:07 EST

Low pressure: I have never delt with that low of pressure but many old gas forges ran on lower pressure natural gas. Note that they DO NOT use an orifice of any kind! Just a big pipe meeting a bigger pipe. Control the gas with a large low pressure regulator or just the valve. However, regulators are more consistant.

The ONLY place an orifice is needed is to create a jet in an atmospheric burner. Gas orifices increase pressure and velocity IN the orifice but restrict the flow.

To help breakup and mix the fuel/air a piece of screen in your burner tube will help a lot. The heavy propane will spread on the screen and small streams exit the screen that mix better. This technique is used in a lot of propane torches.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 11:16:54 EST

Books: Practical Blacksmithing is much less than practical. See Thomas's comments. The best practical book is The New Edge of the Anvil followed by the classic The Art of Blacksmithing for historical methods and tools. Then there are the CoSIRA series with step by step and VERY practical information. After these I do not know why people keep writing new books on basic blacksmihing.

If folks would obtain and STUDY the above books we wouldn't answer a third the questions posted here.

For inspiration and exposure to what others have do there are may wonderful books. Dona Meilach's Decorative and Sculptural Ironwork is both a classic and one of the best. This is followed by more she has assembled in recent years and the many new books coming out of Italy and many others.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 11:46:05 EST

Marc. A well designed blown burner should work at least as well as a venturi system. In a blown system you have pressure to spare and can spend this on mixing. For example you can put a diffuser in the stream - something you cant afford to do with a venturi burner(a screen like guru suggests or pc of sheet metal cut and twisted so it looks like a turbine blade). You will need an air choke - one nice thing about venturis is that the air flow tracks with the fuel pressure - although like all carburetors this doesnt work as well as one would like. You dont really need an orifice for a blown burner. I use a 1/16" on my burners which runs 0-5psi and usually cruises at 2psi.
   adam - Wednesday, 11/10/04 12:19:08 EST

Russian Anvil – Well I guess if it will last me for a year or so that will give me enough time to research which style would work well for me. My friend has only been doing this for about a year and it his looks just like this one.

Guru you said you had a “Deal” for me? Well it looks like I am in a prime position to bite. I have taken several pieces of bad advice lately. Just called and returned an order of hammers that they said: “These are good blacksmithing hammers. The set includes Cross, Ball and Strait pein with three other hammers.” When I received them they were all ball pein hammers and the heaviest was 24 oz, all had fiberglass handles.

Now that I found Centaur Forge I think I will order from them as I have seen the name mentioned here several times.

Apparently I like to learn lessons the hard way

   Aaron - Wednesday, 11/10/04 12:22:07 EST

PS: I dont mean to restart the old argument about venturi vs blown burners. They both have their places.

In some parts this fight is like the Civil War. One careless comment and the whole thing starts up again. b :)
   adam - Wednesday, 11/10/04 12:34:54 EST

Low pressure:

Thanks, guys, for the info. I like the idea of a diffuser. I've got some screen at home and will try that right away.

I'll miss the "automatic" choking, as I like to turn down the gas and idle when hammering. Now I have to adjust two things.

But one nice thing about low pressure is the safety aspect. If something in the line does break open, the gas takes much longer to fill up the shop.

One more thing - All I've done so far is just increase the gas "orifice" size on my burner to convert it to low pressure. Most of the blown burners I've seen aren't much different than that. Aside from the diffuser, are there any other things I should change to make the burner even more efficient?

   - MarcG - Wednesday, 11/10/04 13:11:10 EST

Hi. Im new to the blacksmithing feild, in fact, I havn't even started. I'm having trouble finding an anvil and i was wondering if there was a more available thing I could use until i find an anvil. Also, our family has an old coal stove and i was wondereing if that would be alright to use as a forge. Thank you.
   Phil Erdley - Wednesday, 11/10/04 13:16:09 EST

Phil, stop by a scrap yard and find a big chunk of steel. Large shafting is nice as you have a curved side and the flat end. I've used the broken knuckle off a train car coupler as part of my neo-tribal forging kit. Remember that it's the ammount of steel under the hammering zone that counts not the total length to the sides---soe a rectangular piece is much better standing up and hammering on the end than the flat.

Fork lift tines can make a good anvil too and if you can find a broken one they should be cheap or free!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/10/04 13:30:05 EST

Aaron, Check out other advertisers too. Each has a slightly different line and some have the same tools at different prices. Kayne and Son (now Blacksmiths Depot) just launched and all new web site which I helped build and Pieh Tool is closer to folks out West. Centaur forge now has two locations so you have a better chance of walking into one.

Buying tools on ebay can be very risky. For one, it is very common for the crooks to charge enough shipping to make their profit. If you return the merchandise they have their profit AND the merchandise.

If you are on a budget you should be going to the closest blacksmith group meeting. There is almost always someone there with new and used tools. For what you paid for that cheap Russian you could have likely purchased a beat up but good old anvil. There will also be people there that know where there are deals to be had and who can advise you before you buy junk.

Note that many of the blacksmithing hammers sold by our advertisers are quite economical but some are undressed. They need to be filed or ground to a shape that suits you. Often the advantage of buying old used hammers is that they were well dressed from the factory and with the exception of a few dings rarely need much done to the face. Howere the piens on all the old hammers had sharp edges and were in need of dressing.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 14:48:22 EST

I noticed your mentioning of a crook on anvils on ebay is that the 6129173110 old anvil? sure hope not I'Ve bid on it and hope that isnt one of his items also?
   harold - Wednesday, 11/10/04 15:14:59 EST

Harold, No, that is not the crook. That is, however, a lovely little old portable anvil. Anybody know anything more about it? I do hope you're in England, since he won't ship it!
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 11/10/04 15:32:52 EST

If you can spend the time, fleamarkets are often a good source of tools. Even in this small town, about 9,000 people including the college!, I've been able to find good hammers at the small local fleamarket. Of course prices vary quite a bit, I bought a ball pein hammer recently that there was a matching one for sale by another vendor for about 20 times as much!

I generally buy american made older tools; but some folks have had good experiences with some of the chinese hammers and I've run across a few *old* hammers that turned out to be malleable iron!

I'll have to say that about 80% of my smithing is done with 5 pairs of tongs and 3 different hammers. You don't need a lot of tools to get started!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/10/04 15:36:10 EST

Alan thank you for the information sweet sigh of relief thou i've spoken with the seller thought i'd inquire anyway. I along with the majority of seniors do not want to deal with crooks. about the old anvil i shouldnt have a problem in shipping its here in the u.s
   harold - Wednesday, 11/10/04 15:45:09 EST

Thanks for the feedback on the tile pipe. I'm still a novice blacksmith- took my first lessons about a year and a half ago but haven't done as much as I'd like because I was in search of a decent anvil for quite a while.
The pipe is high temp fired with a viterous glaze, not plain terrcotta and is at least 16" on the inside diameter. That's what had me worried about "kinetic disassembly" if moisture in the walls turned to steam as I assumed the glaze wouldn't allow it to escape easily. I was hoping to insulate the $%^&#*^& out of it (since it had a generous interior size and I slip a preheater between the kaowool and the pipe in the form of double wall flue lining or the like.
Thanks for the advice- I've got 5ft of the stuff and a decent stack of 3" galvanized well casing hanging around and I thought I could build a simple stand for the forge body out of that. But, it sounds like a classic case of novice overkill. Ill stick to my portable rivet style forge and handcrank blower for now and keep scrounging for my gas forge.
   Wild Bill - Wednesday, 11/10/04 16:21:28 EST

Request for a finish for a dinner triangle-
Old timers used to "brown" their guns in the 1800's and early 1900's when barrels had 'bright finishes" or worn-out blueing. Basically they would create a fine layer of rust, lightly abrade it, and apply a concoction that would eventually laminate layers of oxidation with oils and waxes that would protect the layers from moisture.
I'll look up the 'recipe' in one of my books on antique firearms at home and post it here. It's okay for decorative pieces, but NOT for anything food related, as it has a variety of toxic items in it.
My other suggestion would be to blacken the surface with lampblack and then spread a generous layer of a 50-50 mixture of wax (beeswax or paste carnuba) and linseed oil over the piece after it cools from blue to black. It seems to work best if the metal is just hot enough to make the mixture smolder or smoke slightly.
Through a little oil and/or wax on it once a year after that and you're good to go.
   - Wild Bill - Wednesday, 11/10/04 16:34:13 EST

Harold, the ebay number you gave above is for an anvil the IS in England, but after looking I see you bid on the one Paw-Paw turned us on to. It, too, looks like a fine anvil, and that seller is not the crook either. Lots of anvils on ebay though, eh?

Wild Bill, there's a much simpler and less toxic browning solution out these days that doesn't involve heat, mercury or nitric acid. I agree though, a good rust brown would be the way to go on a triangle! The new stuff that works great is called "barrel Brown and degreaser" from Laurel Mountain Forge, available from any gunsmith supply house. Of course, you could always degrease it and leave it in my shop for a month or so, that seems to do the trick as well!
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 11/10/04 16:41:10 EST

To Find an Anvil:

1) The easiest and in the long run the cheapest thing to do is to purchase a NEW REAL anvil from one of our advertisers.

2) Tell everyone you know, or meet that you are looking for an anvil or blacksmiths tools. That INCLUDES all your distant relatives that you have never met. That widowed aunt on the other coast would rather GIVE you her deceased husband's old anvil rather than sell it.

3) Find your local blacksmith group and GO to meetings. There is almost always someone there selling tools. If you can't afford $2/lb for a good old Mousehole then you are not really in the market for a good tool. Be patient, go to three or four meetings.

4) Look in the yellow pages under "Ironworks" and welders. Most blacksmiths are listed in these categories not under "blacksmith". Go and ask if they have any extra tools they don't need. DO NOT call on the phone. The probility is that one of these shops has a smithy.

5) Stop and ask at every antique store, junk shop, and scrap yard. There are at LEAST one of these in every county of the US if not a dozen places to look. The places that have IRON have a look to them that "finders" can spot a mile away and almost always find something good. Do not get so focoused on an ANVIL that you overlook other good things.

6) Go to local auctions and estate sales. Tell the auctioneer what you are looking for. If you tell you are willing to pay a fair price in the $2/lb range he may come to YOU.

7) Last resort is ebay. This was once a wonderful resource but the crooks have found it to be a safe haven. Ebay WILL NOT help and DOES NOT police the shady practices going on there and makes it as difficult as possible to make a complaint much less get your money back. Avoid dealers that have made hundreds of sales. Look at what else they sell. If it is a lot of new itmes that are unrelated then they are selling really bad imported junk for much more than you would pay for the same at a flemarket. You will not find many of their products in regular discount stores because the quality is so low that the goods cannot be sold where someone can readily return them or file a complaint. "Blacksmiths" has become such a hot key word on ebay that thousands of items are listed under the category that it is a worthless search term. It is so popular that ebay PAYS the search engines to list them under that category.

Item I have seen on ebay that were fraud:

  • Norman period "antique" tools (all forgeries)
  • Civil War Uniforms (new from India, sold as original)
  • Anvils declared to be heattreated steel for professional use. (all lies, and it not an anvil just because its shaped like one).
  • Antique locks (new made in India, aged and sold by crooks)
  • Software of all sorts. Virtually ALL sold on ebay is pirated copies and the dealers off shore.

    These frauds are a microscopic part of the millions in fraud going on an ebay everyday. The people comiting these frauds do not worry about getting caught because ebay does not want to lose THEIR business AND it might cost ebay a little to police themselves. The frauds listed above have been going on continously for years by the same dealers who just change ID's and PO boxes and just keep doing what they do. Many complaints have been made and ebay does little or nothing.

    A lot of things can be found and deals made on ebay but you need to be aware of the fraud that goes on. Probably more good old anvils have sold on ebay than the junkers. But if you do not know what you are buying and who you are dealing with then you shouldn't be on ebay.
  •    - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 17:16:57 EST

    NOTE: I receive mail from manufacturers in India about once a week now offering antique reprductions of all types and they will now provide "aged" finishes. The prices are amazing low. However, the target market is those ebay dealers that sell a $3 Indian lock for $300 as an antique or collector's item. . .
       - guru - Wednesday, 11/10/04 17:24:46 EST

    Stainless 17-4 PH - some one at work is asking me to harden a piece of this alloy. (actually its the gas piston from some kind of assault rifle) According to the spec sheet one anneals it by heating to 1800 and oil quenching. To harden it is heated to 900F and air quenched. The hotter the temp the softer the result. This all seems backwards from the steels I am used to. What is the primary application of this alloy ? Is it suitable for heat treat in a smith shop?
       adam - Wednesday, 11/10/04 17:27:59 EST

    Adam, not having my ASM handbooks on hand I can't speak about the heat treat; but I would like to mention that you better be *damn* sure that they are not involved in making their rifle full auto. If they get caught BATF will be all over you like cosmoline and have no compunction about taking your shop, house, car, great aunt's favorite set of dentures and *you* have to spend years proving that you were an innocent bystander to get anything back---and they may not consider you such if you have done some of the work on the rifle!

       Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/10/04 18:20:58 EST

    hi, im 15, and me and my dad just got into forging, so, naturally, we have lots of questions. i have narrowed mine down a little though. we have made knives before, but now we want to make them on the forge.
    So, starting the questions:
    1 how do you fold steel? what would we need to know or do?
    2 how do you stop a steel file from bending backwards, or
    how do you counter it?
    3 forge welding... we got the borax, and i read what you have on it here, (nice drawings) but what else do you have for beginners?
    4 how do you temper a peice of steel, a knife in this case, so that it will be tough and durable to lots of use, (i intend to use this alot)?
    5 what colors are we going to need to know for tempering and hardening?
    6 what oil do we use? will used motor oil work? (if it dosnt whoosh in flames in our face)
    7 ...what are some good beginner projects that would be useful and not too hard?

    i know this is alot, but if you can answer it, it would be GREAT!!
    Thanks, A. Winn
       A.Winn - Wednesday, 11/10/04 18:34:45 EST

    Howdy to y'all. I have a question about my propane burner orifice. Its the basic reil burner style, and im using a 0.040 mig tip inserted perpendicular to the 1/8" galv pipe for the gas. I could not find a tap for it, or a drill bit the correct size. However, I was able to get a somewhat snug fit into the pipe. It appears that some pipe dope will take care of the problem, but i dont know if that is a good idea, which is my question. Is it? i think doing that would create the possibility of shooting out the tip, which is bad. Would i be better off drilling the hole the correct size and getting the right tap? if so, does anyone out there know what the correct drill bit size is and what is the correct tap? I will appreciate any and all help!
       Blueboy - Wednesday, 11/10/04 19:28:37 EST

    Aaron, I bought one of those Russian anvils, too, remember? I wrote the article for Anvilfire. As all have said, the Russian is not a "professional grade" anvil. But I used mine for over a year and still have it. If I ever find time to do demos, I will take the Russian, not my good anvil. If you are only using it a few hours per week, and your hammer control is pretty good, it may last a LONG time. The horn still "blows" but Kayne and son have a bick that will fit this anvil (with a shim) and makes it much more useful. Don't despair that your tools are not of the highest quality. A good smith can still use poor tools to make works of art.
       quenchcrack - Wednesday, 11/10/04 20:08:22 EST

    Tap: The thread on my mig tips is an NF (fine) thread. Since its not an NPT (tapered pipe thread) it doesnt seal unless I use pipe dope. Never had a problem but if I did I would just clean it out with a torch tip cleaner. If you dont thread the hole the tip may pop out and fall into your hot forge where it will instantly turn into a pool of copper!
       adam - Wednesday, 11/10/04 20:17:02 EST

    mig thread is 1/4 by 28,blueboy
       Lurch - Wednesday, 11/10/04 20:39:14 EST

    You need to read the "Getting Started" area as it will answer most of your questions.
    Second you need to get a good book on knife making. I suggest any of the books by Dr. Jim Hrisoulas, Perhaps The Complete Bladesmith , as it is a great book for those starting out.
       Ralph - Wednesday, 11/10/04 21:51:38 EST

    Most interesting counterfeits on Ebay and elsewhere-- the flea markets in London are full of them-- to me anyway are the handsome brass "Brunton" surveyor compasses (one I saw was marked "Brinton," and carried a maker's name of Alex. Rose, London) and the fake sextants, each at about $20. Harbor Freight at least represents them as decor items, not something you should dare try to navigate with. What puzzles me is, these things look as if they took somebody an awful lot of work, so why bother making a tool that falls just short of being functional? Bubble levels a bit off, markings just a tad messed up, etc. But there are tons of these frauds out there, ditto "antique" pocket sundials, so there must be beaucoup bucks in it.
       Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 11/10/04 21:53:47 EST


    Some mig tips are 1/4-28 and others, notably Tweco, are M6x1 metric. For the Tweco tips, the correct drill is 5mm or #8, depending on whether you have metric drills or only "inchric".

    Definitely drill and tap the hole correctly. With an aspirated burner, you're running the gas a pretty high pressure. If that mig tip blew out, you would suddenly be dumping propane at 10 to 25 psi through a hole about FIFTY times the area. You simply wouldn't believe the incredible "dragon's breath" that would produce, but imagine a tongue of flame shooting about ten feet out your forge door and you'll probably be not far wrong. Scary, huh?
       vicopper - Wednesday, 11/10/04 23:19:49 EST

    Adam, PH in 17-4 PH stands for precipitation hardening. Basically you put everthing in solution at high temperature, quench, and then age to precipitate microscopically fine particles that strenghten/harden it. Lower aging temperatures and time produce harder less ductile material. There are aeronautical uses not sure of exact ones, but I had to determine needs and puchase heat teat ovens to meet AMS requirements which trace back to aircraft.

    Regarding "steels" there are all sorts out there that require special heat treatment 300 series stainless and 13% manganese aka as Hadfield's are softened by quenching rapidly from high temperature. They work harden as you drill, machine, bend, etc. them. PH grades-there are more 15-5, 17-7, etc. all get treated similarly to 17-4. Micro-alloyed steels (minute quantities of columbium, nitrogen, etc. are designed to reach desired properties on cooling from hot forming temperatures. Too many to go into here. I'm sure Quechcrack knows or has run across other odd types I haven't mentioned.
       - Gavainh - Wednesday, 11/10/04 23:46:57 EST

    how do u go about becomming a member of a blacksmithing gild
       jason - Thursday, 11/11/04 00:57:18 EST

    Sand anvil base:
    Rather than mounting to ply, wouldn't a piece of plate steel transfer more of the vibration to the sand (do dampen it)? The plate could also be buried 2-3" rather than on top and reduce AwP's sinking anvil syndrome.
       Elliott Olson - Thursday, 11/11/04 01:49:52 EST

    Practical Blacksmithing was only the first book I could get through my local library. Most of the books I found when searching for the blacksmith topic were noted as unavailable (lost, damaged, checked out, etc.). I am waiting for more of the book(s) I requested (inter-library loan) to come in.
       Elliott Olson - Thursday, 11/11/04 02:11:42 EST

    I have A old anvil that belong to my Grandfather it has black imp on the side. Can you tell me anything about it?
       - Don - Thursday, 11/11/04 06:49:19 EST

    Elliot Olson,

    Check out the COSIRA books, "The Blacksmith's Craft", now available for free download online. They are very good and helpful for beginning smiths. Go to:


    The books download in .pdf format, so you'll need Adobe Acrobat or another .pdf reader, but those are also free downloads.

    The Blacksmith's Craft will prove to be very useful to you, I'm sure. You can't beat the price.
       vicopper - Thursday, 11/11/04 06:50:11 EST

    I am trying to improve my skill with hand files and am having troubles. Does anyone know of books on the subject?
    Main two troubles are not being able to get a flat surface, but doming it instead and also trying to keep the file where I want to file in tight areas. Any help much appreciated.
       - J Myers - Thursday, 11/11/04 08:44:36 EST


    That's not much information to go by. Take a set of pictures of the anvil and email them to me, and I'll try to help you identify it.
       Paw Paw - Thursday, 11/11/04 08:47:53 EST

    A friend of mine has an anvil with either the letters CME or CML on the side of it. THis is all the info I have on it right now. Is there any chance that this is enough info for you to tell me what kind it is or when it was made?
       Jon - Thursday, 11/11/04 09:03:45 EST


    You have asked enough questions to write a book about, and THAT is where you need to go. Most basic books on the subject will answer most of your questions. See my post yesterday on BOOKS. See our getting started reading list, See our Bookshelf book review page. See our resources list for wantabe swordsmiths.

    1. "Folding" is an incorrect term used by those unknowledgeable in the art OR in a slang manner when speaking to others that KNOW what they are talking about. The steel is cut, restacked and welded, not folded. This is part of very advanced methods that you should not worry about until you have a high degree of forging and welding skills.

    2. If a file bends then it has been softened by heating and is probably ruined. See our FAQ on heat treating. A file should snap like a piece of glass if you attempt to bend it. The tang is made soft so that it will not break in your hand.

    3. Forge welding on iForge, that is it, pretty good I thought. See the books referenced. Takes practice, helps to get personal lessons.

    4. Tempering see our FAQ on Heat Treating and Junk Yard Steels.

    5. See our Temper Color chart and the notes about them in the Heat Treating FAQ.

    6. See the Quenchants FAQ

    7. See our iForge page. Some of these projects are a little advanced but many are quite basic and most require a minimum of tools. If you have not done much forging or have little hammer skill you need to spend quite a few hours making the simplest things such as S hooks.

    MORE ON BOOKS: Bealer's "Art of Blacksmithing" sells for less than $15 new and is often available used for a third of that. Machinery's Handbook is invaluable NEW or USED and at the bare minimum anyone doing heat treating should have a copy. If you are serious about bladesmithing the ASM books on heat treating steels are an absolute necessity. They are pricy ($200 or more for the heat treater's reference on steels) but that is what up to date technical books cost! They are a TOOL just as important as you hammer or anvil, probably MORE SO because Knowledge is always your most important tool.

    Maybe $200 is a bit pricey for you at this point but the basics are covered in books that can be had for less than $20.
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 09:21:17 EST


    See my response to Don.
       Paw Paw - Thursday, 11/11/04 09:35:47 EST

    Filing "Metal Working" by Hasluck, is a Victorian era text that is printed by Lindsay Books for about $30. Well worth the $$ and it has an excellent chapter on filing, scraping and surfacing.
       adam - Thursday, 11/11/04 09:57:44 EST

    I did a mistake when harden a steel-carbon. I quenched it too slow. And, the steel was not as hard as I want. the question is: can I re-harden the steel? or do I need to buy a new one?
       permadi - Thursday, 11/11/04 10:36:39 EST

    Other filing help:

    Hasluck is a jewel on filework, for sure. One thing that helps to get flat surfaces is to use the biggest file you can find. If it can't flex, and you can keep it level, no problems. A filing vise should hold the work at about elbow height, too. This helps with keeping the file level. Grab the file with one hand on the handle (you DO have a handle on it, I hope!) and the other hand on the forward end, place the forward end where you want to start the cut, and push forward the full length of the file. Watch the pressure on each end throughout the stroke, or you'll bear down too hard at either end. Don't be afraid to tilt the file slightly to establish a shoulder to work up to, and use oblique strokes to flatten large areas.

    The most important thing when filing is to keep the teeth clean! this means every few strokes you should stop and clean the filings out of the teeth, lest they leave long deep furrows in your new surface. A little chalk or soapstone rubbed in before filing helps the chips clear easily. If the chips don't fall out when you tap the end of the file on a piece of hard wood, use a file card or piece of thin brass to clear the teeth, working across the width of the file.

    A big file is also easier to keep exactly where you want it to be. I use 14" files of various fineness on everything they'll fit before I go to smaller, finer files for cleanup and detail work.
       Alan-L - Thursday, 11/11/04 10:43:18 EST

    Using a File: J Meyers, At least you are practicing and that is what it takes. The only book I have that covers this subject in the slightest is Metalwork Technology and Practice. This is sold as a general metalworking textbook by McGraw-Hill. See our Swordmaking Resources FAQ for details on the book.

    Note that all files are made right handed. Yes, it makes a difference. You should learn to use files with both hands but they are made to cut the best right handed when held at an angle pointing to the left.

    Making any flat surface by hand and eye requires that you can SEE a straight line and that you look closely at your work. Learning how to look at something is as critical as the doing. Learning how to feel a surface is also critical.

    Your work position related to the workpiece is critical. If the work is down low on a bench you cannot see the flatness or if you are holding the file square to the work. Work of this nature is best done at eye level so that you can sight across the work. With a low vise you must sit to be comfortable. I have a large vise mounted on a tall bench that is comfortable for this type work while standing. Another method is to angle the work so that you can see it and your tool alignment. Be sure that the position does not make doing the work uncomfortable. Good relaxed work posture with easy freedom of movement is critical do doing fine work.

    In all material shaping the tendancy is to use too fine a tool too soon in the process. In shops where a LOT of filing is done or there are few machines then is it common for there to be numerous BIG 14 and 16" files for the coarse work. You start coarse, then work to fine. A surface that is not as flat or smooth as it can be made with a rasp or large coarse file is not going to get flatter with a finer tool. Also note that thin flat files tend to bow and must be supported near the center.

    Even the most skilled worker will not make cuts at the exact same plane every time. If you use the curved side of a half round file then you can work the middle of a flat area and any missalignment tned to make a flatter surface. The tapered versions of these files then to curve in all directions and thus are good for going after high spots in the middle of an area. I would use the curved back side of a rough bastard cut file for getting the initial flat surface.

    Once the surface is flat you can remove the coarse file marks with a smooth file. Place the file on the work and hold it down with one hand on the back of the file to assure it is flat on the surface. The file should be angled pointing to the left at about a 30° angle and then pushed away from you. After a couple strokes reverse the file so that it points to the right. On a small surface the strokes will need to be short in order to keep a few fingers pushing the file downward.

    IF you started with a fairly flat surface you should be able to see where the file is cutting as it removes the coarse cuts. If it is cutting on the edges making a curved surface then you need to push down harder on the center of the file OR use the edge of the file to bring the center of the work down.

    On a large flat surface you do what is known as "draw filing" where the file is used as above and alternated every couple strokes and then from another axis to the work.

    Once the majority of coarse file marks are gone you should change to a scraper. Scrapers have a fine straight edge and when pulled across a surface at angles like the filing they will make a very flat surface. See my iForge demo on scrapers as well as the book referenced above.

    Another method of producing a flat surface by hand is using sand paper held against a flat surface. For coarse work I glue pieces of sanding belt to a flat board and then slide the work on that surface. For finer work and finishing I use wet-or-dry paper on a flat surface like a machine table or surface plate. Using water or fine oil like WD-40 helps keep the pare from clogging.

    If you are working in a notch or groove it is more difficult but the same techniques generally apply. I will use the edge of a file so that I can work diagonaly in a narrow space alternating axiis.

    Keeping your file clean is important. When working flat surfaces the file will have chips stick in the teeth with almost every stroke. Tap the file on the bench to dislodge swarf every couple strokes. Slide your hand along the surface of the file moving from tang to tip to feel for "nibs" caught in the teeth. Remove them with a file card of wire brush as soon as they are detected. When you are finished with your files clean them and oil them with fine oil like WD-40.

    If you file soft metals such as brass or aluminium (or even hardwood) then do not use these files on steel until they are worn. These soft materials require a sharper file to cut well.

    File handles make file easier and safer to use. The commercial ones are made to screw on to the tang. You can also make your own with scraps of wood and short pieces of copper pipe or EMT (electrical conduit) as ferruls. Pieces of dry corn cob have also been used. File handles are recyclable and often outlast generations of files.

    Files with handles are easily stored hanging from a rack. When stored in a drawer it is recommended that they be seperated so that one file does not ding or break the teeth on another. (please do NOT look in my file drawer. . .).

    Sets of files are an investment and should be treated as such. It is easy to spend $100 or more on files and not have any duplicates. Those that wear our should be retired and replaced. I could have said discard by I have a shelf where I put worn out files. . . They are handy as material and for other uses. Files are made in different qualities and there are many cheap files on the market that are not suitable for permanent collection.

    Did you know that MANY files were hand cut well into the 20th century and that many specialty files are still hand cut? That is why Nicholsen patternmakers rasps with non-repeating teeth cost $50 each. Sadly mine are worn out and need to be replaced. . .
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 11:07:38 EST

    Hardening a Second Time: Permadi, Yes you can harden the steel again.
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 11:10:48 EST

    Blacksmithing Guilds: Jason, it depends on what country you are in. In the US there are no true guilds. Most organizations are simply interest groups that you mearly pay dues to become a member. We have a member group called Cybersmiths International (CSI) that supports anvilfire and makes it possible for me to answer this question for you. In North America there is a large member group called ABANA and then there are local associations. You local association where you can go to meetings is your best investment and supporting anvilfire through CSI is another.

    In Europe they used to have a quild system based on apprenticships and teaching by Masters. As far as I know this system is gone except in Germany where they still issue Master's papers.
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 11:25:19 EST

    thanks :)
    Hardening a second time: is the method exactly the same as the first hardening? just heat it up and the martensite will automatically transform back to austenite with no problem? and also, I heard that some of the carbon has already been missing because of oxidation process and the second hardening will not be as hard as the first hardening process.. isn't true? if yes, then what can I do to solve the problem?
       permadi - Thursday, 11/11/04 11:34:51 EST

    Decarburization: permadi, Yes, just like the first time. Carbon loss on the surface should not be a problem during heat treating. If the part is forged or held at high temperatures for an extended time the carbon loss would have occured then. During heat treating the part is heated to a much lower temperature and held there just long enough to soak the part.
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 11:52:53 EST


    When filing long, staight edges, there is a common tendency to "roll-off" the starting and stopping ends. To avoid this, clamp scrap stock at the ends, even with the surface to be filed. The scrap is filed down right along with the workpiece, and any rolling off happens on the scrap. Check your progress with a straightedge from time to time.

    You can actually "mill" a head for an internal combustion engine with nothing more than a good file, if you are skilled with that file. I've done it a couple of times. A big help on such a task is a machinist's straightedge and a bottle of Dykem™or Meecham's layout dye. The surface is colored with the Dykem™ and then scraped lightly with the straightedge to reveal the high spots, which are then filed and scraped to level.

    A surface plate is good for checking flat, too. I have a couple of pieces of old 1" thick bulletproof glass from a bank remodel that I use for surface plates. They're certainly not 1/4-wave optical flats, but they're good enough for what I do. With a piece or two of wet-or-dry sandpaper oiled down on them, they make nice large hones.

    Old files? Good quality files provide a source of good steel for making those scrapers and deburring tools that are so necessary if you're doing metalwork. If you feel that you absolutely HAVE to throw your old files away, mail them to me. :-)
       vicopper - Thursday, 11/11/04 12:22:26 EST

    Rich you once recommended a particular brand of files - what was that? For a surface plate I used a cutoff of granite kitchen counter top - was good to about 3 thou. Then I found a CI surface plate in the landfill!!!

    Mailing VIC old files - should we zip them first? They will use a lot of disk space

       adam - Thursday, 11/11/04 13:10:31 EST

    17-4 PH Gavainh: thanks. Precipitation hardening! Sort of explains why its heat treat is "backwards".

    Thomas: Thanks for the heads up on full auto. I dont think there is anything like that going on here but I will check.
       adam - Thursday, 11/11/04 13:18:56 EST

    Adam, There are many other precipitation hardening stainless steels. 17-4 PH (the 17 and 4 are the amount of chrome and nickel I think) was one of the early stainlesses of its type and the PH has stuck. Other stainlesses just go by their SAE AISI numbers 410, 440 and such.

    I am not sure which cutlery stainlesses are the vanadium alloy but in kitcheneare they seen to be the best at staying sharp for YEARS.

    Scrapers: For the common flat scrapers I have found bandsaw blade to make the best. Paw-paw or someone gave me some nice 1.5" wide .040" thick blade that made wounderful scrapers. They were just enough softer than the fancy Swedish Sandivic scraper I have that they were earier to put a good wire edge on. We made several by grinding off the teeth, round back and then stoning the edges. I made a couple with radiused ends while I was at it. Wish I had more of that material but it seems the rest of what Paw-Paw had was narrower and thinner. Too narrow for convienient hand scrapers.

       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:05:39 EST

    Thanks for the input on filing. There were a number of things to consider. I will certainly try to raise the work to a higher level, but that isn't always practical.

    When my father was at Tech High School,in Atlanta, his first day in Machine Shop he was given a cube of cast iron and a file and told to bring the instructor a finished filed cube that was one inch on all sides and all faces at 90 degrees. I guess that was sort of a HUMILIATION thing. When I took Machine Shop in the same school in 1943 we started by watching a shaper work the first day then were assigned to a metal lathe the second day. I appreciate the old way more. Anyhow, I have printed all the advices and will keep them to review.
       - J Myers - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:08:09 EST

    Viruses: I am getting a rash of virus mail that is getting by the filters. Seems to be a new virus and it is coming with (forged) addresses from many in our community. Be careful what you open.
       - guru - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:10:18 EST

    I was wondering if you know of any good blacksmithing shops in the boise idaho area??
       Rory - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:18:07 EST

    Making very flat surfaces,
    Another trick involving plate glass is lapping. With several grades of lapping compound, and much time a 4 light band flat surface is attainable. Done it. Plate glass of the standard window type, will be flat to 0.001" to 0.003" if I remember correctly. The proper technique is to grind first. Then start at about 220 grit, and with a figure 8 motion make about 4 cycles of the 8. Rotate the part 90 degrees. Repeat the 4 cycles. Rotate the part 90 degrees. continue to complete clean-up. Then repeat with ever finer grits untill the flatness and finish desired are obtained. Be sure to totally clean off all grit before proceding to the next finer grit.Be liberal in scraping the used glass.
       ptree - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:21:50 EST

    Yeah, I've heard of the 1" cube filing project as a sort of hazing ritual for would be machinists. That kind of approach to instruction stinks IMO.

    I have never done the cube but I have done similar small filing projects and found that with practice and lots patience its not that hard. But thats a very different thing from being thrown into the deep end of the pool for one's very first swimming lesson. I can't imagine filing a whole engine head , even just one cylinder!
       adam - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:32:15 EST

    Scrapers: Jock those sound like wood scrapers - arent scrapers for steel are usually much thicker and used with a slicing action rather than wire edge scraping action?
       adam - Thursday, 11/11/04 15:35:56 EST

    Actually, It didn't take that long to file the heads that I did. One of them was the head off of an NIssan 4-cylinder engine that an ex-wife ran for a couple years with bad antifreeze, eating away several areas and warping the head, finally. I fired up the trusty stick welder, goobered in some aluminum rod, then flat filed the head. Took only about an hour to get that head to where it seated fine at minimum torque.

    I also filed an old cast iron flathead for a 35 Ford P/U that I had as a kid. That one took a couple hours as I recall, but worked just fine. I did numerous heads for my 2-stroke dirt bikes when I was racing. Those took about five minutes if you didn't screw up. :-)

    The very best files I've owned have all been Grobet. They cost way more than Nicholsen or others, but are worth every penny, IMHO. Particularly when you're getting the grades from #0 and finer. www.grobetusa.com for a look at what is available.

    One thing about lapping; that works fine as long as you're lapping something fairly hard. When lapping soft materials, there is the danger of the lapping compound becoming embedded in the soft material and then lapping the glass or flat. For soft stuff, like aluminum, copper, etc., I think you're usually better off with captive grit such as wet-or-dry paper. You can get it down to about 2000 grit at automotive paint stores. For most of us blacksmiths, 2000 grit finishes are adequate. :-)
       vicopper - Thursday, 11/11/04 16:42:01 EST

    Files & Filing:

    I think the Guru and the rest of the crew have just put together another FAQ. Looks good.

    With my three post vises and the swivel vise on different levels (lightest highest; heaviest lowest) I can usually find the right height for the right work. Before I had the lower vises, however, I would sometimes stand on blocks to get into the right position for the work.

    A beautiful Armistice Day on the banks of the lower Potomac.

    Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

    Go viking: www.longshipco.org
       Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 11/11/04 17:31:50 EST

    J. Myers,
    Somewheres I have a xerox copy of a filing treaties by Simpson.
    Let me try to find it and I can make a copy and snail mail it to you if you would like. It is not that long ( mebbe 20 pages or so) If you would like it email me with your contact info. My email is reached by clicking on my name....
       Ralph - Thursday, 11/11/04 17:39:02 EST

    One of the parts I flat lapped as a semi production item was made from acetyl coploymer(Delrin) that was first anealed in oil. Very soft compared to steel. But, used aluminum oxide, and did not have any problems.
    We flat lapped stellite all the time with aluminum oxide as well. For the really hard stuff we used boron nitride.
    One of the best lap materials is good old soft cast iron. Most of the production laps in the US are made from Cast iron. The grit charges in and does an excellent job.

    I agree that Grobet makes very good files. Have been using them since the '70s in Germany. I also like Gebruder Ott und Sonen. They were still hand cut in the back of the store front in Hanau au Main, Germany in the '70s. Lets say that I don't lend them out and have threatened bodily harm to family if used on anything except gold or silver! They also hand cut my trademark stamp, for Dm 50 in 1975. Thats about $20.00 then. The files are works of art as is the stamp. These guys had been at it since 1714 if I remember correctly.
       ptree - Thursday, 11/11/04 17:42:44 EST

    I believe A. Winn was talking about files bending backwards when forging knives out of them... the solution is to counterbend the file before forging the edge.

    Having fun with my new anvil and my old one in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
       T. Gold - Thursday, 11/11/04 17:44:13 EST


    I've never used any files by the Ott brothers/sons, as far as I know anyway. Sounds like a good business to do business with, though.

    True, cast iron seems to charge with abrasive just right. I used to lap ceramic vacuum pump seals on a cast iron lap using 1µ alumina. My old Cenco Megavac™ used to gobble up a shaft seal about once a year, for some reason. Never figured out quite why, and it wasn't too tough to lap the shaft seal once a year, so it wasn't a big problem. Until the time I used something inappropriate for a lap and cupped the seal so badly I could never get it flat again. Finally had to buy a new one. :-(
       vicopper - Thursday, 11/11/04 19:11:44 EST

    Oddly, The Ott Bros.& sons storefront looked out on the Hanau square, right at the Grimm Bros. statue. The Brothers Grimm of farie tale fame were from Hanau, and at Midnight on New Years every year, a huge party was held to await the standing brothers change with the siting brother for the next year! Big party on the very doorstep of my favorite goldsmithing supplier.
    By the way, the lights in the square failed both years I was there right at midnight, so no one really saw the bronze statues change!
       ptree - Thursday, 11/11/04 19:47:02 EST

    Thanks much. I'll pass along the info and we'll get to work. Hopefully, before long we'll be hearing that ring of the hammer and another hatchet is born.

    Sgt. Kenneth Holland
    26 NC, Co. F
       Kenneth - Thursday, 11/11/04 19:59:29 EST

    Rory, I don't know if Nahum Hersom calls himself a blacksmith, but he gives short courses in stake-repoussé: 3011 Innis, Boise 83703; 208-345-9163. He's made many, many, special hammers and stakes, so I assume he knows about forging.

    "File Filosophy" was an informative little booklet put out by Nicholson in the olden days. In 1996, Simonds published a similar booklet, "Facts on Files".
       Frank Turley - Thursday, 11/11/04 20:01:02 EST

    Grobet does not sell retail. Gotta find a dealer. Check your local jewelers' supply shop. In Santa Fe it is, surprise, surprise, Santa Fe Jewelers' Supply.
       Miles Undercut - Thursday, 11/11/04 23:48:55 EST

    In the spirit of wanting to build all things known to man, in my shop. I recently set out to locate a good design for an efficient non-catalytic type coal/wood stove. This one FAQ page has got me a bit rattled. It's about building your own wood stove.
    LOOK AT: "Where can I find a good set of wood stove plans? I want to build my own."
    Could you give it a read, and tell me what you think? Thank you.
       Keith - Friday, 11/12/04 01:17:52 EST

    The One Inch Cube: You all forget that as recently as the beginning of the 20th century machinists often made keyways, dovetails and slots with a chisel, file and scraper. Ways on machines were still 100% hand scraped and that included the dovetails on the compound rest.

    This task does not only require carefull filing but it forces one to learn how to measure in three axiis as well as how to measure and create square surfaces by hand. It is both a learning task AND a test of one's abilities. If you could not do it you did not have the patience or skills to be a machinest.

    Prior to precison machine tools being universal in almost every shop it was common for a machinest to start with a rough casting, a cold chisel, files and scrapers and produce a finished machine part. In 1836 Nasmyth invented the shaper but it would be many years before the shaper and the American milling machine that was developed about the same time would become common in all shops. I've seen beautiful forgings on steam engines and printing presses from the late 1800's that were entirely finished all over to machine like surfaces all by hand.

    Even today in primitive places workers rely on files and skill to produce relatively precision parts. The excersise of making a perfect 1" cube is just practicing what is quickly becoming a lost art. AND it is no different than the precise iron carving such as done by Ward Grossman or the masterpiece locks and boxes by the Company of The Meticulous Smiths.

    I've made many replacement parts for machines that were originaly castings by rough forging then grinding and filing to the finished shape including duplicating draft, fillets and radii. I've also made prototype parts that were to be forged or cast. The last one was a ratchet wrench body that included lightening grooves in the rectangular grip, a tapered ovoid shank blending into the barrel shaped head with healthy fillets. All in tool steel and with a mirror finish to appear chrome plated. Rouging was done with saws and a milling machine but all the final shaping including draft and fillets was done with files.

    People who make their own charcoal and weld in a fire should understand that these learning tasks are part of OUR trade.

    Here is a series of apprentice tasks in a simple progression. At the end you have learned many skills and practiced many tasks. AND you finish with useful tools you should be proud to own. In the past the most advanced of these pieces became the "master piece" upon which a smith would be judged as being skillful enough to be called a master.

    1) Forge a staple and wedges to make a Japanese bench clamp using a slab of wood for the body. Construction and use of this tool emphasizes the benefits of low tech solutions.

    2) Scrapers: Make a heavy scraper from a worn file and a light 4" scraper from a piece of saw blade. Make a burnisher from a hardened dowel pin and a block of wood.

    3) Forge divider arms for a pair of 12" firm joint dividers.

    4) Finish the divider arms using the bench clamp, files and scrapers.

    5) Forge the rivet and oposite side friction washer for the dividers and hand finish and fit to the dividers. Assemble and adjust.

    6) Forge and harden a small cold chisel from 5/8" hex tool steel such as 5160.

    7) Forge an 18" rule blank, finish with files and scrapers using the bench clamp. Optionaly, forge a 12 x 6 bench square blank and finish.

    8) Starting with one reference measurement of 12" divide and mark the rule using the chisel into inches and fractions of inches on four edges using different fractions (4ths, 16ths, 10ths, 12ths). Number with commercial stamps or hand engrave if desired.

    9) Layout a 6" diameter protractor with cross bar. Cut with hand saws, chisle and file to finish. Chamfer edge to 1/3 thickness to allow for marks close to work. Divide and mark half into fractional and decimal radians and the other half into 180 degrees with figures each 10 degrees. Mark with reference values, PI, PI/4, SQRT(2), Reciprocal of SQRT(2).


    NOW. . . an early extra step (making it a round 10) would be to make a file (or several) by hand to do the filing in the other steps. But in my shop as in most, that would require making file cutting hammers and chisels as well as a file cutting bench and anvil. However, once you have the tools and with a little practice a file can be hand cut in a relatively short period of time. A pro can cut single cut two sides or double cut one side in about 10 minutes. This is one of the few tasks I have not done in my shop and would like to just for the experiance.

    The dual standard protractor was a project I designed for a practical math class to teach the skills of using dividers as well as give the student a real world feel for radians (since they ARE the metric standard and all computer math is in radians). For secondary school students it would be made in mat board using pencil and ink. 1/8" aluminium would make a fine machinists protractor. . .
       - guru - Friday, 11/12/04 01:28:44 EST

    Wood Stove: Keith, I have neighbors that have a high tech wood heating furnace. It is the the most awful poluting piece of junk every built. And THIS by pros.

    In my life I have built a dozen different wood stoves. They all worked, some better than others. My brother is still using two of them. Here are the problems:

    1) A wood stove MUST be sized for the space it is to heat and the space MUST have adequate circulation to distribute the heat. Otherwise you end up with ONE very hot room OR you end up running the stove too cold all the time.

    2) Wood stoves MUST be run HOT. The air tight stoves of the 1970's and 80's were the cause of tens of thousands of chimney fires, house fires and numerous fatalities from the same. You CANNOT load up ANY stove with enough wood to burn all night and turn it down to smoulder without creating huge amounts of creosote (a known carcinogen) which clogs the chimney and predictably in a month or so results in a chimney fire.

    The only stoves that avoid these problems are the high tech wood pellet stoves with automatic stoker and controls that keep a small hot fire going until a large hot fire is needed.

    The only stove we had in our home that didn't have all the modern stove problems was an old tin heater that had an 1/8" air gap around the door where it fit the THIN 28ga sheet steel body. This stove burned HOT and for a brief couple hours MAX. IF you wanted to stay warm all night you fed the stove every hour all night. Most mornings you had to build a fire from scratch. However, it took several seasons to creosote up the chimney to where it was a problem. All the "air tight" stoves that replaced it creosoted up the chimney in a few days.

    Chimney fires from creosote are VERY dangerous. Depending on how tall your chimney is the temperatures reached can melt the best best refractory linings and make short work of tripple wall pipe. I've woken up to a few and was lucky the stove was in our bedroom where I could hear it and put it out while it was still controlable. But I have also responded to chimney fires at friends and neighbors that were not so lucky.

    SO, if you plan to heat with wood, plan on sleeping in the COLD most of the winter or getting little sleep. The old timers that heated with wood in fireplaces did so by keeping a small hot fire going 24 hours a day. One advantage of this is that the masonry in the chimney stayed hot and creosote buildup was less than with a cold chimney. The mass of the chimney also gave off some heat at a slow consistant rate. However, more of this was outdoors and up the chimney as into the living space.

    The design that takes advantage of this is the "Russian" stove. This is a huge mass of brick with multiple passageways through it. They are often covered with decorative tiles. A BIG HOT fire is built in it that heats up the entire multi-ton mass which then slowly gives off the heat all day. Fires are built twice a day and run wide open. The result of short hot fires is the most efficient use of fuel and almost no chimney deposits.

    So there you have it. A cheep tin box or a monster pile of bricks both beat out the modern heavy steel box.

    If you want plans try Mother Earth News from the mid to late 1970's. The famous "Fisher" wood stove had a "design patent" which means details of the design are in the patent which you can get for a couple dollars from the US Patent Office. Don't worry about the patent, it expired years ago and was the most infringed upon patent in history when it WAS in force.
       - guru - Friday, 11/12/04 02:07:09 EST

    I've heard about wood fired forges and also that pretty much only Locust burns hot enough, well I have access to a LOT of locust and I'm wondering if the forge needs to be built differently than a coal/charcoal forge.

    Also, is 304 stainless Food grade? I believe that it is, but I'd rather ask a dumb question than poison myself. (I want to make some feast gear)
       Jason Bennett - Friday, 11/12/04 09:13:50 EST

    sorry if this is a copy post.

    Does a wood (locust) fired forge need to be built differently (larger, more air, more insulation, etc. ) than a coal fired forge?

    is 304 stainless food grade?
       Jason Bennett - Friday, 11/12/04 09:28:10 EST

    304SS: Jason, generally yes. However at one time they made leaded 304 for ease of machining. If you buy your stainless new then ask. However, in most cases you paid extra for leaded materials. Note that almost all modern metals have a very small lead content. But unless you are storing or cooking acidic foods in containers made of leaded materials the amount you would be exposed to is negligible and not to be worried about.

    304L means "low carbon" not leaded. This is a more ductile version that does not work harden quite as fast as common grades of 304.

    Wood Fired Forges: Practicaly any wood will do if the fire bed is deep enough. However, what you are doing is coaling the wood as it burns. You get a much more efficient clean burning fire if you make charcoal from the wood first. See our FAQ on coal and charcoal for methods of making charcoal.

       - guru - Friday, 11/12/04 09:37:26 EST

    Keith, I've been using a Shaker-style homemade stove for over 20 years. I sketched the plans when I was in Old Chatham, NY, at a Shaker (religious group) museum. A similar stove to mine is shown on page 25 of "Shop Drawings of Shaker Iron and Tinware" by Ejner Handberg, 1976. Other Shaker wood stoves with measurements are on pp. 26 - 29. The Shaker stoves were cast iron and front loading. There is a draft door or slide at the base of the front door. I welded mine up of 3/16 and 1/4 plate, whatever I had at the time. After about 10 years, I got a small split in the side and a tiny hole in one corner, probably from expansion/contraction. I was able to fix both with my plug-in MIG outfit. Mine uses a 6" stovepipe going through a big protective collar in the roof. If I were to critique it, I would say that we occasionally get a little smoke in the room when the door is opened, so we are required to dust the furniture more often than most.

    The one inch cube reminds me of junior high shop class, where we were supposed to square up a 6"x6"x3/4" board with a plane and submit it for inspection with no corner tearouts.

    Other tools that were commonly made with snips and files were: 59º twist drill gage; bevel gage, washer cutter, tap wrench, soldering iron.
       Frank Turley - Friday, 11/12/04 10:00:05 EST

    I've got two Fisher wood stoves heating my house and guest house, and a third down at my son's house. Had them for nearly 30 years. Wonderful stoves, Fishers. Jock's right-- they produce scads of creosote, much of which congeals into a cake when it hits the cold chimney, but a good deal of it makes its way onup and globs onto the inside of the chimney, coating it with a combustible lining. A chimney fire is a terribly dangerous event. Lots of dramatic roaring, noise like a jet plane or a parade of concrete trucks, flames roaring three or four feet out of the chimney. I've seen three houses devastated by them, including one with a massive stone chimney that was cracked as if struck by a lightning bolt. One I owned, in Alexandria, Va., built in late 1700s, had a fire in the attic way back when, rafters contiguous to old non fire-brick chimney caught. Gotta be careful, do regular cleaning. Chimfex puts out a big firecracker-like stick that when lit and you stick it into the firebox consumes all the oxygen in the stove and chimney, smothers the fire. It says here. We try hard to keep our fires small, making sure the flames stay in the fire box, away from the chimney. But you never know. It's like living with a dragon. One thing to be damned sure you have: a barometric damper on the chimney above the stove that opens when the wind passing over the chimney creates a Venturi and sucks air up from the room through the stove. The damper will open and allow the Venturi effect to pull the air from ABOVE the stove, not through it. Otherwise you got yourself a howling forge.
       Miles Undercut - Friday, 11/12/04 10:14:15 EST

    Change of Coal Supply ownership in Ontario.

    The ownership of Schaner Coal Co. has changed hands. In a letter to the Ontario Artist Blacksmith Associations 'IRON TRILLIUM, magazine Harvey Kuntz announced his retirement. The Schaner Coal Co. is now under the ownership of Robb Martin at a new location.

    THAK BLACKSMITH/ARMORER at 2282 Floradale Road, Floradale, Ontario N0B 1V0.

    Tel (519)669-0721 Fax (519)669-0943
    e-mail: inquires@thak.ca
       Don - Friday, 11/12/04 10:22:04 EST

    A.Winn I have all three Jim Hrisoulas books (Complete & Master Bladesmith and Pattern-Welded Blades) If you are in the Southern California area he is here during the Renaissance Pleasure Fair (May) and I totally intend to ask him if I can dig through his brain some this next year. His blade work is some of the best I have ever misused.

    Quenchcrack: Thanks for the information on the anvil, I did read the article prior to bidding but did not know that this one, as well as, finding out that my friends anvil are both the Russian.

    I do not currently have “Good” hammer control and I am re-looking for some information that I believe I read on this site about practicing hammer control without the forge. I only get a few hours a month currently to try my hand.

    Vicopper: Thanks for that link the book listed there seems to be some of the basic beginner information that will really help me out. Glad it came up.

    On the Tweco and MIG tips I did not have the proper tap to install my Tweco tips so I ended up under drilling and nicking so I could thread the tip without tapping then soldering (I used silver bar solder) it into place. It seemed to work well but I stood way back when we tried that. I invisioned firing the tip into the brick wall in the back yard.

    Guru: Thanks for the other sites to get equipment from so far I like Blacksmith’s Depot as it has good pictures of the items. I am still learning what everything is it helps to see it.

       Aaron - Friday, 11/12/04 13:44:53 EST

    Let me ask just a few more questions about files and I will get off the subject. My shop is unheated and rust is a problem with files. Will the coating of WD-40 either help or cure that? I paid the extra and bought one Grobet half round file that has fine teeth and have the feeling that my file card is not getting into the small teeth. It is a good feeling file, but I think the teeth fill easily and are hard to clean. Is chalk really effective to keep the teeth clean? And one last item, I sewed together a denim file roll for storage and wonder if this has something to do with the rust problem. It protects them from beating against each other, but does the cloth hold moisture from the humidity?
    In addition to jewelry supply places MSC sells Grobet files.

       - J Myers - Friday, 11/12/04 15:03:36 EST

    WD-40: I have good luck with WD-40. I like it because it wipes off easily. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT use other penetrating oils for rust protection. Fluids like Liquid Wrench contain chemicals designed to attack rust but will also CAUSE corrosion. It also contains no lasting oil, the kerosene all evaporates and leaves nothing but the corrosives.

    Some people have claimed WD-40 does the same but it does not. I have equipment in my damp shop that has been protected with WD-40 for years. The problem with WD-40 is that it is thin and wipes off easily. However, this is what you want in a file protectant.

    The general trouble with unheated shops is temperature change that results in heavy condensation.

    A cloth file roll works well as long as it stays dry and has a cover to prevent the file from knocking into each other. Folks have made the mistake of thinking leather would be even better but the salts in the leather can be extreamly corrosive.
       - guru - Friday, 11/12/04 15:12:32 EST

    One thing about filing I have not seen mentioned is "safe" edged files for filing in places where you do *NOT* want to eat into the adjoining edge. Basically a file with a flat smooth edge.

    Sending files to... shoot here I was going to send a bunch of my favorite core dumps!

    Looking for a smith: I'd look in the ABANA list for a "local" ABANA chapter and contact them for a local smith. Course you don't say if you want an industrial smith, someone who does only ornamental work, someone who specializes in knives, traditional or historical smithing, etc...

    I'm a big believer in short hot fires and thermal mass I'm designing my workshop stove to use two "nested" apartment water heaters with clean dry sand between them. I've also retrofitted the woodstove in the house with a big chunk of soapstone on the top to make a "time release heater".

    Attendeed a lecture from a lady that uses C1 for artistic metalworking, very interesting but a bit expensive.

       Thomas P - Friday, 11/12/04 16:10:38 EST

    J Myers, Chalk, talc, and soapstone are supposed to help keep pins out of the file teeth. I use schoolroom chalk. A small scrub brush will help to keep your small file clean. A homemade brass scratch awl helps to pick pins out. In the archives, there is the suggestion of using a copper sheet or plate(?) to clean the files.
       Frank Turley - Friday, 11/12/04 16:52:32 EST


    My personal favorite for protecting files is LPS-1, a product similar to WD-40, but it seems to work better for me. Cloth tool rolls are good. I've noticed that the best place to store tools that you don't want rusted is in a wooden cabinet or chest. My machinist's tools used to live in a nice Gerstner chest until the termites discovered it. Nothing ever rusted, even here in the tropics. When the critters gobbled up the Gerstner, I switched the tools to a Kennedy steel top chest and almost immediately began to notice surface rusting. It is my belief that the reason for this is that the steel chest is much more subject to rapid temperature changes, causing condensation and subsequent rust. When I get the time, I'll make a new machinist's chest out of termite-resistant Virgin Islands mahogany. I saved all the hardware from the Gerstner just for that purpose.

    A rattle can of silicone spray will sometimes help avoid pinning on fine cut files where chalk may load the teeth excessively. For cleaning my fine files, I have a very fine file card that I bought thirty years ago when I was a metalsmithing student. It is holding up fine, and should last me the rest of my life. :-) For stubborn stuff, I use either a piece of hard brass shim stock about .015" thick or a fine pointed steel scribe.

    Of course, to avoid much of the pinning, NEVER drag the file backwards while in contact with the metal. Sometimes, adjusting the angle of the file in relation to the direction of travel can markedly reduce loading and pinning. Think of each tooth on the file as a chisel and you'll picture what is going on.
       vicopper - Friday, 11/12/04 17:09:30 EST

    The best plan I've found for dealing with the need for heating a shop or home is to move to the tropics and avoid the whole issue. (grin)
       vicopper - Friday, 11/12/04 17:10:34 EST

    And if you move to the bone dry South West USA you wont have to worry about rust. I keep a set of nice files wrapped in a cloth roll (old cotton shirt) but I also have a set of "dont care" files for general use in the shop - I havent found a good design for a rack or stand. They are all different sizes and supporting them by their handles is an iffy business. Any suggestions? Thanks
       adam - Friday, 11/12/04 17:27:21 EST

    For my "everyday" files, I have a shelf just below the benchtop. I keep intending to put in some dividers to make a series of little pigeonholes for the files, but I never get around to it.
       vicopper - Friday, 11/12/04 18:16:33 EST

    ADAM I can tell you one thing NOT to do about file storage. I made a storage roll for mine out of denim and I made it far too big thinking I could store all of them in one place. It is clumsy in the extreme. I think that I am going to make two such rolls in the near future and one of them will be a smaller roll for just the few I use the most. I am going to try the WD-40 that I already have with that and see how it works and if it doesn't I will try the LPS-1.
       - J Myers - Friday, 11/12/04 18:41:30 EST

    304L: let me add a small detail to what Guru has already said about "L" grades of stainless steel. Yes, they are lower in carbon than the same grade without the L. This results in less carbon to combine with the chromium to form chromium carbides. This, in turn, means you do not have to worry about loss of corrosion resistance after you forge it.

    Guru: thanks for the info on WD-40 on files. I was told never to oil a file because it holds the filings so I have not used anything and my files show a bit of rust. This weekend they get the WD-40 treatment.
       quenchcrack - Friday, 11/12/04 19:17:44 EST

    I like a chunck of end grain wood to clear pins from the files.
    When I was training in Germany as a goldsmith, Herr Kopf told me to leave the file in contact with the work on both strokes, but to lighten the pressure on the return stroke to clear the pins. I have always done so ever since,and have not noticed any exceptional wear. I do notice that steel clears pretty well, but the sticky extrusion grades of aluminum and soft brass tend to stick more.
       ptree - Friday, 11/12/04 21:35:10 EST


    The trouble with using cloth to separate files in my forge is the d@mn mice! They eat the cloth (or at least shred it for nest material) and then whiz on the files. If you think Liquid Wrench is corrosive, try mouse urine! :P ptoooie!

    These are good Sears Craftsman tool cabinets from about 25 years ago, and they're tight, but the mice get in anyway. Mothballs help to keep them out, but you have to keep two or four fresh ones in the corner of the drawers.

    Black Locust as Fuel:

    We use a lot down here in the tidewater; it's second only to hickory in BTUs. Just treating it like any other hardwood seems to work fine for us.

    Still raining and soggy on the banks of the lower Potomac. No blacksmithing tonight, it's the wif's bingo night! :-)

    Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

    go viking: www.longshipco.org
       Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 11/12/04 21:47:43 EST

    Where is the best place to get hardies with a 1 inch shank. will the hardies in of the farrier type work for blacksmithing at pieh tool company?
       - Bjorn - Friday, 11/12/04 22:39:39 EST

    I have just purchased a new Anvil from an auction and so far so good. Its 110lb with good rebound and excelent ring, there is just one problem the face and horn need to be dressed. The face itself still has some grooved machineing lines and the horn is very rough. What I am wondering is what kind of tool should I use to achieve a nice smooth surface? Would a angle grinder with a plyable grinding disk work? Are there any modles you could recomend? Thanks in advance for any help you can give.
       Michael A. Gora - Saturday, 11/13/04 01:47:49 EST

    Mr. Gora, click on "Home" on this site and that will take you back to the first page; scroll down to "Blacksmithing in the 21st Century"; on that page, scroll down to "Product Reviews" and you will find one on the Russian Anvil you own. YOu should get some ideas from the Review.
       quenchcrack - Saturday, 11/13/04 09:02:24 EST

    ATLI Georgia mice prefer rolls of paper towels to denim. I found a way for a while to control the mice and that was a large blacksnake, but the excitement generated in finding him(or her) everywhere I reached into was too much. I prefer mice. I just destroy nests every time I find one, and they just find new and unusual places to build nests. Its a game we play.
       - J Myers - Saturday, 11/13/04 09:25:40 EST

    Mice: I'm just now trying those electronic pest repellers in my barns. Too soon to tell if they actually work. I sure hope they do.
       Bob H - Saturday, 11/13/04 09:40:10 EST

    I once found a mouse nest of chewed up tissue paper, surrounded by about a cup of dog food........inside the air cleaner box on my car. Another one got inside my AC ducts in the same car and died. Not pleasant.
       quenchcrack - Saturday, 11/13/04 10:59:34 EST

    Guru- How do the Japanese make the temper line (hamon) on a knife blade? What kind of clay can be used and how is it packed on the blade?
       nick - Saturday, 11/13/04 11:55:27 EST

    Nick, To properly answer this question requires a book on the subject. See our Sword Making Resources for references.

    The following is roughly how it is done and may have some errors.

    The clay is a refractory type high in aluminia that is similar to that used to make porceline. It may have aditives to increase strength and stickyness.

    It is applied to the blade as a slurry and allowed to dry.

    Then using a scraper the clay is removed from edge. Normally the clay is scraped off so that it fades into the blade. The line may be straight or wavy depending on the smiths skills and style desired. There was one highly skilled bladesmith that could produce a hammon line of breaking waves.

    The blade is then heated so that the exposed edge reaches hardening temperature and then it is quenched. Afterwards the blade is carefully polished in order to enhance the hammon line which is a boundry where the crystal structure in the steel changes.

       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 12:19:14 EST

    Bjorn, re hardies.
    Best way is to make them.
       Ralph - Saturday, 11/13/04 12:38:38 EST

    Graphite flake added to paint -I have seen that if you mix graphite flake in black paint
    and then burnish it before totally dry it will give more of an appearance of fresh forging. My question is that I see there are numerous sizes to this flake. What size should I be looking for to get through a spray gun?
       Rick Graney - Saturday, 11/13/04 12:48:55 EST

    Hey Again,
    I been reading numerous books on metal smithing and bladesmithing and I have come to a point in one of them where it talks about making an anvil out a peice of railroad track. Now, i know where a peice is i can use but do you think it is better to take advantage of this or buy a brand new anvil?
    Thx, Kevin
       Kevin - Saturday, 11/13/04 12:49:57 EST

    MICE! It is that time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere when these little critters start moving indoors and looking for warm nesting places. They are fond of drawers, tool chests and FORGES.

    Apparently the mice have read the research on Kaowool and know that unless it is specialy prepared for cancer research it is harmless to mice. They love to nest in forges and chew up the Koawool to make a soft nest. This spring I found my NC Whisper baby all chewed up despite the coating of ITC-100 which the mice had gnawed through. At Atli's we found a small crucible furnace nearly destroyed in a month. The mice had crawled in through the open burner port and had reduced about half the lining to fluff. It took almost as long to patch as it had to build in the first place.

    Common chests of drawers are the worst design for keeping things away from mice. The bottoms are open and there is space at the back for mice to climb from drawer to dwawer. Most desks are the same but the better ones are mouse safe IF every drawer is closed tight. That acrid mustyness of old furniture is mouse urine.

    Tool chests are sometimes better. However, most have vent holes in the bottom that were designed to let paint and cleaning fluid to run out during manufacture. Kitchen stoves are also favored by mice as they are often warn and are full of fiberglass insulation which they like as much as Kaowool. We had TWO kitchen stoves ruined by mice carrying cat food into the stove lining and depositing it on top of the oven shell. . . Nothing like the smell of toasing cat food and steaming mouse urine when you heat up the oven! You also start wondering what the cat is good for . ..

    For many years we had pets and children so we trapped the mice. However, this was only partly successful and it seemed that the only time the mice would get caught was in the middle of the night when you were sound asleep. The trapped and dying mouse would rattle the trap around until you were wide awake and could argue about who should get up to toss the mouse out this time. . . . AND the mice often tripped the traps, ate the bait and got away. This meant checking them every day several times. SO, now that the children and pets (and wife) are gone I put out poision bait.

    Poision bait has worked the best. But you need to continously replace it as NEW mice move in from outdoors at a fairly contant rate in the winter. AND ocassionaly you have a smelly dead mouse somewhere under the kitchen cabinettes. . . but at least it is not a live one making a nest out of socks in drawer, stored toilet paper or chewing up your Tupperware to get at the flour.

    If you are a seasonal smith be sure to close up your Kaowool lined forges and furnaces with a brick or something solid and heavy to keep the mice from chewing up the lining.

    A MOUSE STORY. . . Last winter I had forgotten to put out new bait and had a serious mouse infestation before I knew it. So, I got more mouse poision and put it out behind the stove, upstairs and in my shop storage area.

    A few days later I picked up my Levi jacket which had been laying on an easy chair and started to put it on. I noticed some little lumps falling out of the sleeve. It was the bright turquoise blue mouse bait! As I went to put on the other sleeve a big handfull ran out! When I checked the pockets they too were FULL of mouse poision! It was like the movie Mouse Hunt and the mice were after ME!

       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 13:03:32 EST

    Railroad Rail Anvils: Kevin, If a book on smithing recommends a rail road rail anvil without saying WHY it is the second worse thing you can do then you are reading the wrong books.

    1) For general smithing (including most hobby work) you REALLY need an anvil of 100 pounds or better. The heaviest common rail is 140 pounds per YARD. So a foot long piece only weighs about 47 pounds or much less. Notch it for a horn and heel and you have 30 pounds.

    2) The shape of RR-rail makes it VERY springy. Beam and rail shapes are designed to use the least mass to do the job and are quite flexible and springy. An anvil need COMPACT mass UNDER the hammer. Flanges are only supported in the middle. Much work is done on the edge of the anvil and it cannot be done on the unsupported edge of a piece of rail or beam.

    The combination of low weight (probably 20 pounds) and the springy shape make a lousy anvil or an anvil only suitable for VERY light work.

    For efficient working of metal you need as much of the mass as possible directly in line with the blow of the hammer as possible. To do this with RR-rail it is best to turn the piece on end. A piece that comes to the typical anvil height will be about 28" and will weigh about 100 pounds. The working area will only be about 2 x 3 inches unless you weld on some extra (see our iForge article on tools from RR-rail). Although this seems strange this is MUCH better than a only slightly larger area of a 20 pound piece that only has the effectiveness of a 5-10 pound anvil. Meanwhile the bigger piece turned on end has the effictiveness of about a 200 pound anvil.

    The eficiency of an anvil is in its ability to resist the force of the hammer. A NORMAL ratio for hand work is a 2.2 pound (1000 g) hammer and a 110 pound (50 kilo) anvil. This is a 50:1 ratio. For heavy smithing using 3 to 4 pound hammers an anvil of 150 to 200 pounds is recommended. This maintains that 50:1 ratio. SO. . . take a very light 1 pound hammer and a piece of rail with only a 10 pound effective mass under the hammer and you have 1/5th the needed anvil. Reduce your hammer size to 2 ounces (a very small hammer) and you have the right size hammer to go with that RR-rail anvil.

    Common primitive make-do anvils are the head off a heavy sledge set into a log on end. A 20 pound sledge has a crowned face about 3" in dianeter that is very efficient when forging AND the entire mass is under the hammer. It is also hardened steel.

    A current bladesmithing anvil design is 4" to 6" (100 to 150 mm) diameter shafting set on end. Much of the steel in these sizes is SAE 1040 steel which is very tough and can be hardened.

    As someone pointed out here recently, a new smith has enough problems without bad tools. A real anvil is a sophisticated tool that has taken thousnads of years to develop to where they are today. A real anvil is a joy to use. Poor make-do anvils will only increase your frustration.

    For your money you are best off to spend some time searching and saving to a buy a good used REAL anvil. Join your local blacksmithing group, look around, try a REAL anvil, learn about what realy works.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 13:36:59 EST

    Is there a specific reason cold chisles, and others are almost always made out of hex or octagonal shaft? Would round drill rod work as well for making chisles, punches and engraving tools?
       HavokTD - Saturday, 11/13/04 13:43:30 EST

    Burnished Graphite: The end result is the same as using DeRusto Barbeque Black and force drying it. This can be polished with a cloth and has that graphite sheen.

    The problem is that graphite rubs off. In paint terms it "chalks". This means that if you touch it or rub against it you will have black marks on hands of clothes. DeRusto Barbeque Black does not seem to chalk but after drying a year or so it does.

    If you want a raw steel forged look that holds up start with the standard paint preparation (sand blast, zinc prime, neutral prime) and then give it a coal of dark grey metalic lacquer. Then use clear tinted with black and a (VERY) little silver metalic to create shadows and dark areas and flatten the finish. This can be followed with a tinted varnish to rub into the texture to bring it out and produce more contrast.

    You apparently have a spray gun. Fantastic art can be created with one if you take time to learn. Just LOOK at the work produced by street grafiti artists using spray cans! Layering with glazes and tints, metalic overspray or undercoats, shadowing, fades, misting. A full sized spray gun can be used like and air brush if you try. Experiment, practice, it is art.

    I've said this over and over again. Hollywood can make wood and plaster look like metal, why can't smiths make METAL look like metal? Putting a finish on a piece of work is as much part of the art as doing the forging. Failing to do so is quiting when the job is half done.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 13:57:21 EST

    Hex and Octagonal Steel for tools: Havok, This is a VERY old tradition that originates from forging by hand and wanting to create a tool with a firm directional grip but without square corners. I have seen bas reliefs of stone carvers tools from the early Iron Age in Greece that were Octagonal in section. However, unlike modern tools then had a graceful taper to a slightly narrower center. Very beautiful, artfully forged tools from about 800 to 1,000 BC.

    Modern tool steels are often hex shaped to fit into hammer drill chucks. The same hex shape forges well when making chisels and pry bars as the hex naturaly fits the facets of the tool making a clean attractive piece.

    Hex or octogon bar does no roll and thus is more convienient for tools. It can be firmly gripped with pliers or tongs when it cannot be held by hand.

    So you have practicality, millinia of tradition and the availability of steels suitable for the purpose in hex bar due to those reasons.

    Octogon bar is pretty much a thing of the past. Round drill rod is fine for making many tools but it is also usualy too high a carbon for many applications that hex is traditionaly used for. Hex is commonly found in alloys like SAE 5160.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 14:12:29 EST

    Ahh... ok, thanks. :-)

    Answers to those wierd questions that occur to you after 2 pots of coffee. Not too bad for a buck a week, eh? Join CSI NOW!
       HavokTD - Saturday, 11/13/04 14:19:46 EST

    Hardies: Bjorn, As Ralph pointed out if you want them to fit it is best to make them. However, the commercial ones work just fine. Note however that hardy holes are often not quite what they seem. They are rarely an exact size. They are rarely square and they are rarely straight.

    The result is that hardies are almost never interchangable between anvils and that to have one FIT you must do so yourself. ALWAYS expect to at the least need to take a grinder to a hardy shank to fit it, even if you purchased the anvil and hardy from the same supplier.

    Some folks like hardies to fit very snug and make them such that they fit only one way into the out of square hardie hole. I prefer mine to easily drop in at any direction that I want at the moment and to be easy to get in and out. The problem with hardies that fit only one direction is that invariably someone will put it in the wrong way and have it get stuck in the anvil.

    Although you can use most hardies any way you like there are several basic types. The heavy cold work hardy, the thinner hot work hardy and the curved edge farriers shoe end triming hardy.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 14:34:24 EST

    Hardies and Hex bar: Grant Sarver, the mad genious that he is, had always wanted a hardie hole that would accept the big hex shanks of pavement breaker bits (1-1/4" I think). When he built the WC-JYH he built an "anvil" into the machine with a hardy hole just this size and shape.

    Now. . the great advantages of this is that you can get thousands of discarded hex shanked bits for FREE, AND they are good tool steel AND have a shoulder on them. All it takes is a few minutes with a torch and a grinder or a little forging to make a nice hardy, and a bickern, and a bending fork, and. . . well, what ever anvil tooling you want.

    Yep, the traditional hole is square. But that hex sure would make tooling inexpensive and easy to make! The 120° corners on the hex is also less stressful on the anvil and provides 6 working angles instead of 4.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 15:03:17 EST

    Just out of curiosity What would stop a guy from die grinding/ filing out 2 sides of the hardie hole to make it a hex? a square hardie should still fit in it too...
       HavokTD - Saturday, 11/13/04 17:20:34 EST

    The hard tool steel of the anvil.
    The fact that most anvils are too small and don't have the space for a 1-1/4" hardie hole.
    The flats on a square are much closer together that those of a hex. BUT, grooves on two flats would do it if you started with a big enough hardie hole.
       - guru - Saturday, 11/13/04 17:27:00 EST

    Of course, instead of grinding the whole thing out to a hex shape, you could simply grind grooves in two sides of the box, so a 1" hardy hole would fit 1" hex and 1" square. Just an idea.
       T. Gold - Saturday, 11/13/04 19:50:34 EST

    To Frank Turley – Lining a Forge:

    Frank, thanks for the answer last week on lining a forge. I went ahead with the Buffalo and it turned out well. I thought I’d share my process, which is based on something I learned years ago when I used to help my grandpa build houses. In addition to carpentry, he did some rock work and one thing we would do occasionally is reline fireplaces. On horizontal areas, he would make up a mix, apply it dry and level, then spray water on top. This would rock up in a day or so without cracking. The mix I used (based on his recipe) was 3 parts mortar, 3 parts clean sand, 1 part fireclay and 1 part dry lime. I mixed it, poured in the hearth to a depth that was flush to the top of the firepot and raked it smooth, then sprayed only enough water on it until the surface was wet. I let sit two days before making a fire and it had hardened nicely with no visible cracks anywhere. I think the minimal amount of water helps eliminate the cracking. This might help someone else who is considering doing this.
       - HWooldridge - Saturday, 11/13/04 19:57:24 EST

    Hardie Holes:

    Personally, I would be just as happy if my anvil didn't have a hardie hole at all. Just a nice little depression where the hardie hole would have been, that I could use for straightening stock, dishing, etc. I have the room for three or four anvils, so there is no reason I can't have a holder and stand just for hardies.

    I like Grant's use of those big hex shank breaker bits. If I could get a dozen or two, I'd build a holder just for them, and adapt every bottom tool I have to a hex shank. Being able to turn them in 60º increments would be handy as a pocket on a shirt, I would think.
       vicopper - Saturday, 11/13/04 20:09:59 EST

    I use blacksnakes for the mice all through the spring and summer and into autumn, but they're off their stride when it gets colder, so I guess it's time for the mouse bait again.

    Opened up the forge this morning. Apparently a cotton sock, hung on the door for rag-stock, had fallen to the floor when I left Thursday night. The little beggars had gnawed away a third of it already! Not a good sign.

    Cold and getting colder on the banks of the lower Potomac.

    Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

    Go viking: www.longshipco.org
       Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 11/13/04 23:09:40 EST

    One other tidbit on hardening to produce a hamon---you need to use a shallow hardening steel otherwise you won't get a hamon. Most knife steels will *not* produce a hamon or you have to get the heat trat so far off that you are not getting the best out of the steel. This is one of those questions that if you have to ask you're not ready to do it...

       Thomas P - Sunday, 11/14/04 00:08:29 EST

       judy spears - Sunday, 11/14/04 00:11:53 EST

    On mice,
    I opened up the top of my drill press to adjust the belts only to find it was FULL of shreaded toilet tissue used as a nest. Drawers in a desk are places mice are fond of staying in. I have noticed that they seem to be fond of pink fiberglass insulation also as they have torn up quite a bit in the walls of the shop. We poison them in the house , a mix of peanut butter and decon seems to work best but as for in the shop I just put up with them it would be an endless battle.
       Harley - Sunday, 11/14/04 06:54:44 EST

    I used to find a mouse nest IN THE FIREPOT of my forge every morning one winter, I think because it was the warmest place in the shop. I'd fire up the forge, work most of the day, and do a partial cleanout of the pot. The next morning, there would be a string-and-leaf mouse nest in the center with some coke pulled over the top. I'd fish it out with the poker and lay it to one side (often producing an indignant mouse), scoop out the pot, and use the nest as tinder for the new fire. This went on for a month before they decided to make a new nest in the blower ductwork. I was otherwise employed during that period, and came back to find they had a litter of little ones. I shook the whole thing out into a pile of coke in the portable forge, where they lived happily for the next few weeks, by which time the rat snakes were getting active again, which neatly solved the problem.

    Judy: No, probably not, unless they were violating OSHA rules something fierce.
       Alan-L - Sunday, 11/14/04 08:38:13 EST

    Asbestos again: Forgot to add, as long as it was in the last 11 years. If it was twenty or more years ago, it's possible. Still not very likely, but without knowing your exact work habits, setup, composition of the walls, and so on, the only way to find out is to ask a doctor, and I can't help you there!
       Alan-L - Sunday, 11/14/04 08:41:57 EST

    Welding all by it self does not involve asbestos. Sometimes, welding blanket for fire prevention, post weld heat treatment insulation, and slow cooling tubs were asbestos containing.
    Asbestos is only really a hazard when inhaled, in very small size fibers. These fibers generally come from asbestos containing materials that are friable. Friable means that the material is crumbly. You can also generate the tiny fibers by grinding, sanding, drilling or otherwise abrading the asbestos containing materials. If I remember correctly the fibers that are dangerous are those that are in the 1 by 4 micron range. An average human, in good light, with decent contrast can see things that are about 40 microns. In other woords the asbestos fibers that are dangerous are too small to see. They also will float in the air for days as they are so small and are rather well suited in shape to float on air currents.

    Smoking removes the lungs natural defenses, and increases the risks from asbestos by many, many times.

    Remember that asbestos is in thousands of products, although it is not used in very many currently made products. Composition floor tile, especially 9" x 9" size is likley to have asbestos, as is the mastic holding it down.Roofing products, made before the scare usually had asbestos. The old transite sideing applied to millions of homes before the aluminum sideing boom is also asbestos containing. Transite is pretty safe, if it is sound, painting the surface on a regular basis is all that is required to maintain it safely. If you think you may suffer from asbestos exposure, a doctors visit with a lung X-ray will most likely be required to verify the exsistance
       ptree - Sunday, 11/14/04 09:36:08 EST

    How do you determine the age of a vulcan anvil ?
       mike - Sunday, 11/14/04 10:19:15 EST

    Hi, I am just starting to get into blacksmithing and could sure use some answers.
    I am trying to decide between buying a coal forge or a gas forge. This may sound stupid, but it doesn't seem that the gas forges can be used for anything but long stock. What happens when you want to put a bend in the stock and then reheat it. You wouldn't be able to get it in the two end holes again. I know this sounds stupid, but I have never seen one of these forges in person, so I don't know if they have the capacity to do this. Also, do you need a hood and chiminey for a gas forge?
    Next question: I have seen coal forges and coke pots, what is the difference. Don't you make the coke from coal?
    If you are working indoors, which has a bigger health risk, coal or gas (notice I said bigger as anything we enjoy has some sort of risk factor and I know there is one with blacksmithing)
    I was looking at the Whisper Daddy II gas forge or a set up using the Centaur portable forge. Any recommendations would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
       - DB - Sunday, 11/14/04 10:38:03 EST

    DB: If you can get good blacksmithing coal and you are allowed to burn it in your area then this is the best choice. A coal forge is the most versatile option and IMO the most fun by far! Coke is coal with the volatiles driven off. A coal fire is set up so that the coal is converted to coke as it moves inward to the center. The actual forging part of the fire is coke. If you can find a source for suitable coke then this may be the best option of all - though I hear tell that coke is a bit trickier to manage. I've never used it myself. In any case you will need to learn some fire management skills. Jack Andrews book "New Edge of Anvil" has an excellent chapter on fire management. Expect to spend a few days just learning how to run a fire. There is a lot to coal fires and it can take years to learn all the subtleties. Best of all would be to visit a smiths's shop and see how it is really done. Hook up with your local ABANA chapter and attend a few meets. If you manage the fire properly and have apprppriate venting then you wont inhale much smoke. A coal fire will tend to make you and your whole shop dirty - some consider this a plus not a minus :). If you scratch your ear or pick your nose while waiting for the work to heat, everyone will be able to see that you have done this.

    Gas forges are neat and clean. All gas forges use an enclosed chamber of refractory to hold the fire and, as you pointed out, are less versatile. There are many different designs of gas forges, a popular model, and the simplest to build, are the little tube forges like Ron Reils Mini Forge. Suppose you have a tube forge with a 5" dia chamber and you want to make a scrolled piece that is to be 8" in dia? First forge the piece as a straight length - the forge has openings at both ends so that long work can poke through. At this stage you do all the high temp stuff like heavy drawing or welding on decorative elements and finis the bar to the point where it is ready to be scrolled. Bending is usually done a moderate, orange and red heats. One option is a torch, an invaluable tool in a smith's shop especially as an adjucnt to a gas forge. The other option is lay the work sideways across the mouth of the forge with a fire brick or two stacked up in front of the forege mouth so as to reflect back the heat ( the bar lies between the mouth of the forge and the firebrick). I have even done welds this way although this is best suited for work that needs moderate heats. You can extend this idea to make all sorts of little temporary chambers at the mouth of the forge. So small gas forges are in fact a lot more versatile than you might think. Also gas forges are cheap and easy to make and many smiths have several. There is some fire management skill to be learned with gas forges too but theres a lot less to it than with coal IMO. Improperly burning gas forges can produce carbon monoxide - get a CO detector. Also, if you are careless with the propane and have a leak, pools of propane gas can form (it's heavier than air) wand lie in wait to ambush you. Yep you get blowed up!
       adam - Sunday, 11/14/04 12:08:35 EST

    Quick question about anvils:

    I just picked up an old anvil from a friend of mine, a 165 pounder, and it has the numbers "1 8 0" on the base between the feet. Does anyone know what these numbers might mean, if there's some standard for labeling that might apply here?

       - Kazrian - Sunday, 11/14/04 12:16:21 EST


    Reference gas forges. I had the NC Whisper Daddy and it was great. Yes, you are somewhat limited by the space of the fire box but I found that you can get a pretty good sized scroll in there. When it came time to replace it I opted to downsize to the Whisper Momma. Although it is more efficient, in this case bigger is better. If you can afford the Daddy, my recommendation is to go with it. Your mileage may vary. :-)
       Brian C - Sunday, 11/14/04 12:37:12 EST

    I have both a gas forge and several coal forges. I have both a portable and a shop coal forge. Both are far more versatile than the gas forge. Very easy to control where the heated area is, and less scaleing. I do have access to very good coal cheap.
    That said, I use my gas forge probably 10 times as much as the coal. Its much cleaner, and I spend much more time forgeing versus working on the fire. I do have an ABANA pipe type forge, and it has a nicely sized chamber.
    Today I noticed that after rebuilding with new Kaowool, and coating with ITC-100, I can now achieve welding heat in the gas forge!
    In my opinion both are very nice to have.
       ptree - Sunday, 11/14/04 13:28:58 EST

    Welding and Health: Judy, First See Ptree's excelelent post on the subject above.

    You didn't say if YOU were one of the welders. There are far more hazzards to welding than asbestoes. Most welders exposed to asbestoes would have worked in construction of ships or boilers that had asbestoes insulated pipes, boiler shells and stacks. Since they no longer use asbestoes for this purpose it would have to have been in the repair of an old installation.

    Hazzards to welders include the breathing of the smoke from the rods. The smoke is created by the burning of cellulose in the rods and is needed to protect the weld and help maintain the arc. In general the smoke is non-toxic but breathing ANY smoke of any type for many years is not good for you. The smoke and fumes from welding can also include manganese which is thought to be linked to various diseases. Then there is the problem of welding metal containing or coated with toxic heavy metals such as cadnium and lead.

    As mentioned above exposure to these hazzards can vary greatly even when they exist. Welder position or posture and area ventilation are the greatest variables. OSHA requires point exhust systems (fan with a hose) for most welding but I have never seen one in use except for one I setup for a job with a fellow working in a confined space.

    Also noted was that if you are a smoker then you have done far more damage to yourself than a life time of welding. The combination makes things much worse.

    A few years ago I received a sad letter from the wife of a fellow that had his own welding business. He was suffering from liver and other organ failure and was looking for the cause and hopefully a cure. It turned out that this "professional" had no clue about the hazzards of welding cadnium galvanizing or proper ventilation for general welding. Heavy metal poisioning is cumulative and there is no cure. The welder and his wife took my suspicions to their doctor and tests were done for heavy metal poisioning (after years of trial and error treatment). The fellow had high levels of several heavy metals. . .

    Education is your most powerful tool as well as defense against the hazzards of life.
       - guru - Sunday, 11/14/04 14:13:56 EST

    Forge Health Hazzards: DB, If your shop is setup properly there should no difference in health hazzards from coal OR gas forges. However, I have yet to see a smoke free shop with a coal forge. I am sure they exist but I have not seen one. THEN. . on the other hand I have seen many unvented gas forges in shops. This means that the users are breathing increased levels of CO and other fumes that are transparent, but they ARE there. On the other hand, coal forges generate MUCH higher levels of CO than coal forges.

    Gas vs. Coal: As pointed out by others, there are advantages to both forges. Gas is fast, clean and convienient. For the few jobs where a piece would not fit into the gas forge I have found a torch to easily fill the gap.

    Although there are no commercial models yet there are designs for "clamshell" forges that accept a wide variety of work. The top of the forge is a counterbalanced cover that can be raised to move work in and out of the forge. Michael Porter's book on Gas Burners has designs for forges of this type. However, building a gas forge is NOT for everyone and some types can easily be more expensive than commerical forges.

    Coal and Charcoal Forges vary greatly in design. For general work the modern bottom blast commercial firepot is best. However, I am very intrigued by the oriental trough forge which consists of two parallel walls and a side blast. The fire depth can vary greatly and very odd shaped and long work fits the forge quite nicely. The next solid fuel forge I build will be one of these.

    There are MANY options in this field and what works best for one peson may not be right for another. However, if you investigate enough blacksmith shops you will find that they have multiple forges with different characteristics for different work. These same shops will have multiple grinders and often multiple power hammers for the sma reasons. Equipment is cheap compared to labor in our society and the most efficient equipment rapidly pay.
       - guru - Sunday, 11/14/04 14:46:59 EST

    Anvil Weight: Kazrian, Those should be 1.2.0 which is 168 pounds in English hundred weights if the weight you gave of the of the anvil is correct.

    This is 112# + 2 x 28# + 0# = 168. The second number being quarter hundredweights is never over 3 so it has to be a 3 or a 2 in this case. If it was a three the anvil would weigh 196 pounds.

    The last place is even pounds and should never need to be over 27 and is most often a single digit. I think the goal was to make anvils in quarter hundred weight increments and thus the last number just covered the extra of the face weight.
       - guru - Sunday, 11/14/04 15:28:45 EST

    Gas Forges - PS: Another simple trick with gas forges that is often overlooked is to keep a supply of soft and hard firebrick handy. In just a few minutes you can stack them to form a custom burn chamber using the soft bricks for the inner layer. Just insert the burner from your forge and go.

    I think the biggest *real* limitation of gas forges is that you cant get a short hot heat in the middle of a bar. They get too much of the work too hot. The other thing, as ptree mentioned is that its hard to control scale at high temps - I think this is the reason why I notice people working the iron too cold when using a gasser - they are trying to avoid scale. IMO you can control the scale in a gasser but its tricky.
       adam - Sunday, 11/14/04 16:45:47 EST

    Short heats can be made in a gas forge like the one the Blacksmiths Journal sells.

    As I said, multiple forges for various applications. this may seem wastefull but it is what is required to have efficient fuel use with gas forges. Although I like the commercial forges, knowing how to build your own is how you get that flexibility. I modern blacksmithing it is sort of like the Jedi knight learning to make his own light sabre as part of the process of becoming the most you can be.
       - guru - Sunday, 11/14/04 18:20:54 EST

    Rodents-- Asked an old timer once how he handled the pinon rats and mice in his many outbuildings. He shrugged and said you can't do anything about them. So I gave up trying, too. HOWEVER: note that the little darlings, as can squirrels and chimpunks and dogs and cats, carry fleas-- which can carry plague bacteria. Yup, the very same Yersinia pestis bacteria that decimated Europe as The Black Plague. They also can carry hanta virus. Both start out with flu-like symptoms. One poor little girl I know of, who picked up a hot flea off the cutest ittle chipmunk oo ever did see, died after the docs thought that's what she had and tried to treat it with penicillin instead of the right antibiotic, tetracyclin. So if you do insist on cleaning up their messes, their endless barf and droppings and nests, wear a mask, spray the area with plenty of Clorox first. Oh, and one other thing-- keep your life insurance up to date.
       Juan leGubrious - Sunday, 11/14/04 18:56:43 EST

    My answer to mice in the shop is to leave a door open once in a while and the family cats do the job. I have very little mouse problems, as I also keep the grass short around the shop, and the cats hunt the area on a regular basis. As I don't let them in too often, I don't have issues with cat spraying that I notice. I'm not a cat guy, but the wife and kids are, and i put up with them to keep the rodents in check.
       ptree - Sunday, 11/14/04 19:30:28 EST

    I am a handyman by trade, and I have been asked to do a job with a moderately rusted wrought iron fence. I have never done a job like this before. The job is to get the rust off about 85 feet of fence, undercoat it and then paint it. Is rust doctor a useful product for this task or should I sand blast/pressure wash it, and paint it by hand. Thank you for any informatio.
       Jeff Calloway - Sunday, 11/14/04 19:44:04 EST

    Jeff, It depends on the fence and how old it is. Preservationists do not recommend grit blasting because it removes any tight scale. So if the fence is in an historical district you need to check. Otherwise. .

    I always reccomend grit blasting, priming with zinc powder paint (cold galvanizing) then a neutral primer such as Dupont red oxide or dark grey high speed primer. Then a top coat of good outdoor enamel (unless the finish is to be something other than a single color).

    Note that zinc powder cold galvanizing looks EXACTLY the same color and texture of freshly sandblasted steel. When applying it you need to pay attention to where you have already painted. I prefer to apply primers by spraying to prevent runs and heavy build up in corners. But I prefer putting the top coat on with a brush to be sure paint is worked into those hard to get to spots that are easy to miss with spray.

    I have seen very old wrought fences that the iron had dissapeared under the paint. Check carefully or you may be getting into more of a job than you expected. Clients do not understand why pieces dissapeared from the sand blasting. . .
       - guru - Sunday, 11/14/04 20:22:32 EST

    I don't seem to get mice in my shop, I ge rats. Big, ugly brown Norway suckers the size of small cats. My answer? Pellet gun. Shovel. Sort of a combination of shooting gallery and "Rat Jai ALai". Barbaric and satisfying. (grin)
       vicopper - Sunday, 11/14/04 20:30:20 EST

    When applying cold galvanizing over sandblasted steel, there is a good chance you'll miss some spots because, as the Guru noted, the color is that of sandblasted steel. What I do is mix in just a dab or artist's alizarin crimson pigment. A miniscule amount goes a LONG way and makes a weird mauve pink that is VERY different from sandblasted steel. Makes it easy to see the holidays and fill them.

    When painting, always try to have differing colors when applying multiple coats, so you can see your coverage. Tinted zinc primer, then red oxide primer, then if you need to sand and re-prime, use grey primer, then topcoat one. For the first topcoat, I sometimes use a similar shade, but different hue, so I can tell when the second coat is fully covered. For instance, if I want to end up with two coats on a job that needs to be dark blue, my first topcoat would be medium blue or purple, then shoot the dark blue over that. That way I can see my coverage more easily and even if I do have a small holiday, it won't show. Old signpainter's trick.

       vicopper - Sunday, 11/14/04 20:38:12 EST

    Heh, I like that Guru....
    Jedi Smithing.........
       Ralph - Sunday, 11/14/04 20:38:39 EST

    Reader's Digest did a piece back in the 1940s saying that for every Norway rat you see, there are two dozen more out of sight. Problem with cats is they revel in knocking stuff off shelves. Speaking of vermin, rodents are not the only shop hazards: beware of black widows and brown recluses. They LOVE to hang out inside gloves, welding helmets.
       Juan leGubrious - Sunday, 11/14/04 21:06:21 EST

    Is there such a thing as a "liquid damascus finish"? I made a 7 flanged mace out of steel- then I wanted to give it an "older" look to it. I was joking with a friend along the lines of "hey, wouldn't it be cool if they made a "liquid damascus finish"? He said there actually was, that it was some sort of acid. Any help on the name/process and made where I can find more info on this? Does it actually exsist? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
       James - Sunday, 11/14/04 23:05:30 EST

    Liquid Damascus: James, Nope, no such thing. Maybe your friend was thinking of gun blue. Then there is hammered metal paint. Ocassionaly you can find it in spray cans for repainting tool chests and such. Also wrinkle paint. I've put new wrinkle paint on OLD tool chests that had no paint. . . made them look like several hundred dollar NEW chests.
       - guru - Monday, 11/15/04 00:25:48 EST

    Rats: We have only had a pair of Norway rats here ONCE. I had bought an old Jeep, brought it home and when I opened the hood they jumped out and scared the heck out of me. . .

    In a week or so we had sub-zero temperatures and they moved into the house. One got trapped or hid in the kitchen trash. I closed the bag and dispached it with a hammer. The other fell in the toilet and could not get out and drowned.

    We were lucky. These characters were bigger than the local grey squirrels and would have been a real problem if they had multiplied. This event just showed how easy it is for unwanted pests to spread from one place to another from an unexpected source.

    Low toxity "rat poison" Many years ago in either Mother Earth News or Organic Gardening I came across this trick. For rats and mice mix 1 part flour with 1 part portland cement and set out. The rodents will eat the mixture despite the cement then it will harden in their intestines as well as dehydrate them making them go to water. This mix is not attractive to dogs, cats or children and will not kill larger animals. The mice and rats will not poison other creatures that eat them.

    It has been years since I used this but I think it worked. I know the mix disappeared in a short while so SOMETHING was eating it. I should probably try it again as the local mice MAY be becoming resistant to the commercial poison bait I have been putting out. Yes, various species of mice and rats have become tolerant to the common poisons used on them. . .
       - guru - Monday, 11/15/04 00:50:21 EST

    Mark G:
    One last thing...if you are gonna be stuck with low gas pressure it would be desirable to go way oversize on your incoming pipe so as to cut down on line friction losses.
    Yours, Gaston
       - Pete F - Monday, 11/15/04 03:10:36 EST

    Hardy, Francis Whitaker forged and ground his hot hardies to what he called "straight side hardies". One side was vertical and the other was slightly tapered going into a 20º to 30º bevel for the cutting edge. This way, you could get a straight cut or a beveled cut on what you are holding. With an included angle hardy, you need to lower or raise your work to control the cutoff angle.
       Frank Turley - Monday, 11/15/04 07:12:50 EST

    James, if you can polish the metal bright, mustard dabbed, not smeared on with your finger will give metal an antique or "poor man's damascus" look. Leave it on a few hours and wash off. If need be, do it again. Neutralize the acid. Wayne Goddard calls it "mustardizing".

    Ron C
       Ron Childers - Monday, 11/15/04 07:22:33 EST

    I think what he was referring to was etching on a fake pattern welded pattern. This can be done with almost any acid or even ferric chloride. The tricky part is apply the resist and then carving the pattern it in. Most of the "fake pattern welded" knives I have seen have used optical resists like are used in screen printing.

    I am not a fan of faking something into what it ain't. If you want a pattern welded mace whay not make one?

    Thomas in the land of the Black Plague and Hanta Virus!
       Thomas P - Monday, 11/15/04 10:56:15 EST

    Mustard on bright steel gives a nice antique look, but doesn't resemble pattern welded steel at all.
       Alan-L - Monday, 11/15/04 11:37:42 EST

    I'm building a bookcase that will have glass shelves. The shelf side is 12.75" deep and 26" wide. It is supported by two .25" x .375" (aprox) pins on either side of the 26" width. The shelf material will be .25" tempered glass. Should the glass shelves not prove to be strong enough to support the books, what thickness / grade stainless would be good to use to replace my tiny bits of glass? I don't want the shelves to bend noticeably under load.
    I know that bending at least a small tab down on the back of the shelf will help quite a bit with the resistance to bending. What is the smallest size lip a standard brake can grab on to and bend? I don't think I'd really want it to hang down more than .5"
       David - Monday, 11/15/04 11:38:00 EST

    Glass Shelves: David, a lot depends on the load you apply. A row of encylopedias or a couple heavy display pieces will probably cause spalls at the pins (due to the concentrated load) and the shelves may collapse. A rabit in the side boards or a support strip will greatly increase the load bearing capacity of the glass. It is also important to have the edges of the glass ground and polished.

    Standard Brake: There is really no such thing. They come in all sizes and capacities. There are also lever and press brakes. A press brake can make very heavy bends.

    For practicality I would just look at common steel shelves. These are usualy 18 or 20 ga steel and have 1" edges WITH a 1/4" bend at the bottom edge to stiffen the supporting edge and prevent it from buckling. You can do with less by going to heavier plate such as 14 or 16 ga and using that 1/2" edge you want. These are just guesses NOT a specific engineering recomendation.

    For safety and practicality shelves should be made so that an adult can climb on them and not have them collapse. You can also limit the loading by making them shallower. The depth you are working will accept those encylopedias I mentioned. . .
       - guru - Monday, 11/15/04 12:02:01 EST

    Glass vs. Steel shelves & load.

    The 1st bookcase unit has 3 26" wide shelves (side by side) It's about 7' tall and has a double thick particle board divider between the top and bottom halves, and the bottom is double thick particle board supported by 2x4's. The plan is to put the heaviest items on the lower most shelf as there is very little actual span left.

    I'll agree that the unit should be strong enough to climb on, but I resolved that neither of the occupents of the house "would" use a glass shelf instead of a stool. As I can streach my arm and touch the rather low ceiling, I'm not qutie sure where I'd be climbing anyway:)

    I'll hunt around and see if I can locate some 14/16 gauge shelves in my magic sizes. I did a fairly extensive search on trying to find glass shelves, but in the end, they will be custom ordered. I wanted the extra depth (the unit is actually 14" deep) so that large volumes will fit. There will aslo be glass window style doors on the top and bottom of the cabinet (the lower section frosted). Hopefully the doors will deter climbing, and given my spouses fear of hights I should be safe.

    Think it's time to join CSI.
       David - Monday, 11/15/04 12:30:01 EST

    I have an older portable forge, the kind with a rack and pinion blower attached. I was told that I should line it with clay or refractory otherwise I was sure to crack it especially since I will be using it outside. Is this true? Can I use the fire mortar sold in tubes at fireplace shops? They are good for 2000degrees. Thanks, Vince
       RESTOREMAN - Monday, 11/15/04 12:37:35 EST

    RESTOREMAN, Scroll up a ways to Saturday, 19:57 Eastern Standard Time. HWooldridge has a lining formula for you.
       Frank Turley - Monday, 11/15/04 13:26:48 EST

    David, particle board? Hmmmm. How thick is double thick? I wouldn't trust 1.5" particle board on a 26" span not to bow under its own weight after a year. The 2x4s will help quite a bit, good thinking.

    Vince: Is the forge pan cast iron or pressed steel? I used a cast iron pan forge for years without a lining at it worked fine. The main thing to remember is not to pour water on a hot forge.

    Clay linings were intended for thin stamped steel forges to keep them from burning out. Unless your forge is one of those that has the words "clay before using" cast or stamped into it, I would use it as-is. A refractory liner on an outside forge, especially one that burns coal, is just asking for severe rust problems due to trapped moisture that's acidic from the coal ash.
       Alan-L - Monday, 11/15/04 13:29:16 EST

    Looking for a Stainless Cutting Shop

    I've checked the yellow pages and web, but not having any luck finding soemone who will quote this small order... does anyone here know of someone, or want to take on this task?

    I've got a simple pattern [curved outline about 10 inches wide, 8 inches long, 2 circular holes] that I would like cut from 20 or 18 gauge stainless sheet with a high polish and relatively smooth edges. I need 50 blanks cut, which is too small an order for the bigger vendors I've contacted. These are NOT pieces for armor [functional or "decorative"], and will not be subjected to any more stresses than hanging from a string, so there should be no liability concerns.

    This is a one time order, and I don't have the equipment to do this myself, at least not efficiently. I'm hoping someone here knows a shop that might want to quote this, or maybe has access to the tools to make these peices efficiently. I'm looking to pay cash for this, not get set up to make them myself, as its far from my immediate interests and my wife says I have too many hobies as it is. :) If you're interested, or have a lead on someone who might be, please send me an email.


    Cloudy and cold in Ohio.
       MikeM-OH - Monday, 11/15/04 15:13:47 EST

    Hi folks
    Has anyone out there got tennis elbow from forging?If so how do I cope with that?Is there something I can wear on my elbow to help?
       Chris Makin - Monday, 11/15/04 15:52:43 EST


    Frequently tennis elbow is caused by holding the hammer too tight, or not holding it correctly. (thumb on top of the hammer is almost instant trouble)

    Go to the iForge section, read the #6 demonstration and see if there is an answer there for you.
       Paw Paw - Monday, 11/15/04 16:30:58 EST


    Tennis elbow (tendonitis) is caused by subjecting your body to stresses it is not able to cope with. The pain is your body's way of telling that you're doing something wrong. You should heed that warning before you do permanent damage.

    There are several things that can cause tendonitis, such as bad work position, excessive load, stress conditions, and injury.

    Is your anvil at the right height for YOU? If it si too high, you may wind up holding your arm in a position that stresses the tendons. If it is too low, you may wind up over extending your elbow joint. Either situation is bad.

    Probably the most common cause of tendonitis in newer smiths is using too heavy a hammer. About a pound or a pound and a half is good for the first several months unitl you develop the control. Control allows you to hold the hammer without "choking" it in a death grip that stresses your connective tissues. A relaxed grip is important. Working with too heavy a hammer will only cause you to grip it too tightly, trying to control more moving mass than you're capable of at first. The tighter you grip the hammer, the more it transmits shock to your arm.

    Working when tired or worn out is another frequent cause of joint and connective tissue problems. As you fatigue, lactic acid concentrates in your muscles, inducing cramping and spasms. This leads you to compensate by over gripping or shortening your swing. Both increase the stresses on the joints and muscles.

    When you swing a hammer, you should only grip it just tightly enough to direct the blow and maintain control of the hammer. Your grip should be relaxed enough that the hammer can do the work using its own weight/speed and not the force of your arm. Once the hammer head has contacted the work, any further effort from you is wasted and is only countering the tendency of the hammer to want to rebound. You need to affect a relaxed enough grip that the hammer can rebound and you lift it up the rest of the way for the next blow.

    Other factors in your life can contribute to tennis elbow as well. Do you do a lot of typing? Fishing? Driving? Grip things tightly for long periods of time? Play baseball or bowl? All of these are things that can set the stage for the hammering to bring on tendonitis. Anbalyze your habits and see where you can adjust things to solve the problem. Maybe let your wife do the mowing and snow shoveling. (grin)

    There are many "remedies" for tennis elbow, but the only one that truly works is "tincture of time". Let it rest for a few WEEKS until the inflammation has subsided, and then start back up slowly until you are conditioned. You can use those compression bands that are worn just below the elbow, to support the muscles. They will relieve some of the discomfort, but they DON'T stop the damage you're doing by bad habits. The same applies to pain relievers and anti-inflammatories. Rest it to heal it, then learn the proper way to avoid it in the future. Otherwise, it will plague you for the rest of your life.
       vicopper - Monday, 11/15/04 16:31:32 EST

    The one thing Vicopper did not mention regarding hammer technique is KEEP YOUR ELBOW IN CLOSE TO YOUR BODY. I've seen many folks whaling away with their elbows flapping like a scared pigeon. This too will result in tendonitis. I know one bladesmith who teaches his newbies this by tying their elbows together (loosely!) behind their backs if they don't do it right the first day.

    The main reason I think the flapping elbow will hurt you is that it makes you pick up the hammer with your elbow going up and sideways, not a good alignment as far as the joint is concerned. It also tires you faster, causing you to grip harder, which makes it hard to control the hammer, which leads to putting the thumb atop the handle, and we all know what that will get you by now.

    Chris, I know you're not a newbie, so I'm gonna guess you've been working too hard!
       Alan-L - Monday, 11/15/04 17:16:14 EST

    I had a bad bout with tennis elbow. I got a UMBA tape of Uri Hofi, bought his hammer and used his method and the problem cleared up. I dont know whether it was the magic in Hofi's "system" or just a change of habits and paying attention to the right things
       adam - Monday, 11/15/04 17:23:51 EST


    I've had pretty good success with that sort of stiff with our local hutterite colonies. Those guys have NICE shops. CNC laser, etc. Some times their QC isn't so hot but they work for dirt cheap.
       HavokTD - Monday, 11/15/04 17:26:15 EST

    To combat the high steel prices I was thinking of ordering some scrap tool steel off of ebay. I'm used to working with o-1 and 4140. A-2 seems to be the most available on ebay. What would this be good for? Or more accurately, what wouldn't it be good for?
       MikeA - Monday, 11/15/04 17:48:25 EST

    I am looking for an artist to design and make 6 art pcs. out of bronze. They will all be in the Arts & Crafts (Praire) style. Each will be 15" x 20" make of bronze using 1/2" and 3/4" bars. I have not been able to find an artist here in Atlanta that does this kind of work. I would believe the bars would be welded in order to make these designs. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. I have a home with numerous Frank Lloyd Wright features and have a need to create these pcs. Thanks...Joe Schneider
       joe schneider - Monday, 11/15/04 20:26:27 EST

    Mike- Randy Mcdaniels, blacksmith and author, has a laser cutting machine. He does work like this for people, and a laser would do your job quite easily. He is located in Pa, not too far from you- see the review of his book, "A Blacksmithing Primer" on this website- under bookshelf, reviews, for his address, email, etc.
       - Ries - Monday, 11/15/04 20:34:37 EST

    Body and hammering-- I've caught a nasty case of carpal tunnel in my hammer arm, and can't see being layed up for months after an operation. So i have been seeing a spatial dynamics massage dude for a couple sessions. he took one look at my posture, and said i'm using that ropy muscle that goes from my neck to my sholder for most of my power, and it's too small of a muscle group for what i'm doing. He's got me lowering my sholder, and using the latissimus back muscle group for raising the hammer.. i'm not as tired after a full day of smithing, and i'm getting feeling back in my fingers..
       mike-hr - Monday, 11/15/04 20:45:29 EST

    Joe- there are some great metalworkers in Atlanta that can do this. You can ask Corinna Mensoff at Phoenixmetalworks.com . Corinna may not want to do it herself, but she would probably know who could. She is active in the Atlanta metal scene, and knows a lot of people.
    Or you could try Charlie Smith- he can make anything out of metal- his website is howhowhow.com and he has a big shop in Atlanta.
       - Ries - Monday, 11/15/04 20:45:51 EST

    JOE - In the Atlanta area also try Andrew Crawford who will have a shop phone listed on Bowen St. Also try Michael Dillon and Igor Lipko can probably do this work as well, he is listed as Lipko Iron works. I know that the first two can do this work. And Corina as well. There are others.
       - J.Myers - Monday, 11/15/04 21:11:51 EST

    hello all:
    i am just getting started at trying to smith,and have been reading a lot,i am planning on converting an old toolshed into a shop.
    i have a question about the lighting,the book says that the forge work should be done in natural light,but not in direct sunlight,the building that i am goeing to use has no windows at all,"just electric lighting" does anyone do forge work,and heat treating under elect.lights?,and if elect. lights won't do would sky lights on the north side of the roof,"away from direct sunlight" be as good as windows.
    i would realy appriciate a lot of feed on this subject,and especialy on the electric light deal.
    please help me out,"cause i am really needy".
    thanks men:
    norse c
       norse - Monday, 11/15/04 22:13:13 EST

    Hej Norse !
    Does your name indicate Norwegian?

    Electric lights are fine. Just not too bright where hot metal is being worked.
    The thing is, you dont want the lighting too bright where you will need to see the glowing colors of the hot metal.
    Otherwise, other shop areas can be illuminated brighter.

       - Sven - Monday, 11/15/04 22:42:02 EST

    Shop Lighting and Northern Exposure; Norse:

    Yes, all electric lighting in your forge would work just fine, as long as you keep it consistent between forging operations. I have a standard set of lights that I use when forging, and others for finer work of other operations. A consistent light level enables you to judge color, and consequently temperature, with better judgement. It doesn’t have to be dim, just a good working light level where you can see what you’re doing with good accuracy. Direct sunlight can wash the color out completely, and change a good orange into an apparent "hot black".

    Windows provide both light and ventilation; so if you have adequate ventilation, you should be okay.

    I would not recommend a skylight on the north side of the roof, due both to leakage and the angle of the sun which will (depending on latitude) tend to crank around to the northwest in the summer. A north-facing window under an overhang would be ideal, and windows or other openings on the east and west walls can help with cross ventilation if you need it. I would certainly avoid any windows on the south wall. External shutters are also useful for controlling light and for added security.

    Later on, when you get more experienced, you will normally be able to compensate for different light levels, but even then direct sunlight can be very difficult to work in.

    I hope this is useful, and I’m sure others will chime in.

    Lovely weather on the banks of the lower Potomac. Closed on the sale of my parent’s house on the point (sigh!) and celebrated my 55th birthday. Back to work tomorrow.

    Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

    Go viking: www.longshipco.org
       Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 11/15/04 23:02:41 EST

    Chris, I use some aikido wrist twists and bends along with Chinese style chi kung exercises, nothing extreme. They are all of the mild stretch/release type. The raising and lowering of the arms at the beginning of most tai chi forms is not unlike a hammer rise and fall. You try not to use muscle, and you try starting the bodily motion from the ground with feet well planted.
       Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/16/04 00:14:24 EST

    I am looking for someone who can refurbish (prefered), or suggest where I can locate a fresh screw box and screw to a middle period 4” leg vice. The vice works, however close inspection reveals badly worn threads, otherwise, vice is in good condition. More than likely I will strip what’s left of the threads in the box if I do not have it repaired or replaced. I would like to mount the vice on my workbench and use it. With regard to my experience: I am not a blacksmith...more of a heavy duty tinker-er (carpentry, mechanic-ing, metal work, etc.) Typically, I am very hard on things, which is why the leg vice appeals to me. I reside in Rhode Island. Thanks for the assist.

       Bob - Tuesday, 11/16/04 08:22:01 EST

    Howdy to y'all. I'm building a new forge. Its abasically a 3' by 21" box with 2x6s for the bottom and is supported by four 6x6 legs. Now my first question is about lining it. I'm going to use fire brick to line the hearth, but i was wondering if i need to put sheet down on the woon first. If so, what gauge would be about right? I have another question too. I was thinking about making this a side blast forge. I've used one before and i liked it. Are there any major advantages/disadvantages to a side blast versus a firepot?
    Well, thats all for now. Thanks abunch!
       Blueboy - Tuesday, 11/16/04 08:40:36 EST


    Always proofread!
       Blueboy - Tuesday, 11/16/04 08:43:38 EST

    Do any of you have suggestions for rolling or forming mica to a small radius for lighting? We are trying to get a smooth clean bend with no tracking lines. When run warmed through the slip roll we tend to see darkened lines parralel to the axis of the bend. We are going to try again using a thin sancwich of the mica and two .015 sheets of aluminum for support. Do any of you know what the commercial process is for forming mica?
       SGensh - Tuesday, 11/16/04 09:48:10 EST

    hmm ... just a thought but could the lines be from the aluminium?
       adam - Tuesday, 11/16/04 10:32:04 EST

    Mica, Sorry, I've never seen anything on bending it. Since it is a layered mineral (think flat crystals) I would think that shear between layers would be a problem. There is also the problem of minimum radiuses. Are you sure you are not making a bend tighter than is possible for the material? Just a thought.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 10:33:36 EST

    Wood Forge: Blueboy, traditionaly these were lined with clay, soil or earth or most likely a combination of the same. These are not as dense as the fire bricks and thus is better insulation.

    A common mistake in logic is that refractory bricks, because they withstand high temperatures, are good insulation. They are not. The heat conductivity of most materials is related directly to their density and fire bricks are quite dense. Thus they absorb and conduct heat.

    Insulation effectiveness at high temperatures is directly related to time. A short exposure at high temperature does not give a chance for heat to be conducted through the insulation. A long exposure can result in exterior temperaturs nearly as high as interior temperatures less the heat given off on the cool side. SO, something that works for a few minutes or a few hours may not work when operated all day.

    If the bricks get hot enough to burn the wood then a layer of sheet metal will do no good as it will conduct the heat more efficiently than the bricks.

    Sheet metal will help protect wood where it is directly exposed to flame OR radiant heat IF there is an air gap. It also starves the surface of air which reduces the likelyhood of the chared wood starting to burn with a flame.

    A bed of loose clay and sand under the bricks would improve the insulation. I would use an inch or so. A scrap piece of sheet rock would add fire resistance and insulation.

    When I use firebricks for the floor of a large gas forge I support them on edge on bar grating so that the bottom can give off heat and reduce the exterior temperature.

    However, coal forges are different and the fuel actually acts as insulation. That is why you can build a bottom blast coal forge from relatively thin steel.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 11:04:45 EST

    Hello Everybody

    I have a question about hammer handles. I have seen a number of hammers listed on different sites that have fiberglass handles. I thought that fiberglass handles were a poor replacement for wood. Are the new fiberglass handles going to hold up in a shop and what experiences have people had with these handles?

       Aaron - Tuesday, 11/16/04 11:15:19 EST

    Side blast vs. Bottom blast: The difference is largely cultural but is also a difference in the developemnt of the technology. Bottom blast is the result of modern free standing forges and cast iron firpots. Prior to the modern forge the sideblast was the most convienient method of building a brick or earthen forge, expecially when blown with bellows.

    On the other hand, the Spanish used a differnt type of bellows verticaly that could blow downwards OR horizontaly. In some setups they blew down into a pipe or passageway and up into the forge or horizontaly into a deep forge.

    Fire management in a side blown forge is much different than a bottom blast and many believe it is easier to control a bottom blast fire.

    The oriental side blast forge does so between two walls and thus produces a more tightly controled fire. These have the effect of a bottom blast and require less fuel to make a deep intense fire. My next solid fuel forge will be one of these (for simplicity).

    Every forge, charcoal, coal, gas, oil, has their own advantages and disadvantages as well as their own operating characteristics. That said, the modern bottom blast forge with a good heavy properly shaped fire pot is probably the best solid fuel forge design there has been.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 11:25:44 EST

    Vice repair:


    Or you could order a 1" acme threaded rod & nut from McMaster Carr and do some cutting and welding
       adam - Tuesday, 11/16/04 11:48:41 EST

    Fiberglass Handles vs. Wood: Aaron, both have advantages and disadvantages.

    FIRST, there are good fiberglass handles and BAD. The good ones have the same flex and shock reduction as a wood handle. The bad ones are about like a welded on steel pipe handle and are worthless AND can cause various joint problems. My experiance it that there are more bad ones than good ESPECIALY in cheaper lines. I have had both in carpenter's hammers.

    SECOND, the advantages of the fiberglass handle are that they are generally more durable than wood, they do not shrink and get loose, they do not crack. They can be left out in the weather and will not rot or get soaked then loosen. Great tools for tossing in the back of an open bed truck and not worring about. .

    THIRD, the disadvantages of the fiberglass handle are that many are poorly designed as noted (too heavy), they cannot be modified to your personal grip, they are hard to replace and generaly not available as replacements.

    BOTH are subject to knicking of the handle shank on nails or overhangs. Both can be repaired if the knick is not severe but fiberglass handles are less likely to fail due to a knicked shank. I have only knicked a couple hammers in my life but almost ALL my hammers are taped up from others knicking them. . .

    Many smiths go to great lengths to carve their handles to their personal grip. This does two things. It makes the handles springier and reduces shock as well as giving the smith a familar grip. This is impossible with a fiberglass handle. Many smiths also cut handles to a shorter length than standard. This two is impractical with a fiberglass hammer as it exposes the fibers in the end of the handle and may cause the rubber grip to fail.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 11:50:00 EST

    Old Vise Repair: The first thing to know is that blacksmith leg vises came in 5 pound or 1/4" jaw width increments from 30 pounds to 250 pounds. Almost every part of every size vise was a different size. See our Leg Vise FAQ Then you have the differences between manufacturers. Parts are not available for old or new vises and if they were it would probably be cheaper to buy another old vise in good condition.

    In the 1960's and 70's you could get replacement parts for major brand bench vises. However, most of those manufacturers are long gone as are the old blacksmith vise makers.

    So if you want to repair any vise you are going to have to do it yourself or pay a machinist to do so. I can tell you now that you can buy brand new leg vises for less than what a machinist will need to charge to make a new nut and screw for for your vise. I called a couple suppliers of new vises and they said the same.

    Small old leg vises in good condition can be bought for $50 to $125 and new ones run $300 to $600.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 12:50:28 EST

    Mica Again: Adam we have not tried supporting it with the alu sheets yet. I think we are getting some cracking between the layers as the Guru intimated in his post when trying to use the slip roll. Jock, I don't think we are rolling too small a radius at this point. I've seen some Yellin fixtures with Mica shades of only a few inches in diameter. The test pieces we were doing were closer to a foot in diameter.
       SGensh - Tuesday, 11/16/04 13:06:16 EST

    Wood Forges:

    I have built several where the body/sides are plywood and the legs are 2x4's. If I'm using a 12 inch round pot (like Centaur's round horseshoer's style), I'll cut a 16 to 18 inch opening in the wood and then cover it with a piece of 1/4 inch plate that has a hole cut just big enough to let the pot rest on its flange. The large hole in the wood keeps it far enough away that it doesn't char. However, it's wise to put a thin liner of fireclay in the bottom so any stray pieces of hot coke don't get knocked over onto the exposed wood.

    Here's an interesting story about fire bricks and coal forges. My first forge was salvaged from an old torch cutting table that was an angle iron frame and used fire bricks on the surface. I pulled a few of the center bricks, set the firepot flush and added some 1x6 pine side boards to keep the coal from falling out. I used this for several years so a lot of coal dust was generated over time. One night, I shut down as usual by pulling the coke out onto the bricks and letting everything cool off, then I went home. The next day, I went to the shop and noticed a burnt wood smell. I looked all over and finally noticed that all of my pine side boards were burnt through - two were laying on the ground. The coal on top of the bricks was not consumed but there was a thin layer of ash on top of the bricks. I believe the coal dust caught and the cracks between the bricks gave it enough draft to keep burning so the little smoldering fire marched across the table in every direction until it got to the wood and then quietly burned through that. I do not understand why the coarser lump coal on tip did not burn but it was unaffected. Fortunately, there was nothing else in the vicinity that was flammable so the boards charred and finally went out. This just illustrates that a fire needs to be EXTINGUISHED with complete certainty before leaving it.
       - HWooldridge - Tuesday, 11/16/04 13:33:56 EST

    Mischievous Fire: I too have seen coal fire do some strange things. Fires I thought were out that weren't, fires that created enough draft on their own to damage firpots. . . I think it is the general nature of fire to do unexpected or mischievous things. But I also think coal fires are the worst. Consider the places in Pennsylvania and West Virginia where there have been underground coal fires burning for generations. The one along the West Virginia turnpike is out now but I remember it burning for over 20 years.

    Spontanious combustion is also real and is actually agrevated by water like metal fires. One is organic and needs water to live and create heat, the other reacts chemicaly with the water striping out oxygen. As different as they are they react similarly to adding water.

    Dust from innocent sources distributed in air can produce serious explosions. You can demonstrate this easily with a little corn starch, a rubber hose and a source of ignition.

    Being sure fires are out is only part of the job. Its the waiting for fires that may start from scattered sputter balls, grinding swarf or hot scale that is tricky and time consuming.
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 14:03:38 EST

    Under old Irish Law you were responsible for a fire for three days after it was "supposedly" out. If it re-ignited during that time and burnt the building down you were on the hook for the costs.

    I've had the "in a hurry dump the dead coals in a metal bucket and truck down the highway" experience of seeing said metal bucket glowing red in my rear view mirror. Luckily nothing was close enough to catch on fire from it.

       Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/16/04 15:17:07 EST

    Wood Forges:

    I have about 3/4"+ of sand under the fire bricks; and be sure to fill the sand into the cracks of the bricks to avoid repeating Mr. Wooldridges smoldering problems. The weak part of most of these is the bottom-draft fire pot- I use an air gap and aluminum flashing, to keep the wood from charring, as the Guru suggests above. I suspect that a side-draft forge would avoid many of these problems.

    Corn Starch:

    Back when I was very active with model rocketry (NAR 6413) it was the custom to use talcum powder for the plastic parachute to keep it from sticking when the ejection charge blew it out. You might add a little more to creat a "dust-puff" to enhance sighting and tracking the bird.

    Well, one day one of our crew decided that corn starch was really slick, and would make the parachute open even easier...

    Yep; the ejection charge turned into a demolition charge! Instead of a "pop" there was a "foopf!" and the shreds of 'chute and model rocket tumbled to the ground over a wide debris field.

    Hidden Fires:
    Your nose is a good instrument. If you smell something odd, especially of the smokey flavor, don't leave until you figure it out. Sometimes it's the old "mouse nest behind the dishing stump."

    ...and of Mice:

    The term for the little pile of tinder that you use with flint and steel is, of course, a "mouse nest." Small, fuzzy, and easily ignited. I carry tow and char-cloth for demonstrations, but a real mouse nest works really well. (Whether you want it too, or not!)

    A lovely, sunny autumn day on the banks of the Potomac.

    Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

    Go viking: www.longshipco.org
       Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/16/04 15:44:34 EST

    Corn Starch vs. Talcum Powder: A Hollywood props person on a telivision show made this same mistake. She filled the prop fire extinguisher with "baby powder" as instructed. Nobody thought about the fact that there are TWO kinds. She found corstarch.

    When the actor with the "fake" fire extinguisher loaded with compressed air and corn starch blasted the flaming meal in front of another actor, the sitting actor had his eye lashes, eye brows and most of his hair blasted off in an instant! REAL fire extinguishes were brought in instantly to put out the fire. Luckily the actor was not severly burned and had a good time telling the story on the talk shows for a month or so. . .
       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 16:02:39 EST

    Thanks guy for the advise.I'm sure its bad hammering form that has caught up with me.I never really pay attention to that as much as I should.That and lifting weights four times a week and the fact that I still am using that Record brand anvil shaped object.
       Chris Makin - Tuesday, 11/16/04 16:32:11 EST

    I had a bout of BS elbow that was killing me. I finally found that I could forge CP Ti which was dead soft at temp by using a *small* hammer, so small that my elbow didn't notice it and I didn't die of forge withdrawl of which I was suffering mightily.

       Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/16/04 16:41:10 EST

    After work today I came home and did some mowing for the museum and then sat down to relax at the computer and catch up on the boards. While noodling around, I went to Blacksmith's Depot (formerly called Kayne and Son), an advertiser here on Anvilfire. I was impressed as all get out with their logo design and artwork, and checked the credit. None other than Paul Dempsey.

    Paul has an excellent website with terrific graphic work he has done and some excellent music, to boot. Now I have some nice tunes to listen to while I'm on the 'puter.

    Is Paul some of your kin, jock?
       vicopper - Tuesday, 11/16/04 18:19:19 EST

    mice; try those little fabric softener sheets (bounce).seems to be working for the last month or so
       andy w - Tuesday, 11/16/04 18:43:06 EST

    i have a peter wright anvil in need of repair to the hardie hole. what wire would you recommend to build this are up? will be repairing edges as well and grinding surface flat. thanks for any help
       kirt - Tuesday, 11/16/04 18:43:28 EST

    I just have a regular bench mounted vise.
    What is a good height to mount a vise for general blacksmithing? Is there a rule of thumb for mounting them?
       Scott rw - Tuesday, 11/16/04 19:04:30 EST

    Hey, How's it going?

    What are ball bearing hinges (when it comes to forged door hardware)? I heard that you need to use ball bearing hinges when making hinges for heavy doors. Why wont regular rolled hinges work (if this is true)?
       Hayes - Tuesday, 11/16/04 19:40:13 EST

       Hayes - Tuesday, 11/16/04 19:41:37 EST

    Mice Problems:

    I have never had better mousers than my two dachshunds. They can't climb walls but they will root out any mouse in the shop, the hay barn or the house. I often have mice in the base of the power hammer but they will run when I start up. The dogs have learned to lay down a few feet away and watch when I turn on the motor. I also have a couple of good cats but they are inconsistent - sometimes they will let a mouse run right in front of them and do nothing. The dogs don't let anything past.

    I like the Portland cement and corn meal recipe - may try that since I don't like using poisons around the dogs.
       - HWooldridge - Tuesday, 11/16/04 19:45:06 EST

    re: Dachshounds & mice, - brought back memories of a rat terrier my uncle & aunt had on my Grandmother's farm while growing up - he had the run of the farm & was always after rats, mice, etc. Nice friendly little dog, but when it came to vermin he had cahoneys the size of a Great Danes.
       - Gavainh - Tuesday, 11/16/04 22:24:26 EST

    VIc, Yes, Paul is my brother and we built the Kayne's site together. However, he did all the design and is the author of the dynamic system it runs on (XObase). All that music is original and produced by Paul. There is also a collection of work by my late brother Shawn and some friend's jam sessions.

    Paul is a first class graphics artist and has done design work many major corporations. He did work for Coors such as the Zima bottle. At one time almost all Coors print and point of sales stuff you have seen in every convienience store in the world was done by Paul. He is also the designer/webmaster for the famous Grovepark Inn in Asheville NC. He also did the web design for the Western NC Jazz Society. Both their sites run on his XObase system.


       - guru - Tuesday, 11/16/04 23:29:59 EST

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