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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

I have a problem i hope someone can help me with. I have a cordless drill with a keyless chuck. I had put a drill bit in it and tightened it by hand and now I cannot get the chuck to open so I can get the bit out. Anyone here ener have this problem and if so how can I get the darned thing to release my bit ?
   Mark - Monday, 12/24/01 11:29:48 GMT

Mark, Big pliers? I class keyless chucks with mice and icons. A couple of the most useless inventions there ever was.

Try clamping the bit in a vise (between some boards) and using some push/pull on the bit as you try to loosen the chuck. That will also keep the chuck from rotating.

My little 6" Craftsman lathe had a keyless chuck when I got it and the first thing I did was order a taper adaptor for its little #1 taper to fit a 1/2" Jacobs chuck. Over the years I've used twist drills on metal numerous times with my woodworking brace and wished it had a Jacobs chuck. Works better than an electric drill in many cases as it is slow and you can apply proper pressure on the bit due to the position of the pressure handle. The pistol grip on electrics is needed to resist torque but you cannot apply pressure on the bit in a straight line. Between that and the speed most run they are strictly a wood working tool for anything over 3/16" (5mm).
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 15:35:56 GMT

Merry Christmas Guru,
I tried to clamp the bit in a vice with no luck but I was being too gentle as I as concerned with dammaging something. Looks like I may have put a slight bend in the bit. I need to do whatever it takes at this point. After freeing it up I am determined to fit it with a "normal" keyed chuck. I would hate to have to chuck it because of a lousy chuck.
Happy holidays ,
   Mark - Monday, 12/24/01 16:16:58 GMT

Replacement Chuck: Mark, Hopefully the spindle will take a replacement chuck. Most are threaded onto hand drill spindles. Look inside with the jaws open, there will be a left hand socket head (Allen) screw at the bottom of the chuck if the drill is reversable.

When I have had old drills fail I always remove the chuck to use on something else. Even cheap chucks can be handy making a special tool.

New Jacobs chucks are not cheap and most will outlast an electric drill. Keys are always available. You can also get chuck rebuild kits but the cost is around half of new.

Merry Christmas to you too!
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 16:34:48 GMT

Tapers: I've had lots of Morse tapers in perfect condition slip when the torque got too high. But then I don't hammer tapers in. Once they slip the receiving taper needs to be cleaned with a taper reamer to remove bits of material that stick to the surface. You can actualy dress the taper itself with a file if you are careful and they will work fine. Tapers are soft but the spindle hole is often hardened material.

Good quality drill presses have the tang to prevent slipping and to provide a surface for the wedge to drive out. Its a good system. However, due to space and design contraints lathes do not have a place to receive the tang and use the end of the feed screw to extract the taper. I've found it very useful to shorten the tapered shank (remove the tang plus some) on tapers used in the tailstock. You have to be careful not to remove too much or you can't get them out AND you have to dedicate them to a specific machine. A center is a good gauge for the length. You can gain an inch (25mm) or more on small lathes and several inches on larger lathes. About 30% more travel.

I too have found that many cheap machines have badly fitting tapers and poor quality chucks. So far I have not seen an import clone of a Jacobs chuck that ran true.
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 16:35:54 GMT

Tapers: I've had lots of Morse tapers in perfect condition slip when the torque got too high. But then I don't hammer tapers in. Once they slip the receiving taper needs to be cleaned with a taper reamer to remove bits of material that stick to the surface. You can actualy dress the taper itself with a file if you are careful and they will work fine. Tapers are soft but the spindle hole is often hardened material.

Good quality drill presses have the tang to prevent slipping and to provide a surface for the wedge to drive out. Its a good system. However, due to space and design contraints lathes do not have a place to receive the tang and use the end of the feed screw to extract the taper. I've found it very useful to shorten the tapered shank (remove the tang plus some) on tapers used in the tailstock. You have to be careful not to remove too much or you can't get them out AND you have to dedicate them to a specific machine. A center is a good gauge for the length. You can gain an inch (25mm) or more on small lathes and several inches on larger lathes. About 30% more travel.

I too have found that many cheap machines have badly fitting tapers and poor quality chucks. So far I have not seen an import clone of a Jacobs chuck that ran true.
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 16:35:54 GMT

Jock, I am working on a Niles hammer like you have. It is missing the shoe that rides behind the ram to put it into the run mode. Can you trace the profile of it for me. I have made a rough part but it is not the right shape. Thanks, Bob
   Bob Bergman - Monday, 12/24/01 17:22:14 GMT

Hello Guru,
I am a metal working neophite and wish to find a skilled pewtersmith to reproduce an old candleholder which is a family heirloom. Do you know of any pewtersmith craftman who might do custom work on such a project? The dimension of the piece are 6 inches tall, and roughly 1-1.5 inches in diameter at the base. We are only planning are making a limited order (roughly ~25 pieces).
We are geographically located in New Jersey however we do not have a problem shipping an example piece for casting an original mold.
I am 30 but this work is being done for my parents G.E. Pralle and Karin Pralle. G.E. Pralle is a long time mining and metallurgist. I would greatly appreciate any information you might have in this regard.


Martin Pralle
   Martin Pralle - Monday, 12/24/01 17:39:12 GMT

Pewtersmith Martin, Source coming by e-mail.
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 18:14:56 GMT

Mark Parkinson, Canada Do you have a new e-mail address? Old one bounced.

Niles-Bement Hammer Bob, I'll try. It is a hard hard part to get to. The cam shape is critical for smooth operation and varies with the size of the hammer. Mine is a 350# and I know someone that has a 400 or 450#. Bement made every hammer different in size including every detail of the frame.
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 18:53:59 GMT

Merry Chistmas all
I am just starting into the blacksmithing art and have yet to find a good teacher in my area. I also need the whole starting deal. I have access to a small gas forge but nothing else. I was also wondering if you could tell me about a good book for beginnere or if I am going to just need to find a live person to help me get going
thanks, Joel
   Joel Johnson - Monday, 12/24/01 20:18:26 GMT

Check out the Bookshelf-Reviews. I like "The Edge of the Anvil". What is your area anyway?
   Fred Weisenborn - Monday, 12/24/01 20:57:28 GMT

Recommendations Joel, Yep, we can't devine your location from your hot-mail address. Check ABANA-Chapter.com for the nearest ABANA chapter. That is the best way to locate local smiths. See our Getting Started article for books as our book review page as Fred mentioned.
   - guru - Monday, 12/24/01 23:34:33 GMT

Just want to say Merry Christmas and thanks for all the help you've given us during the year.
Larry & Linda Florence
Blue Heron Forge
Shawhan, Ky.
   Larry - Tuesday, 12/25/01 01:58:19 GMT

Mike-HR-- Just finished a long stint of work similar to your epic ordeal. And just want to add that you omit a little something from the equation-- "for five bucks in coal and a dollar in steel, Everyone got a handmade gift"-- you leave out that they also got beaucoup hours we'll never have to live again, that could have been earning some bucks. Oh, well, joyeaux noel and all that. Yrs., Miles Undercut, acting provost Cracked Anvil Center for Analysis.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/25/01 02:28:41 GMT

* * * * * * * * and * * * * * * * *
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/25/01 03:35:38 GMT

Thank you for the wonderful Christmas Gift of Anvilfire !!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
   - Conner - Tuesday, 12/25/01 16:41:32 GMT

My Christmas thank yous to Jock, PawPaw and all the rest of the fine folks in here. Best wishes from the Caribbean!

   Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 12/26/01 03:59:01 GMT



   ANDY - Wednesday, 12/26/01 06:00:28 GMT

Chambersburg Parts: Andy, this is one of the most critical parts in the machine. It it only second in criticality to the control valve itself. The part is a cam with a curve that must be exactly right. The cam is a different shape for every size hammer and may have changed with design changes in the valves (which ARE known to exist).

I didn't think there was an "old" saftey cap. There is either a plain head (not good) or the patented Chambersburg air chamber safety cap. Hammers without a safety cap are very prone to striking the plain cap and launching parts of the cap, the piston and the driving rod out the top of the hammer. My 1940's Chambersburg catalog shows old hammers without a safety cap, safety cap refit instructions AND all new hammers being supplied with the same safety cap that is in use today.

It is also my understanding that if you purchase a safety cap from Chambersburg for the hammer that they will help you service the hammer. However, I may be wrong in this. But that WAS their previous policy. It has to do with libility AND the fact that OHSA requires safety caps on this type air or steam hammer.

In no case should you expect any manufacturer to provide you with detailed drawings. They MAY sell you operating manuals (with primitive assembly drawings) and repair parts but they are not obligated to provide individual users manufacturing drawings. Even if you purchased the machine from them NEW they wouldn't provide that kind of detail.

I have a manuals and catalogs with drawings of Chambersburg hammers and the manuals are full of service notices (updates) related to very critical adjustments in the control linkage. I think you need Chambersburg more than you think.

A few posts up I offered to make a template of the same part on my Niles-Bement-Pond hammer (the machine copied by Chambersburg). However, Bement has been out of business since the depression or shortly after. And my hammer is the same size (350#) as the one needing a part (at least it needs to be for the cam to work).
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/26/01 15:36:46 GMT


Several folks have asked what kind of tainless screen I use in my fire screens and where to buy it. I use 8 or 10 mesh,
.025 or .032 wire diameter, 304 or 316 series, stainless wire screen. I buy it at Dorsteiner Wire Tech, 281-931-4949, 705 Bradfield, Houston, TX. 10 mesh, .032,
304 sells for $1.60 per square foot; 10 mesh, .25, 304 sells for $1.25 per square foot. The screen comes in rolls 4' x 100'. They'll sell half a roll. I've never asked them to cut any less, so I don't know if they'll cut any less.

Tom Stovall
stovall at wt.net
   Tom Stovall - Wednesday, 12/26/01 16:36:37 GMT

RE: tangs in tailstocks
I have an old south bend lathe w/ #3 morse tailstock. After a hard learned lesson in spin-welding (grease boiled out), i mail-ordered a new live center. it didn't come with an ejector tang, so i cut a brass plug, 1/2 round by 5/8 long. I just slide it in before installing the center, it ejects fine now. Just have to remember to fish plug out with twisted piece of wire...
   mike-hr - Wednesday, 12/26/01 19:31:22 GMT

Mike, Good solution, but as mentioned ealrier tapers are generaly soft even though the fine ground surfaces make them look like a hardened part. You should be able to drill and tap the end of the taper and permanently screw the plug onto the end of the taper. OR, the head of a socket head cap screw may be tall enough to do the job.

I'm not sure why but I have seen a lot of old lathes with damaged tailstocks that are difficult to turn the screw, or with handwheels broken off and shafts damaged. Could be moving damage or dropping the tailstock off the end of the bed. . but in either case its common.

Moving damage seems to be the most common destroyer of good old machinery. I've seen (and owned) a lot of old machinery that was tipped over and handles broken and shafts bent or other heavy items run into them. I've also seen a lot of bad rigging on machinery or failure to secure on trucks that led to damage. Many machine tools are top heavy besides being surprisingly heavy. Tipping them over almost always breaks something important. Fork lifts are a great tool but many things are not suitable to move with them or out of the capacity range. Take care when moving machinery to avoid hurting it OR you.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/26/01 20:32:43 GMT

Guru, together with moving abuse and faliure to lubricate spring to mind.
just a thought
   OErjan - Wednesday, 12/26/01 22:29:31 GMT

Guru, together with moving-damage and outright abuse faliure to lubricate properly spring to mind.
just a thought
   OErjan - Wednesday, 12/26/01 22:32:00 GMT

I am a Farrier and just getting started in to blacksmithing.I do alot of forge work on horseshoes. Ihave most of the basic horseshoeing tools .I would like to start making my tools that I will need. I have some tool steel , mostly D2. What can be made from this D2? Hot cuters,drifts,ect.
   Joe R. - Thursday, 12/27/01 22:01:23 GMT

Tool Steels: Joe, Practicaly any tool steel can be used for any purpose. Some are just better for specific purposes than others. D2 is a very high carbon chrome tool steel (1.4-1.6%) and is wear resistant. The high carbon means it is more subseptable to cracking from thermal shock so it needs to be warmed before heating and then heated very slowly. The tempering range is 400 to 1,000°F.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 01:00:47 GMT

I want to know why there are no movies about a blacksmith who is summoned to the White House to forge-- with the help of the bespectacled female CIA agent assigned to assist him who, you just know, beneath that icy exterior is a tigress in the sack-- the crucial, devastating device that will save the world from the evil conspirators who threaten our way of life as we know it today. Hmmmm?
   Jean leGubrious - Friday, 12/28/01 05:06:03 GMT

Guru and Guys,
Another question. I have a friend who runs a little country garage. He gave me an old torsion bar out of a Toyota pickup the he changed out the other day. The owner had bottomed out the vehicle during a mud run and stripped the teeth off one end. Otherwise it looks ok. About four feet long and 7/8 to an inch in diameter. Must be pretty tough spring steel. Would this be suitable for making hotcutters, punches, chisels? If so would it have to be brine or Superquenched? Thanks.
   Larry - Friday, 12/28/01 05:11:01 GMT

It is not that heat resistant but should hold up OK to most applications. Here is some of the tools I have made with springs/torsionbars: wrenches, hammers, coldchisels, centerpunches, sets, drawknifes, capechisels, punches, drifts, it just goes on and on.
One thing to look out for is cracks in old springs (and some not so old) some do not show up until you use the tool.
Oh and test several samples to get it right (I can give My way to test unknown steels if you want)
   OErjan - Friday, 12/28/01 10:42:43 GMT

Jean leGubrious. Because so many blacksmiths have one damaged eye from leaving the spoon in the coffee cup while drinking?

   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/28/01 13:55:20 GMT

I am an art collector not a blacksmith and have no metal knowledge. what is BLUE SPELTER and what is the history of its use
   tommy j - Friday, 12/28/01 14:21:10 GMT

Torsion bar Spring Steel: To add to what OErjan had to say it is probably an oil quench steel as are many spring steels. It is probably a medium to high carbon alloy steel. The only way to know is to test a piece but brine will most likely cause cracks if its an oil quench steel.

Cross section is also important in hardening. Thin pieces like blades quench very fast and unless relatively low carbon steel do not need a severe quench like brine. However heavy sections (large anvil size and up) sometimes need tons of ice in the quench to keep from boiling off the brine/water. Often high carbon steels that are listed as oil quench will air quench in thin sections. This is a real problem when machining these steels at speeds that heat the chips to the hardening range. Chips come off the cutter air quenched and file hard. On lathes they get under the carriage and in the slides. It is worse than sand and can cause rapid wear of critical parts.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 15:25:35 GMT

Blue Spelter: Tommy I have never heard of "blue" spelter. Spelter is another name for zinc and art castings in zinc are often called "spelter". I think the art castings date from the late 1800's but wer most common in the early 1900's. These are often slush castings to produce a hollow light casting but zince can be cast using every known method from lost wax to permanent mold. When new zinc is a white metal but rapidly turns a blue grey if not protected from oxidation. Since 1983 pennys have been made of zinc with copper facing. Cut into the edge of one and you will see the white metal. Zinc is also used to galvanize steel.

The advantage of zinc castings (automobiles are full of them) is that they are cheaper than copper alloys and just as stong (when the zinc is alloyed with aluminium). It also melts at a relatively low temperature of ~800°F and is cast at about 1,000°F. This means energy costs are less.

The disadvantage of zinc is that it is very chemicaly active. When used as a galzanizing coating for steel it disolves in the corrosion process and replates scratches in the coating. Lumps of zinc are also used as sacrificial annodes on boats and underwater structures for the same purpose. This high chemical reactivity means that it corrodes quite fast when used outdoors.

Poor quality and improper application of zinc castings gave it a reputation as cheap "pot metal". However, when properly used it is a very useful and durable material.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 15:43:29 GMT

Heroic Smith: It seems the heroic smith and the metalsmithing gods are a thing of the past. Technology has made them obsolete. Even in modern literature they are placed in times past or in fantasy worlds (See Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card).

Now. . IF there were a truely good modern heroic smith story Hollywood would screw it up. It would either get Disneyfied with cute animated gnome assistants and sparkely fairy dust flux or the technology would get so screwed up that those of us that know better would be rolling in the isles laughing (use the "forging" scene from Conan the Barbarian as an example). They would probably cast an actor for their looks that never picked up a hammer in their life and let a Hollywood acting coach teach them the old Hollywood "ting ting tap". . . the image "throw like a girl" (pardon me ladies) comes to mind. . .

The most recent movie forging sequence flashes by in an instant in Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring (a great movie). Sadly it is the slimey trolls under the power of the traitorous wizard doing the forging. At least THEY really know how to give hot iron a real wack! However. . . the movie makers just HAD to duplicate the casting sequence from Conan the Barbarian in multiples as one scene. It may be fantasy but they were making STEEL swords and armor, not bronze. Doesn't ANYONE consult a book OR an expert. . .?????
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 16:48:58 GMT

Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring: Is FINALLY a movie that reflects what JRR Tolkein wrote and probably imagined. It is not a Disney cartoon (Disney owned the rights to Lord of the Rings for several decades) and it in NOT another cheap effects feature like those produced in the past. It presents as real a world as possible. In many cases the film makers actualy created real life villages and gardens a year in advance so that nature could run its course. The exoticaly beautiful New Zealand landscapes also added much to "Middle Earth". Otherwise they used absolutely seemless digital affects to create places that have previously only existed in imagination.

Although there is a lot of sword play this is NOT a swords movie and there are few sword battles that are anything less than hectic. However, there are many fine examples of beautiful workmanship on display if only for an instant.

As mentioned above there are only minor forging scenes. However, this is largely true to the books. When Tolkien wrote of the work of the Dwarves and Elves, forging of the rings of power and magical weapons, it was mostly implying magical methods and little detail was given.

The film follows the Tolkein trilogy very closely (the best I can remember from reading it 20 years ago). But perhaps it is too close. The three books make three very long films that might have best been broken up into six parts. This is my only complaint, the length of the film. Sitting through the three hour movie without intermission (do the DO that anymore?) was almost painful. But that may have been my personal experiance since the film showed at our local mall theater that has the most uncomfortable seats in town. . . A really bad choice by the theater owners (a local monopoly).

I would love to see it again, preferably in the comfort of my home. Can't wait for the DVD. . . :-)

But we will have to continue to dream of the Heroic Smith.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 17:28:56 GMT

greetings, I've been getting assorted pieces of junked agri-shafting from my driveline shop friend. 1-1/4 sq. solid, etc. It does the high carbon spark test, tough to forge. I'd like to machine rounds & grooves for swages and dies, but i think ther's a work hardening thing going onfrom the shafting sliding along the slip joint. I shattered a new hss end mill on a light cut.If i heated to non-magnetic and buried in insulation, would this help? end mills are expensive,and i'm scared of this stuff.
   mike-hr - Friday, 12/28/01 17:45:00 GMT

Annealing Mike it might help but it depends on the steel. But you are right that most medium and high carbon steels must be annealed to machine them. Annealing temperature is a little higher than non-magnetic on medium carbon steels.

You also have to be careful about torch cuts. These often add carbon as well as harden from "stock quench". That is when there is a small heated area and the mass of the stock is enough to quench the steel to full hard. Torch cut surfaces are VERY bad about this and should be ground off.

Once you have a swage shape (to fit a hardy hole) it is easier to forge half rounds and V squares. Use mild steel bar for the die and hammer it into the hot tool steel.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 18:19:46 GMT

mike-hr. i doubt it is workhardening, it is likely hardened from factory to take the forces.
just my thought
   OErjan - Friday, 12/28/01 18:43:01 GMT

Lord of the rings: Just got home from seing it. Nobody ever asked ME fore a qote on the hardware. May be just as well, I would have done it for free. Delicious stuff.
   - Olle Andersson - Friday, 12/28/01 21:49:24 GMT

I think I found the conan like scene ALL MOST passable as they seened to be smelting ore in a very neet looking and highly fanitastic way (whole trees cut up and added to the fire?) think my mind pased it off as ok in that way (pooring crusable steel in a mold that is close to the final shape.
still not real but then this is Tolkein so fantisy is ok I guess.
all in all a very good flick
   MP - Friday, 12/28/01 21:57:55 GMT

Everyone probably knows this already but....... I needed a stake to form the dish of a couple of candle holder pans. I welded a square section on the bottom of a trailer hitch ball and bolted it through the hardie hole. Works real well.....Bob.
   bob beck - Friday, 12/28/01 22:08:56 GMT

Luck of the Draw Kiwi says that at one point they had every crafts person in New Zealand loaded with work on the movie making stuff! You just had to be in the right place at the right time.

However, in typical movie fashion the scores of helmets and armor for the extras were made from spray plastic in rubber molds. . mass produced and then painted to look like steel.

I keep telling you guys on the paint issue that if movie makers can make wood, plaster, and foam rubber look like steel, blacksmiths certainly ought to be able to make STEEL look like STEEL!
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 22:41:29 GMT

Dishing: Bob, easier yet, take a hot blank and tap it into the end grain of a wood stump (your anvil stand). The wood burns and makes a perfect dish swage to fit as you go. . . later cold blanks can be worked in the same dished out place.

I find that it is much easier dishing candle cups in a recess rather than over a stake. Wood works well. Keep the depressions shallow. It is a common mistake to make bowl swages too deep in swage blocks and bowl forms.

Trailer hitch balls DO make nifty raising stakes. One of our iForge demos includes them along with a variety of other common items turned to tools.
   - guru - Friday, 12/28/01 22:47:08 GMT

Just been reading through. You mentioned something called Super Quench. What is it? Availability in Ontario Canada. And if it's not available in Canada what would be a simular product?
Thanks Mike.
   Mike Valois - Saturday, 12/29/01 02:39:57 GMT

4 1/2 gallons water
5 lb. salt
32 oz. Dawn dish soap (blue)
8 oz. Shaklee Basic I

Stir before each use

Now, what is it? Basically it's a heave brine solution, with a surficant and an anti-bubbler in it.

It will not turn mild steel into tool steel. But for those applications where we need mild steel to be just a little bit harder, it does a good job.

One test took a piece of 1" steel bar, (1018 if I remember correctly) heated one end to non-magnetic and quenched it in cold water. The other end was also heated to non-magnetic and quenched in Super Quench.

The cold water end tested at about 18 on the Rockwell C scale, and the Super Quench end tested at about 42 on the Rockwell C scale. That's an appreciable difference.

I use it on RR spike knives. The regular spikes won't really take or hold an edge. (although I've been told that the ones marked HC will, I've never had any of them) but when quenched in SQ, they do take an edge and hold it fairly well.

OH! BTW, Shaklee is a line of bio-degradable detergents. Basic I is the basic industrial strength formula. Shaklee distributors are listed in the yellow pages of the phone book.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/29/01 03:14:57 GMT

I've been told that with the "new and improved" Dawn that we should only use 24 oz, rather than the 32 oz. Haven't tried it yet.
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/29/01 03:16:51 GMT

Le Gub & Frank..LOL!
Tommy;spelter ( or however it is spelt here) is traditionally a mixture of flux paste and metal filings or shavings that is put in a joint to be soldered or brazed and heated to join the pieces together,
   - Pete F - Saturday, 12/29/01 03:49:42 GMT

Spelter: Pete, That is what I had always heard but it only applies in blacksmithing circles. . In the larger world spelter is zinc. Hey if "forge" can be a noun, verb, adverb, adjective or prefix then spelter can be anything it wants. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 12/29/01 04:20:10 GMT

My recipe for "super quench" is much simlpier, water + 50% by volume crushed ice. Does the same thing to mild steel. You are better off to use real steel and a proper heat treat.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/29/01 04:23:50 GMT


True, BUT Can you keep a five gallon bucket of ice and water sitting in your shop indefinitely? I've got a bucket of SQ that is at least two years old, and as long as I stir it before using it, it still works fine. (grin)
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/29/01 04:27:52 GMT

Yeah, well, never mind all these creepy elves and hobbits-- how come there's no movie where this humble rural blacksmith is kidnaped by guys in black sunglasses and rushed to Cape Caneveral where he is launched into space on account of he is the only one who can cold-forge this crucial part needed to avert a cosmic calamity, see, and wowee, this NASA lady techie assigned to go up in the capsule with him is, you just know, behind the hornrims and the demure schoolmarm ponytail, a smouldering ball of pent-up fire and all like that? Hmmm? Are we being censored, discriminated against, or what?
   Jean leGubrious - Saturday, 12/29/01 05:14:50 GMT


I like the way you think!
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/29/01 06:02:06 GMT

I mean, hey, look, we had Good Will Hunting, about a townie tough with the mind of an Einstein. Now we got A Beautiful Mind, no less, about a head case mathematician who wins the Nobel. So, where are the blacksmiths in all this? How about a smith who inhales a major whifter of oxy-acetylene and brazing flux fumes, has a vision of a new super-weapon and forges it up, takes it to the Pentagon and shows it to the Chief of Staff. She's played by Jennifer Lopez, see, and J-Lo takes him and it off to Aberdeen Proving Ground for a weekend of high intensity testing and....
   Jean leGubrious - Saturday, 12/29/01 15:40:04 GMT

The reason that movie never was made is that it would be too close to reality.
   - Olle Andersson - Saturday, 12/29/01 16:40:46 GMT

Whoops, shouldn´t have told you that. I three-piece suits wearing sunglasses at night shows up, smash your computer!
   - Olle Andersson - Saturday, 12/29/01 16:43:34 GMT

Dear Guru. I just bought a ton of coke haven't used it before. I'm having trouble with my welds don't see my tell-tales untill its to late. It's hard to start and it pops and throws sparks if I use water on it. I thought I was cutting a fat hog but its kind of a pain and I've got this grteat big bag full. Help? thank you Cy
   Cy Swan - Saturday, 12/29/01 18:23:25 GMT

Coke: Cy, Foundry coke requires a lot of forced air, burns very hot and is generaly not suitable for blacksmithing. The reason is that it has almost no volitiles (lighter hydrocarbon combounds) and it is very dense. Without the volitiles it will not burn without a deep bed and lots of air. The higher density also contributes to the problem.

Coke for smithing is much lighter (not compressed) and still has a few volitiles in it. The only time I have seen it in bulk was at CanIron II in Calgary Canada a few years ago. It was very similar to coke made by the smith in an open forge. It is still more difficult to keep burning than regular coal but it is much better than foundry coke.

I've had pea and nut sized foundry coke and tried to use it alone to much agrevation. I then mixed it with some coal. It made the character of the coal rather strange and I finaly gave up on it.

No good news. . .

Save it for when you want to do a little foundry work. It can be stacked under and around a crucible in a stacked refractory brick enclosure. It will melt iron, brass or bronze. Be sure to use a high temperature rating graphite crucible.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/29/01 18:48:35 GMT

Happy Holidays Jock,
In my endless search for an anvil, I've come across a Paragon 245 pounder. Any comments? I'm not familiar with it.
Thanks....Dave H.
   Gator - Saturday, 12/29/01 19:56:18 GMT


Soderfors, These anvils were generally sold under the brand name Paragon, but they also manufactured anvils for at least one U.S. hardware company. They also sold under their own trademark, Soderfors.

Later the author says;

It is of little consequence whether these anvils are cast or forged, as it has been my observation that they are of excellent quality, and hold up well under heavy use.

In other words Dave, go for it!
   Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 12/29/01 20:46:35 GMT

Paragon Anvil: Gator, Söderfors of Sweden made these anvils. They are described as forged but Richard Postman thinks they were cast. In either case they are a good Swedish made all steel anvil. They were imported to the US during the first third of the 20th century.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/29/01 20:50:08 GMT

   - guru - Saturday, 12/29/01 20:50:58 GMT

Guru, I know that everyone preaches about warming the anvil before forging when it is cold. Do you know an actual case where a horn or heel got broke off because it was cold? With all the old anvils out there with horns or heels broke off. Could part of the reason (I believe.) The smith started out first forging on heavy work and maybe even with the help of a striker. And maybe some horns were broke off because an improperly fitting tool was forced into the hardie hole when the anvil a little cold.
Sometimes one assumes too much without first hand knowledge. I’m talking in general maybe over the years people have assumed cold anvils caused all this damage when possibly it has not.
   Dave Wells - Saturday, 12/29/01 23:34:56 GMT

Guru, I said horns I meant the heels broke off due to tools. The horn would be heavy hitting on it. sorry I goofed. Thanks
   Dave Wells - Saturday, 12/29/01 23:39:42 GMT

Cold Steel Dave, I do not know of specific cold weather cases of anvil failure. However, breakage of steel tools and parts of all types when cold is a known problem. Vehicals designed for artic service have critical parts made of steels that retain their strength at low temperature as well as have specific requirements for warming up before use.

The harder the piece of steel generaly the worse the cold brittleness problem. Old wrought anvils would have less of a problem than modern all steel anvils.

However, the breakage problems on old anvils were generaly at weld joints. Horns were welded onto the front of the body in a rather badly designed butt weld. It was also common to have the top plate pieced around the hardy hole. The combination of weak weld zones and the high stress at the hardy hole in the body contributed to most heal failures.

If the temperature is freezing or below I would warm the anvil (and hammer). Its too precious a tool to wreck because one is in a hurry.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 01:57:24 GMT

I M looking for plans for rollers,benders and
picket twisters hope you can help. Thanks
   Ted - Sunday, 12/30/01 04:32:57 GMT

My Paragon says right there on the side of it: Cast Steel. Damned good anvil. Made in the 1920s, imported to work in the late David Snell of Houston's daddy's turpentine factory in Minden, Louisiana. I love it dearly. Take care of your anvil and it will take care of you.
   Miles Undercut - Sunday, 12/30/01 04:43:38 GMT

Tapers: There are three basic spindle tapers used by lathe manufactures. Morse is the most common and is generally used in sizes from zero to eight. Each is different in the amount of taper per foot. The others are "Jerno" and "Brown and Sharpe". To know which one you have refer to the "Machinery Handbook" Tapers can be properly cleaned with a tool called a "Taper Mate". These are made for each individual taper. The tange on most Morse tapers (both sleeves and sockets) is provided to keep the tool from turning in the taper. The taper is for ALIGNMENT ONLY , not to provide torque. The tailstock spindle on the lathe has a internal screw/bolt to eject the tool mounted in the spindle. If the tool/taper does not fit all the way into the spindle rotate it untill the tange fits into the slot machined inside the spindle bore. Short Morse tapers for the HEAD STOCK spindle do not have tanges. All the high quality keyless chucks that I use have provisions for a spanner wrench to lossen over tightned tools. Many times a stuck tool is caused by "hanging" the tool and spinning it inside the chuck. Dewalt has just released a new replacement chuck that allows the use of a regular open end wrench to remove stuck tool bits.
God Bless all our troops and their families, Scott
   scott beshears - Sunday, 12/30/01 06:36:39 GMT

Söderfors anvil: I´m sticking my neck out saying this, but I think any OLD swedish machinery or tool would probably be a good buy. Until the 1960:ies or so, swedish steel and machinery had a quality rivaled only by the germans. Swedish steel is still very good, but the standards and technology is far more international today.
   - Olle Andersson - Sunday, 12/30/01 10:57:18 GMT

Alright already,
I am aware of the difference in opinion on that there superb quench hardening mild steel. My question is: I made up some once and it sits in a corner of my shop unused and left out. Can it be used as a brine quench for tool steel that require brine?
   - Larry Sundstrom - Sunday, 12/30/01 12:43:09 GMT


I am a finnish blacksmith living in Norway and there is something I would like to ask.
I have got F Whitakers Blackmiths Cookbook. There is a "resipy" for making a quatrefoil but I have found its instructions insufficient. It offers some technical guidelines but lacks information concidering finishing.
My question is: what is your conception about trueing the quatrefoil after it has got its rough figure? Is a trueing jig normally in use concidering multi number produktion of quatrefoil or is this operation traditionally done by hand?
If the ansver is first one, could you provide me with information about such jig and its use.

sincerely yours, Samppa Kurjenpuu
   Samppa Kurjenpuu - Sunday, 12/30/01 13:29:26 GMT

Super Quench Larry, Yes, that is what it was designed for. Be aware that all quenchants SHOULD be at room temperature or warmer (except when quenching mild steel or very large masses).
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 17:06:20 GMT

Quatrefoil: Samppa, I do not have a copy of Francis' book so I am working in the blind. However,

Depending on the smith most items are trued by eye. If you start with a given length bar and proceed in the same way each time then after making several of any item they start to be very similar. The more practiced the smith the better the results. Symetrical objects usualy take just a few taps to look right. Often parts are just compared to the original sample.

Some people do not have good visual skills and need a guide. In this case a jig can be made to align the part so that each one is the same. Jig designs vary according to size and the individual's style.

A jig for a quatrefoil or fleur'des les could consist of a number of round pins (bar, pipe or circular rings) set in a plate. These would need to fit the outer portion or terminal curve of each arm. In a symetrical quatrefoil the pins would all be the same size. In a fleur'des les the pins might vary in size depending on the style of arms or leaves.

Short pins and bars welded to a flat plate or piece of angle iron (to clamp into a vise), will quickly make a jig or "test fixture". Each piece is tested to fit and adjusted until it fits the same as the original sample.

If parts are to fit in an enclosed space, then the jig should just be a mock-up of that enclosed space. Each part is dropped in and critical points checked and adjusted. Critical points are where rivets, collars or welds will hold the part.

I would make several pieces by hand to become practiced in the forging of the specific object if it is something new, THEN make a jig to fit my practiced sample. If your sample does not suit or is not a true as you want then make a symetrical layout for the jig using the best half of the part. If pins are used then make as precision a layout as you can and drill holes to position the pins. This will result in the best accuracy.

There are many simple methods for making jigs and fixtures in the blacksmith shop. Simple arc welded jigs can produce thousands of identical parts. However, unless the parts need to fit in a complex assembly or in exact tight fitting openings as is sometimes common, then trued by eye will give the work a more "hand crafted" look.

See our 21st Century page article on benders for simple jig ideas.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 17:35:47 GMT

Gentlemen: when using crucibles, should you use different specific crucibles for each different item/product that you are heating? Will products stay permanently in the crucible or is there a true proven method for cleaning them.
Thank you
   john keith - Sunday, 12/30/01 19:20:46 GMT

Hello all, Congrats on a fabulous web site, some very interesting ideas. I have a bit of a dilema, I have started smithing as part of a living history group and have suddenly discovered to my horror I cannot forge weld for toffee. Have heated cleaned fluxed and hammered, but can't get the edges of the weld to close. Any pointers would be greatfuly apreciated.
TTFN Alex...UK
   Alex - Sunday, 12/30/01 19:26:23 GMT

I have a couple questions.
First, can you recommend any books or videos on Smithing?
I have one, but it has very little about the actual process, and mostly shows pictures of finished products.
Second, What is the proper way to coke up coal? And is LP better, worse?
   lance Davis - Sunday, 12/30/01 20:00:45 GMT

Forge Welding Alex, There are many reasons forge welds fail or are poorly executed.

1) Dirty fire (lots of ash, gets in weld)
2) Dirty metal, try wirebrushing off loose scale before fluxing.
3) Overheating, boiling off the flux, burning the metal.
4) Poorly prepared weld (see our iForge demo).
5) Hitting TOO hard forcing out any metlted surface and cooling the joint.

Edges on scarfs may be too thin, try making them thicker or more blunt. Often an edge of a weld cools below welding temperature and must be rewelded. Brush, flux again and try again. When there is a thin edge and a thick part heat from the heavy side to avoid burning the thin edge.

Not being patient enough in heating is the most common error. Weld surfaces do not need to be sparking hot but ALMOST. Excessive sparking usualy indicates the metal is burnt. No amount of flux can repair burnt metal. Patience is needed to be sure the metal is heated as evenly as possible (not just on the surfaces).
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 20:04:23 GMT

Crucible Segregation: John, Small smooth surfaced crucibles can be fluxed before use and often the metal pours clean. However, most crucibles for high temperature are not so smooth. Metals stuck to the sides of a crucible will contaminate other metals being melted even there is a large difference in melting points. Most liquid metal is an aggressive solvent and will disolve other higher melting point metals. Zinc and aluminium rapidly disolve steel melting pots contaminating the melt AND erroding holes in the pot.

If you work with a variety of metals you should dedicate a crucible to whatever is melted in it first. However changing grades of alloy (one brass for another) is not so critical.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 20:13:04 GMT

Smithing Books: Lance, Our recommendations are in our Getting Started article linked at the top and bottom of this log. If you are looking for step-by-step then our iForge demos are good for that. We have over one hundred on-line.

Videos vary a great deal in quality and value. I have yet to see any of the "how-to" videos.

Coal cokes as it is used. Pile some coal on the fire and wait a little while. Most of us are continously coking coal in the forge as we work. This is the reason for extra coal capacity in full size forges. You need a constant supply to rake into the fire.

Propane is clean and convienient. When coal is hard to get or an environmental problem (picky neighbors) then gas is often the only alternative. The biggest disadvantage is the size limitation of an enclosed forge. For efficiency most folks end up with several gas forges for different size work.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/30/01 20:24:18 GMT

john keith:in the precious metals part of local copperplant crusibles are ALWAYS smashed and run trough a proses to extract the metal(s).
does this answer your Question?
   OErjan - Sunday, 12/30/01 21:31:06 GMT

Do you know what a good ratio of burners per a square foot on a gas forge is? Can you have to many burners?
   Adam O - Monday, 12/31/01 07:52:07 GMT


I've been welding artistically for a few years and am now getting into blacksmithing. I have built an anvil from RR track and a farmer gave me a Buffalo forge w/o a blower. I ordered a Champion blower from the internet and it should arrive in a week. I am very excited! I live close to Texas Farrier, so coal is not a problem. My qestions regard blacksmithing in a residential area. 1. Is it practical to do blacksmithing in a residential area, or will my neighbors complain about noise? Except for television, I have not seen blacksmithing done, so I don't know how noisy it is. My neighbors have no problem with my welding, and they are used to seeing me building things outside. My lot is 1/2 acre, so there is 50 - 100 feet between houses. 2. Regarding smoke, from what I have read, once the fire is going correctly, smoke is not really an issue. Is this true? I have a tall flue on my forge. 3. What about fire hazard (specifically grass fire from my dead, dry grass)from sparks from the flue? Should I have a spark arrestor? Any tips you can give on blacksmithing in a neighborhood would be appreciated. Thanks, Mike Bowen.
   Mike Bowen - Monday, 12/31/01 12:50:05 GMT

Burners: Adam, yes you can have too much burner for the forge volume. The ratio is usualy given in volume in cubic inches per burner. However it depends on the size and type of burner. See the Ron Reil page for details if you are using his burners.
   - guru - Monday, 12/31/01 15:21:52 GMT

Residential Area Blacksmith: Mike, this is a complicated question. It depends mostly on your neighbors, the normal noise levels and the part of the country you live in. Local ordinances may also apply.

In some areas of the country people would see your operation as business/industrial and call the cops or zoning board immediately. In places where they regularly burn coal for home heating you might be ignored. In most cases you will make less smoke than an "air tight" woodstove but neighbors that produce copious quantities of noxious creosote laden wood smoke in the winter (or burn leaves in the fall) may be upset by your coal smoke in the summer.

Coal forge fires smoke when started and every time fresh fuel is added. There is significant smoke several times a day. Many smiths are forced to use gas forges to avoid complaints about smoke.

Noise is relative. Anvil ringing sounds travel far and are distinct. At a distance they are not very loud but they are easily identifiable. If you live in a quiet neighborhood where there is little traffic and few trees or shrubs to absorb noise then your hammering may be heard blocks away. If you live near a road that heavy trucks frequent then your hammering may not be noticable (in the day time).

Backyard fences prevent line of sight disturbances but sound reflects off flat surfaces. A neighbor that cannot see you may hear you like you were in their living room under the right conditions.

The income level and cost of homes is a factor. The more expensive the neighborhood the bigger the problem. "Class" is also a factor (in the same income level). Friends of mine live in a very nice upper middle class neighborhood that is old and new people are moving in. After decades of being a very quiet neighborhood with polite neighbors it is now a daily occurance to have horns honking repeatedly to get attention ANY time of day as well as auto engines racing late at night and tires squeeling. . . Then there is the loud music after midnight. . . . None of these folks are going to notice a backyard smithy.

Do you know your neighbors? Some might think having a blacksmith next door is cool. Others may call the police the first time you fire up your forge.

Then there are local ordinances. In some old cities the zoning actualy covers blacksmith shops. In one place I know they are specificaly allowed in residential areas BY LAW. But that doesn't mean folks won't complain. AND as with anything involving laws and zoning, look it up if you want BUT NEVER ASK. Your backyard welding shop may be shut down if you ask the wrong bureaucrat.

Fire safety is also a local issue. In some parts of the country it is taken very seriously due to the hazzards and in others where the hazard is low then nobody will care (unless you DO start an uncontrolled fire). If spark arresters are required on fireplace chinmeys in your locality then you should probably have one on your forge. Note however that coal forge smoke contains caustics that eat up metal and the screen should be stainless steel.

Coal forges have almost no sparks in the flue. However, the wood or paper you start the forge with is another thing. Hot scale and welding sparks are the biggest problem. If you don't have a problem with arc welding sparks then forging is not a problem. But if you setup your anvil in the lawn then dry grass WILL catch fire. Even if the grass is green it will soon be dead where you stand after just a few days. I always keep plenty of water handy when doing demos in grassy areas.

The variables are many and it is something you will have to work out. Hope the above helps.
   - guru - Monday, 12/31/01 16:15:23 GMT


I'm told by friends in Australia that the new year is several hours old there already! Soon it will be dawn on the first day of 2002 in New Zealand.

It is hard to believe we started anvilfire in 1998 and in a few months anvilfire will be in its 5th year!

Thank you all for your continued support and have a safe and happy new year!
   - guru - Monday, 12/31/01 16:39:39 GMT

Noise: Mike, my shop is in a residential area and my lot is about the same size as yours. I went to some trouble to quiet my anvil's ring but even before that it was a lot less noisy than a lawn mower or a table saw or a chain saw or a poorly trained dog - things that I frequently hear in houses near mine. I have had no complaints and my wife says that while she can hear me hammering from inside the house - it does not sound loud. I use hearing protection when doing any kind of hammering so it all sounds fine to me :). I dont use a coal forge partly because I dont want to impose on my neighbors.

Burners: These specs depend on the size and type of the burner you are using. Rules of thumb that I have been told for the R Reil venturi burners with 3/4" bore are: no MORE than 340 cu in of burn chamber and no LESS than 3 sq in of exhaust aperture.
   adam - Monday, 12/31/01 16:55:30 GMT

Alex and forge welding. A small addition to the guru's response. An oxidizing fire can be just as bad as a dirty fire. With a coal fire, you need a deep bed of coke plus coke on top of the workpieces. If you have a low, coke fire and you just place your pieces on top without covering them, you will have an oxidizing situation that even flux won't help. And, you'll be lucky to get a welding heat. Also, when you build a new fire, *do not* put old fly ash in with the green coal and coke. A fly ash fire is just awful.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 12/31/01 16:57:55 GMT

I have a rivet type forge that I am setting up in a shop that I just built. I have a small wood stove in the shop with a 6" flue and a tee for the forge. I fabricated a hood for the forge similar to the one in Centaur Forge catalog. I am having problems with alot of smoke in the shop. Do you have any ideas that may rid the problem. Is the fact that I have both the wood stove and the forge teeing in same flue a problem? Also the wood stove has great draw and never smokes. The flue for the wood stove is sraight up and out to the roof, while the forge comes up and angles over to the tee to the woodstove flue.
   jann - Monday, 12/31/01 17:18:44 GMT

They gonna tell you that a six inch pipe is to small. They gonna tell you that hoods don't work very well. Well, I spent about three years working with a hood and a 6 inch pipe and way too much smoke. I finally converted to a side draft after two pretty smart blacksmiths recommended them. I still have a 6 inch pipe going up about 10 feet above the roof but I have about 90% less smoke. I am using my sixth forge revision and have't done much to it in about a year. One day I would love to build a nice brick forge with a 12" flue but that will have to wait. Jock has some great plans for a side draft chimmney. being tee'd into a wood stove robs you of some of your draft unless you can block off the wood stove pipe.
Six inches is bearly enough for one fire and cannot handle two.
Keep experimenting until your shop is smoke free (almost).
   - Larry Sundstrom - Monday, 12/31/01 17:52:22 GMT

Forge Hood: Jann, there are several hoods in the Centaur catalog. None will work with a 6" flue pipe. All recomend 10" except the enclosed "truck" forge.

Overhead hoods suck up more cold air than hot and never perform well. The side hoods you often see are mostly wind breaks. But they do have a pipe. On both of these if you feed them into a much larger chimney (14" x 14" recomended) that is tall enough to create a good draft (over 10 feet min. from the entry) then they will work to some degree. But both will smoke until the draft gets going.

The best "hood" is a side draft (see our plans page). These have a small opening that is not much larger than or equal to the area of the 10" stack. The small area creates a high velocity suction that picks up almost all the smoke from the forge and little cold air.

For a small stack to work the forge must be almost totaly enclosed with a small opening for work to pass through. You must remember that not only is the air from that opening trying to go up the stack but the forced air from the blower. The enclosed forge is inconvienient but they don't take a big stack.

All the above is based on ONE device on the stack. No Tee's.
   - guru - Monday, 12/31/01 18:36:04 GMT

Thank you for the info.
   jann - Monday, 12/31/01 20:48:42 GMT

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