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, 2008 on the Guru's Den
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I have built and modified a break drum coal forge. For the life of me I can not get the coal to stay lit. I have tried more air, less air, and no air. Is it the coal I am using or is it something that I am doing.
   wade - Saturday, 11/01/08 02:04:04 EST

Wade. The fire should be deep. Use a goodly amount of coal. Use at least 4 double sheets of b/w newpaper and NO shiny colored newsprint. Separate the sheets and wad them up into a mushroom. Light the stem of the mushroom and put it down in the firepot. Start sprinkling coal on top. Give a WHISPER of a blast. Wherever you see live flame, smother it with coal. Let it get smokey. Put one to two inches of coal on top. Slightly more blast. As the paper burns away, tamp the coal a little on top. Now up to a medium blast. Patience. Eventually the flame will come through. Sometimes if the fire is stubborn, you can poke a hole in the top which provides an outlet for the flame. Some smiths use kindling to start, but I haven't found it necessary. You're going to need at least a full bucket of coal to begin with, maybe 1 1/2 buckets. Don't skimp on the coal. When the fire's going, build a high bank (cone) of green coal around it except in front where your work goes in and out.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 11/01/08 07:38:40 EST

Coal Fires: Wade, the "modified" in folks statements always bother me. The plans we have work as-is. However, they COULD use some reserve coal space (a surrounding table).

Coal comes in INFINITE variety from stuff you can light with a match to stuff they pave roads with in coal country. . . There is coal that might as well be gravel painted blacks and coal that gets contamintated with gravel at the yeard. . There is oil shale which is all smoke and flame with little heat that leaves "ash" lumps as big as the coal that was used. Hard anthracite coal burns well but is very difficult to keep going in a blacksmith's forge. In many parts of the country coal is so poor it is used for landscaping material.

Then there is foundry coke which requires a deep fire and a constant blast of air. Peat, dug in many areas that had swamps or bogs is a modern precursor of what would be coal eventually.

If you have good coal (ask another smith or order some on-line to compare to), keeping the fire going should be no problem. The better the coal the smaller the fire can be. Size of the lumps also makes a difference. Big lumps are had to keep going. If need be break them up.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/01/08 08:21:10 EST

Local jewelry store is advertising stainless steel pendants, titanium rings, and tungsten carbide linked bracelets. A reflection on the state of the economy - those who can afford gold and silver more likely buy it in ingots or bars? First time I saw tungsten carbide being used for jewelry, although buying tooling inserts felt like buying jewelry.
   Bob Johnson - Saturday, 11/01/08 12:22:32 EST

Falling into molten glass, iron, etc. I have seen shock absorbers make it into a small coreless induction furnace and it did not go quietly. The oil vaporized and the explosion blew a goodly quantity of iron into the air. If a human fell into a furnace, the water that makes up 90%+ of the body would flash to vapor and the body would probably explode. I am sure you would be dead before you had time to regret it. As for burying you, well, maybe just some good memories would have to do.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 11/01/08 15:48:15 EST

'Bout ten maybe fifteen years ago I was at a Chrysler foundry in Indianapolis. They said that a guy fell into a heat of iron a few years previous. One guy who saw it went on disability. You’re way too light to sink in, you just skid around on top like ball of spit. Said he screamed for nearly a minute. Anyway, they claimed that they had to shut everything down and wait for the state inspectors. In the end the entire pot was buried in what these guys claimed was the most expensive funeral in Indianapolis history. That part might not be true, but they believed it.
   - grant - Saturday, 11/01/08 19:48:27 EST

When I worked for Madison Kipp Cast die cast foundry the quickest way to get fired on the spot with no questions asked and no possible recorse was to bring an aluminum can of any kind into the plant.
Plastic cups and bottles were ok but aluminum cans were stricktly forbiden.
Apparently someone had, a few years befor, thrown a pop can into the re-melt tub that was about half full.
It got mixed in with the other scrap and was dumpt into the central melt furnace.
As near as they could figure the can must have been submerged somewhat befor it flashed to steam because it cleared out most of the 40,000lbs of molten aluminum.
The guy driveing the scrap hopper was killed and I think the central melt operator as well.
They even hold the 500lb ingets at 300f for three days to make sure they are dry befor they toss them in the central melt
   - merl - Saturday, 11/01/08 20:48:49 EST

in that video he makes those wineskin type bellows, besides leather or vynil what could i make that from?
   - Tom Ham - Saturday, 11/01/08 21:07:55 EST

If I was going to make a synthetic bellows I would use nylon reinforced Hypalon. This is what the good quality inflatable boats are made of. It is flexable over a wide temperature range, does not rot, and handles UV and common chemical exposure well.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 11/01/08 21:50:43 EST

can that be bought at a fabric store?
   - Tom Ham - Saturday, 11/01/08 23:26:08 EST

For any type of bellows you cannot beat leather. The split cowhide upholstery material is not that expensive and will last decades in this service if its not left out to rot. Often scraps or seconds are available.

If you want to got REALLY cheap you can do it with common plastic sheeting and duct tape. Next up is any tight cloth. Legs off jeans will work. . . The problem with canvas or heavy duck is air leakage. Folks that that have changed from cloth to leather notice a big improvement in efficiency.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/01/08 23:28:14 EST

I built a new forge (a nive one). I also built a hood to hang over the forge to expell the exhast. Turns out theres not enough draft or the hoods to high, anyway the shop gets smokey. Enless theres something to do for the hood I'll have to take it down and try something else. I have long fancied the idea of a side Draught hood, but will it keep my shop smoke free. Also, what is the surpose of the weird z shaped metal wall inside the hood chamber? Will not having it effect the performance? THANKS
   - John L. - Saturday, 11/01/08 23:43:01 EST

Thank you for the input, as for the word modified did stop to think I got the plan for this forge some place other than your site. So it didn't work as is.
   wade - Sunday, 11/02/08 02:33:58 EST

John L.
The side draught hood (sorry coudn't resist the spelling) is a hard to believe wonder that will if properly built and installed suck the smoke out better than any other style. A well made side draft, witha good flue will pull the smoke from a green coal fire side ways and up the stack. I use one in my shop. Beats the old overhead hood hands down.
The trick is to size the flue correctly, as well as have the flue tall enough to properly draw. Side drafts can be masonary, or like mine metal.
   ptree - Sunday, 11/02/08 08:29:14 EST

John, The Z shape I show in one of my drawings was based on the belief that a smoke shelf is needed in a forge hood, it is NOT. You DO need room for expansion and funneling and I would slope the floor in all directions to the door opening to make it easier to sweep out ash.

You did not say how big your stack was OR if it led into a larger chimney. 10" (250mm) is a good minimum for the average forge.

Overhead hoods must be able to suck up all or at least 50% of the cold air at the opening as well as the warm smoke. That is a LOT of extra volume. If the hood is closed in on more sides it works better as the volume of air it must move is reduced. Lowering it closer to the forge can also reduce the inlet area.

Side draughts only suck up an extra 10 or 20% at the considerably smaller opening and have a much hotter stack content, thus a stronger draught. Total gas volume moved is about 10% and mostly hot smoke. A much more efficient device.

You can combine hood types using a back plate with a side draught opening leaving a small gap at the top of maybe 20% of the stack area to scavenge smoke out of the open over forge hood. But it would be best to have seperate full sized stacks for both.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 11:12:17 EST

how do you blacken iron where it wont rub off easily?
   - Tom Ham - Sunday, 11/02/08 13:17:49 EST

Tom, You use can renaissance wax for interior work and mix graphite (or thinned stove black). Do not use bee's wax. The wax can be applied over tight wire brushed scale and highlighted metal. Lacquers can also be used for the same affect.

For exterior work use a paint system starting from clean metal.

Finishing work is part of the art. Lacquers, varnishes and various glazes can be used. Depending on the size of the work you can use brushes, spray cans or commercial spray equipment. Common stove polish, oil and wax finishes are cheap, lazy and do not hold up well. High temperature black is mostly graphite and will "chalk" (rub off on your hands after aging). Use it only for the working ends of hot tools (shovel pans, poker ends. . .).
   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 13:57:07 EST

Trying to build a Propane forge by Caius. But got to building the burner and it dose not say which end goes inside the forge. The burner is 6"X 2" nipple and put a 3"x 1 1/2" nipple inside it with 1/8" round stock as spacer and put 3" X 1/2" nipple inside the 1 1/2" nipple with 1/8" spacer. And then goes onto putting it all together. I am hoping you can help or point to a place which can. I have been asking on other sites. but no replys.
Thank You for your time
   Jay - Sunday, 11/02/08 15:03:55 EST

I am trying to get a light greenish color, like a plant,to some mild steel flat stock. I read that cooper sulphate, sodium thiosulphate, and water, will turn metal a greenish tint. I have not tried this method yet, as I am having trouble finding soduim thiosulphate. Does anyone know of another method to get a greenish tint to metal, other than paint? Thanks.
   - David - Sunday, 11/02/08 17:48:53 EST

I'm looking for a source of 26/28 gauge tinplate sheet. Any help appreciated.
   brian robertson - Sunday, 11/02/08 18:04:12 EST

Jay, the ends with all the junk in them go into the forge.

   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 19:05:33 EST

Would clay make a decent crucible? I bought gray earthen clay from hobby lobby and wondered if it would make a decent crucible for melting steel
   - Tom Ham - Sunday, 11/02/08 19:53:00 EST

Tom Ham: I doubt you will be able to get the Hypalon material through a fabric store. A friend of Mine uses this material as a conveyer belt in the manufacture of beverage coasters. I don't know what it costs, but I doubt it is cheap. If You want, I can find out where He gets it.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/02/08 20:25:11 EST

Tom Ham: Ordinary clay will not stand the temperature of molten steel. You have to buy the appropriate crucible.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/02/08 20:32:50 EST

Tom, Even clay crucibles are made of VERY select high temperature clays. Common ceramic clay boils at forge temperatures (below iron/steel melting tems). For steel you want graphite or silicon carbide. These last longer with protective coatings of ITC-213 and 296-A. For many purposes you want covers to fit made of the same material.

   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 20:38:20 EST

Brian Robertson - This information I got from a tinsmith at a historic site:

www.reynoldsservices.com ask for tinsmithing product 28ga 1# coating

Retco Alloy- www.retcotool.com 1/2# coating, .015" .012"

TPC Metals- www.tinplate.com
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/02/08 20:43:38 EST

sodium thiosulphate: This is a photo fixitive (called "hypo") in developing B&W film. You can buy it at many photographic stores. It is also used as a bleach.

For the copper sulphate to work the steel must be perfectly clean. Dipping the steel in a copper sulphate solution plates (copper flashes) the steel. This is a VERY thin delicate layer. The hypo colors the copper.

Due to the delicacy of this coating I would not use it for anything that is used outdoors OR sees any handling (wear and tear). The finish should be sealed to prevent changing. The hypo is a very active chemical and must be washed off, neutralized, then washed off again. . .

PAINT is the right way to go.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 20:45:43 EST

where do they sell 30 or so lb capacity crucibles that arent exremely expensive, centaurforge used to but i don think they do anymore
   - Tom Ham - Sunday, 11/02/08 21:20:55 EST

Have been making plans to put together a Junkyard Hammer. I have located a washing machine motor (free, best price around) and am planning on using it. Problem is I do not have a wiring diagram. The motor has 6 places on it where wires connect, although there are only 5 wires coming into it. Does anyone know how to wire this motor? The wire connections are numbered 1-6. I do not know for sure what type washing machine it came off of, maybe a Kenmore. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks, FA
   Frank Agee - Sunday, 11/02/08 21:24:09 EST

Frank, This motor will be a two speed, probably 1/3HP and possibly reversing or reversible. Wiring will have to come from the OEM as these are special motors.

The motor is only sufficient for a very small hammer.

   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 23:19:12 EST

Crucibles: Tom, Crucible capacity is generally rated in pounds of aluminum but varies with manufacturer. A 20 lb. crucible will hold 60 pounds of steel. Some list capacity in Al and Cu.

Many places carry crucibles, Budget Casting Supply is one, McMaster-Carr is another. Graphite crucibles are generally rated at a maximum of 2500°F and for non-ferrous use.

For ferrous use the graphite crucible must be lined with a durable clay to prevent the steel from absorbing excessive amounts of carbon and ruining the crucible.

Considering the extreme danger of handling molten metals ESPECIALLY steel I would only use the absolute best crucible I could find. CHEAP is not part of the specification.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/02/08 23:52:25 EST

Jay, the purpose of the obstructions in the end of the burner tube is to break up the flame just before it enters the chamber. Otherwise you would get a jet-engine type flame with probably a pronounced roar.
   Ken Scharabok - Monday, 11/03/08 07:02:54 EST

60# is a heaping lot of molten metal of *any* type. I hate to keep repeating this; but, if you have to ask this sort of question you are probably not ready to profit from the answer and should start smaller and simpler.

Reading "Steelmaking before Bessemer; vol II Crucible Steel" you get an idea of how much trouble Huntsman had finding suitable refractories for melting steel.

I know a number of smiths who have melted or even boiled clay in their forges trying to experiment.

Especially for starting such work get a commercially rated crucible. They only seem expensive until the first time you have a $6000-150,000 ER/Hospital bill from using an improvised one.

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/03/08 11:01:29 EST

What would be the use of a cold saw in a blacksmith shop? I'm starting to make more handrails and want to buy a better saw for more accurate beveling. What are the pros and cons for buying a cold saw compared to a bandsaw? Thanks a lot.
   - Mike S - Monday, 11/03/08 12:25:44 EST

where can I find a 250 pound anvil in portland,or or nearby ?
   chaosfoundry - Monday, 11/03/08 12:46:45 EST

Cold Saws (radial blade): Mike, These are generally used for precision cutoff work in a machine shop. They are great machines but are slow. Most require a coolant system.

For general purpose cutoff work a cut off bandsaw is a better selection. They cut fast and blades last a long time as well as being less expensive than a cold saw blade. Almost any saw bigger than the cheap little 4x6 saws are a good investment. The little 4x6 saws often do not work and often cannot be made to work. There have been good brands but they change so rapidly that none are trustworthy.

For general smithing an ironworker is often the most productive tool in the shop. When stock does not need a clean saw cut a shear cuts much faster. Ironworkers can also shear angle iron and punch holes
   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 13:15:38 EST

Chaosfoundry, Nimba anvils is in Port Townsend, WA. They make a nice 260 called the "Centurion". They are as close as you are going to get.

Used anvils are where you find them. Your best bet is to try a local blacksmithing group.
   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 13:23:03 EST

Cold saws,
My experience with cold saws would indicate that short of a shear the cold saw is the fastest of saws. Of course one has to have the right saw, blade, coolant and speed and feed. Properly setup a cold saw will out cut any bandsaw of equal size. Set up wrong, the blade will not make it through the first cut.
The cold saws also do usually have fast angle cutting adjustment and will leave a very good square cut.

For most blacksmiths shops, the bandsaw is the more reasonable choice from a price and learning curve standpoint.
   ptree - Monday, 11/03/08 13:39:49 EST

I am a long time admirer of the Craft and am seeking information on begining to learn the Craft for the sake of preservation of an ancient art form, and a deep rooted reverence for the ways of bygone times. Any research refrences and tip would be greatly appriciated. Thank you for your time and effort put into this resource, and your service to those who still seek the knowledge instaed of expecting it to be handed to them. YOURS TRUELY, Matthew B. Everett
   matthew - Monday, 11/03/08 13:56:07 EST

guru Thank You
   Jay - Monday, 11/03/08 15:52:14 EST

So Matthew; how far back do you want to go?

"Egyptian Metalworking and Tools"? "Mechanic Exercises"? "Practical Blacksmithing"?

and what part of the field? Industrial, cutlery, armour, wagon ironing, ?

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/03/08 16:04:30 EST

Mike S you might also consider an abrasive cut off saw or "chop saw". For low level production you could use a Milwakee or DeWalt but if you need to do alot of heavy cuting you'll need something like the bigger Kalamazoo.
I don't know if any of anvilfire's customers carry chop saws but MSC does.
   - merl - Monday, 11/03/08 16:51:56 EST

I ment anvilfire's "advertisers"
   - merl - Monday, 11/03/08 16:53:58 EST


Another romantic! Well, I guess we all start that way. What area of the world are you located in? This IS the WORLD wide web, you know. Find someone in your area. Heck, One time I bought a house and found out that the guy next door was a blacksmith! Small world, indeed.
   - grant - Monday, 11/03/08 16:56:45 EST

Preservation of an Ancient Art Form: Matthew, that could be the title of an encyclopedic reference. As far as preservation goes that is pretty much under control. In the past few decades tens of thousands of smiths have been working or recording every minutia of ironworking and just as many more are working on rediscovering ancient methods that have been lost.

You must remember that all technology after the stone age starts with the smith AND smiths were there making components and testing materials well into the space age. NASA had a smith on staff and a 3B Nazel (a large power hammer) in their metallurgy department. That is a LOT of history. If you want to read a very interesting part of it from the early to mid 1800's see James Nasmyth : Autobiography

For a short list see: Sword Making Resources AND the Bibliography for Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel

For a broader range see our book review page which includes videos and CD's as well.

If you just want to LEARN the craft then see the much shorter list in our Getting Started Article.

Most books include historical methods and some groups practice ironwork circa Y1k. If you want to kneel on the cold ground breathing smoke while sparks fly up your kilt while a dedicated friend pumps the bellows there ARE folks into those methods. . . You can be as romantic as you want. But NONE of it is like you see in the Conan or Highlander movies.
   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 17:52:27 EST

Cold Saws versus Bandsaws-
Well, I have BOTH, and I use BOTH every day.
A coldsaw is expensive, heavy, and cuts very accurately. I use mine for cutting up to 3" diameter pipe, round, square, tubing, angle and flats all the time. With a length stop, it is almost as fast as my ironworker, but it cuts much more precisely and with a clean, square end. For things that must be precise, the cold saw is the bee's knees.
Mine is indeed faster than my bandsaws (I have 3) for most small (under 1") material. Thicker, bigger stuff, I usually cut unattended on the bandsaw. If it takes 15 minutes, who cares, I am not standing there. But I can cut 100 pieces of 1/2" round much faster with the cold saw than with a manual bandsaw. If you are talking automatic bandsaws, which start at ten grand or so- well, thats another story.
I do have a 7x10" bandsaw, as my coldsaw wont go that big. And I do use small 4x6 bandsaws about a hundred times a day, in the upright position, to notch, miter, and cut to size little stuff, cutting to a pencil line.

A good coldsaw, though, is expensive. The good ones are all euro, although both Doringer and Scotchman have bought the rights to make european designed ones here in the USA. A decent sized one, 10" to 13" or so, can easily run $3000 and up.
The blades cost about $150 each, and, unless you break them, can be resharpened and used for years. I run a water based coolant in mine, 5 gallons, cut about 20 to 1, will last a busy shop close to ten years.

In a cost per cut basis, amortised over the years (I have had my cold saw since about 92) It it FAR cheaper than my bandsaws. I run Lennox Diemaster II bi-metal blades on my bandsaws, and a 64 1/2" blade for my smallest bandsaw is running $33 at MSC these days- and I buy a dozen a year.
I recommend first buying a good quality 4x6 bandsaw, maybe a Jet or Grizzly swivel head, around $500. Then looking for used cold saws- a good one can often be found for a grand to $1200. But once you have used a cold saw daily in the shop, you are hard pressed to be without one.
   - Ries - Monday, 11/03/08 19:12:11 EST

Wow, i guess metal casting would be a specialization. and by 20 lbs i meant like 20 lbs of metal, but yah i probly got aways 2 go before i try this. Thanks
   - Tom Ham - Monday, 11/03/08 19:34:06 EST

High what would be the easiest way to make a small anvil like the one in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcZ6sNOE3VQ about like 25 lbs? i thought about making like a little blast chiminea with a hole for the metal to run out of once melted, into a mold, or getting it hot in a large ground forge like one in that video then workin on it with a sledge hammer
   - James Kryle - Monday, 11/03/08 19:39:20 EST

I'll second what Jeff and Ries said about saws. I have the Grizzly 5x6 swivel head horizontal bandsaw and, after a couple minor modifications and careful alignment, it is a great little saw with better capacity and power than most in its class. I've also used a buddy's cold saw and that thing is fantastic. Far and away faster than the bandsaw, accurate to within a couple thousandths and quieter than the bandsaw, too. The quiet comes from the lack of sheet metal that resonates rather than anything else, I think.

For doing railing work, where multiple identical cuts (such as pickets) are common, and where finicky miters are likely to be encountered, I'd definitelyh go with the cold saw ove rthe band saw. The cold saw has the capacity to cut top cap miters and get them spot on, something that only the very highest-end industrial band saws can approach. Nope, the cold saw won't cut 16W-80 I-beam, but you're not likely to use that for railings, either.
   vicopper - Monday, 11/03/08 19:43:47 EST

James Kyle,

The easiest way to make that stump anvil is by the Parker method - whip out your Parker pen and write a check to someone with a big power hammer. (grin)

The second easiest way would be to weld a shank on a block of steel and be done with it.

The best, though not easiest way to make that anvil is to start with a suitable sized piece of 4140 steel and forge it. First you isolate the material needed for the shank, then forge down the shank to size, Next, you forge the taper to the body and break all the corners. Finally, normalize and then harden and temper. I'd suggest a power hammer in the Nazel 3B or 4B size range, say about 300# tup wieght. You could do it on a smaller hammer but it would take longer and really wear you out holding that 25# chunk of steel for that long.

The hardest way to make that anvil is to try to do it with undersized tooling or too little help. You need either a big power hammer or a couple of trained striker with sledges to work stock that size. Breaking down that 5" square bar to get the 1-1/2" square tapered shank is a LOT of work. Not something that one person with a hand hammer is going to accomplish before tendonitis ends his career.
   vicopper - Monday, 11/03/08 19:55:34 EST

James, Step one is some education in metalworking. Setting up to do casting is far more difficult than forging. Learning forging starts with a small piece of steel and a relatively small hammer. To do things the primitive way you learn very basic skills such as drawing, layout, sewing, woodworking with an axe. The primitive forge looks like fun but who is going to be pumping that primitive bellows all day for you or swinging a sledge hammer? Primitive methods usually mean LOTS of desperate low paid workers, OR a lot of actors for a short video. . .

If you want to learn blacksmithing see our Getting Started article. Study the books, go to demos, schools, and build up your collection of tools to DO IT. Start with modern tools made by experts and modern methods such as an electric blower for your forge. A $50 blower and a few cents worth of electricity will replace a full time helper and work all day without complaining, wanting a break or drinking all the beer and falling asleep. . . BE PRACTICAL. Yep, you can make steel with nothing but some home made charcoal, local bog iron and a short stack furnace. . but it takes a VILLAGE of people to do it all by hand.

We can be lots of help if you really want to do it.
   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 20:17:32 EST

While at a tongs making workshop at the teaching shop of a local museum this weekend I heard someone repeat the common bit of smithing wisdom "Don't quench your tongs if they get hot, it'll make them brittle" While I've followed this advice for years, it got me thinking. Unless you are REALLY abusing your tongs and getting them up into the austenite range before quenching, can you make steel under certain conditions (work hardening and quenching from 300 thru 1000 deg. F. or so) harden? I'm assuming iron, mild, or medium C (1050 or below). Is it just the work hardening, or a combo of that and low temp quenching? Just a misunderstanding of work hardening blamed on quenching or some other mechanism?
   Judson Yaggy - Monday, 11/03/08 20:23:42 EST

Frank A,

They're are lots of appliance wiring diagrams on the web. The image search on Google is the best place I've found to start. If you can find one with the motor terminals numbered the same as yours, there will be at least a chance it's the right one. Of course if you can narrow down the manufacturer, that would help too.
   Mike BR - Monday, 11/03/08 21:18:27 EST

Judson: Might let Quenchcrack have the last word on this, but hears my take: First, I make a distinction between "quenching" and "cooling". May not be what the dictionary says, but to me it's just cooling until you get to red heat. There is very little that happens from a transformation standpoint until you start to get to the austenizing temperature. If you WANT to harden a piece of steel, good luck trying to do it by heating to 1000F and quenching it. That being said, there ARE thermal stresses and repeated heating and cooling will compromise the integrity of the steel.

I'm Grant, and I approve this message
   - grant - Monday, 11/03/08 21:19:08 EST

Grammar -- my last post is just embarassing . . .
   Mike BR - Monday, 11/03/08 21:19:45 EST

Mike S: Another tool You might look into is a "Dry Saw" This is similar to a portable abrasive chopsaw, but it runs slower and uses a carbide blade. You don't have the grit from an abrasive wheel, much less sparks, and the saw blade doesn't decrease in diameter reducing the capacity. Milwaukee and DeWalt are ones I have seen, there may be others as well.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/03/08 21:38:57 EST

I've made over 200 pairs of mild steel tongs over the years, and I always size them red hot or above and then quench them at the same heat while moving the reins under water to keep the pivot from freezing up. I've not had a problem so far. However, if the tongs are above 0.35% carbon and you've reached austenitizing temperature when quenching, you will cause brittleness. I don't understand the concept of tongs becoming work hardened. They shouldn't work harden unless you're beating on them cold or ferociously banging them around, ie., mistreating them at room temperature.

Large tongs used in industry are made of more respectable steel, the old ones of medium or high carbon steel. Some recent ones may be of 4140 or 4130 or other alloy steel. They definitely should not be quenched and used afterward.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 11/03/08 21:57:22 EST

What would be some of your opinons on blacksmithing vs. modern metal working aspects?(welding) Also, what would be traditional blacksmithing to you guys? Just curious, because I've come up with some ideas of my own.
   - john L. - Monday, 11/03/08 22:07:42 EST

As Grant (who probably makes more tongs than everyone in the U.S. combined) noted, there is a difference between quenching and cooling. IF you cool your tongs in water often enough then you will not be quenching them. . .

I've only broken ONE pair of tongs in my life and they were the first VERY primitive ones I made from RR-spikes. I was trying to adjust them cold and they snapped. . No big loss other than the emotional attachment. I suspect they were higher carbon steel than recommended for tongs AND over hardened (IE not tempered).

I teach my students to quench tongs with EVERY heat in order not to have hot tongs lying about. . . At the Power Hammer School where they were forging LOTS of short pieces of 1" bar the numerous slack tubs had to be drained and refilled with cold water several times during the day. That is a LOT of heat transfered by just holding the cool end of the work!

   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 22:07:58 EST

Traditional, anything: Who's traditions, the Chinese, Mormons, Pirates? In what century? 1st, 10th, 15th, 18th, 20th?

To quote Dean Curfman of Oakhill Ironworks (AKA Big BLU Hammers), "We are making the NEW traditional Ironwork."

In ANY craft good quality stands the test of time. Poorly made junk that is poorly finished, rusts or decays and is scrapped. Good well made work, decently preserved to outlast the maker and perhaps the locale it was made for will be carefully restored and preserved.

There was a period of time when many artists did their work on raw canvas. No matter what the intrinsic value of that work WAS it is now yellowing and will soon crumble no matter how well it is cared for. It will solve its own problem of being poor quality by ceasing to exist. Artists have known better for hundreds of years. So have museums that have often bought such junk. . .

So, does it have to be made of 100% charcoal smelted wrought iron to be traditional? Most of the methods many smiths consider "traditional" are from the era of wrought iron. . .

In Peter Parkinson's new blacksmithing video he comments on some reversing twists (90° right, 90° left, 90° right. . ) that they are not found on old work because they require a torch to do well and affordably. . . Do you scratch off as "non-traditional" a piece of work that uses this motif but in every other way is high quality iron work assembled using "traditional" methods?

Arc welding has now been used in iron work for a century. Often it is done poorly, ground poorly to hide it and finished poorly making it stand out. . Good are welding either does not detract from the work by design, is hidden by good methods (such as forging over) OR is so beautifully done that it is an accepted part of the work. Amateur, sputter balled, dog knotted, sloppy welding is what it is. If you can't weld well then DON'T do it on artistic work.

We, in the West, tend to be very Eurocentric. There is no history other than that of the West and many races do not count. Africa, India and China do not exist and did not contribute to "our" Eurocentric world. . .

Chinese ironwork jumped right past the wrought stage due to the scale of the furnaces they built. Cast iron, even for tools was the rule. Casting of bronze and iron became highly developed. Parts were cast so precisely that when their fitted joints were assembled the whole appeared to be one. They developed areas where Europe was slow to develop while Europe's metalworking went an entirely different direction (luckily for us).

   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 22:37:56 EST

Non-Partisan Political Content:

This U.S. Presidential election could be one of the most historic turning points in U.S. history. We have unprecedented economic turmoil and shenanigans of global epic proportions. It is OUR decision to make. Vote tomorrow like your future depended on it. It MAY.

How bad is it?

A little less than a month ago there was gasoline shortages in North Carolina and a few other places. There was no gasoline to be gotten at many important locations. At least one NC fuel distributor delivered fuel to a station and billed $5.00 a gallon (wholesale).

Today there is no more or no less traffic on the road. Fuel prices have dropped to below $2.00 a gallon in many locations. The same oil companies that CLAIMED there was no oil in the pipe mere weeks ago are now dumping fuel at bargain prices. . .

From $5 to $2 a gallon in less than a month? Yes, the stock market which was inflated with easy money and phony values has fallen by half. . But did the cost of producing a gallon of gasoline drop by over half in the last few weeks?

Think about how and who has let it come to this when you vote. I personally don't think there is anyone in either party that has the intelligence AND the guts to do what needs to be done. But we have the most significant choice to make than we have ever had before. Don't waste your right to help decide the future.

   - guru - Monday, 11/03/08 23:02:30 EST

I believe metal working is at its best state when the smith(metal worker) and tools are on the same level. Meaning the smith completely understands his tools(all aspects) and can make thenm either my himself or collectivly with a group of smiths with reasonable effort. I think traditional blacksmithing is when the smith and his tools are at equilibrium. Today with modern metal things are different in not so good way. For example, welders cannot make welders with welders, they rely on speacialised manufacturers hundreds of miles away to manufacture there equipment. Although they understand to basic principles behind how there equipment, they are far from grasping the imense technology. As history progressed from the begining of the iron age to the current day there has been an obvious pattern when comparing the metal worker with his tools. As tools became more evolved and complex the knowlege, experience and skill of the smith went down. Then was the 12th to the 17th century(eurocentricaly speaking) the highth of blacksmithing?(when european smithing bordered apon perfection) Yes! there is a price to pay for the fallowing attributes - inexpensive, high quantity, little effort involved in manufacture.
   - john L. - Monday, 11/03/08 23:23:40 EST

John, you must not know the same blacksmiths I know. Because I know a dozen guys working today I will put up against any 12th to 17th century smith you can get to come into the shop and compete.
Today, the best blacksmiths know so much more than smiths did 500 years ago, its not funny. Simple things, like how to read, and math up thru and including geometry and algebra, which, even 100 years ago were rare.
Metallurgy, as well, is understood to a high degree even by amateur smiths today, and people like Darryl Nelson, or Phillip Baldwin, know more than ANYBODY living did as recently as 1800.
If you think the knowledge, experience, and skill of smiths has gone down, you have never seen Peter Ross, or Tom Latane, or Pete Renzetti, or a couple dozen other guys I could name work, have you?

Historically, the best european blacksmiths did NOT do everything themselves- they ran big shops, with lots of helpers, and bought iron rods which dozens of people in other big shops had made, and then they subbed out grinding and sharpening, sheet metal work, and lots of other specialties.
The myth of the one man blacksmith shop, where the master smith did everything, is just that- a myth.
Perhaps, today, its a bit more possible, since you can buy surplus industrial machines for pennies on the dollar, but historically, it never happened.
Samuel Yellin employed 400 or so men at his peak, and used every newfangled tool he could get his hands on. The same is true with the best smiths of any era.
I cannot imagine a list of the Highest level blacksmiths that did not include Yellin, or Mazucatelli, or Al Paley.
All of whom break your rules.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 11/04/08 00:32:33 EST

Tools do not make the craftsperson. While I love my tools, I've also been without. Fine work can be done with nearly nothing if you have the vision, skill and tenacity. But with good tools you can be competitive and vastly more productive.

There is also the client's ability to pay and their vision of what THEY want. . .

Besides Ries list of folks names most of us have know there are many smiths as good or better that no one has heard of.

--- I'll be away and on the road today. Today's purpose is at hand.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/04/08 07:20:13 EST

On traditional blacksmithing I suspect were a blacksmith from say the year 0 to have seen a shop from say the late-1800s (pre-electric) they likely would have been familiar with virtually all which was being done.
   Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 11/04/08 07:22:27 EST

Guru, I am surprised at your comments about gasoline availability. You are ususally a paragon of logic but I think you overlooked one thing: Hurricane Ike. All the fuel trucks were in Texas trying to supply the thousands of generators to the Millions of people without power. Most of the nations oil comes from the Gulf of Mexico and the rigs were shut down for several weeks meaning no feed stock to the refineries. That was OK because the refineries were shut down, too. Get a copy of the book "The Seven Sisters" and read it. You will discover that oil has always been a feast or famine industry. Supply and demand are the only control over the price of oil or gasoline. High demand, high price, low demand, low price. The OPEC nations decided to stabilize the price of oil by dropping production 1.5 million bbl per day and what happened? The price of gasoline went down. You want to blame someone for manipulating the price of oil? Go to Wall Street and find the speculators that added 30-40% to the price for the last two years. After that, we can all look in the mirror. Supply and Demand rule the industry just like it always has.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/04/08 07:57:11 EST

Kilt usage: earliest documented is 1598 farther away from Y1K than we are to 1598...

John L: Blacksmithing *IS* a modern metal working aspect so my opinion is that it's a subset of the larger class.

"Traditional" is anything older than yesterday. Since I am interested in pre 1600 AD smithing much of what some folks consider "traditional" I consider modern and "recent". As a fall back position I would consider working with real wrought iron to be necessary to be "traditional" and using mild steel to be modern no matter what processes and techniques you are using.

3 smiths more than 3 opinions---very traditonal!

I agree that if you think smithing peaked pre 18th century then you leave out about half of Tijou's work; all of Yellin and the neo-gothic; the great art noveau ironwork and modernists like Paley. The work in the USA's National Cathedral stands up to any in earlier times and was all done by "modern" smiths.

In bladesmithing we have far exceeded earlier times!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/04/08 10:53:27 EST

Quenchcrack, I know we are all a bunch of "oligists" here, with a constant need for extreme acuracy, but 2 things stand out to me, first, I think Gurus' point was simply that if one were ever to vote, now is the time, and secondly, your argument of supply and demand actualy reinforces his argument, in that while we lost ten oil platforms and the texas refineries were closed for weeks, the price of gas went DOWN (except in Georgia). How did that work?
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 11/04/08 14:43:03 EST

Got a question about Coal. I've never used it before as I've been using the lump charcoal and have been getting really good results with it (I buy 20 lb. sacks at the local grocery store for about $10 each). My wife's friend's husband's dad has a small farm and has been blacksmithing for years (so I've been told). He uses coal in a forge made from an old washing machine and recently I was given some of his coal in a 3 gallon bucket. Looks like anthracite--black, shiny, not really dusty and doesn't really rub off on you. I have not yet used any due to my wondering if this is good fuel for a forge? (I've read that it is "better" than bituminous coal as far as heat goes, but then again, it is just reading). What do you guys think? Good, bad, or ugly?
Chris from Sacramento
   Chris F. - Tuesday, 11/04/08 16:37:02 EST

You have to look beyond the US when discussing oil prices. The fact is that oil prices went up globally and have just fallen sharply on a global scale. As far as I can tell the reason for the increase was speculators buying futures contracts. As the financial situation unwound, they were forced to get out of those positions - hence a crash in prices.
It is true that US demand is big enough to influence the global price, but it does not dictate it.
There has been a big price drop in europe and even here in australia - though damped a little by the 30% drop in australian dollar value relative to the US dollar.
   andrew - Tuesday, 11/04/08 16:37:03 EST

I have used anthracite, and it does work, but I think most folks would prefer soft coal if they can get it.
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 11/04/08 16:56:00 EST

The other day, I noticed that the refractory in my propane forge cracked. Unfortunately the crack is right across the holes in the ceiling of the forge where the burners enter. Needless to say the gas is seeping through the cracks and this leaves me with a very scattered flame.

The refractory is like a fire brick. It is light tan in color and only 1 inch thick.

Is there a product I can fill the cracks with,or would I be better off using a different kind of lining? I really need help because I have several holiday gifts to complete and no reliable forge.


   Jim Raven - Tuesday, 11/04/08 17:12:11 EST

Sounds just like the Poco I used to get which was a soft coal but was washed before sale I believe. Try it!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/04/08 17:17:28 EST

Tongs- I agree with all the above comments and didn't mean to question common metallurgical knowledge. I suppose I should have asked "Where does the bit of smithing myth about not quenching tongs come from" as I have heard it repeated over the years. Guess it was a lore question, not a metals question. Sorry I wasn't clear.
   Judson Yaggy - Tuesday, 11/04/08 18:03:29 EST

Tong quenching/cooling.
In the industrial forge shops I have worked in the heaters and hammermen use several pairs of tongs, and drop one pair in the water barrel and pick up a cool pair every forging. I have a number of used tongs from Vogt's shop. Heat checked, repaired and so forth. Not brittle as far as i can tell. A mix of Rose brand and shop made.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/04/08 18:07:49 EST

Jim Raven,

For simple patch jobs like that you can get away with "stove cement" sold at a hardware store. You'll need to dry it with a hair dryer for a few hours to get most of the moisture out of it, then light the forge and heat it for a few minutes and shut down. Do this a couple of times before taking it to full heat. It isn't nearly as good a product as those offered by International Technical Coatings (ITC), but it will work.

If you can easily get ITC products or Plistix, both are better, more durable and higher temperature rated refractories than the stove cement. The Anvilfire Store carries most of the ITC products - look on the drop-down menu on this page.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 11/04/08 19:11:40 EST

When they charcoal smelt something does carbon from the charcoal get into the bloom?
   - James Kryle - Tuesday, 11/04/08 19:47:50 EST

John, First, I agree with Guru's point about voting which is why I did not address it. Second, we lost 38 off-shore rigs. I don't know why the price of gas did not go down in Georgia. Do you? Perhaps the over-all demand went up in Georgia and down in the rest of the states. Without addressing micro-economics, I still believe that in the history of petroleum usage in the world, supply and demand for oil has never remained in balance for very long. In the longer term, when demand goes down, so does the price.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/04/08 19:54:27 EST

I neglected to include a final thought: If the oil companies really could control the price of oil, do you think they would let it fall from $140 to $64 per barrel in a matter of weeks? This price drop is forcing the producing companies to curtail their drilling activities for 2009 by up to 20%. If the economy begins to recover and demand goes up, and there is 20% less oil coming out of US wells, guess where the price of gasoline goes?
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/04/08 19:58:45 EST

To do SCA stuff i need wooden hammer handles how do i get out a fiberglass handle? the handles on mines are brutishly tuff.
   - Jacob Lockhart - Tuesday, 11/04/08 20:49:16 EST

James Kryle: Yes, the carbon ends up in the bloom, The bloom is cast iron, You have to burn a lot of the carbon out in another process to get steel.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 11/04/08 21:35:31 EST

Tongs shouldn't work harden, but I guess they could be subject to fatigue cracking -- eventually. Maybe thermal stress from cooling in water would speed this up a little (by adding fatigue cycles, if nothing else). But fatigue cracking of tongs doesn't seem to be a real problem, so this is all theoretical. And if you really did use a pair enough to wear them out, you should be able to afford new ones.

   Mike BR - Tuesday, 11/04/08 21:38:00 EST

Judson, Never heerd-tell of that myth, and I've been smithing a long time. Sounds like a crock, or maybe someone's pulling your leg. It's not common sense nor is it horse sense.

Jacob, For the fiberglass handle, maybe the same way you get rid of a spent wooden handle. Saw off the haft next to the head and drill a number of random holes through what's left inside the head. Knock out the remaining pieces with a pin punch or similar tool.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/04/08 21:38:35 EST

Jacob Lockhart: You can press the handle out with a press or heat the hammer head to 300f-400f to soften [ruin] the adheasive and possibly the end of the handle.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 11/04/08 21:38:41 EST

Quenchcrack, Didn't want to start a political thing here, of all places, thanks for your response. 88% voter turnout in Chatham Mass tonight, Yikes.
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 11/04/08 22:22:25 EST

As a second thought though, and not that I disagree with you, but it seems it would be in the oil companys best interests to keep a lot of incumbents in office, which would not be the case if oil were still over $100/barrel.
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 11/04/08 22:25:21 EST

by the way my son tom is cool
   John Christiansen - Tuesday, 11/04/08 22:26:00 EST

say what you will Quenchcrack but, I think the only group of people more dishonest and immoral than the oil companies are politicions (as a whole and without exception), and whoever pulls the strings at Monsanto.
We saw gas prices go up irregardless of supply or demand.
They went up untill the vast working class poor of this contry could no longer aford it and then they went up some more just to make sure we weren't lying about being broke.
Now someone taps these guys on the shuolder and points out that if the oil co.'s take all of our descretionary money too, we won't have anything left for the holiday shopping season (you know, the one that makes or breaks the retail, wholesale and, manufacturing year)
It cost me about an EXTRA $120./week just to take myself to and from work and for my wife to run her weekly errands (unimportant stuff like grocery shopping, taking the kids to summer school and, church).
We have gone noware for the last two years. Other than the above mentiond local trips, we might get to the "big city" 20 miles away once a month.
I don't know about anyone else but, I didn't get a special milage alowance or a free gas card from my employer to help with the price of gas.
If, as you say, the price of gas at the pump is determined by "the lie of supply and demand" how can somthing that happend only an hour ago cause an increase (always) a couple of thousand miles away? That is one long hose.
Natural gas and propane comes from the same sorces as the oil for gasoline and yet their prices don't twitter the way gas does.
The local Co-op gets fuel only once a week yet their prices (controled by BP)go up every time someone hiccups sideways.
What I want to know is how can a company buy gas at a higher wholesale price today and sell it for a lower retail price tomorrow and stay in business?
How long do they expect cigeret and soda sales to make up the differance?

Jacob Lockhart: try cutting the handle off at the head and carefully drilling out as much of the remaining handle as you can with a hand drill then, knock the rest out with a large drive punch or peice of round stock that will fit into the handle socket.
Interesting...(the sudden improvement in your vocabulary)
   - merl - Tuesday, 11/04/08 22:43:48 EST

Sorry Frank, I didn't see that you recomended the same thing to Jacob.
It takes me so long to hunt and peck my way through a reply that you guys can slip quite a bit in befor me.
   - merl - Tuesday, 11/04/08 22:49:24 EST

Boomery Iron: Sorry Dave, It is NOT cast iron. Cast iron is converted to wrought in the puddling process. This is different than the bloomery process which makes wrought directly.

James, It varies from bloom to bloom and can contain a small amount of cast (if it becomes liquid) and steel but is mostly pure iron, silica slag and air (making it soft and sponge like). Often there is chunks of charcoal stuck in the bloom and these will become inclusions if not worked or burnt out. During the iron making process hot carbon monoxide strips any carbon from the iron. If the iron is kept from melting and stays in a plastic state it will be pure iron when removed from the furnace as a "bloom". In a perfect run the bloom is pure iron and slag.

Blooms are typically more pure iron and slag than anything else. But they can contain some steel through cast iron. When these are worked into the bloom the carbon migrates and the wrought becomes very low carbon iron in places. When the furnace is run to make steel by the direct method as the Japanese do then you get pure iron, mostly steel and a little cast iron. If the entire bloom is processed the cast and iron become varying grades of steel. But the Japanese smith carefully grades the pieces of the bloom and uses the best for the best blades. The junk goes to low level smiths to process into poor grade steel. . .

Consolidating bloom

ABOVE: Myself, Lee Sauder of the Rockbridge Bloomery and Martha Goodway from the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE) consolidating a wrought iron bloom. 1999.

Depending on the bloom (some are more solid than others) when you start it can be like hammering on rising bread dough. You "pat" it gently rather than pound on it. As air and slag is forced out the bloom becomes more solid. Normally it needs to be reheated, folded and welded several times to become more or less homogenous and without serious flaws and more "wrought" like. A great deal of slag is forced out in the process and replaces the need for flux. However, the consolidated bloom MAY be used as-is for art work and sculpture where structural integrity is not so critical.

The bloom above was about 1/3 solid 2/3 foamy bloom.

Forged bloom

The rough bloom after forging under power hammer. Normally it would have been reheated and worked to close the cracks and make more solid.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/04/08 23:19:36 EST

Here's a structural question. If you try to bend a square bar, does it have more strength on the flat side vs the diamond side? ie, rotating the picket 45* in a window grill? Pricing question, is there a going rate for hairpin fencing?
   Andy - Wednesday, 11/05/08 09:24:35 EST

Square bar does have more resistance to bending on the diagonal than on the square. But the "strength" of the material is the same either way.

There are no going rates nationwide for any custom work. It varies a lot by location. You can buy mail order "ornamental ironwork" that is factory made square tubing of the lowest quality, and that is about the ONLY metalwork that will have a standard going price.

Other than that, its all what the market will bear. And what the smith will lower himself to.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 11/05/08 11:17:52 EST


The bar is easier to bend on the diamond than on the flats. Has to do with section modulus, I think.

Pricing varies widely with area and market. There isn't any "going rate" that applies across the country or world. It also varies with method of manufacture. Crappy chopsaw and glue gun work usually, though not always, is priced lower and hand-forged work with slit/drifted penetrations costs a bunch more. Makes a difference too if Joe Hobbyist makes it or Al Paley makes it.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 11/05/08 11:25:10 EST

Flat vs. Diamond: No. Difference. I've argued this one but was wrong. . Yes, at the center where it would be thicker it is stiffer. But at the edges the square theoretically has 0 thickness and zero strength. When you total the strength of thin slices taken from the bar (a way to imagine how Calculus views the problem) is is the same as flat.

However, the bar LOOKS thicker when turned diagonal and viewed head on and has a much different aesthetic. Bar turned on the diagonal has sharp corners that would hurt pushed against and thus might has a little more security.

Pricing: No going rates. Different work is priced different ways by different shops depending on the way they produce work.

If the old commercial type alternating straight and bent bar railing is what you are speaking of there WAS a time when it could be purchased from catalogs by the foot and end components as well. Then all you had to figure was your labor to assemble and install. The folks making it used relatively high production methods (iron workers or punch presses, shears) and made it by the mile. Today most of it is made by hand to match old work or an old style.

For many years smiths tossed around numbers like $25/foot and thought they were making good money (they were taking a loss). Today per foot rates of $350/$400 are common for all forged rail, higher for tenoned and collared work ($500 and up) but as much as $10,000/foot for large gates. Bent and punched work with no decoration (no forging) would be much less than forged rail. Quantity would have a significant effect on the pricing of this type rail.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/05/08 11:26:27 EST

I see Ries and I differ on the bending of the square bar. If I was a betting man, I'd go with Ries, since he works more with such things than I do, but I'm not a gambler and I'm pretty sure that I got my position from an engineer.

Is there an engineer in the house who can settle this?
   vicopper - Wednesday, 11/05/08 11:28:09 EST

Seems to me that bar on the diamond would have less sectional area in the places where the most deformation is going on, therefore bend easier than on the flat. I really hope an engineer will chime in on this!
   vicopper - Wednesday, 11/05/08 11:31:02 EST

Bar turned on a daimond (45deg) would not be any stronger security-wise. The perp would be able to bend the bars out and forward, 45deg from the window, thus bending on the flat, rather than just bending out, parallel to the window, if they were mounted on the square.

Not sure if this helps, or answeres a question, or even makes any sense!
   Dave Leppo - Wednesday, 11/05/08 12:07:58 EST

Well, I had to look it up stress is different but not very much. The moment of inertia I is the same in both directions (my Calculus comparison) but the Section Modulas Z is .23575d, where on flat it is .2500d (d being the width of the side). However, in deflection calculations I rules. The Section Modulas Z is used to calculate stress. The lower the section modulas the higher the stress. In the case of square bar on diagonal the stress is greater (more likely to fail) but the bending force is the same.

The major problem with the square/diagonal argument is what is holding the bar in that position and what is applying the force. When long rectangular beams are loaded they must be held firmly in the proper axis because when loaded at an angle or from the side they are MUCH weaker than in their design direction. If they span too long a distance and the load causes them to twist then disaster is eminent.

AND as Dave Leppo pointed out we are not talking about specific direction forces. In the case of security bars their attachment is often weaker than the bars. There are also fire safety regulations that require the occupant to be able to easily open the bars without a key. . . A much more serious design consideration.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/05/08 13:13:13 EST

That was a little research mostly from Machinery's Handbook and a little from the AISC Steel Construction Manual.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/05/08 13:16:25 EST

As my kids never tire of telling me, I am wrong all the time- in fact, if you listen to them, almost ALWAYS.
I have bent a lot of square bar both ways, and I can tell you that from a practical standpoint, it is harder to bend it on the diagonal, but "harder" may not equal "requiring more pounds of force" in this case.

I think it looks pretty cool to bend it on the diagonal, but it is tricky to keep it aligned, and requires more complicated tooling. I have dies for my hossfeld that have V grooves cut in them, that allow me to do it very slickly, and its a good trick to impress people.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 11/05/08 13:29:43 EST

I broke my dad's Prentiss 514 Bulldog vise yesterday. He's had this thing almost 30 years. I was trying to take two pipe fittings apart and the front jaw broke. Is there any where on this planet I can get replacement parts? Does anyone have a 514 or a 524 that they would be willing to sell?
   Jeff - Wednesday, 11/05/08 14:14:18 EST

I recently bought a bear trap with very weak springs(the trap was left set for an extended period). Can the springs be retempered? How do I go about this? The trap will never be set but I would like the springs to have some strength. Thanks for your help.
   Kris - Wednesday, 11/05/08 16:39:20 EST

Jeff, I am VERY sorry, no parts are available. Replacements will all be over 30 years old. Keep asking around. However, folks are finally starting to realize that the big old heavy vices are worth a LOT more than the new junk ones. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/05/08 16:42:21 EST

Ries, I suspect that the deflection is the same up until you get to the yield point and then the needed force goes up a small amount. Trying to balance on the corner while applying force also enters into the difficulty factor. As you noted, jigs and fixtures help a lot.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/05/08 16:45:47 EST

Security grilles and square bent on the diamond.

It is an interesting theoretical question but in this application how much practical value does it have? Like the old question of is a 15 lever vault lock more secure than an 11 lever? The answer is it almost certainly doesn't matter. Nobody will pick either.

On a security type question ask how the miscreant will try to compromise your system and increase the security there. In my experience somebody will either go for the fastenings and remove the grille or cut a hole through the grille and enter like that.

Fastenings- use plenty of them but not such as will weaken the wall. Chemical bolts are probably favourites although a mixture of chemical and expanding type is better as that gives the bad gut two problems to solve. Make sure they are non return- obviously. Don't forget the best anchor in the world is no use if the tab through which you are bolted is a piece of junk. Best way is to anchor through the actual grille.

To stop someone cutting a hole through your rille consider having part of it made out of rotating bars or better still a captive rotating sleeve inside a heavy tube. If you want to get really sophisticated use a hard steel inside with the ends turned to a point or even two pieces the total length of which is the length you want. Don't cut them all the same lengths- stagger the joins! It all depends how secure you want to go.

the actual physical strength of the bar used would be way down on my list of priorities on this one. In most jobs aesthetics are more important than 101% security. I would bend on the angle cos I think it looks better!

As always Jock sorry for my rant but you know why! I shan't be upset if you delete it and have me sent to a rest home.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 11/05/08 18:51:29 EST

Jeff-- Fret not-- just about everything comes up on Ebay. Eventually. Search for "Bench vise." I need a base plate for an old Chas. Parker vise, missed the precise one by minutes. If it does not appear in a reasonable time, get him a near dupe. DO NOT BUY A NEW CHINESE-MADE VISE. Beware, some old-line brand names are not what they once were.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 11/05/08 19:21:41 EST

Is there such thing as carburizing (my definition being adding carbon), i remember a story about the romans doing that to make better swords for when they fought cetls. For experimenting i wanted to make small 3 or 4 lbs blooms, so when this has melted and become the bloom then it is time to get it a little below its melting point so its in a plastic state where impurities will burn out? God Bless
   - James Kryle - Wednesday, 11/05/08 19:47:08 EST

Oh, and is magnetite sand in the average lake or stream?
   - James Kryle - Wednesday, 11/05/08 19:48:36 EST

James, carburizing is a common process - used in making blister steel in the 1600's (See Steel Making before Bessemer, Volume 1) and is an ongoing process today. Many gears and bearings are made of carburized alloy steels to provide a hard surface and a ductile substrate for improved life. Sikorsky used/uses carburized gears in their helicopters, or at least they did 20 years ago when I upgraded their internal heat treat department to nitrogen based atmospheres from endothermic gas atmospheres. Depth of carbon penetration is dependent primarily on time and temperature. Most modern carburizing applications aim for fairly minor depths - <0.10 inch
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 11/05/08 20:12:15 EST

Is that book still in Production, I looked on amazon but couldnt find it.
   - James Kryle - Wednesday, 11/05/08 20:29:08 EST

I've seen old grab hooks bent tightly on the diamond, but they don't make them that way anymore.

It is tricky to make blooms, and usually requires a team of knowledgable people who know how to build the bloomery, how much fuel, how much blast, and how much chemistry is involved. We find magnetite in our dry river beds in New Mexico, but it is low grade. Wrought iron used to be carburized by exposing it to organic carbonaceous materials in an airtight container and keeping it at a red heat for perhaps seven to nine and one half days.

   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 11/05/08 20:30:08 EST

I looked on iforgeiron.com and saw something about putting charcoal dust on the anvil and pounding the iron onto that and then spark testing it. As being a newbie in this ive never tried a spark test, done lots of grinding, but never paid atttention to the sparks, the higher the carbon the harder the steel, so harder steel would make many more smaller sparks right?
   - James Kryle - Wednesday, 11/05/08 20:44:54 EST

In the airport hotel waiting for the flight to Thailand for honeymoon. I'll post updates whan I come back in two weeks!

   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/05/08 20:51:18 EST

I have been trying to locate the plans on making small cross's that are worn as necklaces I do not know the size of stock, the length of stock, or the lengths of cuts, can you advise where I can find this information
   Rick - Wednesday, 11/05/08 21:35:50 EST

James Kryle & Jock : My mistake, I was thinking of the old blast furnaces near where I live, Hopewell being the most complete.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/05/08 21:48:28 EST

Jeff: My Grandpop brought a broken Chas Parker vise home from where He worked, My Dad took it to the local commercial welding shop and they sucessfully welded it. This was in the mid 40's We used it hard for over 30 years, but while using it as a press, one of the guys put a pipe on the handle and broke it again. It DID NOT break at or near the repair. Some years later I tried to weld it, but I did not have a forge or any good method to preheat it. My weld repair was not successful.

MORAL OF THE STORY: If You decide to weld this vise, do it right. Preheat, keep it hot while welding, and cool slowly. It can be done if You don't take any shortcuts.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/05/08 22:12:06 EST

Hi. I know very little about the blacksmith craft but am an experienced machinist. I frequently make and heat treat tools such as taps, milling cutters etc so have done lots of basic annealing, heat treating and tempering.

Recently I tried to make some tools from some old files - end result is a scraper; the basic shape of a file with the end thinned and fanned out out slightly. I ground off most of the teeth and annealed the file using a steel box full of ashes. I'm not sure it there is an advantage to annealing before forging, but someone suggested it (seemed like it wouldn't accomplish much?).

Forge is a some IFB, propane torch and a big hunk of steel for an anvil (yeah I know, but I'm a newbie - and I've got a nice lathe :) )The first mistake i made was not getting the steel hot enough - i was forging at red rather than yellow... so it was a lot pounding. live and learn. I researched and learned (from Nicholson) that you can basically consider a file as W1 so far as heat treading goes.

First time, I tried quench right from the forging operation. The material is a thinned section, a little less than 1/8" and it developed cracks. Ug. I tried again with another old file, and this time annealed it after forging, figuring there were all kinds of stresses in the material from forging that contributed to cracking. This time it worked perfectly.....did i stumble upon the correct process or just get lucky?

It would be great to get the voice of experience to comment on the process i used and how it should/could be improved. Did the forging at too low a heat contribute to the problem, should i always anneal (stress relieve) thin sections before quenching? thanks very much for any guidance you can give
   - Mike - Wednesday, 11/05/08 22:32:11 EST

Hey my friend/mentor is comeing into town this thanksgiveing and i kinda wanted to give him a gift for christmas since i wont see him to after then. what i wanted to do for him was help fix his portable coal forge. it is and older one and its NICE. the only thing wrong with it is the fan is broken or more importantly the ratchet to pull the fan is loose. it isent a normal hand crank or foot peddle but a sorta lever. i was wondering if any one knew how to fix it.
   sam - Wednesday, 11/05/08 22:33:26 EST

thanks for the lively debate on flat vs. diamond. My client wants a very minimal set of bars on a 4x4 basement window, she specifically wants 4 bars running horizontal, which had me picturing someone prying them hand against foot. So I was considering running 3/4 stock on the diamond to get a little more integrity.
   Andy - Wednesday, 11/05/08 23:33:33 EST

Sam-- the first thing is to prioritize your agenda. Sketch out a likely event horizon for your mentor's visit. Put together a preliminary conceptualization of the problem, and the exigencies that might eventuate. Then, after some coffee, inspect the forge and the busted ratchet. Have some more coffee. Visualize the ratchet operating properly. Now visualize the difference between proper operating mode and actual mode. Have some more coffee, perhaps a light lunch. Take appropriate steps to remediate discerned differences. If that doesn't ameliorate the situation, put the forge out behind the garage and visualize a replacement.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 11/05/08 23:34:03 EST

James, Do not believe everything you hear or see on the internet. On the matter of iron making you need to do some serious study. Read the entire Rockbridge Bloomery site (link above). Then see Darrell Markewitz's site (current NEWS page 19).

Ore is ore and is found where it is found but for primitive processes you want the VERY best highest iron content ore you can find. Often you KNOW it simply by picking it up because it is some much heavier (technically denser) than other iron bearing rock.

NO, you cannot pound carbon into iron. . other than to texture it.

NO, you never fully melt the iron when making a bloom. If it melts and falls into the bottom of the furnace you will then have unworkable cast iron. You CAST cast iron, not forge it. You FORGE wrought and steel.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 00:25:58 EST

Cross Plans: See our iForge page demo's #56 and #79.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 00:27:50 EST

Toolmaking, Files: Mike, As an experienced machinist I am SURE you have Machinery's Handbook. Carefully read the section on heat treating.

Generally scrapers made from files are done by grinding and maintaining the heat treatment. . .

Grinding off the teeth before forging is the correct thing to do. All those notches can contribute to cracking.

Annealing is normally done after forging and before hardening but depends on the steel. Good tool steel is difficult to anneal but files are most often plain carbon steel and will anneal. Heat to a medium red (just above non-magnetic) hold briefly then put into the annealing media. Thin parts should be cooled on a heavy slab that has also been heated. This slows the cooling to the necessary rate.

Warm the tool steel before heating directly in the forge. Heat to an orange but not yellow to forge. STOP forging when you get to a red. Heat needs to be saturating. This is almost impossible to do with a small torch.

To harden you want to quench on a "rising heat" not falling. That IS you want to heat to the right temperature then quench. If you overheat and let cool prior to quenching that is a falling heat and the steel will be poorly conditioned. The correct temperature is a little above non-magnetic but varies with the steel. Quenching from too hot often results in cracked steel.

Annealing prior to hardening conditions the steel so that it has a fine even grain when quenched.

Immediately after quenching clean a section and temper. See our FAQs page temper chart.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 00:44:38 EST

Forge Repair: Sam, Yes I know how to fix it. Make the parts like they were before they broke. . .

These old ratchet forges were made in HUNDREDS of designs, every one different. To fix you study the parts, figure out what is missing and make the parts. Occasionally you can find a picture of the forge. However, even the old catalog pictures do not have enough detail to make the smaller parts from.

Fixing such things is a job for what they used to call a "mechanic". This was a blacksmith, machinist toolmaker that could fix anything. They did so by experience and by studying the thing that needed fixing. Its just pieces and parts. .
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 00:50:28 EST

Assuming that is 4 bars apart from the frame then you would have them at 9.6" centres. An unsupported bar 4' long at those centres is virtually lalueless from the point of security. A big guy will just bend it, a littkle guy wouldn't even bother doing that- he would just squeeze between them!

The customer is always right so if she is adamant that that is what she wants I really suggest you get her to give you a written instruction. You just need to use the heaviest she will accept but I fear it will not stop anybody. A screw jack is a fiersomely strong tool!

Would she accept some sort of mesh incorporated with the bars? Any cross strut welded to the frame and each individual bar would be a huge improvement as well. Done out of some strip with the thin edge towards the building it wouldn't look too heavy and unsightly.

If you are attaching it somewhere where people don't normally go you might think about recommending anti climb paint on it as a finish. It is a huge deterrent and makes proving guilt much easier.
   philip in china - Thursday, 11/06/08 00:56:50 EST

Finding old Books, Technical Books, Historical Treatises: Amazon is the LAST place to look. Start with the used book sites like BookFinder.com (forget bibliofind, Amazon bought then and ruined it).

Note that on most non-mainstream books Amazon does not stock them and they DO NOT have deals with publishers. If you need an ASM or McGraw-Hill engineering reference go to them. That is what Amazon is going to do THEN charge you double or nearly so for ordering the book for you. . .

Also note that Amazon has been known to list books as "unavailable" because publishers did not want to do business with them. . . That does NOT mean the book is out of print, just that the publisher wants to get paid in this lifetime. Many that used to NEVER deal with individuals would rather sell direct than deal with Amazon.

Look for books on the sellers sites. They are always cheaper than through another agency. The same book bought from Joe's Books for $25 will cost $35 if sold through Amazon even if Joe ships direct to you.

If its a uesd book and listed through Amazon you can probably find it through BookFinder for less. I have ocassionaly avoided bookfinder's fees by calling the book store direct. But I appreciate bookfinder too much to make it a regular practice. Those other ocassions are often when a book is quite rare and I want to make sure it is available and will be held for me. Otherwise I pay the couple dollar fee (its in the price).
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 01:06:38 EST

I note fireplace baskets seem to always be bend on the diamond. For just visual appeal? Can't see it adding anymore strength, but perhaps they last longer than flat.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 11/06/08 05:37:08 EST

thanks Guru, very helpful.

I've read great swaths of MH, but was looking for the specific experience with both forging and heat treating - and i got it!

the forge was a pita, but did work. annealing also worked well...after forging the basic shape I was able to file the files into final shape and save a lot of stoning (they end up with a mirror finish)

I wonder about grinding vs forging for machine scrapers though. Files tend to be case hardened (not carburized, just head treated on the outside) via induction so that they don't break if you drop them - as you ground down to the fan tail shape you'd be soft material wouldn't you? (an man, that would be a lot of grinding!) the ones i have made by the old timers are forged and i was trying to replicate the process.

thanks for the help! Mike
   - Mike - Thursday, 11/06/08 07:02:43 EST

If you get cracks on quenching, you may be using too harsh a medium. I've got in my head that older files are plain carbon steel, so a water quench would generally be appropriate. But for thin sections (which cool quickly) oil might be the right quench medium. Some alloy steel harden when air cooled, especially in thin sections. You want to use the most gentle medium the piece will harden in.

Phillip -- I'd never heard of anti-climb paint. Google had, of course, but I don't think it's common here in the States (or at least not in *my* state). Interesting idea.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 11/06/08 07:13:16 EST

I just installed a balcony railing a couple of months ago that was made of 1/2" square, horizontally, on the diamond orientation. 4' x 8' U shape. I found that in the horizontal plane, the 1/2" square needed to be supported about every 12" vertically, or the sag was noticeable, and the flexibility way too much.
I did this with decorative pieces, and tied the ends into solid 1" square uprights, and the resulting rail passes the 4" sphere rule and is very sturdy.

As for fireplace baskets- if you are talking about basket twists, the reason they appear to be bent on the diagonal is that when you cluster the 4 squares into one bigger square, and then twist them, then you squash the basket open, the curve of the bulge is naturally on the diagonal. To do so otherwise would mean clustering them into an open centered diamond shape before twisting, which is very difficult to do, much less to maintain the shape while twisting.
   - Ries - Thursday, 11/06/08 09:43:41 EST

Files to scrapers:

New Nicholson files are made of precisely spec'ed 1095, which is basically W1. I agree with Mike BR, if it cracks in the quench you're quenching either from too hot or into the wrong quenchant. I'd use mineral oil or peanut oil heated to about 130 degrees F. The actual forging part should be a one-heat deal. Use the next heat to anneal, or at least to normalize, the part. This fixes the grain growth and stress issues you caused while forging in the yellow range. Three normalizations will get it as good as it's gonna get with the usual home equipment. Clean up and grind to shape. Then, do the hardening quench. Temper immediately. Regrind slowly so as not to lose the temper, and you're done.

I may have left out some definitions, but if you've been heat-treating taps and so on you should know what I mean.

Oh:- the thin skin of hardened steel on induction-hardened files is because 1095 tends to be a shallow-hardening steel, designed to have that hard skin over a softer core for toughness.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 11/06/08 09:45:54 EST

Hey thanks for the tips, sadly its at his rents house so i dont know how im going to get it to my house but im going to try. and did the ratcet controled forges have and ajusdment on the lvere to lossen it to get it off because i remember seeing it and none of the teeth were broken its just way to loose and wont catch the gear.
   sam - Thursday, 11/06/08 10:39:19 EST

Ratchet Forge: Both ratchet and straight lever action blower forges has a part called an "over running clutch" on the shaft. Some people call these a "one-way clutch". These have small parts, usually rollers on ramps in a housing that grip the shaft and turn it one direction. When rotated the opposite direction the rollers become loose and the outer part can turn the opposite direction of the shaft. Bicycles (without pedal brakes) also work this way.

Over running clutches can be cheap primitive things or expensive precision devices. The difference in operation is backlash or how much the outer part must move before it engages the shaft. In either case they do not like dirt or rust. They often have a cage (like in a ball bearing) that is spring loaded (very small spring) to bias the rollers. If the spring fails the device MAY still work but not smoothly and with a lot of backlash. The cage can also stick and the clutch not engage at all. Others have no cage and just work by gravity.

If not lubricated the rollers can wear out, the shaft can become worn and pitted. . . If abused the ramps or shaft can become dented and rough, the rollers flattened. Once worn out they are difficult to repair.

Some of these forges did not use overrunning clutches and engaged the rack into the gear by motion and a spring or a leather strap. As I mentioned, there are 100's of designs for this same type forge.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 11:49:09 EST

File Hardening: Maybe some cheap files are surface or case hardened and I know some rasps are but all good files are full hard and will snap in two without a lot of effort. I had a guy break several files taping them on a steel bench to dislodge swarf. . Works OK on a wood bench but a massive anvil like weld platen was NOT the right place.

Could be some files have a softer core these days but I have seen a ton of large files broken in the middle.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 11:50:12 EST

James, Steel Making Before Bessemer Volumes 1 & 2 ( 2 is on Crucible Steel) are out of print - best bet would be getting a copy to read via interlibrary loan. As for finding them, they won't be inexpensive - my guess is > $100, though you might luck on them, it's been known to happen. Bookfinder is a good site for used books, I've also used isbn.nu to hunt for books. You might have abetter chance of finding them on a European site, as they were originally published in Great Britain.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 11/06/08 12:04:44 EST

Finding old books:

Don't forget Google Books, they have scanned and continue to scan a amazing number of books, I have found .pdf versions of old technical books that I had given up hope of ever finding. If it's older than 70 years you probably will find it.
   - Hudson - Thursday, 11/06/08 12:09:25 EST

File heat treat: look into normalization to refine grain as well.

Roman Swords: celtic swords were considered to be better. "The Celtic Sword" Radomir Pleiner has a lot of info on the metallurgy of such swords.

Bloomery: as has been mentioned can produce anything from nearly pure iron---with silicaeous inclusions---through cast iron. The higher carbon steels are sometimes called "natural steels". Generally you are trying for lower carbon as that has less of a tendency to go all the way and melt as cast iron or to burn up---when we pull the tuyere to look into the bloomery we can often see iron sparkling away back to iron oxide in the draft. Also more time in the bloomery means more fuel and labour costs. "The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity", Rehder has plans for a "fool proof" modern bloomery in appendix 1. If you are going old school expect a lot of failures. The team I used to smelt with their early smelts that were successfull were more likely to produce fishhooks rather than 3# blooms; after 10 years of experimentation they were doing 15# blooms with no problem using all hand power and a Y1K bloomery design.

Magnitite sand: depends on where you are! Metamorphic, Igneous and glaciated areas tend to have some blacksand in streams or beaches---look for naturally sorted areas that are preferentially rich in such sands! (read up on how gold placer prospectors look for where they should pan as the "black sand" they find is magnitite.)

If you live in a compleatly sedimentary---limestone, sandstone, etc area that was never glaciated or on a coral atol you are probably out of luck. If you don't know go ask a Geo proff at a local community college or University!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/06/08 12:23:56 EST

Steel Making Before Bessemer. . . The interesting thing is that both Bessemer and James Nasmyth were looking for more efficient puddling process to make wrought iron. Nasmyth had experimented with "steam rakes" that introduced air into the puddling pool but were still manually operated the same as common puddling was done at the time. Bessemer had gone beyond this stage but admitted that Nasmyth had a right to claim parallel invention (He declined).

It was many years later when the Bayer process was developed which converted cast iron to pure iron (via the Bessemer process) and then to wrought by the addition of slag. This took advantage of all the modern improvements in steel making but produced good wrought iron.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 12:57:23 EST

where can i find and 250 pound anvil in portland, or
preferably two ?
   chaosfoundry - Thursday, 11/06/08 13:48:23 EST

chaosfoundry, Question answered above, more than once.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 14:02:49 EST

Sorry guys I think I missed the answer last week and can't find it in the archives - one more time, ag lime for flux? yea or nay? comments?
   vorpal - Thursday, 11/06/08 16:50:59 EST

Vorpal, Set your focus on the forum by clicking on it. Then hit CTRL-F (Control Find). Enter "lime" in the lower status bar search box. Second listing is your answer from Patrick Nowak.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 17:48:04 EST

A.M. Byers Company; Byers process. And don't forget Kelly up there with Bessemer!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/06/08 17:53:01 EST

Ries: I perhaps used the improper term in fireplace baskets. The grill affair the logs are set on to burn. Ones have have seen are typically shorter in front than back with the ends of the individual cross bars angled up a bit.
   Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 11/06/08 18:14:16 EST

Maybe the fireplace grill bars are set on the diamond so they have less contact with the logs. Seems like that would be a good thing, though it may not make any practical difference.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 11/06/08 18:57:27 EST

After looking at the rockbridge bloomery i see that my chances at magnetite sand are slim, so what are bog iron conditions? where is it found in swamps? buried?
god bless
   - James Kryle - Thursday, 11/06/08 21:09:38 EST

Thomas, Thanks for the correction.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 21:15:17 EST


One reason for doing the support bars on the diamond is so that they don't accumulate ash. Particularly with coal fires, the ash, when combined with moisture, is corrosive and contributes to early failure. On the diamond, the stuff just slides off.
   vicopper - Thursday, 11/06/08 21:19:21 EST

James, Bog ore locations are described well in the Canadian site referenced. First, the subsoil, water and plant life conditions must all be right. Then the bog iron often forms on the roots of the plants just at the surface of the bog or stream bottom muck. It is found here by gathering by hand. Another type forms large nodules in swamps that can be harvested from a boat much like digging clams in low water. .

ALL special rocks minerals and ores are usually found in smallish deposits. You are almost as likely to have a gold mine in your back yard as an iron mine or refractory clay deposit. These things are found where they are found and mankind has been searching the surface of the Earth for them from the beginning of time. It is a science and a business. Most deposits are known and mapped. Look them up. Your state department of natural resources or mining will have maps. You never know. . .

But THEN you need to study geology and mineralogy before you go prospecting. AND you must respect the private land that will most likely have what you are looking for. Start digging holes in my backyard and I am just as likely to shoot first then call the police to have you arrested for trespassing, destruction of private property and theft.

When locating industry many things are considered. To make iron you need ore, fuel, flux AND power (it was water power in the past) to crush and process ore, blow the furnace and run the trip hammers. All are equally important and must coincide naturally. Today you would add to that a source of volunteer laborers and a location unlikely to call in the EPA for the smake you are making. . .

Making iron the primitive way largely by hand is a LOT of work and CAN be a lot of fun. But it also requires EDUCATION. Without it you will work and work and burn up hundreds of dollars worth of fuel and get nothing except blisters and black buggers. You helpers will also become completely disillusioned and may never speack to you again. . . Up until the modern era (about 1890) the Ironmasters that ran iron furnaces were very highly esteemed and very well paid for their knowledge and managment skills. A fellow with NO prospects could become rich with the education giving him title of Ironmaster. Knowing how to make it all work. Understanding the alchemy of turning dirt into steel is what made modern technology possible. And TODAY, if you want to be a backyard ironmaker, you must be just as knowledgeable.

guru - The great great grandson of three generations of Pennsylvania and Southern Ohio Ironmasters who made the famous Dunbar iron and ran furnaces named Union, Vesuvius, Hecla and Aetna until the charcoal iron industry became a thing of the past.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 21:48:56 EST

After reading the neato stuff about Bethlehem steel I stopped and explored as I was on business in Pennsylvania. I somehow missed out on Lehigh Heavy Forge, unfortunately. I pulled over as I saw a sign for the National Museum of Industrial History, which I suspect will be a point of interest for many of us. They won't be open until 2010. They are in fact building a casino of Bethlehem Steel, and are supposedly going to restore the blast furnaces as part of the decor..
   - Josh S - Thursday, 11/06/08 22:22:32 EST

At the old Dupont Powder works in Wilmington Delaware (just South of Philadelphia PA) the museum is called the Hagley. They have dioramas of the old machinery, tours of the old powder mills and a line shaft driven machine shop. A very interesting tour.

Powder mills were located just above the small river facing them. The structures were heavy walled open to the stream side and had flat roofs designed to fly off in pieces during an explosion which, no matter how careful they were, happened regularly.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/06/08 22:56:18 EST

guys, thanks for all the help.

Guru, to clarify what case hardening I was referring to... case hardening is often erroneously taken to mean carburizing. What I was referring to is case hardening where only the outer layer of a piece of high carbon/tool steel is hardened (via induction heating). This has the advantage of a dead hard skin and ductile core so it won't easily break. I agree if a file was made by carburizing its a cheap one, but the induction case hardening (not carburizing) of files is what Nicholson does and they'd claim it produced a better product that some something hardened through. I think the line he used was "we work really hard to make sure they have a soft core" Would you see an advantage to a W1 piece trough hardened vs case hardened?

I don't know when induction hardening became commonplace, and who knows, maybe another quality manufacturer would have a dissenting view, but i thought I'd clarify and pass that along.

I really appreciate everyone's help - anyone want machining done in exchange for an anvil in the Toronto area :) .....I'm now at risk having blacksmith work drag me in, new stuff to learn, new tools to make/acquire....

   - Mike - Friday, 11/07/08 09:00:39 EST

Does anyone know exactly what this might be? Rivet forge? Shoes? Cutler? Heat treating?
   Peter Hirst - Friday, 11/07/08 09:21:05 EST

Metalurgy question, what enables 310 ss to withstand higher working temps than 316, yet the rupture strength of 316 is significantly higher at elevated temps? I understand the 310 has much greater chromium content, but why is the rupture strength of 316 so much higher?
   John Christiansen - Friday, 11/07/08 09:33:35 EST

Machinist to Blacksmith. . Mike, The craft is very addictive. Like collecting machinists tools you can have a few basic ones and get by or find that you want every widget made. . Forge(s), power hammer, treadle hammer, flypress, rolling mill - anvil, swage blocks, weld platten - blacksmiths leg vices - tongs of every sort - punches and chisels - welding equipment and benders. General hand tools are similar in most metal working fields, wrenches, screw drivers, files, hacksaw. . .

Then there are the crossover tools like cutoff saws, bench grinders, belt sanders, a heavy duty drill press, a small lathe and arbor press. Work benches and storage cabinets. . . Vibratory finishers work in both fields.

I often tell folks that a modern blacksmith shop looks more like a machine shop than the romantic smithy of old. Many shops use plasma torches and automated cutting tables. Power hammers are often the size of a milling machine. Torches should be equipped with economizer valves. Welding is often via MIG and TIG. Finishing can require cleaning in a parts cleaner, sand blasting and a paint booth.

OR you can have just a small forge, an anvil, hammer and a single pair of tongs. . and make all kinds of things.
   - guru - Friday, 11/07/08 09:47:04 EST

Peter Hirst. Looks like a farrier's traveling forge, someone who has gone to gas. Too bad the photos are black, and you can't see the firepot.

I'm not familiar with Nicholson's hard case, induction hardening, but to further expand, W1 is a shallow hardening steel, meaning that on pieces 5/8" thick and less, there is a tendency for the metal to harden all the way through when quenched. When over 5/8", there occurs "shallow hardening" because the extra mass will not allow heat abstraction at a rapid enough rate. The result is termed the "case-core effect", a hard case and a tough core. This is not case hardening, even though the name "case" is used in the description.

   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/07/08 09:58:55 EST

John, There MAY be an answer to your question but generally when you are discussing the field of alloying there is no predictive science that can tell you specifically why things are the way they are. We have some very general rules based on empirical data and a few generalities but in the end alloying is as much alchemy as science. As one NASA metallurgist put it, "We are still in the heat it and beat it era" (trial and error).

What makes a superconductor superconduct? We do not know. What makes memory metal return to its previous shape? We do not know.

There are many things we do know about alloys but much more we do not. If we knew all the reasons alloys did what they do we could write a computer program that would model alloys and return the best possible combination for the purpose. In the case of superconductors you need it first to be super conductive. But then it needs to be ductile enough to make wire out of it and strong enough not to fall apart. It also needs to be affordable to make including both raw materials and the processes to make it.

IF we had such a thing it would put a lot of material researchers out of business. But we would also know what the "best" material was for everything. The lightest framing for aircraft and spacecraft, the strongest skin for the same, those affordable superconductors, high efficiency magnets and solar cells. Technologically mankind would make a huge leap possibly into a Star Trek like future.

FORGET the physicists "theory of everything", THIS is much more important and possibly more unsolvable. But if you DID. . you would be one of the most famous people in the history of science and technology - forever.
   - guru - Friday, 11/07/08 10:46:24 EST

James; magnetite sand is *MUCH* more evenly distributed than Bog Iron. BTW where the heck are you located? We might be avle to make some good suggestions if we knew that. As it is I have to assume you are on Antartica and have nothing around you but blue ice...
Don't need specifics,something like Central NJ works fine.

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/07/08 11:21:14 EST

On the Square vs. On the Diagonal:

Just twist the bars, charge her more, and be done with it! (Just joking; but it does muddy the water, doesn't it? Would twisting make them more or less resistant to bending? As I read the above, it would probably make no difference at all.)


I grew up in a metamorphic geology, and a common childhood pastime was running a magnet through the local sand by the road and picking up "iron filings" (until I learned the proper geological name about the age of 9 or 10). Most of us used permanent magnets, but my friend, Mark Sutton, came up with an electromagnet attached to one of those big 1 1/2 volt batteries that they used to start model aircraft engines in those days (the battery was a cylinder about two inches wide and eight inches high; I don't know if they even make them these days); and telephone wire coiled around a big (8")iron gutter nail on the business end. Mark would sweep it through the sand, pick up a load of iron, hold it over the mason jar and pull one wire from the battery dropping the load very neatly in the jar. We were impressed. Of course, we had no actual use for the accumulated material back then except to use it to play with magnets; but it seems to me that this would make an excellent method to "mine" the stuff on a larger scale should somebody want to experiment with a bloomery. For all I know, they do this industrially, but the basic method can certainly be scaled up or down according to the required scope.

Sunny and bright on the banks of the Potomac. Back from a museum conference in Boston at Adams National Historic Site ( www.nps.gov/adam ). Chatted with the rangers about all of the iron work, of course. :-)

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 11/07/08 11:34:06 EST

just what i need more interests :D

Frank, the way the induction hardening works (In general, haven't been in Nicholson's plant) is that the induction process heats the outer layer of the material and does so so fast that the outside is at quenching temp while the inside is still cool...it is called case hardening but it creates confusion as 99% of the time when metalworking guys talk about case hardening, they're talking carburizing. The outside is heated as the induced currents concentrate in the outer layer. The depth can be controlled (how deep gets to quenching temp) by frequency of the AC power going through it

Induction hardening and welding is interesting but I've not seen it outside of production; not a job shop/home shop thing (so far, i saw some guys working on an induction furnace). Its neat for example to see tube coming off a rolling mill at some ridiculously high speed, passing through a donut for a split second and with nothing touching it, no smoke sparks or fumes and its welded!
   - Mike - Friday, 11/07/08 11:50:14 EST

Mike, induction hardening isn't necessarily to just get a hard surface and ductile core - it can be used to through harden. It started to come out in the marketplace in the 1970's and has become more prevalent with time.
A recent email from the ASM (American Society for Metals) heat treating society listed different "case" hardening methods - methods included were nitriding, carburizing, carbo-nitriding, flame hardening and induction - I may have missed a few as well - those are just from memory. The most common is probably carburizing.

re: Programs for predicting alloy properties - there's one out there now, not cheap, and I'm not entirely certain how good it is.
   - Gavainh - Friday, 11/07/08 12:11:01 EST

In the 70's, we visited GE Forge & Tool Works when it was in Arroyo Grande, CA, and they were using induction heating for the hoof nipper jaws. It was quick and easy, and I was impressed.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/07/08 14:21:19 EST

Thank you all for your advice. I'm not a welder/fabricator by any means, but living in the heart of Coal Country, I know a few good places I can take it. I hope I can get it fixed, but I'm still gonna keep looking for a replacement. Maybe even buy a bigger one. Thanks again!!!!
   - Jeff Stevens II - Friday, 11/07/08 15:00:11 EST

Thank you all so much for the advice. I'm by no means a fabricator, but living in the heart of Coal Country, I know a few good ones I can turn too. I'm still gonna look for a replacement in the even that it doen't work. My ultimate goal is to find an exact replacement, or possibly buy him a bigger one! Thanks again!!!
   Jeff - Friday, 11/07/08 15:03:34 EST

Hi, I have a question about a Buffalo hand blower (7 inch blower). I went out to work this morning and the blower made a grinding noise with some small metal part clinking around. It now will rotate either way. So I didn't work.
My question: how do I take it apart or can you tell me where I can get info on how to take it apart? Or maybe it's time to throw it away.
   John - Friday, 11/07/08 15:44:08 EST

Gavainh, I must gently disagree about induction hardening entering the market in the 70's. I know for a fact that Tocco was making induction heat treating machines for the auto industry in the 40's. We had a Tocco camshaft hardener built in the 40's, surplused and we used it till the 90's.

Induction heat treaing of the type used for a THICK case is really "Case and Core". Almost all car and truck axles are heat treated this way. Basically a full quench and mild temper at the OD with a near dead soft core. The axle so produced has a number of beneficial attributes. One it makes a better axle, especially for a truck full float axle that is really only stressed torsionally. The other benefits is that the axles are heat treated thru quench in 1 minute flat for a pair of 40#+ axles, and the temper is simple. Next the axles warp much less making straightening much easier. Last but not least, the scalling is much reduced, making the splined ends easy to NOT burn up. The quench and temper are followed by a heavy shot peen that both cleans the scale and improves the surface stress condition.

After seeing the process, and we made almost all the heavy truck axles in the US in one of our three axle plants, I would not even consider a through hard process, and would not think it a higher quality process for this application. Considering files, I would thick that a case and core would make a dandy file.
   ptree - Friday, 11/07/08 16:05:49 EST

Hello Mr. Guru,
I'm going to be making a froe and would like to know how to harden the blade so that it holds its edge, but not make the rest of the tool tool brittle so as not to break when I'm prying the wood apart. A car leaf spring will be the starting point.
   Andy - Friday, 11/07/08 16:12:07 EST

Andy, Froes are not made of hardenable steel. They are a wedging tool. The vast majority were wrought iron. Mild steel is a big jump in strength and hardness from wrought.

If you WERE to make a fro from a higher carbon steel it should be in the low side of medium with not more than .4% carbon. If higher carbon I would want to make sure it was kept as soft as reasonably possible except for the edge.
   - guru - Friday, 11/07/08 16:56:21 EST

Are you saying that the leaf spring is too high in carbon and that I should use a different piece of steel to start with or can I anneal the leaf and use it?
Could you give me some pointers on hardening just the edge?
   Andy - Friday, 11/07/08 17:29:16 EST

Andy, You might be OK with the leaf spring by simply letting it normalize.

There are other froe considerations. The haft eye is tapered, the larger diameter being on the bottom. The eye is "offset" upward a little distance from the sharp edge. This means shouldering on the sharp edge side and pulling out a narrow strap (perhaps 2/3 the blade width) about 8" or longer for the eye weld. I use a simple scarf, a small taper. I think this is so the eye is not even with nor impinging right at the sharp edge. The old froes had pretty much a full taper in cross section; the blade should act as a wedge. They were not straight sided like a leaf spring with a small included angle put on as a time saving afterthought. The wedge shape requires lots of forging.It used to be that bowling pins were made of maple, and we used them as froe clubs, but I think those days are over.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/07/08 20:00:20 EST

Thanks Guru, I was hoping for a "thats because of" type answer, but on the other hand, I don't feel so bad about not knowing now.
   John Christiansen - Friday, 11/07/08 20:04:28 EST

hi, i'm tring to make deer antlers out of one piece. I'd like them to be about 4" high maybe 1/4" thick. A little bigger is ok,too. So far I've tried using 1/4 x 3/4 and cutting with a chisel and drawing them out, but the tines are too far apart. I also tried fullering one side of the material but that was worse. It doesn't seem that this should be sooo hard. Am I missing something? ANY suggestions are greatly appreciated.
   ray - Friday, 11/07/08 20:48:41 EST

John Christiansen: If I had to guess, I would guess it has to do with the 316 containing Molibdenum [sp?].
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 11/07/08 20:59:05 EST

im from Waco Texas
   - James Kryle - Friday, 11/07/08 21:02:20 EST

Hi Frank - apologies if i came across trying, whats the expression, trying to teach grandma to suck eggs or whatever, i misinterpreted your post as not knowing about induction hardening :)
   - Mike - Friday, 11/07/08 22:03:10 EST

Mike, "...trying to break Ol' Shep from suckin' eggs" is the way I heard it.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 11/07/08 22:47:35 EST

Antlers: Ray, I am not sure what you expect the end result to look like. Dear antlers are round, some goats and sheep square, moose have flat antlers. They are all much thicker than 1/4" except the mid sections of moose antlers.

To make full scale antlers start with a real set as a model. At the root they will be an inch or more in diameter and the main branch taper along its length to the end where the taper is a bit steeper and rounded to the point. I would make this part first remembering that a cone is 1/3 the volume of an equal length cylinder, so start with about 1/3 the length needed. To this I would add the branches. Each should start the same diameter as the point where they attach.

Attachment can be by various methods. They can be forge welded, or arc welded, or tenoned with the joint designed to blend in and be flush on the back (countersunk and upset to fill). This joint could also be forge welded to complete.

Antlers have texture and this should be applied to the various pieces before assembly and then touched up at the joints afterwards.

If your antlers are not full size then you need to do the math and scale everything as needed. Still at half scale the bar you start with may be 5/8" of 3/4".

IF you are intent to make them out of flat material you need to start with plate possibly as thin as 1/8" or #10. The branch layout should be 1.75 to twice as wide as the final parts. Then you will need a special 1/2 round bottom tool that is fairly narrow and with heavily rounded edges. A fuller tool would be used to push the plate into the die. Texturing would be done flat. Then the antlers rounded in the die. This would produce something approaching a hollow half round. Do do a smooth job you would need to make a number of fuller, set, stake and swaging tools to get into corners and support the work front and back. Texturing would be done flat then touched up like working for round.
   - guru - Friday, 11/07/08 23:51:30 EST


To figure out what you need to start with to make your 4" high antlers, I'd suggest you sort of "reverse engineer" them using modeling clay (plasticine). Make the antlers with the caly, adding as needed, until you get a finished product hat looks like what you want. Then try to carefully and methodically work the clay to a basic shape that is available, such as flat bar stock. The amountof fiddling you have to do to get it to the bar stock somewhat tells you how much work you'll have to do to take the bar stock to antlers. Now take the piece of clay "bar stock" and set about making the antlers from it using the same techniques you would if it were steel. That will help you develop a working plan for when you go to steel.

I do this sort of thing fairly often when trying out something new like that. I can try six or seven different processes or methods in just a few minutes this way, without wasting any stock or even much time.
   vicopper - Saturday, 11/08/08 01:32:40 EST

If you're intent on splitting and drawing, one handy tool is a bridge, an anvil which accommodates a split. I made mine out of an axle necked down to a hardie shank. A couple inches above the hardie neck, I shouldered to draw out a flat surface for the anvil and support leg. You bend 90º away from the shoulder and bend again for the leg. One edge is sharpened and the other is radiused. Harden and temper. I use the bridge a lot on weinie fork tines and branding iron letters/characters.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 11/08/08 07:16:05 EST

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