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

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

This is an archive of posts from December 1 - 8, 2001 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

I was thinking of buying a treadle hammer kit out of my centuar forge catalog or from Kirkpatrick's Valley Forge. Witch is the better?
   Chris - Friday, 11/30/01 23:44:16 GMT

Chris, I wouldn't say either was better. I've bought from both firms and been satisfied every time.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/01/01 00:13:33 GMT

Treadle Kit Chris, Both are Jere's kit (or used to be). I haven't seen his videos but he does a great demo so the video should be good.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 03:34:15 GMT

Spiral Stairways: Mark see our article on them on our 21st Century Page.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:02:05 GMT

Mystery Metal: Moldy, NO. From a variety of sources melted by who knows. . . . Old solder?. . Could have Tin, Lead, Zinc, Antimony, Cadinium, Silver, Bismuth. . traces of copper, iron. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:18:53 GMT

Bow Spring: Khym, A lot of small cars and trucks have single leaf springs with that approximate taper.

You won't find spring makers in every town but there are normaly a couple in every state. Lots of places specialize in replacing truck springs and have to manufacture them. A Yellow pages web search should find one.

   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:22:47 GMT

Closing up the forge Many forges come with large doorless end ports that are more than the forge needs for venting. But yes, you don't want to choke the forge. But DO close all the doors that close and you can often reduce excess openings.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:25:03 GMT

Thanks for all of the input on asthma and smithing. I now have some good ideas on how to live longer without having to give up the hot iron.

   Andrew - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:31:08 GMT


NEVER NEVER EVER, Rig your own supplied air hood as Paw-Paw suggested. It SOUNDS like a good idea but here are the problems.

1) Dry air from a compressor will dry the linings of your lungs to the point of giving you instant pneumonia.

2) Lubricants, bearing and wearing parts of compressors can contain Bismuth, Lead, Cadnium. . .

Both the above mean that compressed air supplies for breathing must come ONLY from compressors designed and certified for breathing air.

IF you want to rig up a clean air hood use a small squirl cage fan and the necessary larger hose (such as cheap vacumme cleaner hose). Then be sure the fan is in a place with clean air OR has the needed filter. There are fancy commercial versions of this used on bubble suits and bubble hoods. These not only have the advantage of providing clean air but also can cool you off.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:44:33 GMT

Would somebody please answer my question-

I need to know the percent of weight difference and the percent of strength of aluminum compared to mild steel. I can't think of a good way to word that question. Sorry.
Also, can aluminum be hardened like steel?

Much appreciated. Thanks,

   Robert - Saturday, 12/01/01 04:52:42 GMT

Mystery metal, Sorry I didn't make it clear before, the ingots appear to be a commercial product, not a bunch of stuff melted together in someones garage.
The mold one was made in has some numbers/words in it, I'll try to dig it out and see if I can contact the manufacturer.
I can't remember if the company name is there though, it's been a while since I took a look at it.
I do remember it has a course grain structure and it squeeked when I broke off a corner. (Tin?)
The other has characters stamped into it, but no name.
I believe they're probably not just lead & junk because of the appearent quality of the castings. It too has a course grain where it was broke.
Well if they're un-identifiable I guess they will work as weights.
   - Moldy Jim - Saturday, 12/01/01 05:35:50 GMT

Regulator gages are sometimes wrong. One way to judge the mixture is to look at the amount and color of the flame coming out of the ports (* you do have to leave some exhaust exit). If you are getting a lot of yellow flame popping out then it is way too rich...If no flame shows in the exhaust then it may be too lean. You can tune by sound...the loudest roar is good ( unfortunately). It may be worth while to go through the air intake paths and smooth out all the roughness in the system.
Frank; In St Francis' shop, he put down some chemical dust supressor...unfortunately I cant remember which chemical but somebody will surely know.
Last; A question good Guru.
I just got the first 20" X 3" grinding wheel that came via ebay and it is in pristine condition. The center hole is about 6" and I will have to turn a bushing to hang it on the arbor shaft. However, there are insets on each side of the center of the grindstone so that the center thickness is only 2". The blotters that came with the stone fit in these depressions. I take it to mean that the side plates that hold the stone on the arbor also fit in these recessed areas. This is somewhat weaker than if the sideplates extended up to the full thickness of the wheels and there was some sort of insert to fill the depressions. Just to be sure, which is the right way to hang the stones?
   - Pete F - Saturday, 12/01/01 05:55:10 GMT

Whoops! Listen to the guru, folks. I never even thought of the dryness issue, and I should have. Sorry about that!
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Saturday, 12/01/01 12:51:18 GMT

Jims mystery metal: Are the ingots heavy like lead? They could be what's called in the jewelry industry "white metal" basically a type of pewter. It's used for making the models (prototypes) of a piece. White metal squeeks when you break it, has a course grain, doesn't really tarnish much, weighs almost as much as lead, and if you slice a piece off the corner with a little knife, the cut will be brilliantly shiny, like polished silver. The numbers on the side are probably the alloy mix ratios and/ or lot numbers. Hope this helps.
   - Gronk - Saturday, 12/01/01 13:33:02 GMT

Aluminium: Robert, it depends on the aluminium alloy. Many of the high strength aluminium alloys have zinc and copper added and their density is quite high. The difference is not great though.

I just happened to have written a DOS mass volume program with a large materials database...... RATS! Its not on my laptop. Let me see if I have a copy on diskette. . .

From a chemistry book. . :(

pure Al = 2.6989 g/cm3
pure Fe = 7.874 g/cm3
Ratio = 2.92:1

Please remember that the highest strength aluminium alloys are about as strong as mild steel but do not have the ductility (the break before bending far).

Aluminium alloys can be heat treated but not like steel and it is normaly part of the manufacturing process. It is not done in the shop. They DO work harden but this is not a good condition for aluminium. Hammered sheet can be annealed like other non-ferrous metals.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 14:11:31 GMT

Mounting Grinding Wheels: Pete, The paper pads are where the wheel is designed to be driven - nowhere else. Wheels often have paper bore liners too. The shaft should fit the bore snugly (a slip fit) or be bushed to that size with a precision bushing. Sometimes these are machined on the inner flange.

To test the soundness of grinding wheels support them on a finger or a wood bar and give them a tap. They should ring. Generaly a dull sound indicates a cracked wheel. After mounting wheels it is suggestd to test run them for 5-10 minutes with no-one in the line of fire. . . Then true the wheel with a wheel truer or a diamond.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 14:19:21 GMT

STEVE W. I recieved your CSI membership but your e-mail address bounced. Please write to me so I can send you a welcome letter and necessary information.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/01 14:21:34 GMT

Hi Guru,
I work in a manufacturing plant that uses large multi-bit drill presses (with 1 3/8" bits) for drilling boron steel. I am an amatuer when it comes to sharpening drill bits but often times the bits on one drill press significantly outlast the bits on the neighboring press drilling the same number of holes in similar material. Sometimes the bits are also prone to chipping. Do you have any information concerning the "proper" specifications for drill bit sharpening and drill speed and do the specifications change when drilling high carbon steel (or do you know where I might find such info)?
   David Brophy - Saturday, 12/01/01 16:06:05 GMT

I am experienced at silver soldering non-ferrous metals (brass mostly - for making musical instrument parts) but would like to solder stainless steel. Other than using a flux that is meant for ferrous, are there any other changes I will need to make in my materials or tools? I currently use Sparex #2 as a pickle. I have been told that soldering stainless is difficult but the folks saying that have never said "in what way". Thanks for your advice.
   John Liestman - Saturday, 12/01/01 19:16:02 GMT

Today was my first time using my forge and it worked great, but im using an old brake drum set in a 4by4 sheet of 3/8 inch steel and it seems to deep to heat the middle of the stock. My ? is how deep should the fire pot be and is there any thing i can put in the fire pot to raise the coke up? I can get to welding heat in about 2min with a fresh peice of half inch square stock is that good?
   Chris - Saturday, 12/01/01 20:59:26 GMT

Dear Guru,I have a project on colonial Blacksmithing.It,s due on December 10.So I was wondering if you could give me some imformation about it.If you can, try to to tell me all about it.

   Glen Sizemore - Saturday, 12/01/01 21:08:19 GMT

got a funny little virus today.... "NEWS_DOC.DOC.scr" The anti virus program, McAfee, that hotmail uses picked it up. It had a blank (0 bytes)txt attatchment with the same email. The return address was from here (I emailed them back a notification). isn't technology great?
   Rodriguez - Saturday, 12/01/01 21:39:53 GMT

Drilling and Bits David, See MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK.

Most chipping is due to bad sharpening with unequal angle or length of edge. The only way to do it correctly for high production is with a drill sharpener jig or machine. When hand sharpening large bits a sharpening gauge should be used. It has the correct angle and a scale to check the length. However, the relief is still judged by eye when hand sharpening.

Drill bits also come in vastly different qualities. Currently the bits sold in hardware stores do not have the web thined at the point. Being split point sharpened it doesn't matter until you go to resharpen the bits. Then you have too much dead center (due to the thick web) meaning you CAN NOT properly hand sharpen these bits. A machine with a diamond wheel that regrinds the split point is necessary. I DO NOT purchase these bits except in an emergency.

Bit quality also includes materials, heat treating, flute relief grind profile and original sharpening.

Life of bits can be grossly shortened by the operator. To slow a feed to fast a feed, not clearing chips when needed, feeding through the break through to fast. On automatic feed machines if there is excessive axial play in the spindle then when the drill pulls through the back it can cheip the drill the same as an operator not taking care to hold back the feed at break theough.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 01:55:36 GMT

i want to make a coal forge and i'm new to the trade can anyone help with a plan i don't know how deep it should be but was thinking about a longer one than i have seen in pictures i have a small gas one but it only goes so deep

   - Russ - Sunday, 12/02/01 02:29:21 GMT

Firepot Depth: 4 to 6" (100 to 150mm) is normal and then coal is piled higher than that if needed. About 8" (200mm) is normal for average use.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 02:30:04 GMT

Virus mail Rodriguez, It can't be from here or me. Are you sure its not mail FROM your system to anvilfire that has bounced and been sent back to you?
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 02:33:09 GMT

Colonial Smithing: Glen, the trade has changed very little in several thousand years so colonial smiths were not much different than modern ones. Here are some points and differences.

1) The majority of the material used 200 years ago was "wrought iron". This is a specific type of iron. It is carbon free and has silica slag layering that gives it a wood like quality. Modern smiths work mostly steel. Steel is iron with a small amount of carbon. It is also generaly a more uniform product than wrought iron but is not as soft.

2) The Colonial American smith almost universaly used charcoal to fuel his forge. Later coal would replace charcoal. Today smiths use coal and propane as well as charcoal and fuel oil. Coal is getting difficult to get as it is no longer used for domestic heating in many parts of the country. So propane forges are becoming as common as coal forges.

Otherwise the tools, techniques and the products have changed very little.

We have two historical fictions about Colonial Era blacksmiths on out story page as well as common myths and legends about blacksmiths.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 02:45:48 GMT

Silver Soldering SS: John, Silver solder works well for silver jewelry but I have no experiance with it. Common lead or tin based solders may not work well but silver solder is more akin to brazing and that works well on SS.

Try it. For a color match you will want high silver content. If you are still concerned about fluxes and alloys the folks that sell the silver solder such as a welding supplier should have recommendations.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 03:59:42 GMT

Thank You for the grinding wheel answer Good Guru;
My next little question is
How does one tell the difference between a delta and a wye wound 3 phase motor?
   - Pete F - Sunday, 12/02/01 04:58:03 GMT

John-- silver soldering/ silver brazing stainless is going to be a snap. keep the piece away from any steel wire brushes or grinding wheels that have been near plain steel. It'll pick up invisible splinters that will rust.
   miles undercut - Sunday, 12/02/01 05:11:37 GMT

Delta Wye: Pete you got me there except that some motors say on the name plate. Others will have it inside the junction box if there is a connection diagram. The diagrams look like a triangle (delta) or three coils with a common center connection ("Y" or wye).

You could test for the difference via resistance but that would require something to compare to.... I think.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/01 13:04:56 GMT

Hello everyone, I am a starting smith who has an interest in building a junk yard trip hammer. The hammers I have seen so far in the pages all have very heavy mass of iron for the die and hammer area. As My shop is only a small 10' by 10' space and the only access is up 20 stairs, I have no way of getting a very large mass of metal up a flight of stairs. My question is, would a log round, like that you use to place an anvil on work with a trip hammer and if not do you or your assocciates have any sujestions.
thank you
   Patrick McIvor - Sunday, 12/02/01 17:22:39 GMT

Thank you for taking the time to point me in the right direction. Funny how one gets set in a way of doing something to the point that you think it will translate to any job! Think the site is great. Best wishes for the coming holidays and a prosperous 2002 to all. Cheers Mark
   Mark Lewis - Sunday, 12/02/01 19:54:55 GMT

Would you have any ideas where I could find plans for a bellows. I've done some looking on the web but came up empty. Thanks for any help you can give me.

   mitch - Monday, 12/03/01 01:32:44 GMT


THE BLACKSMITH, Ironworker and Farrier, Aldren A. Watson, ISBN 0-393-32057-X, Chapter 11.

The book is less than $20, Chapter 10 has plans for building a Brick or masonry forge, Chapter 11 has plans for building a double chamber, great bellows.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 12/03/01 01:47:23 GMT

Power Hammer Mass: Patrick, If it isn't heavy its NOT a power hammer. When power hammers are set in buildings with wood floors there is a foundation under the hammer that goes to the ground and further. The foundation can be concrete or wooden piles. In either case it must go to the ground.

When you use a hand hammer it moves faster than a power hammer and hits harder for the same mass. However, you normaly have an anvil ratio of 50 to one or more (4# hammer and a 200# anvil or more likely 100:1 - 2# and #200 anvil).

This high ratio is needed for high hammer velocity and to prevent transmission of force to the ground/floor. The lowest ratio on most power hammers 8:1 on some of the new air hammers. The highest on industrial hammers is 20:1. Little Giants average 15:1. This means that a LOT more force is transmitted to the ground/foundation in a power hammer. It is also why it is recommended for most power hammers to have a significant foundation.

A light 40# power hammer with a 10:1 ratio has a 400# anvil. There is no way around it.

Besides transmitting much more vibration, power hammers do it with higher frequency and for longer periods than hand hammering. So forget putting one on a wooden floor without a seperate support to ground under the machine.
   - guru - Monday, 12/03/01 01:53:36 GMT

I'm looking for advice on how to make a certain ornamental pattern out of wire. It's been described as a "ribbon candy" design that is often seen in antique wirework.

I've seen sloppy versions of it but am interested in learning how to do a a perfectly symmetrical version. I've experimented with using a vice, bending "U", and bent-nose pliars but have had only limited success. Can someone help?
   T. - Monday, 12/03/01 02:04:18 GMT


Got a picture? We could help more if we could see what you mean. If you've got one, scan and email it to either the guru, or myself.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 12/03/01 02:31:57 GMT

Ribbon Candy: T. I don't have a clue what it looks like either. However, I suspect jigs were used. Look on our 21st Century page at the bender article. Of course wire jigs would be less robust. Often wire is bent on a jig with holes drilled for pins that can be arranged as needed. Mandrels (steel bar) are also used for producing coils of either single or multiple strands.

Hope this helps.
   - guru - Monday, 12/03/01 13:41:44 GMT

I think I know what you re talking about if we are thinking about the same thing it is/was (most likely still is) in one of a few ways one is the methed you had tryed (vice) one is the Jig as the good guru discrided or by useing a bending fork a kind of U shaped bar that fits in the hardie hole or in the vice abar is traped betwine the two bars and bent (right were you want it to be) or adjusted.
   MP - Monday, 12/03/01 17:52:31 GMT

I have an anvil that is pretty worn, is there a process to reface the surfaces without giving up the anvils temper.

   Bob - Monday, 12/03/01 19:11:07 GMT

Gary Callaghan:
Regarding carpal tunnel surgery and hammering. I had carpal tunnel surgery in both hands about 15 years ago (too much spinning, knitting and sewing in my younger years) and I work at a keyboard all day. I've no regrets about the surgery. Hammering isn't a problem as long as I don't hammer from my wrist (bad practice, anyway), trade hammer hands occasionally (right hand for the fine-control stuff, left for the less delicate), and stop when the hands get fatigued. Wouldn't have been able to do any of this before the surgery. If you get the surgery, give it PLENTY of time to heal and do the exercises to get your grip strength back. Good luck.
   Christine - Monday, 12/03/01 21:02:54 GMT


Well said lady, well said.

Gary, listen to her, she knows what she is talking about.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 12/03/01 21:37:52 GMT

Does anyone have any ideas of a web page that would give a how to on making a 'disappearing filament' pyrometer?
I saw one once, but can not remember where.
It detailed how to make one (giving specific parts list) and then how to calibrate it.

   Ralph - Monday, 12/03/01 22:30:24 GMT

Four years ago I bought a bucket of new cut nails, about 3 in's long, retangular tapered, slight oval spot on top of the head. There fairly soft and use them making hooks. I got some more nails last year at flea market. They look exactley alike but these are used and have been in a fire apparently. These crumble and fall apart. I've tried different temperatures but no luck. Got any ideas what is going on?
   Dave Wells - Tuesday, 12/04/01 00:30:23 GMT


This may be the one you are looking for: http://www.metalwebnews.com/howto/optpyro.html
   Garry - Tuesday, 12/04/01 01:55:40 GMT

case-hardened cut nails, for nailing firring strips to cinderblock walls, etc., might behave like that if put through a hot enough fire.
   - Elmo Thagart - Tuesday, 12/04/01 05:02:47 GMT

what? never heard of case-hardened cut nails? yup, nasty little bastards, a bit before the advent of nail-guns or powder-actuated hammers. Like about 1950 or so. When you bent one it just might send a shard of steel into your eye.
   - Elmo Thagart - Tuesday, 12/04/01 05:23:47 GMT

Nails All the cut nails I've seen were the really hard ones. On the other hand if you go to buy nails by the case you will find that nails are no longer made in the USA. They are imported from Poland, Thailand, India. . . . . anywhere there is developing indusry. specs? QC?
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/01 13:48:29 GMT

Dave; Cut Nails:

This won't help you with your current batch of bad nails (red short? cheapie imports? case hardened?) but for future reference the best source for domestically produced cut nails is: http://www.tremontnail.com/about.htm . Tremont Nail Company has been in business since the 19th century, and still uses much of its original machinery. I advocate it to all of my friends who come to me for nails (since there are other, more interesting projects on my dance card than making nails). I suspect that your first batch may have been from Tremont or one of their long-gone competitors.

Blue skies, warm breezes and sunny weather on the banks of the Potomac. It surely does not look like the 4th of December!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 12/04/01 14:22:17 GMT

You are the MAN!!!! At least if not the page I had seen it will do nicely. Thanks!
   Ralph - Tuesday, 12/04/01 15:49:08 GMT

Guru and others,
I am looking for info on my heirloom anvil. My Grandfather was using it in the 1920s, and it will remain in the family for as long as I live (I'm looking for a good forge to go with it). I'd like to narrow down who made it and when, and it's approximate value. Any interesting info you can give me would be most appreciated.
No markings have been found on it.
I have been told it is probably a Mouse Hole or Wilkinson.
32" long.
13.5" high.
5.5" wide on top.
Two steel plates forged on top.
The steel plating ends between the HH and the PH.
The PH is punched rather than drilled.
The root of the horn is up-side-down-house-shaped.
It has a painful ring.
Photos available.

Thank you!
   Justin Odhner - Tuesday, 12/04/01 16:12:39 GMT


Send scans of the photo's via e-mail, and I'll do the best I can to identify it for you. You might try rubbing the sides down with a ScotchBrite pad, and then make a rubbing of the sides. Sometimes the markings are very faint. Also look under the horn for any markings.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 12/04/01 17:31:01 GMT

dear guru,
i have patinated some copper the low-tech way, ie exposed to urine and the elements, and would like to preserve the lovely light blue-green color. when i applied beeswax, however, it darkened the patina. is there any way that i can preserve the hue? i prefer low-tech, evironment-friendly; the item is to be made into jewelry; and i don't know much about metalsmithing. tia.
   allene - Tuesday, 12/04/01 20:17:07 GMT

Justin, It might be a William Foster, English, made in the mid-1800s. Keep looking for markings. I just re-faced one and didn't discover markings until I cleaned the waist with the horn to my left. The "Anvils in America" book says that is the side on which the Imperial British weight numbers are
stamped. And I found some. The Fosters look very much like the Mouse Holes and the Wilkinsons.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/05/01 01:21:20 GMT

Bruce Blackstone,
I bought these nails at S.O.F.A. the soft ones. Today I took one of the old bent up nails, ( ones that were disintergrating when heated ) bent it double in the vise cold without breaking. There must be mixed stock I'm working with. I've used concrete nails in my younger days, there hard to begin with and your right, better be careful of flying projectiles. Thanks for all the comments guys.
   - Dave Wells - Wednesday, 12/05/01 01:52:24 GMT

Guru, thanks for the advice on the silversmithing spring hammer. I was thinking it might be perfect for cracking peanuts while entertaning guests in my living room this holiday season.On a serious note I would like to get a general idea what the going shop rate is, so not to undercut any of my fellow craftspeople.I've been smithing for about 8 years and mostly make early american latch work and associated hardware. Also take on any related work. Right now I am gearing up to do Japanese Tansu Hardware, ( which I posted some concerns here before about),and trying to determine what to charge. This is my first real serious business attempt. Any advice. Most of the work I've done through the years was for the "Honeydo" list.( "Honey do this and do that") You get the picture. THANKS -Scott
   scott - Wednesday, 12/05/01 01:58:45 GMT

Finishes Allene, A good water clear lacquer is about the best finish for preserving oxide finishes. It generaly does not make the surface look dark and wet like varnishes. Its not low tech and contains benzine. But lacquer is one of the few finishes that doesn't wet the surface and also seals and protects.

Beeswax and other waxes react chemicaly with copper and other active metals. Copper turns the wax a nice bayberry green. I had noticed the phenomenem on brass candle sticks I'd made. A candlemaker friend of mine discovered this when he had me make him a fancy brass metlting pot. For bulk coloring we made up a set of copper plates that hung from a hook into his big cast iron melting pot.

The wax on copper will turn your skin green too.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/01 02:24:21 GMT

hey guru. i was wondering if you could give me a good idea for a christmas gift for a special young lady friend of mine. i was looking for ideas along the lines of something simple like horseshoe cowboys. something i could throw together real quick if you know what i mean. i appreciate your time.
russell cannon
   russell cannon - Wednesday, 12/05/01 04:00:29 GMT

On the Road Well. . . I'll finaly be on my way home tommarow. If I get home by noon we should have an iForge demo.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/01 04:20:20 GMT

Gift of Love A treasured possesion of the wife of a blacksmith friend is a heart made of scrolls all carefully forge welded at the point. Its both creative, beautiful and not difficult to make.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/01 04:22:32 GMT

guru, thanks for the reply on the pub. I ordered a hat but i havent seen any thing on that yet.I made my first pair of tonges this week end but they did not turn out very well. My boss is a smith and said he draws out the handles first. What do u think would be easier. And also how can i heat the middle of my stock that wont fit in my fire pot? One more ? I just found a coal suppler closest to me in Richmond V.A. and all he carries is P coal. He said thats what the smiths in colonail williamsburg use, is that half way deceant? Thanks alot
   - Chris E. - Wednesday, 12/05/01 12:24:49 GMT

I was wondering if you could help me find a manufacturer of "hammered metal". I am looking for large quantities about .08"-.125" thick for making fireplace fronts out of. Any direction would be appreciated.
   Rick Berg - Wednesday, 12/05/01 13:16:14 GMT

Russel; Gift for Your Lady:

To expand on the Great Guru's suggestion; how about a heart shaped trivet? It would be something she would use often, and remind her of you. (On the other hand, it might be a little too utilitarian.) There are plenty of examples in books of Colonial ironwork.

Another warm, spring-like day on the banks of the Potomac. Some of the flowers and trees are starting to bud and bloom. We'll be SORRRY...

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 12/05/01 13:23:28 GMT

Frank; did you grind smooth, hardface or weld on another plate? I have a Foster that lost 9/10ths of the face and plan to re-face it; but plan to salvage the bit of face left---1828 blister steel! Gonna make some rondezvooer a *real* knife! with what's left. Would like more...

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 12/05/01 14:16:33 GMT


> Another warm, spring-like day on the banks of the Potomac. Some of the flowers and trees are starting to bud and
bloom. We'll be SORRRY...

Tell me about it. Looking for the middle to high 70's today in Carolina. I don't EVEN want to think about what it'll be like in another month. January and February are going to be MEAN.

Guru, Remind me to take pictures of that horse shoe trivet. It would make a quick and dirty iForge demo.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Wednesday, 12/05/01 14:25:00 GMT

Hi guru,
I live in Israel and I'm looking for an anvil.
Here in Israel it is difficult to find used Anvils,
so I will probably have to buy a new one.
I found a place selling peddinghuase anvils, but
for a very high price (about three times more then
a cast anvil made in the chech republic).
I would like your opinion about the quality of this
anvils, and if it is worthwhile spending so much money
on them,
Another option is producing my own anvil by hardenning
the face of steel cut to an anvil form , using hardenning
electrodes, will I be getting a good anvil , or one that
will break after some use.
   amit - Wednesday, 12/05/01 15:19:40 GMT

Another gift Idea is also on the iForge page. The Heart Hook. My wife seems to like them. Also after you finish forging them, wire brush to get the scale off, then while it is still pretty warm(a black heat) brush it with a brass brush. Will give it golden highlights.... Thatis my wifes favorite one.

Oh, I also punch two nail holes in it so they can be nailed/screwed to a wall to be used.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 12/05/01 16:11:38 GMT


Quickie Christmas Gifts.

(Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Some years ago, I was working at the forge when Sheri came out to see what I was doing. When she asked, I answered that I was making beam hooks for an order from a lady in Bethania. Sheri commented, "I think every woman in town has beam hooks, except me!"

While daddy didn't raise a genius, he didn't raise an idiot, either. I had two dozen brand spanking new beam hooks in my hand when I walked into the house for break.

Cost me my break, I had to put them up on the end of the cabinet. She uses them to hang our coffee mugs on.

Doesn't take much, as long as YOU made it.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 12/05/01 16:15:40 GMT

Got my hands on three 1.25x14 inch grade 8 bolts and nuts from old oilfield pump jacks.(six spaced marks on head of bolt means grade 8 right?)

What is the steel in these bolts, and can it be hardened for chisels etc?

Any clever ideas of what these things can be turned into?

   Gary - Wednesday, 12/05/01 16:28:56 GMT

roses make a nice gift for any lady and a steel one last forever, I know of at least 3 paterns for makeing them and 2 are in Iforge not to hard or time consuming ..... but my girl loves the one I made her.
   MP - Wednesday, 12/05/01 16:33:25 GMT

Roses given with a card that reads:

"Like my love for you, this rose will never fade."

Good for more than you can imagine! (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 12/05/01 17:17:10 GMT

Bolts Gary, Grade 8 bolts are a medium carbon alloy steel such as 4140. It is a tough high strength steel but is not designed to be hard such as for cutting. Yes the steel must be heat treated.

Lots of dies, drifts, hammer and other tough tools that need some hardness are made from this steel. That diameter is large enough to make hammers. The head on them is a good start to a mushroom stake (a type of anvil used in sheet metal work) or anvil die.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/01 19:51:19 GMT

Anvils Amit, Peddinghaus anvils are expensive because they are the only forged steel anvil currently made. All the rest are cast. Most cast steel anvils are very good but there are some that though the materials are good they are not heat treated properly.

Yes you can make your own anvil but unless you want something very special the Czech anvils would be a better deal. Hardfacing rod is designed for wear resistance, not particularly high strength impact duty. It also requires a lot of electricity (may be expensive where you are) AND a lot of labor grinding out bad spots and rewelding.

The best way to make your own anvil is to purchase a heavy piece of medium carbon steel or alloy steel plate (1050, 4150, 8160), shape it and flame harden the face OR have the whole heat treated.

If you use heavy mild steel plate you are best off the flame harden it (heat the surface with a rose bud and quench just behind the flame) and redress the surface as it becomes marked. If you are careful to work hot iron and not hit the face with a hammer, a "soft" anvil will give very good service.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/01 20:02:03 GMT

I was walking through the local department store (Home Depot to be exact) and happened across a strange type of brazing/welding/cutting torch (at least to a 16 year old know nothing like myself). It used two cylinders. One was oxygen, and the other wasn't acetylene but something called MAPP, methyl acetylene or something like that. I am a high school metal working student and my class has not had the privilege of using the oxyacetylene torch yet.

Several questions:

Is this kind of torch a good, cheap and effective alternative for hobby work as opposed to oxyacetylene?
How hot does a MAPP and oxygen torch burn?
Where does one get acetylene and/or inert (for MIG or TIG welding)?

Anything you know would help. Thanks for enlightening me.

Much appreciated.

   Robert - Thursday, 12/06/01 00:53:12 GMT

I was walking through the local department store (Home Depot to be exact) and happened across a strange type of brazing/welding/cutting torch (at least to a 16 year old know nothing like myself). It used two cylinders. One was oxygen, and the other wasn't acetylene but something called MAPP, methyl acetylene or something like that. I am a high school metal working student and my class has not had the privilege of using the oxyacetylene torch yet.

Several questions:

Is this kind of torch a good, cheap and effective alternative for hobby work as opposed to oxyacetylene?
How hot does a MAPP and oxygen torch burn?
Where does one get acetylene and/or inert (for MIG or TIG welding)?

Anything you know would help. Thanks for enlightening me.

Much appreciated.

   Robert - Thursday, 12/06/01 00:53:32 GMT

Shoot, sorry I posted twice. My browser's old, and I though I pushed the "Clear" post button, but I didn't. Insted I posted it twice. Please forgive me.


   Robert - Thursday, 12/06/01 00:57:54 GMT

MAPP Gas: Robert, I've never used MAPP but it is used as an economical replacement for acetylene. It is a mixture of fuel gases that is not quite as dangerous as acetylene and burns hotter than propane. MAPP/air torches have significantly higher temperatures and BTU than propane and the MAPP/O2 torch is even hotter. I will look up the specifics later.

All your regular industrial gases are gotten from a welding supplier. They also often carry Propane and MAPP. Inert gases come straight and mixed. The most common used for MIG is Argon/CO2. For TIG, Argon is most commonly used because it is heavier and less expensive than Helium. The Argon/CO2 mix can be used for TIG on steel but straight Argon is used on Aluminium.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/01 01:40:42 GMT

Thomas Powers, I'm too lazy to check the guru's archives on rebuilding anvil faces. I know this; there are many schools of thought. There are those who think it is sacrilege to even consider welding on an old anvil. There are articles written about the proper electrodes to use. There are concerns about losing temper on the face.

I'm an old self-taught stick welder, and I don't consider myself an expert. I can only tell you what I did on the old Foster. It had quite a "saddle" on the face due to wear factors. The top edges, fore and aft, were slightly mushroomed over. I "buttered my bread" by putting down a layer of 7018, especially where it was lowest. I then did my buildup with 10018 over that layer. I used multiple passes. The owner of the anvil was called, because he promised to do most of the grinding/sanding. We used a side grinder with 7" wheel and discs and checked for daylight with a carpenter's square for daylight.

My opinion is "use it or lose it" with regard to building up old "manufactured" anvils. If it's a proprietary London pattern anvil with possibly stamped letters/numbers on the side, I would consider rebuilding. If it's obviously an ancient pattern that a museum would covet, that is another matter. It's a judgement call.

I'm not too concerned about losing temper. I don't care how soft it is, as long as it's hard enough. Mostly, hot iron is going to be on the anvil face anyway.

I don't recommend using hard facing rod. One of my old students built up his anvil with something like Stoody, and later reported, "It spiderwebbed on me". He got multitudinous cracks on the face after only a short time of usage.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 12/06/01 01:51:06 GMT

Frank, Guru, Paw Paw or anybody who knows.
I worked a short while in a factory that built mining machinery. Believe me, it was long enough to find out I am not a factory man. I heard mention of something called Stoody there, but never got a chance to use it or see it used. Anybody want to fill me in on this process? Thanks.
   - Larry - Thursday, 12/06/01 02:24:15 GMT

Stoody: Larry, This is a brand of various specialty arc welding rods. Primarily known for hardfacing. Infamously bad for facing anvils (see Frank's comments above). Its used for wear resistant surfaces like on mining and excavation equipment. Ever see a grader or back hoe bucket covered with a grid of weld beads? That is usualy hard facing to protect the surface from wear.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/01 04:06:39 GMT

would like to know how to make a celtic cross.
   Mike C - Thursday, 12/06/01 04:20:07 GMT

Mike C.,

iForge demo #56. You can go to iForge from the "Select a Page" box at the top of this page. Then scroll down to #56 asnd click on the highlighted title.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 12/06/01 04:29:46 GMT

I'm an old student and I am here to tell you that laying down hard-facing rod on anvil is a waste of time. Unless you preheat the bejesus out of the anvil, it will crack transverse to the bead every inch or so. So, just use 6011 and spend a fun-filled afternoon chasing worm tracks. As the blessed Turley says, hard enough is good enough. It'll hold up just fine. Or set the worn out anvil on the porch and get yourself a nice big hunk of transcontinental railroad track to use until you find a good one.
   - Goods Inward - Thursday, 12/06/01 05:01:57 GMT

Mike C.

iForge demo #79 is for the Celtic Cross
Both #56 and #79 for the Fredrick's Cross
   - Conner - Thursday, 12/06/01 05:31:18 GMT

Is a brake drum forge an OK method to begin, or would you suggest going with a forge built by a pro? I am a beginner with a great intrest in the art. I have all the tools a beginner needs....hammers, anvil, vices, puches, a shed out back away from the neighbors,etc...but no forge. I want to start out right. Should I build my own or break down and buy one?
   Fenr - Thursday, 12/06/01 06:15:06 GMT

I would like to know if I should buy a forge or build a drum forge....I have everything I need for a drum forge, but wanna start out right. I am a beginner in every sense of the word, I have the tools and the space, but no forge. should I build or buy...is one or the other better?
   Fenr - Thursday, 12/06/01 06:18:33 GMT

Brake Drum Forge: Fenr, These are good for many things. Among them:
  • Testing the available coal. If you cannot get good coal you may have to use a gas or oil forge.
  • Learning the basics and finding out if you REALLY want to do this, economicaly.
  • Doing small projects. All our iForge projects will fit in a brake drum forge.
  • Its portable, you don't have to have a permanent shop.
The drawbacks are the small size. The actual fire size is about the same as a large forge but the space for extra coal to feed the fire is limited. So keep your coal and a shovel nearby. Larger forges have space to lay the work. This is easily solved with a semi-circular stock rack OR an adjustable stock support. Stock supports are also neaded on standard forges as well as being handy for doing long work at the anvil (so making one is not a waste).

Basicaly a brake drum forge is like a forge firepot without the rest of the forge. Many folks set the brake drum in a flat steel plate with low edges to provide more work space. This makes a very servicable forge but I do not recommend it for starting out because you lose some of the advantages in the list above. Matter of fact, I wish I had kept my old "car wheel" forge for those very reasons.

I guess I should add a page of options to the brake drum forge plans.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/01 14:56:33 GMT

This is for Robert up a few posts about those toy MAPP/oxy torches at the Home Despot. DON'T GET ONE! They are a complete waste of time and money if you ever intend to do anything besides sweat copper pipe. They are faster than a propane torch, but four times as finicky, ten times as expensive to feed (you run out of oxy in about five minutes at $7.50 a pop...) and four times as expensive to buy in the first place. Been there, done that, learn from my mistakes. Wait on a real torch, and get it from a welding supply dealer, not a department store.

That said, Welcome to smithing, and have fun!
   Alan-L - Thursday, 12/06/01 16:36:33 GMT

Well when I said re-face, I meant the old fashioned way by forge welding a new one on (I've talked with Postman and this will probably be a multi stage process with the face plate being welded to a wrought iron layer and then welding the stack to the wrought iron body of the anvil) Currently 9/10ths of the face is not there at all!

It's not like I'm hard up for an anvil so I plan to do this just for the fun of it, shoot I only have $5 in the dang thing. I should be building the gas forge for welding the top piece this weekend and will probably use a ground forge for the base---but I'll probably wait on spring to try the final weld. (and yes I've seen the cajun blackened anvil website....)

As for "soft" I once had to use a cast iron anvil (my *only* anvil being stolen right before a demo) it would dent under coil spring being forged at cherry red---no need for the hammer to hit it or cold metal!


   - Thomas Powers - Thursday, 12/06/01 16:41:25 GMT

Hi, I'm student from Devon in England, I'm really into History, War History, Martial Arts (Western and Asian) etc. And I've really wanted to start Blacksmithing for some time, how can I get started? I've read the getting started section and I'm sure that would be helpful for beginners who want to use their skill as a career and live in the US, but I'm only 16 so can't afford a course or very expensive equipment and I'd only like to Blacksmith as a hobby. Do you know how I can contact someone in Devon who I could learn from, or any other way I could learn here? I just need to know how to get my foot in the door really.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

   Paul - Thursday, 12/06/01 16:52:56 GMT

Department Store Tools: In almost all cases you are best off NOT to buy store branded tools or any non-professional tools in this business.

I made the huge mistake of purchasing a "Professional" store brand (from "where America shops") oxy-acetylene welding outfit. Two years later I went in blacksmithing full time and thought I should have a better variety of tips. None were available except the sizes that came with the set (one size cutting tip). I wrote letters and made phone calls trying to find who made it as I was SURE it was made by a major manufacturer. Nope. It was no longer made and no longer supported. It was one of my first expensive investments in new tools and it was unmaintainable. Eventualy the whole set was scrapped as valves went bad and could not be repaired.

I replaced it with a Victor Journeyman set. Since then I have bought boxes full of ANCIENT Victor torches and tips at auctions that could all be repaired and most of the parts are still interchangable with today's models. I even found a Victor torch coupling that my old torch goosneck fit into! The goosneck is handy because it has a flare that fits a holder I made for hanging up the lit torch while doing small heating jobs.

I've had the same trouble with ALL the electrical tools from "where America shops". I've had the armatures fail on every drill, saw, router and grinder I purchased from that store (a significant investment). All used thin copper sheet over plastic for the commutators instead of solid copper blocks. These "tools" were designed to be pretty and hang on the shelf, the maker gambling on it never being used . . . It may be why they now carry major industrial brands such a Milwaukee.

Be forewarned however. Milwaukee is now making "homeowner" grade tools to fill this market and Black and Decker no longer supports the professional market. B&D turned over their professional tool line to DeWalt. To purchase my favorite HD angle grinder previously made by B&D you have to go to DeWalt.

As Bill Epps recently posted on the Hammer-In, "Good tools always pay for themselves".
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/01 17:41:09 GMT

Addition to Bill's comment:

There are no such things as cheap tools. If they're tools, they aren't cheap, if they're cheap, they aren' tools.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 12/06/01 18:06:13 GMT

Hobby Smithing Paul, Our article Getting Started was actualy written as a path for hobby smiths. The welding courses mentioned are introductory in nature and recommended because it is much easier and efficeint to build your own equipment if you can use modern welding equipment. Most schools will let you build a project such as a forge and this can go long way toward your goal.

Someone looking to go into art smithing as a profession would want to start with a college education in art and sculpture with additional courses in business and accounting (since most are self employed). They would want to supplement this with our reading list as well as taking summer courses at the various crafts schools (every summer while going to college). Afterward they would want to purchase most of their equipment new (some used from dealers) rather than spending a lifetime collecting the necessary tools as do amatures, hobbiests and part time smiths. Those seeking to go into more technical fields such a bladesmithing need to study metalurgy and engineering and those going into armor need to study metalurgy and history.

Our Getting Started article still applies. The books listed are available in the UK and NEED to be studied. There is a link to how to build a cheap forge and we also have articles on low cost anvils on our 21st Century page.

To find a blacksmith near you go to our ABANA-Chapter page (also linked from the Getting Started article and contact the British Artist Blacksmith Association (BABA).

However, you will find that you will need to do most of your learning on your own.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/01 18:17:13 GMT

Mapp gas torch: Yeah, what Alan said. A complete waste of money. There is no regulator - the valves are cheap and the adjustment is very tricky. By the time you get the flame set right you will be out of oxygen. I gave mine away and kicked myself twice for being an idjit.

I think that for about $150 you can get a basic Victor setup (without tanks) - 3x times the price and about 100x as good.

A good oxy fuel torch is *extremely* useful and if you are into metalworking you should plan on buying one soon as possible but hold out for something decent.
   adam - Thursday, 12/06/01 20:41:04 GMT

Years and years ago, I fell for one of the Solid-Ox kit's. Burned a tablet of some chemical that produced oxygen, and used MAPP gas as the fuel. Used it about three times, when the last Oxy pellet was gone, took it apart, threw the brass in the brass barrel and the rest of it in the trash.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 12/06/01 20:51:16 GMT

Consider used Milwaukee tools instead of new. A good friend ran the Milwaukee gear hobbing shop. When Amstar bought them a while back, the first thing the Amstar MBA's did was to tell the gear shop how many gears to make per sharpening. It was 50% more than the average they were running. Friend stuck around for a couple more years and then quit in disgust.

I bought a Milwaukee chop saw a couple years ago. Made in Taiwan. No power compared to my old B&D. Same amp rating.

A new Skil 1/2" hammer drill makes the equivalent Milwaukee look REAL sick.

I had the same problem with "where America shops" tools.

I've gravitated to Porter Cable tools in most cases. Some Bosch if made in South Carolina. Many of the Dewalt tools are the same as the B&D with different plastic and a bigger price tag. A marketing gimmick in some cases. I do have to admit that the toughest drill I have is a $12 tan B&D 1/4" single speed. 6 inch cord, cheapest thing you can imagine and its noisy as heck. I use it for 1/8" pilot holes. Can't kill it. We had the same luck with the same drill in a production environment. 2 or 3 good Milwaukees per B&D. And the B&D's were much lighter to carry around.

I guess I'm suggesting there is good and bad in any product line.

I was just looking at the new Centaur sale flier. Anybody have experience with the Vaughan anvils?
   - Tony - Thursday, 12/06/01 21:21:00 GMT

Since I don't have an air compressor, I'd like to find an alternative way to make a sandblaster. I know little to nothing about sandblasting, so please fill me in on where I'm way off. I don't expect to do a lot of sandblasting, but there are some cases where it sure would come in handy.

1) Use my shopvac or maybe leaf blower and have the abrasive feed down a funnel somewhere near, or at, the end of the hose. My leaf blower's got 450 cfm, and advertises 195 mph (~130 fps). Is this enough air to do the job?

2) Put a 6-inch wire wheel on my bench grinder and funnel the sand (or whatever) onto the top. 3800 rpm X 6inch X pi ~= 90 fps. Again, enough velocity to do the job?

I would need some cabinet to hold the mess in both above cases. Both of these methods sound too easy, so why haven't I seen them in any archives on the net? What am I missing?

   marc - Friday, 12/07/01 01:51:23 GMT

Drill Bits-

I've been using the Vermont American "Sidewinder" drill bits for metalwork for the last few years. They are very aggressive, and a bit tricky to use, which may explain why I can't find them in any of the local retail stores lately, even though they are still listed at the company website. (And yes, I tried looking at the store chains they list, and they're not there.)

I do most of my work on metal with a hand-cranked drill press or a geared down 3/8" electric hand drill with side handle. Low speed, high torque, variable pressure.

So, what type drill bits have worked for you all for metal? Price IS a consideration, so the titanium shanked drills with the degraded uranium core (just to keep the metal warm) and the dylithium crystal cutting edge are probably right out. Just looking for that cosmic balance between efficiency, expense, safety and convenience.

Clouding up and cooling down on the banks of the lower Potomac. Maybe autumn is back?

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 12/07/01 01:56:56 GMT


I use standard HSS drill bits from my local steel supplier. They work fine.

I'm going to put a plug in here for a manufactured item. I try not to do this very often.

Last Christmas, my wife and daughter bought me a Drill Doctor. They bought the middle model, the handyman 500. I used it ONCE, took it back to Lowes, returned it and had the store order me the Pro 750 model.

With the Handyman 500 I took a BROKEN 3/8" drill bit, sharpened it, and put it in the drill press. Cut like brand new. The only reason I went and got the larger model is that it will sharpen a wider range of sizes. The machines sharpen regular cut, split point, two different angles of cut, masonry bits, you name it.

Worth every penny I paid for it.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/07/01 02:21:14 GMT

For those starting out with a not so good anvil. You can learn where on the face to straighten stock, unless its absolutely junk. But if the corners are bad and you don't or want to fix it heres a solution some of us pour smiths use. Get a thick plate at least 1inch thick, the thicker the better. Weld a hardy tang on that fits your hardy hole. Now when you need to have good corners for forging install it on the anvil, its portable and useful.
   Dave Wells - Friday, 12/07/01 03:03:05 GMT

I'll second Tony about Milwaukee tools and only buy them second hand..and older. The newest Milwaukee tools I have are poor quality compaired to the old ones.
MILWAUKEE NO LONGER HONORS THEIR LIFETIME GUARANTEE!! I found. Their new peanut grinders have weak drivetrains...their new chopsaw is badly underpowered..wahhhhh. They were a fine outfit...once.
Leaf blower sand blasting will be pretty slow.. but it oughta work.
The sand fed wire brush proposal is a crack up! I like it! Orient the brush horizontally and get 360 degrees of effective working arc. It will be hard on motor bearings..a cabinet would help..with a vacume dust extractor.
Like sand blasting, both proposals are an invitation to silicosis.
There are shot peening machines that hurl hard polished shot at metal for finishing that work in a vaguely similar manner.Let us know if it works, if you would.
An old compressor from a freezer can be scrounged and will work, slowly .You will need a big volume of pressurized storage . Pressure vessels have to be done right or they are an explosion hazard. A cheapie $15 siphon sand blast gun will also work, slowly.
I hate finishing.

   - Pete F - Friday, 12/07/01 04:12:06 GMT


Mixing sand and wire wheels is, in my opion, not a good idea. The wheels are dangerous enough. Ask PawPaw about that one.

A sandblaster uses high pressure air (100 psi and above), and lots of it, to deliver the sand with enough volicity to cut into the object being blasted. Shop vacs just do not have the pressure or volumn of air needed to do the job.

One alternative way is to put the sand and the object in a rotating drum. Takes a while but gets the job done without the expense of the compressor.
   - Conner - Friday, 12/07/01 04:14:41 GMT

guru,pawpaw someone tell me if P-coal is any good because thats the only kind i can find near me and thats an hour drive and a missed day of work so i what to get enoth to last me awhile. Its in Richmond V.A. and he said its what the guys in colonail williamsburg use. Comes in 12# bags for $1.25 a bag if u buy 100 bags or more or else its $1.60 a bag. Is it worth it??
   Chris E. - Friday, 12/07/01 12:29:58 GMT

Chris; Coal:

That's a hair more than $0.10 a pound at the 100-bag price. I've had 720+ pounds, which I had to truck down from northernmost Maryland, last me a couple of years (although the last couple of years haven't been heavy on production, due to other obligations). As for quality, pea coal is considered very desirable for size; and if Peter Ross and his crew use this at Williamburg, it must be up to snuff.

But hey, I'm jus' a dirt (cough) burner. None of those fancy (cough) gas forges for the likes (achoo!) of me!

Cloudy and cooler on the banks of the Potomac. Some actual rain last night. Hurrah!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/
   Bruce Blackistone - Friday, 12/07/01 12:57:42 GMT


P-coal is actually Pea Coal. It's just a description of the size of the chunks. If it's what Colonial Williamsburg uses, it's the best they can get. The price isn't great, but it isn't too bad, either. I'd say go for it.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/07/01 14:11:32 GMT

Pea Coal "P-coal": As said above "pea" is the size and has nothing to do with quality. It could be black pea gravel (or what they call red-dog and pave roads with in West Virginia) by that discription.

NEVER EVER buy coal in bulk until you test a sample or have someone else's assurance (besides the seller) that it is good coal. Pay for UPS shipping for a sample bag (or two). Bruce Wallace, Centaur Forge and Kayne and Son all sell top quality smithing coal. Get some from them to use as a standard for comparison. When I was at Williamsburg 2 years ago they were using nut size coal.

You can get a welding heat in a few minutes with a small fire with good coal. It will also coke down without a lot of effort.
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 15:43:49 GMT

Sandblasting: This is a field where horsepower is king. It is a slow time consuming process with big engine powered air compressors (what most pros use) and everything from there down is best for emergency use only.

If you are removing paint there is the problem of disposing of the contaminated sand (yes, it is classified hazardous waste). There is a new process using ground up dry ice for grit because it eleviates the grit disposal problem.

Tumblers are very low horsepower devices but can run unattended for hours. My dad built one using automobile tires for the drum. They run on powered rollers. It works but is very picky about speed. Better tumblers have hex or pentagon shaped drums. Rubber lining helps protect corners of parts.

Sand can be used but the modern method is to use tumbling "media". This is like special shaped gravel made of the same vitrified stuff as grinding wheels or sharpening stones. Some is cylindrical shaped with slanted ends (like French cut beans) and others pyramidal. It comes in diferent grits. Water is used to keep the dust down.

The same media is used in a vibratory finisher. These are also relatively low HP but are complicated to build. In the big commercial ones the media "rolls" due to the vibration and the parts come to the top every so often so you can reach in and pull them out while the machine runs. Very handy devices but it is best to have them outside or in a seperate room as they tend to be noisy. However, for a few dollars a day they will replace a full time laborer deburing and wire brushing parts. I know a smith that has one that he is VERY happy with.
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 16:00:42 GMT

Drill Bits: These seemingly simple items come in great variety and many quality levels. Those sold in most of the popular chain hardware stores are junk (even the pretty titanium gold plated ones), and they cost as much (or much more) than first class industrial quality bits.

Last week I was charged $17.50 US for a 1/2" drill bit at one of these stores (it was an emergency job on-the-road). A first class Consolidated brand bit the same size was priced to me this morning at less than $5 from my favorite industrial supplier. A better bit for less than 1/3! I was ripped off in the hardware store.

The difference? The "cheeper" bit has flute tapering so that it has a small "dead center" (the chisel like center point that has to be pushed through the metal). The fancy expensive hardware store bit does not have a tapered flute. So the first time it is resharpened (without a split point grinder) it is useless. With good drill bits you do not reach this point until about 20% of the bit is ground away. See MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK for details if you are interested.

A good industrial supplier will also stock "stub" length bits. These are about 1/2 the length of standard "jobbers" length bits. These shorter bits are much less likely to break in hand held drilling operations. Any time I am doing hand drilling I purchase these short drills. They are also much better for small holes if you do not need the extra length.

Taps are the same way. Hardware store taps are junk. They charge more for the plated ones that start with dull edges due to the plating. . . Good taps are bright and shiney from the grinding process. They tend to stay that way due to the high alloy content.

I retire most taps after the first job or a couple dozen holes. It sounds wasteful but extracting a broken tap will cost you the price of a dozen taps. Re-using a used tap of unknown condition is a huge gamble. However, I DO save the old taps. They are the best tool steel I have found and make great gravers and boring bits (where you need a bit to fit in the round hole of a shop made tool).
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 16:28:14 GMT

One of the things I like about the Drill Doctor is the ability to convert the "el cheapo" bits into split point bits.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/07/01 16:36:03 GMT

Richmond pea coal
If it is at Hungerford it is good coal. It is New River stoker coal.
Ask them to bulk load it into a truck for a better price.
   - JohnC - Friday, 12/07/01 16:40:01 GMT

ANOTHER New Virus: If you haven't updated your anti-virus software in the past two days then it won't stop this one called GONE (as in your files). It comes with a nice note from a friend asking you to "try this". . .

There is a new virus almost every week. And almost all of them take advantage of serious security holes in Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer as well as the MS Office Suite. When 10 year olds can write a self probagating e-mail virus as an MS-Word macro it is a serious problem. This problem is Microsoft's (primarily Bill Gates') but they (he) take no responsibility for it.

Anti-virus software is taking the cure after you have the disease. They are not a preventitive until after much of the damage has been done. The only preventitive is to stop using MS mail programs. That would stop 99% (or more) of the spread of Internet viruses.

   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 17:48:24 GMT

Bud Beaston started Oklahoma Farriers College a number of years ago in Sperry, OK. One of the students asked him what size he should break his coke into in order to feed a new fire. Bud fires back, "Gravy Trains!"
   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/07/01 18:58:02 GMT

Before buying one, I tried my friend's Drill Doctor and it did a lousy job. It didnt cut the correct relief angle and the bits, while sharp, wouldnt cut. I am sure not all DDs do this poorly but I was soured on the idea of shelling out $100+ for a machine that uses plastic cams.

Then my machinist friend showed me how to sharpen bits by hand on a grindstone and I never looked back. It's quick, it's easy and for most work the accuracy is just fine. On the rare occasion when I need better than 1/64" I use a brand new bit.

The correct motion for sharpening by hand is very hard to describe in words, though once you actually see it, it is very clear how it works and with just a little practice one can get good results
   adam - Friday, 12/07/01 19:12:05 GMT

Thanks for all the ideas and advice. I think I've got some 'sperimentin' to do. I'll post if I come up with something that works.
   marc - Friday, 12/07/01 19:30:54 GMT

If all stopped using MS products the hackers will only write virii for other platforms. Yes MS has security issues, but the main reason we have so many virii for MS is that there are more users. Most hackers do it for the challenge, and what is the challenge in infecting MS products other than the larger audience?
MS needs to improve it's security aspects, but to be honest I do not feel that will stop the writers of bugs... it would be more of a challenge for them to do it
   Ralph - Friday, 12/07/01 20:58:02 GMT

Drill Sharpening: I sharpen a lot of drills by hand and when I am visiting or working in other shops folks usualy ask me to do it as I am pretty good at it. However, the life of a drill bit is highly dependent on the equality of the two cutting edges and a minimum of un-nneaded relief clearance. If is difficult to get the edges perfectly equal by eye. For larger drill bits I use a Starrett drill sharpening gauge. It has the proper 110° angle and a scale to measure the length of the edge. With this tool you can get the two edges very near equal. However, the relief clearance is still judged by eye.

It also takes a grinder with a good medium grit wheel that is properly dressed. Finish drill grinding is done on the flat side of the wheel and rwquires good lighting. Proper dressing of grinding wheels for this type grinding requires a diamond dresser. Common (star) dressers work but do not leave as smooth a surface as needed and should NEVER be used on the side of a grinding wheel.

I've used cheap drill sharpeners and have not been happy with the results. The coarse stones used do a very good job of making the drill much shorter in a hurry. I have also used bench mount drill sharpening jigs. These do a fair job, getting the sides absolutely equal, but do not make the proper relief shape. They also require some picky adjustments that if you lose the little booklets that come with the fixture then you are stuck.

Big professional drill sharpeners are expensive but quickly pay for themselves if you do a lot of large hole drilling where bits cost hundreds of dollars each.

Like taps, I toss small bits when they are dull. Up to about 3/8" (10mm) are not worth sharpening if you are doing metal work.

I have yet to see the results of Paw-paw's Drill doctor. However, I am picky about my bits as I use small 3/16" (5mm) bits for pilot holes and frequently bury them in steel using an old geared head drill press. This requires perfect bits and I often retire bits that are difficult to tell how they are worn, going by sound, feel and the character of the chips.

The economics of re-sharpening vs. replacing is an individual matter. But any size bit or tap that breaks in a finished piece is very costly in manhours (or scrapped parts). It is easy to be penny wise and pound foolish in this situation.
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 23:02:36 GMT

Thanks for the MAPP info. I won’t buy one now. What about purchasing a "Harris Calorific Torch"? It's basically a small oxyacetylene torch. I saw one for $290 in Sears Catalogue. It's a small torch with a 12 lb. oxygen cylinder and a 8 lb. acetylene cylinder. I'd consider buying it, but I don't know where any welding supply stores are, so I can't get the tanks filled. Is this one too small or will it work.


   Robert - Friday, 12/07/01 23:33:18 GMT


I'm not familiar with the unit you describe, but the bottles are VERY small. You'd be much better off with a full size rig. Check in you yellow pages under welding for a supplier.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Friday, 12/07/01 23:50:51 GMT

Robert, Read what I said about buying "where America shops" again.

Look in your Yellow pages. The nearest welding supplier will be listed. They may sell the same thing the department store does. However, if you buy it from them, THEY will be able to tell you about it and if there is a problem getting refills. If you are going to be doing welding then you need to get used to working with the guys in INDUSTRIAL supply places. The department store WILL NOT refil cylinders and is a very expensive place to purchase supplies (all special ordered).

Yeah, the industrial guys are not as friendly (or as pretty) as the little girl working at the department store check out. But they KNOW at least a little about the products they sell and the in the better places they are VERY knowledgable and will be a great deal of help IF you talk to them and LISTEN. . .

These guys may be 50 miles away. But it will be well worth the trip. And remember, if they are that far, you WILL be making the trip over and over. It pays to let your fingers do the walking. . . If you have no luck then call local welders or steel erectors. If you tell them you are getting into blacksmithing (not competing with them) they might tell you where they get their supplies and who is good to deal with.

I can't help you with this any further unless you live near Lynchburg, (or Richmond) VA and then I'd send you to my guys.
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/01 23:52:49 GMT


Different strokes for different folks. There are two separate settings for the relief angle on the Professional model. I recently did a bit with the wrong setting. Took me about 20 seconds to realize what I had done. Re-set the machine to the correct setting (was set for a masonry bit, which is the WRONG setting for a regular drill bit) re-sharpened the bit and had no further problem.

I'll admit that the plastic cams worry me some, but so far, so good.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/07/01 23:54:08 GMT

OK. I'll check it out. Sorry but I don't live anywhere near Virginia, I actually live in Northeastern Ohio.

Do I have to have a special license or something like that to buy acetylene or oxygen cylinders from an industrial supply store, or can I just walk in there and by it?

Also, does a full tank of acetylene (or oxygen for that matter) really, really, really expensive?
   Robert - Saturday, 12/08/01 00:30:10 GMT

guru and assistants,

I have a polishing question regarding brass - I have been using "Brasso" to try and polish out blemishes on the surface, but all I achieve is a silvery look, rather than the goldish color that I want - any thoughts on getting that would be greatly apppreciated- btw, this surface is very large, so I would like to use a electric something to do most of the work. if that would work. thank you in advance.
   john - Saturday, 12/08/01 00:56:35 GMT

I've made a hunting blade out of an old ( 60 years ) family heirloom machete that was probably a car spring. The steel is good, but a bit soft. How should I heat treat it to make it last as a hunting knife? Thanks
   Randy - Saturday, 12/08/01 01:06:52 GMT

I recently purchased a Champion 400 blower, all seems well inside and out, except the thing is very noisy, bearings all ok, is there a bushing that can be replaced where the fan shaft comes through, and what kinda of lubrication ans amount is best. thanks
   Ed - Saturday, 12/08/01 01:51:25 GMT

John use tomato paste put it on leave for 30 min. rinse with water repete if nessary...cleans brass and copper try ketchup on a penny
   james wolfe - Saturday, 12/08/01 05:48:01 GMT

Color of Brass: John, most brass when first cleaned and polished is closer to gold in color than brass. However, the bare clean surface will rapidly oxidize (tarnish) to a yellow, then a deep yellow and eventualy a brown. Most modern (up to 100 years old) finished brass objects are chemicaly oxidized to the desired color and then lacquered to stop the color change. On these items the lacquer will need to be stripped before polishing the item all over.

Buffing is an art. Buffing wheels are primarily made of cotton and sewn differently to create various hardnesses. A medium hard swen wheel is best for brass as softer wheels are primarily for softer metals. Then there is the abrasive to use. There are four basic types that come in a wax base for application to the wheel. Emery, Tripoli, Rouge and White (for stainless steel). Tripoli is generaly used for brass. Rouge is used on soft wheels to finish gold and silver. Emery is used primarily on steel but can be used to cut brass. 6" buffing wheels turning about 2400 RPM work well.

You can also use automotive rubbing compound. I prefer dupont orange. This can be used on a lambs wool buff on a low speed angle grinder (sander, polisher). Keep the compound wet or it will cut swirl marks into the surface. It is best to finish by hand with rubbing compound using soft cotten rags (old diapers of t-shirts). You use progressively less and less until all you are polishing with is the surface residue.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 16:33:51 GMT

Welding Cylinders: No, you do not need a license to purchase or use them but it would be a good idea. Every user should take a trade school welding class and learn ALL the applicable safety rules and how to handle welding cylinders. Each type of gas comes in different types of cylinders and each has a peculiarity.

Except for the smallest cylinders you generaly do not purchase them, you lease them. If you have credit with the supplier this can be monthly but usualy leases are 1, 5 and 10 year. Some places also have "lifetime" leases. The difference between this and owning the cylinders is that there is certian maintenance and recertification required on cylinders and when you own them then the expense is on you.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 16:41:07 GMT

That's all we need, Jock, yup, some guy in doubleknits with a $25 haircut and a clipboard checking your ticket before you can get your bottles exchanged or some more rod down at the welding boutique. Truly a great idea. Already I need a ticket to take trash to the transfer station, etc., etc. One more won't hurt. How about a five-day waiting period for grinding wheels? FYI: Harris-Calorific is a division of Lincoln, and Harris makes terrific equipment, stands behind it, repair it, has great customer service and tech support departments. Sears is a whole different story. They only seem to offer a one-year guarantee nowadays, not the forever warranty that they once had. They do have a special repair office that will take in old Craftsman equipment for repair. Phone 214-553-6783. Ask for Carol Price. It only took me about six weeks and dozens of phone calls to locate it, because hardly anybody in the Sears organization seems to know about it (in fact, they deny it exists!)-- it ain't in the computer. Get Harris name brand or some other major U.S. name brand gear-- Victor, Smith, etc.-- and skip the hassle. Yours in well-smitten smiting, Miles Undercut, acting provost, Cracked Anvil Center for Analysis
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 12/08/01 17:03:24 GMT

P.S. Do not think for a moment that you can just run down to your local Sears or Sears repair shop with your daddy's old Craftsman rig and cash in on the old guaranteed-forever warranty. No way. Every clerk at every Sears 800 service number-- and there are many-- said they could not and would not fix old welding gear. My local Sears manager told me to get lost and the local Sears repair shop denied-- and this was even after Sears' own Ms. Price (whose number I got from a nice lady at Harris!)had given me detailed instruction on how to return my stuff!-- that she or her special repair shop existed. I persisted, though, because the rig had served well for almost 30 years, simply needed new O-rings, and was primo heavy-duty equipment: 2-stage regulators, torch rated to cut 6 inches, etc. In the end, Harris decided it was too old to fix-- but gave me a fabulous deal on replacement with equivalent quality stuff. Moral: as Jock says, deal direct with name brand manufacturers, or their local vendors (if you absolutely have to). Yr. obdt. svt., Miles Undercut
   Miles Undercut - Saturday, 12/08/01 19:34:18 GMT

can anyone tell me if o1 steel can be water quenched so it can be clay tempered? i just started hand forging a blade out of this steel and it sure feels different than the 1095 that i'm used to. is there anything i should watch out for forging o1.
   chris makin - Saturday, 12/08/01 20:19:26 GMT

My query is in regards to making a zinc countertop. I consider myself a handy homeowner, but by no means a metalsmith. I am, however, about to finally do something with the zinc sheets I purchased in the summer. I have built 3/4" plywood tops with 1x3's to strengthen them and add to the height.
I've got Weldwood contact cement that claims to adhere to metal & wood. I'll solder the seams- which will only appear on the vertical edges & underside of a small backsplash ledge.

So far in my bending tests I find that this apparently very malleable material tears easily, so I am afraid of compromising the metal at the edges of the countertop. I have gotten differing advice about scoring it before I bend - to score the zinc on the inside or outside of the bend before forming. My small tests tell me not to score it at all, but rather to heat it. Any advice on the subject in general would be greatly appreciated.

   Patrick - Saturday, 12/08/01 20:49:42 GMT

Zinc Patrick, I have only one question, WHY?. Zinc is soft and highly chemicaly reactive (don't EVEN lay food on it that you intend to eat). It oxidizes both black and white and the white is a powdery mess (also poison). It is only a few degrees less dangerous than making a counter top out of lead.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 21:03:13 GMT

O1 quench: Chris, Yes if the water is hot and the steel is only hot enough. The fact is that a high carbon tool steel on a thin edge may air quench. Make a short dummy section of the blade you are making (same cross section) and test it. This will save you a lot of frustration and heart ache later.

Also remember that the Japanese blades were wraped with a soft laminate that became the back of the blade and that they were not a monolithic section. You are applying a process that was not originaly applyed to one steel blades.

When forging alloy steels you must be careful not to overheat and to heat gently at first. The alloys seperate and the metal crumbles if overheated. You also do not want to work it too cool. This means a narrower forging range than non-alloy steels. Also remember that O1 is designed to be a stable tool and die steel. It was not designed to be particularly forgeable.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 21:36:14 GMT

Noisy Blower: Ed, Noisy gear boxes means worn out gears OR a shaft that one or more bearings are bad and letting the gears over or under mesh (too tight or too loose) resulting in wear.

In warm invironments you can use SAE-80 gear oil but in cold weather or in tight boxes this becomes too stiff and you want to use SAE-30. You fill these boxes up to the filler and let them leak. They leak constantly so you have to be replacing the oil often (but do not overfill, they just leak faster). The leaking oil is usualy why the gears are often worn out.

Oil might help the noise. Sorry for the bad news.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 21:42:12 GMT

Old Machete: Randy, Must not of been much of an heirloom if you made something else out of it. . . Spring steel? How do you know? Many of these were made from ANY steel that could be found and were often soft.

If you don't know what kind of steel you have, you need to test a scrap. Trial and error heat treating until you get what you want or learn about the steel. If the machete was made of mild steel or structural steel as many were then it will not have enough carbon to harden enough to be a good hunting knife. See our Heat Treating FAQ
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 21:49:17 GMT

I'd like to work with some stainless for utensils, etc. I've found it to be very difficult to work with. Any suggestions? I found it hard to cut, drill, etc. Is there a good way to cut and drill it? Thanks a lot, Kevin C.
   - Kevin - Saturday, 12/08/01 23:13:20 GMT

Stainless: Kevin, That's about it. Anytime you quote something in stainless the cost of the material is 10x and the cost of the labor is 4-5x. Yep, that is about 6 times more than in carbon steel. Quote less and you will lose your shirt.

When drilling, stainless work hardens rapidly and will burn up drill bits. Bright stainless sheet comes workhardened as-is. So keep a lot of pressure and NEVER let the drill rub and not make chips. Always use cutting fluid and run no faster than 60% of that used for mild steel. Generaly this means using a slow speed metal working drill press.

Cutting stainless dulls tools rapidly. It is hard on shears and punches and takes much more force.

The best way to cut stainless is via plasma or laser torch.

If working bright sheet (previously mentioned as work hardened as delivered) you need to anneal it BEFORE doing any work. Anneal 300 series by heating to an orange and quenching in water. Annealed SS has the highest corrosion resistance, work hardened is less.

The easiest thing to do is to forge stainless. It is tougher than steel and must be worked at a yellow but is only slightly more difficult to forge.

When buffing stainless you need to first remove ALL scratches with as aggressive an abrasive as suitable. Then use the special white SS buffing compound. SS is very abrasion resistant and regular buffing compounds don't work well.

Oddly, for all this difficulty stainless is NOT as strong as an equivalent carbon content steel. When used for load bearing items it is derated about 40% less than steel. And even though it is abrasive resistant it scratches easily. . Odd stuff.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/01 23:37:20 GMT

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