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 25 - 30, 2004 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Just a short Thanksgiving "thank you" to jock Dempsey for hosting this site, and to all the members of CyberSmiths International for their support through membership. The benefits of this site are too numerous to mention every one, a few come to mind immediately. The camaraderie, the information and the help provided by the several Guru's helpers and many other participants here. This year, I got to meet and spend time with a few of the folks while at QuadStates, and that will remain the highlight of my year, I'm sure. Thank you all.

Thank you to those fine folks who put themselves in harm's way to keep all of us, and our country safe; the military folks, the police, fire and emergency services people who do an often thankless job.
   vicopper - Thursday, 11/25/04 12:42:08 EST

Today is Thanks giving day in America. I'm thankful for guys like Jock Dempsey that makes a great effort to share their knowledge of something I enjoy by maintaining this site. And men like Jim Wilson that has made the freedom to get to use this site possible. Happy Thanksgiving to All
   Jerry - Thursday, 11/25/04 12:43:50 EST

Thomas, There are many ways to start a coal fire. A lot depends on your coal, your forge and your patience. In all cases it helps to start with a clean dry forge. Old ash polutes the fire and makes it hard to start.

I personaly fire up an oxy-acetylene torch to light the coal. If I am out of gas I use one of the following.

If you have good dry high BTU coal you can start the fire with a couple wrists of newspaper with a small amount of fresh coal pilled on top. If the coal is not dry you may need some wood kindling.

Many folks toss in about a 1/2 cup of kerosene on top of some paper and kindling.

The type of forge and blower you have makes a difference. With an electric blower you can start the kindling, tweek the blower to a low blast and let it sit until the fire is goiing. With a bellows or hand crank blower you must work every second to get the fire going because lack of air on a cold coal fire is the end, its out.

Properly shaped bottom blast pots are much easier to start a fire in than a flat bottomed forge. Good firepots focus the blast and make a concentrated heat that starts the coal quickly. Flat bottomed forges let the blast and heat spread making it harder to get the coal going.

Note that coal can absorb water. Much coal has natural moisture content but it can be increased by soaking. If you keep a bucket of coal indoors and dry it will often start much easier than the coal piled outdoors in the rain. Coke is even worse because it is highly porus. So keep a bucket of dry coal stored inside for starting fires. The bulk can remain outdooors.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/25/04 12:50:32 EST

Off-line We have had a recurring server problem that had us offline last night. Giving the server folks heck. . .

iForge Demos: They are on hold until I can get some help. It currently takes me over 10-12 hours a day to just keep things going a maintenance level at this time. I am also behind in book reviews and many other things. As always money is the issue. CSI is working on getting us in a possition where we can hire full time office help to take care of the paperwork and run the store. OR to pay me enough that I can drop the store and other work to focus on anvilfire 100%. The best would be both. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 11/25/04 13:25:34 EST

Hello Guru, I want to get started in blacksmithing, but I dont know much about it. All the books that I see are not what I want to do. I want to make knives and swords. If you can give me any info on how to blacksmith, it would be very helpful to me. Thanks Again!
   Tony - Thursday, 11/25/04 14:12:00 EST

Tony, We have several book reviews of bladesmithing books on our Bookshelf page and our Swordmaking FAQ has a long resources page that we are constantly adding to. Our getting started article will point you to the same places.

NOTE: If you plan on making blades of any type you need to study the more technical side of the craft. You need to understand the metalurgy and engineering of a blade. You may start with simple references but the technical (and expensive) books are neccesary tools of the trade.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/25/04 14:34:34 EST


An alternate way is to buy your wife (or significant other) some chocolate.. :)
   djhammerd - Thursday, 11/25/04 18:11:59 EST

hello guru's
first i want to thank you all for the understanding,and advice that you have afforded me on this site,for this i am truely thankful,their is a place reserved in GIMLE,for folks
like you.
i saw,or read somewhere that there is a marker or pencil that you can put on metal inorder to tell the temperature when heat treating metal,could you tell me the name of this product,and where i could get it,i have a hardtime with colors and thought thi might help me.
also i would like to know if it realy works,and any and all oppinions on it.
norse.valhalla bound
   norse,"valhalla bound" - Thursday, 11/25/04 22:59:56 EST

I am trying to calculate the best dimensions for a gas forge using a single 3/4" T-Rex or Reil ventauri burner. The design will be based upon a cylindrical body. Reil's page indicates a 1:300 ratio of burner to volume, but this doesn't make any sense. For example, a forge with an 8" x 12" interior would require 8 to 9 burners using this calculation, i.e. the volume in cu. in. is approx. 2412. Reil's calculation would be to divide this number by either 250 or 300. Any suggestions for finding the most efficient volume to heat with a single burner?

Thanks - hope you all had a great Turkey Day,
   Rob Miller - Thursday, 11/25/04 23:26:05 EST

Rob Miller,
Just my two cents...I'm using that same burner (T-Rex), and made the forge from a 8" X 10" steel tube. After two layers of insulation (1" thick per layer). I end up with a 4" X 10" interior. I close off one side if I need a welding heat. I have also coated the Kaowool with ITC-100. I'm on my 3rd year with this forge.
Hope this helps.
   - Keith - Friday, 11/26/04 01:03:47 EST


The item you are looking for is a Tempilstik™, made by the Tempil Corporatin and sold at welding supplies. To see what they offer go to www.tempil.com. You can get Tempilstiks form Centaur Forge, one of our advertisers here on Anvilfire. Tell them you heard about them here.
   vicopper - Friday, 11/26/04 01:36:26 EST

Rob, think about what you are saying. You give the example "a forge with an 8" x 12" interior". This is an area, not a volume. Also, there are no "best dimensions" for a gas forge; since they are enclosed structures, gas forge dimensions vary according to the use to which they will be put. Ornamental iron forges are large and flat, sword forges are long and narrow, etc. Please rethink and then repost.

Nice cool Thanksgiving Day in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Friday, 11/26/04 02:36:34 EST

So the question remains.......
Why are the most common blacksmithing hammers at sales and swap meets ball peins? What did they do with them all? Spreading hot metal in all directions is not all that universal an application.
May the turkey guilt rest lightly on your brow...it gobbled, then we gobbled ( we are what we eat?)
   - Pete F - Friday, 11/26/04 03:00:46 EST

Just out of curiosity, while we're on the subject of hammers:

Has anyone ever tried putting two piens on the face of a hammer?? This would make it look sort of like a W from the top.
   - HavokTD - Friday, 11/26/04 04:23:16 EST

The volume of your forge, assuming the 8" is the diameter, is:
8"/2 (radius) squared X pi X 12" = 603 cu. in. So you would need, according to Ron's guidelines, 2 burners. You didn't divide the diameter by 2.

   - MarcG - Friday, 11/26/04 07:39:15 EST

One other thing - if you put in a movable back wall, as Ron does in his big forge, the volume to heat is much smaller. I've done the same on mine and find I rarely use the back burner. But I don't do blades, either. Whenever I have something to weld, it's usually a small area.

And I've got a 7" wide forge with an arched top X 18" long. Two burners works for me fine.

   - MarcG - Friday, 11/26/04 07:43:21 EST

Okay -- right. I used an online calculator for volume of a cylinder rather than taking the time to work out the equation myself. I oopsed, because I entered the diameter of the cylinder when I should have entered the radius. How did you accomplish the movable wall? Does your back wall have an aperture for long items? Are there plans available? My present forge uses a piece of 10" ID well casing, 18" long (based upon the simple gas forge plans available on the web). It's a blown forge, and not working efficiently for various reasons. Before I rebuild it, I want another operational unit to use while it's down.

   Rob Miller - Friday, 11/26/04 08:09:01 EST

Can anyone help me with cheisel sharpening methods other than using grinding belt?
What are the most practical, non electric, hand sharpening methods...?
Thank U all, and enjoy Your weekend!!
   Sharon - Friday, 11/26/04 08:14:07 EST

No plans, but you can see the forge, including it's construction, at: http://ironringforge.com/NewForgeSaga/New_Forge_Saga.html

   - MarcG - Friday, 11/26/04 09:09:40 EST

Marc G.

That adjustable forge is a very slick piece of work. And your explanation makes everything you did very understandable. If you are willing, I'd ask Jock to link to the page as a very good FAQ of one way to build a very versatile propane forge.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 11/26/04 09:32:58 EST

Good morning. I am writing a book set in the middle ages. I need to find some reasources on blacksmithing during that time frame. My primary question is how the forges worked back then. I'm familiar (my mom used to work a forge from the late 1800's) with them, but not sure how to stalk the firebox let alone a middle age forge. I hope this makes sense.

Thank you very much for your time,
Lori Libby
   Lori Libby - Friday, 11/26/04 10:08:37 EST


Before I got a complete set of diamond laps, I sharpened most of my gutting tools using silicon carbide (wet-or-dry) sandpaper on a piece of heavy glass plate. The glass plate keeps the sandpaper flat and smooth, if you use a good shot of WD-40 on the back side to stick it down. More WD-40 on the front to float the cutting swarf away.

For chisels and plane irons, it is critical to establish and maintain a perfectly consistent sharpening angle. With practice, you can learn to do this by eye, but it far easier and more practical to use a roller guide. I use a simple one that clamps to the sides of the chisel or plane iron and maintains the angle by the distance the roller is set from the edge of the iron.

Start with medium paper such as 220 grit to even the edge, then change to 320, then 400, then 600 and finally 1200 grit. You'll probably need to go to an outomotive paint supply place to find the 1200 grit. You can even get finer grits, but 1200 is usually fine enough.

It helps to have a 10X jeweler's loupe to examine the edge while you're working. This is so you can see the you have remove all the scratches from one grit before moving to the next finer.

Check out some of the woodworking sites on the 'net for some specific guideline about the proper angles for various cutting edges.
   vicopper - Friday, 11/26/04 10:39:13 EST


That should be "cutting" tools not "gutting" tools. Though, in some cases, the two may be the same, I suppose. Further, deponent sayeth not. (grin)
   vicopper - Friday, 11/26/04 10:41:10 EST

Paw Paw:
Thanks, and link away. I don't think my 15 minutes of fame are used up, yet.


   - MarcG - Friday, 11/26/04 10:44:02 EST

Hammers, again. Pete F. The ball peen is esentially British; English speaking countries sort of inherited it. In the States, it was used by machinists, mechanics, and suchlike, not necessarily for forge work.
HavekTD, Most smiths have enough trouble aiming a single peen. What is your reasoning for a double peen? Between the peens, it seems like you'd get a ridged effect on your work.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/26/04 11:44:25 EST

Forge/Burner ratio: the 250 cu in per burner refers to the EZ burners which are not very efficient. I believe a T Rex burner can heat 500 cu in
   adam - Friday, 11/26/04 12:20:13 EST

Guru- How are bolsters usually attached to a knife? I know some makers spot weld them. Can they be soldered (nickel silver to 440c, for example)?
   Nick - Friday, 11/26/04 12:34:48 EST

On line calculator: You should have used ours (Mass3j)! It uses Diameter as a variable instead of radius because we ALL think of cylinders in terms of diameter.

Ball Piens: As Frank pointed out every machinist and mechanic has one or more in their tool chest. I don't know when they ever use the ball end, I have never seen one with wear. The interesting thing is that the type of straight and cross pien hammers many smiths make from ball piens by flattining the ball to a wedge, used to be a standard pattern available from tool catalogs. Ball pien hammers were also avaiable in a wider ranges of sizes at one time than any other hammer. Somewhere (maybe Bealers's) I learned to use a ball pien to rivet with, thus my collection of ball piens started. I think I have 10 sizes now starting at two ounces (57 g). In the 1950's cheap "faux wrought" was produced with a few taps of the ball end of ball pien. A full coverage overlaping ball pien texture is beautiful but a ton of work. For the modern smith they are very handy under the power hammer or sledge as short handled ball depression tools.
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 13:45:27 EST

Are well used fisher anvils woth buying?
   - Bjorn - Friday, 11/26/04 13:58:11 EST

Bolsters: Nick these are atached two ways. Either by riveting or by silver soldering. When riveting they must be carefully aligned and drilled. Rivets are of the same material as the bolsters, a tight or press fit and upset into holes with slightly oversized ends or small countersinks. They are then filed flush and polished. When finished they should be invisible except under VERY close scrutiny. Heavy brass cylinder type padlocks are assembled the same way and you never saw the rivets.

Many custom knife makers and a few high quality production makers silver solder bolsters and guards. On important advantage of silver soldering is the lack of a crevice for organic materials to seep into and then harbor bacteria. When bolsters are silver soldered on you use thin sheet solder, the parts are stacked, clamped under a little pressure then heated. This is a lot like making mokume' gane' or silver soldering carbide bits on steel shanks.

Properly done there is a very thin almost unnoticable white line. On guards there should be no fillet, just a clean tightly fit joint. If you are buying a custom knife this is one of the first places to inspect. Many makers can polish up a storm hiding many defects but the solder joint is usualy the proof of perfection.
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 13:59:02 EST

Fisher anvils:

Personally, I love mine. The term "well used" leaves some confusion, though. Mine was used well, and looks virtually new. I had to radius the corners of the edges, they were still factory square. Since Fisher faces tend to be a bit on the extra hard side, it is surprising they weren't chipped up.

A "used up" Fisher is no more or less worth buying than any other used up anvil. As long as it has a sound face that can be dressed to useability, it is worth having, if you like Fisher anvils. There is talk of Fisher anvils having the face separate from the body, although I have not seen this. But then, that would be no different than any other anvil with a separated face; it cannot be satisfactoriuly repaired. If you want an anvil with an ear-piecing ring, then get something else, because Fishers are blessedly quiet due to their steel over cast iron construction.
   vicopper - Friday, 11/26/04 14:36:31 EST

Forge Burner Ratio: I believe that Adam has answered the question (250 cu in per EZ burner vs 500 cu for a T Rex)
but here are my comments.

1) We repeatedly have folks give dimensions for an area NOT a volume. Think about the difference before posting a question related to volume.

2) There IS an area to consider and that is the minimum vent size for the forge relative to the burner. I believe the ratio is 7:1 (area to area).

3) For any given burner there is an optimum forge volume. Then there is also a minimum and a maximum. You cannot use any size burner with any size forge OR adjust the forge outside of the operating range of the burner.

4) When buying a commercial product the FIRST person you should ask about specifics is the manufacturer OR the seller if they are knowledgable. Rex Price can tell you exactly what his burners are designed to do and I believe provides technical inofrmation with the burner and on his web site.

5) Also as noted, different burners have different performance levels. You cannot assume that a home made EZ burner with a poorly drilled, burred edged, crooked orrifice will perform anything like a professionaly designed and made product using precision machine tools.

As noted others, "Your milage may very"
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 16:03:01 EST


Thank you for your input.

1) I was clearly referring to volume, hence the use of the term "cu. in." The mistake that was made was the use of the diameter rather than the radius in calculating the volume, which is why I came up with 2412 rather than 603 cu. in. (I used an online calculator for the formula, or it probably wouldn't have happened) Area is given in sq. in., not cubic in., as you know. Please read my original post again, where I state "the volume in cu. in. is approx. 2412. The 8" x 12" dimension is the height and base (diam)of the cylinder. I thought I cleared this up in the second post.

2) Regarding vent size, I presume you are referring to the size of the front opening of the forge, relative to the size of the open end of the burner?

3) Duly noted.

4) I already had sent an inquiry to Mr. Rex regarding this issue. I like, however, to obtain as many perspectives as possible when I am able. I presume this is the correct forum for such enquiries? If not, please advise. All enterprises begin with a question. Successful enterprises begin with many questions.

5) Clearly.

Best regards,
   Rob Miller - Friday, 11/26/04 16:34:30 EST

i need info on grease products for product at tech. college to make up on a pc disc any help out there im doing trade for fitter &machining
   Gerry - Friday, 11/26/04 17:32:33 EST

The comment on area vs volume was not directed to you but we have had a number of these in just the last week. Even the difference between OD and ID of a pipe forge is often left to guess at. The difference can make a 4:1 difference in volume. . . .

Vents, The vent can be the door opening, a vent in the door OR a seperate vent elsewhere in the forge such as the top. Forges that have fully closing doors must have a seperate vent. Note that using the minimum (or optimum) vent usualy makes the forge more efficient and hotter.

We are open to discussion about many issues but when the manufacturer has a recomendation you should always go by the manufacturer's advise. In blacksmithing the problem commonly arises when the manufacturer or their literature no longer exists. In that case we do a LOT of reverse engineering as well as estimating intended design constraints. But it is never wise to second guess the OEM OR get caught in a discussion disagreeing with the OEM. I've had a LOT of folks try to "re-engineer" machinery I have designed and built and it has always come out badly. If they wanted to know all they had to do was ask. . . . It could have saved tens of thousands of dollars to make a 5 minute phone call.

Ocassionaly the manufacturer does not have an answer to an unusual application. I have found most to be reticent about responses simple because THEY ARE responsible for any recommendations they make and people quickly forget the warnings or conditions of the statement. It is a good policy.
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 17:40:21 EST

I need info on grease products for product at tech. college to make up on a pc disc any help out there im doing trade for fitter &machining
   Gerry - Friday, 11/26/04 17:40:53 EST

What is the best way to straighten a recently bent high carbon steel blade belonging to a japanese katana?
   Barry Allen - Friday, 11/26/04 18:21:20 EST

Gerry, Most companies have catalog data available via PDF or on CD-ROM. This often includes engineering data. Try Thomas Register (www.ThomasRegister.com) to start and pick an oil company.
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 18:25:34 EST

Barry, Most straightening is best done with a hand powered screw or hydraulic press. These give you accurately controlled force. A heavy vise can be substituted.

In both cases the part is usualy supported on the sides of two cylinders and pressed down on by a third. The sharper the bend the closer the support cylinders should be. The exact spacing is difficult to quantify and is something usualy done by best judgment and experiance. Straightening is done by eye. If the piece bends opposite the straightening the piece is flipped over and the new bends straightened. Supporting a polished piece on wood or plastic will help prevent damaging the finish.

The above assumes that straighteniing can be done cold without breaking. If not heat will need to be applied and the blade will be ruined that case as well.
   - guru - Friday, 11/26/04 18:58:41 EST

Barry Allen, The Japanese master bladesmith can resort to heating the back of the blade over a hot copper block. Depending on where the curve is, he either hammers or heats and quenches to widen the edge curvature. See page 94, "The Craft of the Japanese Sword". Let us realize that the pictured master in the book is the man who made the sword, and he knows what he is doing.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/26/04 20:19:55 EST

Dear Guru, I am a part time bladesmith. Been making knives about 8 years and forging for 3 now. I am starting to get interested in making other things besides knives and having a ball with it.
One aspect of forging that caught me by suprise was this new addiction to anvils that I seem to have aquired. I started out with a 145 lb unknown circa 18something. I then picked up a 185 lb Hay Budden this summer for 100.00 and thought I was in heaven.
Then yesterday I got this dreadanought that makes the HB look like a parerweight. Me and another guy could just barely lift it. Its three feet long, 5 1/2" wide and 18" tall. I'm guessing around 300 lbs. Really nice shape. Flat top, smooth edges, and many coats of black rustolium. It is shaped like the Hay Budden, or a Trenton, but so far the only mark I've been able to find under all that paint is the word SWEDEN.
I figure that narrows the field a bit. To whit; My question: Are there many swedish anvil makers? And do you have any suggestions that would help me pin down the origen of this beast? I can send you a pic if that would help?
Thanks a bunch,
Ed Wilson, Happycat Cutlery
   Ed Wilson - Saturday, 11/27/04 00:35:13 EST

This isn't exactly a blacksmithing question but I'm hopping that you might point me in the right direction. I have a good design that I am planning to sell in quantity and I would like to copyright it. The information I have read through so far applies to written works or printed materials. I need to cut to the chase and find out how copyrights apply to iron work. Any sources you could point me to would be greatly apreciated.
Thanks much.
   Will - Saturday, 11/27/04 00:59:34 EST

Postman, author of "Anvils in America" mentions at least two Swedish anvils: Kohlswa amd Paragon, the latter made by Söderfors. Both have good reputations. For fun, we call the Kohlswa "coleslaw".
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 11/27/04 01:11:47 EST

Frank: thank you for the paean to the peens.I'll cease punning promptly before there's trouble).
Havek TD:
I have one of the aforementioned swap meet ballpeens that's been modified as you posted. I further softened the flat face and use it as a double liner under the treadle hammer...even have one that does 3 lines, toot , toot. ( not that kinda lines).
Will: Roughly
A copywright covers the design aspect in the artistic sense. A patent covers the device and it's workings.
In either case, if somebody big wants it they will simply copy it and litagate till you run out of time and money.
Maybe it's time for the book, " 100 things to make out of an old ball peen hammer"
   Pete F - Saturday, 11/27/04 02:54:00 EST

Re: Ball peen hammers; I recall being told by my high school shop teacher (which would take us back roughly to the time of the invention of dirt) that the ball peen, pein or pane was used for spreading the ends of rivets. One would then flip the hammer over to refine the shape of said rivet. Anybody else heard that one ?
   3dogs - Saturday, 11/27/04 04:31:55 EST

Thank you very much, You helpwd me alot with the sharpening stuff...
   Sharon - Saturday, 11/27/04 07:05:46 EST

More uses for ball pien hammers.
I modified a ball pien to have an arc face, and use it to apply a "scalle" surface texture to forged dragons and such.

My father ran many storm window and siding crews in the fifties, and he stated that there was no need for a ball pien hammer in the installation of these. He further instructed all his crews to carry one, as the then popular "toy" sized lap dogs would race about snapping at the ankles of the crew. A simple drop the hammer on the dog with profuse apologies would cause the owner to snatch up the dog and hold it for the remainder of the job. The ball pien being much less likley to cut the dog than a claw hammer.
   ptree - Saturday, 11/27/04 09:44:53 EST

Oh are you going to hear from the SPCA. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 11/27/04 13:30:03 EST

Copyright on Ironwork: This is highly problematical.

1) You CAN copyright sculpture. All it requires is the artists last name and the year marked indelibly and visibly (not on the bottom) of the piece.

2) You can get a "design patent" on any manufactured item that covers the exact representation of the item. Most items you see with patent numbers are NOT new inventions they are just this year's model.

The copyright is free the patent can easily cost you $20,000 US. NEVER believe anyone that says less!

BOTH are only as good as are your lawyers and your ability to pay them. On copyright the law says that when published works that are registered ALL the legal fees are paid by the infringer. However, most infringers will not have the ability to pay and thus YOUR lawyer will want to be paid and may refund your money only if the debt is collectable.

The other problem with BOTH are that a copy that is not EXACT may not be infringement. It may be so in spirit but not in law. Sculptures that are produced in molds are most often copied and even scaled up and down. Differences in this case are so few that it is fairly easy to claim infringement.

In ironwork the liklyhood of a copy being so exact that it would fall under infringement of a sculptural copyright would be hard to prove.

My advise to most small inventors is to gear up and manufacture the product BETTER and cheaper than anyone else and flood the market. Mark the product patent applied for. If the product is financially sucessful then you MIGHT want to patent it. But just how many do you have to sell in order to cover the patent fees AND still make a profit?

The reason big manufactures get design patents is that the dies to make the simplest plastic or die cast part start at $250,000 or more. Artist's and designers fees may apply as well as the tool and die people. Once the pieces are in production it is very easy to copy the pattern using the piece itself. Thus the design patent becomes worthwhile.

SO, get out there and MAKE IT. SELL IT. If you get rich then fine. If others copy you all you can do is consider it flattery and wonder why you didn't market the way they are OR so heavily that THEY would not have a market.

   - guru - Saturday, 11/27/04 13:57:08 EST

3dogs, that is about all I use my ball pein for. setting or refining rivit heads.
   Ralph - Saturday, 11/27/04 14:25:32 EST


My only thought on the double piened hammer was the good old "one's good, two's better" principle. Now that I think of it, I doubt it'd move metal well, aside from Pete's mention as a texturing tool.
   - HavokTD - Saturday, 11/27/04 15:04:13 EST

That Poor ol' ball peen. It DOES have a few uses. And Pete F, Thanks for the alliteration. Whoa! Love that word.

I use mine to raise hot, the heel and sides of a fire shovel pan. Hold the shovel pan at an angle on the anvil and hit inside where you want the bend to be. Be gentle; just let the bent area lower to the anvil face or near the anvil face. Straighten any wrinkles on a mushroom stake.

And as the guru mentioned, you can give a faux wrought finish to a piece of work by repeatedly hitting in order to make contiguous marks. This was done on Art & Craft copper hardware, for example. One of Fritz Kühn's books, "Stahl Gestaltung", shows large peen marks carefully placed and done hot on thick steel, a nice effect. Another route to get the same texture would be to use a bob punch.

I use the hemispherical ball for riveting because after you get the rivet started, you can use various angle blows to roughly round up the head, and you avoid hitting the workpiece (if you're careful). With a regular hammer face, you run the risk hitting your work with the edge of the face.

I also use the ball for sinking circular bosses into sheet steel for lock covers, etc. For a backup, I have an old Roger Lorance swage block which has dapping block depressions in it.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 11/27/04 16:28:42 EST

Ironworkers - Your thoughts if you have time.
I was about to buy a new Piranha 50 ton.
I spoke to Scotchman rep who said his 50 ton was better.
Scotchman has smaller 3 to 5 hp motor, punches travel in a straight line up and down, all tooling fits in center of machine under lever arm. round or square rod apear to be sheared in square shaped cutters.
Piranha 10 hp motor, punches travel in a small arc because they travel on end of long arm that moves in an arc motion, all tooling fits on end of arm (arc travel), round or square rod is cut with individual die sets that match size and shape (hence cleaner cuts?), bigger platter surface to mount custom tooling, coper cutter on other end of machine out in open, seems handier.
Piranha $15,500 Cdn 2600 lbs 50 ton
Scotchman $9,500 Cdn 1300 lbs 50 ton
I have looked for used. no good deals to find
I would like to save the money however perhaps you get what you pay for. two main problems with Piranha - bigger motor (I have a rotory phase converter to get 3 phase) other is arm traveling in an arc (perhaps I can overcome this in modifying my tooling ideas).
Scotchman - coper in center of machine (awkward?) lower size limits on shearing plate Both machines are equal at hole punching.
I am starting a business restoring machines, welding, machining, sandblasting, painting etc. trying to end up with versatile machine. Some production orders. (Too many hours on band saw) sorry for long text. It may make your answer easier.
Toronto, Ontario
ps baught an 87 kg anvil made in England at an auction. looked for a long time.
Always asked my uncle to part with one. no luck, he has 50 , 60 ? anvils ( collector )
   - Thomas Alder - Saturday, 11/27/04 17:38:26 EST

I seem to remember an on-line site (I think it was CoSIRA or its successor) where there were endless patterns for weathervanes. I thought I had bookmarked it, but when I went to show it to the wif, I couldn't find it. (She's actually interested!)

{I tried to post the above on Wednesday night, so now I know it wasn't the computer! :-)

Ball Peens:

I normally use the ball peen to neaten up after using the cross peen on the riveting hammer on steel rivets. On brass, copper or bronze I usually just use the ball peen. I also use them for sinking shield bossses and pots, switching to an embossing hammer (much like that hammer found in the Mastermyr find) when the pot gets so deep that the hammer haft is hitting the edges. The embossing hammer is just one big, long, ball peen without a hammer face on the other side. In this form ball peens go WAY back.

Just packed the last of the out-of-house kids off from Thanksgiving; maybe I'll get down to the forge tonight. ("But Daaaad; I've been working in the set shop all week; I'm here to relax!") I'm just thankful that they all could come, and thankful for those who worked through the day for the rest of us to make and keep it so.

Fixin' to rain on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 11/27/04 18:47:49 EST

Re: Paragon anvils: looking at mine with the horn pointing left, there is stamped into the steel, and not terribly deeply, either, in the center of the side of the anvil the following: in a semi circle at top, SOLID STEEL. Then in a box below that, the word PARAGON. Below that SWEDEN. Below that, big, 148 Lb. Under that, 1924, and below that the number 10, big. On the other side, at top, center, the name of the Swedish city Soderfors, and below that SWEDEN again, and under that a syumbol of some sort, seems to be a straight razor, maybe, in the form of a V, blade on the left, edge down, handle to right. Something else is in the center of the V, but obliterated by time. Hope this might help identify the Swedish mystery anvil mentioned here the other night.
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 11/27/04 20:18:09 EST

Thanks for the advice about copy rights. That will definately affect the way that I advertise. It does raise a new question for me though. I have designed a touch mark and will be making it in the near future. I do not think it would be a wise use of my time to settle down and try to make a stamp with my name and the copy right symbol and all of the numbers and such. Where would be the best place for me to buy this sort of punch? How much should I expect to pay?
Thanks again,
   Will - Saturday, 11/27/04 20:31:23 EST


That website you were looking for is now called The Countyside Agency. Try this link:


It's in one of the books they have online.
   vicopper - Saturday, 11/27/04 21:51:33 EST


Actually I use ballpeins alot, I don't use the pein that much except for riveting, and pulling clips on horse shoes. But my normal everyday working hammer is a little 24oz ballpein, before my latest bout of tendonitis my favorite hammer was a 32oz ballpein that I used all the time. I use the ballpeins, because they feel good in my hand, some of this is handle, some is just good balance. I have felt some really bad ballpeins, but I have found considerably more Good ballpeins, than good machinist style crosspeins, especially in smaller weights... I have been tempted by the Haberman style hammer, but I will make one before I cough up for one;-) I would like the benifits of a square or rectangular hammer, but have not found one that I could afford that I actually liked. Most of my tools have been gifts, fleamarket finds, or supercheap. I have not gotten really lucky on a small hand hammer (have gotten larger sledge hammers, and machine tools, but not any really good hand hammers in smaller sizes:-) But I do not have the scrounge gene expressed like Thomas does;-) I am hoping that it is just latent, and I will grow into a first class tool scrounger like Thomas... ;-)
   Fionnbharr - Sunday, 11/28/04 02:10:50 EST


If you look up Title 35 United States Code section 292 (35 U.S.C. § 292), there's a $500 fine for marking a product "patent applied for" if you haven't applied for a patent. I'd imagine other bad things could happen too, depending on the circumstances.

   Mike B - Sunday, 11/28/04 10:29:55 EST

Lori, the "middle ages" covers about 1000 years and a lot of territory. Can you narrow it down a bit so we don't spent a lot of time on Norse ground forges pre 1000, when what you wanted was High Middle Ages Armour Forges in France.

Some basics: charcoal was used as the fuel---not briquettes!
Swordmaking was a different craft than blacksmithing---the fellow who made swords did not make other cruft.

The blacksmith would buy their metal not smelt it themselves (in general, a few exceptions in the early norse regions...)

The standard air mover for the medieval period is two single action bellows used alternatingly.

See "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel", Gies and Gies; for some period pictures of smiths and forges and anvils. "Divers Arts" written in 1120 by Theophilus and available in english from Dover does not cover smithing per say but has a lot of information on Medieval craftwork. "De Re Metallica" is a renaissance work, 1535 IIRC; but has exhaustive pictures of smelting and working metals, also in english from Dover.

The "anvil" we are used to dates to the 1820's medieval anvils are shaped differently.

Remember the smith will *NOT* be working alone in the shop he will have strikers, apprentices, etc working with him.

This has been discussed at regular intervals for years on this site, a review of the archives might be worthwhile.

A "medieval portable forge" is a campfire and a set of bellows.

Any specific questions? Sorry if I am a bit terse, I'm at work and trying to get home ASAP to do some heat treating.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 11/28/04 14:47:53 EST

Knife Guards: some folks just fit them very carefully.

I would not use the term "silver soldering" for applying guards. All the makers I know that solder on the guards use a low temp silver bearing solder like "stay brite" that melts below 500 degF rather than "silver solder" that melts above 1200 degF. This is done so to not mess up the heat treat of the blade as you have to solder the guard on after heat treat. with the low temp stuff and keeping the blade cool you can get a good joint.

The low temp stuff has only a couple of percent silver in it whereas the high temp can be around 90% silver.

   Thomas P - Sunday, 11/28/04 14:52:09 EST

Ball piens: I employ a lot of small rivets in my work, like 1/8 and 3/16 in various lengths and use a ball pien to set them in a countersunk hole. I put a bottom rivet set on the treadle hammer, then the work pieces joined with the rivet (the back side of the last piece is countersunk with a drill) and use a ball pien under the treadle. The first lick using the flat face sets the rivet most of the way and flipping over to use the ball allows filling the countersink. Sometimes a little filing is needed to make it flush but I can usually finish with the hammer. My treadle hammer faces are mild steel and not hardened so I'm not overly concerned about spalling a hammer. Ball piens are also useful for making the depression in a rivet set.

I have several BP's in many weights and forge the heads to different shapes in the swage block, then I have a top and bottom tool pair. One of my favorite cross piens was originally a very old 32oz Crescent brand ball pien. I forged the face square and the pien flat then rehardened and tempered the head. It was very good steel and has turned out to be a great tool.
   - HWooldridge - Sunday, 11/28/04 15:23:32 EST

After a great Thanksgiving with the inlaws, I'm finally able to post those photos of the Sullivan pointer/hammer and the remains of the shop. I don't think that it will be realistic to salvage and restore, but interesting none the less.
   ggraham - Sunday, 11/28/04 17:25:13 EST

Hi. Im a middle schooler interested in blacksmithing. I need to do a project with blacksmithing as the topic. can you give me some info.
   Neil Holloway - Sunday, 11/28/04 17:49:43 EST

I need to know the resonsibilities, the average pay,and the chance of becoming a blacksmith
   Neil Holloway - Sunday, 11/28/04 18:18:08 EST


Where did you post the pictures?
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 11/28/04 18:37:10 EST

Practically, the arc versus straight up and down movement makes no difference, in the thickness of metal you will be punching. The radius of the arc is so big that in 1/2" plate, it is irrelevant. Yes, it is true the very best Ironwokers, such as Mubea, and Peddinghaus, made in Germany, have machined slides that move straight up and down, and if your punch would actully last for thousands and thousands of holes, then maybe it would last a teensy bit longer with straight up and down movement. But in the real world, you will dull or break a punch long before the arc makes a bit of difference. This is a salesmans feint to get your attention.
The real concerns are different- The Piranna is heavier duty, but costs more. The fabricated nature of the Scotchman makes it easy to fix if anything breaks. The true disadvantage of the scotchman is the erector set nature of the design- the fact that there is just a "tool table" on which you put different accessories, rather than fixed, permanent stations. As you said, this puts a lot of tools in the middle of the machine, which reduces your options. And you are constantly switching em back and forth. But Scotchmans are good, durable machines, and they last a long time in tough environments.
Personally, I prefer a Geka- they are imported from the Basque region of Spain, and are very elegant machines- for a similar amount to the Pirannha, you can get a 50 ton Geka with built in stainless steel rules and stops to accurately locate your holes and notches, with no measuring, They also include an electric length stop, that allows you to set your cutoff length, push in your material til it hits the stop, and then the machine automatically cuts the material, which drops to the floor, then you push in the material, and repeat process. Every scotchman ironworker I have ever seen has been festooned with shop made stops and material supports, glommed together out of odd pieces of angle iron, and vise grips. The measuring time alone saved by the more intelligent Geka system is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year to me. You can check the website at comeq.com.
Canadian distributor appears to be neimanmachinery.com
I have had my Geka for 8 years or so, and used it very hard, lots of stainless steel- and it has performed very well, and is a pleasure to use every time.
   - Ries - Sunday, 11/28/04 18:46:16 EST


Thank you sir; that's just the site I was looking for.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 11/28/04 23:56:15 EST

Piranah vs. Scotchman: Hard to compare without complete specs. However, at twice the HP the heavier machine SHOULD cut twice as fast. That means if you have 1000 pieces to cut it should take half the time, a considerable savings. However, if the machine does not run twice as fast it has a lot of wasted overkill on the motor or is not as efficiently designed. If the production rate is satisfactory then it no problem going slower AND its generaly safer.

The problem with punches and dies on an arc is they require more clearance and this results in larger burrs. It also meant that if you ever want to do custom tooling on your own figuring out the clearances AND properly machining them can be difficult.

I know several folks with Scotchman ironworkers that have used them for years with no problems.
   - guru - Monday, 11/29/04 02:35:15 EST

Responsibilities: Neil, Since most modern blacksmiths are self employed entrepreneur they are responsible for EVERYTHING.

When to get up, when to work, when to quit, design, sales, production, purchasing, delivery, billing, debt collection, clean up, taxes. . . Over 90% of what artists and craftspeople do has nothing to do with the product.

A blacksmith employed in someone else's shop (rare today) is responsible for whatever his employer makes him responsible for as terms of employment. This also applies to almost ANYONE that is an employee.

In most metalworking or industrial environments that includes clocking in and out. Cleaning your work area and taking care of your personal safety on top of producing product. An employee that is worth having can read drawings, make their own stock or cut list and not miss-measure or scrap raw materials. Lack of ability to properly measure in fractions and decimals both is a serious problem today. All workers in every trade should be able to accurately measure in English or metric units as required.
This sounds simple but many cannot. In the recent past most tradesmen needed an 8th grade education. This assumed they learned enough math to measure as well as add, subtract and multiply in fractions as well as decimals. They should also be able to read and follow instructions. Folks that did layout were expected to understand simple geometry well enough to apply it to their work. Machinists, sheet metal workers and carpenters all fall into this group as well as blacksmiths. In a modern high tech shop much more may be required including writing daily production reports and responding to inter-office memos via e-mail. It goes on from here. . .
   - guru - Monday, 11/29/04 02:58:07 EST

Here at Anvilfire is all the information you'll need, but you'll have to dig a bit to find it. Check under FAQ and " getting started".
Most of the blacksmiths I know are self employed so the average pay varies wildly both from smith to smith as well as from time to time. Very few smiths make a lot of money at smithing.
There are a few jobs to be had in the field.
The old apprenticeship system is long gone.
The smith is expected to have mastered his craft of course and generally expected to know how to use modern welding equiptment as well as do some basic machining .
For the self employed, throw in design, sales, accounting,purchasing , maintanance and collection agency.
   Pete F - Monday, 11/29/04 03:17:30 EST

Paw Paw, Crawford, et al;

Pete said the old apprenticeship system is long gone, but our apprentice, Amanda is doing quite well. She has been to Penland and John C. Campbell, and graduates with a degree in art this semester. She has decided to ger her Masters ; as Crawford (or was it Paw Paw?) said, credentials help a career. The art dept muckedy-mucks have finally realized art can be functional as well as pleasing to the eye. She has learned to use every machine in the shop safely. And the cat likes her. Do any of y'all have a good-looking grandson (or son)who would not be intimidated or put off by a pretty, intelligent young lady with coal smutt on her face?
   Ron Childers - Monday, 11/29/04 08:45:02 EST

Dear Guru,

Perhaps you can assist easily from your experience with comment on a problem we are having with a secondhand hammer. It is an "Ariete" (Italian) machine, but it is very similar in detail to many in illustrations, e.g. Nazel,Beche etc, with two cylindrical valves worked from the foot control, and a rotary hand-operated valve between, that we believe provides "run", "hold down" and "hold up".

The symptoms: every function works OK except that it will not hold up. When it is supposed to hold up, a lot of air issues from the flats on the cylindrical hammer (ram?) that slides up and down from the main hammer cylinder. We have tested the downward force of this hammer (ram) and found that it is less when the raise lever is in the raise position; ie it seems as though there is a raise force, but too weak.

We examined the rotary hand-operated valve and the internal spring valve behind. They appear OK; possible the spring valve is a little pitted, but only a little.

Our next suspicion is that there is some deficiency in the sealing of the gland(?) that should seal the lower half of the operating cylinder.
However we dont' want to waste a lot of time dismantling the gland unless we have some knowledge of what to expect.

QUESTION: do these symptoms correpond to a recognizable cause? Is it possible to explain how the gland does seal?

One of us is a professional blacksmith with 15 years experience; the other is a professional engineer, and 3-year amateur blacksmith.
Yours truly,

Robert Bogner
   Robert Bogner - Monday, 11/29/04 09:34:44 EST


I think Crawford said that about credentials, but it is certainly true.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 11/29/04 09:43:20 EST

Ariete Hammer: Robert, The most common seal failure on this type hammer is the lower cylinder seal. On most hammers it is a leather ring but on some it is a series of grooves that hold oil to make a seal.

The next problem is the valves. They must fit to a very tight tolerance and on the old hammers were all hand fitted. If you partialy block the exhust port on the top of the hammer and the performance improves or the ram rises higher then the trouble is in the valves. Another way to test the valves is to grease them and reinstall. If the hammer operates properly then the problem is worn valves. The grease will wash or blow out shortly and is not a cure, it is only a test.

The upper seals are iron or steel rings like automotive rings but much heavier. These are usualy not a problem unless the machine has not been properly lubricated and there is severe ring wear, OR the rings have gotten corroded and are siezed up in their groove.
   - guru - Monday, 11/29/04 11:05:16 EST

Ron Childers: If Amanda wouldn't mind a MUCH younger man; based upon your description of her, I'd be inclined to go out and MAKE a son, just for the occasion. As a daughter-in-law, she sounds like an old Smith's dream.
   3dogs - Monday, 11/29/04 11:09:49 EST

I will now stand by for a rousing AMEN from PawPaw
   3dogs - Monday, 11/29/04 11:11:23 EST

Patent Applied For: Mike, you are right. However, an applicant can very expensively make an initial application that is bound to fail but meets the letter of the law. Even expensive patent applications written by top patent lawyers almost never make it through the first round with the patent office so there is little practical difference. There is also a significant time delay (used to be two years) between the first marketing and the application of the patent (however that may have changed).

The patent law also says that the applicant must actively develope and market their product and lack of activity for a two year period (after the patent is issued) makes the patent void and the invention public property. AND now that the Patent Office is a "fee funded" government office there are also expensive annual maintenance fees to pay otherwise the patent stops being active. The vast majority of things that folks THINK are patented are not.

AND after paying all those fees and jumping through all those hoops in the end you have a document that you must defend in court for it to have any value. This makes patents a corporate or rich man's game. The only time they are of value to the small guy is if they are lucky enough to sell the invention to a big corporation. The small inventor is much better off to spend the money marketing the product.

Touchmark: Will, I am working with a fellow that has made some sample punches for me to test that does nice work for a fair price. Check the sculpture mark requirements before having a mark made. Although there is SOME flexibility in copyright marks an imporperly expressed one is considered defective and the copyright is void. In this case you are better off without a mark than with a defective one since copyright exists from the moment of creation or expression of the idea.
   - guru - Monday, 11/29/04 11:38:37 EST

   Paw Paw - Monday, 11/29/04 11:40:11 EST

Can any one please tell me what are the optimal specifications for a centrifugal blower, that will facilitate a single coal forge. If posible, please give me this information in the metric system...
Thank You all!
   Sharon - Monday, 11/29/04 13:00:05 EST

Touchmark: I am looking to have a touch mark made. Could your guy drop me a line, please?

   adam - Monday, 11/29/04 13:55:07 EST

Sharon, how big is the forge?

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/29/04 14:22:59 EST

A little more on Ironworkers-
It is amusing to me the Piranha salesman would talk down the scotchman because its punches move in an arc- when the punches on a Piranaha move in an arc as well! On both machines, the arc is about a 3 foot radius, which means the offset when punching a piece of 1/2" plate is probably smaller than the amount the die is oversized from the punch. Tens of thousandths of an inch at most. The only machines I have ever seen that dont move in an arc are the Peddinghaus and Mubea machines from Germany, and they cost at least twice what the american machines do.
More important is the capacity of the machine. The motor size affects speed, it is true, but the imaginary top speeds listed by all the manufacturers are all equally unrealistic. The Piranha is supposed to go 60 strokes per minute, while the Scotchman or Geka are more like 25 or 30, but in a real world situation, you will not be punching or shearing more than once or twice a minute anyway, what with moving the material, and waiting for the punch dropout to fall, and the punch to raise up for another go-round.
Again, I think the more accurate stops and the electric backgauge on the Geka will save a whole lot more time than a faster hydraulic pump will. When you shear a piece, you need to move the metal to the next cut location. Usually, even with fewer strokes per minute, the machine is ready before you are.
The Piranha has a slightly larger throat depth (8" versus 6") a slightly larger shear- (15" versus 14") and a larger round and square bar capacity than the Scotchman (1 1/2" versus 3/4"). These could all be more important factors in making your decision.
Plus, that inboard tool station on the scotchman is clunky when it comes to notching and coping, or even using a press brake attachment.
   - Ries - Monday, 11/29/04 14:59:26 EST

Sharon - I'm not sure that this can really be answered. There are too many different designs for coal forges, all of them "single." Also, I believe the specifics of the coal being used will alter the air needed for a hot fire. Add to that, you want to be able to idle the forge when you've got the metal out. That's why most forges I've seen with electric blowers have an air gate, to constrict the flow as needed.
   Monica - Monday, 11/29/04 15:14:30 EST

Multiple posted deleted
   - guru

I was wondering if anyone has an antique forge blowER?
   - Nick - Monday, 11/29/04 15:33:26 EST

Nick, this is a forum, not a live chat. It may take some time for anyone to answer you. Personally, I have only one blower, my grandfathers, and it is not for sale.
   Monica - Monday, 11/29/04 16:21:57 EST

Nick forge blowers really only date to around the end of the American Civil War and so as far as "antique" they are fairly recent compared to most smithing tools. I have two hand crank blowers and two bellows and gave away my double lung bellows before my move.

So the answer to your question(s) is "Yes"

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/29/04 16:54:23 EST

Sharon, I can only tell you that the early geared, hand cranked blowers usually had a 30.5 cm fan case with about 8 blades enclosed. Nearly all I've seen have an 7.5cm (3 inch) diameter outlet. We use stovepipe going to the bottom blast firepot 'barrel'. A 7.5cm to 10cm in width squirrel cage blower would serve assuming you have enough RPM. I think a diameter of 25cm to 30cm would do. I'm not being scientific; this info is based on experience.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 11/29/04 16:58:37 EST

Thank You all for answering!
The forge is the biggest czech type, with the radius of 22 cm. I will use cox with it...
   Sharon - Monday, 11/29/04 19:25:51 EST

   Sharon - Monday, 11/29/04 19:29:36 EST

Dear Guru,
I have been a fitter and welder continuously for the last 18 years. I also have some machining experience. I want to try my hand at blacksmithing. I have access to a machine shop at work and also have a nice sized chunk of P-20 die steel. I know that it is forged because it is made down the road from my home town. I wanted to know if it would make a good anvil? I did a little research on the web and found that it can be hardened to Rockwell C55. Any help would be appreciated.

   Jeff Kelley - Monday, 11/29/04 23:23:04 EST

"blue sand"
i talked to an old man several years ago,who used to smith for a coal mine on the ky river.
he told me that when forge welding,he used blue sand for flux,can someone tell me what this is,is it a special sand or something easiely obtainable.
i have read in several places of smiths useing sand as flux
would someone please elaberate on this subject.
   norse,"valhalla bound" - Monday, 11/29/04 23:33:54 EST


P20 is a mold steel and typically comes in the low to mid 30's on the Rockwell scale so it can be machined. It is characterized by high polishability, which is important for plastic injection molds. I seem to recall the best way to harden it is to carburize the surface and that may be more trouble than it's worth. If you have access to a mold shop, have them give you a block of H13.
   - HWooldridge - Monday, 11/29/04 23:41:34 EST

I am interested in forging a turning fork head and shovel head as well. Has anybody had any experience with this? The ones i Buy here in Ttexas are JUNK! You've got a great site here. Keep it up!
   hammerhead - Tuesday, 11/30/04 00:38:52 EST

Guru, I'm stumped. I am trying to layout a drilled hole pattern like sunflower seeds. I swear I think I have seen them on sieve plates from food grinders, etc.,. Anyway, I have wandered all round the various sites dealing with PHI, golden spiral, etc.,. (Which make REAL pretty scrolls), and cannot figure out how to apply that to my hole pattern problem. Any advice at all? Thanks
   Tom H - Tuesday, 11/30/04 02:09:49 EST

Tom H,

Here's a thought, it may or may not work.

Get some latex molding compound. Paint it onto the surface of a real sunflower head. Let it set up.

Peel it very carefully off the flower. Turn it upside down so the seed pattern is up. Roll it very lightly with a white paint of some kind (probably a latex). Use the result like a rubber stamp. Lay it on the steel, then roll it lightly to transerfer the female pattern.

Go over the pattern with a center punch and mark the point of each seed.

Drill. Make two, and save the second for a pattern.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 11/30/04 10:31:46 EST


Thereis a fairly straightforward mathematical function that will generate that spiral on a computer drawing program, but I can't for the life of me remember what the formula is.

I know that dividing heads for milling machines/shapers use a spiral hole pattern. If you have a machine shop near you, I'd just waltz in and ask if you can take a quick rubbing from the dividing head and use that.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/30/04 11:04:21 EST

Thanks all so far. I should have been more specific. I am trying to make a machine part with uniform holes similar to the Golden spiral. I realize this is more of a machining problem than blacksmithing but I recalled the GURU referring to the PHI number before (that guy knows EVERYTHING!) so I thought to try here. Two interesting possibilities so far. The dividing head plates are sort of the right thing but one line of holes is lined up rather than being entirely on the spiral. Trying to come up with some basis to extract X-Y coords for the pattern. Thanks again all.
   Tom H - Tuesday, 11/30/04 11:40:47 EST

spiral:Fibonacci numbers the sequence is 1 2 3 5 8 13 .... with each new number being the sum of the 2 preceding 1+2=3 2+3=5 ect. A program for ploting the chart can be found at http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~mnaylor/software/
   habu - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:14:02 EST

Spirals: We have an iForge demo on them that works for this purpose. However, extracting mathematical coordinates on an X-Y is a different problem. I have a BASIC graphics clock program I wrote that extracts the XY values. I will look to see if I can find it on my old PC.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:29:00 EST

Phi approx = 1.618 is an irrational number like Pi, meaning you can never lay it out precisely. However 1.618 should be good enough for aesthetic purposes. Seems to me (too lazy to try it out) that if you lengthen the radius by a factor of Phi every 90 turn, you will have the scroll marked out on quarter turns.

If I were trying to lay out scrollwork, being the terminally lazy person that I am, I would steal a gif from one of the online sites, import it into MS Word or similar to resize it as desired and then print out on a laser printer and transfer to the work like PawPaw suggests. (laser printer output can be transferred to clean metal with heat or acetone.) This way I dont have to worry my pretty head with any math.
   adam - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:29:05 EST

Norse clean quartz sand was used as a flux for welding real wrought iron. Wrought iron withstands the higher heat needed to melt the sand and with it's ferrous silicates already part of the material wrought iron is pretty self fluxing as it stands---particularly the lower grades.

Sand is not a suggested flux for modern steels though.

I have not heard of "blue sand" before.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:34:47 EST

norse, Meybe they have blue sand in Kentucky. I've not used sand for flux, although we have dry washes full of it in New Mexico. However, I believe it becomes fusible with the oxides at a higher temperature than borax. I got out some old smithing books, and they are not too specific. Lynn Jones says to use clean creek sand. John Lord Bacon says "borax or sand". One of my books says, "clean, sharp sand".

Hammerhead, A turning fork? Some Indians turn fry bread, which is in hot grease, with a tool which tapers to a sharp point. A 90º bend is made about and inch behind the point, and the small end is bent into an open "U". Hook into the edge of the fry bread, and it works like a charm.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:51:51 EST

"by a factor of Phi every 90 degree turn..." - sorry about that
   adam - Tuesday, 11/30/04 12:58:17 EST

Well. . . my old PC (the one I started anvilfire on and wrote Mass2) has finally bit the dust. The CMOS battery is dead and so is the complicated HD setup. I had backed up most of it but who knows where. . . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/30/04 13:11:56 EST

Hi, I was wondering if anyone has a source for smaller amounts of fire clay and fire brick?
   Vince - Tuesday, 11/30/04 13:26:09 EST

Harpoon Smith Wanted:

Forwarded from a researcher for one of the production companies working with the History Channel:

“I'm looking for a blacksmith who makes harpoons specifically and other
whaling tools would be excellent as well.

Do you know anyone who makes or collects harpoons or whaling tools?”

I know this subject has come up before, and I’ve already referred him to one of our National Park whaling sites, but anyone out there do this on a regular basis?

Sunny but fixin' to rain on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks (New Bedford does whales ;-): www.nps.gov/nebe

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/30/04 13:52:19 EST

Thanks again all. I think I found something that I can work with. You guys can put your brains back to bed!
First generate a proper Fibronacci Golden spiral.
Secondly make a mirrored copy from origin.
Thirdly array each by different factors, namely the Golden number, PHI, or 1.618, or in real world, 21 one way and 34 the other, or whatever fractional approximation you choose close enough th PHI.
Fourthly, the intersections give me what I was looking for.
Thanks all so much for your kind attention.
Appreciatively, Tom H.
   Tom H - Tuesday, 11/30/04 14:32:20 EST

Don't know if anyone saw it but last night, there was a good one hour show on Japanese sword making on the History International channel. It was loosely based around Masamune and his legendary blades but also covered modern ones made in the traditional ways. I think it will be on again tonight late - like 1 or 2 in the morning, if anyone is interested.
   - HWooldridge - Tuesday, 11/30/04 14:49:46 EST

Hello Everybody

I hope you all have a good Thanksgiving.

I received the anvil last night and when I inspected it I noticed that the Hardy Hole was not the same as the other anvils that I have seen. It is at a 45 deg. angle to the anvil. i.e. The corners of the hardy are facing the sides, horn and back. Is this just due to it being a cheep something or other anvil or is this common?

   Aaron Cissell - Tuesday, 11/30/04 14:53:37 EST

Math to convert Angle and Length to X-Y coordinates:

I found my old clock program and extracted the following.

X = Xcenter + SIN(CRadians) * Radius
Y = Ycenter - COS(CRadians) * Radius * ASPECT!

Note that ASPECT! is only needed to produce the correct display on a computer monitor. Angles in radians are required for all computer calculations. I always use a function (I write) for the conversions in order to keep all the extra out of code. If you use a calculator that works on degrees then you do not need the angle to radian conversion.

Xcenter and Xcenter would be 0,0 on graph paper but in the real world and on graphic screens these are some reference value to start. Thus the striped down formulaes are:

X = SIN(Aradians) * Radius
Y = COS(Aradians) * Radius

Simple geometry out of Machinery's Handbook.

To create a perfect spiral such as sea shells, snail shells and many others found in nature is simple. Increase the radius (distance from center) an equal amount for every step in angle in degrees (See the iForge demo). Depending on the computer language the angle can be cummulative (greater than 2PI) or must restart with each full circle.

To do this with a dividing head is simple. Pick a number of divisions. Make a hole, index angle, increase radius, make a hole, index angle, increase radius, make a hole. . .

To produce a similar spiral where the circle starts at an offset use a fractional number, not a whole number. You can do this with the dividing wings on a dividing head and still keep the steps even.

Spirals can be fast or slow depending on the increase in radius per step or the length of the step. You can even change the angular step progressivly by addition or formula.

In the recent past I could have written the program to do this generating a display on the screen and the coordinates as raw data in a few minutes. . . However, today I no longer have the tools that work on my current PC and my programming skills are now tuned to HTML and the web, not math and graphics. . . I draw spirals and forge by hand.

Natural Spirals have nothing to do with the golden rectangle and those that try to force the ratio to work on everything are making a religion of the golden rectangle and are blinded to the real facts of life and more sophisticated mathematics.

I do not believe the sunflower has a spiral pattern. It is an interference pattern created by concentric circles with an increasing number of points on each circle that fit previous circle. On first thought you would think that each row has one more seed than the previous but this is not true. The ratio is probably some geometric progression using whole numbers. Habu's Fibonacci series is probably correct. The appearance of the fast spirals is an optical illusion and trick of the eye.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/30/04 15:00:35 EST

Diagonal Hardy Holes: This is a Chinese cast anvil convention that does not require draft on the core for the hardy hole. If it was used on a good anvil it creates a very week place on the anvil that would certainly fail and result in a warantee problem. However it is used by foundries that have not a clue about anvil design or engineering and could care less. Someone an ocean away bought it and it will not be returned when it fails. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/30/04 15:40:53 EST

Atli, Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut??

Some French hardie holes are tapered and curved...very French.

   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/30/04 15:49:18 EST

Sand as Flux: As noted, sands have been used as fluxes the world over. So have clays. Both primarily for wrought iron. The thing about both is that there are vastly different mineral content from place to place and sand is not just sand. If the sand in your back yard works, then fine. But there is a good chance that it will not. Clays and sands that are high in alumina are good protectants because of their refractoryness. But they have no fluxing properties. Sands high in sodium, boron or flourine make good fluxes. Don't forget that borax is a mineral that is found in vast deposites as are most other fluxes used in the production and processing of iron. In the right place it could be YOUR sand. . .

In the past industrial towns developed where there were certain naturaly occuring raw materials. During the iron age and early industrial age they needed iron ore, fuel and flux. Industry was sited on locations that had all three and towns developed there. Not every location had the right minerals and that is still true today.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/30/04 15:56:36 EST

Fibonacci Spirals in Plants :
I can't begin to keep up with the math that the good guru has at his disposal but maybe others will find this interesting:


Remember... Cake are square... Pie are round... BOG
   habu - Tuesday, 11/30/04 16:03:44 EST

One Thanksgiving my wife made pumpkin squares for dessert and made cornbread in a round muffin pan. I told my father-in-law "Hey look, for once the pie ARE square and the cornbread ARE round". The girls were clueless and thought we were nuts. I guess you had to be there. Sorry for deviating from the smithin.
   Tom H - Tuesday, 11/30/04 16:17:42 EST

Dearest Gurus: I just purchased an old Tibetian Brazier with Tea Pot, made in NEPAL that you can see by going to the following link (if it will help.)

I live in a smallish town (Santa Barbara) and don't know where to take it to have it professionally cleaned/restored. It says it is heavy copper, looks like brass to me, and there is a lot of green gook... on the Antique Road Show I once heard an appraiser tell someone to get that green professionally cleaned and basically try to restor the thing. Since there's no one here listed under Antique Copper Restoration, how should I go about finding a person or place that can do it? It's massive - about 3 feet tall and I don't want to have to take it to Los Angeles or another city. Perhaps you can recommend a product I can use to clean it myself, but I'd rather pay a professional metalworker to do it right.
Thanks for your insight on this. I've put in a couple of calls to antique "dealers" in my area but there aren't many and they are not quick to respond.
Happy holidays!
   Janet - Tuesday, 11/30/04 17:53:30 EST

Frank Turley,
I think Hammerhead was referring to an implement that is a cross between a shovel and a pitch fork. Usually four heavy tines and a short "D" handle like a spade.
It is usefull for turning soil to break a garden in the spring, Turn compost, and most important to dig potatos.
With Kentucky background, I have many hours of useing just such a turning fork. Can you say
"white half runner grean beans cooked with salt pork and new potatos"?
Most solt now are cast iron and are pretty weak.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/30/04 18:06:16 EST

Hi, I just bought a used NC Forge. It just has a door in the front,2 burners. Can I somehow put a door in the back to be able to pass larger items in?
Does anyone know where I can get a manual for this forge.
Thanks for your help
   - DB - Tuesday, 11/30/04 19:08:42 EST

Frank is correct . Do a search and find Mystic Seaport Museum in Conn, I have seen the smith from there at the Age of Iron in Pittsfield ,Mass. this past June.
   Harley - Tuesday, 11/30/04 20:25:59 EST


Before you set about making that thing all shiny and new looking, you might want to have your apprqaiser of choice look at it. Cleaning it may very well reduce the value by an astonishing amount. Some folks simply demand that a piece have years of accumulated mung and drool (patina) before they'll even consider having it their home or gallery.

On the other hand, if you want it for yourself and aren't that concerned about its value as an "antique" (which it isn't, being too recent), then you can easily clean it up yourself. Trot down to your local hardware or cookware emporium and obtain a can of "Barkeeper's Friend" cleansing powder/polish. This stuff is a a powdert like Ajax or Bon Ami, but it liberates an acidic cleaning agent when wetted. Wet the thing, sprinkle the Barkeeper's Friend liberally on an area of it and wait a minute. After that minute, scrub it with a wet rag and watch the mung and drool disappear, leaving raw, pink copper and yellow brass.

After you've stripped the whole thing, wash it really thoroughly with Dawn dishwashing detergent and hot water and dry it off. At that point, you can let it alone or polish it further with a mildly abrasive polish like toothpowder or silver polish. When finished with the abrasive polish, wash and dry again.

If you want it shiny like a military coffee service, then you get a can of Brasso and a liberal lsupply of rags and get to work, following the directions on the Brasso can. You'll quickly find out why no one else wanted to take on the job. (grin) It simply takes a goodly bit of elbow grease to get metal really shiny. Even if you use a proprietary polish like Simichrome (available at motorcycle shops), it will be lots of effort.

When you get the thing to the state of polish that you want, I would suggest you spray it with a coat or two of jeweler's lacquer. Try a hobby/craft shop to locate it, or check online for a jeweler's supply like Rio Grande or someone. Copper is a fairly active metal chemically, and will oxidize (tarnish) surprisingly rapidly. Especially in a place llike SB, where you have both ocean air and smog.

Good luck with your project.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/30/04 20:37:40 EST

OhKay ptree & Hammerhead, I have used such a four tined fork when I was a kid in Missouri. I noticed in an old Smith & Hawken garden tool catalog that they showed a manufacturing sequence for a "weldless fork of structural integrity". It was blanked out of a plate of rectangular stock using with what looked like hot splits and punching at the crotches of the hot splits (I'm guessing at the punching). Two tines and central socket stock came out of one end. The other end was fullered a bit on the edges and two tines came out of a single hot split. The tines are then drawn, "contorted" so they point the same way, and shaped. The socket is done last. These drawings may still be available from the manufacturer, Bulldog Tools Ltd. in England, which see their website. The website shows the same kind of sequential drawings for making a spade. The forge is titled, Clarington Forge and the tools are sold in the USA under that trade name.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/30/04 20:38:10 EST

Number one rule to follow in doing anything to an antique is "do nothing you can't undo" Unless you going to use the thing a bit of polishing with a soft cloth and elbow grease might be the best way to go
   JimG - Tuesday, 11/30/04 20:55:49 EST

Hello there,
I am trying to make a sheet of 20 gauge copper into a bowl... I can't figure out how to do it. I have an oxy-acetylene torch, and have been hammering it, but it still looks bad... Do I need to make a cast iron mold? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
   coppersmith in training - Tuesday, 11/30/04 21:38:48 EST

To the guru it may concern:

I am a fiction writer who is researching the craft of blacksmithing for a novel. The main character of the story is a blacksmith, especially of blades. My specific question is how long would it take a skilled bladesmith to forge a typical one-handed sword? How many pieces (either tools or blades) could a skilled blacksmith turn out in a day for instance? On a less specific note, what is a blacksmith's day in general like? What kind of chores, prepwork, and daily problems does he face? How does this kind of work feel to do? Thank you for any response you are able to give me.

--Garrett Bettencourt
   Garrett Bettencourt - Tuesday, 11/30/04 21:52:49 EST

copper bowl,

20 gauge is pretty thin for any method other than raising. If you try to do it by sinking, that is, stretching it into a depression in a block or form, you may thin the copper so much it splits. Raising, on the other hand, is a compressive technique that will either maintain the thickness of the stock, or actually thicken it as the rim is drawn in to a smaller diameter. Raising jis a technique that is difficult to illustrate with pjhotos or drawings, and is virtually impossible to convey with words alone.

If you go to the drop down menu at the upper right of this screen, you'll see a heading called "Armoury". On that page is an article entitled "Raising a Norman Helmet" by Eric Thing. That will give you about as good an idea of how it is done as can be conveyed in this medium. To learn it thoroughly you need to work with a metalsmith one on one for a while and practice, practice, practice.

Ooops, I'm late for a meeting!
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/30/04 22:38:21 EST

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