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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 16 - 23, 2001 on the Guru's Den
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Thanks for the help on the odd hammer. Just two more questions for now. What is the diferance between a single jack and a double jack hammer? And any estimate of its age. Thanks again.
   Chris Turley - Sunday, 12/16/01 01:36:02 GMT


A Single Jack is swung with one hand. A Double Jack is swung with two hands. They are used with a "star" rock drill to drill powder holes in the face of the rock for cutting a tunnel with blasting powder. Miner's working alone would use a Single Jack, holding and turning the "star" drill with one hand, and swinging the Jack with the other hand. Miner's working with a "shaker" would use a Double Jack while the "shaker" held and turned the star drilll. He was called a "shaker" because if the "stiker" missed the drill, he was gonna get hurt.

Age? Impossible to tell. Probably prior to 1920, though. They were only used in small mines after the invention of the pneumatic drill.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Sunday, 12/16/01 02:01:46 GMT

Double Jack: You'd think they would have come up with some kind of stand or bracket to hold the star drill.

I have seen pix of workers drilling big boulders in a quarry just the way PawPaw describes and it made me queasy.

I guess manpower was cheap and tools were expensive. No workman's comp. no medical bennies. Just "oops, guess we need a new shaker - nip down to the gate and see who needs a job"
   adam - Sunday, 12/16/01 02:08:38 GMT


You hit the nail on the head. (Sorry guys, first the pun about Rich nailing it, and now this. Guess I'm getting linguistically constipated. Better write another chapter!)

But seriously, labor was cheap. And especially after the Civil War, times were tough and you took what you could get. Especially if you had a family to feed.

The intercontinental railroad track was laid the same way. A shaker to hold the spike for the first stroke, three or sometimes two swings of the 9 lb hammer and spike the other side of the rail. True "iron men" like John Henry took two swings per spike. One for the shaker, and one to sink the spike.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Sunday, 12/16/01 02:54:33 GMT

Dear Guru,
I am investigating an accident and personal injury claim in Scotland involving the use of a Beche air hammer in a stamping factory. A component, or part of the component, or the tongs (the guy does not know which) shot out of the stamping dies and smashed his left leg. He complains that the machine should have been fitted with a guard which would have prevented this. Could you please tell me whether it is customary or usual in the Forging industry to have guards fitted to stamping hammers? If so, could you point me to a website where I could see some examples of these guards? Thanks in anticipation for your help.

Kind regards,

Tom O'Neil.
   Tom O'Neil - Sunday, 12/16/01 11:08:19 GMT

Hammer Guards: Tom, This is an unclear subject in the industry. The process of forging with small hammers and even some larger ones is called "open die forging". In this process the dies need to be open from all sides so that work and tools (often hand held) can be manipulated under the hammer. In a typical operation you may have a team of four workers making an open die forging. The smith, he directs the work. The driver, he operates the hammer controls, Then a "hot iron ?" man that takes the hot steel from the forge and puts it under the hammer. This may be done by hand, supported by a crane or via a "manipulator" a machine like a fork lift that is used to handle the hot steel. And the last man (or men) is a tool handler that holds long handled tools on the work. There may also be a fifth man, a general laborer, to brush scale of the dies. All these workers need to be able to see the die space clearly from a little more than arms length on small work and 10 feet or so with large work. Due to the visibility and access issues in open die forging guards are not practical.

Almost all hammers up to 2,000 pounds (~1000 kg) are open die hammers. However, any hammer can be fitted with special dies or high production dies that are not common open die process. In turn larger hammers may be used for open die work. The Beche' illustration of their 2000 kg hammer shows a team making an open die forging (see our "Power hammer Page"). "Open Die" includes all forging operations where the die impression does not completely envelope the shape being forged. These are "closed die" operations. But this does not exclude work that forged on the end of a hand held bar and then cut off.

In the US the occupational regulations call for "flash guards" to protect workers, especialy those NOT operating the machine from flying scale and debris (not work or tools). But machines requiring access from multiple directions are exampt. We have a copy of these regulations on-line on our Power hammer Page. These are simple sheet metal or thin plate guards that may be located anywhere that prevents those not operating the machine from being hit by flying scale. Those operating the machine are expected to be wearing protective clothing. Flash guards are usualy a significant distance from the dies to allow flash and scale to be brushed or blown clear of the dies.

The other guards that are specified are "treadle" guards. These prevent the accidental operation of a hammer if work or tongs are dropped on the bar that operates the hammer. Small hammers often have a foot operated pedal or a bar that surrounds the base of the machine (treadle) that actuates the hammer. Larger hammers have the operating lever mounted high on the machine. On these a "driver" is necessary to operate the hammer thus requiring a minimum of two workers to make a forging.

The most common serious injuries in open die forging operations (other than burns) is from workers not holding the work or the tools squarely on the dies. Tongs and tools may be forced upward or downward causing shoulder dislocations or lifting the worker off his feet some distance. The only preventitive for these injuries is training. In team forging as above, the smith and the driver are largely responsible for preventing injuries to the other workers. In one man operations the individual is responsible for his own safety.

When fixed special purpose dies or dies with impressions are used the operation may cease to be an an open die forging operation and flash guards are required. Other guards may be deamed necessary but are not specified by US law and are rarely used. In general, if a hazzard is "identified" and it is possible to guard against it, then guards should be in place. Sadly a hazard is often not "identified" until an accident occurs. It is common in fixed die and closed die operations to hold onto the work by hand or with tongs to keep it from bouncing out of the dies. It is also common to need access to the dies to blow out scale.

The most common problem area where work is forced out of dies is when forging tapers with tapered dies. Under certain circumstances the work will slip on the dies being forced out of the dies at high velocity (faster than the hammer due to the angle of the dies). This is most common when pointing pavement breakers and large chisle points. The cause is most often from working steel that has been heated too quickly and has a surface heat. The steel LOOKS hot but is still reletively cold inside. It can also happen when forging steel that has cooled to below a forging heat. Workers performing these operations need to be aware of the possibility and trained to work while holding the bar or tongs to one side of their body or the other. This is good practice in all hand held forging operations but is especialy critical when forging points or tapers.

Other problems such as you describe may occur from "mis-strikes" where the hammer is operated when the work is not properly situated in the dies. This is usualy a problem when the worker(s) are fatigued or not paying attention to what they are doing. It is easy in high production situations to do B (operate the hammer) before A (situate the material properly). This is an abnormal operation.

Due to the heat and forces involved, all forging operations are hazardous by nature. The worker needs to be alert at all times and informed of possible hazards. In most places forging hammer operators are paid more due to the inherent danges.

Almost all forging hammers are delivered as open die forging machines. The owner changes the dies for their own needs and is thus responsible for guards that may be necessary.

All the above is related to manual forging operations.

I'm sorry I do not have or know a source of guard images for these machines. Except for the flash guard mentioned these machines rarely have guards in the die area.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/16/01 17:59:08 GMT

NPR Blacksmithing Feature: See link in the Virtual Hammer-In.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 12/16/01 18:16:44 GMT

Other Guards: Forging hammers generaly have three types of guards. The treadle guard to prevent accidental operation, machine guards and flash guards when deemed necessary.

Machine guards vary depending on the type of machine.
  • Gear or belt operated machines have guards covering this area.
  • Steam hammers may have insulation on pipes.
  • Air and Steam hammers should have exhust directed (piped) some distance from workers.
  • All large hammers are required to have possible "loose parts" such as large bolts safety wired to prevent falling on a worker in the event they vibrate loose. This is unique to forging hammers.
  • Steam and air hammers have a "safety cap" to prevent the upward traveling ram from striking the cylinder head damaging the hammer and possibly injuring workers.
  • Mechanical power hammers such as the Little Giant need guards to cover the operating mechanism due to the problem of breaking coil springs.
Many of these machines were manufactured before guards of any kind were required on machines. Some owners add the guards, others do not. Legaly they are required in the US when there are employees operating the machine AND if the machine is a new installation. Many old installations are "grandfathered" and do not require the owner to add the guards. Private owners (one man shops) often add guards while others do not.

Little Giants (and most other mechanical hammers) came without any type of machine guard. Late model Little Giants made just before they went out of business may have had belt guards but that is all. Under applicable US law those hammers should be fitted with a treadle guard and belt guards as a minimum. Since breaking coil springs are now an identified hazzard on toggle linkage hammers, spring guards should also be installed to meet OHSA requirements. All these machines are exempt from flash guards.

Most of the new small air hammers come with treadle guards. However, many of the imported Chambersburg clones do not.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/16/01 18:32:57 GMT

Dirty Dan: dont forget to S O O T, the dummy shaft HEAVILY. or it may stick and MAKE SURE is proper height centered and paralel with everything FIRST, also use a freshly ground and straight/concentric center.
any mistake now may take WEEKS to repair (like babit stuck on shaft).
also be generous with the daming compound. IF it starts leaking you have lots of unesesary job (basicly start all over).
   OErjan - Sunday, 12/16/01 20:09:21 GMT

hi folks
i need some advice about my gas forge.it's a two burner wisper momma. after it gets up to heat what is an efficient pressure to run it at for forging.i have been running it at about 8 on the dial the whole time but i seem to bee going through the gas pretty fast.
thanks chris
   chris makin - Monday, 12/17/01 00:41:57 GMT

I'd suggest slowly backing off the regulator once you are up to heat. If the burner starts luffing, then it is too far. If the forge looses heat, then it is too far too. Many forges can hold heat at a fraction of the initial gas pressure.
   - Pete F - Monday, 12/17/01 04:23:35 GMT

Gas Forge: Chris, one of the disadvantages of gas forges is their constant fuel draw. But along with the constant draw comes very high productivity. Even a small one burner like a Wisper baby can heat steel faster than you can forge it. Two burner and up gas forges will feed a power hammer as fast as you can work if you replace a piece with every piece removed.

That big ugly "10 minute" forge on the 21st Century page would heat big pavement breaker points at a rate of 70 to 80 PER HOUR. It took a Nazel 3B, a nipper press, a 5 HP grinder and a really FAST smith to keep up with it. But at $3/bit that was a $210+/hour operation. Fuel was a small part of that.

On my big forge I have an automatic control that cycles on and off. Noisy as heck. But when you are not working and want to keep the forge hot it reduces the fuel consumption by half. But it will still go through $20 fuel a day. That is why I use the Whisper Baby most of the time. It will run for a couple weeks on $20 fuel. But it doesn't get as hot. I don't think you can forge weld with one. And it has a very small fire box. But for making small stuff working by hand only, it is very efficient.
   - guru - Monday, 12/17/01 05:15:40 GMT

You can make a more efficient forge yourself, then enything currenty available on the market. I followed the instructions from Ron Reil's Forge & Foundry page. In the forge body, two layers of kaowool with a brick for the bottom, and top coated with ITC-100. I use the T-REX burner (one burner). I start the forge at 4 psi for a warm-up, and I forge at -1 psi. I forge weld at 8 psi. I have a little over $300.00 in the whole set up, from the regulator to the forge, and it runs much more quiet then I thought it would. The whole thing is mounted on a old outdoor grill cart, complete with a #30 gas tank. Great for moving it around the shop. You can forge a long time with little gas, and I have never had a freeze-up. Keith
   - Chris - Monday, 12/17/01 08:52:50 GMT

Guru, Just a note to say Hi and to share a little about my most current work with others who might want to know. Haven't been here in a while. I have just completed a most difficult and challenging architectural piece. I must give many thanks to those who gave advice, encouragement, inspiration, and expertise along the way. Frank Trousil, Steve Bondi, and Doug Whaley, amoung others who without their help this would not have been possible! This is not a MAJOR piece but for me it was a major leap in education. The railing can be viewed at: http://www.theforgeworks.com/most.htm Happy Holiday's to all. TC
   Tim Cisneros - Monday, 12/17/01 15:28:33 GMT

I have a 20 hp air compressor, it is a "V" design, a high and a low pressure cylinder on one side, and the same on the opposite side of the V. ( a two stage, 4 cyl aircompressor)
The compressor has a bad high pressure cyl, the piston is
froze in the cyl, and it is very badly scored up(the small piston). What I would like to do is make it a 2 cyl, single stage air compressor, and run it on only the 2 large pistons, My question is with the V design if I remove the small high pressure pistons, will the compressor still be in balance? The crankshaft has counter weighted throughs.
I want the compressor because I have a large air hammer, and I dont need high pressure, just a lot of volume, the low pressure pistons are about 8 inches in diameter. I dont want to buy parts to put the machine back to a 2 stage compressor. Will it be in balance if I run it on the two large low pressure cylinders? Thanks, Steve
   steve - Monday, 12/17/01 16:04:16 GMT

gas forge: I have a needle valve after the regulator. Once the forge is up to temperature (orangey yellow) and I am working, I throttle back the gas every time as I take the work out to forge it. Only takes a sec and makes a big difference in the fuel consumption. Once the forge is hot, it will go from idle to welding heat in just a few minutes.

I agree with Chris: it's easy to make your own, excellent gas forge. (Although I dont know where he spent $300, I have less than $100 in mine :) but no matter).

I do have problems with my tanks freezing. I am at high altitude and this means much higher operating pressures. I sit my tank in a tub of warm water.

Ron Reil's page is a tremendous resource and has all the info you need to build a gasser. Ron also has a neat design for an idle circuit so that the forge can be quickly and accurately switched ed between working temp and idle.
   adam - Monday, 12/17/01 16:25:05 GMT

compressor: I doubt the valves in the LP cylinders can hold off the the kind of pressure you want to develop. Also, if you actually remove the HP pistons, the compressor will vibrate like a fiend. Finally, with no HP pistons, you will have to find a way of coping with all the oil being thrown up from the crank case.

Why dont you talk to an engine rebuild shop or a motorcycle place and see if they can help you out?
   adam - Monday, 12/17/01 16:32:31 GMT

Tim, That is a Beautiful railing!! Great Job!!
   - Mike Roth - Monday, 12/17/01 16:51:03 GMT

Reforging an anvil horn: I have a 350# HB on which the horn is rather worn. The horn droops some and there are a couple of depressions on the upper surface. I am thinking of heating the horn up to orange so I can forge it before grinding.

The anvil stands on a concrete base. My plan is turn the anvil upside down and set up my little gas forge so that the horn is in the burn chamber. When it gets to temp, pull away the forge and pound on the underside of the horn till it's straight. (what size sledge would be best?) Then turn the anvil over (after letting it cool :) ) and heat up the horn again to do finish forging on the top surface. After that I will grind it.

I will use tempil sticks to check that the plate doesnt get too hot and lose its temper. :)

I would appreciate any advice.

Thank you
   adam - Monday, 12/17/01 17:25:39 GMT

Adam, an old farrier once told me a horror story about someone trying to do the very thing you're talking about with a 200lb PW. End result: the horn fell off. Broke at the weld. I wasn't there, he says he was, I have no reason to doubt him. My opinion is, it's a bad idea.
   Alan-L - Monday, 12/17/01 19:53:40 GMT

Tim, Outstanding effort. I would be VERY interested in reading an article generally describing the process you followed. If you do find time to write one and post it on your site be sure to let us know.....Bob.
   bob - Monday, 12/17/01 22:13:42 GMT

Adam. How much droop? And where does the droop begin and end? Can you live with it? I have reforged several horns on old anvils where there was a little droop on the last four inches or so behind the point. And sometimes the point has been mushroomed badly. Little kids, I guess. After placing the anvil on the ground, I tip it back so it rests on the heel...although you can do the job where it is mounted. I heat with the rosebud the last 3-4 inches, and freehand hammer it from the bottom, later shaping it on the sides and top. After a few heats, it should look OK. I fill in depressions with mild steel welding rod. I clean up with the disc sander.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 12/18/01 04:00:21 GMT

Tim, i agree with bob, an article would be great. also interested in your bidding/estimating process, and how close you came in..beautiful work!
   mike-hr - Tuesday, 12/18/01 04:02:05 GMT


I am setting my Jet bandsaw up for the first time. Per your advice I have a new lenox blade, diemaster 2. I have 2 questions:
1. I know how to adjust the tilt of the upper blade wheel, but do not know how the blade should track. Both wheels have rubber tires and a flange on the rear of the wheels. After initial installation, and tension applied, I spun the wheels and the blade tracks away from the rear flange on the bottom wheel about 1/8", stays against the flange on the top wheel. I am assuming I should adjust tilt on the top wheel until the blade tracks right up to the rear flange on the bottom wheel also, is this correct? (the rubber tire butts right up against the rear flange.

2. How do I know how much tension to put on the blade? This is a 107" blade and the saw has metal blade guides above and below the table. There is no readout of blade tension.

   AZDoug - Tuesday, 12/18/01 04:12:44 GMT

An article could certainly be done on any one of the processes involved. I unfortunately did not take pictures of the different steps but could probably well describe them. One aspect of this railing which was different from others I have done was that it was a curved railing with a VERY steep pitch. I took that into consideration when bidding on the job and simply doubled the cost of what I would have charged for a straight rail. Not enough. It should have been triple. I charged $700/ft. and think I should have probably charged $1200/ft. However, I might not have gotten the job, so I would have wound up making $0.00/ft. Often, at the end of building a home the owners/contractor have consumed all the available budget so there is no money (so they say) for the ironwork. I could write a whole article on this subject as well. The key is to get involved with the project early so that money is budgeted. At any rate, I will consider putting some information down in writing for anyone wanting to know how I did this railing. Maybe the good Guru would put it in the iForge or some other appropriate place on Anvilfire so that others might use it. Merry Christmas, Off to Boston on Wednesday for two weeks, Happy Holidays!
   Tim Cisneros - Tuesday, 12/18/01 04:19:41 GMT

what is the process,for pantinaing copper?I'm a 40 year old handy man, who is trying to pantina a copperpipe garden entry gate,for my better half for christmas.
   matt carroll - Tuesday, 12/18/01 04:45:49 GMT

Blade Tracking: Doug, Normaly on vertical band saws where the blade is not twisted (like on horizontal cut off saws) the wheel and tires have crown at the center of the wheel. On these saws the blade should run on the crest of the crown. But I have never seen these wheels with a flange or a shoulder. It could just be a safety flange to keep the blade from running off the back of the wheels.

Cut off saws that twist the blade so that long stock can be cut have a shoulder that the blade runs against. On these, the tracking is adjusted so that the blade gently runs against the shoulder with very little pressure. If there is too much pressure the blade squeeks and the shoulder wears.

There ARE wheels with no crown (flat wheels) that tracking can be adjusted anywhere on the wheel but the center is the optimum. Flat wheels are tricky to adjust and are affected by tension more than crowned wheels.

Blade tension is dependent on the the cross section of the blade. Common bandsaws often use blades in widths from 1/8" up to 1". The bigger the blade the more tension. A small 3/8" blade may be tensioned 1/4 - 3/8" (from just being tight enough to start) and larger blades may be tensioned 1/2" to 3/4". But the actual amount may vary with the stiffness of the bandsaw frame. I tension some blades by the sound they make when you pluck it like a guitar string. It should make a clear musical bass note. If your blade is under tensioned it will delfect BACK when cutting. This always occurs but not to the extream. If too tight the machine bearings and frame are overloaded and you may cause the weld in the blade to fail prematurely. This is one of those areas where just tight enough but not too tight is the target. Its an art on machines without tension gauges.

When adjusting tracking back off the cutting guides so that the blade is free to position itself (on non-twisted blades). After adjusting the tracking check the table to blade squareness and adjust if necessary. If the saw was severly out of adjustment the table position may need to be adjusted so that the blade is centered in the table pass-through plate.

After adjusting the table squareness then adjust the guides until they just touch the blade. When changing blade widths be sure the side guides do not come in contact with the teeth or set portion of the teeth. The back roller guide is adjusted to just barely touch the back of the blade.

On cut off saws adjusting the guides is very tricky. They hold the blade in a twisted position that must be square to the bed of the saw. Idealy the blade is twisted on its center line and still makes a theoretical straight line between wheels. Roller guides should be snug on the sides of the blade but not tight. You should be able to slide the blade in and out of the guides by hand. Again, the back guide is just barely in contact with the blade. If the back guide must be forced against the back of the blade to keep the teeth out of the side guides then the guide assembly needs to be adjusted back (if its adjustable).

Band saws vary greatly in the number of adjustments. My old 20" Rockwell has adjustments in every concievable direction. Even the guide arm can be adjusted true to the blade. My old 4x6 Ridgid cutoff just has enough adjustments to make it work. Cheap clones of this saw often do not and sometimes cannot be made to work. . .

Most manufacturers will sell you maintenance manuals for their machines and it is a good investment. They usualy have the most basic adjustment information. The book Bandsaw Handbook by Mark Duginske, Sterling Press, covers all the adjustments on vertical bandsaws and has a wide variety of tooling tricks. It covers several popular home-shop saws and is a good investment if you are not familiar with bandsaws. But nothing in it really applies to cutoff saws.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 05:18:09 GMT

Copper Patinas Matt, I'm afraid time is an important factor. Acids and various chemicals are used. Many have heavy metal salts to create special colors. Sulfuric acid makes some of the best colors with copper. ALWAYS test a sample. Household bleech works and I'm told that Miracle Grow fertilizer works good. Make a paste with water and paste on the surface. The amount of color/texture depends on time. Heat (warm not flaming) speeds up chemical processes. There are thousands of recipes for patination but each one produces slightly different result depending on the metal alloy it is applied to.

When done with chemical treatments rinse with clear water, then a baking soda solution and then water again.

Clear lacquer can be used to seal the patina but those bright turquoises are hard to maintain and often darken under finishes. Most patinaed copper and bronze is not sealed and continues to corrode naturaly. In a clean environment this is not a problem but anywhere that has acid rain or air pollution the corrosion can be destroy items in a generation that would have previously lasted centuries.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 05:36:07 GMT

Tim Cisneros, Nice, real nice! Great web sit too. Keith
   - Keith - Tuesday, 12/18/01 05:46:05 GMT

Horn Straightening: Adam, Sounds like a plan to me. Do a spark test on your Hay-Budden horn (underneith). Late HB's have an all steel upper body. There should be no problem with breakage unless you work too cold or way too hot.

The problem is going to be heating enough horn to forging tenperature without over heating the rest. You will probabably need to constantly cool the body with water.

For this job I'd use as big a hammer as I could swing single handed. Big steel stays hot and one heat should be enough if you have a good method (help and the proper tools) to flip it over to work on it. PRACTICE the moves. If you do not regularly handle 400 pound pieces of hot iron you will find that all kinds of problems come up.

Remember that on this anvil the horn may be tool steel. You will want to cool it slowly with a mist of water letting it self temper from internal heat.

As always, with anvils you are better off to work around the problem rather than do more damage with a botched repair.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 05:53:43 GMT

Thank You, for the information on pantination!I'll get right on it.thank's again.
   matt carroll - Tuesday, 12/18/01 05:55:14 GMT

Air Compressor Balance: Steve, without detailed drawings I couldn't be sure but my guess is that it would be severly out of balance. I'd look for another compressor if its not repairable as designed and engineered.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 06:03:22 GMT

Gas Forge - A good burner like the T-REX will run you about $100.00 alone, after you buy a good SS flare and pay shipping. Yes, you can make a burner from srcap, but what did it really cost after the time you spent bulding it and getting it to burn right. Kaowool is not cheap, but you will allways make up for the cost in the gas you will save in running your forge. Next forge I build I will start with a larger dia. body and add another inch or more of kaowool. ITC-100, same as above. I could not beleive how much faster my forge heated up after a coat of this, and how much cooler the forge body stayed. Bottom line, spend a little more on the forge, it will be much cheaper to run.
   - Keith - Tuesday, 12/18/01 06:17:19 GMT

Anvil Question:

I have the same anvil as the one with no horn in the picture of the Greenwood Collection. Does anyone know what kind of anvil this is, and how much it's worth?
   - Becky - Tuesday, 12/18/01 13:41:12 GMT


I think an article with sketches would be a great idea. And I suspect that the guru would post it on the plans page. It should be a big help to newbies, and will probably be of value to all of us.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 12/18/01 14:06:25 GMT

Gas Forge Prices: I attended the SOFA gas forge workshop two weekends ago. We built 16 double burner aspirated forges using 9.25"x14" gas cylinder for the body, hard firebrick for the bottom and a kaowool liner. The front door has a rectangular opening for stock and both the front and rear doors open to allow large stock and a stacked firebrick "end"

The burners were made from plumbing supplies. The forge was complete with regulator, gauge, cut off valve, hose, and the fitting to go into a propane tank.

Mine works quite well; I was forging at a good orange heat on 2.5 psi. The *heavy* shell lets you weld on a lot of bells and whistles---I added a extending stock rest to mine last Saturday and am thinking about a twisting jig so I can twist stock *while* it's in the forge...

Total cost was $110 and 1 Saturday. It would be substantially less if you used a $5 acetylene regulator from the fleamarket and scrounged the plumbing supplies....

   - Thomas Powers - Tuesday, 12/18/01 15:15:58 GMT


Some of the claims on IR reflectivity for this coating seem very high. Those that have used ITC-100, is this a "highly recommended" coating for the interior of propane forges?

I seemed awful expensive at like $40 for a pint - its basically a water-based clay slurry right? How does it adhere after a few months of use? I like the idea of reducing airborn fibers by coating the forge walls.

How is it best applied? And, most important, where is the lowest cost source for ITC-100. If I see several strong recommendations for it from this form, I'm gonna try it out myself.

   Gary - Tuesday, 12/18/01 15:21:36 GMT

Hornless Anvil: Becky, These anvils are so old that there is little information about them. The history of common industrial goods being almost non-existant. However, these anvils are common enough in the Eastern US that we assume they are of English manufacture since England controlled most of the imports to North America at that time AND were in the early years of making anvils in the worlds first large factories dedicated to making anvils in the Sheffield region. Many of these anvils are marked with an "S", thought by Richard Postman, author of Anvils in America to stand for "Sheffield"

It is hard to place a date on the manufacture of these anvils but it is estimated to be no later than 1780 and as early as 1500. Only the history of ownership can narrow down this wide range.

As a collector's item it is very difficult to out a price on these anvils. Generaly I do not deal in collectors prices because they are absolutely crazy and rarely based on any reality (almost as bad as the US stock market). 10 years ago it would be difficult to find a collector of old anvils and the price would have been $100 or significantly less. The publication of Anvils in America in 1998 changed that situation greatly. Now everyone intrested in old tools knows the rarity and age of these old anvils. Prices vary from $400-$500 to as much as $1500. The price varies depending on style (some are very graceful while others are down right ugly), condition and whose is buying and who is selling.

Condition: On these very old anvils any sign of a recent repair reduces their price greatly. Rust and pitting is expected but should not be as heavy on the face as the rest. Graceful wear is also expected and even minor damage to the face. Markings helping identify the anvil are rare on these old anvils and increase the value. Some were decorated by their owners and this may also increase the value. A feature called a "fifth foot" is found on some and is a desired feature by some collectors.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 15:57:29 GMT

Gas Forge Prices: The RR EZ-burner will get a small forge to welding heat with no problemo. Made from about $20 worth of off the shelf plumbing supplies - much less if you scrounge. Takes a couple of hours to make.

0-35 psi regulator cost me $25 at my local propane yard. The hose with fittings was another $10.

Kaowool from the local pottery supply was $2.50/sq ft and I used less than 4 sq ft (burn chamber was 6"dia x 12" long - 2 layers of wool)

Small jar of ITC100 was $25 - I used only half the jar.

Total cost was about $100. Less if you scrounge. And this for an excellent gas forge that is better than many expensive commercial models.
   adam - Tuesday, 12/18/01 16:18:57 GMT

ITC100 - my experience is that it makes a difference. I bought the smallest jar I could find for about $25 and used only half to coat my forge.

I thinned it with water to the point that I could slap it on with a paint brush.

IMO it's worth it but gas forges work fine without it.
   adam - Tuesday, 12/18/01 16:24:45 GMT

Gas Forge Efficiency This is an area that few fully understand the dynamics. The new Kaowool lined forges heat up quickly and cool down quickly because of the low mass. Very little heat is stored in the refractory. Brick or castable lined forges are much slower to heat up (given the same BTU's) and hold their heat a long time (sometimes overnight).

When a heavy piece of steel (or many small pieces) are put into a gas forge it rapidly absorbs the stored heat. In some forges you can see the wall color change from this effect. Once this initial heat is soaked up the rest of the heating comes from the burning fuel gas.

Generaly propane and air do not burn at temperatures high enough for forge welding. But in a gas forge the stored heat in the refractory is added to the burning gas/air mix and a higher temperature is achieved. This higher temperature also raises the refactory temperature. In order to achieve welding temperatures the forge must have enough BTU's to make up for losses through the refractory while keeping the surface at a high temperature.

The advantage of Kaowool is there is little mass, good insulating properites and little loss. The disadvantage is there is so little thermal mass that adding work to the forge cools the forge significantly.

Surface coatings like ITC-100 do several things.
  • Seal the surface of the Kaowool reducing dust (a possible carcinogen.
  • Provide a little mass to the surface as well as mechanical protection.
  • The white surface reflects heat thus increasing the temperature of the forge atmosphere while increasing the efficiency of the insulation.

Idealy Kaowool should be used to insulate the outside of a hard refractory shell. The hard refractory shell will withstand the mechanical abrasion and poking of steel ends where Kaowool or lightweight refractory board does not. A refratory shell inside a good insulator will be a low loss liner once up to temperature and provide more thermal mass.

In a busy shop, starting the day with a forge that is still hot from the previous day's work is very efficient. But few forges do this. They are either uninsulated or have too low a mass.

The greatest efficiency of Kaowool lined forges is their light weight and portability. My big stacked brick forge weighs about 500 pounds. Nothing portable about it. It is partialy insulated with light weight insulating bricks. These make a hugh difference in external heat. A day after running this forge the insides can still be uncomfortable to the touch.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 16:39:52 GMT

Jay Hayes sells ITC-100. And at a reasonable price too.
Jay Hayes
C.J. Products Inc. Phone: (304) 269-6111
100 Christmas Place Email: xmas4lites at earthlink.net
Weston, WV 26452
   Ralph - Tuesday, 12/18/01 16:41:31 GMT

I have a question about the 350lb HB.
What are you using the horn for that the 'droop' prevents you from doing? Since horns are usually not true rounds it is hard to use them as cone mandrels. Mostly I use or have seen horns used to help draw out stock or to start curls or scrolls, so it seems to me a droop is not really a problem.
Now I will readily admit it will look odd, but that is OK since in my thoughts it will not affect how it is used.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 12/18/01 16:47:36 GMT

Project Costs: When I built my first gas forge I had a decent income and was busy with the job that provided that income. Not having time to scrounge I bought everything new. This gives you the best idea of the true cost of something. Every part and all the steel for the box was purchased new. The total was in 1985 was $400.
  • $80 regulator, fittings and hose
  • $25 burner piping and gas valve
  • $43 Blower
  • $26 Fire Brick
  • $43 fire clay mortar (un-needed expense)
  • $90 (2) 30# Propane cylinders
  • $34 steel (including cut plate)
  • $36 Motor speed control, cord, electrical fittings and box.
  • $4.20 Can of hi temp BBQ black paint
  • $15 Parts for special two cylinder manifold fitting.
This was a trough type forge. It heated up rapidly and would run you out of the shop in a few minutes. It produced welding heats in 15 minutes from startup. However, the trough design meant stuff fell into it and was hard to retrieve. I did the one job I built it for and then scrapped it. The cylinders, blower and a few other parts were used on my next forge. The forge without cylinders and regulators cost $224 US in 1985.

Photo of gas forge in 1985 (c) Jock Dempsey

My newer gas forge with stacked firebox has automatic ignition and controls that cost more than most home built forges (including the one above). The heavy steel frame was made from steel I had on hand and the bricks came from a pickup load I bought at a scrap yard. It is hard to but a cost on this forge. I spent about a week building it and I am not completely satisfied with it. But guessing, I would say that using new materials, $600 before labor and over $1000 after labor.

Shop costs, materials on-hand and the time it took to scrounge materials are often overlooked in putting a cost on these projects. That load of firebricks cost me 250 miles on the road in a heavy pickup truck and a day's time PLUS the $100 cash. On the NC-JYH Steve Barringer claimed a cost of a little over $100 (which I am sure is true) but the frame of the hammer is all new heavy structural tubing that just happened to be lying around the shop. I'd guess there was over $300 of steel in the machine and it still needed an anvil. On my EC-JYH I had a little over $120 in cash layouts. But that didn't include gas in the truck to haul steel and parts or the 900 pounds of steel I used from my shop and my Dad's shop, or welding rods or the electricity to burn them. Labor? What's that?

Many years ago when I was in the Soap Box Derby the spending limit was $200. A LOT in the 1960's. But it was easy to go through. The rule that saved us was the one that exempted "paint" from the costs. And a decision that fiberglass was part of the "paint". Few people understood fiberglass and the resins AND the huge mess and simply thought fiberglass was "slick" (HA!). So it was considered paint. That included the gallons of automotive body putty used. We easily spent over $200 in "paint" not including the stacks of very expensive 3M wet-or-dry sandpaper I went through or the dozen of so rasps rapidly worn out by the fiberglass and epoxy.

Do-it-yourself projects are a wonderful learning experiance and often give great satifaction. I will continue to do them even though I KNOW that they are rarely cost effective. The efficient thing to do is buy new tools that produce an income. But what fun is there in that?
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 17:39:38 GMT


Thank you for your reply regarding the Hornless Anvil.

It seems that the previous owner has painted this anvil blue. I might want to trade or sell this anvil, but do not know if I should leave the paint as it is, or try removing it. What do you recomemend? I do not want to decrease its value...
   - Becky - Tuesday, 12/18/01 17:49:09 GMT

Becky, It might bring more without the paint. You would at least be saving the purchaser the cost/effort. If you use paint stripper be sure to rinse it off thouroughly to prevent new rust. But leave the old rust.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:02:24 GMT

Speaking of Costs: ALL your old small size propane cylinders are about to become junk. I found this out the other day when getting my propane cylinders refilled (the ones I paid $90 for above). According to Propane News.

On April 1, 2002, 4 to 40 pound vertical non-stationary Department of Transportation (DOT) propane cylinders must be updated by law. It will be illegal to refill most portable cylinders not equipped with the new style OPD-fitted valves. The previously ubiquitous POL (bullet nose, left-hand thread) valve has been replaced by a new valve fitted with an overfill prevention device (OPD) and a Type 1 fitting for connecting pigtails.

The 1998 Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code section of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 58 called for the installation of OPDs on all 4 to 40 pound vertical DOT cylinders manufactured after September 1, 1998. The 2001 version of the same code states that horizontal cylinders are exempt from an overfill protection device (OPD) retrofit as long as the cylinder was manufactured prior to Oct. 1, 1998. That means that these cylinders can be legally recertified after 12 years without making modifications. The tanks mounted to motorhomes (designated as ASME tanks) are not subject to this regulation.

More. . .

OPD-equipped cylinders have a special triangular hand wheel, which cannot be removed, and are marked with the letters "OPD" on the valve body. They are equipped with Type 1 fittings, also called Quick Connection Coupling (QCC) fittings, that allow connections of the pigtails without the use of tools. This coupling is designed so that no propane flows unless the mating connector is fully inserted. These cylinders use the plastic hand nut that fits over the 1 5/16 inch outside right hand Acme threads for the new-style hose fittings. QCC-equipped valves also have inside left-hand threads that will accommodate the old POL fittings.
That means that at least all our old regulators and fittings are not being abandonded along with the cylinders.

It is also not economical to have your old cylinders retro fitted with the new valve and float.

So, if you are looking into buying propane cylinders be SURE they have the new valves. I'm sure that in the next few months the market will be flooded with cylinders that folks will try to sell to the unwary. And after April there will be tons of scrap cylinders on the market from to make forges and gongs.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:02:38 GMT

The esteemed Guruissimo notes above: "We easily spent over $200 in "paint" not including the stacks of very expensive 3M wet-or-dry sandpaper I
went through ...." This strikes a bitter chord with me, having just spent an hour zipping through 10 (ten) pricey little 3-M Roloc finishing pads as if they were made out of tissue paper. Those cats at 3M have "value engineering" down cold!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:16:21 GMT

Tim-- add mine to the applause! Bravo! When you write it up, and I hope you do, please cover the code factor-- is that why the icicles?-- on the one current and the work on your main site. Many thanks for posting!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:25:55 GMT

Anvil Horn: First, thank you Frank Turley, Guru, Alan and Ralph for taking the time to comment. Second this is an old HB with a wrought body and a steel plate. It's in good shape. The plate has a couple of very small defects and is a little sunken on the far edge near the horn where most of the heavy work gets done. It has more rust pitting than I would like but a bit of grinding and sanding has taken most of that out. Overall it's in decent shape except for the horn.

The horn is 11" long (the table is another 3.25") and about 5" wide where it meets the step. The droop and other problems start from about 6" out all the way to the end of the horn.

The droop itself is only about 1/2" overall and by itself it doesnt seem worth bothering about. Like Ralph and Frank point out, a little droop is no problem at all. However, the last 5" of the horn has two "saddles" and the point (final 1") has been clumsily reworked into a peculiar shape that is useless to me.

Basically, over the last 5" the horn descends through a pair of valleys and then terminates in a shape that looks like a crawdad's nose.

I could forget about the droop and clean it up with the grinder but that would require removing a fair amount of material which I dont like. I could also do as Frank suggested and fill in the valleys with soft rod before grinding. This seems like a good idea and pretty safe, but I am a bit reluctant to add foreign material to an old HB that is in decent shape.

However, since the problems only involve the last half of the horn, I am thinking why not reforge it some and fix all its problems in one go? The hot work would be done in a region that is at least 10" from the step so it seems an easy thing to keep the plate cool. Also the weld that attaches the horn to the body is quite far away.

Like the guru suggested I will set up a block and tackle with the appropriate gripping hardware so that I can manipulate this beast while hot. I am thinking of using a wet blanket packed with ice to keep the plate cold.

Finally, the cross section of the horn is not round - not even nearly round. Nor is it so on any other American or English anvil that I have seen. Why not? Many European anvils have cone shaped horns and this seems like it would be so much more useful.

Again, I appreciate any advice or comments - thank you

   - adam - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:36:50 GMT

Currently there are adapters on the market which adapt the old style cylinders to the new style THREADS.

Next time your "picnic" 20 bottle gets empty, you COULD take it to one of the cylinder exchange places, stick it in the empty rack and make sure the full one you pick up is marked for the OPD. When it's empty, pull the exchange label (most of them are shrinkable plastic) off of the tank, take it down to your regular propane dealer and have it re-filled. (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 12/18/01 18:37:19 GMT

Propane cylinders....

I have a 40pound cylinder with the new overfill-float-controlled valve.....so I guess that one's ok for future fillups.

Then I have a 50 pound (net pounds of propane in full tank) cylinder I got cheap at Home Depot with the old style valve.......guess I got lucky since its a 50 pounder??

   Gary - Tuesday, 12/18/01 19:03:16 GMT

Dear Guru

Thank you so very much for your very comprehensive reply to my query about power hammer guards. The information will be extremely useful.

I can give you some more information about the process involving the man who was injured. He was the leader of a 3-man team at the hammer, making ring shaped components. He was hand feeding each billet into the dies of the hammer using tongs and was operating the footpedal that caused the hammer to strike. The other men were the "fire" man, who was tonging red-hot 2-lb salami-shaped steel billets to our man, and an "oil" man, who was oiling the dies with a releasing oil after each component had been formed.

Compared with the 2000kg Beche hammer illustrated in your website, the hammer in question looks as though it would have been about half that capacity. Our man, (who is a very experienced stamper and had worked in the forging industry for about 30 years or more) makes several complaints about the process. Apart from there being no guards, he says that the hammer would sometimes "repeat", in other words it would make an extra "hit" or two after he had released the footpedal because the pedal would sometimes stay down and he would have to pull it up with the toe of his boot. He also says that sometimes the component would tend to stick in the top die. He would try to release it by using the hammer to "tap" on a fresh billet placed on the front (flat) part of the dies. He would do this in any case to pre-flatten each billet before entering it into the ring dies.

He can't remember anything about the accident except that something shot out of the dies and smashed his leg. He can't explain the accident except in terms of a miss-hit either on his tongs or on the partly released component, due to the hammer repeating. The area around the hammer and over the pedal mechanism was usually covered in a thick layer scale flakes and he thinks that this might have caused the footpedal sticking.

I would be most interested in any further thoughts you might have.

Thanks again,

Tom O'Neil.
   Tom O'Neil - Tuesday, 12/18/01 19:08:19 GMT

Propane OPD valves: Replacing the valves on old cylinders costs about the same as buying a new tank. The best deal I found is to take the non OPD tank to one of those Propane Exchange stations and make sure they give you an OPD tank in exchange. (only works for the little 20lb tanks). They charge about $15 which is outrageous for a fill of propane IMO but worth it to get a new valve.
   - adam - Tuesday, 12/18/01 19:26:09 GMT


If you decide to re-forge the horn, one suggestion would be to use two hammers. One to "buck" the off side, and the other to strike the working side. This would alleviate most of the stress on the horn/body weld.

Note my message above about exchanging cylinders! (grin)

   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 12/18/01 19:49:18 GMT

Looking for a source of Handles for tomahawks(old trade axes)thanks
   Mikey - Tuesday, 12/18/01 20:02:04 GMT

PawPaw: Thanks for the tip. I *did* notice your message about propane exchange LOL - is that a case of "Great minds think alike" or is it perhaps "Fools never differ" ? :)
   adam - Tuesday, 12/18/01 20:29:22 GMT


Dunno, I suppose it could be either. (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 12/18/01 21:07:15 GMT

Actually around here(Oregon) all cylinders sold during the past year have the OPD type valves.
To confirm what Guru said. I priced the new valve. It was 30.00 at Home Depot and at teh Propane shop. New 20lb tanks cost 25.00......
   Ralph - Tuesday, 12/18/01 21:24:01 GMT

Anvil horn repair: I have seen and used sagging horns. The one I used most recently appeared to be worn or cut down more than sagging. It was difficult to use on small work due to the bluntness of the taper. It would be a difficult job to reforge (the particular anvil) as it would require reshaping a lot of the horn to get a suitable shape.
Buildup with welding rods would be a definite option. I know someone that replaced 2" of the tip of an anvil horn with a rough forged piece welded on and then built up and ground down to smooth the whole. On old anvils the horns were soft and I have dressed several by hand filing. Those made of the same steel as the body are harder but do not need to be so. Mild steel replacement material is suitable. I would not try to build up a large mass but welding on and filling in are another mater.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 21:38:35 GMT

Im a beginer forger and love it to death but i have a home made open hearth forge and need information on forgind ,cooling and melting varios metals. can you help me out?
   Ian - Tuesday, 12/18/01 21:56:37 GMT

Power Hammer Case: Sticking controls and work sticking in dies are a seperate issue from guards. Guards are either obvious or not. Many arguments can be made about the need for a specific guard and the suitability of guards. It is not unusual to see guards that create hazzards in themselves. But there are no arguments about sticking controls OR sticking work. Both are dangerous and should be immediately resolved.

Any operation on a hammer or press that requires the operator to put their hands in the work area are either wrong OR safety measures to assure accidental operation of the machine must be in place. In the US most hand fed presses are fitted with two handed controls. You must press two buttons simultaneously that are seperated by a distance so that it requires both hands. Old style foot controls are not allowed except in the case of machines like forging presses where it is necessary for the work to be held by the operator.

Most old punch presses with mechanical clutches have been retired (or forced out of use) because of the tendancy of the clutch mechanisms to double cycle. These machines were designed to single stroke only and had operated foot controls. The combination of problems have made them a thing of the past.

Forging hammers are often made to strike the work more than once, even in closed dies. However, there are machines that are designed to be single blow machines. There is a significant difference.

In the multi-blow machine it is often possible to strike single blows by depressing the control and quickly letting off. However, if the operator continues to keep the control mechanism engaged the machine will cycle until the operator releases the control. In this type machine the operator is required to have some skill and familiarity with the machine. If the machine controls stick or are erratic then the machine should be taken out of service until the problems are resolved.

In single blow machines the operator engages the control and the machine should cycle once and stop, even if the operator still has the control engaged. To cycle the machine again the operator must release the control and then engage them again. The machine should never cycle more than once per engagement of the control. The single stroke is designed for both production and safety reasons. Double cycling is usualy due to worn clutch parts and is a serious safety issue. Single stroke machines that double cycle should be taken out of service until the problems are resolved.

In both types of machines the controls need to operate properly. But the operation of the machines are different. The important thing is that the operation is predictable. When machines become unpredictable workers do not know what to expect and accidents happen.

Scale and House Keeping: It is common to see piles of scale around forging hammers. However, if it piles up to the point where it interferes with the operation of the machine then you have a problem. In most cases the scale and debris would prevent operation of the tredle. Sticking would be an extream case that is hard to imagine. But scale also tends to work into joints and crevises due to the vibration of the hammer. It is possible for scale to work into a pivot or bearing in the linkage and jam things up.

Scale and debris need to be removed from the forging area on a regular basis just as chips are removed from a machine tool. In a factory the question is, who's responsibility is it? Does the factory have a clean up crew or are the machine operators responsible for their work area? In some cases the operators are responsible for debis on the machine and the plant debris on the floor. But debris that piles up on the floor during work may be the operator's responsibility. If it is a safety issue then it becomes the individual's responsibility.

But this has always been a tricky issue. Workers are commonly given a production quota or are paid piece work rates. Often production quota's do not consider house keeping time or the problems of one shift leaving a mess for the next. Management often ignores needed house keeping time or fails to define who's responsibility it is. On the other hand some workers think it is their duty to produce work non-stop without breaking to clean their machine or perform needed house keeping duties. If not told it is specificaly their job to keep the area clean then they may feel it is not their responsibility even when it becomes dangerous.

However it is always management's responsibility to manage how a plant is run. I've been in busy shops where you could, as they say, "eat off the floor" and others where the debris has piled up so deep it can be a veritable archeological dig (lik my office).

Workers are almost always told that they are responsible for their personal safety and to stop and do something about it if there apears to be a problem. But how management responds to safety reports or complaints sets the tone of the operation and whether workers continue to report problems.

I've been the guy that stopped an operation with a big crew in an industry that prided itself for being safety consious. Instead of management calmly asking "What was the problem?" And "How can we resolve the problem?" I was grilled in an "incident" meeting where everyone was blind to there being any possible hazard of two crews (different unions) fighting over control of who was going to guide a heavy lift as it was in progress (a blind operation). The only thing that was important was that I had stopped the job. . . I'd do it again. But it is also why I do not work in industry.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 23:31:10 GMT

Forging, Cooling, Melting: Ian, these are all different subjects in two different fields. In forging you heat the metal until it is hot enough to become plastic so that it can be formed or bent. Rarely does a smith melt anything and most of the time it is a accident resulting in burned up work. You melt metal when you plan to pour it into a mold. This is casting and it is a completely different process than forging. Not only do you need to be able to handle molten metal in a crucible but you need to know how to make patterns and molds. It can be a very technical business. Cooling of steel generaly comes under "Heat Treating". See the FAQ on our 21st Century page.

There are many books on these subjects. See our Getting Started article and "book shelf" book review page for books on blacksmithing. For casting look for the books by C.W. Ammen. Centaur Forge carries them.

MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK has melting temperatures of various metals and also heat treating information on common steels. However, it is a reference, not a how-to book.

When you have a more specific question we can give you a more specific answer or help with the things you do not understand in your reading.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/18/01 23:46:19 GMT

Thanks for the bandsaw info. I just ordered the Bandsaw Handbook from Amazon. In searching for it I ran across a short article by John Swensen describing coplanarity, as I guess is described in Duginske's book. This seems to answer my question about alignment of the blade wheels (adjust them be coplaner). My upper wheel has a tilt adjustment and the lower wheel adjusts in and out. It seems to me that I should use a straight edge and adjust to make them "coplaner" as they call it. I'll have to figure a way to do that with a jig of some sort, however, since a straight edge will not contact both due to the frame being in the way. Any further suggestions on this?
Also, I'm trying to figure out just what you mean by "(from
just being tight enough to start)" in you prior description. Where do you start from when tightning another 3/8 -1/2 inch? From your description, I get the idea that bandsaw blades are adjusted to quite a high tension.
   AZDoug - Tuesday, 12/18/01 23:47:55 GMT

Thanks for the info. It is much apreciated.I have read your
Getting Started in Blacksmithing material on the site and have checked out the bookshelf. I was also wondering where to buy blacksmiths tools and information on building forges.

Thanks again


   Ian - Wednesday, 12/19/01 00:43:22 GMT

My dad wants to buy a copy of the machinary handbook but wishes to buy it through your site to help out. Is this possible?If it is He and i would like to purchase a copy and if not could yopu point us in the direction of a copy?

   Ian - Wednesday, 12/19/01 00:58:05 GMT

2-1 stage compressor. I recall hearing that the Germans in WWII put wooden pistons in their engines to keep them in balance when they couldn't fix them right (after we'd bombed their factories). Don't know if it would work in your compressor but might be worth a thought.
   Mike B - Wednesday, 12/19/01 01:24:46 GMT

Well, from the response to my post I guess I am going to have to document the processes involved in building a curved stair railing. I don't pretend to be an expert however so there may be other more experienced smiths who might want to add to the procedures that I used. Fortunately I will be on vacation so will have some time over the next two weeks to work on this. It was a very interesting process though apart from some SERIOUS head scratching. Looking forward to sharing the knowledge that I've gained just as it has been shared with me. One of the things I love about Blacksmithing. TC
   Tim Cisneros - Wednesday, 12/19/01 04:05:35 GMT

experience none. I work in stained glass as a beginner/ intermediate. I have friend not into computers so I'm helping him and learning also. question is about steel cut with a plasmacutter. really nice detailed scenes and abstracts. Friend now would like to color this steel.(not stainless)I suggested patina like I use on my soildered glass projects. now I'm not sure. does the steel have to be
textured with brass brushes in order for the patina to adhear to steel?help I feel really lost. Would like to help
friend. thank you fire.
   firebrand - Wednesday, 12/19/01 05:58:26 GMT

Bandsaw: Doug, Yeah, I wasn't very clear there but a lot of starting points are not. When you put the blade on and tension it just enough to straighten it out and stay in place, that is the starting point. There is always SOME tension involved but it is up to you to determine what is nearly zero. . . but THAT only matters if you are using a specific distance to tension the blade.

Blade tension is sort of tightening fan belts on an automobile. Most folks (including a lot of mechanics) over tension thinking more is better. WRONG! More than "enough" results in premature bearing failure and pulley wear. The tricky thing in bandsaw blades is that they deflect back away from the work putting a curve in the blade. This is not important when cutting thin stock but when cutting thick stock AND making curves the bend in the blade results in a bulge in the side of the cut. Its similar to when you cut a curve with a cutting torch and travel too fast. The backwards slope of the cut results in a conical shape cut when you go around a curve. It is not noticable on thin cuts but can be a mess on thick cuts.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/19/01 06:06:43 GMT

MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK: Ian, I would love to sell you a copy but we are not a dealer for Industrial Press. New they sell for $75-$85 but good used copies can be found on the book sites for $25. MACHINERY'S has changed very little in some 85 years and for the smith old copies are as good as new.

Almost every student machinist and engineer is required to purchase a current copy of MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK. Many do not stay in the field or go into more theoretical areas where the practical information is thought to be of little use. The result is that there are a lot of used copies in very good condition available at affordable prices.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/19/01 06:13:42 GMT

Patina: Firebrand, Patinas are oxide and metal salt colorings of metals. Copper and coper alloys (brass and bronze) turn turquoise, blue, green, yellow, brown and other colors depending on the chemicals used and the other metals in the solution.

Steel turns rust red which when oiled or waxed is brown. With heat iron oxide is black. When "blued" using nitric acid and other compounds you can achieve a gun metal blue to a black. Then there are other blackening methods.

Oxide coatings on copper alloys is relatively stable but on iron rust continues and the other oxide coatings are mearly a surface to hold oil or wax.

It is possible to brush hot steel with a fine brass brush and give it a brass "plating" but this is a very thin non-durable finish similar to copper flashing with copper sulphate solution. There is not enough transfered metal to produce a patina and the dissimilar metal will only hasten rust.

If you want pretty colors on steel paint it.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/19/01 06:23:33 GMT

Firebrand-- there's a gorgeous book on coloring metals called, appropriately enough, The Patination of Metals. Lots of color plates with the formulae necessary to achieve each. Pricey. Among others, Bryant Labs has it, I think.
   Miles Undercut - Wednesday, 12/19/01 06:34:18 GMT

Re: Power Hammer case

Thanks again Guru. You have told me everything I think I need to know - and a lot which I didn't know. If you ever come to Scotland, I will buy you a pint of Tennants - or maybe even two or three. (It's thirsty work at the Forge! :-)

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

Tom O'Neil.
   Tom O'Neil - Wednesday, 12/19/01 13:01:48 GMT

kindly send me information about the refractory bricks used, the fuels used, the outer wall construction for designing a oil fired crucible furnace of capacity 25 kilograms for melting cast iron
   bobby alexander - Wednesday, 12/19/01 13:41:49 GMT

Ian; the best place to buy smithing tools is about 20 miles that-a-way---*if* you live in Central Ohio! Buying used equipment at fleamarkets and junk stores can be *MUCH* cheaper than buying new (every year I run across tongs under $2 and hammers under $3 at our local fleamarket and this is with 5 smiths vacuuming the place every weekend it's open!) To buy new go to "select a page" (upper right hand corner on my screen) and go to the bottom where it lists the advertisers and browse through their sites; but beware of sticker shock!

Then it can be a lot of fun *making* your own tools and a good learning exercise as well. Smithing does *not* have to be an expensive hobby; I've done up a starter kit for under $25 before (forge, anvil, hammer, tongs) all made from scrounged or easily modified cheap items. OTOH my big anvil is probably worth more than my pickup right now...

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 12/19/01 14:27:17 GMT

Dear Guru,
I'm thinking of building myself a forge to make armour, what should i get in terms of tools and equipment? Also i don't know how to make a forge if you have some suggestions plans or ideas I'd apreciate it.
   Marc Dunn - Wednesday, 12/19/01 15:01:04 GMT

Well; I'm not the Guru Marc; but you are aware that 90% of all armour being made nowdays is done cold with no forge or anvil involved. I'd suggest visiting the armourarchive website and looking at their getting started in armour making sections.

*If* you want to go hot I'd go with a gas forge specialized for heating armour shaped pieces. Take a gander at "select a page in the upper right hand corner, 21st century, armoury for some ideas.

   - Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 12/19/01 16:26:16 GMT

Armour Forges Marc, As Thomas noted most armor work is done cold (now and in the past). However, a heat source is needed to anneal the metal every so often. This can be done in a common forge HOWEVER it is very easy to melt or burn up relatively thin sheet in a forge.

The specialized armor forge made by Eric Thing and shown on our Armoury pages does the trick. Do not ask Eric about it. For libility reasons he refuses to discuss it. It is basicaly a forge burner adopted to work in open air rather than an enclosure. There is a refractory brick surface to support the work and to deflect the flame when work is not in place. Although Eric likes his top down approach this unit could also be made in the opposite direction (flame up) without the refractory. But you must be very careful to use such an arrangement where you have high shop ceilings (10 feet [3 meters] or more).

There is a smith out in Utah that uses a oxy/gas forge he built. It does not operated constantly but on demand through an "ecomomizer" valve. Press the pedal and a group of rose buds fire up, let off and they go out. It is compact, clean and efficent. But it is not for everyone.

The well equiped armoury will need a forge for working heavy stock. Almost any type will do. On our plans page we have a begineers "brake drum" forge. It is highly recommended as a first forge for anyone. Use it to test the available coal or charcoal (not briquettes) and then price out having coal shipped by the bag. If coal is not suitable then you haven't spent a lot of money on a forge. Your best option if coal is not suitable then is a gas forge. Many smiths build their own but there are also many commercial forges available. Our advertisers sell them (Centaur, Kayne, Wallace). If you want to build one then see the Ron Reil forge and burner page. We also have simple plans on our plans page including a link to Ron's page.

Other Armoury Equipment: Heavy shears are recomended for cutting shapes from plate. Currently many smiths are VERY happy with plasma torches for thin stock and they have the advantage of cutting stainless and non-ferrous.

Stakes and anvils can be purchased or shop made (see our Armoury page, iForge page and anvil series on our 21st Century page). At the 2000 ABANA Conference in Flagstaff there was a family of metal workers that made beautiful copper vessels by raising methods. Their stakes were primitive things made from about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2" (32-40mm) steel bar stock (perhaps old truck axel) set in stumps (log sections). One was bent at a right angle and had a rounded end and the other was straight up with a mushroomed end. Their work was not as a result of the quality of their tools but the skill of the worker.

The heavy stakes used by Eric Thing were manufactured by someone else to his specs. Let me know if you are interested in this type tooling as we are planning on producing them.

For dishing work (shallow curves and preliminary to raising) wooden blocks or stumps can be used. Depressions can be carved into the wood OR burned in with hot metal. It is a common technique to make a spoon by dishing the heated metal on the end grain of a block of wood letting the metal burn a form into the wood as it is shaped. . . simple and efficient. You can also purchase cast iron swage blocks for the purpose.

Hammers are the thing that you will end up with the most of. You will need big ones and little ones, hammers with long reach for raising and hammers with various face radiuses. Flea markets are often a good source and if its weird shaped YOU WANT it! Ball piens of every size are handy and multiples do not hurt as they can be modified to other shapes. Again there are some examples on our Armoury page. Check out the selection on the Kayne and Son page.

Due to the specialized needs of the armourer, most make a great many of their own tools. Sheet metal stakes for tinsmiths and silversmiths are available but are generaly a little light weight for the armourer as well as being expensive.

I have found that one of the most frustrating tasks is just cutting the blanks from sheet stock. Heavy shears work but must be anchored such that you can but a high proportion of your body weight on the end of a 4 or 5 foot lever without tipping or moving the bench. That is why I mentioned the plasma torch earlier. However, they are pricey for a startup.

Besides the obvious tools above and the many common shop tools that many newbies overlook there is a lot of grinding and polishing done on armour. Belt sanders (vertical and contact wheel types) are very good as well as flap wheels mounted on a motor or flexible shaft. Buffing is done with cotton wheels and emery. Buffing wheels run anywhere from 2000 RPM to 5400 RPM depending on their diameter so you may want several setups. You can do these tasks by hand but you may not live long enough to finish. . .

You have to remember that not only was this work labor intensive but many hands were put to the task. Many specialists were employed as well as common laborers. The modern craftsperson can make up for not having minions to do his bidding by applying motorized machines.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/19/01 18:38:13 GMT

Hello, I wonder if anybody can help. I looking for single large ball bearings to weld on to some iron work. I have looked but can only find high tolerance bearings with a high price tag. Any help would be great. Thank you.
   Kevin - Wednesday, 12/19/01 22:32:22 GMT


What size do you need, and how many?
   Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 12/19/01 22:39:16 GMT

Steel Balls Kevin, avoid "bearing" balls. They are hardened high carbon steel and the welds to them can be very brittle. McMaster-Carr has a variety of sizes and materials including plain carbon steel.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/19/01 22:59:24 GMT

Architectural Iron works has forged steal balls down to 1/2 inch and as large as 4 inch
   MP - Wednesday, 12/19/01 23:22:53 GMT

I am geting ready to buld a new coal forge . Iwas wanting to know if the retort from an old coal stoker (the kind used in bolers), will this make a good forge pot,or work with modifcation . Thanks
   joe rotenberry - Wednesday, 12/19/01 23:28:32 GMT

hey guru,I recently aquired a #201 Campion Blower and Forge post drill and I am curious just how mutch this babys actualy worth because the only post drill I have ever seen in person this big and with 2 gear settings was at the mount rushmore museum. Specs: previous owner torched off the flywheel and part of the flywheel shaft witch will be easy to replace and the drive pully is cracked pretty good and was repaired by welds but I plan on replaceing the pully and making a flywheel for it. Other than that there is absolutly nothing wrong with it or missing from it (exept the hand crank) The drill is currently hooked up to a motor and drills holes great. (O ya the pat. date is 1909)
   Baltes189 - Wednesday, 12/19/01 23:31:12 GMT

Hey tomas powers, what flea market you talking about, is it by dayton or colubus?
   Baltes189 - Wednesday, 12/19/01 23:44:22 GMT

Do you know of any quenching mediums other then petroleum products to get a good slow quench for high carbon steels? Would some kind of vegetable oil work?
   Adam O - Wednesday, 12/19/01 23:59:30 GMT

Adam, Peanut Oil works well, and is not nearly as toxic.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Thursday, 12/20/01 00:05:50 GMT

Paw Paw Wilson

The sizes of balls I am looking for are around 1/2", 3/4", 1" and maybe bigger. Quantity I am not sure of, maybe a 100 of each size, depending on price.
   Kevin - Thursday, 12/20/01 01:48:30 GMT

guru, this is my e-mail jorotenberry at yahoo .com
   joroterberry at yahoo.com - Thursday, 12/20/01 02:22:36 GMT

Quenching oils: Over the years veritable witches brews of mixed oils have been used. It is one area NOT to believe the old references.

Mineral oil is the cleanest non-vegatble oil. It doesn't get rancid. It is used in the baking industry as a release agent and it what is in "Johnson & Johnson - Baby Oil".

The modern substitute for quenching oils is a polymer-water mix. The polymer thickens the water so that it doesn't circulate rapidly from convection and thus cools slower. Other than that I don't know much about them.

I've used synthetic oil. It doesn't smoke and has a very high flash point so there is no flame. However, I'm sure there are probably unknown hazards involved.

In all oil quenching be sure to have enough volume for the size piece being quenched. Due to oils lower density and lack of evaporation it takes a lot more oil than water to quench a given piece. Also be sure to have a cover for the container to but out the ocassional flash fire.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/20/01 14:58:17 GMT

Old Post Drill Baltes189, In good condition (all the original pieces and mounting board) these old drills generaly sell for up to $200 US (all sizes and types). Broken or missing pieces they sell for considerably less. Just because you have seen one in a museum doesn't mean they are highly valuable. There are thousands of truely rare tools and machines in circulation that SHOULD be in museums but there are few museums interested. I suspect that when 19th and early 20th century machinery become hot museum items there will be little of it left. . .

The original mounting boards were hardwood (maple I think) 2" thick and had a nice little ogee milled into the edge. The ones I've seen were black Jappaned along with the drill but most have lost their finish. These boards had holes above and below the drill to mount the whole on a beam. One reason for the boards was that the hand crank and sometimes the flywheel extended beyond the mounting surface and the board acted as a spacer. This also facilitated shipping. To be have top collector's value the OEM board should be with the drill.

These are great old tools. The low speed will not burn up drill bits and is perfect for drilling STEEL. The auto feed systems keep good drilling pressure so that you consistantly make chips (important to keep from wearing the bit). I've drilled holes up to 3/4" with them BUT you really learn what horsepower is about starting at anything over a 3/8" drill!

They do not replace a good metal working drill press in the modern shop. However, they are much better than the typical machines that are designed for wood working and at their slowest speeds should not be used to drill anything over a 1/4" hole in steel.

Their weaknesses are that they did not come with drill chucks. The 1/2" spindle hole took "blacksmith bits" that were made from 1/16" to 1/2" all with 1/2" shanks. They are no longer made. I've put $150 Jacobs chucks on both the hand crank drills I had. I paid $25 each for the machines and then 6 times that for the chucks! When you add a chuck it shortens the usable space in the drill. On one of mine I replaced the column (they are cold drawn shafting) with one slightly longer and put in a middle support to reduce flexing of the longer column.

The other weekness (literaly) is the column and table. None that I have seen will take the drilling pressure created by the automatic feed when drilling at full force. It is possible that modern HSS drills take a LOT heavier use and this was not originaly a problem. Many of these machines have broken/missing tables.

These machines came in a bewildering number of styles by several makers and were constantly being redesigned and many patents were issued on them. Some had multiple speeds and others had geared feeds (rather than the cam, ratchet and paw). A few of the larger ones were designed to run off line shafting and had clutching pulleys on them. The early models had flywheels with round sections and the later ones had square crowned sections so that a belt could run on them. All the flywheels had the classic "S" shaped spokes of the period. The flywheel is necessary for hand crank use but should be removed for motorization.

   - guru - Thursday, 12/20/01 15:39:31 GMT

To everyone interested.
The US army has two rather informative cirkulars online.
One on machine tools desribing: layout, safety, basic layout of machines, heatreatment of metals...

The other on welding
with safety, common problems, diferences in machines, electrodes...

just thought to mention them as place to find basics.
   OErjan - Thursday, 12/20/01 20:32:30 GMT

Hi! I am wondering what the best source of minding stock to work with is. I have lots of old horseshoes and scrap yards nearby, but do I need to go to a steel/welders supply to get unused round stock and such for some of the little fancy projects that require (in my mind anyway) virgin stock?

   Brigitte - Thursday, 12/20/01 21:43:37 GMT

Stock: Brigitte, A steel supplier is generaly the best place if you can find a small (friendly) one. Large suppliers or "steel service centers" discourage small purchases with minimum purchases and prepayment for cut materials. Occasionaly some large fabricators/welders will sell stock to individuals but it is rare. It pays to shop around and find someone you can work with.

Sometimes hardware and hobby stores sell small bar stock but it is usualy zinc plated and a little pricey.

If you are just getting started or a hobbiest another smith might help you out.

We have considered selling small bundles of small mild bar stock through our store. But we would be paying the same price you would at the steel service center and have to mark it up significantly as well as charge for our time cutting and handling. Then there is shipping.

Scrap materials work fine but are often costly in your time and effort. Forging 1/4" square out of horse shoes and RR-spikes or other bar stock is expensive in fuel and is hard work (even with a power hammer).

The problem with small bar stock is that in square bar all that is generaly available is cold drawn or cold finish (CF) steel. This clean precision bar stock is expensive compared to hot roll (HR). Ask for hot roll and only buy cold finish if the size you want is not available in the cheaper material. Generaly 1/4" square is not available in HR bar. 3/8" square is sometimes available in HR but not always. Sixteenths sizes like 5/16, 7/16 and 9/16 are only available in CF bar.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/20/01 22:13:13 GMT

Cool! Thanks for the info on the old hand crank drill presses. Apparently mine is all original - but I still rather use the Delta.
If I was really good this year, I might get a stocking full of coal!
   Rodriguez - Thursday, 12/20/01 22:14:17 GMT

I asked santa for a bigger propane tank, but now that you mentioned it, a big-ol stocking full of coal would be just fine. Nothing like chestnuts roasting by the forge, but I think they would taste better if you used charcoal.;)
   - Keith - Friday, 12/21/01 11:34:14 GMT

Can someone highlight for me the difference between the Machinery's handbook and the Machinery's handbook guide, other then...about 2,250 pages. Thanks!
   - Keith - Friday, 12/21/01 12:23:48 GMT


DON'T buy the Guide, unless you buy both. The Guide doesn't have much of the data, it just tells you how to FIND the data. And you can easily (well, with time) find the data yourself, using the index and the table of contents. And, buy the oldest edition you can find. After the 17th edition, much of the blacksmithing information was left out.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/21/01 13:03:34 GMT

MACHINERY'S, Keith the guide has some of the formulas and tables without the explanitory text. I've never had much use for them.

One comment on "the older the better". If you are looking for heat treating information on the latest alloys such as for knife making then you are better off with an edition published in the last 30 years. Standards and development of new alloys changed rapidly from WWII until the 1970's.

See our review.
   - guru - Friday, 12/21/01 14:51:31 GMT

I tend to think strictly in terms of blacksmithing, not as opposed to, but as different from bladesmithing. Guru is right, especially if one does all of their bladesmithing via the stock removal method. If one does forging first, then both an old AND a newer MACHINERY'S would be a good approach.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 12/21/01 16:41:58 GMT

Just purchased a power hammer "The Canadian Giant No. 25" and need information about this critter as I have to do some restoration and repair.
HELP Please.
Hugh Wright
Wright Knives
St. Cloud, Fla.
   Hugh Wright - Friday, 12/21/01 20:02:25 GMT

Canadian Giant Hugh, The Canadian Giant is either a copy or was made under license of The Little Giant Company. However, they are not identical. They are very similar and operate identicaly. Neither hammer has been manufactured for a long time and Little Giant has been defunct since the 1970's.

Sid Suedemier
420 4th Corso
Nebraska City, NE 68410

Owns what was left of Little Giant/Meyer Bros. He has both old parts and is manufacturing some replacement parts as well as rebuilding hammers. IF any of the parts are interchangable he will be able to tell you. Otherwise you are on your own.

The "Little Giant" book by Kern has information about repairing Little Giants although I can not recommend some of the methods. It also has a lot of the history of the company.

The video "The Powerhammer Cycle" by Dave Manzer (see our review) is very good on tuning up and understanding how your hammer runs and covers examples of both the Little Giant and the Canadian Giant. I recommend it to every Little Giant or Canadian Giant owner. We distribute the video in the US and the author sells them direct in Canada.
   - guru - Friday, 12/21/01 21:06:48 GMT

I am looking to biuld a forge to cast meatals like copper, steel, aluminum, ect. can someone tell me how to biuld one?
   CLAYTON - Saturday, 12/22/01 00:35:16 GMT

You're the best Guru!
Thanks for all of the great info on were to find stock!
   Brigitte - Saturday, 12/22/01 00:46:16 GMT

Can you give me any resources that would tell me what area of the country a blacksmith named R.W. Clark worked in? All that I can tell you is that he was active in the 19th centry and probably worked in the New England in or around Boston. It seems to be very diffacult to retrive any info: on 19th C. blacksmith. Thanks Diana
   Diana Douglas - Saturday, 12/22/01 01:31:47 GMT

Can you give me any resources or information that would tell me where R.W. Clark practiced his blacksmithing trade? This would have been around 1830-1840 in the United States? Thanks!
   Diana Douglas - Saturday, 12/22/01 01:34:25 GMT

Clayton, you don't need a forge to cast metals, you need a foundry.

You use a forge to Shape metals.
   Paw+Paw+Wilson - Saturday, 12/22/01 02:14:24 GMT

Casting: Clayton, Order all the books you can find by C.W.Ammen on Casting, Foundry work and pattern making.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 02:54:49 GMT

I just looked through the iforge to see if there was any demos on forging a "foot" shape for a table leg. I have seen some nice shapes, but have never tried to make one. I have a table project design evolving, and need to figure out a forged foot. Legs will be from 1" square. Do you have any advice on where to look for ideas?

By the way -- tried to make my blade wheels on the bandsaw coplaner. Turns out that by the time I get them adjusted to be in one plane, the bottom wheel needs to be adjusted out so far on the shaft that the nut interferes with the door when it closes. I had to move the bottom wheel out over
1/2" to get them in the same plane. I'm beginning to think that I should forget that, move the bottom wheel in so it won't interfere, and simply tilt the upper wheel in more at it's bottom to make the blade stay further back on the bottom wheel. Blade tracks really well when adjusted in the same plane though, and I think in reality that is best. What is your experience on this? I haven't tried moving the wheel in to see if I can still get the blade to track yet.
   AZDoug - Saturday, 12/22/01 04:15:40 GMT

AZDoug - If I remember your original post, you have a vertical bandsaw by Grizzly or Jet or oneof the other similar companies. I'm not familiar with your particular saw, but have had quite a bit of experience with any number of bandsaws from old Walker-Turners to fairly modern DoAlls. One thing is common to all of them that I have dealt with, namely that as much as possible you should set up so that blade flex is minimized. It is the flexing of the blade that wears and, eventually, breaks it.

Several things are necessary to eliminate as much flexing as possible. First, true the wheels to coplanar as nearly as possible. While you're at it, use a dial indicator to check them for concentricity. You would be surprised at how far out of round some of them can be. If you find one out of round, get it turned concentric befor going much further. If you don't, the attendant vibration and hopping around will drive you nuts and prohibit accurate work. If they're round, set them up coplanar, adjusting BOTH wheels to get it right and have necessary clearances.

After the wheels are concentric and coplanar, you can set up the blade guides so that they support as much as possible of the spine and flats of the blade as possible without overlapping the gullets or contacting teeth. Different saws use different guide mechanisms from simple blocks to complicated bearing wheels, but the principle is the same. Tighten the blade to a good pitch for the blade width, track the blade to as nearly as possible the center of the wheels, then set the guides to stop side play and prevent the back (spine) of the blade from flexing when cutting pressure is applied.

In use, keep the blade guides as close to the work as possible to minimize free blade flex, and use an appropriate lubricant for the stock you're cutting.

Study the physics of your particular machine and keep in mind the factors I've mentioned above and you should have a smooth-running and effective piece of equipment. I've been using a cheapie knock-off of a Rockwell 14 for about fifteen years now on everything from 1/8" plastic to 1" mild steel and it works fine. Took a day to set it up and adjust it when I got it and tinkering from time to time, but I've gotten a lot of work out of that $250 saw. Hope this helps.

   Rich Waugh - Saturday, 12/22/01 05:12:30 GMT

I read in "Edge of the anvil" that pick-up tongs are used only for taking pieces out of the fire, and not for holding the piece while forging. Is this right? If so what then is a good all purpose tong for both things?
   adam o - Saturday, 12/22/01 10:39:30 GMT

How to harden mild steel for the purpose of making centre and nail punches? Thank you this is a great site.
   budge - Saturday, 12/22/01 12:22:21 GMT

I bought a refer type air drier because I get so much condesate in my air lines that I cannot run my plasma cutter. My question is how do you hook it up? There is no automatic switch on it just a plug. I worry about the cost of running it 8-5, monday-fri. Do I turn it on for a few min before I'm going to use it? I've never seen one or even know of anybody that uses one. Any tips?
   - Pete-Raven - Saturday, 12/22/01 15:12:49 GMT

Hardening Mild Steel: Budge, how hard steel gets is determined by the carbon content when the steel was made. Mild steel is not designed to be hardened.

Case hardening compounds on add carbon to and harden only the surface of low carbon steels. This is not suitable for hard use tools and is used mostly for wear resistant surfaces.

Make your punches from spring or tool steel and see our Heat Treating FAQ on the 21st Century page.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 15:14:19 GMT

Pick up Tongs: Adam, These have many uses. They are often called "rivet tongs" and the various sized loops in the tongs were designed to fit a wide range of rivets. Rivets were picked up and inserted in a hole OR tossed to another guy that caught them in a container and used another pair of pickup tongs to insert the rivet in a hole. .

In heat treating items are taken from the forge and dropped into quenchant or occasionaly swirrled around in the quenchant. No need for a vise like grip here.

When forging you normaly use the tongs that fit correctly to remove the work from the forge. There is no such thing as an "all purpose" tongs for forging. Every stock size requires a good fitting set of tongs. Odd shapes often require special shaped tongs. Most smiths end up with a huge collection of tongs compared to the number of their other tools.

In some power hammer work the part changes shape so rapidly that several sizes/shapes of tongs may be needed for one heat. If working in dies the tongs used to put the work in may not fit to retrieve the work and a different set used.

The nearest thing to "universal" tongs are flat bit tongs or flat bits with a groove similar to bolt tongs. Some smiths like what are called "wolf jaw" tongs. However, when tongs do not fit correctly the smith heats the tongs and adjusts them to fit including a proper grip on the reins (for the size work). It is for this reason that most tongs should be made of mild steel. They get heated, shaped and quenched without much thought.

To spread the reins (they usualy end up too close). Fit the jaws and then with a piece of stock in the jaws clamp them in a vise with the joint hot and open or spread the reins to a comfortable grip.

The tendancy is for the average smith to work a narrow range of stock sizes and have a few general purpose tongs that fit these sizes. But over time you will find that you need something special to hold the head of a rail road spike or to make hooks out of 3/16" (5mm) stock. That is why every smith should learn to make their own tongs.

I have a selection of "favorite" tongs that I use for a range of work. But when they don't fit, I adjust them. That is what smiths have done since the beginning of time. But I also have a collection of lesser used tongs. When you forge 1" (25mm) square stock you need tongs to fit and the little short ones designed for 3/8" (10mm) stock won't stretch that far. .

Many new smiths think the shape of their tongs is some mysterious thing written in stone. They are not. Heat them, shape them, use them.

* Exception(s): Don't change the shape of tongs in someone else's shop unless you ask (they may have a set that will fit - or believe the shape is written in stone). Some of the new light weight tongs such as those made by Off-Center products are made from tempered tool steel and are not designed to be modified and doing so must be done with care.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 15:54:45 GMT

Band Saw Adjustment: Doug (and others), it is common for some cheap import tools to not be properly designed (or have been designed at all when they are copies). Lack of adjustment range to proper alignment is a common problem. Changes are often made in the "non-design" that have repercussions that are ignored. I have seen many cheap machines that did not work at the factory and needed significant modification to work. The problem is that people buy them, don't know better and don't send them back. In the case of used machinery there is absolutely no recourse.

I like my used machine tools like I like my used cars. Lots of current mileage (indicating it runs) and NO shiney new parts. When I look under a used auto and see a shiney new oil pan (or a recently cleaned one), new suspension parts or fresh gasket sealer under the hood, I pass. . . . I much prefer something that hasn't been "fixed" by someone that shouldn't be let near a wrench. . . New parts indicate lots of recent problems.

I have seen expensive, NEW, made in South-East Asia mill-drills that the belt guard and enclosure didn't alow adjustment of the belts and the motor with lack of adjustment for changing speeds (with the belts). This didn't work at the factory and didn't work at the distributors wharehouse. It should have been sent all the way back to the factory. . . but they never are.

I have seen lathes made in South America where the casting prevented changing the belt to change the spindle speed. And I have seen saws with light weight pressed metal bases that could not hold the head in alignment resulting in every cut being curved. . .

All these were junk dumped on the American market because we often have more money than common sense. The makers KNOW that they will never be held responsible and the dealer/importers also know that the embarassed buyer won't return the machine (especially if told they have to pay the return shipping, even on something that never worked).

When buying a used machine that looks like it has had little or no use, as yourself, is there a reason this machine hasn't been run?
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 16:23:50 GMT

Drier: Pete, I don't have a clue what you are taking about. . . Didn't the device come with instructions?

I always use standard centrifugal filter/driers on my air lines and have little trouble with moisture (when painting). I don't have a plasma torch so I don't how how critical moisture is. But with lacquer it can be a real problem.

I prefer the transparent filter housings so you can see liquid build up in the bowl and drain it often. I normaly have one of these at the compressor and then one that I use with the equipment that needs clean air. In one shop I had a portable unit with a filter and a regulator that I rigged up to fit the quick disconnects on the shop air system. Besides "in" and "out" filters, air distribution systems need drops (short lines below taps) to collect condensation and drain it off occasionaly.

It helps to drain the tank of your compressor regularly. It is not unusual to have a quart or more of condensate in the tank after a week or so use. When painting I drain the tank daily.

I wired an outlet on my welder that is operated by the machine's on/off switch to plug in the high frequency attachment. Saves running a seperate cord and having a second switch to operate. However, this does not work with 120VAC on 240VAC machines. If your device has a cooling unit in it then there will be a startup time period needed to be ready to operate.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 16:45:34 GMT

Bandsaws: Since we are on this topic. I have a 14" 1HP Delta BS for woodwork and I am thinking of putting a V Block (stack of pulleys of graduated sizes) so that I can switch speeds for metal cutting. I have several Q's:

What is the recommended speed in fps for general purpose metal cutting?

What kind of blades to people prefer?

Do I have to add a pump etc to cool the blade?

What other problems might I encounter?

I dont have room in my shop or my budget for another power tool and I am not willing to give up my BS for woodworking so dual purpose would be the only way to go if it's feasible.

   adam - Saturday, 12/22/01 18:31:40 GMT


I'll let the guru answer most of that, but I never use any coolant with my metal saw. I always cut dry. I may go through blades a little faster than I would with coolant, but I don't have the mess. And the saw I use didn't come with a coolant pump.

Most guys will tell you to buy the bi-metal blades. I use the regular high carbon blades. I've tried the bi-metals, and I didn't see enough improvement to justify the increased cost.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/22/01 20:13:09 GMT

Bandsaw Speeds Adam, My little cuttoff saw runs 65, 120 and 220 feet per minute (20, 36.5, 67 m/m). It recommends the slowest speed for stainless and high carbon steel. The middle speed for low carbon and brass and the highest for aluminium and plastic. These are the correct speeds for running cabon steel blades. I run the saw on the highest speed cutting stainless and tool steels (as well as everything else) using high quality blades with high speed steel edges.

My woodworking saw was a two speed but the motor had to be replaced and I couldn't find a similar two speed motor in the necessary HP. But as a single speed saw it runs at 5,500 feet per minute (1676 m/m). Yes, over 60 MPH. That is the top of the wood working range. The second speed would have been 20% slower.

The ranges of the two saws are incompatible. However, another model of my wood working saw came with a two range gear box plus a variable speed control. There was a large gap between wood working and metal working but you could do both. Machines that do and claim otherwise are marginal for both. They run too fast on the slow end and not nearly fast enough on the high end.

If you must do both then you can use a metal working saw to cut wood. It does it very slowly and is not an efficient tool but it DOES work.

Vertical metal cutting band saws generaly run dry. However most come with a gravity/counter weight system to assist with the feed pressure. Unless you are cutting thin material you need much higher feed pressure for metal cutting and some type of assistance is needed as it is too much to provide by hand.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 20:16:34 GMT

RE: cheap machine tools. Yup I'm guilty. I know better but I bought a cheap $150.00 no name import drill press. The 5/8 chuck runs .030 off center. The key barely fits. the chuck taper into the quill has no tang so if the crappy 3/8 belt drive doesnt slip the chuck does. I can't wait for the piece of crap to go belly up so I can just chuck the whole damn thing. Never again......Bob.
   bob beck - Saturday, 12/22/01 21:11:33 GMT

A note on band saws
I recently got reminded of this (just healing up in fact)
on cheep vertical bandsaws w/no power feeds use a chicken stick and be sure that you can "check your self" before your hand hits the blade.
I was recently freehand cuting O1 stock for a blade and ended up cuting my self up nicely. band saw cuts take a long time to heal and the HURT! mostly due to the fact that there is all this stuff in the cut (bits of metal ,dust ,oil, grease,,etc)and it is all most inposable to clean out all the way. also I have sliced my self on the table so be aware of any sharp edges on the table, gards,etc.
the bandsaw is one of those tools I get to use so much I loose my fear of it and take stupid chances. when this happens I get hurt. fear keeps us safe. and I find I allways get reminder of that fear when I forget.(painful lesson most of the time)
   MP - Saturday, 12/22/01 21:20:26 GMT

Band saw safety. Yep you try to be safe but my big saw will cut through an oak or maple 4x4 about as fast as you can move it. I suspect it could cut off fingers, hands or arms faster and more easily. Don't even like to think about it.

Keeping the guide and guards adjusted as short as possible helps a great deal, but when you are cutting large stock (mine will take over 12" (305mm)) the blade is exposed and there is nothing you can do about it. Except religiously use pusher sticks.

However, I've found that it is easy to respect things with teeth and motors. That makes the silent stationary things more dangerous. I'm talking about HEAVY things. An anvil or swage block can smash a foot or hand easily and without warning. Heavy loads on hoists, come-a-longs or even hand trucks can go from being benign to deadly in an instant. In our domestic lives we get used to moving furniture, boxes and such and don't think about it much. But even a refrigerator is a light weight next to a drill press or small power hammer. Some anvils weigh more! I have two work benches that weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds (450kg) each. Makes you think twice before rearranging the "furniture". Most of the machinery weighs more.

And you don't need to drop a heavy load to hurt yourself. You don't know what "stubbing a toe" IS until you have tripped on a 400# plus piece of steel, or a swage block lying on the floor while walking at full speed. Any "immovable" object. Steel toed shoes (like hard hats) are a joke around really heavy stuff, BUT they will prevent toe stubs (as hard hats prevent serious injury from small falling objects).

Being ever alert is the best way to be safe. Quit when you get tired. Pay attention to the enevitable hazzards and try not to lose that initial fear of a machine.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/22/01 22:06:27 GMT

Seems I read some years back that 1018 steel would harden some if quenched in a lye/water solution, but I forget the proportions of the mix. Do you know what the proportions are?
Experience level: Fair blacksmith, began thumping around on iron in mid-'80's; currently make and repair hand tools for leather trades, (including hardening and tempering); remember that there were cautions to be observed when quenching in lye/water solutions.

Thanks for your help!

   Herb - Sunday, 12/23/01 01:18:59 GMT

guru, refer=refrigerated type drier. That term comes from working in food joints as a kid. Its a $800 unit that I picked up for $200 bucks. It came w/ hook up instructions for the air but no recomendations for operating times etc. I was thinking of putting it before the plasma torch and just turn it on for a few min, before I use the torch. I drain my tank and have the clear filter bowls like you suggested but I think a mist is still getting by. Plasma torches are great tools when they work right. Mine either works or it dosen't. Well, thanks anyway.
   - Pete-Raven - Sunday, 12/23/01 01:50:08 GMT

Twas the night before deadline
And all through the shop
I could hear clinkers tinkling...
Another weld that's a flop.
Undaunted, I clean out
my firepot with care
In hopes that a forge-welded
heart would appear.
Dead cans of Miller
are ringing the floor
Darn it! Too late
to get back to the store.
My Carhartts' on fire,
My white cap's turned to black
I couldn't be happier
Bang, bang, tap, tap, tap.
Just six more to make
I can't go to bed
The sulphury smoke's
playing tricks with my head.
Behind my left shoulder
I hear a strange thud:
My four inch Bosch grinder
Just fell in the slack tub!
Dawn is approaching
Not a moment to waste!
The family is coming
I must wash my face.
Beeswax is applied
to the iron with care
It sticks to my fingers
and gets in my nose hair.
I get out of the shower
And dry off in time
to see Little Jonny awake,
His five-year-old eyes sure do shine.
The family arrives
Presents are flowing,
I'm tired, but sit there
Contentedly knowing
That for five bucks in coal
and a dollar in steel,
Everyone got a handmade gift
We all know how that feels.
   mike-hr - Sunday, 12/23/01 01:57:08 GMT

Refrigerated Air Dryer: Pete, you know how water will drop out of air when it gets cooler? Like when it rains? A refrigerated dryer cools the air so that the "pressure dew point" is lowered and excess water forms drops on the cold dryer surfaces (inside) and then the condensed water (and oil) drops out through a automatic drain.

A refrigerated dryer is not unlike a dehumidifier. Except it is built to take the higher pressure of an air line. There are many permutations, but all have a refrigerant compressor, an expansion valve, a heat exchanger to cool the air, etc. In order for the refrigerated dryer to work, it must be running for a while before the wet air is drawn through it by the tools usage. It must be on the entire time that air is flowing or is expected to flow. At least in order for it to remove moisture from the air. Grin.

Remember that if compressed air goes through the lines with it off, moisture may stay in the lines and get blown out at next startup.

Like refrigerators, refrigerated dryers are expensive to run.

And a refrigerated dryer does NOT lower the pressure dew point enough to assure that the lines won't freeze if run outside in a "normal" Wisconsin winter. Usually, a refrigerated dryer will lower the pressure dew point to 35 to 38 degrees F.

The condensate will sometimes be hazardous, depending on your compressor lubricating oil.

Need or want more?
   - Tony - Sunday, 12/23/01 02:26:03 GMT

Tony, Yes I'd like more! Would you put that designers mind to work and please come up with a system that will know in advance that I will want it to run. That will some how get me a rebate from the electric co. How's that for a test. I was just curious how other folks had configured their own set up, using a cooler type drier that is. I guess its rarer than I thought. ( check that one buddy) :)
   - Pete-Raven - Sunday, 12/23/01 03:46:26 GMT

Herb. Gunther invented Super Quench to get away from the hazards of harsh quench solutions like lye.
   - Pete F - Sunday, 12/23/01 05:58:00 GMT

Pete-Raven - I've never used a plasma torch that ran on compressed air, but I spent a goodly number of years doing spray painting in very humid areas where water in the air was a real problem. My solution, for short runs, was to simply run a coil of copper tubing (50' of 3/8") inside a 5 gallon pail. That coil ran into a cannister with a purge valve, and then onto my spray gun. The 5 gal bucket was filled with cheap isopropyl alcohol with a chunk of dry ice (frozen CO2) tossed in. This setup literally froze all the moisture out of the air, since the temp of dry ice in alcohol is something like -100 degrees. NOTE: This was on a line that didn't exceed 50 psi, EVER! Frozen copper is probably brittle, so low pressure was an absolute rule. I got the dry ice free from the local ice cream joint, and the alcohol was reuseable nearly indefinitely. One "charge" was good for a few hours working time. Don't know if this is what you were looking for, but there it is.
   Rich Waugh - Sunday, 12/23/01 06:21:15 GMT

Hi, I am currently doing the NOCM blacksmithing course, here in the UK.
I am really interested in repousse techniques, having had sucess making roses, male figure and a dragon. I would like to make a horse and was wondering where I could get hold of the templates, I understand its made up of 20 odd pieces.
Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance, Richard
Merry Christams and keep up the good work.
   Richard Silk - Sunday, 12/23/01 09:05:41 GMT

Pete. You know me too well. Grin. How about just wiring the dryer and plasma such that when you hit the start button for the plasma, the dryer comes on and runs for 5 minutes before the plasma will start. Then when you shut down the plasma, the dryer shuts down too. That should satisfy them. Put the timer and stuff in a nice NEMA panel with some lights to look pretty?

In industry, I've never heard of a refrigerated dryer that was on/off. Big dryers modulate the refrigerant flow to maintain a given cooling temperature. Some energy savings that way, but your unit may not be big enough for that.

If anyone does what Rich did, make sure the cooling coil for the air goes only downhill and the purge canister is after the coil and just outside the cooling bucket. Otherwise, with that cold of a cooler, the line may freeze if there are any "traps" and you won't have any trouble with wet air because you won't have ANY air. Grin. Right Rich?

Much caution on the cooling coil construction like Rich said. Don't want to blow any alcohol/ice mixtures on the kids or customers! Remember that compressed air is a propellant and will throw sharp little pieces of metal at fragile human flesh very effectively.

Even salt water/ice with a copper cooling coil will do well on a hot humid summer day. Cools down the beverage cans well too. Grin. Rich, I assume you used a metal bucket? I would think a plastic one would get REAL brittle when that cold.

The cool dry air leaving the refrigerated dryer is usually sent over the condenser coil which reheats the air and evaporates any moisture that didn't go out the trap. That way, you don't get many carryover droplets to your compressed air user.

There are other air dryer technologies if anyone wants to talk about those. They all have pluses and minuses. Deltech was one brand that used to have a good explanation on their web site.

A series of air filters will remove water too. For a small air use, it would be much less expensive than buying a new dryer. Wikerson has an excellent explanation of coalescing filters in one of their catalogs. $200 for a working refrigerated dryer is a good deal!

Off to play with the wizard of handmade Christmas presents like mike-hr. Yes, I have some to complete yet too. No rest for the wicked. Mike-hr, that was a good one.
   - Tony - Sunday, 12/23/01 12:48:14 GMT

Bandsaw conversion: Thanks Pawpaw and Guru for the advice on converting a WW saw for metal use.

From the numbers you Guru mentioned it seems there is about a 100x difference between the optimum speeds for woodcutting and metal cutting. Much to big a jump to achieve just by switching the belt to different pulleys. I guess I will try setting it up for metal and seeing if I can live with the slow speed for wood working. Meantime I will scrounge around for a worm drive or a gear box.

What brand of blades do people like and what tooth pattern ? (I have been using Timberwolf blades for woodwork and they are 10x better than anything else I have tried)

I guess I could rig up a gravity operated pusher for thick stock. Do you have any data for the recommended amount of force per inch thickness of stock?

Thank you very much
   adam - Sunday, 12/23/01 16:19:15 GMT


I use the Lennox High Carbon Steel, in 12 - 14 TPI.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Sunday, 12/23/01 17:00:11 GMT

I'm looking for information on gas forges for knifemaking and damascus, I looked in centuar and seen that NC had a knifemaking forge. What does the NC stand for , do they have a web site, or where could I find out more info on there knifemakers forge. Do you know if they are capable of reaching welding heats and still able to run cool enough to just forge and heat treat with. Any help would be appreciated.
   Bill - Sunday, 12/23/01 17:13:31 GMT

Hardening Mild Steel Herb, see my post on 12/22 (up a few) about hardening mild steel.

Cheaper than super quench for mild steel is ice water. Plenty of that naturaly this time of year. Does exactly the same thing, a more sever quench. But I still recommend using REAL steel for anything that needs hardening.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/23/01 17:19:05 GMT

Bandsaw Conversion Yep, at least 50x but almost 100x at the maximum deviation in ranges. Most metalworking saws use worm gear reducers to get that kind of reduction.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/23/01 17:21:09 GMT

NC-TOOL FORGES Bill, Bruce Wallace has the complete line in his on-line forge catalog (see our drop down menu). NC has a web site but Bruces is better (as well as being an advertiser supporting anvilfire). We also have two anvilfire equipment reviews linked from there.

NC is for North Carolina where they are made.

In his video "Forging Damascus" Jim Hrisoulas is using an NC-TOOL knifemakers forge. See our review on the "Bookshelf".

Because propane/air mixes do not normaly burn much higher than the low end of the welding range most makers do not garantee them for welding. However, most WILL forge weld with careful adjustment and the bulk of all laminated steel comes out of gas forges.

To prevent melting a pile of billets into a solid mass just open a vent on your gas forge or reduce the gas a little. Generaly that keeps them under control. However, most of the time they are like any other forge and you should pay attention to what you are doing if you don't want to burn up your work. But they ARE less likely to do so than a coal forge.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/23/01 17:33:14 GMT

Bandsaw Blades I have used carbon steel blades and gotten very poor service on my cutoff saw. The more expensive blades like the Lenox HSS blades Paw-paw mentioned are actualy MUCH less expensive per cut outlasting the carbon steel blades 15-20 to 1. Add in the lack of frustration replacing blades and the fact that you can cut much faster and there is no comparison.

On my wood working saw I use skip tooth carbon steel blades without a problem and get good life cutting a variety of woods.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/23/01 20:01:12 GMT

Repouse' Templates: Richard, I never heard of templates for this type work other than those made by the artist. I would think the number of templates required depends on your skill level and the scale of the work. I can count 12 or 13 pieces but cannot see a reason for more.

1) Right side
2) Left side
3) Under belly
4-5) Right fore leg inner and outer
6-7) Left fore leg inner and outer
8-9) Right hind leg inner and outer
10-11) Left hind leg inner and outer
12-13) Tail (right/left or top/bottom)

On a very large work or using heavy material you may want to divide the larger parts up so that they are easier to handle. But I can also see a full 3D sculpture being made from two or three pieces (right and left plus underbelly, legs rolled closed. As soon as you start welding pieces together the project becomes a fabrication that could be made of hundreds of pieces.

All these variables (size, number of plates, pose) make patterns the artist's decision. Personaly I would start with rectangular plate and cut the pieces out after doing 99% of the shaping. The only templates needed would be for where the parting between plates had to line up.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/23/01 20:21:08 GMT

Just a note on tapers.
I have several tools for my drillpress that use Morse tapers made by me.
These I always have been too lazy to make a tounge on I just thread the end and insert a bolt that alows me to wedge them out. I have never ever had one slip.
In properly made tapers the friction between them holds the tool.
Some import tools have far from good tapers.
I have experienced one at a friend's shop with only about 1/2" (13mm) in the bottom end making contact, rest was freefloating (showed clearly on a blued tapergauge).
   OErjan - Sunday, 12/23/01 23:25:48 GMT

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