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

Hi! I haven't visited your web site in awhile. I am hoping to get a chance to do a little blacksmithing this week for the first time in 2 years. Life has been extremely busy and I no longer have the space I used to work in so I am now relegated to the out of doors. I am hoping the weather will be ok on Tuesday so I can do a little hammering. I have to walk by my anvil every day on my way to my stupid 8 to 4 job which does pay the bills but it kills me every morning to know that it will be sitting there idle once again. Any way, I'll take what I can get for now and am hoping that life will slow down a little in the next few years so it becomes more of a regular thing again.
   - Wendy - Saturday, 10/31/09 22:47:00 EST

Hey Wendy! Long time no hear. We have some new features. Several eBooks (more coming), galleries of anvils, book reviews and many more new FAQs.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/01/09 00:20:31 EST

Food-safe finishes: I'm making some cooking tripods for reenactors, and was wondering if anyone had some good suggestions for metal finishes that are food-safe and resonably resistant to weather and flame. I am thinking of either beeswax or cooking oil, but wanted to check with wiser folk than me first.
   Maolcolm - Sunday, 11/01/09 07:50:33 EST

Maolcolm, The safest finish for eating utensils is mineral oil. Vegetable oil can become rancid, mix with other foods and support bacteria growth. Beeswax tends to be sticky.

Clear mineral oil is used in bakeries to oil pans and is also sold as stool softener and baby oil. The baby oil is perfumed so it should not be used on eating utensils.

All these finishes are temporary and will wash or wear off. Whatever you use, the customer should have replacement instructions and it should be common enough for them to obtain.

Vegatable oil is OK if the user understands it should be washed off prior to using the utensil and then reapplied after washing for storage to prevent rust.

While many get away without these precautions it is best to be safe than sorry.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/01/09 09:25:50 EST

Just for the record, every time I fill out a site survey form I have to pull out the calculator because the state historic preservation office demands all area measurements to be in hectares. I've taken to using scientific notation on the surveys of less than 100 square feet...
   Alan-L - Sunday, 11/01/09 10:11:29 EST

During WWII we had aluminum pennies.
   Carver Jake - Sunday, 11/01/09 10:42:39 EST

Jake, not in the U.S. For one year, 1943, due to copper shortages the mint made steel pennies. When I was a kid you would find them once in a while in change. Today, they sell for between $0.10 and $10 each as collectors items.

The U.S. tested making some aluminum pennies in VERY small quantities but they were never circulated and most were destroyed.

Other countries have had aluminum coins. I have a few Italian Al coins and France made them as well. Even the larger sized ones are cheap and tinny compared to other coins.

Since 1983 the U.S. penny has been copper clad zinc. They are noticably lighter and make more of a clink sound when rattled together than copper pennies did.

Within a year of their release copper pennies almost disappeared entirely.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/01/09 12:14:35 EST

Hi What luck will I have forgeing some knives from Berillium copper. I know cold chisles are made of it. Ron
   Ron R. - Sunday, 11/01/09 14:10:43 EST

Beryllium Bronze Ron, While it is a very good material it is not nearly the strength or hardness of high carbon steel. It IS comparable to a medium carbon steel and superior to other copper alloys in strength and hardness.

The serious issue is that beryllium is very toxic. Inhaling dust from grinding, filing or polishing results in a flu like illness that progresses to a pneumonia type illness and then death as it is almost always misdiagnosed.

The most common uses for beryllium bronze or beryllium copper is spring wire for pin tumbler locks and anti-sparking tools for working in potentially explosive environments. In locks it is used because the brass construction requires a spring that is of a similar metal that will not corrode.

I would be very leery of selling a polished beryllium copper product that the owner might want to re-polish again in the future without knowing the hazards.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/01/09 14:57:51 EST

Thank you for your input. My forge has a swinging handle on the side where I stand hinged at about waist level. I was not sure what it was for but now figure it is to be a handle to be hooked to the ash dump.
I like the triangle[or ball] clinker breaker. What is the best material to make that out of.
Thank you very much.
   Charliey Reynolds - Sunday, 11/01/09 20:23:45 EST

Charliey check this link Lever Forge

There are many of this type forge with various lever and brackets. The lever operates like a bellows working a mechanism that turn the blower. These mechanisms came on large and small forges. This may be the handle you speak of.

The clinker breaker handle is just a bent bar that can be turned around. There are two general types of "clinker breaker". One is the ball type, the other is a T shaped device that protrudes into slots in the bottom sides of the fire pot. The base of the "T" is where it attaches to the shaft that passes through the tuyere below th firepot. This is much less an ash dump than the ball type.

OEM control balls were cast iron because it was easy to make them that way, ESPECIALLY when you are having castings made in the first place. Any type of mild steel is fine for the job. They have a hole drilled through the axis for a 1/2" (13mm) shaft and a set screw (about 3/8") locks it to the shaft.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/01/09 21:46:37 EST

Something unusual about copper. When I first got out of high school, I went to work at a copper tubing plant. I worked with hot copper all day long and my sense of smell became sensitive to it. I could pull change out of my pocket and the copper pennies smelled terrible. I guess the same applies to other substances as well.
   Mike T. - Monday, 11/02/09 01:32:56 EST

Environmental Sensitivities: One can become sensitized to various things and even develop severe allergies to them. The problem is that such things can become compounded. I am allergic to cats. I did not know it until I was almost 50 years old. We had cats almost all my life. My unknown allergy to cats sensitized my sinuses and resulted in my reacting to many kinds of pollens. I had severe grass allergies all through my late teens through 30's. Simply driving by where grass was being cut would cause an asthmatic reaction. My asthma also manifested itself as sinus infections anytime I swam in lakes and was severe enough that I lived with migraines, shortness of breath and all the usual severe asthmatic conditions.

Then the cat died, and we did not get another. Like many things that you get over you never notice the exact moment. All I knew was that I hadn't had the usual hay fever type symptoms that I almost always had. For a short period my nasal problems had been so sever I had an inhaler and it seemed to cure my sensitized sinuses. I had long since given up cutting grass and kept my distance when others were doing so. Since it takes time I just didn't notice exactly when the problems went away. . .

Then my wife brought home a kitten. Within hours my eyes were red and nose running. I started sneezing at every smell (food cooking, changes in air temperature). NOW I knew. . . it was cats all those years! The kitten was sent to a new home. The problems went away immediately.

Since we had always had cats I never noticed being allergic to them. But I did notice other things and these were thought to be the allergy. Doctors never questioned it since I could point to specifics. The problem in that once your sinuses, lungs, skin or any part of your body that is exposed to the environment is sensitized then you may react to other things. In my case one allergy led to many more severe allergies and those led to health issues that are permanent.

People develop demiititus (skin reactions) from exposure to one or more things then react more severely to things that they normally would not.

I knew a fellow that developed allergies to metals and would react severely to any metal other than stainless and he reacted to it somewhat. He claimed it was from years of polishing gun and knife parts. This may be true but it may have also been aggregated by chemicals used for coloring or cleaning the parts. Dissolved metals probably got into his skin and had some part in his developing the allergy.

I am one of the lucky ones. I eventually learned what my base problem was and it is something I can avoid. I know I can visit for a few hours where there are cats but I cannot stay overnight. While tobacco smoke does not bother me I have allergic reactions to it IF there are cats present as well (a compounded problem). Otherwise I can live with a smoker without a problem (currently do not).

It is something to think about especially if you already have any kind of allergies.

   - guru - Monday, 11/02/09 07:51:13 EST

Money used to be non-metric. Remember pieces-of-eight? What did they call a quarter beck in the day? Two bits. Then there is the myth about the million dollar steel penny. I want to know the best way for me to weld a mason nail to a quarter... you should already know the reason why.

Allergies, by the way, are induced by the introduction of certain proteins that the body falsely rcognizes as a threat. Jock, in your case your body became aware of the proteins in cat saliva. After the cat licks itself for cleaning the saliva dries. Cat scratches itself and the dried saliva (along with a bunch of other nasty stuff) floats in the air and now its in you. I have done a lot of research about allergies to deal with the incessant arguing my customers doll out to me about their "allergic" reaction to the nickle in stainless steel. Steel contains no protein or organic matter, hence you CANNOT be allergic to it! IN addition I go on further to educate them about the effect of the outer layer of chromium oxide that limits nickle contact.

Now hyper sensitivity to metals is a completely different thing. When a customer complains of a rash within 24 hours of exposure to the piercing, we break out the grade 23 Ti. jewelry out.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 11/02/09 12:50:08 EST

Historical ironwork: what kind of finish do you think the tripods had originally?

My bet is *none*. They rusted on the surface and then soot and oil spatters from cooking "seasoned" them.

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/02/09 14:40:54 EST

"Remember pieces-of-eight?" No Nip, I don't, you must be a lot older than me! That's also where "two bit" came from. Eight Reales in a Spanish dollar.
   - grant - Monday, 11/02/09 16:26:52 EST

Rats! I read "tripod" as "utensil" . . . A coat of BBQ flat black would do the job. Even if paint flakes off the high temp blacks are mostly graphite (non-toxic) and a very small amount of binder.

Rust, soot and some veritable oil works fine too. I find that olive oil rapidly hardens with a little heat if you want to go that route.

Traditionally. . a dirty dish rag (probably greasy) wiping it down when tearing down the camp MIGHT have applied some "finish". If the owner worried about rust then any kind of oil would probably get used. .
   - guru - Monday, 11/02/09 16:26:57 EST

A bit on metal dermatitis.
Having spent most of my life working in large metalworking factories, I have seen lots of dermatitis. Usually blamed on bad coolant, rancid coolant( bacteria) or "some chemical" in the coolant. EXCEPT, I noticed that the guys who machined the cast mallable iron handwheels seemed to get it more often and they did not use coolant.(Cast iron makes lots of dust when machined)
We had a large screw machine shop, running 48 screw machines, 3 shifts. We used the then current "Black oil". Re-refined used motor oil, with added fat and sulfur. We started to have lots of skin dermatitis, and at one point had 30%+ of the staff off work on Workers Comp!. The powers that be decided to clean out the oil system and change suppliers with the thought that the oil was at fault. The 10,000 gallon system was found to only hold about 4000 gallons, as the main, in ground tank was nearly full of sludge. We had the oil removed and jetted the metal sludge out. The safety guy asked me, the special project engineer to install filters to keep out the fines that were filling the tank. I did so, using bag filters and after some trials settled on a series of strainer, 50 micron, 15 micron and a final 10 micron polish filter. No sludge build up, and the new oil was succesful, since the dermatitis went away.
Move forward about 10 years and now I am the safety guy/plant engineer. Built a new factory, and have 2 central system coolant systems and now we get dermatitis on the water based side. I remember the past, and knowing that the filters in the central system are 50 micron only, I ask for a test of "dirt" and particle count as well as bacteria counts in the coolant. The "dirt load was huge, the bacteria count was tiny. I suggest placing a large side stream filter to remove the fines. A 450 gpm filter with 10 bags was installed, and the dirt load dropped.( this system ran 24/7 at a min flow of 1500 gpm) So did the dermatitis. A consultant and I were discussing this issue over lunch, and this semi-retired gentlemen with a doctorate behind his name and a career working at Fort Detrick, mentioned that as the size of metal particles approachs 3 microns, the reactivity increases. Apparently some research he had done, and that he could not further discuss was on just this subject. Remember that Ft Detrick is where the Chem, germ and rad warfare research is done.
Motto is, Metal CAN cause what appears to be an allergy. Metal fines get into the skin pores and abrade the skin, react, and cause a horrible looking dermatitis. Looks like small pox almost. Some of those folks became sensatized and could no longer work with the coolant. Not the coolant but the fines were the issue, but the coolant always had some metal fines content.

For reference a micron is a jargin word for a micrometer, and a red blood cell is about 4 x 6 microns in size. The average human, with good contrast and lighting can see an object at perhaps 40 microns size.

I also know of a woman who was burned, probably second degree on her arms, wore jewelry while recovering, and became sensatized to gold. She gets a reaction that appears after about 3 hours of wear in that the skin around the contact sloughs off. Sterling silver is a little better, and I was able to make a light and airy wedding ring for her that she can wear for about 8 hours without effect. Longer and she has problems. I also scrubbed that "Lacey" open design ring vigerously to remove all polish residue.

The human body is a very complex chemical factory that has not yet been duplicated by man.
   ptree - Monday, 11/02/09 18:56:02 EST

Hmm, I get skin rash working around my EDM, always thought it was the oil. I filter to 15 micron and the oil comes out clear as glass. 30 does nothing (or appears so). Kinda tells my how big most of my particles are, no? So even smaller can cause rash, eh? Thanks PTree! Food for thought.
   - grant - Monday, 11/02/09 19:09:25 EST

Hey, wait, isn't a micrometer a miniature little C-clamp?
   - grant - Monday, 11/02/09 19:11:41 EST

I remember when I was a teenager, I was getting a haircut and the barber was shaving my neck. He said you are allergic to metal. I said how can you tell ? He said my razor is making your neck a beet red. Sure enough, I can't wear a metal watch band or a ring. When I was married, my wife would coat the inside of my wedding ring with clear fingernail polish. It worked until the polish wore off, then tiny blisters would show up.
   Mike T. - Monday, 11/02/09 19:57:22 EST

Since we can not see particals at the size that rashs us, we have to depend on either filter size/effiecency, or particle count. I suspect if you ran a standard oil particle count like used on hydraulic oil you would find the particle count at th max limits of the device to measure.
On water based, emulsified oil type coolants the maker was sure that the oil would be stripped from the emulsion at 3 micron and some additives at 5 micron would be stripped. I used bag filters and until near blocked these would have a beta rating of less than 2. (filters are rated by the number of particles upstream devided by the number downstream giving the beta rating. IE 100 upstream devided by 50 downstream equals a beta of 2) I used 10 micron in the big bag filter at first, and bla=ocked them in hours, but as time went by say a week or so, I was able to tune down to the final rating, and get about 2 days out of a set of bags.
We also used an autoclean centrifuge, added after the bag filter was in place and that pulled alot of the fines out as well, but at 5gpm, it would never have caught up to ingression.

At the valve shop, in the forge die shop we ran about half a dozen EDM's, several were wire the rest ram type sinking blocks for up to the 10,000# hammer. Lots of oil to filter, and we had a seperate room for the filtration. I think it was bag filters then a fuller earth bed type for the final polish. I do not believe that we had any rash issues.
I would try a finer polish after the regular filter. I like bag filters as the housings can often be had cheap and the bags are very cheap. If you need I can suggest a source for reasonable bags.
I have also often used bags without a houseing if gravity flow will suffice.
I think I would try something around 5 micron for EDM
   ptree - Monday, 11/02/09 20:21:19 EST

Grant, a micrometer is indeed a small precise C-clamp. Also a millionth of a meter lenght:)

And, OIL defats the skin, making the skin very dry and open for infection. So the EDM oil also may be at fault if you leave the oil on the skin for hours at a crack.
If you get just a bit of oil on you, try gloves to prevent contact, and lots of foamy soap and water to float the fines off if you do get any oil on you.
   ptree - Monday, 11/02/09 20:24:30 EST

I want to make some big tongs to hold work in the power hammer. Are they just a bigger version of small tongs or are there other considerations?
   philip in china - Monday, 11/02/09 21:21:50 EST

Phillip, You may find this handy.

Tong Dimensions

However, what this does not show is that there are long and short pattern tongs. For working at a small hammer you do not need really long tongs but you need them to FIT. A critical point is that the reins have some springyness and that a tong ring will hold them on the work. For the ring to work the reins need to angle away from each other just enough that you can slide the ring up and get a tight grip.

AND you did not say HOW big. . Big enough that you you are going to need a crane to support the work?
   - guru - Monday, 11/02/09 21:32:46 EST

Filters: The stuff that is hard to stop is buffing/polishing fines. I've used several grades of masks and could always taste the copper after just a short while.

When hand polishing aluminium I know I have gotten down to those less than 3 micon fines that penetrate into the skin. You get black stains that don't wash out and smell metallic for days no matter how much you wash.
   - guru - Monday, 11/02/09 21:34:47 EST

The tongs would be to hold work for a 55 pound hammer so I don't think a crane would enter into the equation! Thanks for the chart. I am sure that it will be useful.
   philip in china - Monday, 11/02/09 21:46:03 EST

Note that I believe that chart produces pretty heavy tongs that could be made of wrought or very mild steel. Higher carbon steel A36, 1040. . . would be strong enough to make the tongs lighter.
   - guru - Monday, 11/02/09 21:57:56 EST

DERMATITIS Thanks Grant and PTREE. Thanks for the lead on the metal fines being a problem rather than simply, "the oil". EDM related skin rash had been a recurring problem for me and occasionally for some of the other guys in the shop. Lots to check up on tomorrow. Thanks again.
   - Tom H - Monday, 11/02/09 22:05:51 EST

As I lay awaiting slumber last evening, it occurred to me that another source of dermatitis in EDM oil may be hexavalent chrome. If you are EDM'ing chrome bearing steels like stainless or some of the tool steels, the chrome may be converted into the hexavalent state in the high energy arc. Hexavalent chrome will cause severe rashs.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/03/09 06:33:44 EST

Appears to me i have an allergy to red oak. Five years ago a red oak fell that i cut up to make charcoal. Long story short after that i couldn't open my eyes for 3 - 4 days, but the cause remained a mystery. Now just a few months ago we had another red oak fall. This past weekend i borrowed my dad's chainsaw and cut up some firewood. What do you know the same reaction occured, but luckily this time it's much more mild.
   - Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 11/03/09 08:54:00 EST

Halloween marked my 1st anniversary to my second wife. She got me "Metalworking - Sink or Swim" by Tom Lipton. Nice resource, lots of tips. There is a two page rant the author put in about the metric system. I thought I was reading Jocks writing for a minute, but Tom Lipton put it perfectly when he states he believes switching over should be a matter of choice. Seems like regardless of field, pro-choice becomes a hot debate.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 11/03/09 10:18:28 EST

Nip, I may have that book setting here to review. Sure would like someone else's words about it. I noticed a bunch of things that sounded like words from anvilfire. . . or at least that we agree on a lot of points.

   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 15:21:15 EST

Oak Allergies: You never think about such trees producing pollen but oaks are one of the largest pollen producers.

My brother developed an all over skin rash when he was working on an old house he had bought. The house, built in the early 1800's had been burned and he had to remove all the plaster and lath, scrape a ton of old lead paint off and replace some siding and window trim. He thought the rasp was a reaction to something in the old house. Tests showed he was allergic to the pollen of the huge old oak trees surrounding the house. He had been working without a shirt and wearing shorts so there was a LOT of exposed skin. . . He found that if he covered up when working outside the rash was not so bad.

EDM and Chrome: Many big die blocks are H13 or similar. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 15:30:28 EST

Yeah, H-13 is about all I EDM.
   - grant - Tuesday, 11/03/09 16:36:44 EST

Heh, cute. Oak trees and acorns will kill pigs. They say it's from the tannins, your borther may be allergic to that.
   - NippulinI - Tuesday, 11/03/09 16:57:36 EST

I made a knife handle out of Bolivian rosewood once. Hot, humid day, I wore short sleeves and a mask that made me sweat. Later that night I was eaten alive with a reaction to the wood dust. I used something like benedril cream and got it under control in 12 hrs. Won't use that wood again!!!!
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 11/03/09 18:43:03 EST

Funny a lot of countries have been fattening up pigs on acorns for centuries (Spain, Italy, England...)

The tropical hardwoods can get you *fast* if you don't take care.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/03/09 18:56:44 EST

H-13 and EDM. That was the general thing that came to mind as I was just about to fall asleep. We EDM'ed lots of closed dies and the hot trim dies, all hot work tool steels. Most were brand name types like Finkle and HardTem A and Hardtem B. But had lots of chrome.
In Stainless steel welding the chrome is in a valance other than Haxavalent state, but in the high energy state in the arc the chrome changes valance. Welding SS is an issue for this reason.
I don't remember reading that EDM makes the chrome change valance, but I would suspect so.

Always a good idea to keep industrial stuff off your skin, and out of you lungs.
   Ptree - Tuesday, 11/03/09 19:05:56 EST

Thomas, I'm just repeating what the pig experts told us when we got our little pot bellied pig. Maybe it's a species specific thing, maybe it's a load of bs. We never got a real chance to find out as the pig was compromised and died a month after we got her.

Here's an "ewww" question. I have a bunch of old piercing needles we don't use anymore (not used). My plan is to turn them into a billet somehow. They are 440 steel, around 14 gauge. I've tried welding them together, hammering into a mold, and melting them in a homemade "crucible" (hollowed out firebrick), all to no avail. What's the best way for me to get around this issue? Also, seriously.. what is the best method for welding a mason nail to a quarter?
   - NippulinI - Tuesday, 11/03/09 19:16:49 EST

thanks for the link. My bellows operate the normal manner with the hand crank. The swinging handle i talk of is a t waist level and hangs down towards the ground. I have devised a pivitong rod deal to put a slight amount of upwards pressure on the ash dump door. When I pull on the swinging handle it will release the pressure latch and also open the ash dump door. The hot coals will then fall into a catch can with water in it so that I dont smoke out my shop. Is there a way I can upload a picture of my forge?
It would be a lot easier to explain my rod setup if I could show you my forge. One more thing. My firepot/clinker breaker/ash pot is exactly the same as the one showed on page 18 of Charles McCraven's The Blacksmith's Craft. Thanks for any and all help.
Charliey Reynolds
   Charliey Reynolds - Tuesday, 11/03/09 19:27:58 EST


I'd silver solder the nail to the quarter. Can't think of anything else that would work.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 11/03/09 19:35:43 EST

could you send me some information on heat treating blades...such as an in depth process guide

   Blayne Harris - Tuesday, 11/03/09 19:57:07 EST

Blayne, There are literally encyclopedias on this subject. We have a rather rambling (needs a rewrite) FAQ on the subject of heat treating. A lot depends on the type of steel, the type of blade, the equipment available.

Then there are books on blacksmithing and bladesmithing that discuss methods suitable to the typical small shop operation and then there are books that are for industry and metallurgists. If you are a serious maker then you will need some as references and others for education.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 20:34:18 EST

Nippulini, We used to soft solder pennies to roofing tacks and pound them into asphalt. That was when they were copper.
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 11/03/09 20:36:45 EST

Wood Allergies: In my life I have worked a lot of walnut, cherry, apple, ebony and other hardwoods known for causing allergic reactions. I was surprised when I saw warnings about skin problems related to working these and other fruit woods. But then. . . I'm allergic to cats and many others are not.

As I noted above, allergies can be compounded. Once skin, nasal or lung tissue is inflamed, other allergens and bacteria can more easily cause problems.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 20:49:41 EST

NIP: I agree on the silver solder, but use caution where You pull this prank.

My uncle, a union carpenter told of a guy who tried to pick up the quarter nailed to the [wood] floor of a bar after work one day. The next day His framing hammer was on His belt when He came in. He pulled up the quarter and a big chunk of the floor around it.

If You nail it into concret, a pilot hole might be a good idea, otherwise the quarter will be so beat up from driving it in nobody will recognise it as a quarter.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 11/03/09 21:05:52 EST

Pigs and Acorns: In the Eastern U.S. they used to let pigs roam free and forage for acorns. Today the Southern Appalachians are full of wild pigs as a result.

Forges: Charliey, you an email the photo to me.

   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 21:42:26 EST

Allergies. . . Nope, my brother can work Oak all he wants. But he takes care of how much exposed skin he has during the early summer oak pollen season. Oaks are hard to avoid in Virgina.

   - guru - Tuesday, 11/03/09 21:52:33 EST


My suggestion would be to put the needles in a small length of square tubing with one end welded shut....Fill up the void with powdered metal say 1084 or 15n20 weld the other end shut and weld on a handle...I've done roller chain that way and it came out pretty good...just my .02
   - Arthur - Wednesday, 11/04/09 00:27:26 EST

Would any type of steel filings work? I have lots of metal grindings and powder all over the place. One time I attempted forge welding a stack of the needles together in a closed die I added some stainless shavings. The forged needles got stuck in the die.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/04/09 08:59:34 EST

Hi guys,
Anybody know of a source for soft wrought iron?
Am looking to make some PA longrifle barrels and am looking for flat iron bars.
   hammerman947 - Wednesday, 11/04/09 09:41:17 EST

Welding and Powder: Nip, Metal from grinders is burnt and has a high percentage of wheel grit in it. It DOES NOT work as powdered metal for any purpose. Powders are either bought as powder OR you can use much coarser saw chips or machining chips.

First step is to deoxidize all those needles, preferably by some mechanical method (hand sand, tumble. . ). Then pack a container with them and a dissimilar steel alloy IF you want a pattern. Seal, heat and weld.

Container welding prevents oxidation but you need CLEAN metal to start. Using a more weldable fill material helps make the process easier as well as providing some difference for pattern.

The container, either tubing or stainless foil usually has a slight oxide coating and it does not weld well to the contents. If you want to be sure then line the container with a thin layer of package filling tissue paper or newsprint. Use a minimum (single layer).

An alternate method to using fill is to seal the pieces in the container with a very small vent hole. Put a drop of kerosene or deisel fuel in the vent. When heated the oil burns off using up the oxygen in the container. Then the whole is taken at welding heat to a hydraulic press and compressed together to weld.

As with all these process they require practice as well as understanding how they work and LUCK!
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 10:12:35 EST

Hammerman947, please see ourWrought Iron FAQ

R&B Wagner AKA J.G. Braun was selling pure iron in the US put they no longer do so. If you want pure iron you will need to order it from overseas.

You can also purchase reprocessed and rolled wrought iron from the RealWroughtIron co. in England.

Otherwise your best bet at reasonable cost is a good quality SAE 1018-20 (usually cold drawn bar).
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 11:36:20 EST

I have been looked at possible substances to use as a forge coating. Firebricks are made of compressed alumina and silica. The more alumina added, the harder the firebrick. Alumina is aluminum oxide, the same substance used for making grind rocks. Aluminum oxide is a thermal conductor. Now, the color white is a heat-light reflector as it reflects all spectrums of light. Now, from what I understand, there is a clay called Tennessee ball clay and when it dries, it turns white. It looks like alumina could be mixed with the white clay to make a coating, might need to mix silica with it to fuse it, may require some experimenting. Also, why can't other clays be used to coat inswool ? I have a sack of pearlite clay, why wouldn't that work ?
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 11/04/09 11:37:55 EST

There is very little difference between 1018 and A-36 (or none in most cases). Sometimes the carbon in A-36 will be lower. The higher yield is just from cold drawing, after forging they will be about the same:

1018 Mild Steel
Alloy 1018 is the most commonly available of the cold-drawn steels. It is generally available in round rod, square bar, and rectangle bar. It has a good combination of all of the typical traits of steel - strength, some ductility, and comparative ease of machining. Chemically, it is very similar to A36 Hot Rolled steel, but the cold drawing process creates a better surface finish and better properties.
1018 Mild (low-carbon) steel
Minimum Properties Ultimate Tensile Strength, psi 63,800
Yield Strength, psi 53,700
Elongation 15.0%
Rockwell Hardness B71
Chemistry Iron (Fe) 98.81 - 99.26%
Carbon (C) 0.15 - 0.20%
Manganese (Mn) 0.6 - 0.9%
Phosphorus (P) 0.04% max
Sulfur (S) 0.05% max

A36 Mild Steel
ASTM A36 steel is the most commonly available of the hot-rolled steels. It is generally available in round rod, square bar, rectangle bar, as well as steel shapes such as I-Beams, H-beams, angles, and channels. The hot roll process means that the surface on this steel will be somewhat rough. Note that its yield strength is also significantly less than 1018 - this means that it will bend much more quickly than will 1018. Finally, machining this material is noticeably more difficult than 1018 steel, but the cost is usually significantly lower.
ASTM A36 Mild (low-carbon) steel
Minimum Properties Ultimate Tensile Strength, psi 58,000 - 79,800
Yield Strength, psi 36,300
Elongation 20.0%
Chemistry Iron (Fe) 99%
Carbon (C) 0.18 - 0.26%
Manganese (Mn) 0.75%
Copper (Cu) 0.2%
Phosphorus (P) 0.04% max
Sulfur (S) 0.05% max
 A lot of cold drawn is just made from A-36 that didn't make the cut usually because it was rolled undersize. The cold drawers just pickle, lube and draw it through a die.
   - grant - Wednesday, 11/04/09 12:03:41 EST

Forge Coatings: Mike, Refractory manufacture and science is a very specialized field. While some of the substances needed are commonly available many others are not or must be bought in industrial quantities.

Note that "white" is best for reflecting white light, not "all spectrums". In high temperature applications you want a high IR (infrared) reflector. The proper color for this has nothing to do with the way things appear to the human eye.

Clays vary greatly in their chemistry and particularly high temperature resistance. Typical "ball clay" and most common pottery clays are not very good at high temperatures. Common white pottery clay will boil and foam at typical forge temperatures. Try it.

If you want to know the particular WHYs then do the research. Find the chemistry, look up the melting and boiling points, manufacturing methods, applications. . . Its not easy in this very specialized field. You may need to accumulate a specialized library.

Why reinvent the wheel when what you want is ITC-100? It is commercially available and sold in small quantities so that anyone can afford it. It is the highest IR reflectance material available and is resistant to temperatures far in excess to that in a forge. It is a non-toxic water based material making it safe and easy to use.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 13:06:52 EST

Mike, you can also order a bag of bubble alumina refractory coating from Darrin Ellis (google him for more info). It fires out to a bubbly silver finish and is highly flux resistant, something ITC 100 is not.

ITC 100 is a better IR reflector as far as I know. Most of the guys I know line the inswool/kaowool with about half an inch of either Satanite or Mizzou, topped with ITC if they want a little more heat.

Me, I still use coal. What can I say, I'm a luddite.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 11/04/09 13:38:46 EST

Refractories: A number of years ago a fellow that uses several of the FlameFast ceramic chip forges asked me if I could find the source of the chips or a replacement. While they are heat resistant they still break down slowly and are a consumable that must be replaced. He knew the chips were imported to Britian to the U.S. then resold. This added a lot of expense. Of course the manufacture is not going to tell you what they are, its their "trade secret".

I called a couple of refractory manufacturers (all now part of Habersion Walker) and asked it they knew what the material was. I received and sent a sample to the company. They determined the material to be "synthetic mullite". Ironically the natural form of this material originaly was found on the British Isle of Mull, thus "Mullite". Also ironically the synthetic mullite is made from kyanite which is mined and processed in Virginia near where I live.

Mullite is made by grinding kyanite to a powder mixing with water, binders and extruding it into rods that are dried then fired at high temperature. The fired rods are then crushed, ground and screened into different sizes.

The product is used as the filler or aggregate in many refractory bricks and refractory cements. The problem we had was finding it in the size pieces we needed in less than freight car loads. There was no incentive for me to continue this search but I can probably find it now that I know what I am looking for.

I also spent some time looking for a refractory binder for another project. After some research I found a place that sold me a pint bottle and was told it was available in gallon. Well, apparently I talked the right guy the first time. . The next time I called the only quantities available were 40/55 gallon drums. The stuff was over $200/gallon. . . so a minimum purchase was over $8,000.

This is not unusual when you get into areas of industrial materials.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 13:58:53 EST


From your numbers, *some* A-36 could be lower carbon than *some* 1018. But it looks like A-36 would never have carbon below the low end of the range for 1018, though it might have carbon above that range.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/04/09 16:59:45 EST

I get my powdered metal from Kelly Cupples..Here's a link to him http://refractory.elliscustomknifeworks.com/
   - Arthur - Wednesday, 11/04/09 18:31:20 EST

Sorry..When you get to that site click on "Steel for knifemaking and Damascus"
   - Arthur - Wednesday, 11/04/09 18:34:12 EST

Mike BR: Yeah, a lot of things are possible, just wanted to note that buying 1018 is no guarantee that it is "better" than A-36, and if it is, the difference is probably more slight than many think. And of course we have no idea what "typical" would be in either case.
   - grant - Wednesday, 11/04/09 19:22:40 EST

SAE 1018 sure machines a LOT more consistently than A36
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 20:32:02 EST

Thanks for the info on refactory coatings, I would not know too much if I didn't get comments from yall on this site. Another thing is waterglass. I think when it is mixed with powered vermiculite, it can be used as a glue in refactories. Waterglass will melt at 250 degr. or so, but after the water is evaporated, it will not melt until 1500 degr. This mix might be good for fastening inswool to refactory doors.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 11/04/09 21:08:45 EST

A36: The spec I saw listed max carbon from 0.25- 0.29% depending on thickness and manganese from 0.8 to 1.20% and from .85-1.35% in really heavy sections.

I expect this is why it can be more responsive to heat treatment than 1018.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/04/09 21:12:14 EST

I don't know about "consistently", but it sure makes a better chip and finish. Not so much 1018 VS A-36 as it is cold drawn VS hot rolled. Depends on the machining too. If you just machine off one side of cold drawn, it will bow like crazy.

Dave, I got the numbers from AISI and ASTM.
   - grant - Wednesday, 11/04/09 21:58:09 EST

Gluing Ceramic Blanket: We've used a variety of things including ITC-100 for gluing blanket. However, the problem with blanket materials is that they are made such that the lay of the fibers is flat with the material. This means it splits along these lines very easily. So, if you glue it the only part that will stay put for long is the layer that is penetrated by the "glue". Most blanket will just barely support its own weight when glued but since it loses strength when hot (just like most materials) the blanket will seperate just beyond the glue line when heated.

IF the blanket is supported by the frame of the door then gluing it might work for a while. However, pining it with screws the way NC-Tools does works well.

Where we use ITC-100 to glue blanket is onto holes in light refractory surfaces that need repair then cap the entirety with the ITC-100.

Thin compounds like a sodium silicate solution are absorbed by ceramic blanket like a sponge. To add enough to glue it you end up penetrating most of the blanket. All that water must be dried out then fired. It makes a mess. When I tried to make blanket with a ceramic binder the 1" blanket "shrank" to 1/3 its thickness due to the weight of the solution while wet. The dried result was 1/4 the original thickness and had the characteristics of a soda cracker.

Heavy bodied slurries like ITC-100 work as glues because they stay on or near the surface of the blanket.

It doesn't hurt to experiment but this can be an expensive bit of R&D. Build it fire it, watch it fall apart. . . build it again. . .

   - guru - Wednesday, 11/04/09 22:21:56 EST

You are absolutely right. When I have ideas, I like to see the responses on this site. I know it saves time and money. I glued some inswool to the refactory doors with JB Weld and then coated them with satanite and ITC100. After several heatings, seems to have held up very well. I also noted that you talked about inconel wire, would that be good for the doors ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 11/05/09 14:36:02 EST

The wire is commonly used in building lightweight refractory panels. It is not used on the surface but deep inside the panels.

The thing about furnaces and forges is that the insulation works against time and radiant cooling. As time passes the insulation get hotter and hotter deeper into the material. Eventually the outside is almost as hot as the inside. This heat transfers to the supporting structure or shell. The temperature of the shell is then dependent on the rate that it gives up heat to the surrounding air.

I have folks ask all the time about adding blanket to the OUTSIDE of their forge or furnace. YES, this increases the insulation efficiency but it puts the steel shell between insulation where it can get overheated (red heat, scale, lose strength) and collapse.

If you want the outer shell of a furnace to be cooler there are two routes to go. More insulation inside, OR an external shell with an air space with moving air (via convection OR fan). Two external shells will reduce the exterior to just noticeably above room temperature.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/05/09 16:03:20 EST

I saw a program ( How Its Made )about the iron industry. There are two main sources for iron, Hematite and Magnetite. The soil will be black in color, you can run a magnet through it and if there is any iron, the magnet will pick it up. Hematite produces about 20% iron and magnetite produces about 60% iron. I looked on the internet to find magnetite deposits in Arkansas, the only one I could find is in Hot Springs county around Magnet Cove. I have heard that when looking for gold, you want to locate black sand. I guess when water runs down the mountains, iron bearing minerals as well as gold is washed down. For those living around the mountains, magnetite should be easy to locate.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 11/05/09 20:07:55 EST

Grant, I don't plan to buy the specs from ASTM, so I used this listing: http://www.brown-strauss.com/b_s_a36.htm
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 11/05/09 20:49:57 EST

Mike, Its all about the amount of metal per ton of ore. Some places the ore is 90% or more metal and in other places 10% or less. At some point it costs too much to dig, move, process, smelt and dispose of the waste. In precious metals they move tons per ounce but in iron it needs to be a high percentage to be economical. I do not know the numbers but I am sure it is not hard to find. This is even more important in small operations where the ore may be dug by hand and hauled on one's back. . .

Often there are small very rich deposits of ore that are not big enough or close enough to transportation to be commercially viable but they are great for a micro operation. On the other hand, just because the geological map show it doesn't mean its close enough to the surface to do an individual any good.

While having easy to access ore is one thing they used to locate ironworks where there was water power, fuel, flux AND ore. Ore was often easier to find than the full combination. Ore near the surface was highly valued.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/05/09 22:19:45 EST

hey guru, I am building a forge for a part of my senior project,
I talked to a blacksmith and he told me to use a cast iron skillet as a fire pot.
when I got home I was at a loss because I realized cast iron is second to impossible to drill or press a hole through. Do you know of anyway that I could make a hole in the cast iron? I saw the brake drum plans and all but I want room for coal storage etc and it is not big enough for what I need. Any suggestions would help greatly.
   matt - Friday, 11/06/09 10:30:21 EST

Almost all igneous rocks contain magnetite often as small grains. As the rocks weather these are released into the environment can can be concentrated by streams or even wave action. This is the ironsand that Japan used for smelting tamahagane in a tatara furnace.

It can be found by dragging a magnet in a creekbed in a location where it may be found.

Or the black scale that forms on your steel as you forge it is also magnetite.

It's a good material for a bloomery operation.

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/06/09 13:24:25 EST

DIY Projects: Matt, There are different ways to approach such projects. It is possible to build projects with almost no tools and very little cutting or drilling but you must select your materials carefully.

The alternative is to "man-up" and do some hard work by hand. Cast iron saws and drills easier than most steels and cookware is relatively thin so it is possible to drill by hand. Drilling can be done with an electric drill OR a manual brace and bit. A brace and bit is better in many cases because it turns slow. Most electric drills are designed for drilling wood and plastics, their speed being 10 to 20 times faster than for drilling iron and steel. Turning too fast burns up the bit.

IF the drill has a variable speed control then you want to operated it at a slow steady speed of about 1 or 2 rotations per second. Watch the drill chuck and count fast. IF you can keep up then the drill is turning about the right speed for iron/steel.

Next, you need pressure. Push hard and straight. The bit should always be making chips. If it stops making chips then it is rubbing and dulling the bit while making a hard spot in the metal. This will burn up the bit.

Cast iron also saws well with a hand hack saw. You just need good coarse blades (not the wavy ones designed for sheet metal) and some patience. Push the saw, lift on the return and push again using long steady strokes.

Back to Easy: One reason a brake drum or wheel (NOT a disk brake rotor!) is recommended is that they are full of holes. Wheels have extra holes but they are easier to patch than to make.

A common rear axle brake drum has a center hole of about 1.5" (38mm) which is sufficient for the blast. It is surrounded by four or five holes on a ~5-6" (125 - 150mm) bolt circle. These can be use for attaching a floor flange or legs. Often they are too far apart to go through the floor flange (a piece of plumbing hardware) but you can use washers to span the gap and clamp the flange instead of bolting through. Use your imagination.

Automobile wheels have the same exact hole patterns as above but the plain pressed steel wheels (cheap plain ones) often have gaps and lightening holes that can be used for attaching legs. The excess holes can be patched with pieces of sheet metal and a few screws or nuts and bolts.

When I built my first forge I had some advantages in that I knew how to use tools. However, my tools available for this project were limited. I was 15-16 and still in high school when I built it.

To make the three large 7/8" holes in the side of the top wheel for the legs I started with about a 3/16 (5 mm) hole made with an electric drill. These I worried out to about 5/8" using a brace and the largest bit we had THEN filing them a bit. Then I used a 3/4" handled punch (the only actual blacksmith tool I owned) to enlarge the hole to 7/8". The punch tapered from about 5/8" to 15/16".

It was a lot of work making these holes but you use what you have. After those holes there was only ONE drilled hole. The handle that operated the blast gate was forged from a RR-spike using the incomplete forge. The hole to fit the shaft was punhed (my first hot punched hole) and then a 3/16" hole was drilled from the side and then taped for a 1/4"-20 set screw.

The rest was assembled using things that all ready had holes in them (select junk). The bottom of the legs were forced into holes and held in place by being sprung out at the top.

If you select your materials carefully and use 3 floor flanges on the tuyere (one to attach a rotating ash dump gate) then you can build this project without drilling any holes and very few tools. But generally DIY projects assume that you have or will obtain,(purchase, beg or borrow) an electric drill and a hack saw. You should also have screw drivers, pliers and a wrench or two.

Then there are MUCH more primitive forges. See our series of articles (in progress - not really ready for release. . .)

The Forge, Ancient and Modern, Part 1: The pit Forge

The Forge, Ancient and Modern, Part 2: Beyond the Pit

If you want coal reserve in a primitive to build forge see the forge in the Forge and Anvil Do-It-Yourself Blacksmith Projects It is made from a light duty wheel barrow pan which con be purchased for less than $50.

This is actually a raised pit forge built in a steel pan rather than a wooden box. They wood box type was very common in early America as it was raised to a level Europeans were used to working and required almost NO materials other than local wood (had hewn or sawed) and some dirt. A manufactured tuyere and bellows or blower was used.

   - guru - Friday, 11/06/09 13:40:02 EST

I've been drilling 3/4" holes in 1/2" steel by hand lately and it's not a lot of fun even when using a cole drill; but it's what I had to hand and it does work! Helps when you can sharpen your bits yourself

First thing: are you using a decent bit? Many cheap modern bits are only good for drilling wood if that!

When I last drilled a hole in cast iron for air handing I drilled s circle of smaller holes and tapped the center plug with a hammer and popped it out and then dressed the hole a bit.

   Thomas P - Friday, 11/06/09 18:27:44 EST

"cole drill"??????? Sorry, don't follow you.
   - grant - Friday, 11/06/09 20:12:33 EST

Grant, its one of those gimmicky step drills sold to replace a set of drills.
   - guru - Friday, 11/06/09 21:57:09 EST

If this site's got it right, a cole drill is sort of a 19th century mag drill. http://rustyiron.com/engines/coledrill/index.html
   Mike BR - Saturday, 11/07/09 09:13:00 EST

Ah. . . I blew that one. .

My Dad called these an "Old Man". Not sure why. Maybe all the cranking made one an old man. . .

Another version had the clamps and a mechanism like a blacksmiths hand crank drill. These were heavier and took two people to setup but would drill much faster due to the gearing and flywheel.

For this type work I often just use a common brace with a metal cutting bit. Up to about 1/2" you can drill by hand if you provide sufficient pressure. For more pressure a beam drill was used with a simple brace type crank. The size of the hole depends on the amount of leverage you apply. For a standard brace the leverage is only suitable to about 1/2" to 5/8" for a person of average strength. At 3/4" you need more leverage.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/07/09 09:55:07 EST

I have a Hay Budden anvil that has broken at the waist. As I prepared the two halves for the repair it became clear from the grinding sparks that the W1 steel begins at the fracture. So, with the two different kinds steel ( the bottom half being wrought or mild steel and the top being W1, I imagine near 1% carbon +/-.) What kind of welding rod would you suggest? Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you.
   Dean - Saturday, 11/07/09 16:06:21 EST

Climax Blower:

I have aquired a Buffalo Forge Climax blower. Opposite side reads: list 1266. It was majorly frozen up. I was able to take it apart, clean it, and start to assemble it. I have a few questions I hoped you could answer. 1: Are there any seals or fiber washers? 2: Should the oil be filled to the plug almost on the bottom? 3: What kind of oil? 4: Do you know the cappacity of the blower? I assume it is bidirectional. 5: The crank is missing. Do you have a measurement on how long the crank should be from centerline of shaft to centerline of handle? 6: Finally, there is no flange. There is an angled area opposite of where the pipe attaches. Was there some sort of u shaped clamp to attach it to the pipe?

Thank you for all your help. This is a wonderfull website.
   Milton - Saturday, 11/07/09 16:38:59 EST

I'm an apprentice with a very basic understanding of blacksmithing, more practical than theoretical and the forge I work in is basic in tools; i have no grinder, no vice, etc. I essentially have an anvil, hammers and tongs (I work at a historical interpretation site). I've been trying to make an irish trinity symbol for a while now and am running into dead end after dead end. My most recent attempt involved making it in 3 pieces and trying to somehow tie it together, but the iron started breaking on me. Is there any chance you or your helpers could provide me with plans to making a decorative irish trinity symbol or point me in the right direction to acquiring plans?

Many thanks
   Carl Guthrie - Saturday, 11/07/09 17:23:47 EST

Anvil Joint Weld: Dean, Preheat the parts to about 350°F in the weld zone then make a pass, clean and peen (use a needle scaler if you have one). Then make another pass the same until done and let cool slowly. An E70 or E80 rod will be fine. Even though the top is hardenable you do not want a hard joint, just a strong one.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/07/09 17:24:10 EST

Buffalo Blower: There are no seals. The blowers leak. If not covered with oil they are not well enough oiled. 20W oil or automatic transmission fluid works but if the gears are worn out you should use heavier. Normally they are oiled from the top and the plug is a drain/overflow.

The cranks were often adjustable in length for comfort but some were fixed length, about 12". Average cranking speed was 40 RPM. This produced enough air for a "medium" size forge.

Yes they are bidirectional. However, the worm drives tend to create a lot of thrust one way or the other and depending on gear or bearing wear like to run smoother on way than the other. Note that SOME blowers are NOT bidirectional because they only have thrust bearings on one end of the worm. These have a direction arrow cast into the housing.

Attachments points varied Some forges had brackets cast into their sides, other had brackets that attached to the blower then a bar that slid in the bracket to adjust position. And many sat on seperate stands with three legs.

The pipe attachment point was just a round outlet. Prefabricated pipes sometimes fit around the outlet, sometimes there were adaptor flanges. Due to the diameters the parts must be made to fit unless you have a complete outfit.
   - guru - Saturday, 11/07/09 18:12:02 EST

Irish Trinity Symbol: Carl, The one I am familiar with is a type of Celtic Knot with three corners and is endless. As an endless loop there would be only ONE weld to make it complete.

This can be bent freehand or on a jig, hot or cold. After welding or joining the one corner the other corners could be tightened and finished. Since it is 3 equal lengths then the bar should be marked. Do not use a punch or chisel at this will cause cracking later. A dull round edge chisel would work best.

Personally I would bend 3 pieces cold, saw and file the overlap notches and gas weld the corners. . . Then clean up and chase with a chisel.

An alternative is to cut the part from plate and chase lines where the bars "overlap".

Generally when these thing crack and fall apart they have been heated too many times in the forge or over heated (burned).
   - guru - Saturday, 11/07/09 19:58:56 EST

Another method. . . As I described bend the semi-circles cold, notch to fit including the corners with a lap joint. Note that all three parts are identical. Then drill and rivet the corners with small flush rivets and the cross points the same. Then chase the decoration as desired. This would work in any size stock larger than you would want to cut the part out of sheet or plate.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/08/09 00:08:59 EST

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