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

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from November 1 - 7, 2007 on the Guru's Den
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Sword Sharpening Jigs: Grinding and sharpening of the vast majority of swords is done by hand. If any jigs are used they are special made by the maker or factory. In a vast arena of metal work the tooling is custom created for or by the manufacturer whether an individual or large factory. Off the shelf tooling is microscopic compared to what is made by manufacturers. A large part of blacksmithing as well as other trades is making the tools. Cataloged tools are just the tip of the iceberg.

Blacksmiths make everything from special punches to bending jigs to automatic machines for use in their shops. Luthiers (stringed instrument makers) will make more 100 times the weight in fixtures as an instrument weighs.

Those craftsfolks that recognize when they need a special tool and know how to design it and make it or have it made are the ones that are generally successful.
   - guru - Wednesday, 10/31/07 22:51:35 EST

The *best* way is to spend the years of practice learning to do it right. *EVERY* sword might be sharpened slightly differently depending on design, use, heat treat, alloy, user, etc.

Parts of the blade may be sharpened to different angles, the area near the forte was often left blunter for parraying.

The old "1 best angle for an edge" is an artifact of factories. If you are going to do it yourself; make it the best possible for yourself! The whole idea of custom is to not be stuck with somebody's idea of what they think would be acceptable and easy to do. Ask folks who really *use* knives and you will find that almost all of them will take a brand new sharp out of the box blade and resharpen it to their liking.

BTAIM I rough out the edge on the belt grinder and finish with a large arkansas stone, (6" wide) no jigs used for either step

   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/01/07 09:48:08 EST

Dave Boyer,

Thanks again for the Concoa tip. They get back to me very promptly. What I have is an earlier version of this regulator: http://www.concoa.com/index.php?pagetype=showProduct&id=412&apptype=4 They tell me it's fine for propane.
   Matt B - Thursday, 11/01/07 11:35:22 EST

Its good to have that warm fuzzy feeling from the OEM.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/01/07 12:21:57 EST

Cryogenic quenching can use alcohol and dry ice but you are correct in saying the metal is first quenched down to room temperature prior to going into the cyro bath. It works well for high carbon steels where retained austenite can lower the as-quenched hardness. The cryo transforms the retained austenite to martensite and the hardness can go up a point or two. This is commonly applied to high-dollar knives and various tool steel items.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 11/01/07 14:18:04 EST

I have heard of home cryo being done with dry ice and acetone---watch out as acetone will eat styrofoam coolers!

Also remember to temper after cryo as you don't want the new untempered martensite to hang around either!

Cryo is usually suggest for high alloy steels that may have considerable retained austenite upon quenching.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/01/07 15:27:08 EST

Acetone also shares a very low flash point with the alcohols. Use with Caution around ignition sources.
   Ptree - Thursday, 11/01/07 18:14:32 EST

I am wondering if anyone has seen the Coleman hammer on youtube. I have been planning to build a Kinyon style hammer and am interested in this coleman valving. What do you feel are the pros and cons of this set-up?
   Jason M. Mecum - Thursday, 11/01/07 18:30:22 EST

Jason, I haven't seen it or a diagram.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/01/07 19:37:29 EST


I went and looked up that video to see what you're asking about. The pros and cons are impossible to determine form this video. It shows nothing of the plumbing, which seems to be carefully hidden by cardboard covers. It has a link to a site that has no information. I don't understand the point of putting it out there, frankly.

From what I could see of the hammer in operation, it is remarkably slow, even at the highest speed shown. I'd go nuts waiting for it. The tup up at idle is easy enough to do, and clamping likewise. It just involves more valving, and unless done correctly results in long air lines with high losses in effectiveness. Adjustable stroke, referred to but not shown, is nothing more that adjusting the position of the roller valve in relation to the trigger point on the tup.

That's my 2 cents worth, adjusted for inflation of course.
   vicopper - Thursday, 11/01/07 19:38:57 EST

Jason - addendum,

If you're serious about building a Kinyon-style air hammer, I suggest you build the basic Kinyon air circuit first, without modifications. There is a certain elegant simplicity to the Kinyon design, and you need to completely understand how it works and all the ramifications of changes before you attempt them. It does no good to b uild a complicated air circuit that you don't understand well enough to troubleshoot or fine-tune. Walk first, then run. If that pans out, you can try flying. :-)
   vicopper - Thursday, 11/01/07 19:43:07 EST

There is a question I had about something I had heard before I got really interested in blacksmithing. It was that by hammering the metal more, while forging, it would make it stronger? This could be similar to the idea of packing, and if stronger, I have no idea if they (or whatever I read this from) meant harder, more wear resistant, or what. I don't really think it was referring to work hardening (which doesn't occur at a heat does it?) but it could have.
   - Hollon - Thursday, 11/01/07 20:03:11 EST

Hollon: Depending on the grain structure of the metal You MAY make some improvement by forging. If You START with a fine grained tool steel it probably won't get better. For increased strength You need to increase hardness, by heat treatment or work hardening. A proper alloy properly heat treated is the way to go for strength. Work hardening doesn't occur at forging temperature.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 11/01/07 20:29:29 EST

Forging and Strength: When you start with good steel from the mill and heat treat it properly you cannot get much better.

In properly designed and made forgings the grain of the steel flows with the most linear direction of the part, around curves, following joints in the shape. This has a slight advantage over a cast part which has a non-aligned structure or a structure that is parallel to the cooling path.

Packing works in parts that are not heat treated and in products such as rolled steel. Compressing and aligning the grain structure of the steel makes it stronger. However, in parts that are heat treated after packing the heat treatment undoes most of that work.

When smiths MAKE steel and work impurities out of the billet by forging and cut and reweld repeatedly to make it more uniform a product then more hammering improves the steel up to a point. However, this is not a common forging process.

So, generally NO.

There was a site on the web where swords were being sold on the grounds that the energy of the smith went into the steel making it stronger and stronger. . . major hype for the uniformed public that does not know better.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/01/07 20:30:21 EST

Vicopper, I agree it seems quite slow. However, There is another video that explains the control system. He is using dual pilot circuits to trip the main valve.
   Jason M. Mecum - Thursday, 11/01/07 21:24:59 EST

Coleman Controls: The reason this hammer is being run slow is that it is hitting the upper stop or bottoming out on the cylinder. This is a problem in the Kinyon controls and is a problem that folks like Big BLU and Phoenix have gotten past. This is also where the long stroke is coming from, there is no cushion space. Run it fast and it will wreck the hammer OR you have to reduce the stroke a lot.

Power hammers need to move fast to take advantage of the available heat.

He has done a nice job on building this hammer but it has a LOT of expensive parts as well as a lot of fancy shop made parts. You will find if you build an air hammer that the pneumatics cost a significant amount. Add the rest and you will find out why few hammers are built with every possible feature.

The Big BLU has clamping without a lot of extra parts. Phoenix uses a feed back system to get many of these features but there is a price to it as well as added complexity. Economics are why every hammer does not have every possible feature.

It really pays to run one or more of these hammers before building one. THEN carefully think about changes.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/01/07 22:23:27 EST

I noticed that Mr. Coleman uses two 3-way imit switches in his control scheme. Could a single 4-way limit switch be used in place of the two 3-way limit switches to produce those same control features?
   Ian Wille - Thursday, 11/01/07 23:20:33 EST

Okay, I went and chased down the other video on the Coleman hammer. I see why it is so terribly slow - the hammer is starved for air on the control circuits, which slows switching times and is possibly causing the topping of the ram. An air cushion is not sufficient to prevent damage when a hammer is running hard and topping. You have to have a quick switching scheme to prevent overrun, and a mechanical cushion such as a urethane bumper is good insurance as well.

That hammer is using main air circuits that look like 3/8 hose. If that is correct, it is too small and causes air starvation and loss of power and speed. Further, the use of hose allows flexing (pulsing) under pressure and that robs control and speed, too. Hard piping would be much better, in my experience.

The pilot valves look like the same tiny ones that I originally used on my Kinyon-type hammer. Too small, and their location far from the 5-way valve means loss of control due to pressure drop and turbulent flow losses. Bigger valves, located as close as possible to the main 5-way will really speed up the hammer. You can always slow it down with a simple flow-control valve in the pilot air line.

Coleman's arrangement for the clamping feature is quite workable, though complicated due to the nature of makingn it available without changing any settings. For that reason, I decided against trying to incorporate calmping in my hammer. If I ever figure out an elegantly simple way to do it, I'd probably have it.

My biggest issue with this whole scheme is that it involves way too much complex linkages and valving gymnastics to get where it is going. I really like the simplicity of the Kinyon air circuit. It is as simple as it can get. While not perfect and not capable of clamping, it will do controlled blows, single blows either hard or soft, and it is markedly faster that what I've seen on the videos.

The nature of the Kinyon circuit (using the spring return spool valve) allows it to accomodate a wide range of stock/tooling thicknesses without any adjustments, and the top limit can be set to prevent topping the cylinder. Alternately, you can simply utilize a cylinder with a 14" stroke as I do, although the ram can only travel 10" in its guides. That extra 4" of theoretical travel gives me 1" of safety margin at the bottom and 3" at the top, and doesn't cost any more money to buy or any more air to run. The air consumption is a function of the *actual* length of the piston travel, not the available travel, remember.

Mr. Coleman's hammer is obviously well made and he spent considerable time and effort to design a hammer that would do everything he wanted. Good for him! More people should try to design better air circuits so that innovations can be found. My personal preference is for the simplicity of the basic Kinyon air circuit, with the only modifications being the use of valves and piping with much higher c.v.'s to get better control and speed.

Ian, to get the clamping feature and the variable stroke in Mr. OCleman's design, it is necessary that there be two separate valves for the raise and lower of the ram. A single valve, regardless of the number of ports, would not be able to have two set points.
   vicopper - Friday, 11/02/07 01:42:26 EST

if i were makeing a branding iron for a freind of mine. and he wants it made from 1.5" X .25" iron. and i can't weld how would i go about doing it. would i forge tenons on the ends of the pieces and rivit them together??

   - son - Friday, 11/02/07 09:45:03 EST

Son; you could also rivit the handle straps to the sides of the brand pieces.

However if this is going to see some real use, do all the set up and have a pro weld it together!

Talking with the local smiths that do it for ranches around here; they like to use the side walls of channel iron for the symbols---it's tapered so the part hitting the hide is smaller but the part feeding heat into it is larger. Says it makes for a cleaner brand.

Also if it's "for real" make sure that the brand will not be such that it will impede healing---spacing and certain shapes are contraindicated.

One last thing; make sure you do not infringe on any of the brand laws in your area! While they are a bit draconian out here in the west, I seem to recall they did exist in Ohio in a watered down form when I lived there.

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/02/07 10:29:34 EST

Son, You REALLY need to be able to weld by some method to make a branding iron. Its not just the fact that it must be assembled but the joints must be strong when at a red heat.

To make something like this without welds requires some careful planning. If the design is simple enough you may be able to start with a relatively large piece, forge the material for the end and then draw out a long shank for the handle. Secondary pieces could be riveted on. Preferably they would be made the same way and the parts joined in a heavy section of the shank by riveting where welds normally go.

Designing a forging of this type is art. Think about it, sketch it, model it. It may turn out simpler and cleaner than you think. OR you could end up with a mass of rivets. . . .
   - guru - Friday, 11/02/07 10:31:26 EST

no this won't see any real use it's jsut a table dcoration. it's simply a "T" on the top of a "C". i was planning on making the "C" with a hle in the top. and the top of the "T" with a hole in the center. then maknig the shank of the "T" with a tenon on each end and riviting it to both the "C" and the top of the "T" then attaching the handle to the smea top rivit and one more on the bottom of the "C"

   - son - Friday, 11/02/07 10:44:54 EST

Sword Sharpening Jigs:

A jig would be very useful for mass-production with semi-skilled or unskilled labor; but (as Thomas has also pointed out) experience and care were the primary ingredients of a good sword. People keep asking us for plans for our Viking ships. We don't have any, they done by hand and eye, just like the originals, and loosely based upon archeological plans of incomplete wrecks.

The beauty of individual hand prooduction over mass production is that you can (with additional time, skill and expense) create a custom object, with a distal taper, diferential tempering, a custom honed edge: hard and sharp where it needs to be and tough and blunt where it needs to be. There are some really cheap "medieval" style weapons which show the ugliness of being converted to ease mass production. Seax knives with grips like a stupid broomstick! So, the advantage of hand techniques is that you can make something superior to a massed produced "sharp crowbar" IF you apply time, talent, skill and patience. (You can make a lot of fast, ugly stuff too, if that's your wish, but it doesn't {or shouldn't} pay as well.)

Sunny, cool and breezy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 11/02/07 14:43:39 EST

Packing when Forging:

The idea of making steel or other metals more dense by forging at a low heat near the end of the forging cycle is a misunderstanding of what is going on. At this point, the only thing you are doing is breaking up the grains a little bit, which certainly can be a good thing. However, grain refinement can also be achieved through thermal processing, so "packing" isn't really necessary if you will be doing a proper heat treatment later. Finishing forgings at a low heat has long been recongized as good practice because there is very little scale produced below about 1500F, so if you get the heavey scale off early in the forging process and then finish in the same heat or take a very short reheat heat, you can make very smooth forgings requiring minimal finishing (filing, grinding, polishing) at room temperature.

The one case in which forging will pack or consolidate a piece of steel is when you start with a cast ingot and forge it to some other size/shape. The casting contains shrinkage cavities and these are forge welded together resulting in a cavity-free piece of steel. When working with hot rolled or colled rolled steel bars, there are no voids or caviteies to be consolidated because this was done at the steel mill.
You can make steel and other metals harder by working them at room temperture. This is work hardening and most folks are familiar with it to some degree. if you have bent a paper clip several times and had it break, you are seeing the effects of work hardening. Work hardening is not typically done intentionally to provided a part with specific mechanical properties, but more often occurs to parts in service. It is NOT a good method for increasing hardness for the purpose of wear restance or cutting, though if you knife is copper or broze, and blade hammer out cold will perform better than the unworked material. This is not an issue with properly heat treated steel tools.

   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 11/02/07 14:59:25 EST

Hand Made vs. Production: Bruce, What you have here is the difference between high quality hand made and low quality medium production. ALL the hand made features can be put into a high production piece IF there is demand and the manufacturer wants it. Roll forging can quickly make a distal taper. A cam following sharpening jig can be used to grind at different angles along the blade. Differential hardening and tempering is commonly done in mass production using automated machinery or robotics. . . Think Swiss watches and aircraft engines. . .

The advantage to hand production is that every piece can be custom made at little cost difference AND high quality can be achieved. For high quality to be achieved in mass production there must be high demand for an identical product.
   - guru - Friday, 11/02/07 15:04:43 EST

So Bruce all your ships are based on "incomplete wrecks" or to rephrase "ships that sank"----New England Life your insurer?

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/02/07 16:41:47 EST

Patrick Nowak,
Perhaps my experience with continous cast bar is from long enough ago to no longer be valid, But I have seen continious cast bar stock, that was supposedly hot rolled after casting, and it had a pipe the entire lenght of the bar. In SS I have witnessed it in sizes down to 9/16 cold finished 410SS from reputable makers.
We always told our customers that one of the advantages of forged steel pressure containing parts was that the many reductions in the rolling mill and the final hot forging in our shop closed up any defects in the bar, and gave a more sound part. I have seen valves however that were returned as they leaked steam up the center of the stem. Not around the packing, but up the pipe in the center! We tested these valves at 100 psi air and then hydro tested. The water, with the higher viscosity did not leak, but when returned and tested on dry pumped nitrogen, did indeed leak. We had to scrap several heats of the bar. I do not believe that I recall any defects in a forging that were induced from the mill, although we certainly found a few laps that were from our shop. Mostly from new hammermen:)
If i recall this would have been about 1988 or 1990. Is continous cast, and then hot rolled a still used process? I am pretty sure that the mill that supplied us converted to a rotory forge as a first process after casting.
   Ptree - Friday, 11/02/07 18:08:06 EST

Hey Pat!

Anything you can say there will be SOMEONE with an exception. While thes has little to do with the original question, I did hav a job many years ago for a company that made railroad switches and frogs and such. They sent me castings (manganese steel I think) that looked like four foot sections of rail. The top surface was to be cold worked to a specific hardness. Real exciting working a cold piece under a 800 lb hammer. I used a half-round fuller type tool (probably 1/2 inch radius). Went over the whole thing at like 30 degrees then came back over it at 30 degrees the other way. Finished with a flatter with ever-so-slight a crown. Then the parts were lightly ground. That's what the customer wanted! Yeah, I know, this is really an "exception that proves the rule".
   - grant - Friday, 11/02/07 18:16:15 EST

Not to mention shot peening....

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/02/07 18:27:50 EST

Forging con-cast bars is almost certainly required for most parts. In the drilling tools industry (oil, not wood) we bought cast ingots and bars in 4145 but specified that the ingot or cast bar size be reduced by a minimum of 3:1, with 6:1 being preferred. This hot working broke up the ingot structure that was coarse and brittle and gave us a finer, tougher structure to make the down hole tools from. Patrick, the 4145 was modified to achieve a Di of 11, which of course, is almost tool steel hardenability. We water quenched the bars out of a continuous line furnace. The ones that survived made a heck of a tool. Ptree, ever see a 12" x 32 foot long bar split in two down the middle? With about 12" of pipe on one end that started the crack? I have pictures.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 11/02/07 18:48:28 EST

Thomas, not only will acetone eat styrofoam coolers, it will eat the pattern off of the tile floor under the cooler. Don't ask how I know this. Also, if you cannot cryo treat the part, just double temper it. The second temper will cause retained austenite to transform to martensite/bainite. The second transform to M/B is usually auto-tempered so check the hardness after the second temper. If it is still too hard, it can be tempered in a third heat if necessary. This does not usually give a hardness as high as cryo treating, however, it does get rid of the retained austenite. Since Austenite is metastable at room temperature, leaving it in your heat treated part may allow it to transform under impact loading at some really inconvenient time. The result of that is usually a crack.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 11/02/07 18:59:39 EST

Hey there, as this is probably the single greatest influence on my journey through blacksmithing (more specifically bladesmithing), I wanted to share a site that i recently stumbled across by accident which, I am convinced, is the single most comprehensive collection of links to bladesmithing/metalurgical/machining related articles on the internet today (the site is dedicated to bladesmithing so naturally there is more on that). It is run by a US Marine and was just too good to keep to myself. http://gbrannon.741.com/
   Matt Marting - Friday, 11/02/07 19:41:28 EST

Trying to find out info on upsetting machines used in the 20's - 50's to make flanges out of 1 1/2x 1/2 flat stock. Any links pictures ect. PS the disreputable man in the red hat sent me over here . Thanks
   rufas - Friday, 11/02/07 19:47:58 EST

Matt, All I got was a pop-up window warning and after closing the "Tickle" window a LONG down load from tickle which I canceled. There is a long list of complaints about various web fraud against tickle.com listed on google.
   - guru - Friday, 11/02/07 19:51:31 EST

I'm always chary of opening any URL that has a ".###" in it, so I Googled it and looked at the cached copy. Sure enough, a hijacked link to a trojan downloader weasel advertising site was all that showed, despite header info to the contrary.

On the other hand, I did find a link to his real site, which indeed looks useful:

   vicopper - Friday, 11/02/07 22:24:53 EST

Upsetter: Rufas, Those same machines are still in operation today. In fact few or no new machines are being built and old machines are being rebuilt at enormous cost (but less than making new) to serve what is a shrinking market in the US.

Most industrial forging reference books have photos and or drawings. I may have a photo hiding somewhere if I have not lost it.

Even a small upsetter is a huge machine. The machine operates as a horizontal crank press with huge flywheel, gears and clutch with hydraulic gripping dies.

I have fooled around with designs for a horizontal air upsetter for small stock.
   - guru - Friday, 11/02/07 22:55:55 EST

The plan I had for the whole tool and anvil transatlantic shipping routine pretty much involved buying my own container (around $1500 used and seaworthy) loading it up with all my household goods for the trip over and then loading it back up with all the tools and anvils I could find at reasonable prices for the return trip while figuring out what low tariff goods I could refill it with while it was back in the U.S. before shipping it back to the U.K. I never expected a free lunch or a quick profit. People that work with fire and metal generally don't. Just work hard, buy quality materials at a good price and don't get greedy when you sell. With English inlaws and American parents I've got good anchors on either side to help take care of the details. I was just looking to see if there was a reasonable amount of interest in the product.The European Union's reduction of many import and export taxes for it's member countries that side of the Atlantic has also resulted in a much larger area to scour for great tools. I have good knowledge of Germany and Bosnia already and a convenient location in Spain to work out of as well. An international scavenger hunt just seemed like a more interesting career field than finding another manufacturing related job making someone else rich.
   Robert Cutting - Friday, 11/02/07 23:44:58 EST


Displaying my usual tact (grin), I'm going to go back a day and a half and take issue with one of your posts. You said that air consumption is a function of actual piston travel, not available travel.

That's true for a hydraulic cylinder, but I don't think it is for an air cylinder. The air in the dead (unswept) space is going to compress on every stroke. When it does, it's going to take more air molecules to fill the same space, and those air molecules have to come from somewhere.

No doubt the benefits of a few extra inches of stroke outweigh whatever added air consumption there is. But use a 10' cylinder to get a 10" stroke, and I bet you'd send air consumption through the roof (and probably ruin the performance of the hammer).
   Mike BR - Saturday, 11/03/07 06:01:10 EST

Rufus, Have you tried the google 'patent' search? -

On a differnt forum there was a question asked about a Massey Hammers valveing, someone then posted a lot of links to google patent that had very detailed accurate information about how the hammers work (patents from about 1900 ish) - I was amazed.

Ive never tried it but a search on 'National Upsetter' or such might yeild results - for the names of all the differnt upsetter Manufacturers have a look at www.Presstrade.com stocklist, they generally have at least on of every machine ever made in stock :)
   - John N - Saturday, 11/03/07 06:45:09 EST

Robert, The main problem I can forsee is it would tie up a lot of money for a long time to realise any profits at all, let alone make any 'wages' there is no such thing as a quick buck in blacksmithing - but to make anything you would have to be very efficent.

I would suggest exporting it to the US as 'scrap metal' value $80/ ton, assuming you guys removed the import duty on steel?
   - John N - Saturday, 11/03/07 06:51:43 EST

John N... Do the words "FRAUD" and "PRISON" mean anything to you?
   - anon - Saturday, 11/03/07 07:00:15 EST

OLD Anvil Imports: The last person I knew that directly brought in a old anvil did so as an "antique". Since it was definitely over 50 years old (probably 90) customs accepted that. AND since the the real profit in these things is the collectors market and many are well over 100 years old then they are indeed antiques. . .

However, if the customs folks read anvilfire, I have been telling folks for years that anvils up to 150-175 years old are working tools and to be an "antique" must be older than that.

Buying Your Own Container: While this seems the best approach (I thought it did several years ago) it has huge problems. The U.S. Government only allows registered trackable containers owned by registered shipping companies through the ports. Just to get an international container registration for one or more containers costs $2400/year. I have not yet found out what the government requirements to be a registered shipper are.

In my case I was planning shipping four containers to Costa Rica. When they got there they would become the outer walls of wings on a shop building. Then the contents could be removed in an organized manner as-needed. On this end I wanted to build in steel shelving units and racks in one or two of the containers to make the whole more organized and to give me access during the one or two years I expected to fill the containers. Alas this plan got shot all full of holes. . . However, I might still look into the possibility IF I can figure how to clear all the red tape at a reasonable cost. Spread over four containers the cost is not prohibitive but IS significant. Of course the cost of the container is also added to the destination import duties.

In my mind the benefits still outweigh the costs but it does add a LOT of aggravation. In the current situation the shipper delivers the container and you only have a very short period of time to fill it. The time limits are part of the trackabillity issue. THEN at the other end you have the same issue unloading it.

SO, you have X tons of tools, machinery and crates to load into 4 containers in a week. . . THEN you need a fork lift AND a loading dock on both ends. . .

One of my current alternatives is to build modular steel frame shipping units that can be lifted by a fork lift and quickly transfered from one container to another, sort of like the modular air cargo containers. Then I would use decommissioned containers as temporary storage and be ready to make a quick clean move. But this does not work with the heavy machinery. . .

   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 08:16:30 EST

Rufas, I worked in an upsetter shop for a few years recently. National and Ajax are the two big names in upsetters. As the Guru notes new upsetters are not being made in the US today. There is a pretty good stock of rebuildable machine available, and since the bigger machines have cast steel components too big for any foundary remaining in North American to pour, if a new say 9" was ordered from National, the casting would come from offshore.
The Guru described the layout pretty well with one exception That I note, the grips are mechanical and are run off cams on the main crank. These machines are completely mechanical, except for the air clutches/brakes.
All of the upsetters in the four shops I have been in that had upsetters had Nationals, and Ajaxs. All work as follows;
The electric motor spins a flywheel. The flywheel is either on a back shaft, with a pinon gear that runs a huge bull gear to turn the crank, or the flywheel spins on the crank. All use a very large air driven clutch to engage and turn the crank one turn per pedal press.
Once the clutch engages the crank begins to turn, and the grip slide moves quickly to grab the bar and hold it against a back stop. The grip slide usually has half dies to make the rear of the forged surface. The tool slide continues to advance until the top dead center of crank throw and then retracts. The part is then as forged as it gets in that impression. When the tool slide is nearly back the grip slide opens, and the billit is moved to the next impression and everything repeats. A complex part shape usually takes 5 progressive impressions, in one machine to achieve.
The size bar you describe would probably have been forged in a 4" upsetter. A 4" upsetter, ready to run would probably weigh about 200,000# all up,and would sit on a foundation of about 50 cubic yards in a typical midwest location.
In the axle shop we used a 4" to bump up large truck axles on the end that the splines were cut. One hit in an auto set-up. Alot of the sizing of the upsetter used has to do with how big the flange will be to allow cleareance in removing the finished part and to clear the grip slide tooling.
We had a 10" upsetter, and forged 22" flanges in it from 6" bar. Took some creative moves to get the flange back out.
If I recall corectly the newest machine in our inventroy was 1950's and most were 40's. These had been keptafter WWII when the really worn out 20/30's stuff had been scrapped when the war work disappeared.
There are several companies in the US that specialize in rebuilding these machines and they stock some parts and forgings for things like cranks. Maintenanceon these machines is expensive, and takes true millwrights as many of the techniques are things like lapping in bearings, scraping bearing surfaces and so forth. Usually also takes an overhead crane to much of anything on these as the parts are so large. A 9" upsetter crank is a 20' or so long open die forging in 4140, with bearing journals of 24 to 30" od by 16 to 18" width, machined, heat treated and then ground. If I recall correctly a 2005 price of $100,000
   Ptree - Saturday, 11/03/07 08:24:45 EST

Mass Production & Economies of Scale, the "Calibrated Eyeball", and Sunken Viking Ships:

I still have my head stuck in the transition from handcraft to the early industrial revolution. It makes me tend to salvage as much lumber as possible, since I know what it took to hand-cut it before sawmills came into use. :-)

A lot of the custom work exists in the grey areas where the demand is not great enough to justify mass production; handcraft tends to lurk in these grey areas, taking advantage of the ambiguities. There are a lot of steps between the "pure" handcrafted object and the mass produced object. My favorite example is a crafter friend of mine with four drill presses with a jig on each one for step-by-step operations. In the old days, we just had indentured servants, our children, or slaves.

On the subject of using (or not using) jigs, one of our Camp Fenby members talks about the "calibrated eyeball" which she applies to all sorts of situations from the sewing table to the rifle and pistol range. She has developed a very good eye for distances and measurements through rules of thumb and a lot of practice. The good thing about a jig is that it will give you consistent results; the bad thing is that it can repeat consistent mistakes and limits your options and sense of proportion until you adjust, rebuild, or you set it aside and gain the experience needed. Jigs can be useful tools, but they need a lot of thought, both for proper functioning and for appropriateness to the specific job.

The sum total of available Viking ship remains is quite small, a few burial ships, a fire ship (from the waterline down, of course) some ships weighted down with stones to block the harbor, and some boats pulled up at the head of the estuary and left to rot. Whenever folks take these to be typical, I warn them to consider the context. Why were they selected to be buried, or set afire, or sunk, or abandoned? Was the queen's burial ship at Oseberg picked because it was her favorite, or the most beautiful, or an old, leaky tub that sailed on the edge of disaster with her low freeboard? Maybe all three? Reconstructing the artifacts is (relatively) easy; reconstructing "history" is hard. There's good information on a variety of early medieval smelters, but as Thomas will attest, learning how to operate an early medieval smelting operation is mostly empirical experience and not something to be read in the accounts of Theophilus.

The advantage, for us, of a familiarity with handcraft is that it leads to constant discoveries, revelations and appreciations of the daily lives of our ancestors. Knowing how to do it the old way, and the hard way, and the new way, and the easy way, and how mild steel varies from wrought iron, and how green oak works compared to old barn beams can be both revealing and satisfying, and may provide at least some guidance for projects undertaken in the 21st century, much less duplications of efforts and discoveries from the 11th century.

Chilly and windy on the banks of the lower Potomac. Capt. Van is taking the longship out today for a jaunt in sheltered waters; I'm hitting the church story-telling festival, and working on the fireplace crane for the new house tonight, instead.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 11/03/07 10:46:26 EST

Historical Sampling: Somewhere I read that it is estimated that we have less than 10% of Ancient Greek literature and that much of it is by accident. It is not necessarily what the Greeks thought was their best.

In other places much physical history is based on the ten thousandths or less part of examples we have found. These also may not be the typical or ideal, they could even be the worst.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 12:21:21 EST

i'd like to make an anvil from 20" length of rr rail for just knifemaking.I'd like to have the top of the track milled or ground flat and use the rail horizontal...is this okay?
   lawrence - Saturday, 11/03/07 13:12:03 EST

Thanks for the input folks, it is very useful information to have. The devil is in the details. I'll probably spend a large portion of the next year doing research just to insure I don't lose my shirt and to find out if I can swing it. My interest in metal products is very broad so the scope of what I would be gathering is varied. Selling the good finds instead of keeping them would probably be the hardest part. I suffer from steel hoarding packrat syndrome. I really do intend to go after good working quality stuff since the collectors market in anything I've ever gotten involved in was just too unpredictable for my tastes and I haven't had the time to become an expert yet. Tools are for working unless they are just too rare or old for the job and then I usually just pass those on to people with the shelf space for them. Thanks again and keep up all the wonderful dialogs. Gives me a great chance to stretch my brain with the interesting topics.
   Robert Cutting - Saturday, 11/03/07 13:29:16 EST

Anvilheads: Take a look at eBay listing #290177670981. Looks like a CF&I mated with a Hay-Budden anvil and this is the result.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Saturday, 11/03/07 15:03:06 EST

Hello all, been a while :)
I've a question to put forward to everyone concerning aprons. I was given some fawn coloured leather of sufficient size to make a decent Smithing apron (enough in fact to double up the leather and make a really nice thick apron) but I was wondering about which side of the leather should be on the outside? One side is shiney and the other dull/rough, I dont see any advantage to one side or the other but the Smith i work for says the dull side should face outwards but he cant remember why, any ideas on which and why?
   Ian Lowe - Saturday, 11/03/07 15:37:05 EST

RR-Rail Anvil: Lawrence, generally NO. For very small light work RR-rail is OK but it is very springy. Go to our FAQs page and the anvil making articles. There is info on RR-Rail anvils.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 15:47:57 EST

Leather: Ian, I have seen both ways. First, do not double it up. Many industrial smiths say that cotton is best due to heat and comfort. Then when overheated it burns. Leather just gets hot enough that it burns YOU. However, this advise is for huge industrial forging.

The apron I've worn for years is rough on both sides. It was originally a calf length welder apron and I cut to just above the knee because it interfered with movement.

With the smooth side toward you it will slip better against your clothing. . . That light color is not going to stay pretty for long.

I've found an apron more necessary for arc welding and buffing. When buffing it is armor for flying parts and wires from wire wheels. While arc welding it prevents sputter balls and grinding sparks from burning.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 15:56:10 EST

Can any of you in the US vouch for the welding helmet at the following address? It looks maybe a little too cheap to be true...
EBAY item 110187398617 NO LONG URL'S PLEASE!
   Craig - Saturday, 11/03/07 17:18:55 EST

I want to start using CAD in my work. Can you recommend anything ?
   Michael Haase - Saturday, 11/03/07 17:24:03 EST

CAD: Michael, It depends on what you want to do. If you want to use after market tools, exchange files with others or use the product for a long time them AutoCAD is the way to go. You can download a trial version of AutoCAD lite. I have not opened mine due to current time restrictions. . .

My problem with non-industry standard CAD products is that they often are not long lived or change hands. I started out using ProDesignII on a DOS machine and went through several upgrades. The company was bought out and the name of the product changed to DesignCAD. The company then went through several hands and many new programmers and the product had no continuity. The last version I upgraded to bragged that it could import any common CAD file type. The problem was, it couldn't properly import its OWN previous version files. . . At that time I had about 12 years of files and experience with the system. . .

The only reason I am still using this system is a "save" by Adobe Acrobat Pro. IT can be printed to from DesignCAD 2000 and in turn the Adobe PDF files used by others AND they print much prettier than direct output from DesignCAD. Adobe supports printers that the no longer supported version of DesignCAD does not.

IF you want to just make drawings for yourself AND do not care if you lose the LONG LONG learning curve when updating to another product then almost any cheap CAD program will do.

AND THAT is my problem. I have thousands of hours using DesignCAD on top of the huge library of files that I have built up. Changing will be very costly in TIME (something I have much less of than money).

I am not a proponent of AutoCAD. There are many things I do not like about it (from my experience with version 10 many years ago). But there are some huge advantages to using an industry standard product. An outfit called FabCAD has AutoCAD tools particularly for ironworkers and fabricators.


There are others.

You can also use a standard graphical drawing program to create ironwork images using overlays and paths such as PhotoShop uses.

   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 18:19:22 EST

Despite all of the advice againt making a sword for a first time project out there on the net, I went and purchased a bar of 'weld' steel from canadian tire and formed it into a rough katana shape. Through this I have learned a lot but I also managed to screw up a lot. Through my inexperienced hammering using the wrong type of hammer and a joke of an anvil, a bench vise with a small flat surface on top; I've managed to slightly corkscrew the blade. Is there any way to straighten it without using exotic tools?
   - Nabiul Haque - Saturday, 11/03/07 19:19:22 EST

Second question... I have "acquired" an old 1 lbs ball pein hammer head from the dusty wasteland of my father's old, mostly inherited tools, and it has got me wondering about its history. The maker's mark stamped in the side is "Brades" and the rest is a bit indistinct. I can just make out the number 1773, which I assume does not relate to the age of the hammer, judging by the quality of the shape. It also seems to say "made ........land", which I guess used to say England.
Anyway, was Brades a well known tool maker? Should I try to take special care of it, or bash the crappers out of it like I do all the others?
   Craig - Saturday, 11/03/07 20:36:36 EST

Nabiul, you could try gripping it betweeen a couple of blocks of wood in the bench vice so as not to damage the grind, warm a bit and twist back, little bit at a time (softly softly catchy monkey)

Ian, if youve not worked out how to wear a pinny yet.... you still in London village?

Anon, you cant even use your own name, sad & pathetic. I suppose you take the view that we dont pay enough tax to keep the politicians in their expense accounts, the good folks on welfare in drink & cable telly and the housing for those who have never paid a cent in tax in the country they live in, whilst some of us spend 60 hours a week, strugging to pay the mortgage, being taxed to the eyeballs on every necessity in life??? - heck, pay the full import tax, then declare the income , and pay some tax, then spend that money on taxed goods, then, die, leave a little and have some inheritence tax charged on whats left.

Whilst you at it check your annual tax bill (obviously yours inst high enough) - then have a look at how much corpotation tax the big, profitable corporations pay, as a % zilch, nothing, all written of to provision for this, offset for that, I can only assume you work for the public sector, and have a nice index linked pension waiting for you at 55.
   - John N - Saturday, 11/03/07 20:36:55 EST

Shipping containers... I send a few out and I cant even imagine how difficult it would be to get a 'personaly owned' one on a boat, the paperwork is a nightmare even with a container from a major line such as MSC, going on an MSC boat. In the UK I dont think you could get a box (trade talk ta know !) - anywhere near a port, yet alone on the boat.

Any irregularities on the container number, seal nember, Bills of Lading / etc and it goes off to 'one side', incurring demurage - once its 'out of the loop' getting it back in is a logistical nightmare.
   - John N - Saturday, 11/03/07 20:45:11 EST

That church Norfolk latch:

About a month ago I asked about the inside part of Norfolk latches and JimG mentioned a latch he saw that was a Suffolk-type on the inside, where the inside thumb bar lifted the outside thumber.

Well, I went with that concept and it works perfectly. I posted a small picture story at ForgeMagic, http://tinyurl.com/2qa3r5

Thanks, JimG.
   - Marc - Saturday, 11/03/07 21:24:44 EST

after heat treating some O-1 to use as a blade in woodworking, I noticed some pitting or scaling or something. I was able to sand it out with some effort.

question 1: Is there a correct term for this?
question 2: What was the cause? To much heat for too long?
question 3: Have I damaged the steal other than aesthetically? Is it OK to just sand it out?
   very beginner - Saturday, 11/03/07 21:34:00 EST

Old Ball Pein: Craig, Most tools can be used properly for many years with only mild wear and tear. Ball Peins have a number of uses which do not include breaking rocks or bashing the heck out of it. They are fine for use on punches, chisels, riveting, dishing in sheet metal, adjusting things judiciously and many other uses.

I've got a collection of various size ball peins from a cute little 2oz tapper to a big 5 pound hand forged monster. Many are quite old and the most they needed was a gentle dressing to remove rust pits from the faces and some handle replacements.

Ball peins used to be made in almost infinite sizes but are much less readily available in a range of sizes today. AND many of the old hammers had very nice sharp crisp lines which most new ball peins do not (thus the collecting).

Tools DO wear out but it takes a LOT to wear out a hammer. I have worn out one forging hammer that was a little soft and worn the face of my larger hammer to where it is flat enough that it needs dressing again. But this takes a couple years of heavy use. On the other hand, forging hammers, ball peins, riveting hammers, repousse' hammers are not normally used to break rocks and often last for generations.

Its up to you. If the tool has a lot of emotional attachment then oil it and hang it on your living room wall.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 21:54:05 EST

ebay welding hood in OZ:I cannot comment on this particular welding hood. I have had trouble with these devices and would buy one from a reputable LOCAL dealer in case there are problems. However, if you admit its a cheap tool and don't mind replacing it once in while then try it.

There are times when cheap tools pay. If they simply have a short life, must be replaced often (once a year), and the total cost is no more than a "quality" brand over its expected life then you have saved money on the short run. This can be good in some cases. However, some cheap tools like some of the poorly made 4x6 saws are so aggravating and costly on blades that it doesn't matter if they are a GIFT. . . I've also had tools that failed to work properly on first use. They go straight to the trash can. I do not normally buy low grade tools but they DO get brought into the shop by others. . . It takes me about 2 seconds to make the decision to can these.

   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 21:55:44 EST

Scale: Beginner, Steel + heat + air = scale (iron oxide). This is a burnt surface. It only takes a few seconds in open air.

This is a common occurrence in heat treating. The normal plan is to rough finish, heat treat, then final finish. Oxidation CAN ruin a fine edge if held at heat too long. If you can sand out the pitting you have probably not hurt the steel.

There are ways around this problem. Protect the steel from oxygen. Professional heat treaters do this with an inert gas filled oven. On a small scale you can wrap the part with stainless foil and do the heating. Foil and envelopes are available from heat treating supplies and McMaster-Carr.

The trick is to be able to quickly and easily get the part out of the foil envelope when it is hot so that you can quench the part. It helps to leave a flat open area that can be cut quickly with shears. Thin O-1 will air quench. I like using foil for tool and die work where it is difficult to grind fits after heat treating.

Another method is to heat in a sealed container filled with charcoal like doing case hardening. The short low heat will not add significant carbon (especially to alloy steels).

You can also use an oxidation preventing coating such as ITC-213. However, even though I am a dealer for the product I have not tried this for heat treating. I should as it is less expensive than using foil and you can quench directly. It should be excellent for use on A-2.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/03/07 22:44:48 EST

John N... You are pretty much wrong on every account describing me. I pay all taxes due and am glad to do it for the benefits provided. Folks that cheat on taxes are stealing from everyone, including you and I. They should be caught and punished.
   - anon - Sunday, 11/04/07 04:43:04 EST

Came across this site as a source of blacksmithing leg vises and cast steel anvils: http://www.milwtool.com/black.htm#csa. Doesn't show image of leg vise or anvil, but an anvil is currently on eBay as item #220167685526. I suspect the anvils are made for them by Brooks in England. Wide range of sizes.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Sunday, 11/04/07 05:45:42 EST

Spark Eroding---
This works by useing spark erosion... To shape and drill steel --- I would like to know how they work what Amperage is needed DC I would say --- IT is done under a liquid --- That is used as a ((dyerlite)) its the opposite to an electrolyte as i understant it ---((Thats not the right spelling for ((dyerlite)) damed if i can find it )) So if any one can enlighten me Please that would be real neat---Thanks--- tecnovist
   tecnovist - Sunday, 11/04/07 07:06:58 EST

Spark eroding is currently known as EDM- Electrical Discharge Machining.
It is easily googled as such, and there are many companies making the machines and supplies.
These are precision machine tools, and are not cheap- even used, expect to spend $10,000 to $100,000.
Occasionally you can find an ancient model used to burn broken taps out, for a grand or two, but that is all they are good for- burning a small diameter hole.
To actually shape steel with an EDM, expect to spend money, and time learning, as if it was a decent CNC lathe or milling machine.
   - Ries - Sunday, 11/04/07 07:43:07 EST

Spark Eroding sounds like you are talking about EDM machining. Also known as electrical discharge machining. It is done under a diaelectric fluid. Most of the machines I used were 3 phase power and the current/amperage ect. vary depending upon what you are doing. Very useful technology since it works on any metal regardless of its hardness. It's not hard to learn but is rather expensive for machines and fluid along with disposal expenses for the used liquids and their heavy metal contaminants. Any local trade school should have a course if you want to learn.
   Robert Cutting - Sunday, 11/04/07 07:55:07 EST

EDM Electrical Discharge Machining is what the process is called. The die used to cut with is made of a conductive material and for some process is a wire. Dies are made of metal, graphite and metal plated plated plastic. One big advantage of EDM is that complicated shapes can be machined or sunk into hardened steel. EFM has replaced many skilled die makers.

EDM is a slow process and the motion of the die or wire must be carefully controlled to move only at the rate of material removal. I suspect most EDM machines have feed back with automatic controls.

In Wire EDM the wire cuts like a cheese cutter removing very little material. Using computer guided motion some very interesting shapes can be made. The last example I saw was a rocket nozzle made by rotating the cylindrical part at an angle. This resulted in a very nice parabolic curve. In this case the starting cut necessary to get the wire into the work resulted in a certain amount of beneficial turbulence.

There are primitive versions of this to operate by hand on a drill press that have been around for years to remove stuck or broken bolts.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 07:57:48 EST

More EDM: A couple of the early demonstrations of what EDM could do included machining a square hole with a twist and a spiral spring shaped hole using a spring for an electrode.

Another method of using EDM is to create punches and make the corresponding die using EDM.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 08:02:08 EST

Program on TV called Masterminds. One guy was counterfeiting casino metal tokens. I'm 99% sure it said he used a EDM machine to cut the dies. Coins were so close to their supplier they are not sure they got them all out of their system. Caught due to greed (too much at one time).
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:00:35 EST

hay cool thank all -- dos any one know what the diaelectric fluid is or what can be used as a diaelectric fluid
   tecnovist - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:03:55 EST

EDM. The comercial forging trade is dominated by EDM for the making of the forging dies, and for closed die forging, for the hot trim dies as well.
At the valve shop we used CADAM, and later PRO-E to design a finished part. From that model we made a forging model. The forging was of course the premachined version of the part. From the forging model we made the die model. Different size as shrinkage had to be allowed for the part to shrink back after cooling from forging temp. From the forging die model a positive model, of yet another size was made, and this was the graphite tool to sink the die. This graphite tool model was then used to generate the tool paths for a cnc 3 axis mill to carve the graphite tool. The graphite tool was mounted into a cnc EDM machine to sink the die into a pre-hardened die block. The CNC allowed feed and amp rates to be controlled, and at near the end of the burn to oscillate the tool to "Polish" the cavity. This greatly reduced the need for hand polishing.
The logos and so forth were burnt in with a seperate graphite tool and made much better markings than the old stamped in markings.
You to can get to this level of sophistication for a few mere millions:)
The Wire EDM machines were also CNC and were used to do many tooling tasks in the die shop. They were great for hot trim dies to cut the flash from the drop forged platters of forgings. We also cut profile tooling in M-42 for our screw machines, in a great savingings in cost.
The wire machines can control both the top feed and the bottom guides to allow cutting a taper or so forth different that what would be done if not offset.
The oil filtration system was a maintenance issue and disposal of the sludge was an enviro issue as noted above. We also had smoke grabbers to capture the smoke and oil vapor, and these had a habit of catching on fire.
Great technology.
   Ptree - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:12:26 EST

Nabiul Haque: The tool used to straighten a corkscrew twist in flat bar (or to put it in there in the first place) is a twisting wrench. Clamp one end of your bar in a well-anchored vise, put the wrench on the other, and twist. The "weld steel" you used can take that cold, since it's A-36 hot-rolled mild steel. It is not blade material, by the way.

Tecnovist: Lindsay Books offers a couple of books on homemade EDM machines. As I recall, one used a graphite block at the electrode and kerosene as the fluid. Think long and hard before doing it yourself. Sparks and kerosene REALLY like each other. They get along like a house on fire, as the saying goes...
   Alan-L - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:22:18 EST

EDM and Rapid Prototyping are two of the "magic" technologies of the 21st Century. Both rely on modern computers and Rapid prototyping relies on the LASER which is a mid 20th century invention. All amazing stuff.

To add to this I read an article the other day where ink jet technology is being adapted to deposit living cells in layers with the goal to build an organ or tissue from lab grown cells. Imagine a burn victim not needing to have large pieces of skin removed from one place to repair another. . Whole sheets of skin could be grown.

Another step closer to what was science fiction. . . If only we had those egg sized nuclear "batteries" to power our robots.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:22:54 EST

Hi all Thanks i am humbled by the info given
   tecnovist - Sunday, 11/04/07 09:41:36 EST

I use several NC forges. The refractory insulation on side walls and back and top is a solid material, however as probably all of you know the door has fibrous mat. Does any of this fiber become air borne during use?? I imagine this is a silica fiber. Can this be contained? Should it be contained somehow? Is it dangerous? (seems so)NC dosen't have any disclaimer that I know of. My forges are always in use outside of the shop by my propane supply so at least whatever might be a floatin in air is not restricted to indoors.
   Greg Derse - Sunday, 11/04/07 11:43:19 EST

I'm making this one for learning purposes and practice, for the next one I will get some 1050 or something from a metal suppler. I have already tried to bend it using a vise but was not successful, maybe this picture will illustrate why, I'm not sure where on the blade exactly to clamp it down.

   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 11/04/07 13:19:04 EST

Greg Derse,

In the big forging outfits where they have huge car kilns lined with alumina refractory blanket, they monitor the air and don't require respirators for the users. This pretty much tells me that the exposure can't be all that great. Their lawyers and insurance carriers wouldn't allow it otherwise.
   vicopper - Sunday, 11/04/07 14:05:27 EST

Aha! It's a compound nasty twist, not a corkscrew...

I'd fix it hot on the anvil, but it can be done with a vise and one wrench. Grap the tip (beside the lighters in that picture) in a vise and slip the wrench on in the middle of that first kink. Straighten it from the wrench to the vise first, then slide the vise up to just before the next kink and proceed in that way. Lots of little steps, lots of little twists, all with the knowledge that it'll retwist just a little next time you heat it up. You're not gonna fix it in one go.

That's one reason there aren't that many swordsmiths, if it were easy anyone could do it. (grin!)
   Alan-L - Sunday, 11/04/07 14:26:09 EST

Forge Linings: Greg, All the lining in an NC is prone to make dust. When you get to the point on needing to re-line one you will find the box packed with dust from the lining. THIS is when you want to be particularly careful.

The door is covered with a 2" piece of high grade kaowool type material. It does break down.

The heat generated dust from both refractories are listed as possible carcinogens by researchers and as a carcinogen and grouped with fiberglass by the state of California. The small amount generated by your forge in any one day is probably not a problem compared to the other hazards in your shop but it DOES add to them.

We recommend coating the entire interior of forges like this with ITC-100 to prevent lining break down, dust creation and improve efficiency. Note that we are a dealer for this product and do have a financial stake in sales of the product. However, we were not the first to recommend this.

The problem on NC's is the door design which is prone to being dropped or shut hard and the shock that results. Even a thin coat of ITC-100 tends to pull off the surface of the delicate Kaowool after a while and any extra weight added to that part increases problems. The only thing that holds the blanket on is a few sheet metal screws used like nails or fingers embedded in the edges of the soft blanket.

We HAVE coated the "non-gasket" area of NC door linings with ITC-100 and have had it stay put six months to a year. It then usually falls off in large pieces taking some lining with it.

There are ways to make it more permanent but they add weight to the refractory. To compensate for the weight you can wire the blanket on with stainless or Inconell wire. To help the ITC-100 stay stuck take a knife and cut a dozen or so slits into the blanket about 3/4 way through and about 2" apart. Then daub ITC-100 into the slits with a small brush to create anchors in the blanket before applying the ITC-100 to the surface. Do not apply to the gasket area.

We also use ITC-213 in our forges to reduce the rust that occurs in the inside of the shell and reduce oxidation of exposed steel parts. The ITC-213 is used to prime the metal and then ITC-100 or 296-A is applied over the 213.

Ah. . Those big car bottomed furnaces ViCopper mentioned are one of ITC's biggest users in industry.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 14:44:44 EST

I managed to get the tip straight, I secured the vise somewhat firmer this time to the ground using RR spikes.
Now only the rest of the sword to go.
   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 11/04/07 14:51:42 EST

Thanks again for the Kinyon advice. I have a question about the chinese self contained hammers. I saw an 88lb. Anyang 2-piece and it had hardwood blocks driven between the anvil and frame. Is this the correct set-up? I assumed the anvil was bolted down before the hammer was set in position.
   Jason M. Mecum - Sunday, 11/04/07 15:35:34 EST

Two piece Hammer Installation: Jason, Yes this is the correct installation. It is the same as on the original Nazels and later Chambersburgs. Massey uses the same system.

When done properly the wedges are tightened, the hammer run in a while, then all the wedges checked for tightness and sawed off in a straight line. THEN, Massey recommends a cap made of rolled or welded angle iron be fit over the top of the wedges.

This is how a first class mill-wright would do the job. Most are not so well installed.

Both the bottom of the anvil and the machine are as-cast and not necessarily square to anything. When setting up these machines the anvil is set to the proper height and squared up by carving and shaving the wood pad it sits on. A precision level is used to check the anvil at the dovetail on on the die. When the anvil sets steady and square to the world then the hammer is lowered over it and a similar process is used with wedges and shims to align the hammer to the anvil. The wedges hold the hammer aligned over the anvil and the shims square it to the anvil.

To test for perfect alignment a piece of thin cardboard and a piece of carbon paper is placed on a flat die. Then a blow is struck and the contact area observed by the imprint. A good precision dial indicator can also be used for the same purpose.

   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 16:15:17 EST

Jason, Its correct. The anvil is not bolted down but timber wedged into the hole in the concrete inertia block, there are then 'secondary' wedges between the top neck of the anvil block and the baseplate of the hammer (the ones your describing) - this has been industry standard for a good couple of hundred years.

To the best of my knowledge there is still no better way of securing an anvil into the inertia block (we use all sorts of 2 part polysulphide rubber scale excluders and nitrile foundation mats), but its still the timber wedges that do the real work.
   - John N - Sunday, 11/04/07 16:19:22 EST

were singing off the same song sheet on this one Jock!
   - John N - Sunday, 11/04/07 16:20:58 EST

Yep, and you may have noticed I've read the Massey installation manual. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 17:00:27 EST

Shop Trials: Nabiul, Put some effort into setting up shop. A vise in any workshop, be it woodwork, jewelery, machine work or blacksmithing needs to be mounted securely to a steady bench, stand or post. Even little 2" jeweler's vices need to be firmly attached to a bench. Blacksmith vices need as heavy an anchor as possible.

If you need portability in your vise stand you can combine it with a slack-tub. Using a large drum of water gives you a 400 to 500 pound anchor for your vice. However, you can dump the water out and then move it easily. To mount a vise on an oil drum or old hot water heater tank you need to make a bracket that fits the curve of the tank and fits far enough around not to flex the side of the tank. Thick wood cut with a jig saw works well for this.

You can also make a tripod type stand for a vice from wood or metal. You may want to have a way to stake down its legs. It also helps if you stand or sit on part of it to make it more steady.

If you are using primitive methods working on the ground by squatting or sitting even then your tools need anchoring OR to be secured. In primitive Eastern shops where the vise is only a foot or a few inches off the ground it is mounted on a post or log sunk several feet into the Earth. The same is true of anvils. Small anvils used at ground level are resting on a wood block set deep in the Earth.

Some ground level Eastern methods use a long board with the vice or clamp attached to it. The smith sits or squats on the board so that he and the tool are ONE. No matter how much force he applies he cannot move the tool unless he breaks it.

Then there is the Southern RED neck way where you arc weld the vice (preferably a plate to bolt it to) to the trailer hitch of your pickup truck. This gives you a 3,000 pound or more anchor (albiet a little springy) for your vice.

No matter what kind of shop situation you have there are ways to make things work if you think about them and use your imagination. Preparation to work, collecting your tools and setting up shop is a major part of the job.

THEN go back and forge on that "blade" some more. It has a long way to go. Yeah, its hard work, its blacksmithing.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 17:01:52 EST

My parents would not appreciate it if I made any permanent fixtures in their backyard, or took up any space with large tools. It's just not something they can appreciate. There is an old tree stump where I set up my 'forge', a bunch of bricks, a hair dryer and a metal grill plate. I'm going to secure a vise or anvil there sometime soon, but it is quickly rotting away.
Speaking of that 'blade', it's already heat treated, I decided to just leave it as it is on this one, I started with a too thin material and won't have the proper tools for a little while so the next one will be ok.

Here is a picture of it, it went in relatively straight and came out sort of curved, an indication that some martensite formed even though it's low carbon steel. It was at the wrong temperature too, the tip however was too cold and didn't curve properly.

   Nabiul Haque - Sunday, 11/04/07 17:55:06 EST

I've made a 39 pound sledge hammer head for a customer, and I wish to handle it the way Hofi hammers or Big Blu hand hammers are done, that's with the handle in the eye surrounded by some sort of adhesive, the handle never touching the steel. There are a couple of reasons I want to do it this way, but anyways, does anyone know what product they use or what would work?
   - Who Nose - Sunday, 11/04/07 18:28:27 EST

Nabiul, I took a look at your first effort at smithing. I admire your initiative in doing that much work with such modest tools. Keep up the good work, son. We will help any way we can.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 11/04/07 19:30:34 EST


Hofi once said he used a product made by a company called called Sikaflex, though I don't recall the particular Sikaflex compound he used. It is a high-strength RTV silicone polymer construction adhesive/sealant, I believe.
   vicopper - Sunday, 11/04/07 21:27:25 EST

Wondering if any of y'all knew of some real good books about smithing hinges, and other door hardware? Looking mostly for drawings and photos, but any with some instruction would be nice also.
   Pablo - Sunday, 11/04/07 22:31:03 EST

Hammer Head Cushion Material: Big BLU uses a 3M product on their hammers. They claim it is better and it is more available in the US. They will probably tell you what they use if you ask.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 22:57:21 EST

Hinges: There are several works available that include many antique/traditional hinges.

Early American Wrought Iron by Sonn is back in print.

Colonial Wrought Iron - The Sorber Collection by Plummer has a lot of Colonial hardware. See our review.

Antique Iron by Shiffer is also back in print and probably as good as the two above. I just thumbed through it and there are a LOT of hinges.

Professional Smithing by Streeter has some jigs for making hinges (similar are shown in our iForge demo).

   - guru - Sunday, 11/04/07 23:11:31 EST

EDM: The electrical power is DC at about 200 volts delivered in bursts at radio frequency, the higher the frequency, the faster metal is removed. Each spark blows a tiny divot of metal away where it lands, and when using high amperage for roughing, the surface is quite rough. Finishing is done at about 2 amps on the machines Where I worked. The liquid, a dialectric, can be a light oil, or in the case of the wire EDM [the ones We had at least] deionised water. The electrode is fed to maintain the proper arc voltage, may be oscilated up&down [Z axis] and in newer machines in the x & Y axes as well. This creates flushing action, and can be used to compensate for electrode wear. Orbital EDM's can creat undercuts that older plunge machines can't. In the '60s many EDM machines were shop built conversions of verticle mills and jig bores, with shop built power supplies. Electrode material can technically be anything that conducts electricity, but for efficient operation copper alloys and copper filled carbon made specificlly for the purpose are used. In the old days of solid copper pennys, a trade show demonstration was to burn an impression into a block with a penny soldered on to a rod and used for an electrode. Counterfitted coins/tokens made in this manner would be extremely hard to distinguish from the real thing.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/04/07 23:49:09 EST

EDM continued: Obsolete EDM machines could be had at scrap prices, I have seen a few at the industrial surplus/scrap yard where I go. There are '70s era wire machines that were probably a quarter million then that were obsolete in the mid '80s. These read a perforated paper tape program, cut slowly and not nearly as acurately as modern machines. Older plunge machines are not fast enough or versatile enough to make money in a commercial setting, I would expect them to be pretty cheap allso.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/04/07 23:58:34 EST

Who Nose: I think Hofi uses a pollyurethane adhesive/selant. Sika makes several of these. 3M 5200 is an extremely tenacious pollyurethane adhesive/selant, I would use that. There is a fast cure formula, the standard cure will take a good week I believe in the hammer handle aplication. These are moisture activated cures, there needs to be sufficient moisture in the atmosphere for a reasonally expedient cure. Only buy as much as You need, as the shelf life once opened isn't real long.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/05/07 00:16:05 EST

Sikaflex-11FC PDF is the product Hofi is using. Big BLU says they have stopped using it and have found a better product (after much trial and error) but will not say what for proprietary reasons. Business is business.

Some things to know. If you search for it you will find it for sale all over the world EXCEPT in the US. There are US distributors that will order it for you. If you find it here you may have to purchase through an industrial supplier with a open account. It has a short shelf life and may not be good when you get it (this based on others experience).

Engineering things to consider. Sledge handles are not much larger than hammer handles. The reason is simple, the human hand is limited in size. If you glue a hammer head that is 10x the weight of hammers commonly used in this system with roughly the same shear area then failure is a very likely possibility. To shock mount something the size you are talking about (37 pounds) you may want a very large tapered eye shaped similar to a pick ax that cannot pull off.

I've had a couple people come to me about absurdly oversize hammers and a significant part of the job was designing an eye and making a handle to fit. I never got a response after the quote. . . not even a "wow, no thank you". I suspect the folks asking were kids with no clue what custom work costs.

   - guru - Monday, 11/05/07 08:53:23 EST

I see I'm not the first to mention this, but here's the URL for the (one of the?) Linday Books publication(s?) on making a homemade EDM machine: http://www.lindsaybks.com/bks9/edm/index.html

It's intriguing, but my need isn't great enough and I don't have the space.
   Matt B - Monday, 11/05/07 11:17:28 EST

Nabiul, did you do a clay coat differential hardening or an edge quench? There are more reasons for a blade to curve during hardening than the production of Martensite as most bladesmiths can tell you---uneven hammering, uneven temperatures during heat treat, previous use of the piece---aka "memory", sometimes it feels like day of week and phase of the moon makes a difference. Getting a long slender blade to not warp during heat treat is the trick!

I'd suggest you start working with carbon steels ASAP so you don't "learn" the ways of working mild steel and then have to unlearn them to work highC stuff. I assume that you have ILL'd "The Complete Bladesmith" by James Hrisoulas from your local library and have read it several times by now. If not *DO* *SO*

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/05/07 11:57:24 EST

I have only read about heat treating online.

I coated the spine of the blade with a layer of mud and ashes, I'm not sure if it was enough insulation. I roughly sanded a section of the blade and it appears that theres a very faint temper line, but that might be just my mind wishing for the best. There is definately different oxidization colours on the scale how ever. I am going to re-heat the tip and fix it then start sanding.
   - Nabiul Haque - Monday, 11/05/07 17:18:20 EST

Hey Jock and the boys,

i just bought a small table forge, its larger than my last one, about 36 inches by 24 inches with a round firepot and a half moon end, i can send picture sto jock, but his email doesnt show up on my computer, anywyas, ive read about claying forges, and i was given a bag of refractory and i know you dont have to use refractory, but its what i have so,
im just wondering exactly how i should clay it, it;s not that i havent read, its just, i dont want to screw it up, if jock could send his email or something i can send him picutres, also, the forge is missing the clinker breaker, and i need a bit of a hand getting a hold of exactly what shape it hsould be, the forge has about a ten inch across circular depression, 3 inches deep, with the tuyer in the bottom and a round"ducks nest"? peice of metal that bolts on and holds the pipe and ash dump to the forge, im owndering if i just clay from the center of the ducks nest outwards to giv eit a bowl shape or what

again, can send pictures
thanks alot
   Cameron - Monday, 11/05/07 17:28:12 EST

Nabiul, the clay isn't really insulation, it's to hold just enough heat to delay the hardening of the back of the blade.

Even though you're in Canada, you can get 20 feet of 1070 steel from Admiral for about the price of two of those 3-foot bars of weld steel at the hardware store. They really mark up that stuff! A-36 can harden in water, if you're (un)lucky. It's scrap from the junkyard remelted and rolled. Could be 0.18% carbon, could be 0.5% C and who knows what else. Get some good stuff! You can always reforge it if it doesn't turn out how you want.

Where have you been looking online? There's a lot of half-truth out there. I can tell by your trough forge and quench puddle you have the right basic idea and drive, now you need the knowledge to back it up. I suggest lurking over on Don Fogg's blade forum to learn how the guys who make a living at it operate.
   Alan-L - Monday, 11/05/07 17:59:53 EST

Cameron, mail coming your way.
   - guru - Monday, 11/05/07 18:09:27 EST

I meant insulation as in keeping heat in the blade and not keeping the fire from heating the blade. ;)

I think I have already been to Don Fogg's site, it sounds familiar, not his forum however. I have also been here http://www.waltersorrells.com/blades/katana%20forging.htm, this guy gets some serious curvature in his blades.

Is there a site for the Admiral company, a search on google shows an american distributor?

I just came back from outside in 3 degree weather with rain, it almost wasn't worth it to re-light the wet charcoal but the tip is tempered now, but the curve hasn't improved much, now I will sand it and see if any temper line has formed.
   Nabiul Haque - Monday, 11/05/07 18:44:48 EST

I second Dave B. in his espousing of 3M 5200. A wooden boat builder I know swears that it's the bees knees for gluing hardware to wood connections. When our architects want steel in odd places with no visable fasteners I reach for a tube of that stuff. McMaster sells it for around $20 for a caulk gun tube.
   Jud Yaggy - Monday, 11/05/07 19:26:09 EST

I need to clarify an issue I may have helped create here. A36 is indeed a low end grade. It is very easy to meet the specifications in ASTM for this grade and many mills make it. It is probably as good as most of us need for our projects. Yes, it is junkyard scrap that is remelted but so is 95% of the new steel made today. A36 is considerably better than re-bar which really is mostly just re-rolled sCRAP. However, some grades of re-bar are much better than others depending on the application. Don't be afraid to go to the steel warehouse and buy new A36. Ask them if they can show the chemistry certs that usually come with the steel. You might be surprised and how consistent it is.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 11/05/07 20:00:54 EST

There are sikaflex polyurethane adhesive selants marketed to the marine trades. The one I am familliar with is a softer rubber in the cured state than 3M 5200, which is a marine product allso. If You are too far from boating areas to go to a chandlry, You can order from West Marine / Boat US or Defender. For shock absorbtion there should be lots of clearance between the handle and the eye, if You are using these products as an adhesive only the clearance can be slight. Remember that if You squeeze out all the adhesive in assembly, there won't be any there to do the job.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/05/07 21:34:46 EST

I use 3m 5200. Good stuff.
   - sparky II - Monday, 11/05/07 22:02:35 EST

We don't pretend to understand a 39# sledge with a haft sealant, but for everyday hammers, I use a wooden haft fit snug with wedge(s). For shock absorption, I thin the neck a good bit, usually with a sharp horse rasp/file. Then I scrape with a piece of glass. I like the hammer eye to be proportionately small, so that a substantial side wall is on either side of it. A too large eye removes needed steel mass.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 11/05/07 23:21:14 EST

Who Nose,
Amid all this talk of various formulae I would like to ask why would anybody want a 39lb hammer?
   - philip in china - Monday, 11/05/07 23:22:19 EST

Thank you for the info. This hammer is for comic book fans. It's a copy of the character Thor's hammer.
   - Who Nose - Tuesday, 11/06/07 07:33:24 EST

First off, Quenchcrack, I beg your pardon. For the record I use A-36 as the body for most of my tomahawk heads, with high carbon stuff for the bit only. I also use it for any general smithing work, and usually have no problem except for the occasional piece that just won't weld.

Nabiul, Walter Sorrels is indeed a master. He posts on Don's forum as well. As for Admiral, yes, you found it. Admiral Steel. They have a website and an online catalog.

I don't think you'll get much of a hamon on A-36, however.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/06/07 09:15:15 EST

Th0r's Hammer: In 2003 we quoted a fellow on a 70 pound Thor's hammer. In this case the handle was a three piece construction of wood and steel. The steel was there to attach a large pivoting ring to the end of the handle and extended as a flat bar all the way through the hammer head. The fellow had some weird idea of what he was going to do with it.

I cannot remember the exact price but it was reasonable (much less than $1,000) for a work of art. This was more overweight stage prop than working tool. The hammer head was going to be machine flame cut and finished by grinding and sculpting (perhaps plannishing a bit) to look forged. The handle fitted, aged and partially wrapped with a piece of furry animal hide. The only real "blacksmithing" would have been the forged ring handle and attachment loop.

For strength and safety the handle steel was going to be welded inside the handle hole.

Would have been a fun project, but like I said, the guy never responded to our quote. He probably had some naive idea he could get it made for $100 or less.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/06/07 10:19:15 EST

We all use A36 I bet. I'm sure that that is what I get when I go over to the Windmill repair company and buy "steel" and I'm sure that it all meets it's "spec".

However as mentioned it's spec is a bit different than one for 1018. As such there can be variability between maker to maker though each maker probably tries to control the variables in it's own process.

I have had A36 harden when quenched and sometimes weld differently from piece to piece---it's not as bad as using scrap where you *never* know what it was; but I tend to treat it a bit like that---I guess I'm just a traditionalist---Moxon suggests "testing" each new piece of iron to find out what it's like, (Mechanics Exercises, 1703) and if I recall correctly it's mentioned in Practical Blacksmithing too about 190 years later...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/06/07 11:02:40 EST

Steel Grades: There was a time not too long ago (1960's - 1970's) when you could buy good SAE 1018-20 mild steel in hot and cold roll stock in the US. In the 70's structural grade A36 with its wider specification range started to replace hot roll 1018-20. In the 1980's with steel dumping from Europe you were never quite sure what you were getting but it was close to A36. In the 1990's with Chinese steel you were never sure what you were getting again and as American mills were failing you could not trust their steel either. There were horror stories of plate with unmelted parts such as nuts, bolts and bearing parts that wrecked saw blades. . . Today the bulk of the steel we use comes from China but US mills are back in the picture.

The problem with much imported steel is that it is like lead in painted toys, the importers often do not test the goods and grades that are not what they are supposed to be are sold as something they are not.

The problem is that in this unsettled market we as blacksmiths and fabricators are at the bottom of the economic heap when it comes to buying steel. We deal in small quantities from small dealers and often scrap yards. We do not buy in large enough quantities to afford the additional cost of certification or testing of the products we purchase. So we get what we get.

Even the 70's and 80's when I was dealing with a small warehouse the steel I got was often mystery metal. On one order of 1.25" round CF bar I got three bars of leaded and two not. It was for a machining job and that leaded steel was WONDERFUL. On the same job I had bought 2 x 3/16" HR bar and built bending fixtures to manufacture a product. When I went back to get more to do the job I was given 2 x 3/6" sheared and edged plate. It was work hardened, springy and the edges were rough, often sharp and ugly. I needed hundreds of feet of stock but all that I could find from a number of dealers was the same poor quality stuff. On another occasion I purchased some 7/16" round that was supposed to be mild steel. . . It was far from mild steel and I had several things I had made from it fail because I had quenched it while working. . .

So it looks like that brief period in the late 50's through the 1960's was Camelot for the small shop buying steel. Quality was high, there was a great range of sizes and you could trust that what you got is what you paid for.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/06/07 12:33:24 EST

I too have heard the horror stories of bolts and such winding up in plate, but I wonder how it could be possible. I thought a melt of steel was poured as ingots or continuous cast bar and then rolled to plate. In the course of rolling down from 16 or more inches thick to even 2" plate, I can't understand how a bolt or nut or bearing race could pass unscathed and identifiable.

Any thought on this? I'm curious, having never actually seen it myself.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/06/07 15:00:32 EST

Artifacts in plate are usually rolled in, not left over from the melting. Old rolling mills often shed hardware and when it falls onto a piece of 2100F steel to be rolled, it just gets rolled into the bar. As it heats up, it gets pliable enough to roll along with the product. I once found a 1" diameter machine bolt 3" long near the top of a heavy bar (10"). Evidently it fell into the ingot mold after it was poured but did not melt. When the bar was rolled, it was far enough below the surface that it did not even get distorted. We found it with an ultrasonic probe and when we cut it out and etched the sample, the bold stuck out like it was stainless. Maybe it was.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/06/07 15:52:33 EST

Step #1, add scrap too close to pouring time
Step #2, Continous cast is not reduced that much. Often it is poured through a nozzle into a water spray that solidifies it in the shape of the nozzel. Reduction is often just enough to finish and size. With low reduction and cold parts in a hot matrix the cold parts are not going to change shape that much.

The big problem I have heard of is super hard spots from bits of carbide or old cutter bits. Consider how many saw blades are sold and scrapped that have carbide tips.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/06/07 15:57:27 EST

Guru, all mills work to a minimum superheat temperature. Adding cold scrap after the heat is liquid is just not done. This would mean dropping scrap through the slag which would drag slag back into the bath. Bars are cast in the largest diameter possible since you must get the liquid iron out of the tundish into the mold before it loses too much temperature. They are cast into water-cooled molds to allow a crust to form before it is guided into containment rolls that allow it to completely solidify. It is then reheated and sized down to reduce the ingotism. Any high carbon stuff, like carbides would be dissolved and the carbon oxidized out when they blow the heat down with oxygen.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/06/07 17:01:59 EST

A-36 etc.
At the valve shop we scrapped about 51% of the steel we bought due to the process we used to make the best valves, fittings and boilers in the world. We were scrapping about a million pounds a month, of boiler plate and bar. So about 2 million pounds a month. In 21 years I never saw or heard of an included part such as a bolt. We did however spectro the crop end off EVERY bar before we forged. When that was started in the late 60's, I am told that in the beginning we found bundles mixed in the heat or the wrong chemistry, and later bars of the wrong chemistry mixed into bundles. Since we bought to spec, and wrote good Purchase Orders, when we found a bad bar, the ENTIRE heat went back, most would already be broken into billets, and at the mills cost.
The mills are NOT dumb, and we soon got what we inspected, rather than what we expected, to quote our owner.
Japanese SS in the 70's was a one heat experiment that was not repeated. We bought American made steel until the sale in 1996. I looked at every returned valve and fitting, and I never found a single carbon steel mill issue. I did find SS that was piped up the center and leaked steam up the valve stem.
At the axle shop, we forged about 70 million#/year. I do not recall a single bad heat in three years. All steel from US and Canada.
Note that none of this was A-36.
I have had a bundle of 3/8" square A-36 in my own shop that was strange. One end of every single bar was spring hard. All the same end of the bundle. All about 30" of the bar. Took the teeth off a bi-metal blade. The rest of the bar was fine. Welded OK. Bent OK. I have never figured that one out.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/06/07 18:19:04 EST

I'm looking for swan shape towel bars. If you made them what would they cost?

Thank you
   Mary - Tuesday, 11/06/07 18:28:33 EST

Why is cold rolled still generally 1018? Would there be a problem with A-36 work hardening excessively if cold worked? Or is it just that the customers who need cold rolled also want 1018? Or some other reason?
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 11/06/07 19:07:19 EST

Mike, not all CF bar is 1018 but most 1018 is CF bar. A LOT of CF bar is A36. SAE 1018 is specified when a tighter chemistry is needed. Since a lot of this goes to machine shops and screw machines the material is precision finished.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/06/07 20:24:46 EST


If I make you swan shaped towel bars, they'll be priced anywhere from $150 to $25,000 each. I work in metals ranging from steel to gold. Also, I'm booked solid until at least January. Current work is already incurring a rush fee in most cases. What do you like? Do you need them installed? Costs a bunch to get me from my shop in the Caribbean to Anchorage, if that's where you are. I hate cold weather!

Your question is impossibly broad and I doubt anyone can give you a real answer without knowing more. How big, what metal, forged, cast, chased, welded, what finish, how soon, etc.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/06/07 20:44:33 EST

Hello, I was wondering about using a cold chisel to cut sheet metal. I can chip with one okay however, I seem to not have very good success cutting perpendicular to the sheet and was wondering if you could give out a couple of pointers. Thanks Tim
   Tim - Tuesday, 11/06/07 21:12:17 EST

Vicopper that was a bit uncalled for!

Mary, it would help if the guys knew where you are and if you could be a bit more specific about what you want. Then one of the artist blacksmiths near you could give you a quote.
   - philip in china - Tuesday, 11/06/07 22:32:51 EST


A chisel is a fine way to cut sheet metal, and has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. A cold chisel, however, has a bit blunt of a grind (usually 60 degrees, I think) for getting a clean cut.

If you want a clean, square edge, you need to sharpen your chisel to a more acute angle like 20-30 degrees included angle, with the angle all on one side. The "flat" side is kept to the "keeper" side of the cut and the angle is kept to the "waste" side. Grinding the edge with a very slight rocker will allow you do continuous cutting without the jaggedy interrupted edge you get with a straight-edged chisel.

It really helps on the chisel grindingif you start out with a chisel that is forged to the general shape and angle that you need, instead of trying to re-grind one out of a cold chisel. That way you can forge the offset angle and have the cutting edge aligned properly with the striking force. When you temper the chisel, try for a pale straw color at the edge, fading to blue at the beginning of the shank. Heating the shank and letting the color run to the edge works best for me.

When chiseling, don't try to cut all the way through on the first pass. The first pass should be just deep enough to give you an incised line for the chisel to follow on the heavy cutting pass. Less slips and errors that way, and your line will be smoother. For tighter curves, use a narrower chisel, or forge/grind one with the right curvature. When you do, keep in which side yo want to cut on, inside or outside.


If you say so. All true, though.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/06/07 23:00:18 EST

Cold Chisel and Sheet Metal.
Crown the chisel's cutting edge a little; ie., grind it convex. That way you can eliminate excess marks and go around curves. Cut the sheet at least half way through on the anvil; use a chisel plate if you think you need one. Rock the chisel along like a p38 can opener. Never come completely out of the cut mark. Break apart by wiggling over the anvil edge or in the vise. File finish away the roughness and rags.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/06/07 23:02:57 EST

scrap steel & US mills: The industrial salvage yard I deal with changed ownership last winter, and the new owner is scrapping the majority of the inventory, expecting to replenish with new material [due to rust there is merit to this, but plenty of good stuff is getting scrapped too]. Most of the carbon steel is supposed to be going to Coatsvill, Pa. to what was formerly the Lukens Plate plant, which is now owned & operated by somebody else. At least it is staying in the country.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 11/06/07 23:03:09 EST

Cutting Sheet Metal by Hand: Tim, This is difficult at best and is why we LOVE and take great care of our Beverly Shears. .

First, note that it helps to lubricate the sheet metal with thin oil (sewing machine oil, kerosense and oil mix or WD-40) when using any cutting method including a hand chisel. Dipping the chisel in oil and wiping off the excess is not a bad idea. The oil reduces effort (you cut deeper) and the chisel stays sharp longer.

To cut square edges you want a chisel with a flat vertical side and all the slope to the outside. Narrow is better than wide so that you can cut most of the way through on a single stroke. Rounded corners let you overlap cuts. See notes above about angle and crown. Support the work on your anvil over a soft cutting plate such as zinc or aluminum.

You can also cut sheet metal unsupported with the chisel at an angle. However, this is difficult unless the thin metal is part of something that will support it like an oil drum.

Another way to cut sheet metal is with a slitter. These have a narrow fixed "tooth" between two supports that ride on the top of the sheet. Cutting is via double shearing. As they cut they take a narrow strip out of the sheet. This rolls up in front of the cutter. Normally they are used with an air chisel but they also work by hand. They are the poor man's nibbler.

THEN there is the nibbler. This looks like the slitter but has movable tooth in the middle that moves a short distance up and down. The cut produces a narrow curled up strip like the slitter. These operate on air and electricity and are quite affordable.

Slitters and nibblers will cut straight lines and curves. They are quite noisy and hearing protection should be worn.

Another noisy way to cut sheet metal is with a reciprocating saw (jig or Sabre saw). These inexpensive tools will cut almost anything with the right blade. New model B&D's have a fantastic quick change blade holder. . they just have a lousy base plate lock. . . I've cut thin sheet and 1/4" aluminum plate (besides all kinds of wood) with one of these. I just cringe at the noise and vibration and its all over quickly. . .

We discussed the Beverly Shear last week (see archives). These easily cut sheet metal up to thin plate by hand and can be used to cut curves as well as straight lines. They are also nearly silent. A definite benefit when working sheet metal.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/06/07 23:41:56 EST

Swan shape towel bars: Mary, as noted VIcopper's response was a little gruff but he has some points. Being more specific helps. How many, type of metal, general design ideas? Some smiths also like to work directly with the client OR you may want to work directly with the smith so location is helpful. You do not have to give your street address but state or province and country is helpful.

Most metal craftsfolk including blacksmiths work in more than one metal. Brass work is as common in some blacksmith shops as forged iron and quite a few do castings as well as forgings.

If you are looking for hand forged I would recommend stainless steel for the bathroom. When heated and forged it turns blue black like steel and will not rust. It can be lightly waxed and you have that natural forged look without a painted finish. If steel is used then you will want a good rust proof paint. If you want color (white, pastels, brushed bronze highlights) then forged steel is fine.

If you want something fully sculptural or realistic looking then cast brass is the way to go. Brass can be finished everywhere from bright polished to a dark brown patina. It can also be painted any color you want.

Swan towel bars could be swan brackets supporting a long straight bar (this would be the best for forging), swans with necks entwined or with beaks touching. They could also be a single bird with their neck looped to make a towel hook. It helps if you tell the craftsperson what YOU imagine they might look like.

Custom work is expensive and many smiths would like to know you have a price range in mind. Often the client is thinking $50 and the craftsperson $500 or more. Occasionally price is not important to the client but the craftsperson needs to know that they are not wasting their time coming up with a concept, much less a quote. We spent a LOT of time quoting things that that the client thinks should be Walmart priced while in fact they are works of art that only the well off can afford.

Hopefully someone contacts you about your job. Sounds like fun.

   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 00:32:00 EST

How difficult is it to cast in aluminiumn? Can it be done over a forge type heat source? I had thought about casting in sand. If this is possible could I cast my own aluminiumn diamond plate by using a textured roller on the base of my mould?
   - philip in china - Wednesday, 11/07/07 00:46:56 EST

Casting Aluminum is definitely a doable home-shop process. In the post WWII Philippines a lot of cookware was made in temporary foundries set up at airplane crash sites where the process would continue until the available metal was exhausted.

The metal was melted in crucibles in charcoal pit furnaces blown with bellows. It can be done. Some of these even used local sand, with little modification.

I have a propane-fired No. 10 crucible furnace. I use petrobond sand. That is much easier.

Foundry work is very dangerous, and I suggerst that you hang out at one of the foundry discussion boards a while. A dropped aor broken crucible has a serious potential for injury. I don't work alone, and that makes it a seldom done thing for me now.

Casting any large area of tread-plate isn't very easy. Pattern-making is a skilled process that requires a lot of knowledge to get good castings. Textures CAN be atted "In the Sand," but are usually better done in the pattern.
   John Odom - Wednesday, 11/07/07 07:57:15 EST

Chisel cutting sheet metal is quite practical. Yesterday I made an instrument control panel with several rectangular holes for gigital controllers. The material was a damaged and scrapped traffic sign from a local sign shop. Frank Turley's suggestions are good. My holes required very little file work and didn't distort the sheet. Steel and even stainless steel are doable but require way more work than the Aluminum. I use a cutting saddle on the anvil.
   John Odom - Wednesday, 11/07/07 08:09:27 EST

One other sheetmetal tip: if you can mount the metal in your postvise with good jaws and the straight line right where the chisel will ride you can shear the sheet very nicely along the top of the jaws with the chisel held at an angle to the plane of the sheet.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:22:40 EST

Aluminum Casting: Phillip, You can melt aluminum in a steel "pipe" crucible or heavy cast iron pot. However, the aluminum will rapidly eat the steel or iron and pin holes result after a few melts. Being pissed on with liquid metal is no fun. . . the iron also contaminates the aluminum making it brittle. To protect aluminum melting crucibles you need a ceramic coating. However, the proper ceramics are expensive (we sell them). You can purchase a good professionally made crucible for the cost of a fabricated one.

To make a good dense casting you need a closed mold. To make a thin plate in an open mold will result in holes, cold shuts, porosity, slag inclusions. . all the worst things that happen in a casting. A closed mold allows for risers to create pressure in the mold and to feed metal to the part as it shrinks.

My recommendation is to start small and work up. When you can make a small clean casting then try larger.

Note that you can cast aluminum (and zinc) in a permanent cast iron or steel mold. For the liquid metal to flow the mold needs to be preheated. To prevent metal from sticking to the mold it needs to be covered with ceramic (ITC-213) or be sooted heavily OR both. Steel sprues must be split so that the cooled metal can be removed. In your application you could use a reusable steel mold top and a sand bottom. Sprues and risers in the top can be square and split diagonally. I would use vise-grip type clamps to hold the parts together for quick disassembly.

Also note that molds have a hydraulic force trying to lift the top off the mold. The force is the area of the mold times the density of the metal times height of the sprue. This can be a significant force on a flat mold with a relatively large area. Even in sand casting where the mold is relatively heavy the top of the mold must often be held down with "mold weights" (heavy pieces of metal). In lighter molds such as the steel mold described the problem can be significant. Mold float can result in the mold opening during the pour and liquid metal gushing out.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:47:46 EST

Thank you for all the information. The lubrication of the tip of the chisel is a great idea. Thank you. Tim
   Tim - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:50:56 EST

I hope this url isn't too long, but there's a really good beginner's essay on sheet metal cutting (and only a little tongue-in-cheek; it starts with "teeth") at the Armour Archive:


Meanwhile; I love my B-3 Beverly shear, but chisels are a necessity. :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:52:04 EST

If you want aluminum tread plate at a reasonable price go buy it from a distributor where you can get it by weight. I used to run a leveler making that stuff and we sold it by weight and even sold it out of our scrap bin if squareness wasn't a factor to the customer. The shops like lowes and home depot mark that stuff up about 5000%
   Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:53:37 EST

This is really interesting. Can the aluminium be melted inside a purely ceramic crucible? Lets say some art pieces I made in pottery class long ago or using ceramic plant pots? For that matter, can a forge be made using a ceramic plant pot and then reinforced with earth?

I will also need to learn casting to make fittings for swords.
   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 11/07/07 11:58:48 EST

I swung by Home Depot this morning and saw 3M 5200 for $10 per caulk-gun tube. They also had little 3oz squeeze tubes for $7.50 or so.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/07/07 12:02:17 EST

I am working on a Sunday School Christmas party and looking for some spikes like the ones used on the cross. All I have found are railroad spikes and they are too large, can you tell me where I can get some of the nails that look old, but could be new about 6" long. I need about 50 of them ASAP. I don't know where to look.
   Betty - Wednesday, 11/07/07 12:42:15 EST

I've melted a ceramic pot in my forge before---only terracotta though so pretty low firing. Some ceramics will take high heats; most don't. Be very wary of possible voids in the piece that can fail during heating.

Molten metals can be *MUCH* more dangerious than solid steel even if the steel is several hundred degrees hotter! Steel will try to reach the ground, molten metal can erupt *up* and chase you!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/07/07 13:15:43 EST

Betty, You will need to get a blacksmith to make what you want. Expect to pay up to $8 to $10 each for them unless you find someone that feels sorry for you and gives away their time. You may get a volunteer from your posting here. You may also want to try your local blacksmiths. Goto ABANA-Chapter.com, find your nearest group and look for a phone number since you are in a hurry. The contact mail for many of these groups is not kept up with well due to being volunteer run.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 13:39:00 EST

Clays and Casting: Nabiul, The clay used for crucibles is a very special grade found in just a few places in the world. Up until modern ceramics and graphic crucibles were developed there was ONE good source of clay for crucibles which came from Germany and is STILL mined there.

Clays for crucibles are high alumina (aluminium oxide) with just the right balance of impurities that help the whole bind together and give them strength without hurting their heat resistance. These were very special materials even in ancient times and resulted in where certain industries developed.

Ceramic pottery clay, the white slip that is used in casting ceramic items is very low temperature material. In a forge it will actually boil and result in foamed clay. . . At aluminum melting temperatures this clay is very soft and weak, almost like it was before drying.

Stoneware ceramic clay used for oven safe cookware is much higher firing but is not really suitable for crucibles either.

About the only use for clay crucibles (the good ones) today is small jewelers melting cups. These are virtually throw away crucibles.

The most popular crucibles are made of graphite. The best crucibles are made of silicon carbide. Both types are used in small foundry operations and are suitable for melting aluminum, brass, copper, zinc. They come in sizes from coffee cup size up to huge ton capacity sizes. For making small parts such as sword hilts, pommels and guards you can get away with small crucibles that only hold a couple pounds of metal.

Crucibles photo by Jock Dempsey - Click for iForge casting demo(10 pounds aluminium) graphite crucible with lid, #6 crucible, #1 - (3.2 pounds brass) silicon carbide crucible and a 7-1/2 oz. fused silica jeweler's melting bowl.

   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 14:17:59 EST

More on Crucibles and Melting: At the West Virginia Armour-In in 2003 (see our NEWS Volume 29 - Page 4 and 5) Alan Baldree cast numerous helmet and armour parts using a torch and a melting cup like the one shown above. The handle on his melting bowl was clamped on with a screw that tightened the handle around the bowl. He was melting down old bullet casings and cast the parts using Delft Clay a fine grade of petrobond casting clay. Like many professionals Alan made it look SOOOO easy. And it is when everything is right.

BIG WARNING! Any time you melt brass (and some bronzes) you get zinc flare (burning zinc) which makes a thick white smoke that leaves white zinc oxide deposits everywhere. This is a serious inhalation hazzard and at the least will make you ill and the worst, kill you. Work outdoors with plenty of ventilation and wear protective gear as necessary.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 14:39:29 EST

Vince Gingery wrote a book on making crucibles, which is available through Lindsay Books. I have it. Gingery's recipe uses fireclay (basically kaolin) and grog (or was it silica?) as the major ingredients, and -- unlike pottery clays -- contains almost no fluxes. (He does recommend adding a small amount of flux to help with firing.) He's successfully used his homemade crucibles for aluminum melts; it's not clear whether he's ever tried them for anything higher-melting. He admits that they're only good for a few melts.

Personally, I'd be afraid to use one if I were actually going to pick it up and pour from it. I bought the book because I want to try crucible steel, and I can't bear the thought ($$) of sacrificing commercial crucibles to the cause. The only reason I'm willing to try homemade crucibles for this purpose is that I won't have to move them around with charges of molten steel in them; they'll remain in the furnace (which will be below ground level, and covered) until everything has cooled.
   Matt B - Wednesday, 11/07/07 16:30:49 EST

On closed molds: be sure the flask is big enough that the cope (top) does not float off the drag(bottom.)

I learned this the hard way. Fortunately I was working in pewter, not aluminum, never mind bronze or iron, so it didn't even burn the counter top. . . I'd suggest starting small with low temperature alloys: Pewter, Zamac, babbit, solder, etc.
   John Lowther - Wednesday, 11/07/07 16:52:41 EST

Holy Land USA in Virginia used to sell the kid of nails you are looking for. I don't know if they are still in business or using computers yet if they are It's worth a try if you can find them. I believe tey were your standard mass produced off shore product so they were cheap and low quality but had the right look. The only other thing that is close is the biggest square cut concrete nails that you can find.
   Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 11/07/07 17:39:05 EST

To learn mold making you can even start in resins like epoxy. In fact, a lot of mold making and reversal is done in resins. If you have a pattern and need to convert it to a mold to make a boarded pattern or a mold to make investments from resins are used. Mold making then becomes an exercise using molds.

Pattern making and the resulting molds is THE important part of the casting business. Melting the metal is just having the right tools and enough fuel. Making the patterns and molds is the skill and ART.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 18:43:25 EST

To All: Has anyone out there had any experience with the KA 75 striking hammer? I am interested in looking into one and would like any comments regarding it.
   Harley - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:05:08 EST

if i had a bar of what i suspected to be iron or steel and i heated it up and quenched it and the scale blew off does that mean there is carbon present? now if i sparked the quenched end and it was a shower of sparks as opposed to few straight sparks on the unquenched end, does that mean carbon is present?
   coolhand - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:06:02 EST

Tremont Nail Company sells 3" long square nails. tremontnail.com
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:09:26 EST

Cool hand.

I think the scale gets thrown off because of thermal shock. With brine, more scale gets thrown than with plain water.

As for sparks, there are many kinds of spark showers depending upon the composition of the steel. If you're talking about plain carbon steels, a few straight sparks could indicate a low carbon content, say 0.01 to 0.10., like wrought iron or baling wire. A larger shower would mean more carbon, but it would be difficult to "read". A medium carbon spark is different than a high carbon spark. The sample should be lightly touched to the wheel making the shower easier to see. Don't let the sparks bounce off of the tool rest. Check the unknown to a known.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:21:39 EST

Has anyone had any luck building a large foot vise? I am sure I can design one. Just wondering if there are any plans floating around. I 've got a desin worked up. Looking for more ideas.
John JB Bergman, Thanks and keep up the GREAT work.
   John JB Bergman - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:26:01 EST

John, Blacksmiths Journal had plans for one years ago. It was mostly large blocks of steel bolted together.

If you want to make a REALLY nice vise you need a lathe. A good heavy duty screw it the heart of the tool and makes a big difference.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:33:27 EST

Im trying to figure out what mystery metal i was playing with....Would a plain bar with no carbon spark the same on quenched and unquenched ends?
   coolhand - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:33:41 EST

i think i had a mild steel bar with a hard spot in it???
   coolhand - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:35:42 EST

Spark testing: varies a lot depending on the size type grit and speed of the grinding wheel. If you are spark testing you need to do it in the dark or near dark and compare to some samples of known steels.

   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:38:18 EST

Dear Guru,

I need a 4 inch cube of pure iron. Is there anyplace in the U.S. where I could get this from stock? Otherwise, how would I make a batch of pure iron?

   Steven - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:49:00 EST

I believe the text book Modern Machine Practices had a fairly accurate description of how to accurately gauge what kind of metal you are working with based upon the color of the spark but did not reference length shape or size of spark as having any significant meaning. Sorry I can't be more exact but my library is packed up right now.
   Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 11/07/07 19:49:06 EST

Casting vs. Forging:

To paraphrase the old maxim about hand tools vs. power tools:

Forging injures; casting maims!

Our NPS maritime historian regales me constantly with tales from casting operations gone awry in an art foundry. One of the reasons I stick with nothing larger than sword furniture 9hilts, pommels, chapes...) and leave swivel guns and cannons to the pros.

Cold and breezy on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/07/07 20:23:17 EST

Steven; how "pure"? Remember that the higher the purity the higher the price too. That size is a problem too. Most ultra high purity stuff is made as test samples for calibrating very sensitive systems and so don't come "stock" as 4" cubes.

Now there is a company that sells a product that they call "pure iron" but in reality it's just a very low alloyed material.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/07/07 20:48:27 EST

Pure Iron: Steven, Nearly pure iron is manufactured in Europe (France I think) for blacksmiths. This is something like .008% carbon and a trace of silicon. They do not make 4" sections. You would have someone forge (lots of upsetting) from the largest size they carry (1" I think). Wagner Industries is the U.S. dealer. Anything purer is laboratory elemental iron. There are suppliers of this grade but it is usually in powder form. So how pure do you need?

Something similar to the "pure iron" sold by Wagner is also made in the U.S. for the specialty steel industry. .008% carbon steel is made as a precursor to making high grade alloy steels. The problem is a billet is 10,000 pounds and a minimum order is 20,000 pounds. You would have to also pay to have it processed to the size you need.

Manufacturing pure iron starts with clean cast iron which is then run through the current converter process to reduce the carbon to as low as possible. You do not want cast made from any scrap due to the possibility of tramp elements that are difficult to remove. If you need purer then this then the iron is dissolved and chemically purified. The process depends on the impurities. Electric plating type processes are often used.

Small bloomery operations make nearly pure iron. However, it contains a LOT of slag. This can be worked (kneaded) out by repeatedly forging. You start with a large billet and end up with a long bar which you then forge weld back together and forge again. With LOTS of labor and skill you could produce a nice 4" cube. I would estimate a cost of $5,000 to $8,000. Purity would depend on the ore. But there are some pretty good ores with almost zero trace metals. The the Rockbridge Bloomery for details and a contact to do the work.

SOooooo.. . . just how important IS it to have such a large lump of elemental iron?
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/07/07 20:49:00 EST

Hello, I'm brand spanking new here (oi! no spanking!) and I could probably figure this out from some reading, but I'm lazy so I'll pose my idle question here and read it up later when I'm more serious about smithing.
I've got some interest in forge/cast/metal work in general, and in a few years I may have enough capital and a space of my own to start playing. (Just wanted give you an idea where I'm coming from)
A friend linked me to this site and suggested a read the Gen X swordmaker article, which I did. And now I have a few questions.
First off, I've heard of "folded steel" and I'd like to know if you quite actually fold it over on itself.. like a pastry..? and in vague terms, how do you do that? Like, does it need to be heated to do that? wouldn't heating it every time you folded it compromise the strength of the blade?
Which I then follow with, is there really any benefit to folding steel in sword creation? What's the point of it?

And casting... is it stronger than forging or weaker? and why? I think I'd like to get into casting more than forging, because of a high-level project I've been playing with and sketching designs for would probably work best with cast pieces. But again, it'll be a few years before I can get serious anyway.
Sorry for sounding like a noob :P, am one. Please don't hurt me.
   Psykotika - Wednesday, 11/07/07 21:11:37 EST

Practicalities aside, what do you need a 4" cube of pure iron for?
   Matt B - Wednesday, 11/07/07 21:41:24 EST

Well I'm no expert but from what I've read, the folding takes the impurities out and evenly distributes the carbon within the steel, not really necessary from the standards of steel you can purchase today. To fold the steel, they basically heat it up until it is about red hot then sprinkle on some flux like borax to stop oxidization, then re-heat it until it's yellow then basically hammer away and the metal will weld it self together. Believe me, not nearly as easy as it sounds.

Heating does not compromize the strength of the steel unless you get it too hot and the carbon actually starts burning away.
   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 11/07/07 21:42:01 EST

3M 5200 - $10/caulk tube is a good price. When You open it be ready to do all the jobs You have in mind for it within a day of each other. When the spout becomes clogged with cured material You can slit the tube and use any unhardened material, it will still be fine as long as it isn't set up.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/07/07 22:08:24 EST

Psykotika: In a material that can be both cast and forged, there is generally a finer and stronger microstructure within the material after forging than in the cast state. With regard to "folding" steel, The current actual process is drawing the material out to a great length, then cutting that length ino shorter sections that are stacked and forge welded into a single chunk, and repeating to get the desired number of layers. The result if different alloys are used is that the material can be twisted and re forged, and after finishing, it can be etched and there will be a pattern formed by the differing alloys. This is of no practical value, but has an astetic apeal. For greatest strength use a modern high strength alloy, mess with it as little as possible and have it professionally heat treated.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/07/07 22:37:00 EST

Harley: I've only seen the KA-75 demonstrated. Essentially, as named, it acts as a substitute for a striker. Friend in area has one. When I was there he was making a flame effect on the ends of gate finials. He forged out the shape on his powerhammer, then used the KA-75 with dies to put in the curves in one blow.

All I have seen them operated on was small portable compressors. Quickly run out of oomph. Don't know how one would do for forging on a large shop compressor.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Thursday, 11/08/07 02:23:54 EST

Thanks Ken,
With that in mind I guess I will need to see some videos and gather more input on the KA 75. So lets see...takes up less space than a large PH , is useable with a smaller compressor (allready in the shop) or build a Kinyon style hammer, dish out $$ for a much larger compressor (which will an advantage to other needs in the shop). What is a poor hoby smith to do .............
   Harley - Thursday, 11/08/07 03:46:22 EST

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