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

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

This is an archive of posts from December 9 - 15, 2003 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

to the guru,
am 16, and have recently found my self thhinking more and more about blacksmithing. I've always found it as a intersting hobby, yet no one i know does any blacksmith work. So i came online to find out how to get started, and i found out all about the "modern" world of blacksmith. It disapointed me to say the most. But here is my question to you, What would you recomend me to do if i wanted to get involved in old english blacksmithing, traditional blacksmithing.
thank you,
alex zadeh
   alex zadeh - Tuesday, 12/09/03 00:05:27 EST


I'm going to ask a personal question, so feel free to tell me to mind my own business if you wish.

But why were you disappointed? Were you expecting us to be a bunch of grizzled old geezers pumping a bellows and pounding on an anvil?

Well, some of us (The rest of you guys quit laughing! grin)
fit that description. But if you want to make a living at this business, you had better try to stay as modern as possible.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 01:51:29 EST

If you could please help me out. I would like to know of what I basically need to build my own forge. I have access to a many recources for things and can easily build something, but I do not know what I need.And I am new to blacksmithing and perhaps you could list a few tools that I would need to start out with. Thankyou.
   - John - Tuesday, 12/09/03 05:20:50 EST

I would if you do not mind like to ask another couple of questions. My main fasination with metal is weopons and their designs. I do not know however where to get the steel and I do not no how well i would need to build a forge for the amount of heat I would need. also do you have any tips on what color the metal should be before it is removed to be worked on if it were perhaps a sword and how fast should I cool it? Thankyou.
   - John - Tuesday, 12/09/03 05:27:38 EST

Hi there i have been away for a week or so. Just wanted to ask a quick question.

if you guys get a dollar for every time someone asks how to make a sword can i have ten percent.

cheers from a very hot Aussie day :)
   Banjo - Tuesday, 12/09/03 06:00:00 EST

I like it in the movies when they quench the sword in the snow.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:16:26 EST

Water Tower Size:

I don't really know how big the tower is. I'd guess its 30-40 ft tall and maybe 15-20 in diameter. The tank is not a perfect shphere, more like a sphere that was compressed a bit from two sides. I'd guess that the tank portion is probably several tons minimum. As far as I know, this was used to service the industrial building and not the communitiy as a whole. At one time, the building did house a milk factory-they may have used a great deal of water. I hope that is helpful.

   Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:25:52 EST

John, as was pointed out fairly recently you really want to work on things like hammer control and temperature judging working on projects that are not so big a loss if you make a mistake.

When teaching knifemaking I usually start with a piece larger than they need and after about three warnings that they are getting it too hot I let them burn part of it off and then cut back a ways and start over. *Then* they pay attention to the metal!

On forge building for swords---you only want to heat the ammount of metal you can pound on before it gets too cold so for most of sword making a fairly small forge works fine. *Heat treat* is where you want the entire piece up to an even temp (well most times) and a trough forge comes in handy.

May I suggest that you get a couple of books on blacksmithing (I like "The Complete Modern Blacksmith") and work through some simple projects before you get into the difficult ones.

Then go on to "The Complete Bladesmith" by James Hrisoulas who covers sword making in it! (N.B. Christmas is Coming!)

Trying to learn a "hands on" craft from books is bad enough but from the internet---that's just laughable. My Copy of th Modern Blacksmith has tons of dirty finger prints on it from being out at the forge---my PC would be junk from the heat dust and vibration!

Try to find the local smithing group, the ABANA website has a list of chapters, one afternoon with a smith who knows what they are doing is worth about 6 months of fumbling around on your own.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:33:21 EST

Unfortunately the questions you ask are not simple. I am just beginning also, here's what I found out when I asked the same questions you did...

For every different smith that hammers metal there is a different build of forge that he/she prefers. In other words there are literally hundreds of ways to build a forge.
Do you want to build a coal forge, a charcoal forge, a gas forge?

The easy answer is: Read as much of this site as you can. There is so much information here about doing ANYTHING with metal, even weapons, that once you begin reading you will understand the complexity of your questions.
Start out by reading the page on beginning to blacksmith at the home page here, then go to the book review page and get the names of the books listed there and get them from your local library/bookstore.

Smithing is pretty complex... Weapons making is the very top form of smithing.

You need a hammer, something to hammer on (anvil type object), and something to heat the metal. That is all you NEED to get started. From there you can make all of the other tools you'll need. And making those tools will give you the practice you want before you try making weapons(which is really another type of tool).

Steve in New York
   Smulch - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:37:34 EST


To begin with, please understand that this is a forum, rather than a chat room, so answers to your questions wil sometimes take a while to appear. Anywhere from an hour to a day or two. Patience is a virtue.

To begin learning the craft of forging, start by reading. Read everything there is on this site and others. Check out the Anvilfire FAQs section, the 21st Century Section (particularly the article entitled Getting Started). Go to your library and get books on blacksmithing. If you library doesn't have them in stock, they can get them through Inter-Library Loan.

Once you have read all of the above, and realize that the process of learning to make swords is a stairway you climb one step at a time, then you will be ready to truly benefit from the wisdom of those here who are master weapons makers. Until you have the background, technical answers would have little meaning to you. Far and away, the best way to learn smithing is to work alongside a master smith. Check in your area for ABANA chapters who hold meetings and attend some. You'll meet very friendly folks who will be happy to get you started.
   vicopper - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:42:50 EST

Bruce & Guru, the railroad has a large pile of spikes and misc junk piled up by a switching station. I asked my friendly neighborhood railroad man and he said take all I wanted. He even loaded a couple of short sections of heavy guage rail in my truck. I know, not perfect anvils, but I'm not going to pound on my Hay Budden with a 12# sledge to straighten a harrow axle. I did not mean to imply that it's ok to steal buckets of new spikes. Are there really people out there that pay $3.00 for a non-documented rr spike?
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 12/09/03 07:56:57 EST


   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 08:16:34 EST

I forgot to mention these are used spikes, but they are good enough and my forge doesn't kno the difference, even if a little bent...
   Ron Childers - Tuesday, 12/09/03 08:21:28 EST

Ron, Railroad Spikes: In my many travels I tend to haunt antique stores in my spare time. I look at them as eclectic museums where, if you find the “pearl of great price” you can actually buy it. (Of course anything I buy needs to be desirable, affordable, AND fit into my check-through luggage. I once missed out on a 3’+ pair of shears in Denver for ~$45, because I couldn’t figure out how to get them on the aircraft.) Yes, I’ve actually seen RR spikes at $3.00 each, as well as National Geographics at $1.00 each. On the other claw, I couldn’t unload the 50 years (1952-2002, plus some from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s) of National Gs that my wif had me dispose of (something about floor load in the attic, and she got it all on CD) for anything. I donated them to the library where they are selling them 12 to the dollar. (And no, I’m not going to file a charitable donation of $600 either. ;-)

It boils down to time, place and the market. To us, RR spikes are convenient raw material. To the antique shop patron in Denver or Seattle, possibly from back East, they are a romantic reminder of the drive of the pioneers to the West, and at $3.00 pretty affordable. The MTA spike that I forged into a knife for my Boston born friend is priceless! :-)

Jerry; Cartridge Brass: I know that the Navajo used to use them to make the silver solder for their jewelry. I keep a stock of a number of calibers (an advantage of letting your friends use the rifle range on your farm) for ferrules for various small tool handles. Given the ubiquitousness of them, and their common usage and handling, I suspect that any domestic casing should be pretty safe (or as safe as any brass alloy, with the zinc content); otherwise we’d have a lot of diseased hunters, reloaders and shooting hobbyists. I would, however, go along with VI Copper, and punch out the primers and clean out the shells before melting them en masse. All copper alloys are a tad suspicious, and copper alloy scrap more so; you never quite know what’s in the mix; if in doubt on the origins or content, it’s prudent to just buy new.

Cold and sunny on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 12/09/03 10:09:04 EST

What does the #1018, 4130, and mild steel stand for? What are thier characteristics, and what are thier applications of each.
   Jessica - Tuesday, 12/09/03 11:06:29 EST

1018, 4130: Jessica, We don't do class or homework for students. You MIGHT have gotten away with it if you had not quoted the questions directly from your assignment.

The numbers are SAE steel designations and should always be prefixed with SAE unless you want them confused with an electrical voltage. You can look them up in almost any metals or machinist's handbook. The best for this particular question is MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK as it also has a chart of recommended uses for common steels and the definition of mild steel.

You can also find the answers on this site if you dig around. We have a review of MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK on our book review page.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 12:01:02 EST

Traditional Blacksmiting? Alex, Who's tradition? When? 1900?, 1700? 1000AD? A friend and a very good blacksmith said today that when people ask about traditional smithing he says his work is "traditional 2003" and next year it will be traditional 2004.

We have over 100 projects on our iForge page that require only a forge, anvil and hammer and maybe a chisel. That is about as basic as it gets.

The basics of blacksmithing have not changed in over 2,000 years. The hand tools of a modern blacksmith do not look any different than 1,000 years ago and probably MUCH earlier but there are not enough examples to say positively. However, images of Bronze Age Greek tools are the same as later Iron age tools.

The biggest difference over the centuries has been the heat source (forge) and the quality and quantity of tools. Ductile iron and steel were very costly so ancient tools were generaly smaller and less numerous. Anvils were smaller too.

As a fuel, coal is now considered "traditional" but it has only been in common use (where available) for about 200 years. For the millenia prior to that and in many places today charcoal was the primary fuel. Ocassionaly smiths used wood or peat or dung. . whatever was available but charcoal was the prefered fuel. SO, to be "traditional" you had best use charcoal.

However, heat is heat is heat. For most practical purposes it does not matter if it comes from a nuclear reactor or from burning rendered animal fat. Today propane is fast replacing coal because of the lack of availability of good coal AND the backlash against burning it. If you live in England there are laws in many locations specificaly against burning coal due to air pollution. Propane is also replacing charcoal in many wood poor countries where charcoal making has been deforesting large areas.

Coal is the best general smithing fuel source (IF it is good quality coal), followed by charcoal, then oil, then propane. Bad quality coal is not suitable and some other fuel should be used. Propane is fast clean and efficient.

Modern smiths that produce enough work to make a living are finding that propane is THE fuel of choice.

The other big difference in "traditional" or primitive blacksmithing that is often overlooked is labor. Prior to the modern age and the ubiquitious electric motor EVERY blacksmith had one or more helpers. Even the smallest village smithy could rely on the local labor pool of children or even the customer in a pinch. Blacksmiths need helpers to pull the bellows, weild a sledge, hold odd shaped work. Modern blacksmiths rely on little fractional horsepower motors and better machines. Simple tools like the vise which is found in multiple sizes and shapes in every modern shop were not in use prior to about 1500AD in Europe. A good vise can replace at least one helper. For work requiring accurate positioning while striking the tool, treadle hammers have replaced another (or the same) helper.

In the mid 1800's steam and gasoline powered power hammers replaced strikers in many shops and by the turn of the century electric motors made power hammers a possibility in the smallest shops. Today a large segment of the amature blacksmiting community have power hammers.

YES, These are a "modern" machines. But to do without you limit yourself to work that was done without any helpers. For a smith to work alone was quite rare. It was not "traditional".

So if you want to be "traditional", throw away any modern alloy steel tools and safety equipment (eye patches are VERY traditional in metal shops), go find a charcoal burner and enslave children to replace what a $30 electric motor can do. . .

NOTE: I have nothing against simple primitive working methods. But if you want to be a "traditionalist" then don't pussy foot around and pretend. Go ALL THE WAY! Get a horse drawn cart to haul your iron, toss out your refrigerator and whatever you do DON'T use electric lighting in your shop. . . . And most importantly, don't use the Internet to find blacksmithing information. Get out on the road, walk 100-200 miles and ASK a live blacksmith. You don't want information tainted with electrons controled by quantum state physics surrounded by injection molded plastics and transmitted by microwaves via a geosynchronous satellite magicaly hovering in outer space. Its not traditional.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 11:26:49 EST

Hmmm, with a little work and editing, I think the above should be incorporated in the FAQ section.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 12/09/03 11:48:18 EST

speaking of rail spikes I think a great deal of railways in Australia use concrete sleepers and spring clips to hold the rails down with this thought in mind one would expect to be knee deep in spikes in oz but I cannot bludi find any bugger it.
anyone in oz know where I can get any.
rgds Derek
   luddau - Tuesday, 12/09/03 12:18:07 EST

Bruce, My thoughts also. See you and I have written the same thing about 10 time each over the past few (six) years and Thomas too. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 12:26:16 EST

Getting started in blacksmithing,
Smulch, respectfuly you forgot one thing in your list of what's NEEDED, and that is the desire.
   JimG - Tuesday, 12/09/03 12:43:51 EST

Traditional blacksmithing,
I thought the only thing tradtional in blacksmith's shop was trying to do the job effeicently enough to turn a profit, and the odd customer that you wouldn't mind drowning in the slacktub.
   JimG - Tuesday, 12/09/03 12:50:47 EST

Hmm, I've never though of drowing someone in the quench tub, must be because I generally just have a bucket and I'm too lazy.

Now I have offered to hot shoe a few folks who mistake me for a farrier. I tell them that "Horses are bigger than I am and Dumber than I am---and that's just too scarey a combination for me!" Then offer to hot shoe them---"Last pair of shoes you will ever need---they wear like iron" nobody has ever taken me up on that offer...

Thomas---we really need to just keep a copy of our standard "rants" someplace we can just refer to them by Number..."I don't know which end of a hammer to hold---how do I make a patternwelded great sword?" reply: "#15"...
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/09/03 13:19:13 EST

I suppose asking someone who wants to make blades to do an S-hook, steak turner, or fork is better than having them start by sweeping the floor with the hope of moving up to pumping the bellows... ;)

I got into this because I wanted to make woodworking tools. Then I found the local blacksmiths and found that "general blacksmithing" is pretty interesting. Right at the moment I have a shop full of scrolls, twists, rings, and hooks waiting to be assembled into Christmas presents. None of those features are very prominent in woodworking tools. Or knives or swords. I have made a few tools and knives, too...

I do find that the general blacksmithing is a great background for making blades. For me, it was a lot harder to learn to make a smooth scroll or hook than it was to get a straight blade with a distal taper. I've certainly seen people forge a good looking blade on the first time at the forge. I guess I don't know what I'd do if someone asked me to teach him to make a blade. Maybe a hook or something for the initial familiarization. I think that's important. But maybe I'd try to get something like a small full tang utility blade or something in as about the second or third project?

One thing is that "forging a good looking blade" is only a start on really making a knife. The forging part of my first knife took less than two hours, counting burning the tip off twice. Hardening and tempering probably didn't take that long. Those are the operations in the fire. There were many, many hours of filing and sanding to wind up with a knife. And that was a simple full tang, no guards, bolsters, pommels...

I'm rambling around again. Sorry.

   Steve A - Tuesday, 12/09/03 13:38:20 EST

About starting simple:

Most of the folks that ask here about making a sword have never made ANYTHING in their lives or used any kind of tools. They are not people with enginering degrees or who have worked in industry. Mostly they are kids with no life experiance whatsoever who often cannot tell fantasy from reality. They usually also don't have a shop or tools. Ptree's comment about "making a $100,000 sword from chicken salad" is not that far off.

In my upcomming sword making article I start with a wooden sword. If you cannot fit a wood guard, grip and pommel how are you going to do at metal? When done with the recommended project you have experianced fitting parts and using chisels, files, sandpaper ans scrapers. If someone has never done these things then they need the experiance and the practice. It is also not unusual to prototype fantasy weapons in wood before making the real thing. When done they know how to layout the material, fit the grip, assemble the pieces and may think twice about the size of a swordmaking project.

Project two is an aluminium sword. Again, it is practice shaping and finishing metal by hand. Fitting the guard, grip and pommel are identical to the real thing if brass (or steel) is used for furniture. In the end the maker has a nice show piece (or a piece of junk if they are not willing to put in the work). But they are out less than $50 for materials, files and abrasives. If they wish to continue all the tools required and techniques apply to later projects.

Project three is a stainless or mild steel sword. This is practice for forging OR stock removal and no heat treating is required. The maker is now learning how difficult steel is to move or cut and when done they will have a good movie prop or wall hanger to impress their friends. At this point they should be practiced at fitting a grip and might want to try wire wrap as a learning experiance.

Project four is to make, finish and heat treat a kitchen knife or small dagger from carbon steel. Heat treating and sharpening are the only new tasks. By now the maker should be able to do a pretty good job with the grip and furniture.

The last project is the real thing. There is nothing left to learn BUT there are project size considerations. A blade 4 times bigger than the dagger is roughly 16 times as much work to make (based on volume/surface area of metal to forge or remove and then finish). Heat treating something this size is a serious concern and there is no point worrying about the best steel unless you can heat treat it.

Along the way there is a long list of books to read and study, equipment to assemble or build. LOTS to learn.

Paw-paw has recommended I change the title from "Sword Making for Dummies" to something else. I am still looking for something catchy. . . Hitchhikers Guide to Swordmaking?
Pepsi Generation Swordmaking? . . . The Lost Generation Swordmaking? . .

Sword Making from Chicken Salad
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:03:18 EST

I can forge out a 10"tanto in about an hour or so but add another 4hours for finnishing and thats just the bare blade.
   Chris Makin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:12:52 EST

Not TOO much work, save the last paragraph just as it is!

Jock, that's one of your better tirades, and very well done.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:12:56 EST


Save the Sword Making From Chicken Salad message, too!
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:19:47 EST

Could you use some web magic that with certain keywords they would be redirected to Sword Making forDummies?
   Chris Makin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:23:14 EST

Note, The above linked article is far from finished.

The "Options" will be seperate pages with drawings and photos. I'll get the wood and aluminium projects done and photographed this winter. Hopefully my apprentice will do the others. . . However, we COULD use some good photos to supplement the whole.

Web-magic. Well, hopefully when found via search engines they will go directly to the article. And I could put prominant links to it. .

Gota' go fill some orders. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:37:29 EST

Hellow i have now installed my power hammer reiter kb1 34kg. It works very good. I was wondering are there good books to learn to work with an air hammer? greetings from belgium! And thanks for the tip about the fundament
   - Van west Lieven - Tuesday, 12/09/03 14:42:54 EST

Looks good, Jock! Not only does it proclaim a healthy skepticism, but then it gives them a practical guideline to reach the goal in a realistic manner.

I will note that Markland requires folks to learn basic skills with wooden weapons before they attempt to qualify with steel. I will also note that the steel blades are bated, and it’s more of a thespian act and certainly NOT competitive. Nobody “wins” or “loses.” The object is to look historically accurate without getting anybody hurt!

I have seen sparks struck off of steel swords in parry, usually one spark at a time. Nothing like Hollywood! One producer actually ran electric current to the blades, with insulated handles so that he could have showers of sparks on contact. Now it’s all done by computer, just like muzzle flashes.

I’ve spent almost 20 years of putterin' around with blacksmithing, about 15 years of working on it seriously, and I have yet to forge a sword. I'm still striving for competence in spears, axes and knives!

Another point to make is that in earlier periods (as Thomas has pointed out) there were frequently folks who specialized in blades, others specialized in the hilts and furniture (known as hilt smiths in the early medieval period) and still others might make scabbards and belts or baldrics. (This system is still common in traditional sword making in Japan.) Sometimes these operations were combined in an early style factory, and sometimes the work was farmed out and delivered to the merchant when complete.

Some 18th century and later cutlers, just like a modern knife shop or hardware store, did very little work or repair on site and frequently just served as middle men. In 21st century America folks expect to do it all, and other folks expect you to do it all. I have enough to keep me busy just repairing and rehilting sword blades for friends and family (working on four at the moment).
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 12/09/03 15:43:24 EST

Excellent job on the sword FAQ etc.
   Ralph - Tuesday, 12/09/03 16:35:23 EST

I've tried a cople of other forums for this question with out much luck so here goes.I usually forge my blades from 1095c and do the clay hardening thing.I allways put a thin coating on the back or spine so I get a minimal curvature or none at all.I just finnished a blade from W-2 steel same treatment water quench clay coating fully quenched till the blade was still very warm to the touch but I got a negative sori or curve it kinda humps up or bends down toward the tip.What's up with that.
   Chris Makin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 16:45:19 EST

Hope Guru and all near Richmond were not affected by the earthquake today.
   Ellen - Tuesday, 12/09/03 17:07:01 EST

Earthquake: At 3:29 EST we had a 4.5R earthquake about 65 miles from here. I was in town, the bridge I was on bounced up and down about 2" and I wanted OFF! Got home after dark and I can not tell if crumbling acres is crumbled any worse. . . All good here so far.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 17:59:01 EST

We barely felt it here in Carolina.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 18:05:40 EST

1095 vs W2: Chris, W2 is higher carbon (around 1.2%) which means its hot strength is greater and it is going to act considerably different. The W series of tool steels are known for their high shrinkage. O series is more stable and that is one reason it is more expensive. You might want to try oil instead of water since it is a thin section. Wayne Goddard does a partial quench in his quenching goop which does a similar thing as covering with clay.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 18:11:17 EST

i just heard somewhere that there is a kind of iron that i am not familiar with. it's called white iron. what is it? i have also heard that meteorotic iron is much harder and shinier than normal iron. is this true?
   - colin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 18:26:06 EST

The the hamon came out great and I've read that alot of the older tanto had this kind of a sori .I was curious as to the mechanics of this.Also I don't think this w-2 had that much carbon since it seemed easier to forge than the 1095.
   Chris Makin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 18:27:13 EST

Guru, so far your "Sword Making from Chicken Salad" site looks great! I can't wait for it to be done.

I don't mean to sound defensive, but, even though I am under 16, I have had a lot of work with tools. I've always been in contact with a farm of some sort and my sisters are I have always been put to work fixing fences, plumbing, piping, and almost any other farm work you can think of for as long as I can remember. Since then, I have learned to weld very nice pieces that have sold for a high price.
I'm not trying to sound mean or something, I just thought I'd mention that some of us do have a little tool experience.

Can't wait for the sword page to be done!
   - Candace - Tuesday, 12/09/03 18:39:21 EST

What is it with all these railroad spike knives? Pardon me for breathing, but I think they look dorky and gimmicky.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 12/09/03 19:31:53 EST

i read your sword making page and i thought it was EXCELLENT! i like the Pepsi generation swordmaking title the best. however, i have to agree with candace that some of the kids that ask about sword making do have shops and good experience. i am actually a 14 yr old city boy. i have built my own shop complete with forge and even a disk sander that i made from an old washing machine motor. it is attached to the forge blower and powers it. i have always had a passion for blades (as most young people now do) but i forced myself to start with simple ornamental pieces. just a few days ago, i decided to take the next step. i made a dagger blade. i tempered it and grinded itso that it is at it's maximum strength and hardness. i have yet to make the hilt and sharpen it. i am going to make the hilt out of bronze and the pommel out of pewter. to be honest, i think it is an excellent piece of work. i made it coloured as well ; a light blue along the blade. i have only forged about 7 times now because i can only find time to do it on saturday. but all ready i have made a keen steel blade. i am not trying to sound defensive but it just goes to show that even city boys can make good blades. i did have one of my friends ask me to make them a sword and i said no way! i only make daggers now. if i get some coke soon, ill save it to start practicing forge welding. a year after that i am planning on making a pattern welded sword after i am much more experienced.
   - colin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 20:38:39 EST

by the way,
i am making the hilt by pouring in bronze in a mould that is slid over the sword's tang. i made the tang by cutting in deep notches so when i pour the bronze, the blade will be lodged in place.
   - colin - Tuesday, 12/09/03 20:44:23 EST


I'm going to defend Jock a bit on this issue. It's not the he is looking "down" on the younger folks. We get a LOT of "I want to make a soord! I've watched Conan the Barbarian 32 times and I know just what to do. But I need to know, What kind of steel to use!" All said in a very ignorant tone of voice. In reality, they ones that ask the questions in that way know NOTHING about what they are asking, they've confused movie fantasy with real life.

There ARE youngsters such as yourself, a guy named Stormcrow, a 12 year old named Whitesmith, who DO have mechanical backgrounds and are just starting out in smithing. Those three and others as well, we have a great deal of respect for and they are a big part of the reason why anvilfire exists.

But some of your peers... Well, their inane questions tend to get pretty old after the 50th or 100th time we've read them. Trust me, the negative comments are NOT named at ALL youngsters, just the ignorant few that stand out. (grin)
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 20:57:13 EST

And Colin fits in the group that I listed quite well. I just hadn't read his message yet.

Colin, make sure you get a GOOD seal where the mold fits around the tang, molten brass is NOT fun to wear!
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 12/09/03 20:59:42 EST

RR-spike Knives: Frank, I agree with you. I think they became popular when every newbie in the country that didn't know they could BUY a bar of steel made things out of spikes. I know I did. . then quit. But some smiths continue to make them. THEN they became collector's items. . and its a vicious circle and the next thing you know they will be cult items. . . .

Pepsi Generation: Colin, You and Candace are not the real targets of my article. You folks are the exception. You are doing much of what I am suggesting on your own. You've figured it out and soon will be able to teach me a thing or two.

But as Paw-Paw noted we get a large number of folks that not only don't know how to get started they think the answer is going to be a one-liner and POOF! You're a swordsmith.

The week after the movie Kill Bill first showed I got my first series of letters from girls that wanted to make swords. I am SURE the movie was the inspiration. I think it is great they are becoming interested in metalworking and that they have female heros to look up to. But they come with this mythical belief that all you have to do is BELIEVE and it will happen. Somewhere the need to work and study and practice is lost.

Swordmaking Resources: I am still looking for good books to add to the "Swords" bibliography. If you have a good one you recommend I need a good synopsis or short review like the ones listed. Eventualy I want to have full reviews of all the books listed. The only one I do not have at this point is The Craft of the Japanese Sword. I gleaned the synopsis from Atli and Frank.

Thomas, I KNOW you have some good references for the historical aspect we should list. We need to know if they are in or out of print.

The resources page took over a week to compile and edit plus the tweeks that I am constantly adding. Eventualy the whole will be linked to the Getting Started article.

AND like the getting started article, it is just one way to go. Many folks are going to get a big old bastard file and just jump in making a Bowie out it first thing. But I needed SOMETHING to send the "gotta have it" zombies to before I go nuts. . .

OBTW - The "Eve" sculpture is by my brother Danny. It is in cherry and about 4 feet tall. He has a Masters in Art but is now a computer programmer for a defense contractor.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 21:44:49 EST

W2 Chris, You've slipped a digit on carbon content.

1095 = 0.95% carbon
W2 (W210) = 1.50% carbon

However there is a low carbon W2

W209 = .85% carbon

But I think MOST commercialy available W2 sold as "drill rod" or tool steel flats is the W210 high carbon.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 21:58:14 EST

Ron Childers, 17year old girl,16 year old boy,14 year old boy, and 12 year old daughter. I may be fairly young, but with three teenagers and 1 wannabe i have a fairly gray head!
   - ptree - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:06:11 EST

Patrick Nowak
Re: water tower. The probable use for this tower was for fire protection. When sprinklers came into use, most city systems could not supply enough flow, and therefore the insurance companies required a fire pond and fire pump or a water tank to supply the short term high flow. This may well be wrought, but I suspect not. Often these towers were 20's to 30's. Look to see if the system connects to sprinklers . If the structure has no sprinklers, then maybe.
   - ptree - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:11:34 EST

Your welcome to the "sword from chicken salad" title. At the shop we often try to make "chickensalad from chicken s**t". This refers to reworking scrap!
   - ptree - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:25:25 EST

Colin, Maybe you're thinking of white cast iron which has a different composition than gray cast iron. The white cast has a very hard surface, but low tensile strength, and is used for grinding and crushing. A guy gave me a small meteorite once to forge weld into a Tibetan style 3-sided dagger, used in Buddhist ritual. The meteorite was not unusual looking, but it is a nickel iron. It was a little difficult to weld into the other steel, as it was wanting to separate and "crumble" a bit. But I took repeated light welding heats (no sparks) and it finally blended in.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:27:17 EST


I'll try to get my long-delayed sword bibliography to you in the next week or so. On the plus side, I've managed to add some more entries to it! I'll even throw in a review of Swords of the Viking Age by Ian Pierce (no joke), and The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England by H. R. Ellis Davidson.

I once knew a 16 year old who had more talent and horse sense than many folks I know in their 50s. (She's 19 forever, and much missed.) I was a lot more sure of myself, and the way the world worked, in my teens than I am now. Anyone willing to listen and learn has a high rating in my book; sometimes even I manage to do it.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:35:44 EST

For what its worth, I ran R & D labs for about 17 years for a large company, and I used co-op engineering students from a local, prestegous college. When interviewing, I always asked the co-op manager at the school for the kids from farm backgrounds. In a engineering test lab, everything is partly a lash-up(make do) as you can't afford to build everything first class. The farm kids had been used to making what they needed from what was available, and were great at building up tests from available "junk". Any farm girl who wants to blacksmith is welcome in my shop.(I'll even try with the farm boys)My own daughters gain and lose interest. You can do most anything, if you want it bad enough.
Good luck
   - ptree - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:36:03 EST

Hi ....I've been making various home and garden metal crafts for over five years now (towel wracks, curtain rod holders, trellis's, wine racks) etc. and am aware of one treatment that helps prevent rusting for your outdoor metalwork. It is a mixture of beeswax and linseed oil and Japan hardener. I would like to find a resource for other metal treatments such as different chemicals or acids that do different things to metals ; such as aging, rusting, darkening , lightening, what have you. Could you recommend a book or books for me. Thanks Greg
   Greg - Tuesday, 12/09/03 22:43:43 EST

Cast on Guard: Colin, Don't make those notches too deep, they only need to be deep enough to fix the guard and should have smooth inside radii.

I've seen this type blade and cast on hilt. I suspect there are some tricks to it. It will probably help to preheat the blade to prevent the metal from chilling and not flowing well around the blade.

What kind of mold are you using? Plaster or sand? My most recent brass casting was using red "Delft Clay" sand. This is a proprietary stuff sold to jewelers but I am told it is very similar to petro bond except for the fineness of the sand. My foundry supplier sells Petro Bond and I think I am going to try some. It is about 1/4 the cost of the Delft Clay.

Cartridge Brass SAE 70A, 68.5-71.5 Copper, .07 Pb max, .05 Fe max, remainder zinc. Simlar to yellow brass SAE 70C. Melts at 1706°F (930°C). - MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK (any edition).

Note that melting temperature and casting temperature are two different things. Most metals need to be a few hundred degrees hotter than the melting point to flow well and not freeze prematurely.

Sorry I did not look this up earlier. My eyes have gotten so I need reading glasses and I don't wear them all the time. . Get that Machinery's Handbook!

When we were at the WVA Armour-In last spring Allan Baudry was casting helmet parts using spent cartridges. He was melting them in a jewlers pouring bowl using a oxy-acetylene torch and a MAPP/Air torch. His molds were Delft-Clay. When it came time to pour he litteraly threw the metal into the mold. . no careful pouring, just one quick move. He made a dozen or so very fine castings that were smooth enough to go straight to the buffer.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/09/03 23:06:47 EST

One point to add to the fray, making a good looking blade is not the same as making a good blade---did you keep your forging temps within the bounds needed for the steel---high carbon is a lot more picky than mild steel. Did you get the most out of your heat treat for that type of steel?

I'd suggest reading over the ABS tests to get an idea of what you should be going for.

Also *design* is much more important in large blades. You need to work with blade harmonics, making things light but strong, COP, COB, etc. There are a lot of highly trained knifemakers who have made lousy swords they are not "just big knives".

Guru: I will start looking up some books for you; have to check on availability though many of my more recent ones have been a tad bit more esoteric...

One that has much good metalurgical data on swords of the iron age is "The Celtic Sword" by Radomir Pleiner, 1993. This is not an easy read like "The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England" but the information is of that much higher quality. If you want to know how iron age swords were constructed with analyses of the carbon and phosphorus contents of the bars that were welded up into them, this is the book for you!

"Nuevas Te'cnicas Metalu'rgicas en Armas de la II Edad del Hierro" a recent book, 1999, covering new methods of testing/analyzing Iron Age weapons, in Spanish.

Or for one of the real fun ones: "Das Zweischneidige Schwert Der Germanischen Vo:lkerwanderungszeit" von Elis Behmer (The two edged sword of the German Migration Period) My copy was published in Stockholm in 1939 and has lovely clear photos of swords fittings: pommels, guards, grips, scabbards etc, *belt hanging* fittings, many of them I have never seen anywhere else. It is quite possible that some of these blades no longer exist.

It is not a sword book per say but "Knives and Scabbards" Museum of London is an importent book covering 310 blades from several centuries of the middle ages ful of info on what woods were used in handles, blade cross sections, tang shapes and metallographic info on a selection of the blades.

It is also the best collection of info on medieval leather stamping I have seen with closeups of the scabbards, how they were made and decorated.

Do we want to discuss getting the iron/steel for making the blades?

Thomas and now to bed
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 00:16:28 EST

Guru - But I saw them casting swords in the new He-Man cartoon also! So the Conan movie musta been right! ;-)

As a young fellow currently working on a sword, I thought I would make some observations.

I have spent more time filing on this sword than I have spent on any other process. Part of that is because of my design, but the rest of it was because I either did not trust myself with a power tool to do what I needed to, or because I needed the finish a file would give me. I used power where I felt I could, but the vast majority of it has been done by hand filing.

The second-longest process was heat treating. This wasn't because it was inherently long, but because my blade kept warping in the quench. All that effort of forging and filing and sanding and now, here it was warping every time I quenched it. I had even triple normalized it before starting the heat treating cycle. I annealed it in the forge (loooong forge) overnight at one point. It still warped. Finally I switched from an edge quench to a vertical quench (point-down), and it warped not at all.

I still have the handle yet to go. As much time as I've spent on filing, my various pieces still aren't matching up perfectly. The fitting up will likely take as long as the filing (and will include much filing itself).

The forging was the quickest part. I had help and a gas forge. I'm also strong enough to be able to weild a 10-lb hammer one-handed for a little while. It's only recently that I've been able to do that at all. It would have taken far longer with a coal forge by myself a year ago.

I still don't know if what I end up with will feel right in the hands. I still don't know for certain that my heat treatment of it is what it should be. I've spent more on materials for this than I have on any other project before. If I had been paying for all the gas that I've been burning (my tuition does, I guess) it would have been much higher.

But I haven't had any other project that I've been so proud of. My skills are shining best in this, and I've tried quite a number of new things with it. If it turns out as I want it to (and so far it has), then it will be a very nice sword. So for me, it was well worth it.

But it was *not* my first project, and I've spent *many* hours reading discussion boards, forums, chatrooms, books, and watching videos building up my knowledge of metalworking in general and blacksmithing in particular. I've also done a fair amount of forging whenever I've been able to.

So, if you are truly interested in forging, swords or otherwise, do a little reading, do a little playing; it'll come to you.
   - Stormcrow - Wednesday, 12/10/03 02:30:53 EST

By the way, for a taste of what a motivated young craftsman is capable of, I'd like to direct y'all to www.northland.nu

To my knowledge he hasn't done a sword yet, but his knives are impressive to say the least.

This fellow was born in 1980. I was born in'82.
   - Stormcrow - Wednesday, 12/10/03 02:35:08 EST

.. I have been making knives off and on for a few years now (stock removal) and I use either 440-c or d2 steels. I use a professional heat treatment company to harden my blades. however on receipt of my last batch of blades three had severe warpage along the handle length with a deflection of up to 3mm can I via a small butane torch heat a specific part of the handle area and bend it agianst the deflection to straighten it? and what colour should I reach before attempting the bending motion? I propose to hold the blade in a vise wrapped in a rag soaked in cold water to arrest the heat from travelling along the length of the blade so ruining the tempering. then use toolmakers long vises to bend the handle progressively along the tang. I look forward to your advise and thanks for such an informative web site I should have my own gas powered forge ready early in the next year..keep on hammering long may the sparks fly....
   John McDonald - Wednesday, 12/10/03 04:23:10 EST

I wish to add a few things to the conversation about sword making. I recently observed (at a hammer-in) a fellow that has been through a very minimal school for blacksmithing. Lets just say that the school teaches a few things and let that be that. This fellow I observed was trying to build a fire from the top down with a Bernzomatic torch. this fellow is a retired welder with TONS of tools in his shop. Be you 16 or 60, you must have the ability to follow instructions. The day that I am not teachable, you might as well stand me up in the corner someplace. I feel privileged to be a part of a group of folks that are passing on what they know to folks that they really don't know. Making tools and objects of desire (eye candy) is one thing. Making weapons is an entirely different deal. Jock, you are absolutely on track with the Chicken salad deal. Sometimes I am asked what I'm doing. I often reply " Making ice cream out of bull s*^@~ " Some companies expect you to do this every day. Some smiths can do it every day. I'm not one of these smiths, but I do win one occasionally. Thanks for the website, and Merry Christmas from the place where the buffalo used to roam.
   - Ten Hammers - Wednesday, 12/10/03 07:20:53 EST

Frank, don't they have oysters where you are? Sure, they are "gimmicy" and not a really a high performance steel, but
when a kid in a beginner's class takes home a hook and an oyster knife it is something they are justly proud of and useful as well. Besides, haven't you heard how oysters enhance virility and vigor?(grin)Apalachicola is the oyster capital of the world and only 80 miles from here. Make yourself an oyster knife today, Frank.
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 12/10/03 08:01:38 EST

Wow, Stormcrow, that guy is amazing! But... what the crap is up with the material's names? "Eskimo ivory artifact from north of russia, blue mammoth bark, buffalo horn, desert ironwood and brown mammoth ivory."

Don't get me wrong, his stuff if gorgeous, (don't mean to sound naive) but someone help me with this whole "materials" thing...
   - Candace - Wednesday, 12/10/03 08:12:59 EST

In the case of sword making, I have to disagree just slightly with Ten Hammers. There is NO difference between making tools and making swords, for a sword is just another tool.

With the making of any tool, the primary concern is that the tool do it's intended function well. Whether it be a hammer, a holddown or a halberd, it MUST perform the job it is designed to do. This means designing the tool in detail, selecting the appropriate raw materials, constructing the tool using methods that are consistent with the desired end result and lastly, but most importantly, testing the tool to determine if the goal was met. Does it perform it's function? If a hammer, does it feel good in the hand and strike where intended moving the metal in the direction and amount desired? You get the point.

It is no different with a sword, for a sword is just a tool for a given purpose. Does it fit the hand and balance correctly? Are there undesirable harmonic vibrations transmitted to the arm from the blade? Will it cleave a victim in twain? Will it deflect an opponent's blade without breaking or suffering irreparable damage?

With all tools, from hammers to halberds, aesthetics become a concern ONLY after the design functions can be met. Most post vises will hold a piece of work, but the ones with the nicely chamfered arms and gracefully turned screw boxes are much more appealing to the eye of the Master craftsman. But no matter how prettily the vise is chamfered, turned, engraved or blued, if it will not properly hold a workpiece, then it is not a good TOOL. It may be pretty, but is not effective.

In the days when labor was plentiful and cheap, and true craftsmanship was prized, tools were works of art in themselves. Swords especially. The more personal the tool, the higher the level of artistic craftsmanship likely to be seen. Swords were VERY personal. Sadly, ever since the peak of the Industrial Revolution, there has been a diminution of the importance of aesthetics in tools and many other aspects of life. The Bauhaus concept of "form follows function" has been inappropriately extended to mean that anything that will do a job need only look like it will do the job.

In the beginning, decorative embellishments were omitted as unnecessary to function. Currently, the tendency seems to be toward achievement only of the APPEARANCE of functionality. It looks like an anvil, since it has a table, a horn, a heel and a face, therefore, it MUST be an anvil. One hundred pounds of brittle, crumbly cast iron shaped to look like an anvil has come to be considered as an anvil. Will it perforn it's intended function? That, my friends, depends on the intent.

As an anvil user, I would have to answer with an emphatic "NO!" Such a travesty could never be useful except as ballast or fill. BUT. The Chinese manufacturer, the distributor, and many purchasers only want something that LOOKS LIKE an anvil, sells well and has a good profit margin. For THEM, the execrable cast iron ASO meets THEIR criteria quite well. They have just lowered the bar so that a snake can surmount it without a strain. I find it sad.

The world of the ersatz object can be seen in all it's "glory" in any Hollywood production. Fake rocks, fake swords, fake blood, fake emotions, instant gratification. I am not at all surprised at the number of youngsters who come here looking for the path to that same instant gratification. It is all they have been taught, all they have seen and, therefore, all that they know. Unfortunately, by the time they are in their teens, it is probably too late to redirect their thinking to a more responsible and productive pursuit, for all such pursuits are the antithesis of instant gratification. Real achievement take real WORK and real TIME. In the ephemeral world of television and movies, NOTHING is real. We have allowed our youth to be inculcated with a concept of fiction as fact.

Follow the edict of John Prine. Blow up your TV. Learn to read. Learn to DO. Get a life. End of rant.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 12/10/03 08:39:52 EST

Ron, The oysters in New Mexico are the fridged, flown-in kind, and I DO like them, even straight, without lemon. However, some folks here liken an oyster to a ganób (use your imagination).

What is good-looking to me, is the old hand forged clam rake.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/10/03 09:03:44 EST

Ron I would beg to differ on the "oyster capital of the world" that would be Severance Colorado, our oysters are herded, covered with hair, and can weigh 3/4 tons. They require a rope and a SHARP skinning Knife, to shuck, and are retuned to live to pasture. Virility and Vigor you bet. Taste Better than Chicken.
   habu - Wednesday, 12/10/03 09:08:14 EST

Inculcate - I was going to call it a typo but now I’m glad I looked it up. Any day you learn something has not been wasted


Your post 12/09/03 11:26;49 EST. above lists ‘oil’ as a forge fuel.

I have been thinking of making a portable forge ( no workshop or garden means everything must be portable). I thought it might be possible to use oil, but I have never come across an oil forge. I am cautious at using gas due to fatigue in joints and accidental damage combined with high flammability.

Is oil forge construction similar to a gas forge (different burner then assume the open flame behaves similar to gas), or is it altogether different?

What types of oil are used? I was thinking of paraffin /kerosene? (Oil lamp oil); easy access , minimal environmental risk and not a that high a fire risk; but the roughness of the design at present (what design there is ) would easily adapt to heavier oils (diesel or heating oils)except I have no experience using them.
   Nigel - Wednesday, 12/10/03 09:26:28 EST

Guru; just finished CSS (Chicken Salad Swords) and I have a question on the "young girl killed at SCA...) Since the SCA does not allow *ANY* combat with swords and I have *never* heard of this incident not even during the annual "what do we get for all that money paid for insurance out of the SCA's coffers" debates. I would doubt greatly that this was attributed correctly to the SCA.

Can you document this; or change it before the slow wheels of SCA coporate activity grind it and us into an even greater mess? (This is the type of thing that becomes urban legends fast! I once met the fellow that died from a fencing blade catching on his belt buckle, breaking and skewering his abdoman resulting in perotenitus (sp) and death! He was quite spry for someone who was dead and told me that yes it had happened but the wound was a scratch not even requiring stitches...)

My title suggestion "So you want to make a Sword"

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 09:47:16 EST

Let me clarify my last comment: SCA heavy weapons combat is done using "mock swords" made from rattan. *steel* swords are forbidden in combat even just to wear out on the field of battle!

The fencing done in SCA, "Light Weapons combat" mandates commercial, tested blades be used.

IIRC Atli may have witnessed a broken sword incident; but it was not SCA and no fatality occurred.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 09:57:43 EST

Thomas, I meant to have that fact and another figure verified before making the article public. That's what I get for getting in a hurry. . .

Will remove that for the time being.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 11:23:20 EST

I'm trying to turn a piece of metal a "straw" color. Can someone tell me the steps involved in doing so (Temperature, how long to heat, what to quench the metal in).
Any assistance would be welcome!!
   josh - Wednesday, 12/10/03 11:34:29 EST

Does anyone know of a referance on building tavern puzzles? I was thinking that making a few of the little disentanglment type puzzles might be a good way to practice basic skills. Would this be too much for a beginner thats been working on hooks?
   - Aksmith - Wednesday, 12/10/03 11:34:49 EST


Not a builders reference per se, but this is the only thing I've found on the web.

   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 12/10/03 11:41:42 EST

Josh; what type of metal? Steel usually turns a golden colour when heated in the 300degF range.

Clean the surface of any oxides, (fine grit silicon carbide paper)

Clean off any oils including finger prints!! (use cleaning solution of choice---I won't mention my favorite since if you don't use it right it's toxic/flamable)

Heat in oven.

Note try a scrap piece first adjusting the oven temp from say 300 to 400 degF in 25 deg increments and deciding where you want the colour to be. (remember that most oven temperature guages are not accurate so your experiments will be good for *that* oven---you may need to start at 250 degF if your oven runs hot)

This is a temper colour and so fairly fragile and will need to be protected from rusting, (coatings may change the colour...)

Another method is to take the piece hot from the forge and wire brush it and then brush with a brass brush applying a thing brass coating to the object. NB not all brass brushes work.

Another it to paint it...
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:06:33 EST

Warped SS Blades: John, Normally a warp is taken out cold. Wood blocks and a press or a vise are good route to go. If a blade is tempered properly it should be able to yeild over a long section without breaking.

Applying any heat to a finished and heat treated piece is not recommended. ESPECIALY since you are not doing your own heat treating and do not know the consequences. If you must, have the blade annealed, straighten it and then reheat treated.

Figuring out where the warpage came from is usually the key thing. Heat treating always has the possibility of warping parts due to uneven heating, quenching or improper support. But often it just releases stresses that were in the steel prior to heat treatment.

Warpage can be caused by many things including the condition of the metal before heat treating. Steel that is rolled or drawn at low temperatures developes a stretched surface that is under tension. As long as this tension is equal on all sides the piece stays straight. Remove the surface on one side and the piece warps. You can test this with a short length of cold drawn steel and filing or machining about 1/64" off one side. Machinists making precision parts know they must remove stock on all surfaces of a piece to remove these stressed areas.

Stock that has come off a coil and been straightened has stresses in it that when heated will warp the piece. There are all kinds of things that leave stresses in a piece.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:07:21 EST

I enjoyed your rant. ;-) The one possible redeeming factor is that honest-to-gosh real life will often effectively extinguish the "gimme all, gimme now!" attitude that pervades not just our youth, but our "throw away" society as a whole. A faint glimmer of hope perhaps, but I'll take it. I would add to your words that instant gratification is a fleeting thing, and like a junkie, you're left looking for a new fix right away. True gratification comes from the aforementioned real work and real time contributed, and it lasts.

On a different note. I recently acquired a hefty Champion post drill on eBay. It's a beauty and a bargain at $37. I can't wait to put it to work! When shopping for said item, I noticed that most went for under $50, and 95% of these were purchased by the same person. I figure it's probably a tailgater and was just wondering what they go for at the big hammer-ins. Most of the meetings I attend are small, local and tailgater free. :(

Anyway, I thought if eBay was a cheaper option, I'd mention it so folks can shop for their own bargain.

   eander4 - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:12:01 EST


looks quite doable to me if one is patient. you will probably want a pair of round jawed tongs or pliers to do all the little bends.
   adam - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:16:21 EST

I am currently scrounging parts to build a charcoal forge. I have a large (13 inch ID) brake drum with a 2" iron pipe tuyeer for a firepot. What I am wondering is how thick a piece of sheet steel would I need for a hearth around the firepot? I have a sheet approx. 2 feet square and about 1/4 inch thick (I haven't brought home the dial caliper to measure it yet). I also have to decide on how to build legs and find a cheap blower somewhere.

Thank you to the GURU and all his helpers. The information available here is amazing, and the answers provided are very helpful.
   trucktek - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:29:03 EST

Pepsi Generation: I recall being told , when I was a teenager, that my generation was lazy, immoral and ignorant. It seems that the human race has been deteriorating, generation by generation, since dawn of time and it's a wonder anyone today knows how to scratch his armpit.
   adam - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:33:51 EST

Truck: 1/4" plate is very heavy stuff for a forge hearth. Sheet metal from an old appliance will work fine. Mine is a 35mph speed limit sign about 1/6" thick.
   adam - Wednesday, 12/10/03 12:38:15 EST

Oil Forge: Nigel, These work very similar to a gas forge but have the advantage that they are easier to adjust to a carburizing atmosphere. The disadvantage is that they are hard to light AND the exhust has that oil smell and more fumes than gas so it MUST be vented.

There are several types of oil forge construction. One uses the burner off a small domestic oil furnace. These have the advantage of having a full time igniter circuit, pressure pump and blower all in one package. The burner is ducked into the side of a refractory enclosure. I had someone send me a drawing of such a forge and I described it to our man Kiwi in New Zealand and he built one that worked very well.

The trick to using commercial oil burners is that they have components on them that are not designed to take exterior forge temperatures. To prevent overheating you need an air space of about an inch with a piece of sheet metal for a heat sheild and another inch of air space. Air circulating in these spaces will keep the exterior burner parts (pumps, motors, wiring) at room temperatures.

Another type uses a blower and gravity feed for the oil. The oil is dripped into the forge, evaporates from the heat and burns. This is pretty primitive and hard to start. Once hot it will burn as long as you provide fuel. The one I have seen just dripped the oil from a small tube at the center top of the forge. The only problem with this design is that the oil will coke and plug up the pipe/nozzle occasionaly. Make it easy to clean or replace.

Commercial oil forges use a pressure pump and a nozzel to blow oil mist into the air provided by a blower. Some old models were built on top of the oil tank which used a hand pump to pressurize the tank. The tank was both fuel storage and stand. Kind of looked like a bomb to me.

The book on building a Tilting Furnace by Steve Chastain has some good information about using oil to fire a melting furnace and much of the information would apply to a forge burner. See our book review.

The grade of oil used makes a difference in how clean the forge burns and how difficult it is to light. To burn waste motor oil Steve Chastain is preheating his furnaces with propane then switching to oil. Kerosene or deisel fires the easiet, #2 fuel oil is slightly heavier. Both work about the same in this application.

Lighting most oil forges requires an oil soaked rag which eventualy turns to a flaming ball of ash which shoots out the door of the forge. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 13:00:32 EST

Forge Plate: Trucktek, 1/4" is fine for a good heavy duty forge. If I were buying new steel to build one that is what I would use. You can use less but rust out can be a problem and so is heavy work.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 13:14:28 EST

Hand Crank Drills: Eric, These have been selling for $75 to $150 US at blacksmith meets to $50 or less is pretty good. I think I paid $25 or less for the three I had but those were bought 30 years ago. However, I have never seen one that wasn't missing SOMETHING and needed repairs. But they are simple machines and a blacksmith should be able to make parts.

Starting cheap also means that you should be able to afford to put a good Jacobs chuck it. This makes a hand crank drill a very useful tool.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 13:31:20 EST

I recently finished a tool made from 1 x ¼” hot rolled (A36) steel. I wanted to do a file & polish (bright) finish on it. I noticed during and after the file work that the steel has some fairly deep, rough pits in it. Some are as big around as a penny. These are not deep enough to effect function, but too deep to file completely out. Most are in areas that saw very little hammering, but did see several heats. I always try to keep the scale knocked off or brushed from the work and wiped off the anvil face between heats. I kept my heats to high-orange / near yellow. No welds in this area. Everybody who has looked at this piece and noticed the black pocks has said that they “add character”. Fine, but I was shooting for a clean piece of work. Any idea what might be causing this? One of my first guesses is that I am working in too shallow a fire. I do get a lot of scale, but this doesn’t necessarily look like a scale problem.
   - Don Abbott - Wednesday, 12/10/03 13:35:19 EST

Defending the Youth of America
Obviously it is true there are a lot of no-good know-nothing teenagers out there. However, when I was one, back in the 60's, the same thing was true. Many of those teenagers have gone on to become people who post here.
I have been hiring young people to work for me for over 20 years. I never have a problem finding kids who want to learn- and not just farm kids either-
there was Melvin- a black kid from south central LA, who previously worked in a deli, Rick- a poor juvenile delinquent from the windswept suburbs of LA, Shep and Caleb- rich surfer kids from Ojai, where movie stars live, Logan and Shamy- mountain biking snowboarding punk rockers, Ben, whose father raised ostriches- and a whole bunch more.
Most of them did not grow up having dads who made stuff- in fact quite a few of em didnt even have dads in their houses.
But all of em learned how to run machines, measure, cut, and make stuff.
I am not some kind of charity- I hired all of these guys and gals to work, and I fired a few who wouldnt, but it has been my experience that there are lots and lots of kids out there who want very much to learn to make real things with their hands. Some of em I got from community college welding programs, some from art schools, and many just by word of mouth. Many of them have gone on to become quite good at metalworking themselves- several of my Alumni make more than I do, working in the sign industry in Las Vegas, building aluminum boats, working in factories and fab shops.
There are always lazy sods who would rather drink beer and watch tv, but it has been my experience that the percentage of said lazy sods hasnt actually changed much over the years. The good kids have always been out there, and always will. And all kids want everything right now, and part of growing up is learning to be patient. We all did it, dont forget.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 12/10/03 14:01:34 EST

Water Tower:

Ptree-The building does not have sprinkles, and it is thought that the building was built in the 1800s. The tag on the water tower says it was built in 1911, so I am pretty sure of the date. Also, up until the 1960s, wrought was still being speced for jobs such as steam pipes and other applications requiring some level of corrosion resistance. See "Wrought Iron" by Aston and Story. They worked for the AM Byers company, which specialized in large quantity production of wrought iron, in particular plate stock. This is of course no guarntee that this tower is wrought, but is certainly has a lot going for it. It should be easy enough to tell if someone/group is really interested in it.

   Patrick Nowak - Wednesday, 12/10/03 14:13:02 EST

Folks, the job in Albuquerque made me an offer; I have to go through the details but it looks like a keeper. They would like me to start soon after the new year. Life just hit the turbo/afterburner/jato switch.

Don't know if I will get to spend much time here for a while. Please forgive me if I seem a bit stressed when I do sneak in.

Now to get rid of a lot of nice stuff in the shop.

Frank, anything you would suggest hanging on to as it may be harder to find out that away? (post vises, anvils, triphammer, screw press, etc...)

Thomas giving thanks to a beneficient diety! and going to start packing tools
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:11:07 EST

straw colored metal. Errrrr, have you considered paint? (grin) Actually a freind of mine forged some pipe into bamboo. Then an artist friend of his painted it to look like bamboo. And by golly it looks like it grows.....
   Ralph - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:17:28 EST

Great news. But I also know how hard it is to have to move after being in one place for a while.
   Ralph - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:19:24 EST

you probably already know of this but i thought i might bring it up. i recently descovered that when performing twists you dont have to incise all three sides. infact, incising three, two, or one side makes the twist look pretty cool. it looks like alternating twists of thin, thick, thin. it also requires less work (if you dont have that much time on your hands.) i also discovered that practicing before forging, by making a model out of clay and doing the same prossess as you would in the forge is great to do. it is definitely more easy and less wasteful to the stock if you do this. (practice first with clay.)

i also wonder why in a forge fire, you make a ring around the grate where the blower is. i usually just make a pyramid of fule and stick the stock in the middle. i find it gets up to heat much faster than with the ring of fuel.
   - colin - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:26:10 EST

Thomas, congrats on the job - condolences on having to move all your stuff. Perhaps we will bump into each other at a SWABA meet? Any case, welcome to New Mexico.

Don: I do most of my forging at high heat and this makes a lot of scale. If I want a clean finish, then I do a final few heats where I keep the work below salmon and concentrate on knocking off the scale and planishing the surface. Scale is not flexible, it can be loosened by lightly bending the bar or by quenching it. I also use the trick (which Frank showed me) of a puddle of water on the anvil and a wet hammer face.
   adam - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:45:35 EST

Gratz Thomas, good luck on the move!
   - Aksmith - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:52:23 EST

Frank, you eat oysters on a Premium Saltine with hot sauce and/or horseradish. Good for what ails you.
habu, I know the oysters you are talking about.(On our farm we used a straight razor). We also dehorned them.
Ries, good point. I was lucky to have apprenticed to a man who could do anything with metal. Our apprentices and beginners have done us proud. They are respectful and do what they are told - no lip. But kids who ask for tools & equipment for Christmas, keep the inter library loan office busy, join FABA, attend the meetings and get involved are less likely to waste time getting in trouble. I believe Stormcrow - A 15 year old I know makes some very professional looking knives - brings his latest projects to every meeting to show me. Getting to where there is not much I can tell him, yet as good as he is, he is still anxious to learn. I think there are enough of these kids that we need not worry about the future of the country.
   Ron Childers - Wednesday, 12/10/03 15:55:18 EST

Thomas, Congradulations. Just let us know when the yard sale is. . :) Hm m m going to have to be LAST wekend.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 16:11:27 EST

Thomas, Congrats! Really now, when and where are we going to have to go to partake of said blessed event. (Moving /packing party and sale)
   - dragon-boy - Wednesday, 12/10/03 16:27:36 EST

fuel rings?
Well I would say that someone showed you incorrectly. At least it is not how I was shown these many years ago. I make a fire ( paper, wood, walnut shells or what ever) then place coke (breeze or what ever you wish to call it) from the day before on the fire. Then I place green coal around the fire ( this might be your ring) This allows for green coal to be cooked into coke. But THERE IS fuel in the center and you need to keep it full by pushing in from the sides. If no fuel in the center then you will have a very oxidizing fire... ergo lots of scale.
At least that is my method. YMMV
   Ralph - Wednesday, 12/10/03 16:33:02 EST

I have used a oil fired rivit forge that was a tank of oil on wheels with the forge on top, the forge was a box lined with firebrick, and a 4x4 opening on one side and the burner on the end was a compressed air/oil jet.

Roll it out the door, hook up the air line, open the air a little bit, open the oil a little and light it off, let it warm up a bit, then tweak the air and oil valves until it is roaring nicely.

It was a little scary to light off when it was warm as the oil tended to light off the warm fire bricks with a bit of a bang.
   - Hudson - Wednesday, 12/10/03 16:33:54 EST

I need adice
Im 15 years old, and I have always liked swords. The design of them, the intensity put in the work. I have always been interested in them.
I live in washington, around the Seattle area. I want to know how to get started. I have no contacts with any blacksmiths, But i want to learn how to make swords. I currently work in a job that deals with heat, so I will be well adapt to the heat, and i have a flow for hot material (I am a glassblower(By proffesion) But please any advice you have would help me
   Hunter Henderson - Wednesday, 12/10/03 18:26:37 EST

Thomas P, I don't have a screw press or treadle hammer, although I'm seriously considering the latter. Tools and equipment are available in the Southwest. Many New Mexico smiths belong to SWABA, Southwest Artist Blacksmiths. Arizona and Texas have active groups, and in Colorado, we have the Rocky Mountain Smiths. All have newsletters which advertise things a smith might want. Ranch auctions are fairly frequent, and the sale bills usually list "shop equipment". I sometimes run across things I will sell.
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome!
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/10/03 18:53:30 EST

I'm wondering where I can find a heavy steam flange... Every where I've gone I haven't been able to find one. Thanks.
   Anthony - Wednesday, 12/10/03 18:55:15 EST

Anthony, Try McMaster-Carr (www.mcmaster.com). They are your best bet.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:24:03 EST

Frank, Thomas is the king of cheap tools. He ain't gonna like those western prices. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:25:11 EST

frank turley,
the tibetan style dagger you made out of that meteor; was did the metal have any different properties? what was the colour, hardness and lustre?
   - colin - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:29:38 EST


Look UP to yesterday for Sword Making from Chicken Salad. Read the commentary that follows THEN go back to the link. It is a work in progress. Then list of references should keep you busy for a year if not a decade.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:30:42 EST

Thomas the Orange,

Having made a very long move some years ago, let me offer this bit of advice. Take everything! Rent a 40 foot freight container and load it yourself. Then have somebody with a tractor rig come pick it up and schlep it ot NM for you. If you have to leave anything behind, make it clothing, cookware, furniture, etc. Those can be replaced just about anywhere. Besides, you're gonna need jeans, cowboy boots, Levi jackets, down vest and southwest mission style furniture to live in Albie. All that midwest overalls and gimme cap, overstuffed sofa and LazyBoy, that's just gonna have to go! (grin)

WhenI moved from Arizona to the Virgin Islands, I brought my pickup and a tandem axle UHaul loaded with as many tools as I could cram in it. Used up two sets of axles on the trailer just getting it to Miami. UHaul was surprised that one could get over 18K pounds in one trailer. And still, I should have gotten the bigger trailer and brought my brake, spot welder, shear and some other tools that I was forced to sell. Down here, they're just not available, and every so often I wish I had them. So my advice is take ALL the tools and toys, every last book, and as much stock as you can cram in the corners. How may clothes can you wear at one time, anyway? (grin)
   vicopper - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:31:58 EST

how much do you think would be a reasonable price for a hand forged 6" long x 3/4" wide dagger with a bronze or brass hilt? i have a client who is going to buy it and im not quite sure what a good price is. he wants to buy it for $10 canadian.
   - colin - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:32:13 EST


I didn't mean to sound as though I thought all hope should be abandoned. There are a good number of young folks who are quite willing and eager to learn. It is they who will be the salvation of this country, if a few of them are foolish enough to get elected to office. But they still need to get rid of the TV. (grin)
   vicopper - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:34:15 EST


Too cheap. Way too cheap. Look at knifemakers sites on the net and see what comparable work is going for. Then charge accordingly, adjusted for your local economy, your abilities, and the amount of "good will" you're willing to buy. But remember, if you sell it too cheap, you'll have just earned a reputation as a cheap smith. Everyone else will want cheap work, too.

Sometimes, it better to just give an item away than to seel it so cheaply that you make nothing on it. At least if you give it away, you're giving a gift, not sellling yourself short.
   vicopper - Wednesday, 12/10/03 19:39:31 EST

I'm very new but a wise...experianced smith told me two thing will send a smith to the fires down below. One is hitting cold iron, the other is selling too cheap. Just because a mass market version can be bought cheap doesn't mean you should undercut yourself.
Irnsrgn-please email me, or can someone give me his email addy, changed providers and lost it
   Aksmith - Wednesday, 12/10/03 20:18:05 EST

Candace - Those materials are what go into his handles and scabbards - he's not patternwelding mammoth tusk and horse bone! :-)

I don't think I've ever really seen him say what metals he makes his damascus out of. He might have said, I just don't recall.
   - Stormcrow - Wednesday, 12/10/03 20:23:42 EST

Knife Price: Colin, If it is any good $100 CN minimum. $10 is an insult. But custom knives can vary a lot in quality and I have not seen yours.

The first thing I look at on a custom knife is the joint between blade and guard. Most top makers silver braze the guard to the blade. The joint should just be a fine fillet about .005 to .008" wide and without porosity and the silver should not run out on the brass. Any flaws here drops the price considerably. If the joint is unsoldered then it should be very tight and very clean, a perfect fit.

Then the grip should be without assembly gaps or flaws and blend perfectly with the pommel. Most makers bed in the grip with a matching epoxy to be sure there are no gaps and nothing loose. Even riveted on scales are bedded in epoxy.

The blade itself should have a pleasing shape and an absolutely uniform finish. If it has a flat finish then every part except the sharpened edge should be exactly the same finish. Sanded finishes must have a perfectly directional finish. There should be no hint of forging, grinding or filing marks. Corners should be chamfered or radiused absolutely parallel and equal all over with the same finish as the rest of the blade (no shiney corners on an otherwise flat finish).

There are too many variations in blade section to say what is perfect but too thick is a common problem. Lines should be smooth and symetrical. The knife should feel good in the hand.

Any flaws in a custom knife drop its price radically even though it takes no less time to make a perfect knife than a mediocre one. Multiple flaws really hurt the price. If that is the case (flaws) you are best off never selling the knife. Keep it for yourself as a reminder of early work but don't give away your labor.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:13:25 EST

Congratulations Thomas! I think Rich is right about packing up the tools. Except of course all the big Fishers- You should probably ship those back here to New Jersey where they were made (BG). Good Luck in the new job.
   SGensh - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:15:07 EST

Thomas P - Good luck with the new job and the dreaded move preceding it. I've been down the unemployment path a couple of times when one of the western PA mills closed, or an employer staffed up for a permanent committment to improving their engineering staff. No fun at all. I'll miss reading your posts while you're in transition and settling into the new job.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:28:21 EST


One of the beauties and advantages of the internet, is that a physical move does not automatically mean that we lose track of each other.

I trust that one of your priorities will be getting back on line as soon as possible. You will be missed while you are in transition.

Bon Voyage! Revenu bientôt !
   Paw Paw - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:36:00 EST

I'm a farrier attempting to prepare myself for the day I no longer wish to get under a horse and cross over to full time blacksmithing. In that interest I've aquired a used portable forge with handcrank blower and steel pan (I currently use a gas forge in my rig but can't weld with it). I've caught wind, but no specifics, about covering the pan with fire clay. Do I just mix it into a mud and coat the bottom of the pan or is it really even necessary.
   Isaah - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:53:50 EST


Upon further reflection, I have to agree in part with what Steve said. One of those big Fishers should definitely go to New Jersey. Port Elizabeth, NJ, in fact, to the Tropical Shipping terminal there. Those kindly folks will relieve you of the burden of transporting such a heavy and unwieldy object across the country and will, instead, transport it here to me for much less than it would cost to get it to you in Albuquerque. You save money, I save money; you save a headache, I relieve a headache. And we owe it all to the clever wisdom of Steve Gensheimer. That's what friends are for. It just makes you feel warm all over, doesn't it? (grin)

Most importantly Thomas, I'm delighted you've located suitable employment and will still be with us. Congratulations!
   vicopper - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:55:52 EST

Yeah, I get that Stormcrow, but there's no way in hail anyone can get a hold of "mammoth tusk"... it's gotta be some sorta bark or something. Right?
   - Candace - Wednesday, 12/10/03 21:59:20 EST

In the northern countries it's really not that hard to get mammoth tusk and if you look around his site a bit you'll see him pictured holding about 4' of tusk.
   - Aksmith - Wednesday, 12/10/03 22:12:49 EST

Yes Candace, not only can you buy fossil mammoth tusk, but also narwal horns, lion skulls, fossil amber with ancient spiders in it, shark teeth and even dinosaur eggs.
The Russians claim to have something like 500,000 tons of fossil mammoth tusk available to dig up and sell.
There is a store in NYC called Maxilla and Mandible that sells all kinds of parts and pieces of animals, fish and birds, even people. Dont know if they sell the mammoth tusk, but a friend of mine got a lion skull there, and boy is it cool. Dont know quite how you would make a knife handle out of it though.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 12/10/03 22:24:08 EST

Well of course I'm not planning to leave "much" of the good stuff; but I have time space and money limitations and I usually fairly good at tracking metal down as needed, (the Ti goes).

Guru, I'm insulted! Cheap tools indeed! I paid dang near US$100 to buy that big screw press and get it loaded on my truck. I will miss the yearly anvil for under $1 a pound; gotta turn over my current tracking info to my successor...

Talking now of driving my truck down while the family flys down for Christmas, (loaded with what I need to start working my new job). Then fly back with the family and call the MOB in to load a rental truck with as much as possible in the anvil/press/triphammer,selected scrap, tools and a front seat load of books to keep me driving carefully---then ASM handbooks weigh as much as an anvil... If I load in one day I should be able the get to the new job on time...It's all down hill going south right?

When I get set up folks are welcome to drop by---just folow the ruts in the interstate till your compass swings around to point to my place.

We moved into this house Christmas eve 14 years ago, -21 degF wind chill and all. Wife swore she'd kill me if we ever moved over Christmas again...luckily we will be *house hunting* over Christmas. She doesn't want to move until better weather---I keep telling her that you can drive to better weather!

Sending stuff east: if I could get it east I could get it to NM---I hope

Packing books and tools already,

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/10/03 23:00:28 EST

Colin, As I recall, the meteorite had a semi-gloss black lustre, a slightly irregular shape, and if it came from the "Big Bang", it was probably molten at one time...which explains my difficulty in getting it to forge weld easily. When welded into the medium carbon steel, it was undectible. I can't tell you about hardness. The meteorites from various world sites have slightly different properties, but I think most of them have some degree of nickel content. If you connect with eBay and type in 'meteorite', you will see quite an assortment, but some have been polished.
Broken Swords:

I've had several break on me, but not in a life threatening way. According to Dr. Jim Hrisoulis an impalement did take place in Europe from a broken sword blade flying loose and hitting a girl. As I remember, it was non-fatal, but very touch-and-go. (Although I may be remembering wrong.) In Europe they tend to use bated blades in a competitive manner, so there can be considerable force applied. I know of no fatalities in this country, although some of our folks have had some stitches from time to time; an incentive for good armor.

That said, swords are tempermental objects, and any flaw along the length of the blade can reveal itself in disasterous ways. One of the reasons that old swords were valued is that only good swords got to be old swords. Emphasizing the difficulties of the craft and the hazards of the practice is not a bad thing.

"Tools can be weapons, and weapons are tools; and all are dangerous in the hands of fools." (Uncle Atli's Very Thin Book of Wisdom)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 12/11/03 00:03:54 EST

i am not quite finished grinding the knife but so far it looks pretty good. i will post up a picture of it when i am finished
   - colin - Thursday, 12/11/03 00:05:40 EST


No, it doesn't have tobe a fake. I had one pistol that had 6 million years old mastadon tusk inlaid into the grips instead of checkering.

It isn't cheap, but you can find it.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 12/11/03 00:06:20 EST

FRANK TURLEY; Do you know of any place in the ABQ area where ol' Thomas P can get a red Stetson with a pointy crown and a couple of deer spikes on it ?
   3dogs - Thursday, 12/11/03 03:35:55 EST

CANDACE; Check out boonetrading.com, and prepare for a sensory overload.
   3dogs - Thursday, 12/11/03 03:40:17 EST

If I could enlist your help, it would be much appreciated. Could you guys point me to some historic sources on French blacksmithing? Books and internet sources would be best. I'm doing a presentation for French IIIH; right now I'm trying to decide what to make to bring in as a visual aid, but general information is really what I need. I have been looking at the French site listed on the Anvilfire Links page, and it's a good start. Any other ones y'all could refer me to?

Wet and windy in Kaneohe, Hawaii. I need a new umbrella...
   T. Gold - Thursday, 12/11/03 04:17:19 EST

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear on my posting. When a young man (lady) is asking for help in making tools for smithing, I always try to help. Making weapons (or parts for weapons) is different. I'm nuts about knives. Always have been. I have knives that I skinned with in my youth. Well constructed items know no boundry (be it knife, firearm, hammer, and so on). When the FIRST thing a person wants to make is a weapon, I shy away somewhat (unless I am seeing the person eye to eye, and have formed some opinion of them). The Net is a different place, hence the need for the Chicken Salad section (and this also stands for up close and personal world). Fairly large amount of responsability on my part to make sure that the folks I'm talking to have good intentions for their questions (as Jock points out in his questions about what the final use of the sword will be). I do share enthusiasm with young folks though. Some, however just want a "Thor" hammer that will break bones and rip bodies apart (this from a young man I work with that wants help in constructing a Viking Hammer - his description of the tool and it's intended uses). Tools are cool. Tools = time saved or body parts saved ( in their use ). Some stuff can't be done without specific tools. Other things, we improvise. I'm the old guy in overalls with the long beard and pliers. Swords are cool too I guess, but the skills to make a sword also are used to make many other things. This said, I still haven't developed good tong making skills. Mebbe it's too many moving parts, I don't know.
   - Ten Hammers - Thursday, 12/11/03 07:05:05 EST

Then there is the issue of what the straight dope really is. Enter the Government, and the medical profession. 25 or so years ago, those danged eggs were the culprits! They ain't good for ya, and they gonna kill ya. Today, those same eggs are up in price due to some new diet, and demand for them is fueling supply side price increases. I just read about the fishing industry (tuna etc). The Gummit is suggesting some (pregnant women and young children are the "some" ) limit their intake of certain fish due to high levels of mercury. Someplace else you'll see that the reason some cultures are virtually cancer free is due to their daily diet of fish. This has now dumped a pandoras box for comment (and I ain't goin' there). Point is this. Many things in life are subject to enterpritation (and I WAS a good speller in my youth). This place is an excellent place to get information, and you will get as many opinions on a subject as there are folks reading. Smithing is wide open subject, and many things can be done in different ways with different tools. This said, facts are facts. Something left in a coal fire too long will burn. Scale is tough stuff (and it's hot). Pants legs go outside the boots (for the aforementioned reason). Many simple pleasures can be had with a hammer in one hand and hot steel (iron) in the other. Some anvils ring, some don't. So what. Use the tools at hand if you have nothing proper to use (or the means to acquire the proper tools ). This said, never strike 2 hardened surfaces together (hammer faces, hammer to anvil face). Young folks are the future. We need to help them (and they help us in the process).
   - Ten Hammers - Thursday, 12/11/03 07:33:06 EST

Congradulations Thomas!

Though I am sorry to see you leaving us here in the middle. I hope that you can find a nice little place with a decent polebarn so you can spread out all those tools and actually get to use them, inside your shop:-) The peril of being the best scrouge I have ever met, no room in the shop to work:-) Let me know when the packing party is and I will see if I can come over and help. Your going to have to try and find old abandoned industrial sites to wander around in... cause they aren't going to have the steel weeds just growing out of the ground like we do back here in the midwest:-) (for those of you who don't know Thomas that well he goes for a walk in the woods and comes back with a useful piece of scrap steel:-)

I hope things go great out there, and I am very happy that you found a nice job. Sad that you will be leaving, but will still likely see you some at big events...
   Fionnbharr - Thursday, 12/11/03 08:36:21 EST

Forge Pan: Isaah, The abonishment to "Clay before Using" is for thin cast iron pans that are subject to cracking. A deep bed of fuel takes care of steel pan forges.

French Blacksmithing: TG, Try Diderots. The Encylopedia is drawings of 18th Century European Industry but it is primarily French. There are numerous plates of the fancy French ironwork of the time. Also look at most books on fancy locks. A great deal of these were French as it was one of their specialties.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 08:50:28 EST

Dang, there is a Dover book on french ornamental ironwork, "Decorative Ironwork" "Decorative Antique Ironwork"???? It's already in a box---load the good stuff first so when you get to the "Pour it into a chipper and point the pipe into the truck" stage it's protected.

Also Knives Illustrated has done a few articles on contemporary French bladesmiths that I recall.

Back to renting a chipper and a truck.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 12/11/03 09:08:55 EST

Ivory: One thing not mentioned in the replies about fossil ivory above is that ivory (modern) is banned in trade and even ivory on old musical instuments and works of art is subject to seizure by the world's customs officials if not properly documented.

Fossil Ivory is found in considerable quantities and has become a legal substitute for modern ivory by many craftspeople. But the rub IS that it requires microscopic examination of the cross section of a sizable piece to tell the difference between fossil ivory and modern ivory. This means destructive testing. Without VERY good authentification (a paper trail) any product made with fossil ivory is subject to future confiscation and destruction.

International Ivory trade has been one of the greatest evils since the great African slave trade of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century. The ivory trade has been going on for millenia but it was not a huge international business until the slave trade era. Slaves captured in various parts of Africa were often used to transport ivory as well as them selves to the ports for export. Millions of live healthy animals have been slaughtered for their tusks. Today elephants are near extinction due to the ilegal trade in ivory that still goes on. This trade is fueled by demand and unstable governements in many African countries and the easy availability of military arms and equipment (provided largely by US) used to slaughter whole herds (families) of elephants.

The problem with the legal use of fossil ivory in trade is that it puts a further demand on ilegal modern ivory.

There are synthetic ivories available such as Corrian. No, they are not quite as warm and nice as the real thing and do not work the same way. However, I have used them and they are a suitable substitute and do not have the maintenance, legal or moral problems of real ivory.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 09:19:19 EST

ALBUQUERQUE---New Mexico is a part of the U.S., although the TV weather person usually stands in front of it when pointing to other "important places" on the map. Also, when New Mexicans travel in the U.S., they are sometimes asked for their passport...or they are asked if they had trouble getting across the border!! As for weather, we are at the southern end of the Rocky Mountain chain, technically, a part of the big cordillera running from Alaska to the Tierra del Fuego. Denver claims to be the "Mile High City". Let it be known that Albuquerque is a little higher in elevation than Denver. In the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque, there is a beginner's ski area. In the foothills east of town, the Interstate is often closed for hours at a time because of the necessity to clear snow and glare ice.

When Thomas arrives, he should probably look up Mark, the "Metal Monger", who has lots of junque to mull over.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 12/11/03 09:22:47 EST

French Ironwork. A good book, "Old French Ironwork" by Edgar B. Frank, is available on abebooks.com. And a wonderful book, though difficult to find, is "Fer Forgé et Serrurerie" by Raymond Lecoq, G.M. Perrin, 1962. It is in French, and full of careful, measured line drawings of ornamental work and assembly. And Jock, there is an important section with drawings on lock parts and assembly, pp. 103-125.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 12/11/03 09:38:26 EST

New MEXICO: And Frank forgot to mention that when you mail things to New Mexico you should clearly mark USA on the address!! Apparently even with automated systems and ZIP codes mail gets sent to MEXICO (MX) where it usualy just dissapears. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 09:39:16 EST

Candace, go pick up a copy of "Blade" magazine. I almost guarantee you there will be at least one knife with fossil ivory in the handle. They've found mammoths intact enough that they could determine the critter's last meal. It wasn't too long back that they were actually walking around the place.
   - Stormcrow - Thursday, 12/11/03 10:28:29 EST

Moving Thomas: Yeah, what VICopper said. Bring everything. There is stuff out here but it's much thinner on the ground than in the MidWest or East Coast. I think most of the BS equipment in NM is already at Frank's place. You will find yourself buying tools from the MidWest and paying at least 50% of the purchase price for the shipping.

What you will need, if you want to blend in, is a beat up old PU truck. Practice driving it at high speed on the highway at night without headlights. Also, you can save some money since you wont be using turn signals out here.
   adam - Thursday, 12/11/03 10:37:30 EST

I remember an episode of "Northern Exposure" where the guy from New York discovered a mammoth carcass that had rolled out of a glacier. He went to contact the authorities about his discovery, then returned to the site, only to find that the locals had completely dismantled the carcass (parted it out). Apparently this is not all that uncommon to folks in the far north.
   - Don Abbott - Thursday, 12/11/03 10:56:43 EST

I would like to learn some tricks in coloring mild sheet steel(hot rolled 18 ga.) by heating. I have been experimenting with different methods trying to achieve an even golden brown.
   Gene Griffin - Thursday, 12/11/03 11:02:45 EST

Jock did the former Soviet state have nothing to do with the arming of Africa? Are their no other interests that have been as agressive in supporting THEIR friends? Not to antagonize but we ain't the only ones in the world.
   Mills - Thursday, 12/11/03 11:04:14 EST

90% or better of the individual weapons in Africa are AK-47, not M-16's. Most of them are the cheap chinese copy. The US has never sold AK-47's of any type. (we have on occasion given a few away)
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 12/11/03 11:13:06 EST

USSR: Yep, I should have noted that the problems are the result of the cold war and that we were only half of the conflict. But then, we claim to have WON the cold war. . and then walked away from the problems we caused in places like Africa. Seems to be a trend . . . Remember WE DID support political despots like Edi Ammin (the self proclaimed cannibal) and others as long as they claimed to be anti-communist. Ask the experts on oil why we were in Somilia. . .

The amount of fossil ivory that is available is infintessimal compared to the ship loads that have come out of Africa.

When the last elephant is gone then the debate over old and new ivory will be over.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 11:31:17 EST

Folks, my parents live in NM, (Las Cruces), so I have been through there a bit---just never looked at housing/shopspace/zoning/scrounging/etc. IIRC NM goes 4,5,6,7---Las Cruces in the 4000 elevations, Alb in the 5000's, Santa Fe in the 6000's and Los Alamos in the 7000's

Gotta acclimate remember getting tired just breathing up at Los Alamos coming from under 1000'.

Anybody know of any restrictions on coal in the Alb area? Areas not prone to hassle folks about the odd scrap pile. Cheap land close to the AFB?

I'll take some of the tools back out of my "stays" box to use as trading stock when I get there.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 12/11/03 11:44:12 EST


The nearest altitude geological survey marker to my house is at the airport. It reads 967 feet. When I went to Flagstaff for the ABANA conference, I was virtually incapacitated for most of the conference.

I've been through altitude changes before, but I'd never been that sick before.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 12/11/03 12:15:38 EST

Jock, or QC,

There is a question on the Hammerin that either of you is more qualified to answer than I am. Please take a look at it.
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 12/11/03 12:22:52 EST


It's been thirty years or so since I spent any real time in Albuquerque, so my info is waaay out of date. Back then, my friends Gen and Charlie lived in an area that was pretty freewheeling as far as regs went. As I recall, they lived in the southwest area of Albuquerque. Of course, that area is probably two acre mini estates with golf courses by now. :-(

Since the wind is always blowing in Albuquerque, I doubt if you'd have any trouble at all burning coal. They'll never figure ut where it is coming from, and if you toss a chunk of pinon on the fire every so often, they'll just think it's a barbecue.

Having grown up in the Southwest, I can say that most folks there are of the "I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone" stripe. Adam is right about the pickup, just be sure you have a gun rack with a carpenter's level hanging on it. You'll fit right in, even with the red hat.

Take ALL the tools, Thomas. With tools, you can make or trade for anything, but what can you do without without them?
   vicopper - Thursday, 12/11/03 12:30:27 EST

Vicopper, get there alive and semi solvent? Don't know what to expect if they ran someone as respectable as the Island hopper copper out of town thirty some years ago.

Alb's in a valley and having problems with air quality I remember that they ran Rob Gunter (sp?) off cause of the coal forges.

Between Alb and Los A's there was a neat unincorperated area full of free spirits; but it's on the wrong end of town.

Gotta go pack some more books.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 12/11/03 13:35:17 EST

Gene; Temper Colors to Brown:

How hot does your kitchen oven get? How accurate is the thermostat? According to the temper color chart at the bottom link of the Heat Treating FAQ at the 21st Century Blacksmith page, shades of yellow run from 440 to 500 degrees, f. and brown from 500 to 520, a pretty narrow range. How even does your oven heat? I've popped whole trays of lamps and bowls into the oven to pre-warm before giving them the hot beeswax and oil treatment and sometimes they come out an even brown and sometimes not. Some ovens tend to cycle above and below their set temperature while others are more steady and accurate. I would suggest that you experiment, using an independant oven thermometer and careful observation.

It's one of the few operations that I can do in the kitchen that won't smell-up the house and irritate the wif! Also, the oven holds a lot more/larger stuff than the little toaster oven I use for knives and spearheads at the forge, even if it doesn't get as hot.

Dryer, windier and warmer on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks (Bandelier, near Santa Fe, is pretty neat; and the HQ down in the canyon contains some nice bits of CCC metakwork and furniture, when last I was there.): http://www.nps.gov/band/

Go viking (haulout Saturday, God(s) willing): www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone - Thursday, 12/11/03 14:36:12 EST

I recently bought an airco dipstick 160 at auction and have been getting familiarizec with it. I'm new to mig welding, so I don't know quite what to expect, however it seems I'm getting an awfull lot of spatter. (using .035 wire on 1/8-3/8 material.) I've also had very little luck with the DC stick using 7018 on similar thicknesses. with the stick, it's very difficult to start/hold an arc. I noticed in a previous posting you have a similar welder and have repaired it. Does it make sense these symptoms are related, and what if any might be the remedy?
   David Kranich - Thursday, 12/11/03 16:09:20 EST

Another title might be Hey stupid sword slinging wannabe
   dragon-boy - Thursday, 12/11/03 16:11:39 EST

Sorry! should read Hey stupid sword sling wannabe! pst ... Over here!
   dragon-boy - Thursday, 12/11/03 16:16:15 EST

   kyle - Thursday, 12/11/03 17:10:57 EST

   kyle - Thursday, 12/11/03 17:11:38 EST

hey guru, i've been wanting to get started in bladesmithing, my ancient family trait, but i've failed to find any where to get started with(ie no carbon steel, or the clays used for bending the katana's, or an idea for an egonomical forge; can you help me? i do know that i should probably start with just metal working, which i am, i have a rail road iron for an anvil (the iron bars that the train wheels roll on) that was from the old train tracks in the local town,befor they stopped running trains, but anyways i have some hammers and stuff but i need help finding some iron to begin working,xmas is comming around soon and is custom to my chistian family to give gifts, i commonly recieve money for xmas and want to put it to good use, thank you for all of your help. Oshi =D
   Oshinokeru - Thursday, 12/11/03 17:54:14 EST

hi,has anybody got a good technic for lattice or weaving on 25mmx3mm flat steel,23cm x35.5cm scale thanks.
   brian mcqueen - Thursday, 12/11/03 17:57:17 EST

hi,has anybody got a good technic for lattice or weaving on 25mmx3mm flat steel,23cm x35.5cm scale thanks.
   brian mcqueen - Thursday, 12/11/03 17:58:41 EST

egonomical forge Oshinokeru, Now THAT is a new question (unless you ment economical). Ergonomics depend a lot on your style of working and physical condition.
Eastern forges (Greece through the Pacific) were traditionaly set in or on the ground as are the same people's anvils. The smith sat cross leged or squatted in front of the anvil and forge. For an overweight Westerner with bad circulation in his legs this working position is good for about 5 minutes.

Eastern helpers squatted for some tasks and stood up for others such as striking with a sledge.

The advantage to this system is that the Earth is your work bench and that equipment needs are very minimal. No material is wasted putting things on legs and a shop can be set up in minutes. The disadvantage is sitting on the ground and not being able to quickly take advantage of tools or equipment that is out of reach.

Europeans (Westerners) have traditionaly worked standing at tables and benches for as long as we can tell. An ergonomic forge for someone standing is about bench height or a little lower (about the same height as your anvil). For someone very tall or very short special bench and tool heights are more ergonomic.

How you plan on working, are used to working or need to work determines the height of equipment and thus the egronomics.

See the link above on 12/09 @ 14:03 titled "Sword Making from Chicken Salad" and the comentary that follows in this forum. NOTE: This is a temporary posting of an article in progress and it may come and go until it is finished.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 18:20:40 EST

This is probably for Atli. Once a proper sword is finished, how is it tested? After an earlier post about possible faults, I got to thinking that one would want to know ahead of time, and not on the field of battle, that the sword in question would stand up to the stresses and also that the harmonics recieved by the hand would be in reason. So what traditional testing methods were used?
   Bob H - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:01:31 EST

Airco Dipstick: David, Yep, bought it new, put it on a special HD cart that handled two cylinders of gas and added a TIG attachment to it. Had about $4K in it (base was $1700)! Then it was abandonded by Airco 2 years later. That was about 1983. . . So they haven't been made in a long time. Almost 20 years.

Spatter is common on dip transfer machines. Reducing it requires a short arc and the right wire speed. A worn tip can cause trouble. When I checked a couple months ago thee were no tips available.

Many things can cause arc stabilazation problems. All modern welders have a bank of capacitors to help control the arc. These can go bad. Adjustable transformers wear and when the loose part vibrates it not only makes a lot of noise it can transmit the voltage variation to the arc and make it hard to maintain.

However, I suspect you just need to get used to it. It was a cheap over priced machine made by a company that had no interest in the product (kinda like an IBM-PC of the same era). Cheap welders tend to have their own personality that takes time to adjust to. This one has a lot of personality. Mine has a lot of Radio-Shack parts in it now. . . .

When I went to buy a MIG machine I ASKED for a Miller and was talked into the Airco. . . If I had stuck to my guns and paid more for a Miller I would still have a maintainable machine that was worth a few dollars.

   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:02:06 EST

Hello everyone, I've been lurking for a while, but have just now gotten to where I feel comfortable asking a question.

I am planning to build some type of power hammer soon. I have spent a lot of time looking over all the pages here and at other sites to get the ideas, and hope to buy some plans soon and start gathering materials.

My question has to do with the power hammers. While looking at page 3 of Jun 98 Anvil Fire news it talks about 2 different styles of JYH. One is the East Coast JYH, and the other is the West Coast JYH. I was wondering how well the West coast model worked in operation? Did it tear itself apart like the Guru predicted? I kind of like that it is smaller and lower to the ground. For the small stuff I do it would work fine I think.

Thanks for any adice you folks can offer

   FredlyFX - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:02:45 EST

I saw some jewelry once made of agatized dinosaur bone. At least, the makers said it was.

Driving in New Mexico. Passing lane is on the right (seems as though, anyway).

Victor Vera said that in old Mexico, they colored lock parts to a blue by putting the bare, clean metal in a small steel sand box, and then placing it on the forge fire. The pieces were smothered with sand and the whole was heated slowly untll the desired color was reached. Then, they were quenched in oil to help hold the color. To check the color, move the sand a bit with a metal "pointer" every now and then. The first color will be light straw, then straw, dark straw, copper (or bronze). I suppose you're looking for dark straw or copper.

Rob Gunter sells Colorado coal in Edgewood, New Mexico, not far from Albuquerque. It is a fair coking grade, reportedly from the Durango area.

   Frank Turley - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:08:36 EST

Fred, Both machines worked in a fashion. The EC-JYH hits like a powder puff but can still turn out more work than a man working by hand. The WC-JYH hit harder but at the expense of hopping off the ground with every up stroke. It needed to be bolted to the floor or have a very heavy base but then the up force would be going into the parts.

The only sucessful helve hammers were those made by Bradley and it took them YEARS of developement to learn to cushion the upstroke and return some of that energy to the blow. Bradley also made the HEAVIEST constructed of all the hammers for a reason. It takes a lot of strength and mass to control that upstroke on a helve.

Both machines were built to prove a point, NOT to be design models for other machines. A JYH is built from what you find (cheap or free) or have on hand.

The BEST of all the JYH hammer designs I have seen and operated is the NC-JYH. The tire clutch has fantastic control and the Dupont patent linkage hits the hardest for any size machine. It could be substituted with a bow spring and toggle (Like the South Africa Hammer) and work just as well.

As soon as you start buying a lot of steel and components or paying for machine work you should just BUY a real power hammer.

Build it, put it together as temporarily as possible so you can make changes, then test it on hot iron. You will probably need to make more than one change before putting it together permanently.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:20:21 EST

Vic Gen and Charley are my In-laws their house,garage and shop in alb. were literlaly raised from the mud in the back lot, traditional Adobe brick. The 2ft thick walls are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, you could heat it with a candle. Charley made the doors and smithed the hardware himself. I have forgoten the name of the adobe fireplaces but that was the main source of heat. My son-in-law and I built Carley a gas forge for his 76th birthday. He and his bride now live in TorC NMex (Warmer).

is more like leave me alone or I'll get in your face. grin
Land of the Milogro beanfield war.

Thomas when you get down there Drop me a line and I will get you in touch with Gen and Charley. They know the area well and can get you into Native American areas that are not easy to get to.
   habu - Thursday, 12/11/03 19:20:49 EST


Yeah, it only stands to reason that Charlie would build everything himself. He was still working on the place when I visited them in '68, as I recall. Comfy. And Gen still holds the honor of the best posole' cook in the world, as far as I'm concerned. Charlie was always a character. He pretty much epitomizes the typical southwesterner, at least the types that you and I grew up with. When you next talk to Gen and Charlie, tell them I said hello, would you? And give my best to your lovely bride.
   vicopper - Thursday, 12/11/03 20:22:47 EST

I like that NC-JYH also. I was also looking at the various styles of the Rusty Hammer that are on the ABA site. What do you think of them?
   FredlyFX - Thursday, 12/11/03 20:59:39 EST

"Decorative Ironwork of the Middle Ages and Renaissance" by Jakob Heinrich von Hefner-Alteneck. Is specific refference to the Dover book that Thomas was suggesting:-)
   Fionnbharr - Thursday, 12/11/03 21:36:01 EST

Saw this in the local paper "Make knives/swords, 1952 Army Field Blacksmith's kit, complete and unused $1200". Not that I'm looking at buying it but did such a thing exist?
   Aksmith - Thursday, 12/11/03 21:52:21 EST


I'm not sure when it was taken out of service, but the army did have a field blacksmith's kit up to and including WWII. Knowing how prompt the goverment is to do things (sarcastit tone of voice) I suspect it is probably true. I think the price is way high, but I'd sure like to look at it. Can you contact the seller and get a look, possibly some pictures?
   Paw Paw - Thursday, 12/11/03 22:03:24 EST

ok well thank you very much guru, for the extreme help on the forge, im not what u would call umm "over weight" lol but just a lil chubby by about 5 lbs excess lol anyways, i am wanting to make oriental blades, know that i am not going to bend them with vices, but the traditional way by putting about 2 inches of clay and charcoal ash mixed with water to make it more pasty isntead of "clumpy" understand? now i really need help on how to make a handle of oak and where to get steel? i just a plain carbon steel blade, ie practical katana, for now untill i start becoming very good at bladesmith ok? it's just going to be a learning expierence.I do not have what i could call a local junkyard anywhere near, could i take old carbon steel from something? could i possibly goto a hardware store and see if they have carbon steel? i also do not know how to make a oak handle for the blade, i've mainly heard that by family traits the origonal blades were sent to a wood worker to make the scabbard and handles, a polisher to put a hamon on it and then sent back to the blacksmith to sell the blade =\ can you help me out? i need to find out how to make a handle and where to get some carbon steel besides using old re-bar in the shed ....... that stuff isn't worth much than a post...... thank you again for your help!!
   Oshinokeru - Thursday, 12/11/03 22:08:44 EST

AKsmith - re:1952 Army Field Blacksmith's kit - I can't say for sure that it did, but I suspect so. Before my father died, he gave me an Army Surplus forge - painted olive drab & still banded together with steel bands. When I took the bands off to see what all it contained, it consisted of a handcranked blower (Buffalo) and a rectangular firepot with walls about 2 to 3" high, also some light gage hinged sheet to form wind protection on 3 sides of the firepot, and legs that set it about 18 to 24" above ground level. I suspect it was made for benchtop use. Having been in the background here fairly often, I've clayed the firepot area and will lubricate the blower before using. It also still had WWII vintage papers wrapped around the various parts. Would the Army have continued to produce into the 1950's - probably, & would they have had more complete sets than the 1 Dad gave me, again probably so.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 12/11/03 22:16:08 EST

I have built a enlarged crank actuated, rocking spring type hammer somewhat similar to the Rusty. I have not had the opurtunity to operate any other type of power hammer, so can't compare hitting style. I can offer the following, that the rocking spring type is probably the the simplest type for the homebuilder. If dies are ignored, there is almost no machineing requireing more than a drill press in this type. As the Guru noted, plan on changing things around as you use the machine and learn. To build any hammer, good scrounging skills are required, as well as the ability to see adaptations in available items. Perhaps we can get the Guru to add my hammer to the power hammer page soon. I used a lot of easy to find components to avoid machining.
   - ptree - Thursday, 12/11/03 22:22:34 EST

Earliest mention of sword testing in a European context was the legendary cutting of anvils in half, and throwing a bit of fleece into a stream and having it parted by a sword blade. Practicing at the pell would certainly reveal any tendency for bad tempering.

I think Charles the XI of Sweden used to practice by beheading sheep in the latter 17th century. By the mid 1800s, in an artillery manual I copied, they have sabers being tested by whacking against logs and bent a certain distance and returning to true. None of it very scientific, or exact.

In Japan, cutting rolled mats or bundles of bamboo was, and is, popular; just as in this country cutting free hanging rope is one of the "cool" things. Of course, you can make a specialized knife out of mild steel that cuts free hanging rope just fine, and is good for little else. (According to Wayne Goddard this actually happened by accident.)

I have no reference, so it may be apocryphal, but supposedly a Samurai would try out a new sword on the first peasant he came to, to see if it gave him a clean kill. (I guess that was before they met Tom Cruise. ;-)

Like every other manufactory, quality control probably varied with time, place and craftsmen. A key point would be to select a process that would truly test the sword, without abusing it. I certainly do not condone anvil abuse!

You might want to post this over at Sword Forums for long, detailed answers that all of the folks there can then argue about. ;-)

Colder and breezy on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 12/11/03 23:26:54 EST

yes i know bruce, to test it you cut either bamboo, pvc piping (thick plastick piping) or you can be like paul chen and cut threw the what was it like 1/8 inch thick brass tubing lol, ohhwell, to test it i was going to cut pvc piping, in our shed we have alot of this (bear in mind i live in an old country area ie rural) i have a bunch of junk literaly, i just need help for a hilt and scabbard basicly, and the guard and the metal that supports the guard,because i actually lost my written notes from previous family ways, that my great great granpa told me a few yearsbefor he died, meaning that probably he had forotten or "altered" some of it anyways. but i still would like some help on the more indepth parts of a blade,i allready know i can hammer out the iron and make a blade with it, and make sure it is completely sharp. tom cruise actually seems to bring nastolgia to me from the book by jame clavell:Shogun lol with blackthorne, anyways i must obide my leave, thank you for your help
   Oshinokeru - Thursday, 12/11/03 23:53:24 EST

Well I went ahead and called on the Army Kit. The rather...lubricated gentlman I spoke with wasn't able to tell me many specifics but he did tell me that the kit includes an "English" forge and a blower with a brass plate on the side that says "Alenbee or something like that". It also includes an 80# anvil, a bench vise, several tongs, hammers, files, wrenches, an apron, and coal bags. He says it is early 50ish but unsure of exactly when it was made. No pictures available.
   Aksmith - Friday, 12/12/03 00:06:01 EST

Thanks ptree. I'm really going back and forth in my head over what style to go for. I am leaning towards the rocking spring style, but I like that NC-JYH also. I think a lot of it will end up depending on what I find in the scrap yard once I start looking.

One thing that I havn't really been able to figure out about the various hammers I have seen is how the clutches work. It's obvious on the NC-JYH, but on many of the others is isn't. Any explanation or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
   FredlyFX - Friday, 12/12/03 01:39:27 EST


I am considering buying a Cliff Carroll gas forge for small work (up to 1" sq, do you know where I could get some independent information on these forges please.


   Paul Mayhead - Friday, 12/12/03 02:59:36 EST

Unplug it and take apart all the major cable joints and plugs and clean them up....same inside the cover. Take apart the ground clamp and stinger and do the same ( especially where the cable is clamped or soldered...That will eliminate the most common cause of that sort of problems.
Fredly: The best, cheapest clutch style is a plain old slip belt clutch with a treadle connected to an idler pulley that tensions the belt.
But: have you considered a treadle hammer for openers?
It'll give you a big right leg and the ability to balance on the left near as good as any drunken stork.
   - Pete F - Friday, 12/12/03 04:18:50 EST

Thomas p – good luck

Guru – thanks for the info. The original idea came from a book on a home made casting furnace.

Broken swords +
I did re-enactment for 3 years and am looking into getting back , I have not heard of any ‘serious‘ injuries in the UK (serious – kept in hospital), although I have been out of the loop for a couple of years. Combat varies from outright ban thru scripted fights, to (my experience) competitive (light contact) battles up to 300 people with an honour based scoring system and limited target areas, to ‘champion fights” friends doing a display fight in theory to the same rules as above, but ends when one is too tired to carry on.

The blades I am use to are 3mm edge and spear points have a flattened 5/8” (from memory) ball bearing on the point. The ball size was originally what was to hand,....a Morris Marina wheel bearing!

I did hear of one fatality in the ‘80s, a heart attack on the field of battle (Battle Abbey I think), the death was only found out when the after battle call of “dead arise” was given, and he didn’t. I’m not sure of location but the tale is how I heard it, less some bardic fripperies

Rules change between societies let alone countries, at the Hastings re-enactment at Battle Abbey in, I think ’96, I met some Danish (I had bigger worries than nationalaties) re-enactors who were using what I considered an unsharpened sharps with point! and were using them to the head. Our spear blunts give a ‘nice’ set of bruises, I would hate to have been hit in the chest by one of those (let alone a real sharp)even if their targeting was historically acceurate.

Bob H – are there any fence posts that have annoyed you recently....if it can take ‘use’ at full power on a large piece of timber and can take (and recover from) being bent across the flats (try across your knee) then it is proberbly useable and safe . If it is being used for re-enactment, many organisations have their own tests and /or examiners.
Ps the above is more for broad swords than fencing type / lighter blades (although it would work)

Sorry about the volume of non-smithing on the guru page guru, just trying to add to the thread.
   Nigel - Friday, 12/12/03 08:21:34 EST


Your message is not completely "off topic", the conditions that re-enactment weapons must meet is valuable information for the bladesmiths among us.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 12/12/03 08:31:40 EST

The clutch on the spring hammer I built is a simple pivoting motor that is sprung to return, with a variable speed sheave, that has a flat. The sheave is taken apart, and a peice of tubing about 3/4" wide is inserted and then the outer part of the sheave replaced. A standard V belt is used, but with the Vbelt running on the flat, it will slip nicely, giving control. If I were to buils again, I think I would adapt the tire/ metal roller clutch to also be the crank flywheel. looks like an easy find and build, and would give very nice flywheel weight. I have tried several spring types built by others, and found that the larger flywheel mass I have in mine helps smooth the machine operation. Some had brakes to stop the hammer, but I don't, and don't see a need. I also have a 8" square column for the main frame that I filled with about 650# of steel shot, after the machine was on the foundation. This machine does not bounce around like some I have used.
I was able to scrounge well, and was able to obtain the machined parts for free, and was able to build this machine for about $43.00. I built serious dies and dovetailed sow block/ram etc, but if I had to of, I could have made all of it with a drill press.
Good luck, and good scrounging
   - ptree - Friday, 12/12/03 08:49:03 EST

I have trouble judging the background / waffle ratio
   Nigel - Friday, 12/12/03 09:22:23 EST

Oshinokeru:, Did you go to the link I recommended? Did you read all of it?

Also note that currently you are full of misconceptions. The hammon line is NOT put on by polishing, it is created by the heat treating process. The resources page lists a book on Japanese swords that you NEED to study before trying to discuss them. Don't repeat what you have heard on the street, in movies or game rooms.

However you also need to start at the TOP of the list provided. Don't just read them, STUDY them. Start at the beginning.

The Japanese swordsmith makes his own steel in his forge. That is a large part of the tradition. "Carbon steel" varies from stuff soft enough to tie a knot in cold to steels hard enough to cut almost anything. The amount of carbon (from .005% to 1%) is what makes the difference. To understand steels you need to study some of the references I noted.

We are surrounded by steel. Steel can be bought or can be found. You can order any steel from "mild" or low carbon steel to Damascus billets on-line. Every junk automobile or light truck has nearly a ton or so of iron and steel in it. The medium to high carbon steel that is useful for edge tools is in the springs, torsion bars and axels. Automobiles also contain significant quantities of aluminium, zinc and stainless steel. Some people even make blades out of timing chains and wheel bearings.

Then there is "Carryiron" (rhymes with carrion and has similar meaning). This is iron and steel found along the roadside. Vehicals on major highways are constantly raining pieces of steel on the road. On one trip to Georgia (about 500 miles), Paw-Paw and I picked up TWO (not one) new large truck brake drums that weigh about 75 pounds each in two different states. On our following trip we picked up a serviceable 5 gallon water jug. The trip after that we COULD have picked up about 50 pounds of truck mud flap brackets (1/2" square spring steel). Others have written essays about the tons of carryiron in the form of chain, wheels, axels and spring they have picked up along the road. I have several pieces of heavy chain with hooks that appear to have fallen off tow trucks. . . Then there are the millions of RR-spikes picked up by various people and forged into farious oddities. The springs in your bed and easy-chair are high carbon steel and large enough to make burrins and small blades.

Handling clay is like making mud-pies. . . or doing ceramics. You have to get your hands in it. The oriental bladesmith uses a special grade of porceline clay and carefully works it to the right consistancy. One of the Foxfire books has a series of articles on pottery and ground hog furnaces that covers everything from making fire brick to milling terra-cota. Find it, read it, then go play with some mud. "Clumpy" clay or mashed potatoes says that you have not tried or that you are a bad cook.

Making handles of all types is part of almost every tool using craft and is why I suggest you start at the beginning. Every book on the resources list under Technical and How-To has information on handles of one sort or another.

Let me know when you have read our sword making articles and a couple of the refernces cover to cover.

   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 09:34:12 EST

Further Thoughts on “Samurai-Peasant-Slice-Test.”

Were this story true, or the practice at all common, it occurs to me that the neighborhood near the sword maker would be somewhat less than desirable. Probably one of those stories like “quenching a blade in a living slave.” It gets your attention, and maybe somebody even tried it, but it was probably rare if it happened at all.

On the other claw, swords were tested, in Japan, on single and multiple condemned criminals.

Back to More Cheery, Creative and Useful Things…

When we demolished the meathouse last week (the one that the 110’ (33.53 M) pecan fell on during the hurricane) I salvaged all of the hand-hewn beams. These run no smaller than 4” X 4” and some much larger. They had obviously come from another structure (cow shed, “Old Oakley”, slave quarters, stable…?) and many are black walnut or cedar. With the pressure treated 6” X 8” I bought for the ground timbers, the surplus motor from Paw Paw, and the 300# “field expedient anvil” from Jock, plus the lathe, the stump and other items gathered, I think I have enough together to finally build the “Renaissance Junkyard Hammer” (RJH). I’m doing some redesign now to accommodate some further thinking and materials, but sometime this spring I could probably host a “Junkyard Wars Weekend” and we could put this puppy together. The basic concept is a timber frame helve hammer, with an electric motor taking the place of a water wheel.

I would hope to have it finished by the BGoP Spring Fling, but no later than the 2004 ABANA conference in Richmond, Kentucky, July 7 – 11 this coming summer.

The objectives of this project would be to investigate another alternative for a cheap, useful tool that would not look out of place in an “early traditional” shop, and certainly would pass at a renaissance (fantasy) fair. The project would use traditional timber framing techniques (Ha! No welding!) and would ideally be able to be disassembled into smaller components for ease of transport. Lastly, it should be safe to use and fun to watch.

I think I’ve dithered and hoarded long enough, it’s time to get some action. (As soon as we get the ship out of the barn, assuming we get the ship finally into the barn tomorrow.) At any rate, it will give me something to plan over the winter, as soon as the Christmas rush is over.

Sunny and breezy on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 12/12/03 09:46:05 EST

Hi, My name is Andrew and I'm new to smithing.
I would like to learn how but do not know where the local smithy is. I was hoping you could help me out with a location. I live close to the walter baker center in Barhaven Canada.
   Andrew Hurd - Friday, 12/12/03 09:49:25 EST


As far as making a Japanese style of edged weapon goes, you need to obtain first the requisite books on the topic. Dr. James Hrisoulas' books on bladesmithing are all excellent. There is also a book exclusively on the making of Japanese blades, The Craft of the Japanese Sword by Leon and Yoshido Yoshihara. Look it up, it may be of value to you. Also, The Japanese Sword by Sato. And all the other books you can locate. The research library is the place you start, not the forge.

The tsubai, or guards, are traditionally made of mokume' gane, a married-metals technique. There is a book on mokume' gane that is excellent: Mokume' Gane, A Comprehensive Study, by Steve Midgett. You'll definitely need a copy of it to study.

Hilts, handles, sheaths, etc. Several of the available knife making books cover these at least to some extent. I have seen one older text on Japanese woodworking that included fairly detailed instructions on making holders for katanas.

A polisher would not be the person who put the hamon line on a katana. The hamon line is an artifact of the hardening/tempering process. It comes about throught the differential oxidation between the clayed and un-clayed protions of the blade during the heating for hardening/tempering. At least as I understand the books that I have read. I have never personally made a katana. (For combat, I prefer an M1911-A1.)

The place to start reclaiming your "lost heritage of bladesmithing" is through research. That means searching the libraries, used book stores, and lastly the internet. For actually constructing a weapon, the starting place is general smithing techniques that have been practiced until perfected. The art of the bladesmith is at or near the pinnacle of metalsmithing, particularly if you plan to do the entire porcess yourself. You have several different disciplines to learn, so get busy. You should be able to make a passable katana in a couple of years, IF you study hard under a knowledgeable master. Self-taught will take longer, I'm afraid. Maybe ten years or so would do it. You have chosen a long road to travel and the journey will only begin when you take the first step.
   vicopper - Friday, 12/12/03 09:49:49 EST

You might want to start out with something smaller like a tanto.Check out this web page it helped me alot.http://swordforum.com/forge/js-basicforging.html
   Chris Makin - Friday, 12/12/03 10:39:24 EST

Newbie looking for smithy: Andrew, try the various Canadian blacksmith associations listed on our ABANA-Chapter.com page. You might also try looking in your local phone book under Ironworks and Railings. Few smiths are listed under "blacksmith".

Geographic Location: Although I am fairly good at geogaphy your Barhaven is like me telling you that I live near Rustburg in the US. A state/province helps a lot. :) You have to remember that the Internet is an international forum and that folks replying to your questions may be from as close as Alberta but as far away as Sri Lanka.

Rustburg is the county seat of Campbell county Virginia about 28 miles from Lynchburg, Virgina, USA home of the infamous Rev. Jerry Falwell. Try to pick the geographic center of odd shaped Virginia and that is pretty close.

   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 10:42:49 EST

To the guru,
i have been thinking i want to get started with blacksmithing were can i get qaulity tools for a cheap price?
   jonathan - Friday, 12/12/03 11:09:00 EST

jonathan, you can get quality tools for a cheap price the same place you can buy a gallon of water from Ponce de Leon's spring.
   Paw Paw - Friday, 12/12/03 11:35:49 EST

BRUCE: EVIL you are. You did this just to taunt me now that I'm moving too far away! BTW there is a SOFA member who made a tilt hammer using an old hay baler to provide the cam function. It has a several hundered pound head IIRC.

I'm assuming you are looking at Agricola and not Sagus

Gotta run give away stuff.


   Thomas P - Friday, 12/12/03 11:40:34 EST

cheap smithing tools are EVERYWHERE. Only problem is you have to get out and find them. I hear of some really cheap anvils in Germany. I also heard there were some really cheap post vises in Ohio.... Huh? What is that? Oh you do not live near either place? Location is needed to help folks. Remember this is a worldwide group. We have folks from Sweden, Africa, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Austrailia as well as North and I believe South America on here.
As for cheap tools they literaly are everywhere.
   Ralph - Friday, 12/12/03 11:47:01 EST


I have built two power hammers from the Dusty/Rusty designs. One a 33#, and a 55# hammer. I think they work great. They dies I made were bolt on type so no machining was needed. For springs go to your local area shop that deals with truck and car springs. I was given the springs I need for free. They were in the recycle pile. One word of caution. Do not use used springs without some sort of stout guard. My sugestion would be to put a stout plate on the bottom and bolt it down or it will walk on you, and bolting it down you won't lose some of the hammer power.

About scale I soak my work in vinagor over night and use a scotch brite 3M pad. It really takes the scale off the easest I've found.

Ralph, I've clicked on your name and tryed to send you an e-mail asking more information about your friend using "pryamid super set", but it keeps coming back undeliverable. If you can post more information here I'm sure other members would appreciate it. If not send me an e-mail. Thanks ahead of time, and thanks to all who contribute to this web site. I've never meet any of you, but the friendship and the unselfish shareing of information is unsurpassed. Thas again
   JWG Bleeding Heart Forge - Friday, 12/12/03 12:05:01 EST

Japanese Blades. There is an excellent book/catalog of Japanese swords and furnishings from the Dr. Walter A. Compton collection. Nowadays, the book is expensive, but for those seriously interested in the "real thing", it is like buying a good tool. It discusses curvature and length, hamon, surface pattern (midare), point shape, tangs, signatures, and more. Lots of translations of tech terms.
"Nippon Tô Art Swords of Japan; The Walter A. Compton Collection" Japan House Gallery, Japan Society, Inc., 1976, ISBN Number 0-913304-05-0.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/12/03 12:28:18 EST

Cheap Tools: Jonathan, Paw-Paw's point was that good tools cost money and generaly anything except the best is a waste of money. But there ARE good old used tools to be found. The question IS, what is your time worth? It takes time, effort and some skill to find good deals on tools. You have to be at the local trade lot EVERY weekend, you have to read the local classified ads EVERY day, you have to ASK questions and follow leads. The last are the most important.

A friend of mine stops in small shops, stores, service stations, welding and repair shops in small towns and ASKs, "Do you know any blacksmiths or of any old blacksmithing tools for sale? Anvils? Forges? Powerhammers?" Most often he draws a blank. But occasionaly some old guy knows somebody that knows somebody else. . . THEN, he takes notes and starts to follow the leads. Some leads are fruitless but many bear fruit. THEN the negotiation starts. Another art.

I can't do it. I buy at auctions or from tailgaters or "finders" (like my friend above). You pay more but finding is an ART and a skill that few have. Finding requires travel or transportation (unless your back yard is full of anvils). It deserves to be compensated.

A few years ago I commented that a couple of my friends could fall in a manure pile and get up with anvils stuck to them. . . Finding is also LUCK.

Cheap does not mean FREE. Expect to put up some cash.

If you want the BEST deal, the lowest (almost free) price, to be paid to haul off that piece of junk. . . Then become the finder. Otherwise the prices in our advertisers catalogs are fair and blacksmithing tools are relatively inexpensive compared to some.

   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 12:48:52 EST

Hammer Question:

What advantages if any does a commercial helve hammer, like a Bradley, have over a similar sized vertically configured hammer? Jock mentioned earlier that it took a great deal of development to perfect the helve style, so there must have been a reason for all that work. Anybody know what it is?

   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 12/12/03 13:01:06 EST

vicopper, not differential oxidation! different crystalline structures in the steel are formed by different cooling rates on the edge and body; in Japanese work, the smith produces these structures, but the polisher makes them more visible. Etching can also be used to make the different structures show in contrasting shades, as lots of knifemakers here in the US can attest.
   - mstu - Friday, 12/12/03 13:08:18 EST

Helve vs. Vertical: Patrick, Helves came first before the Dupont invention of the toggle linkage.
   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 14:04:00 EST


I'll reference pages and sources tonight.

Talked with one of our Rangers at San Antonio Missions (www.nps.gov/saan) about them setting up a blacksmithing program. I'll report further as things/if things develop. (And yes, the have Frank's book. :-)

Of course, ther may not be any blacksmiths interested in historic reenacment in Texas. ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 12/12/03 14:22:21 EST

Cheap tools: I believe Euroanvils is running a December special $50 shipping on any of their anvils. They are also discounting their Bulgarian style anvils. You could pick up a brand spanking new 250# anvil for about $500 which is a GOOD DEAL. You probably wont find a used anvil for this price.

If that busts your budget, then consider the Harbor Freight Russian anvil for about $100 - see the review at this site. Do be sure to get the right anvil from HF because they also sell cast iron junk anvils.

Forges are easily built - plenty of notes at this site on how to do this.

Spend $25 at Kayne and son for a decent 2# forging hammer and another $25 for a cutoff hardy.

If you start out working long bar stock you wont need tongs for a while and vise grips will do. But if your budget will reach, buy some of those VERY reasonably priced tongs from Striker. 3/8" & 1/2" would be a good start.

Work the steel HOT - yellow or white - stick to bars no more than 1/2" diameter until you have some experience

Most of the other tooling you can make yourself as your skill develops. An arc welder or oxy acetylene torch is very usefull for this.

   adam - Friday, 12/12/03 15:19:37 EST

Treadle Hammer Q:

I've settled on the adjustable swing arm design. For an anvil, I have a bunch of cast iron blocks 12x9x6. two of these set one on the other would weigh about 360#. I could clamp these to the base plate with threaded rod and bolt a short piece of hollow shafting ontop for the working anvil. But mindful of Jocks comment about stacked pieces not seating perfectly and killing the rebound, would it be better to just use a single pc of shafting (4" dia, 1" walls). This would be considerably less mass but all one piece. Even the two CI blocks would give a hammer:anvil ration of about 6:1. Well short of the 10:1 suggested by VICopper. I could even stack 6 CI blocks along the short dimension and get a 1000# anvil. Would any of these alternatives be significantly better ?

Is there any reason not to set the return spring up so that it works on a cable run over a pulley?. My design would be neater if I did this.

If I forgo the leaf spring swing arms and use four arms, two on either side of the column, I can get another six inches arm length. eg http://www.irontolivewith.com/iron/treadlehammer.phtml

Will the shock of the impact be too hard on the pivots? Should I put a spring element between the hammer and the pivot arms? Do I even need to worry about it?

What range of adjustment do I need on the jack screw? My ceiling is just 7' with another 12" if I let the hammer rise between the joists at the top of its arc. So vertical space is a bit tight. I certainly cant build something following the proportions of Hillenkamp's design

   - adam - Friday, 12/12/03 17:27:15 EST

for smiths near you try here http://ontarioblacksmith.ncf.ca/ there are several smiths in the Ottawa area there is a smithy open to OABA members in the Cumberland museum contact Robert L. Vaughan at his web site for more info www.ncf.ca/~bk681/index.html

   Mark P - Friday, 12/12/03 17:58:33 EST

umm i do know what the hamon is, im sorry if i wrote it down very confusing, my written english is not very good, but when speaking dace to face it is more understandable, the hamon is where the clay was no applied to the blade, and makes a different color in the steel, and the polisher just "brings it out", does not make it, and as to the clumpy i mean where it has like err, i guess hard spots? where it is a huge ball and then u have what u can work with then more of a hard ball area, it is the way i was told by my great gandfather,so i am not sure..... thank you chris for the link, but no guru, i did not recieve your link, i've checked many of my local book stores within 45 minute drive, and same for libraries, they do not have much on the subject of metals in total, nor anything for japanese bladesmithing, and for metal working they say goto a book store almost 2 hours away...... i am only 15,cannot drive and parent works.... i happen to be most disposioned
but thank you all....
   Oshinokeru - Friday, 12/12/03 18:34:15 EST

Jwg Bleeding Heart Forge,
I agree about the safety guard for the spring, but diagree that its needed if using a used spring. Having had a spring fail, I am a strong believer in a stout guard period. The rams on these designs will come out the top, if the spring breaks on the up stroke, and who wants a 35 to 55# ram flying about? Otherwise, i like my 32# spring hammer, and am still tweaking a bit. I am thinking of upping the anvil weight, as I now have access to some lovely large axle forgings, that go from242# to 450#.
   - ptree - Friday, 12/12/03 18:56:51 EST


Thank you, you are quite correct. I wasn't thinking clearly, somethingthat happens when I try to post when I'm at work.


Try abebooks.com for books you can't find anywhere else. They either have it or can find, usually. Also, your local public library or school library can obtain books from other libraries through the Inter-Library Loan service. Ask them about it.

A simple source for steel for a starter knife is either a piece of leaf spring from a car or truck. Some shops fabricate special springs for trailers and the like and often have cutoffs that you can get for free. Another source is old files. Worn out files are worth little or nothing as files, but can be ground and/or forged into serviceable knives. You will need to read the section here at Anvilfire on heat treating to know something about hardening/tempering in order to get the best results. Once again, it all starts with reading and researching.

Yes, the clay for selective hardening of a blade needs to be of a very smooth consistency. Mixing it and then forcing it through a screen a few times will help to insure that you have as smooth a consistency as possible. A blender or food processor would probably do it too, but might not earn you points with the head chef. (grin)
   vicopper - Friday, 12/12/03 19:01:38 EST

Hmmmm...I just got to thinking, something that is often dangerous in my case. (grin)

The usual clay for claying a blade is a porcelain type clay, based mostly on kaolin, I believe. Good old Kaopectate diarrhea remedy is a mixture of kaolin, pectin and water. I wonder if it would work? Would soomebody try it and let me know?
   vicopper - Friday, 12/12/03 19:05:18 EST

Ok, I'm still trying to understand tempering, hardening, and Carbon percentages. I don't really want to build a tool just to destroy it. I've got several feet of old 1"X1" drill rod. Per Machinerys this is probably 1.10-1.25% carbon. In one chart Machinery's says most tools should be .65-.75% carbon. If I anneal, forge then oil quench this should I be ok? I know Junk steel is a be your own metalurgist thing but....
   Aksmith - Friday, 12/12/03 19:19:18 EST

Ok, rechecked my notes after reading my post. If I polish it then bring it to a straw color, do I let it air cool or quench?
   Aksmith - Friday, 12/12/03 19:35:11 EST

AkSmith - heat treating
There is an article "The Metallurgy of Heat Treating for Blacksmiths" by Quenchcrack aka Robert Nichols on http://www.iforgeiron.com with the link on the opening page of the site.

It is worth while reading and very well presented.
   - Conner - Friday, 12/12/03 20:11:21 EST

I've tried Kaopectate it, but it stopped up the the works! BG
   - ptree - Friday, 12/12/03 20:29:40 EST

AK: when the right tempering color appears, dunk it in water to stop it getting any softer.
   - adam - Friday, 12/12/03 20:48:26 EST


Shame on you! You can do better than that! (LOL)
   Paw Paw - Friday, 12/12/03 21:03:51 EST

Now Now, Paw Paw, PTree gets quite a temper when his works is stopped up!

Just got the paperwork for my job offer in hand; I was home all day but evidently Fed-Ex couldn't wait for someone to get to the door and I had to go across town after their shift was over or wait till Monday---they day they want my answer... It had the finger print form in it too; hope the local shop is "open for business" tomorrow...

Tossing perfectly good steel all over the place trying to winnow the shop down to what can't be easily bought in a new location.

Anybody have any tips for getting a bunch of stuff moved? Got a quote that would cover buying *2* triphammers to rent a truck 1 way and don't have a lot of time to drive back and forth, new job no vacation, (was getting my 4th week this year at the old one...) And it all has to be done over the end of the year festivities...ugh

   Thomas P - Friday, 12/12/03 21:37:17 EST

I have been coming to your site for some time. I cut stone which led to blacksithing to allow me to make the tools I need that can not be purchased. I also love art. Especially blacksmith topics. I am dismayed that almost every picture of a blacksmith (George Washington for example) has the smith with his hammer cocked over his head, or above shoulder high. This just makes the picture wrong, and it detroyes a good painting. If you need to raise your hammer above shoulder high, there is something wrong..... too small of hammer, need to take time for another heat. This also applies to stone cutting. A great smashing blow is not the right answer. Only experience will bring this knowledge. The artests doing the paintings do a fine job but do not understand their subject. Just a comment.
   Martin Morse - Friday, 12/12/03 21:38:32 EST

Oshinokeru, I have sent the link to you by mail.

Tempering: You do not quench after tempering unless you are in a hurry to cool the piece. In practice it is best to allow air cooling since part of the reason for tempering is to reduce stresses. However, if you are using residual heat to "run the colors" from a soft part to a harder one then you quench to stop the rising heat. But you do not quench after oven tempering.

If you are selectively tempering it is best to oven temper the entire piece to the hardest temper (lowest or minimum temper), THEN retemper with a hot block or flame to reduce the hardness selectively. The oven temper assures that no part is missed.

Many smiths selectively harden by quenching just the part to be hard. When this is done the unquenched part must cool through the part being quenched. Wayne Goddard quenches the edge of a blade by quenching in a shallow pan with a block set in it that limits the depth that the blade can be quenched. The blade is rocked onto the front curve to quench the half of the blade that is parallel to the edge. He suggests this for large knives. This produces a blade with a very hard edge and a soft back. After hardening the entire blade is oven tempered.

Double and triple tempering are simply repeat heating. The advantage is that the blade can be supported on a different side to assure that is is heated equally throughout.
   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 21:43:47 EST


Lookk into just buying a 40' container and then having it trucked by an overland freight company. Or Check with a freight hauler to see if they can drop a trailer to you for a few days to load it yourself and then haul it for you. Usually, much cheaper this way by a few thousand bucks. Specify that the cargo is to be used household goods or building materials to get the cheapest rates. The rates change depending on what is being hauled. Cheapest rate is if you tell them the whole load is coal. Minerals are cheap to ship. Regular movers worry about liability for breakage (which they fight you over anyway) and charge accordingly, sort of.

Renting a truck one way is gonna cost more than getting a container hauled, for sure. They really worry about liability when they know the driver is an amateur truck driver.
   vicopper - Friday, 12/12/03 21:43:58 EST

Hammer Swing: Martin, There are two schools of forging hammer use. One is to use a short stroke and a heavy hammer and the other to use a long stroke and a light hammer. The tendancy of short strokers is to push the hammer which can result in severe elbow problems. A FEW smiths can get away with it, most cannot.

Forging is also different than stone carving. It is common for the smith to need the most powerful blows possible one second and then light finishing blows the next. Using a light hammer and a long swing the smith can use the same hammer he uses for detail work to do heavy drawing.

In any one heat I may start with the hammer held at the end of the handle to get the longest possible swing and then chuck up on the hammer for the next more precise blows. I will often change hand position mid blow while the hammer travels its predetermined path.

During a heat the steel may have changed greatly in section and the type of blow must change accordingly. It is very common to start with high devasting blows and end with gentle taps. This is different than working stone or doing almost any kind of sculpture where the mass and section of the work changes very little.

In some operations like upsetting with the work supported in the hand across the anvil face very fast light blows move more metal than heavy blows because there is nothing to react against. A smith can move a small light hammer much faster than a big heavy one. More blows while the iron is hot is more important than a few heavy blows on the poorly supported work. In this case a smaller hammer does more work.

For heavy work smiths used strikers swinging sledges. In heavy forging the sledges were swung overhead like choping wood. . . Often with a dozen men forging on one part.
   - guru - Friday, 12/12/03 22:10:02 EST

Aksmith. Drill rod is commonly W1 of about 1% carbon or O1, an oil hardening alloy, or A2, air hardening. If it's W1 "unalloyed", you can quench in water at a medium cherry red. This will make the 1" stock slightly brittle, although it will have a tough core. Then remove scale with an abrasive and heat to watch for tempering colors. Each tool has its own tempering color depending on end use. A concussive tool shold normally be on the blue end of the heat rainbow. A harder tool should be on the straw end. Get a chart. The shape of the tool will depend on whether you quench or not. If it's say, a paring wood chisel for hard wood, you would chase color by heating the blade a ways behind the cutting edge and chasing bands of color toward that cutting edge. To stop the colors from running when the straw is reached, you would quench. If the tool is not an end-to-end tool, you don't chase color. For example a nail header. You harden the business end of the header by quenching, and then by reheating over the fire or a hot steel block, the ENTIRE head turns straw, then dark straw, etc. There are no bands of color. Sometimes, you can remove the tool from the heat source when the right color is seen and you don't necessarily have to quench.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/12/03 22:42:06 EST

When we moved to Eastern North Carolina from Louisiana, we were moving three laboratories as well as my family and several others. We opted for an arrangement with UBF freight company called U-pack, where they drop off a semi-trailer, you fill it up, and they charge you only for the amount of space used on the trailer and deliver it to your destination. All said and done it was far far cheaper than renting a truck to drive, and the trailer arrived before we did and was ready for unloading. They have a web site - www.upack.com. Saves a lot of pain, and if you're an experienced packer, you can really cram in the crap!

Good luck in the move!
   eander4 - Saturday, 12/13/03 00:03:58 EST

>For heavy work smiths used strikers swinging sledges.
>In heavy forging the sledges were swung overhead like
>choping wood. . . Often with a dozen men forging on
>one part.

There is a great bit of film that is downloadable at the Library of Congress of forge welding a large generator ring at Westinghouse circa 1910, shows the part in the forge, strikers starting the weld, then useing a steam hammer, and finishing with strikers

The ring is so large that some of the strikers stand on the part.


   - Hudson - Saturday, 12/13/03 00:51:02 EST

striker technique: i have seen a picture of yellin at the anvil with a striker in several books. the position of the hands of the striker on the sledge handle is interesting because it is clear that only the mass of the sledge was used as the force behind the impact. i am sure that many here have seen this picture...
   rugg - Saturday, 12/13/03 01:00:40 EST


What an awesome film to watch!

Jock, take a look.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 12/13/03 01:12:02 EST

why is it wrong to have the hammer high?
Almost all the GOOD smiths I know ( Peter Ross for one)uses the high hammer swing. And let me tell you the metal moves. Perhaps in stone cutting it is different. But I find when I use the shoulder high or higher swing I have far fewer arm elbow or shoulder problems.
   Ralph - Saturday, 12/13/03 01:55:08 EST


That was well worth the download time to put it on my computer forever!

After the first part, I was beginning to wonder if those guys were ever going to use that bridge anvil, I especially liked it when that one striker clocks the other in the shin. The victim is nearly knocked off his feet, but still keeps working! Just more proof that smiths are a tough breed!

It was also nice to see Paw Paw roaming around in his bowler's hat and vest while observing the real work being done (Grin).

   eander4 - Saturday, 12/13/03 02:52:27 EST

Helmut Hillenkamp( Iron to live with ) is an excellent smith and has used his TH quite a while without problems. The initial idea for the leaf spring arms was that it added "whip" to the stroke. I don't think it is a significant factor.

I think B. Freeman's Grasshopper TH uses a cable and pulley successfully and it would be good to get as far away from those springs as possible...they get nasty when they break.

We'll see what the Guru says, but I'd be inclined to grind tight mating surfaces between 2 of your CI blocks and drill and tap the top for your dies..then mount that atop your heavy pipe.

The range of adjustment is the height of the tallest work you plan to put on the dies, plus the height of your tallest tooling. Set it up so the hammer is at the mid-point of the swing on impact..too high and the hammer pushes the tool away, too low and the hammer drags the work inward. Longer arms give you a flatter arc but the maching of the pivots must be tighter.

Martin M. The high hammer stroke is a matter of style...a longer stroke means more acceleration and thus more impact. Our own St Francis, who was extremely influential, advocated that hammer swung from on high and I can think of other good examples. I once watched Rick Smith forge out a billet that most of us would have taken to a power hammer. He used a large hammer which he pivoted to verticle, then he shoved it as high as he could reach on every stroke . He appeared to dangle briefly from the handle on the downstroke. That man moved a surprisingly large amount of steel each heat.
   - Pete F - Saturday, 12/13/03 02:58:33 EST


An inspired bit or wordsmithing!, "He appeared to dangle briefly from the handle on the downstroke." I should be able to convey so much with such a simple sentence.
   vicopper - Saturday, 12/13/03 05:18:22 EST

Martin Morse, This is my 40th year of pounding on hot iron, and I've had quite a few students. When delivering heavy blows with a hand hammer, I use wrist, elbow, and shoulder, and the hammer goes over my head. I wouldn't get squat done if it didn't.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 12/13/03 07:58:52 EST

hello!!! I am a kid from Nebraska and would like to know if there is any to learn the trade???
   Jens - Saturday, 12/13/03 09:25:21 EST

Dear gurus, My dear wife found an old metal folding ruler at an antique shop and knew I would like it. (I'm a lucky man!) It was in sad shape so the price was right and it will make a nice pleasant tool for daily use. It cleaned up pretty nicely but between degreasing and buffing off surface rust some of the ink came out of the engraved numbers. Any tips on making those numbers stand out? Thanks in Advance,
Tom Walker
   - Tom Walker - Saturday, 12/13/03 10:48:40 EST


Get a bottle of India Ink from an office supply store. Use a Q tip to "paint the surface, then after it dries, wipe off the surface. What is in the letters and numbers should stand out OK.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 12/13/03 10:56:41 EST

Yes. Go to the getting started area of this web site. Also read ALL of the rest of this web site. Find a local smithing group and go to meetings and hammer ins. Build or buy a forge and basic tools and start. Also most importantly, do not allow difficulties to stop you. If you want to truely learn you will not aloow things such as distance from meets nor lack of money to stop you. You will find a way.
And that is what I think makes a real blacksmith. No excuses, just a determination to do the work despite what you have avalible. Most good smiths I know seem to not have the phrase " can't do it" or "can't do it because" in their vocabulary. Usually it will be something like " not sure how yet, but give me a bit to see"
   Ralph - Saturday, 12/13/03 12:26:05 EST


Remember the old saying, "Can't died in the poor house!"?
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 12/13/03 13:08:57 EST

exactly. My dad always said "Can't never did" same idea tho.
@!$#@^% rain storm... it caused my 'shop' to die an ingnoble death.... About teh only thing standing are the 4" dia metal poles and the 4 X 12 's I used as the base for the poles... SIGH
Back to the scrounge for materials to rebuild.....
   Ralph - Saturday, 12/13/03 14:52:25 EST

Some years back when I was trying to get started and build my first forge, I have some difficulty due to lack of tools and experience. I wrote to Ron Reil suggesting that he post more detailed instructions and help people get past these obstacles. His reply was that those people who were going to become smiths would find a way - those that couldn't wouldn't.

Pete, thanks for your comments on TH design. I could lap the CI blocks against each other. Actually, I was thinking of putting a sheet of lead between but didnt want to mention here it because you know Jock will have conniptions - so mum's the word , ok? :) I am cofnused about your suggestion to mount the heavy pipe? Did you mean mount the CI blocks on top of the pipe and bolt the tooling to the top the CI block?

I too am curious to hear what Jock has to say :)

   adam - Saturday, 12/13/03 15:31:07 EST

Thanks for the feedback on high/hard hammer swings. Of course you are all correct. Possibly I just don't have the strength to expend that much energy and still maintain good control. As soon as I get tired my piece starts to look like a mud puddle in the cow pasture, dents and lumps everywhere. Thanks, at least I can enjoy some paintings now that I would not have enjoyed otherwise.
   Martin Morse - Saturday, 12/13/03 21:07:12 EST


Don't give up now, you're half way there! Hammer control take practice. Lots and Lots of practice. And no two people swing a hammer the same way. So don't get discouraged.
   Paw Paw - Saturday, 12/13/03 21:13:39 EST

Hammer Control:-)

Hammer control takes practice, lots of practice, and good judgement doesn't hurt either:-) Just like it take time to build the strength to use a heavier hammer effectively (meaning you do not damage yourself or your project:-) Things to avoid to improve hammer control:

1st. Too tight a grip on your hammer, this will fatigue you faster and put more shock into your hands and elbow, which will effectively shortening your working life in the shop... Your hand is there primarily just to guide the hammer to the target, if you need a little kick from a wrist snap at the end of the stroke that should be fine, but avoid any technic that give you excesive hand strain.

2nd. Too heavy a hammer to start with. Until you have built the muscles up that you need using too heavy a hammer is fatgueing and dangerous to you. I know that I am stronger and more determined than I am smart some times and am sure that I am not unique in that:-) Size the hammer to the job, and if it hurts when you are swinging, try and change it some how, use a lighter hammer, or change how you are swinging the hammer, but do something. Most of us, I imagine, have pushed ourselves past were we should have quit. I know that the stabilizing tendon on my elbow still has not forgiven me from 40 fire steels that I forged a little over a year ago:-)
   Fionnbharr - Saturday, 12/13/03 23:11:46 EST

Maybe I'm just getting lazier as I get older, but I was wondering what a good source of rivets would be. I know they're easy enough to make, and I always have up to this point, but my time at the forge seems more precious these days, and I'd like to cut that corner off if I could. Any sources would be much appreciated.

   eander4 - Saturday, 12/13/03 23:57:08 EST



Don't be fooled by the copper rivets on the main page. JC makes darn near every kind of rivet, in every size, you can imagine.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 12/14/03 00:17:08 EST

Paw Paw,
I don't believe I've ever seen so many types of rivets or so much detailed information about them. This is just what I was looking for. Thanks!

   eander4 - Sunday, 12/14/03 03:18:16 EST


No problem. I've got all kinds of bookmarks for different stuff I've found over the years.
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 12/14/03 07:30:04 EST

Jens, *which* trade? Modern Blacksmithing is a series of trades or "niche markets" to use business lingo. It can range from relatively "pure" ones like bladesmithing to ornamental work that often slides into fab work, to the few industrial smiths out there. It is sometimes an adjunct to another trade, you can have weldor/smiths, machinest/smiths, farrier/smiths.

It is often a hobby---as a hobby you need not concern yourself so much with the business aspects.

Many smiths are "1 man bands" and need to do the design, execution, finishing, *selling*, installation, etc and so may spend a lot more time away from the forge than at it.

We need to know more about where you want to go with it to make suggestions but some basics are pretty good all over:

Learn to Weld: even if you end up in areas that don't use much of it in your work, being able to make and repair your own tools can be a big help.

Design: art classes, learning to sketch, studying the work of masters

Small Business Classes: learn the economics, how to capitalize and depreciate your equipment, how to deal with suppliers *and* customers, legal aspects, retirement savings, health care, taxes, etc. This is the area that many folks dislike intensly *but* it is often the area that will make or break a craftsman/artisan.

Many folks can offer more advice; I spent a year apprenticed to a top sword maker and learned that I loved the craft more as a hobby than as a business and went on to get a job that would feed my family, provide benefits, and allow me to buy the odd anvil or 7...

Gotta go pack books

   Thomas P - Sunday, 12/14/03 08:37:37 EST

I have read much here over the last couple of months including many of the archives. Thanks guys.

My question is, "What is the best material for the mesh backing of a firescreen? How is the best way to attach it? Where is the most obvious place to purchase it? " This is one thing I cannot find in my books and I need to get it right the first time rather than experiment with it.

Thanks again
   Brandon - Sunday, 12/14/03 09:50:45 EST

Hello i am just geting into metal working ive started on soft metals (copper,brass,lead?....etc) but soon i will build a forge and be looking forward to steel...
I have few tools! 1 2pound sledge,1 ball ping,1 2 foot peace of rail road track(will buy anvel soon) some chisels
and punches and thats about it! OK now the question...
shold i work with what i got and make my own tools or buy them? i ask this becouse i was told i would leard easyer using good tools to start off but, that the making of the tools would be good practice. what you think?
   jeremy - Sunday, 12/14/03 09:52:05 EST

I love making tools. It's the main reason I took up smithing. Except for my hammers and a few tools that other smiths made for me, I have made all my own tools. I have learned a lot in doing so and, perhaps more importantly, acquired a feeling of self reliance. If you have the time, I am a big proponent of this approach to building a toolset.

However, looking back, I think I would have done better if I had started out buying a basic set of tools. A pair of tongs or a cutoff hardy are not easy forgings for a beginner. I wasted a lot of time, and at times was quite discouraged, in trying to forge tools that were way beyond my skill level. A beginner needs tongs for instance and forging tongs is a lot of fun once you are up to it but it's out of range for most beginners. I got a big boost in my forging ability when Jimmy Treadwell made me two pairs of PozTongs.

I suggest buying: a forging hammer, a cutoff hardy, a hot cut and two or three pairs of tongs to hold barstock (round or square) up to 1/2". Between Kayne and Striker, you out to be able to put this set together for about $150. In time you will need many tools and will want even more :) so you really arent depriving yourself of opportunities by buying a few in the beginning.

Also, if you are making tooling, it really pays to buy an electric arc welder or a oxyacetelyne torch and learn to use it. A few hundred dollars investment will produce many thousands of dollars worth of tooling.
   adam - Sunday, 12/14/03 11:48:40 EST

i just finished a small dagger. a friend is looking to buy it from me although im not sure what i would sell it to him for. it has a 4 1/2 inch blade of high carbon steel. the blade is 1/2 an inch wide. the hilt is a poured hilt, made of solid pewter specially designed to feel good in the hands. it has been hardened and tempered. took me about 16 hrs of work to complete and it is hand forged and hand polished and finished. the material cost is 20$ CN. total length: 7 1/2 inches.

im not sure what to sell this piece at because i have never sold a dagger before. my friend wants to pay me 10 $ CN for it but i am going to raise it up. i am not sure what is a good price for it however. any suggestions?

PS. guru: i sent you an email with a picture in it of the dagger.

   - colin - Sunday, 12/14/03 12:06:47 EST

Hi Atli,

I have demonstrated for the missions in San Antonio,mainly for mission Espada, and have made repoduction work for them. We have a group now making and getting ready to do blacksmithing demonstrations for the missions. I just think you contacted the wrong person. If you are interested in contacting the right person about what is going on at the missions send me a e-mail and I will put you in contact with that person.
   JWGBHF - Sunday, 12/14/03 12:06:55 EST


Go to the slack-tub Pub, and the web site iforgeiron.com. There is a very good blacksmith from Nebraska that contributes to both of this sites and also has some items in the Iforge articles. Just leave the same message that you posted here and I believe he will contact you.
   JWGBHF - Sunday, 12/14/03 12:37:50 EST

Just been hauling stuff out of the forge and giving it away, my friends deserve it, I don't need it and payback will be HELL when that container shows up and *everything has to get loaded in 2 days!!!!!!!

Now to figure out how to rustle up a working crew down there; hmmmm the SCA might be a resource---I have always found that my friends who like hitting folks in the head with rattan have be willing to help move heavy stuff...

   Thomas P - Sunday, 12/14/03 13:03:16 EST

Take off one day and BOY there is a lot to catch up on. .

Colin, There was no image attached to your letter.

Adam, Stacked blocks with machined surfaces will give you lots of mass but no more rebound that the top block. Soft material between them is a cushion (copper or tin are also soft).

The only shock load on treadle head pivots are from missalignment. The rest is from your foot. You can kick a short 5/16" bolt all day and all you will achieve is a hole in your boot or a broken toe.

If you take that heavy wall tube and weld mass to the sides of it you will get a very good anvil. Hollow treadle anvils are very useful. Several I have seen had a slot at the bottom and a sloped plate welded inside the tube so that punch biscuits (or tools dropped through the tooling hole) would slide out the bottom. I have thought about building an air hammer with an anvil like this for punching holes. The hollow anvil would also alow inserting long pieces such as for making decorative heads on bolts.

   - guru - Sunday, 12/14/03 13:14:03 EST


I have not seen the dagger you made, but I can offer this about selling it. The minimum rule of thumb in manufacturing is that the fisnished good must sell for at least three times the price of the materials or you will lose money. Based on that, since you said the materials cost you $20, you should sell for no less than $60. $10 is an insult, frankly. Personalyy, I'd prefer to throw it away than sell it for less than I have in it.

Another way to look at it is that you have $20 materials, plus sixteen hours labor. If you spent that same sixteen hours flipping burgers at McCoronary, you would have made eighty bucks and some free food. Based on that, the value is at least a hundred bucks plus a Big Mac and fries. Once again, tem bucks is either an insult or a scathing criticism of the quality of your work. Without seeing the knife in question, I can't comment on the quality. If you would like to email me a pic of it, just click on my name to get my encoded email address.

A "friend" who only wants to pay half the cost of materials is not much of a friend. Suppose a "friend" had offered Enzo Ferrari half of materials cost for the first car he made. You didn't say wif this is the very first kife you ever made, but if it is, then DON'T sell it, ever. Keep it to remind yourself of your desire to improve.
   vicopper - Sunday, 12/14/03 19:48:47 EST


If you made a Kinyon type hammer with a pivoting head, you could use it to do upsetting on great long bars, if it had a visr to replace the bottom die. You could be the first to have a radial head power hammer. (grin)
   vicopper - Sunday, 12/14/03 19:51:34 EST


Your response to Colin about his dagger was right on the money. I fully agree that his "friend" isn't much of a friend. I was composing a similar message in my head, but got to your response first. Saved me typing my message. (grin)
   Paw Paw - Sunday, 12/14/03 20:17:18 EST

I have got a Swiss anvil, it is a KALSWA, i think, and i would appreciate any information on the make-up of it and any advice on rebuilding the face and edges. Thanks
   roger - Sunday, 12/14/03 21:35:02 EST


Ummm; he contacted me. I'll post back to you on Monday, when I can look at my notes at work. Ping me at bruce_blackistone(at)nps.gov.

Thomas: As it says in UAVTBoW: "Idle devils are a handy workshop." Sorry I'm not near enough to cart things awa... er, help you.

The ship's in the barn, the deicer is on the pier, and I'm exhausted from unloading gear. It was a long, hard slog to windward Saturday, after a swift run and reach out of the harbor. Time to concentrate on blacksmithing and turning a couple of holly bowls for the wonderful women of the Viking and Anglo-Saxon camps. I love winter; so much more relaxing than the rest of my year.

Cold and soggy on the banks of the lower Potomac. The swamp has advanced to the back door, which is bad, 'cause it's normally a eighth of a mile in front of the house.

Visit your national Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone - Sunday, 12/14/03 22:02:25 EST

MArtin, about hammering and being tired. The absloute worst thing you can do is hammer when you are tired. It is dangerous.
So with that said, I almost always plan my forging sessions with several projects at once... Some forging, some cold work, and most importantly tool maintenace. I mix it up so I do not get too fatigued with any one item....
As PPW said do not give up, and do not be too hard on yourself. Just learn from what it is you do.
   Ralph - Monday, 12/15/03 00:11:41 EST

One thought regarding the differences you noted regarding working with stone versus blacksmithing. Stone isn't plastic, at correct forging temperatures iron is. When working plastic versus non-plastic materials the amount of energy you want to impart ususally differs greatly, so the overhead blow of the blacksmith versus the short blow or tap of the stonecutter.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 12/15/03 00:14:09 EST

Thanks Vicopper;
Your own writing is so often eloquent that I'm honored.
His hammering technique was singular. By letting the rebound flip the haft upright before he began to lift, he had the weight in close to his body. That was a big hammer (6#?) with a full handle and he was not a big guy. He was still going long after much larger men would have been exhausted.
Jens; Hello, you've come to the right place. There is the better part of an education in blacksmithing here at Anvilfire. Just keep prying around in all the nooks and crannies. There is a good section on getting started. Read all you can, then go to the ABANA chapter listing and find the nearest one. Those meetings are where you can learn the most the fastest.
Adam:You have it right. The lead will only absorb energy you want reflected back into the work and sooner or later get pounded out of the joint. Wonder if a sheet of brass would work harden enough to do it? A close mated fit is better of course. Don't worry, I wont tell Jock.
Martin; perhaps your hammer is too heavy. I usually start heavier and switch to lighter hammers as I tire.
   - Pete F - Monday, 12/15/03 01:32:03 EST

Information required about what kind of tools were used to create the artifacts in ancient times?
eg: what tools were used to create handmade clocks or suits of armour.
If you know of a site on the internet which could help me please refer me. Otherwise any books or other sources of information you could recommend, would be much appreciated. ie: libraries museums etc
   peter howes - Monday, 12/15/03 01:33:17 EST

Re: Colin's dagger; I would bet it looks pretty darn good. The paltry offer is not indicative of the quality. A friend of mine, (another blade maker) said he had an offer of a bucket of bearing steel(52100)weighing about 50# for two nice forged bowies. At the scrap yard the steel sells for $.18/# X 50= $9.00 for the pair. Another deal is
   - Ron Childers - Monday, 12/15/03 07:42:36 EST

Re: Colin's dagger; I would bet it looks pretty darn good. The paltry offer is not indicative of the quality. A friend of mine, (another blade maker) said he had an offer of a bucket of bearing steel(52100)weighing about 50# for two nice forged bowies. At the scrap yard the steel sells for $.18/# X 50= $9.00 for the pair. Another deal is "I have two files; you can have one if you'll make me a knife out of the other one". I'm called krazy all the time, but not stupid....
   Ron Childers - Monday, 12/15/03 07:43:48 EST


Pretty much all of the hand tools you're familiar with existed in ancient times. Even some apparently pretty sophisticated mechanisms, such as lathes, are very early. A search under Ancient Egypt and "tools" will give you a feel for the antiquity (and only because Egypt had good conditions for preservation and was studied extensively; folks on all the continents had variations on basic tools, some more, some less).

Just for an insight on forging in the Viking age, try an article that I wrote at: http://members.ttlc.net/~tyrell/Viking1.htm . Also, consider that this has nothing to do with casting, ceramics, woodworking, fiber arts, architecture, and agriculture. (You need the food, clothing and shelter, and the tools to provide them, as you make the tools.) Tools and civilizations are intricately linked, and you cannot have one without the other.

A sudden spate of dry weather on the banks of the Potomac, but messier further north. I'll probably be off the computer, mostly, 'til Wednesday night, taking the wif to the Lord of the Rings triple feature in Baltimore.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 12/15/03 09:10:52 EST

It's andrew, thanks for the response,sorry about the geographical location stuff.
How much does a blacksmith make today.
   - andrew hurd - Monday, 12/15/03 09:53:39 EST

Mark P,
Thanks for the response,How would I become an OABA member
Thanks for all the help guys.
   - andrew hurd - Monday, 12/15/03 09:58:48 EST

sorry about all the questions lately,
I'm looking for ways to convince my parents to let me become
an apprentice blacksmith.
   - andrew hurd - Monday, 12/15/03 10:06:41 EST

Roger, The Kohlswa (Cole Slaw, for fun) anvil is made in Sweden, often of cast steel or semi-steel, so I can't tell you what rod to use for repair. Your search engines can locate Kohlswa.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 12/15/03 10:11:10 EST

Colins first knife

Colin's Knife:

Colin, I think this is an fine first attempt but that you should keep it and practice. At this point every piece you make should be twice as good as the previous.

   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 10:47:19 EST

Firebrick: What kind of firebrick do people recommend for gas forges? I've been using 2300F low density bricks from my local pottery supply shop. They are extremely fragile when hot and if I crank it up to welding heat they turn to soup. I am thinking of getting some 3000F brick. There seems to be a confusing array of specs at the online ceramic catalogs. Will high density brick stay together better than low density?

My favorite forge has a small trough filled with crumbled refractory (to mix the gas & air). Over this I stack loose fire brick to form a chamber suited to the work at hand.
   adam - Monday, 12/15/03 11:10:20 EST

PS: this supplier seems to have the best selection & prices

Colin: Cool knife! $10 CN = $7 US? no way! Like Rich said, dont ever sell it. I still have the first pair of useable tongs that I made (they were preceeded by many still births). They are really ugly and far inferior to your first effort but they mark an important personal milestone. Every now and then I look them over and feel encouraged by how far I have come.
   adam - Monday, 12/15/03 11:25:04 EST

thank you for your comments, i would like to know how much a dagger like that, but better, would be worth.


   Colin - Monday, 12/15/03 11:25:07 EST

Peter, do you mean "ancient" usually referring to greak, roman, egyptian and earlier world or "medieval and Renaissance"

Big difference, different books from "Egyptian Metalworking" to "The Armourer and his craft"--a bit old and outmoded to "The Royal Armoury at Greenwich" that covers the technology of it's craft. Arms and Armour of the Medieval Knight" has a bit of good info in it.

*BEWARE* of asking folks that make modern armour. *every* medieval picture of armourmaking I have seen has a forge in it front and center---necessary to work wrought iron, modern armourers do not work with wrought iron and so almost all of them work their metal cold and probably less than 5% have forges.

BTW keep in mind tahat much stuff is published with the british spelling of armor: armour.

   Thomas P - Monday, 12/15/03 11:57:18 EST

Decorative Blacksmiths Income: Today's average in the US is pretty low due to the fact that the majority are part time or starving artists (working at a loss). Most profesionals make a fair living depending on where they are located. But quality of workmanship, energy and business acumen make a big difference. You will not find a published "wage" because 90% of all professional smiths are self employed entrepreneurs. Many of these do all kinds of work including blacksmithing. The rest work for the entrepreneurs at anything from minmum wage to $25/hour OR on contract and piece work.

In general you will not get rich as a blacksmith (or any other artist craftsperson). There is a limit to what you can make by your own labors. Those with employees make more. Fabricators, those who assemble ironwork from factory made parts, make a pretty decent living but they rely on the labor of the component maker, assemblers, welders and installers.
   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 13:15:59 EST

Kohlswa Anvils These are all very hard cast steel. You will find the edges on many used Kohlswa's chipped pretty badly. I do not recommend repair. Dress with a grinder and live with it is the best thing to to.

There are instructions in various places for weld repairing anvils but they should only be attemped by a profesional welder. Repairing a Kohlswa is like repairing a tool steel press die. It requires preheating, careful welding, stress relieving and losts of finish grinding. The results are always full of hard and soft spots as re-heat treating the anvil is prohibitively expensive.

Use an angle grinder to dress edges and corners and a belt sander (60 grit) to dress the face and horn. Depending on the anvil the horn can be also be dressed with a file.

I've had several Kohlswas and they are about as hard (and brittle) as they come. They were used and had fairly badly chipped corners. I never added to the chips but lots of work IS done on the corners and they WILL CHIP from normal use or a misstrike eventually.

The harder the steel the more difficult it is to make a satisfactory repair.
   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 13:31:56 EST

I've been hearing this phrase "semi-steel" more and more lately... can someone please tell me what it means?

Also, I remember reading about Naval Brass (Naval Bronze?) a few months ago. Is the composition of this available anywhere, perhaps in Machinery's Handbook?

Cool and windy in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Monday, 12/15/03 13:46:20 EST

Guru, the latest post I can access is 12-9-03. Is there a problem with the site? My IT department says there is nothing wrong on my end.
   Quenchcrack - Monday, 12/15/03 14:23:46 EST

Ancient Tools: Peter, As noted by others above, there is ancient and there is ANCIENT. You mentioned clock making. This is primarily a Renaissance onward activity. However, there IS an example of brass clockwork that supposedly dates from the time of the Ancient Greeks (800-500BC).

The development of tools is an fitful one. Almost all hand tools, files, saws, scrapers and chisels date from the bronze age and all but the file have stone age versions. Even the drill was made during the stone age. However, the vise and the double chambered great bellows are relatively modern developments. Lathes were available to the ancients but lathes with power feeds and tool holders alowing very accurate work were not developed until the late 1600's in Europe. However, they were perfected in the early 1800's.

The power screw was well known from fairly early times and was used to make wine presses and other devices. However, screws were made by hand from wood for a very long time. Gears were also known from an early date but the primitive peg and pin type gear were used until fairly modern times. All those wonderful inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci relied upon power screws and gears that were too primitive to make useful durable machines. His designs were ahead of the current technology.

Some tools like certain styles of pliers (needle nose and side cutters) were made in the 1600's to patterns that you can not tell the difference from those sold today.

Tools from before the Renaissance were pretty much the same for thousands of years. The thing that changed the most was the availability of metals to make tools and their distribution. Between the Renaissance and the early 1800's the industrial revolution had produced almost every basic tool and machine found today. In that time period you have to be very specific about when and where when you ask about what was available.

There are also great differences in what was being done where at any given time. China and India were far advanced than Europe in producing metal but then failed to advance. While the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution was going on in Europe the America native population was in a technological decline. Japan has its own technological development.

A Catalogue of Tools For Watch and Clock Makers, By John Wyke of Liverpool, (1758-1770) Published for The Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum (1978) by the University Press of Virginia, Charlottsville, VA, USA. This book has hundreds of beautiful plate engravings of tools for the watch and clockmakers trade. Many of these tools applied to jewelers, armourers and anyone else that did bench work. There are also photographs of many of the gear cutting and dividing "engines".

From the same period there is Diderots Encylopedia which has scenes of shops and tools for every trade practiced in the 1700's. This has been reprinted by various publishers including Dover and is found in most good libraries.

Then you can jump back 700 years to 1,000AD with The Mastermyr Find, A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland by Greta Arwidisson and Gosta Berg, in reprint from Norm Larson Books and some libraries. This has photos and drawings of a traveling blacksmith's tool chest and its contents lost in a bog in Sweden. It was unearthed in the 1930's and is one of the most important and earliest tool finds to date. It includes both tools and product.
   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 14:35:38 EST

Posts: QC, Your IT department never heard of cacheing? The normal for most browsers is to NOT check for the newest version of a file. Find the cacheing setting in your browser and reset it to "check every time".

Also check the time and date on your PC. A date set to 2002 will make any file look newest. .

Glad you are getting settled in. CC by mail.
   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 14:42:14 EST

Naval Brass TG, See our Brass-Bronze FAQ. One of the first entries.
   - guru - Monday, 12/15/03 14:45:13 EST

T. Gold, Semisteel is cast iron which has had scrap steel added to the cupola charge. The quality varies, but if a known amount of good steel is added. like rail croppings, the resulting product will have more ductility and strength than cast iron alone. "Materials Handbook", 1944.
Naval Brass: copper 59 to 62%; tin 0.50-1%; lead max. 0.20%; iron max. 0.10%; other elements max. 0.10%; zinc remainder. "Machinery's Handbook" 20th Edition, 1978.

Socked in; big wind; poco snow.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 12/15/03 14:52:49 EST

T.Gold.. I've been making a run of brass roses for xmas presents, ordered 3/8 round naval brass from MSC for stems, machines, and forges, excellent
   mike-hr - Monday, 12/15/03 15:22:37 EST

go to the OABA site there are details to join on the site

   Mark P - Monday, 12/15/03 20:14:02 EST

where are you going to put the sword page when it is done?
   - colin - Monday, 12/15/03 23:21:42 EST


I wouldn't swear to it in court, but I've got a hunch it will be in the FAQ section.
   Paw Paw - Monday, 12/15/03 23:23:25 EST

Colin, PPW:

Hopefully also right next to the Getting Started in Blacksmithing link on this page... (Grin)

Thanks for the info on semi-steel and Naval Brass, Frank. I've been seeing more and more things saying they're made of "semi-steel", and now I know what it is.

Sorry I missed the FAQ, Guru. I'll be sure to check first next time.

Still cool, but strangely dry in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
   T. Gold - Monday, 12/15/03 23:47:23 EST

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