WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

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

This is an archive of posts from December 1 - 7, 2007 on the Guru's Den
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I have a question about a first run of a gas forge. It seems like after it is lined and coated with ITC-100, I remember someone saying to run it for a certain amount of time. Is this true?
   - Hollon - Friday, 11/30/07 23:07:47 EST

I am going to make a small dagger out of a nikolson file I have. But I don't know if it will show a hamon very well and what is the best way to heat treat it?
   Troy - Saturday, 12/01/07 00:57:50 EST

Holon, I just let the ITC dry slowly for a couple of days, you can put a light bulb in there to help force the moisture out.

When I first fired mine I was going to run it real low for a couple of hours (cement floor to dry) after about 5 mins I got impatient and wacked it up to welding heat! - floor cracked but no ill effects on the wool or ITC.
   - John N - Saturday, 12/01/07 07:50:21 EST

Troy, there are a few very good knife sites that will help you alot better than I can (theres about a million variables, and it can go wrong at any stage!), basically I would heat above critical (non magnetic), And edge quench in warmed oil, As a dagger is double edged im not sure how you would edge quench both cutting edges to get a hamon (or 2!)without softening the recently hardened edge - temper at 250 / 300 deg for a couple of hours.
   - John N - Saturday, 12/01/07 07:56:55 EST

John, you could clay the center of the blade on both sides so that the edges quenched to form martensite and the center slow cooled to pearlite and bainite. Might form a hamon.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 12/01/07 12:26:05 EST

I've been thinking about doing some design work on iron with brazing rod. I want to control the flow pattern pretty exactly for lettering etc, can anyone suggest a resist that will hold up to torch work?
   Roland - Saturday, 12/01/07 13:29:54 EST

I recently started designing jewelry using various metals. I have been using sterling silver, raw brass and bronze jewelry chain and findings. While I love the look of shiny raw brass and bronze, however, I am very interested in creating a "blackened" patina on my raw brass and bronze jewelry as well as my sterling silver. I have used a method of dip[ping the brass and bronze in salt water and vinegar and have had mixed results. Sometimes they come out dark, other times they are too green and powdery. I'm looking for a natural, non-chemical method of getting a very rich, dark patina. I am inclined to pass a torch across the brass and bronze to darken them ("burnish"?) but I am not sure if this will work or if it will be permanent (I don't want the patina to rub off on my customers). I am also looking for a fast way to oxidize my sterling silver pieces without chemicals (besides just waiting for nature to take its course). Any advice would be great!
   Nakia Simpson - Saturday, 12/01/07 13:43:14 EST


ITC 213 (available in the Store) would take the heat, but I don't know whether it would hold up to the brazing flux long enough to do the job.

If it were me, I'd punch or chisel the pattern into the steel, braze it up, and then sand flush. Of course that might not acheive the effect you're looking for.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 12/01/07 14:24:35 EST

I'll give it a try. I am looking to get raised accents with the brass (like bark).
ALL oxidation is the result of chemical interaction. One of the least caustic, but possibly the worst smelling of all is "Liver of Sulfer", available in jewelry catalogs, it gives a really deep and long lasting finish. I say least caustic because it doesn't have cyanide in it, not that inhaling sulfur is going to be doing you any favors.
Make sure you have good ventilation no matter what you use.
   Roland - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:00:00 EST

Long Leaves: Jake, Yes that is partially due to too long a taper. Leaves are a good way to develop hammer control. To make a short rounded leaf you need a short point on the bar and a clean nearly square shoulder where the stem starts. THEN, if working square stock flatten with the blank turned on the diagonal. This starts you with 1.4x the normal width and the points you are flattening into the leaf tend to move the stock out sideways rather than longwise.

Using a nicely rounded face on your hammer also helps push the stock out and so does working on a slightly rounded surface like the horn of the anvil.

My first leaves were long and diamond shaped. After a while I could make them wider than long! Once you get to that point than any shape from short ivy leaves to long grass blades are in your range. After that you need to work on maple and oak leaves. These are often done from a flat blank but can be forged, then cut, then forge some more. THEN there are the long multi-grooved acanthus leaves that requre even different methods. . .

You can spend a lot of time exploring nothing but leaves. Note that it also helps to have some samples or photos of real leaves to go by. A real leaf making expert should know the difference between a maple, a poplar and a sycamore. All three are large flat leaves that look the same if you have not studied then but are distinctly different. Yeah, all that tree identification stuff from Scouts has come in handy.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:14:35 EST

High temp resist: Roland, As mike noted the ITC-213 should work for this. It can be applied and then scraped off in patterns similar to the way the Japanese use porceline clay for creating a decorative hammon by heat treatment.

This is not particularly a recommended use but it should work. The 213 is one of the more expensive ITC products but it goes a long ways.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:20:48 EST

Drying Refractories: ITC surface coat products can be force dried with a torch or by firing your forge. The repair materials should dry a couple days depending on the thickness. Cast refractories need as long a cure and drying time as you can stand then a gentle heat up to calcine them. The more patience you have the better the job.

I will put on a first coat of ITC-213 or ITC-100 and fire almost immediately to force cure. Then I will apply the second coat on the warm surface, let dry a short time then fire again. The only place I have had a problem is when covering repair materials, especially Kaowool patches that can expand from the steam generated. If you want a clean smooth repair these need to dry well then be fired slowly.

On cast refractories you can force dry with a hot air gun, hair drier or propane torch. I forced dried a cast forge lining using a common propane torch stuck in the burner hole. I just let two small disposable cylinders burn themselves out on after the other. Over about 16 hours this raised the refractory temperature to just over boiling. Otherwise the drying time would have been a week or two.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:30:24 EST

Anyone have a reference which indicates the origin of the term "monkey tool"?
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:41:31 EST

"Naturally" Coloring brass and bronze: The advantage of these materials is that they resist corrosion. Natural patina comes from long slow oxidation. To speed it up requires harsh chemicals. Iron, dissolved in acid will plate or stick to copper alloys and darken them. You can use "natural" acids like vinegar or citric acid. A nice wine vinegar can be used to sell the finish with a little BS. One natural method used to patina copper alloys is to urinate on them. . Unlike the wine vinegar I would not use this one as a sales line. . .

   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 16:50:58 EST

Looking for a maker of 12-16" traditional wheelbarrow wheels, preferably with somewhat rounded ~1" rims. Best would be a smith in SE New England, but I'm interested in any good source. Suggestions?
Thanks, Bill
   Bill - Saturday, 12/01/07 18:16:00 EST

Monkey Tool. I think I commented on this once before. It is hard to know the derivation of some of these terms, because we're "too far from the tree." These terms change over time and vary in use from shop to shop. I looked in Hugh P. Tiemann's 1933 "Iron and Steel (a Pocket Encyclopedia" and my big Marriam Webster, 1951, dictionary. Tiemann says that a heavy iron bar suspended about in the middle is swung against an object, much like a battering ram. Tiemann states that this monkey may also be called a dolly or tup. Webster says that a monkey is an iron bar that is upset on the end if it suspended from the roof and swung sideways into an iron or steel block.

Stretching the imagination, since it is swinging like a monkey on a vine, that may be one reason for the name. Stretching further, a dolly is not too unlike a monkey tool for tenon making. One example of a dolly is a bucking bar for holding a rivet head while the other end is being upset. Another example is a cross-recessed dolly furnished with a haft and used for shaping cross drill (machine drill) heads when they were hand forged.

This doesn't answer the question; it just brings up more, like "Why a monkey wrench?"
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 12/01/07 19:24:32 EST

Frank.... Maybe because it's so easy to use, a monkey could do it.
   - djhammerd - Saturday, 12/01/07 19:38:36 EST

Frank: Ahhh, yes, I remember the prior discussion now. Seems it also was connected to a pile driver. The weight going up and down resembled a monkey running up and down a tree.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Saturday, 12/01/07 20:07:19 EST

Ever watch the male monkeys at the zoo?
   Mike BR - Saturday, 12/01/07 20:16:17 EST

Nakia Simpson,

You cannot get an oxidized patina on metal without a chemical interaction. Oxygen is a chemical, so is water, salt, etc. When you used the salt water and vinegar formula, you were actually using an "aqueous solution of sodium chloride and acetic acid." All of life is made up of chemicals in one way or another. It makes no difference to your metal if the source of that 6% acetic acid solution is Van Waters and Rodgers Chemical Supply or Heinz Apple Cider vinegar.

Even when you color metal by doing nothing more than heating it, you are initiating a chemical reaction between the metal and the oxygen in the atmosphere using heat as the catalyst. Similarly, when you color metal by peeing on it, you are just supplying ammonia, which you could simply buy at the grocery store cleaning aisle. Believe me, the metal doesn't know factory-produced from "natural."

   vicopper - Saturday, 12/01/07 21:16:16 EST

Monkey Tool: I think "monkey tool" is a generic whatchamacallit term like "spud" as in spud wrench or monkey wrench in various industries.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the best origin of the word is the son of an ape. It is also a term used for monks.

There are some 17 groups of applications of "monkey" to various things. When applied to objects and tools one of the earliest uses is for the name of a type of small iron or brass naval gun. Since a blacksmith's "monkey tool" is a bar with a hole in it much like the bore of a gun then this is probably the nearest best reference. It is derived from being similar to a small gun barrel. The Naval slang probably stems from the small guns being like the "sons" of the big guns. . . a monkey rather than an ape.

As to pile drivers the reference is to a machine which is also similar to a "rope drop" where a weight or hammer is raised on a guide and dropped. In the two cases given this has nothing to do with the shape or function of the monkey tool. There are many other references such as the platform on coach for the coachman to ride upon. . .

I'll stick to the similar to a small gun reference.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 21:45:06 EST

Wheels: Thomas Register listed 247 businesses listed under wheels. The only one that popped up under spokes was a wire wheel manufacturer (like bicycle wheels).

Didn't see any old fasioned steel wheels. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 12/01/07 21:58:07 EST

Is there any specific way, or amount of time to tell if its dry? It may be fairly obvious, I just want to make sure I don't mess this up.
   - Hollon - Saturday, 12/01/07 22:06:43 EST

ITC curing times: Hollon, as I noted it depends on your forge design. If it is ITC over Kaowool then give it an hour in cool damp weather, a few minutes in hot dry weather, then fire it up. You can fire damp ITC without hurting it. It simply dries and gets fired at the same time. By the time the forge is hot enough to put steel in it the ITC will be cured.

IF the ITC is applied over cured or fired refractory or bricks then wait until it is is no longer damp to the touch. This can be sped up by using a hot air gun but is only about an hour in hot dry weather. Wait until the floor looks dry while firing before putting steel in the forge (just a few minutes or well before the forge is hot).

If you use ITC-200 or ITC-148 for repairs then let dry overnight or until good and hard before firing. I would say give it a day per 1/4" thickness. Then slowly fire until fully dry before applying a top coat of ITC-100 or ITC-296A. These can then be fired per the instructions above (very soon). Note that these products are typically applied over damp (semi-dry or wetted) ITC-100.

If you use a castable refractory then follow their instructions for a cure. The longer you wait the less cracking you will have when fired. Also note that most solid refractories absorb water from the air over time and any forge or furnace using them needs to be fired slowly until dry any time it has been out of use for a month or more. You would be amazed at the water that runs out followed by steam. If you do not give these time to escape they can damage the refractory.

I fire my stacked firebrick forge until water starts dripping out then shut it off and let the temperature normalize through the bricks. Then I repeat the process a couple more times. Usually two or three heat ups drive the water out.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/07 09:19:14 EST

Monkey post script.

I use a monkey as I have seen Francis Whitaker use his. After the tenon is swaged, the monkey is applied to the tenon horizontally and using the anvil as a support, backing-up blows are applied to the monkey head (the blows are coming back toward the holding hand). See page 82 of "A Blacksmith's Craft The Legacy of Francis Whitaker", Volume I, by George Dixon.

Another tip from Fritz Kühn's book, "Stahl Gestaltung". After laying out the shoulder line cold, forge a hot taper on the end to be the tenon, stopping just shy of the line. THEN, butcher or set-hammer the shoulder. By doing so, you'll have a lot less metal to reduce in forging the tenon.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 12/02/07 10:17:53 EST

Just heard of a cool trick from a friend of mine about forging metal, he learned recently from an old smith. Clay moves with same properties as metal does. If you make a mock-up of your steel stock and gently hammer it, you can tell what you'll end up with prior to working in metal. I think the clay is "plastilina" which takes forever to harden and can be reused many times. Gonna try it on some leaf designs.
   Roland - Sunday, 12/02/07 12:35:20 EST

Plasticine Clay: Roland, Platicine, or oil based modeling clay is supposed to never dry or harden, but it does age over many years.

Plasticine is used for many purposes and the stuff used by artists and other professionals is the same stuff sold in toy stores for children to use. The last large clay sculpture I did was made from 30 pounds of multi-colored plasticine blended to one color, sort of a redish grey.

Plasticine is used for sculpture where a plaster mold is made, the plasticine pulled out and the piece cast in the plaster mold. Depending on the grade of plaster you can cast metal, concrete or ceramic clay.

Plasticine is also used to block up solid (wood, metal, plastic) patterns when making permanent or temporary molds. Once one mold part (usually plaster) is poured, the clay is removed and another part poured. There are many variations of this process but plasticine is an important tool in many molding and casting processes.

For blacksmiths plasticine can be used to develop forging sequences and tools. It is used with great success in planing laminated steel patterns. Contrasting color clays are used to create many layered billets just as in the forging process, then cut, twisted, flattened and drawn out just as the steel would be. Many unusual effects can be found and developed much easier than in steel.

Plasticine has many uses in a variety of arts and crafts and knowing how to apply it is important to being a complete crafts person. It is both medium and tool.

   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/07 13:24:36 EST

My own experience with plasticine clay came years ago when working with an old school european jeweler. He would do mock up's in the clay for his customers and then send them to me to carve the waxes, cast and finish the pieces. Never thought about it since then. I'm not sure how long it would have taken for my aging "La Brea Tarpit's" of a brain, to burp up the information, glad I was reminded!!!
   Roland - Sunday, 12/02/07 14:02:31 EST

Bill- There are a ton of smiths in southern New England. Try finding one in your area thru the New England Blacksmiths org. FYI many of those guys are very skilled pros. Don't expect Home Depot/made in China prices. Happy hunting!
   Jud Yaggy - Sunday, 12/02/07 14:02:36 EST

I recently come across an anvil that had been sitting in the basement of my apartment- it must have been there for many years and has been badly neglected. i am a jeweler, i have taken several years of silversmithing classes but i am relatively unfamiliar with blacksmithing as steel is not typically a metal that i use. i would love to refinish this anvil that i found instead of purchasing a new one. what is the correct way to go about this? again- it is in fairly bad shape...lots of rust. is it even worth it??? thank you.
   - Jason - Sunday, 12/02/07 14:03:38 EST

ANvil Finishing: Jason, It depends on the quality of the anvil. A cheap cast iron anvil is not worth refinishing as it is too soft to retain a good finish in use.

Antique anvils may have a LOT of sway in the middle. Do NOT attempt to finished these flat as too much material will be removed. They CAN be finished smooth, just not completely flat.

A good old anvil with just rust pitting can be finished with a variety of sander/grinders. A sander like a floor sander works best. However, an angle grinder can also be used. It is just more difficult to create a smooth flat surface by hand with the angle grinder.

The fineness of the finish on an anvil depends on the type of work that is going to be done on it. IF forging iron then the finish left by 80 to 120 grit sanding belts is fine. If forging brass and copper it should be finished with a 140 to 180 grit then hand finished with 240. If used on gold or silver it should be polished as smooth as possible.

The other class of work you want a fine finish on an anvil for is sheet metal work like armour.

Generally anvils do not need polishing with buffing compounds. Usually you start with a coarse grit sanding belt which buts a much finer finish on hard steel than it does soft materials. Then change to a smoother belt. The finest grit I have used on an anvil is 240 grit wet or dry with water by hand. You might want to go as smooth as 320 grit for soft metal work.

See our FAQ on anvil corner radiusing. Note that for fine classes of work such as soft metals or jewelery you may want less radius.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/07 14:25:36 EST

I am looking for a company that can make a signature stamp for my work. I understand that it is fairly expansive but I find signing my initial is boging.

Any name and phone # as suggestions



   Dan - Sunday, 12/02/07 17:50:44 EST

Dan, www.harpermfg.com
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 12/02/07 19:01:05 EST

Charles Moncke was a London blacksmith; according to legend he invented the monkey wrench. A difficulty with this theory is that the British call a monkey wrench a spanner. In 1932-33, the Boston Transcript traced the invention to 1856, crediting it to a Yankee named Monk, employed by the firm of Bemis and Call in Springfield, Massachusetts.

A monkey wrench is an elegant, dynamic tool. The distance between each jaw can be changed to accommodate different sizes of nuts. In place of an entire set of heavy wrenches needed for each size of nut, this solitary one* can be carried and easily adapted to the worker's needs.

In the latter half of the 20th century, several examples of what wrench experts believe to be obvious 17th or 18th century monkey wrenches have been found near Boston, Massachusetts. Their appearance is similar enough to indicate a single smith had produced them. The design of the spanners clearly predates the earliest U.S. wrench patent, that being in 1830. It's highly probable that these wrenches were made in England, and imported to North America in the 17th or 18th century during colonization. This is much earlier than the claim that Charles Moncke had invented the spanner in the mid 19th century, and also precludes the notion that Monk, an American employee of Bemis and Call, invented it.

The ironworks on the Saugus River built in the 17th century provided the demand for this sort of instrument. However, since the discovered spanners aren't signed or dated, it's difficult to tell whether they were produced during the 17th or 18th century. To muddle the waters of history even more, both English and American smiths at the time had the technology and information to possibly produce these wrenches.

This is...
the Great Monkey Wrench Enigma.
   - Plato - Sunday, 12/02/07 19:30:29 EST

Thank you FRank

I will give them a call tomorrow

Thanks again

   Dan - Sunday, 12/02/07 19:57:16 EST

I recently did some repair work to my NC forge using kaowool and itc-100. After a couple of firing I noticed cracks appearing in the forge. They are not deep cracks but I am concerned they might be the start of something. Any advice?
   tim - Sunday, 12/02/07 20:35:01 EST

Tim, Refractories have the tendency to crack when they dry and shrink. Patch it or fill the cracks with more ITC-100 and keep trucking.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/02/07 21:36:24 EST

Bill: On metal wheels contact Lehman's at 888-438-5346. They sell several garden tools which use metal wheels and indicate replacements parts for them (possibly including the wheels) are available. Be prepared for sticker shock.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Monday, 12/03/07 02:19:38 EST

i found a post vise at a local antique shop. the vise is missing the spring. would this spring be hard to make? if so would it be possible to purchase a spring somewhere?
   mark - Monday, 12/03/07 07:30:52 EST

Mark, There are no spare or replacement parts for the vast majority of old tools including leg vices. However, the spring for these is fairly simple in shape and many folks have had success making them of mild steel.

For the shape of the spring see our Blacksmiths Leg Vice article

There are two basic types of vice bench mount each requiring a different spring. The older style tenon mount which requires a rectangular hole in the top of the spring and the later style which has no hole. The late style have a bent or turned edge to prevent them from dropping down too far.

Many of the springs have a simple curve to them with the bottom edge pushing against the bottom of the front jaw of the vice. These are rather ugly and rough operating. The early type springs were tapered and made a slight S curve so that the bottom pushed smoothly on the bottom of the jaw. Either type work.
   - guru - Monday, 12/03/07 08:00:04 EST

I have just ordered a new anvil and am wondering what is the best base to construct. I have used a big chunk of oak log in the past. Is there something better?
   Jim - Monday, 12/03/07 10:08:32 EST

I bought an anvil once that was in great condition except it had been stored in an unheated damp building in Ohio. (it was moved into that building in the 1930's; but I don't know when use of it stopped) It had light pitting on the face. I wirewheeled the loose rust off it and then have just be using it as an anvil---the scale will gradually polish it out and NONE of the valuable face thickness will be wasted.

   Thomas P - Monday, 12/03/07 12:12:58 EST

Troy to get the best hamons you want to use a fairly low carbon, low alloy steel, like 1045 or 1050. It is also harder to do on a double edged knife than a single edged. I would not suggest trying to get one with a high carbon steel and a difficult shape your first time.

   Thomas P - Monday, 12/03/07 12:17:09 EST

Jim, A log section is the most traditional base and as sturdy as you can get. However, they have some disadvantages. They are not very portable and often rot. Unless you have a chain saw to adjust them it is hard to get the size right. If the section is too large it will also need to be trimmed so that you can get close to the anvil.

For other types of bases see our iForge article on stands.
   - guru - Monday, 12/03/07 12:18:53 EST

Jim sinking a 1-2 ton section of steel shafting and then scraping the surface to be an exact match for the base of your anvil would be the best base to construct.

How about some just pretty good bases? The oak stump will work well if it will not wobble on your floor or your anvil on the stump. However if you are working in damp areas or do not have a floor in the shop you can get rot/termites in it.

You can build an artificial stump from 2x8 that works well if you will be moving it around a lot.

Some folks like a container full of sand that you bed the anvil into---easy to move it around or slant it for special use.

I don't like steel supports as they seem to be noisier/"bouncier"; but I do have a 3 legged one I use for taking the forge on the road as it is light and easy to transport.

At the Gunter's Blscksmithing school in Moriarty NM, their anvils are on wooden baulks that are caged with angle iron cages that are bolted to the concrete floor. they can then alter the height of the anvil by sticking a chunk of wood under the baulk and so provide the correct height for each student.

   Thomas P - Monday, 12/03/07 12:25:37 EST

I am trying to find someone that can melt some stainless steel medical instruments that were used in a surgery I had several months ago. I a getting married in May and would like to have our rings cast using this surgical steel. Is there anyone out there who can suggest someone that might be up for the task? Thanks.
   Toby Florek - Monday, 12/03/07 15:34:07 EST

SS Rings: Toby, There was a raft of responses to this question earlier. The consensus was that it either couldn't be done or cost you much more than gold. In fact, production stainless jewelery typically costs much more than silver and occasionally surpasses gold. Stainless is basically high tech stuff to rework and the pieces you have may be some of the most difficult. It can be done but it was also suggested that you might not be happy with the results. Forging and reworking is the most likely method to be used rather than casting.

Where you need to ask this question is at a custom jeweler.
   - guru - Monday, 12/03/07 17:07:53 EST

Im thinking about making a katana with a titanium core. Although traditionally made of flexible steel, I think titanium would be better, as its both light and flexible and stronger then low carbon steel. Feedback appreciated!
   Andrew - Monday, 12/03/07 17:49:41 EST

Refractory cracks:

I am having a lot of trouble with cracks in my refractory castings. I am experimenting with a burner tube that is a refractory cylinder 4"ID and 7" long with 3/4" walls and ending in a neck to accept the propane air mix. The cylinder is filled with a matrix of refractory chips. The design gives very satisfactory results but in every case the cylinder has cracked, mostly lengthwise, resulting in hot gas escaping into the kaowool wrapping and trashing everything. I have tried several different refractories with similar results. I assume this is due to the stresses that arise when the material gets hot and expands - the alignment of the cracks suggests this. I have tried a kaowool cylinder lined with a variety of materials - those last about one hour.

I am a thinking of two solutions. One is to cast the cylinder in two halves and glue it together with a flexible refractory cement. The other to use SS wire reinforcement. I have a bunch of 1/32 SS welding rod as well as a big tangle of lathe turnings.

I would sure appreciate any comments or suggestions. Thanks
   adam - Monday, 12/03/07 19:02:31 EST

Andrew, when Kelly Johnson was given the task of designing and building the SR71 Blackbird, he had to invent new ways to forge and fabricate titanium. How to you plan to forge weld titanium to steel? Oxygen and Iron both tend to embrittle Ti and are therefore limited in commercial alloys. Unless you have a vacuum furnace and can forge in a vacuum, you may have a problem with an embrittled blade.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 12/03/07 19:32:29 EST

Adam, AP Green refractories used SS wires for reinforcement years ago and they work. It minimizes the tendency to fall apart. Personally, I like the idea of expansion joints if you can figure out how to do that.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 12/03/07 19:35:07 EST

Adam-- The stuff I bought for the top of my forge (sides and bottom are firebrick)is called Duraboard, which sold some years ago for $100 for two pieces 2 inches by 2 feet by 4 feet. It is fragile but could be carved.
Outfit I got it from is called American Supply, Inc., 301 Eubank SE, 505-299-7655. Go to Yahoo Yellow Pages and download a map.
But even when I was parked outside the damned building it was excruciatingly, maddeningly-- I got there right at closing time-- difficult to find the entrance to the fortress-like building.
Once inside I met the helpful guy who runs it, one Buddy Buzzard, who says he sells stuff to all the nucular (I am getting ready for another four years of zzzzzz) labs. Their logo: "High-tech insulations from the outer reaches of space to tjhe depths of the ocean.
I believe it. If I were you I'd call ol' Buddy and see what suggestions he can offer.

   Miles Undercut - Monday, 12/03/07 19:42:21 EST


My guess is that the expansion and contraction from temperature changes is setting up stresses that your refractory can't handle. The common solution to this problem is to add grog to the mix, in the form of broken bits of fired refractory. For your burner tubes, you'd need pretty small pieces, say around 1/8" max. You might take some high-temp ceramic and crunch it up and try that as a grog, or even use the crunched up bits of one of the tubes that failed. Worth a try, anyway.

What about using a stainless steel shell outside the refractory to support it? If you combine that with some stainless steel chopped turnings mixed into the refractory, that might hold everyting together even if the refractory does fracture. The shell would certainly stop hot gasses from getting to the Kaowool.

Final idea is to get someone at Coors ceramic plant interested in the idea so that they'll run off a few for you from their pyroceram material. That stuff will definitely stand the duty. It's also possible that they have a part available that would fit the bill. Can't hurt to give them a call.

Good luck with the project - I think you're onto a good thing once you work out the durabilty issues.
   vicopper - Monday, 12/03/07 20:37:33 EST

Does any one know how antique/liquid fuel blow torches are pressurized? Do they have an elastic bladder inside that gets filled with air or is air injected directly into the can? The latter sounds really dangerous and is just asking for an explosion.
   Nabiul Haque - Monday, 12/03/07 21:00:54 EST

I've seen a titanium sword online somewhere, but it was made purely as an art piece. Had a viking look/feel to it as I recall. Titanium core for a sword? Why bother? You 'could' make an exceptional sword from steel, after all thats what most modern sword makers use. No need to reinvent the wheel
   Ian Lowe - Monday, 12/03/07 21:08:32 EST

Nabiul, I've seen a few of those around and from what i remember they had a little pump built in (think bicycle pump)on the feul tank that pressurised the tank. I'd also think that once the torch is going the heat would help turn the feul to vapour and would help with pressure ( Trangia stoves work on that principle at least) As far as explosion goes I doubt they were pressurised more than a few psi.
   Ian Lowe - Monday, 12/03/07 21:15:40 EST

I bought a anvil from south central Arkansas. I know nothing about these things but I do know scrap steel is bringing a good price now. It has some writing on the anvil and is in good shape. It is a Fisher 100 built in 1890, it also has Pat. 1884-1887 on it. It has a square bar that goes into the top of it. My father said he thought it was for cutting metal. Now to my question. Do I have something here other than scrap steel? Thanks
   Tom Adkins - Monday, 12/03/07 21:16:40 EST

I'm not thinking of explosion from the pressure. If the pump injects air directly into the chamber than it will mix with the fuel vapour creating more than optimal conditions for combustion,.. inside a closed chamber. Reason I ask is because I am thinking about buying/building one and am wondering what dangerous reason caused the disuse of the old torches.
   Nabiul Haque - Monday, 12/03/07 21:23:47 EST

Nabiul-- There was a website dealing with collecting and restoring these torches http://www.blotorches.com/ and I can't get it to open now. But the proprietor cautioned viewers never to try using one of these old beauties. Tell that to my French tinsmith great-grandfather, who soldered everything from church steeples to angelfood cake pans with his. And many a Navajo silversmith used them. I have a small one, made by Primus, or Optimus, which burns white gas, works great. I suspect that the arrival of acetylene in convenient cylinders just made them obsolete. They were being sold up until c. 1950 or so in hardware stores.
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 12/03/07 22:05:40 EST

My leather apron has accumulated a lot of dirt over the last few years, does any one know to safely wash it without turning into cardboard. Thanks
   TerryM - Monday, 12/03/07 22:06:45 EST

Query re: online equipment purchases and IOC in particular. I am helping a friend scout for a deal for a plasma cutter. He likes Miller and their Spectrum 375 looks like the one. Question: anybody here have any dealings good or bad to report with Indiana Oxygen Company, IOC, in Indianapolis? Their price looks terrific, and the shipping is free. I know there is a downside to not buying locally, but the Miller warranty is for 3 years and their equipment and tech support backup, I know-- is great. I have their Dialarc, their big MIG, and a Bobcat and love 'em-- and they'd be whom my friend would be dealing with in case of trouble, not the local welding boutique (our motto: we don't care if you live or die). Many thanks!!
   Miles Undercut - Monday, 12/03/07 22:11:56 EST

Nabiul: They work as Ian described. There is a small pump built into the fuel inlet. This pressurizes the tank. Fuel is meetered with a needle valve. There is a little tray under the burner that is filled with liquid fuel, and that fuel is lit to preheat the burner. If You manage to get the burner hot enough the fuel will vaporize before it gets to the burner and the torch will burn properly. If not there will be liquid fuel flowing/squirting/burning all over everything including You. Gasoline blowtorches are not worth the grief. Propane is only a little more expensive and works better, and the safety is 100 fold better. There are some gasoline cutting torches on the market that are supposed to be good, but I wouldn't mess with an old blowtorch or a homebuilt, and I am not real cautious.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 12/03/07 22:13:34 EST

Nabiul Haque,

Those old torches simply pressurized the fuel reservoir with pumped air, to deliver the fuel to the vaporization location in the torch head. The air did not mix with the fuel in the tank, and the vapors present in the tank are no more or less likely to explode with the pressurized air present.

Those torches were used by the millions for decades with no more problems than any other combustion device. They are no more inherently unsafe than any other device using liquid fuel - the user is the danger, not the device. The biggest danger with those torches is that through misuse and/or age, the tanks develop leaks. When this happens, liquid fuel may be present outside the tank where it will vaporize and may ignite from the nearby flame. That need not necessarily be a catastrophe, but I suspect that it causedmost users to drop the flaming torch without shutting it off, thus exacerbating the problem.

With the plumber's torches and the Coleman stoves and lanterns, a bi tof raw fuel is introduced into a small pre-heat reservoir and ignited. After a bit, the raw gas burns out and the generator is now hot enough to vaporize the pumped fuel and maintain both ignition and tank pressure. The hand pump is really only necessary to to push the fuel up until the unit gets hot enough to generate its own pressure.

I have owned and used pressurized liquid fuel torches, lanterns and stoves for years without mishap. One popular method of lighting the trusy old Primus backpacker's stove at high altitude involved simply pouring liquid fuel on the outside of the stove and setting the whole works alight, rather than messing about with the pump. In the Primus stove, as in the plumber's torch or Coleman stove/lantern, it is necessary to burn a bit of liquid fuel to get the gas generator hot enough to vaporize the fuel delivered to it, and to provide continuing pressure for fuel delivery.

Given the long history of success of those devices, I wouldnot hesitate to use one today - if it were new and in good working order. I would NOT use a relic without first thoroughly examining and testing it, and maybenot even then, and I would certainly not recommend trying to make one. Those are fussy little critters that rely on simple principles that must be followed EXACTLY to be safe and reliable.
   vicopper - Monday, 12/03/07 22:18:37 EST


For economic reasons, I bought my Miller from IOC. Less than half the price the local stealer wanted. Terrific service and very prompt. I would/will buy from them again. And again. Come to think of it, that's also where I got my Jackson NexGen helmet.
   vicopper - Monday, 12/03/07 22:21:59 EST

Tom Adkins,
I'm not sure of steel scrap prices, but it's probably a few paltry cents a pound, whereas if you contact http://arkansasblacksmiths.org you might get $1, $2, or $3 a pound. Perhaps you could list it in their newsletter.

Now, if that anvil were solid copper, the current scrap price is around $3.50 per pound. But it ain't copper.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 12/03/07 22:24:52 EST

Refractory Failure mode: Adam, You have filled a cylinder with broken chips that lock together and perhaps even weld together at high temperature. They will expand much more rapidly than the surrounding cylinder. . . Maybe the problem.

Also note that castable refractories are about 1/3 as strong as many fired refractories. How they are handled and cured is critical to their strength. They also have a short shelf life as the binder is minimal and reacts to moisture in the air. The richer the mix the longer the shelf life. However, it also requires a longer cure and one completely cured and as air dry as possible it must be slow fired to the calcining point. These are often used in fairly thick walls due to their low strength.

The "wire fill" is stainless turnings (from a lathe). They do a lot to strengthen castable refractories but they ARE metal and tend to fail at very high temperatures such as in a forge. Expanded metal has been suggested. . coat with ITC-213 then ITC-100 before adding the castable. Use near the cooler outer wall.

Cast burner nozzels are typically a high grade (read expensive) castable refractory with very fine almost powdery aggregate.

THEN there are refractories that can take expansion and contraction without cracking. Kaowool with rigidizer is one (results in board like consistency). Using a combination of rigidizer and ITC coatings you can make a very durable shell. They also make kaowool "paper", a dense compressed kaowwol product that can be wound or laminated. However, it is a little pricey. I can get a carton of 1/4" for around $500. . . A tad steep for unfunded R&D. What I really wanted was 1/32". They make it. Works like old fashioned asbestoses gasket material.

There are high strength fired alumina refractories like TIG nozzels are made from and low grade cheap castables and every other variation in between. I suspect that you need to talk to a supplier that has a broad line of product and can suggest the correct (not cheapest) product for the job.

"Flexible refractory cement" (at forge temperatures) is an oxymoron. Read the specs.

   - guru - Monday, 12/03/07 23:50:17 EST

Mixed clading: A steel tube filled with a light weight strong metal then drawn and pressed to a near net shape. . . A weld is necessary between the dissimilar metals which could be achieved with a material that is compatible to both (like a brazed or silver soldered joint. The trick is finding a suitable temperature and sufficiently controlled force to do the shaping.

IT is probably possible to do but not as a low tech project. It is the kind of R&D that needs lots of big expensive machines and access to some expensive high tech processes.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 00:00:26 EST

vicopper-- Many thanks!!
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/04/07 00:16:21 EST

Miles, I bought both of my Hypertherm torches from the local guy. The first one died after 8-9 years of chopsaw dust and had to replace ( forst was 350 second is 600 ). I would like to have first repaired but the repair leeches in Des Moines charged me $ 65.- just to tell me that it needs some special expensive part. These folks fix stuff but they are SLOW in service and pricey. I still like Hypertherm torches fwiw.
   - Ten Hammers - Tuesday, 12/04/07 06:04:05 EST

Tom Adkins: Fisher & Norris made anvil from about 1843-1970. First and last major anvil manufacturer in the U.S. Anvil has a body of cast iron with a steel plate. Known as a 'dead' or 'city' anvil as they don't have the distinctive ring of an anvil with a body of wrought iron and a steel plate. For a brief history of Fisher & Norris go to www.abana.org, FORUMS, Blacksmith History and Lore. Go down list until you see it. F&N made anvils in a variety of shapes/sizes/functions. They are one of the most common anvils found in the U.S. today.

I suspect F&N anvils and propane forges are becoming more popular for suburban neighborhood forging.

I have questioned all three nearby neighbors about shop sounds. Response has been they can sometimes hear the powerhammer's whomp, whomp, whomp but the sound which really carries is the compressor, particularly at night if I forget to turn it off.

100 pounds is light for general purpose blacksmithing (say 150-180 for that). Would likely work for a farrier or demonstration anvil due to portability.

I started on a 100-lb F&N. When I upgraded to a 160-lb F&N I was amazed by how much difference the 'mass effect' had in forging.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Tuesday, 12/04/07 07:06:39 EST

Adam, as the Guru said, there's no such thing as a flexible refractory cement. But how about casting the two halves, put them together with some Kaowool as a gasket, and banding them together with hose clamps?

The Kaowool would give the expansion some room and, hopefully, the outside of the burner doesn't get too hot to wreck the clamps.

But one other thing - propane's flame temperature could reach 3600degF. If you're containing the flame with refractory chips, will the inside get that hot? Can your chips and even the burner itself withstand those temps?
   - Marc - Tuesday, 12/04/07 08:05:52 EST


Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I had forgotten the website and did not recheck the message board for a response to my question.
I understand that the cost will be more than typical jewelry but the sentimental value associated with these pieces would exceed the cost. My fiance and I have played rugby since '92 and have traveled all over the country and parts of Europe to enjoy the sport together. As with most contact sports, I have suffered my share of injuries. My fiance has nursed me back to health after over six shoulder and knee surgeries during our six year relationship. As a token of my appreciation to her devotion as a friend and partner I had my doctor save the instruments used during my last procedure and give them to me to be used to make our wedding bands. I know that they may not look like the typical "flashy" wedding bands but their signifigance to us will be what matters most. If you know anyone that would be willing to take on this opportunity, I know that they would play a huge part in the story we share with everyone that notices their work.

Kind regards,

   Toby Florek - Tuesday, 12/04/07 10:16:48 EST

Plasma cutter
I bought 200 foot of welding leads from IOC and was pleased with the transaction.You might try AirGas it might still be valley welding in Santa FE they are good to me and have told me they will try to match prices on things like the plasma cutter.Of course your milage may vary
   aaron craig - Tuesday, 12/04/07 10:31:48 EST

I went back to read all of the responses to my question several weeks ago and appreciate all of the input from everyone.
I have the tools with me and will try to find out a little more about each one. I know that two of the pieces are metal rods (possibly aluminum) about 8" in length and resemble a 16d nail. The other tools are forceps, scissors and something that resembles tweezers. If the SS tools can't be used, would you be able to mix another metal w/the aluminum rods to make the bands?
If anyone feels up to the task I would be happy to call and work out the details.

Thanks again,

   Toby Florek - Tuesday, 12/04/07 10:38:44 EST

Refractory cracks

Thanks for all the comments and tips.

Marc are you sure about that combustion temp for propane/air? I thought it was about 3000F. The color I see is white with just a tinge of yellow so I am guessing 2400F but likely hotter inside. I am using Greencast 94 and it doesnt show signs of deterioration, just cracking.

I actually have a tub of flexible refractory cement from McMaster and it turns gummy and soft at high temps.

Both SS and ceramic wool just die when exposed to hot gas at this temp. Its the oxygen I am sure. I am using Inswool rated 3000F. I dont think the wool would work even for a gasket.

The pressure in the burner is higher than a regular forge and burner so once a crack opens, the gas will vent there.

I think I will try two tubes with SS reinforcement and coat them with Plistix 900 along the lines of Jocks suggestions. I will make one of them with a split down one side and seal it up with the repair cement. If it does open up I can reseal it without having to deal with fractures all over the tube. I will also take more care in the firing of the refractory.

Miles: Isnt the duraboard the same stuff as kaowool? I am very skeptical about using that stuff for the combustion chamber. I have tried coating it with, Mizzou, Plistix 900 (which is great stuff BTW), ITC 100 and even all three - it dies very quickly. Kaowool is a great insulator, flexible and very easy to work with but, IMO not suitable for direct exposure hot gas with oxygen.
   adam - Tuesday, 12/04/07 10:41:18 EST

adam-- dunno. Could be. But the roof on my forge has been on there for years now. It can be abraded easily, but NO deterioration from exposure to heat, nor around burner ports. I just bought some Super Wool, q.v., made by Thermal Ceramics, from Firebird in S. Fe, very fragile mineral wool blanket, to wrap around my woodstove flue where it gets near some wood paneling. So crumbly I had to make an envelope out of stainless foil to protect it. Works great, good K factor. Specs are onlihe.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/04/07 10:57:13 EST

Ten Hammers, aaron-- Many thanks! I appreciate the help.
   Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:01:39 EST

Tom Adkins; the majority of a Fisher Anvil is cast iron; the only steel in it is the face. The scrap price of cast iron is trivial compared to the value of a Fisher anvil for *using*! Most likely you can get over 10 times the scrap price from a smith. Now if the anvil has been totally trashed then it may be a piece of scrap---but you still may get more selling it as an "ornament" fro someone's hearth or garden.

Without knowing details on it's condition it's like asking "I have a Ford car---how much is it worth?"

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:03:54 EST

Adam, I looked up propane flame temperature and got that value, 3600, as the "peak flame temp". That is probably based on a perfect mix, so 3000 may be a more practical value.

I never heard of flexible refractory, but it sounds like that would be your best bet.
   - Marc - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:11:53 EST

Andrew; IIRC Ti is stronger by *weight* than by *volume* than steel so if you put a Ti core in a regular sized sword it will be weaker than a steel one.

Have you read the Ti FAQ over at swordforum.com? Swords need to have a certain ammount of weight to them to work---around 1 kilogram is a good standard weight. if you make the sword lighter it will not work as well.

So if you really want to make a lighter weaker *vastly* more EXPENSIVE sword; please go ahead!

I have a hand forged Ti eating set I made and everyones is astonished to find that Ti makes a much worse knife than a piece of car coil spring; but it's dishwasher safe!

I cut a piece of Ti with a regular hack saw last Sunday to repair a toilet seat---the corrosion resistance comes in handy in some use cases!

I also forged a set of Ti tongs for use with my propane forge as Ti's bad heat transference comes in handy there.

(I'm also forging a Ti doorstop from my uber-boss who is a Ti-phile and even paid extra for a Ti laptop even though a Ti shell is MUCH WORSE for laptop shells than Al---laptops have problems with heat dissapation and so using something that is bad for heat transfer compared to Al which is very good for heat transfer is not a good idea!)

Note forging certain Ti alloys can make you sick---make sure you know what you are doing! I generally stick with the CP grades.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:14:13 EST

SS needles:
Using SS needles, wires, etc. was suggested for Adams burner. I used needles for the roof of my forge, which is insulating castable. The needles do work, but they don't stop things from cracking. What they seem to do is keep the cracked chunks from falling out. In a 2.5" thick forge wall, that's fine. But Adam's burner has more internal pressure, so maybe the gas would still leak through the cracks.

I'll be interested in seeing how your burner turns out. If it saves fuel, that's just money in the bank.
   - Marc - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:22:26 EST

Toby; it should be fairly easy to forge out SS tooling into strip SS and bend that around. You would then need to tig the join closed and spend a bunch of time polishing to get a simple SS wedding band.

HOWEVER you may want to leave the join rounded off and unclosed because as you mention you seem to be prone to injury and SS will not be friendly when they have to cut it off a swollen finger so you can get an MRI or try to save the finger from auto tourniqueting.

If that "nail" was used for internal fastening it may be Ti and not Al, how soft is it? Ti would make a nice ring and can be coloured a nice gold by annodizing. Again, forge into strip, bend around and tig closed. Cleanup will be a pain though but can be done.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:26:43 EST

Ti makes a good land mine probe as well so the magnetic mines don't get you. The Russians gave us some when they noticed the fiberglass ones the U.S. Army provided us with kept snapping off. It's all about proper application of materials.
   Robert Cutting - Tuesday, 12/04/07 11:50:17 EST

I get so fumed when a customer tells me they have to remove their body jewelry for an MRI. The 300 series steel used in body jewelry is mostly non-magnetic. I've taken the strongest magnet I own to my shops stock of jewelry and had a few of the largest pieces *slightly* lift a bit, and the lift was located at the work hardened parts. Unless the part of the body that is being imaged is blocked by the jewelry, there is NO need to remove it. This goes even further when referring to Ti jewlery (Ti6Al EVM). I've been in MRI suites with the machine running full on while wearing 316L rings in my bean bag and didn't feel a thing. Unfortunately, MRI techs around the country insist on forcing people to risk losing a pierce due to their ignorance of the materials used.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 12/04/07 12:22:26 EST

The melting point of all kaowool type products is 3200°F with various working temperatures much lower.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 13:06:40 EST

hey guru,

I am having trouble with a tool i built for making bamboo. it is a "clapper" design, like the thing the guy claps on a movie set. there are a series of holes in decending order that neck in the pipe to form the knuckle in the bamboo.

my problem is the the top blade keeps forming stress cracks and breaking under the stress of the hammer blows. do you know of a good way to avoid this? do you have a good/better design for such a tool?

any help would be great
richmond, ca.
   - bender - Tuesday, 12/04/07 14:27:41 EST

Failing Clapper: Bender, You have one of two things going on, the die arm is too hard or it is too soft (or weak). If the arm is too soft or thin a section it will be bent repeatedly and then crack. If too hard or not heat treated well it may also crack but in this case it is more likely to break in two. . SO the problem is that it is probably too soft/weak.

A good steel for this type part is AISI/SAE 4140. This is a tough steel that can be hardened for wear resistance. I would flame harden just the working area and leave the rest soft or normalized.

To make the part stronger you can make it wider OR taller. Taller is the preferred direction to go.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 14:48:12 EST

TGN, Do you have every piece of your jewelry you make *STAMPED* with the alloy and "non-magnetic"? If you don't then you don't have any reason to complain about people trying to prevent damage to both the person and the machine.

The rule is to err on the side of caution than on the side of hundred thousand dollar repairs and million dollar lawsuits.

(Also as you may well know some stainlesses will be magnetic after work hardening; but not when annealed throwing in even another layer of confusion for the poor MRI tech and the strongest magnet you have---probably a rare earth disk drive magnet is not even close to the level you can get from the MRI machine.)

I recently had my first MRI's on my shoulder and they were quite worried about possible steel specs in my eyes---they didn't know anything about blacksmithing and so had me classified as a weldor.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/04/07 15:39:27 EST

Clapper: we usually use leaf spring for these and leave the entire thing normalized. When the top mushrooms out we grind it back; though some folks weld on a sacrificial bar to be hit and replace it when too bunged up.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 12/04/07 15:41:58 EST

I'm not that familiar with machine tools, so forgive my ignorance. Turns out that my employer has a small technical shop (who knew?) with an 11" Sheldon lathe. It's up for sale. I don't know what kind of condition it's in, but I'm going to assume it's at least in working order.

Can anyone tell me anything about the brand? Availability of parts, accessories, etc.? Likely reasonable price range? (I live in Northern Virginia. It's not like the Rust Belt, where everyone is tripping over used machine tools.)
   Matt B - Tuesday, 12/04/07 16:12:59 EST

Lathes: Matt, Sheldon's are a nice medium to high quality lathe. The size is perfect for a small shop. I do not think they are made any more. However, most of the important tools for a lathe are standard items, tool holders, chucks, centers. . . The parts they came with include change gears (if needed) a face plate, tool post, centers and at least one lathe dog. Factory specific accessories included steady rest, follower rest, milling attachment and taper attachment. A steady rest is necesary for long work and a taper rest is very handy.

When buying a used lathe the key thing is the tooling that comes with it. I put about $1000 into a little hobby lathe recently but it came with chucks worth $500, tool holders worth another $100 PLUS it was complete with its OEM parts a tool chest for the parts and a light duty work bench.

When you purchase a new machine tool it is easy to match its price in standard tooling. This makes used lathes a bargain when they come with the tooling.

See our Lathe, King of Machine Tools article.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 16:52:18 EST

Sheldon's are small, home shop style lathes, made from the 40's thru at least the 60's.
They are a good small workshop machine, but nothing to write home about. Much like Logan's or Atlas, they are best at working material up to about 1" in diameter.

Parts, beyond generic items like belts, motors, and bearings, are not widely available- but this is true for virtually every american made lathe, as only a couple of companies (Hardinge and Monarch) still make one model of manual lathe each, both costing upwards of $50,000. Aside from those two, the american made, non-CNC lathe business has been dead for at least 20 years now, so ALL american made lathes are orphans.
If the lathe is not worn out, and has basic accessories, it will be a deal at $500, reasonable at up to maybe $1000, and pricey, especially where you live, beyond that. Which is not to say people dont pay more for em, especially in lathe-poor parts of the country.

More info here- www.lathes.co.uk/sheldon/

Some parts are available, such as chucks, collets, live centers, tool holders, and so on- but current new prices are quite high- a decent eastern european made ( Bison Brand) chuck for this could easily run several hundred dollars, depending on the age of the lathe. Totally tooling up a bare bones Sheldon could run you anywhere from a few hundred bucks, if you watch ebay for a couple years, to a couple thousand, if you order everything tomorrow at full retail.

If the price is not quite low, I would wait, and educate yourself on whats out there- there are several other makes of lathes of a similar size and capacity, including South Bend, that are frequently available on ebay for $800 to $1500 or so fully tooled, and that makes quite a difference.
   - ries - Tuesday, 12/04/07 17:00:26 EST

I have to beg to differ with the guru that a Sheldon could ever be called a "high quality" lathe.
A high quality lathe is something like a Monarch 10EE, or a Hardinge HLVH, or a Weiler or a Schaublin- google em and see- and, used, 20 years old, these lathes still can easily bring $10K to $20k, and still all pull over $50K new.
   - ries - Tuesday, 12/04/07 17:02:12 EST

Thanks for the input, gents. I'll get a look at it on Thursday. I'm sure there's *some* tooling with it; I won't know how much until I see it. I'll try to snap some photos on Thursday and post them.
   Matt B - Tuesday, 12/04/07 17:19:43 EST

I am afraid I must agree with Ries on the sheldons. Of the one or two I have seen definetly middle to low end.
Best lathes in my opinion? Monarch, Gisholt, Warner and Swasey, Lodge and Shipley, Hardinge Bros. are all excellent heavy duty high quality lathes. In the tool rich zones you will trip over these, and while often big, a big lathe is cheaper than a "little " lathe.
I happen to have a Lodge and Shipley that I am putting a drive back in.
   ptree - Tuesday, 12/04/07 18:20:38 EST

i have been asked to make a plane blade for a wwodworker who is making a sash moulding plane. what type of steel is recomended for this and how hard should i temper it?

also what kind of steel is apropriate for welding to wrought iron to make a 1" chisel for a timber framer? 1060? thanks in advance.
   coolhand - Tuesday, 12/04/07 18:48:21 EST


Well I am off to make a few burner shells.

Rich, how does brog help? surely being the same material as the refractory it has the same mechanical properties. Is it perhaps that it doesnt bond to the mix and allows things to slide? I am thinking of trying sawdust.

I havent melted any kaowool it just sort of congeals into a solid.

   adam - Tuesday, 12/04/07 19:19:30 EST

I have a question about the I-forge demo that Bill Epps did making a rose. He mentioned that you could buy the rose petals from somewhere, or make them yourselves. I was wondering what you all would suggest to use to cut them out of metal with. I tried to use a jig saw, but I could not turn corners with it, and I thought about using a blowtorch, but that would leave really ragged edges. Anyone know how to? The metal that I am using is approximitly 14 gauge I think.
Thanks for the help
   - Eric - Tuesday, 12/04/07 19:30:57 EST

Steel Roses: Eric, Those kits are made by laser and or waterjet cutting. They are available from Blacksmiths Depot and others.

To make the exact same shapes by hand you could use a plasma torch and steady hand OR you would need to drill or punch holes for the inside radii and use heavy snips or a Beverly shear for the rest.

I have flame cut such things but you spend a LOT of time cleaning up with a grinder and a file even it you are very good with a torch.

The time consuming hard core method is to cold chisel the shapes.

IF I wanted to make these by hand with simple tools I would start with a bunch of square or hex blanks. Then I would drill center holes large enough to bolt the stack together snuggly (maybe 5/16"). Then I would drill the inside corner holes through the whole stack (preferably using a drill press but a hand drill - even a brace and bit would do). This reduces the number of operations and produces slightly cleaner holes. Then I would hack saw each blank clamping in a vise as necessary. Lots of work, but less mess than torching.

I HAVE cut limited amounts of hard to turn corners on pieces like this with a jeweler's saw.

That said, I would not try to reproduce these exact blanks by hand. I would redesign for simpler shapes. Pairs of petals on narrow strips rather than four or five on a flat, Or single petals. Think about it, actual petals are individual and sprial out from a center each overlapping on the same side. . . Lots can be done hot in the way of cutting, forging, hot rasping. .

While the kits make it fairly easy to make a nice rose the first time, doing it by hand requires practice. After you make about the fifth one you will have developed techniques that suit your tools and skills. You will also have learned a LOT more and the product will be uniquely yours, the way it should be.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 20:58:09 EST

Refractory, grog: Adam, this is usually broken bits of fired refractory material. It is also usually selected from a porous material. It is NOT just more of the castable which is chemically bound, not thermally. However, I would avoid adding anything to your commercial mix unless it is a very rich mix. My experience with the cheaper castables is that it is VERY VERY lean and adding any kind of filler makes it leaner and thus much weaker.

Grog is commonly added to clay to reduce the amount of unfired material and moisture in the clay somewhere to go during firing.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 21:05:29 EST

Coolhand, 1095 is the classic steel for both purposes. A lot depends on where you are going and your design/skill level in making tools and heat treaing them. Woodworkers get real picky about plane blades but the steels include everything from 1095 to an M type HSS.

All the chisels I've made were from old pieces of automotive spring of unknown parentage. This could include 1095, 5160 or 1050.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/04/07 21:10:53 EST

Matt B: You need to keep Ries's & Ptree's comments in perspective. A Monarch 10EE or Hardinge HLVH is to a small lathe what a Rolls Royce is in a luxury sedan, meaning the verry best of the best. Even an Atlas or the Craftsman version of the same is a nice home shop machine IF IT IS IN GREAT SHAPE. The Sheldon is a home shop or school shop machine. It is a mid grade Chevy in the above comparison, while the cheapest imports marketed to home shops presently are a quite a few steps below that.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 12/04/07 23:05:38 EST

re: Mixed cladding - my first thought would be HIPing in an inert atmosphere - still would need a 3 metal compatible to both for the in between joint. Equipment cost is an ouch, but you could probably have it done. We looked into HIPing to produce some standards for spectrometer use - think it worked out to about $10,000 for the HIPing and processing into suitable bar stock (about 1.5" round) and some of the work would have been "in house"

Toby Florek - look for someone who operates a lab size induction furnace - they should be able to melt the stainless instruments down into a cast round or other shape that could be forged or machined. My first thought would be one of the steel manufacturers that still runs a research lab.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 12/04/07 23:11:05 EST

Coolhand: If You need finished surfaces on the plane blade and don't have a surface grinder You should look into using ground stock. This comes in a few tool steel grades, O1 being the most common, and what I would use. To keep warpage to a minimum I would only harden the cutting edge, and draw the entire thing at 325f for an hour at temperature in the oven.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 12/04/07 23:23:41 EST

Dear Guru,
I wanted to ask, how do you make a traditional wooden scabbard for a sword? Please let me know if you can help me with this. Thank you.
   Randy - Tuesday, 12/04/07 23:43:55 EST

Sword Scabard: Randy, The basics are simple, the execution is full of fine details.

You start with a fine grained piece of pine, polar or bass wood. Then you split it in two pieces one a little thicker than the other. The goal is to put the two pieces back together the same as they were separated. These two pieces are surfaced so that they can be glued back together flat.

Then the sword is traced onto one board. Here the guard makes a fit on the end and must be squared up as well. Then you carefully carve the shape of the sword onto the wood. The finished fit (many details) should hold the blade so that the edge does not touch the wood. This area is relieved slightly. On a Japanese sword the fit of the habaki is critical as it holds the sword from falling out as well as helping prevent it from rattling. It is a very precise light press fit.

When everything is well fitted, the sword slides in and out but does not rattle, then the two halves are glued together and the the exterior shaped and or carved. Finishing can be anything from glued and wrapped leather or inlays to wire wrapping or finely finished lacquer. To lacquer you start with a wood lacquer filler/sealer then primer finisher (same as used on automobiles) and a top coat of your choice which could be plain, metallic or even air brush art.

It is not a complicated project. The key is starting with a good straight piece of acceptable wood. Hand tools can be used for the entire job but a planner and a band saw help greatly with the preparation. Good sharp gouges are needed for the carving and the narrow flexible Japanese tools are excellent in this regard. However, any sharp light gouge will do for the inletting.

I watched a demo by an expert fitting an antique Japanese sword in the above manner and the work only took a few hours to fit the blade while talking and explaining the process. Without an audience maybe an hour. The rest is art.

   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/07 00:15:55 EST

Speaking of Japanese tools, do any of y'all happen to know just what it is that makes some of them "a cut above the rest" (no pun intended)? I've read on multiple sites glowing reviews of Japanese wood chisels, but I'm a little hesitant to drop $300 plus dollars on a set... they also appear to have some kind of bevel or 'hollow-grind' on the flatside. I know expensive tools won't magically make me an expert, but you get what you pay for, right?
   Kajiya-In-Training - Wednesday, 12/05/07 01:14:36 EST

K-I-T, Most are just very well made and specially shaped for their job. The chisels that I watched in use were made thin enough that the way they were used was to push with one hand and gently spring down and guide with the other. The light springyness gave great control to the depth of cut. If you tried to use them like a heavy gouge on coarse wood they would fold up and be a wreck in an instant. So their application and method of use is as critical as their design. These were special gouges for fine fitting in fine wood. The fellow indicated that his three piece set cost well over $100 each.

photo by Jock Dempsey

I tried to get a good photo of these chisels looking from the end so you could see the angled handle which kept your knuckles from scraping the work and the thin blade but it didn't turn out.

Japanese wood working tools are not the be-all end-all of tools but they are very good. There are also very good tools from many other places worldwide but the lines of really high quality production tools are fewer than what they were just a couple decades ago. Many have been replaced by very expensive hand made lines.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/07 08:33:19 EST

I recently picked a farriers forge.It's in beautiful condition,apparently from a mill in upstate ny during the early 1920's.It has the number 142 on the bottom and a 6-8 inch champion blower,also in excellent condition.It's a working in use forge.My question is where would I price something like this?
   Don - Wednesday, 12/05/07 09:16:56 EST

Don, These things sell from $150 to $500 and up depending on the actual type and condition. Numbers on them are mostly die and pattern number and rarely match catalog numbers. Price is also determined by location. In the rust belt they are common and go for little. On the West coast and the North West where they were rare to start with and the population is high (or very sparse) they sell for the most. Up and down the East coast and Gulf coast prices are average. Willingness to crate and ship also makes a difference.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/07 09:48:49 EST

Japanese chisels: There are good bad and fantastic. Sometime in their fairly recent history, there was a sudden decline in the demand for swords and Japanese blade makers turned their skills to making tool blades. The finest Japanese chisels and plane blades are made of laminated steel and carefully heat treated. They are capable of holding a fantastic edge - it is said of the plane blades that they can produce a shaving so thin it has only one side :). Like Jock says, these tools are best reserved for fine work. If you need a chisel for heavy chopping like mortising, then there is no point in spending that kind of money. Also, the edges tend to be a bit brittle and can chip under heavy hammering. For a very fine edge the back of the chisel must be honed to a high polish just like the bevel. Usually this needs to be done occaisonaly. To reduce the size of the back surface area that needs to be lapped, Japanese chisels are hollow. When successive sharpening eventually grinds away all the flat area under the bevel, the body of the chisel is hammered against a small anvil to flatten out more area.

I suggest you buy one chisel to start and see if its worth the investment before dropping big bucks on a whole set
   adam - Wednesday, 12/05/07 09:59:12 EST

I am a 40 something beginner knife maker. I have a small gas fired forge and a makeshift anvil from I beam. I need some input on the tongs that I need to handle the hot steel when forging the blade. Right now I am using some coiled car springs that I heated and straightened. Do I use the flat jawed tongs?
   John - Wednesday, 12/05/07 10:16:22 EST

John, Flat jawed tongs work well for this work if properly adjusted to the stock thickness. Flat jaw tongs are pretty universal for small pieces of flat and semi-flat stock. The farrier style with a hollow in the bits work well as they do not pivot on high spots.

For round stock bolt or chain makers tongs better. I use bolt style tongs for much of my work. If I had them I would use the offset chainmaker's tongs that Grant Sarver makes. They are much like an offset V-bit tongs I made that I use more than any other.

To avoid multiple tongs you could hold the round by hand if long enough and flatten it. Then when you need tongs the flats or farrier tongs will work. When the tang is forged a small pair that have a rectangular grip would also work.

Blacksmiths will often change tongs as the stock size and shape changes. For most jobs tongs that wrap around the work are much more secure and do not require so tight a grip. For universal use many smiths like Wolf jaw tongs.

Note that your I-beam anvil will be terribly springy and make holding the work much more difficult than it is on a real anvil.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/07 10:54:21 EST

I was able to watch the Japanese sawmaker and toolsmith, Yataiki, blank out a woodworker's marking knife (yokote-kogatana). The blade was laminated of hard and soft steel. The smaller piece of hard steel was simply placed on top of the softer steel, and a slow rising welding heat was taken and the two hammer-welded together. When hardening the blade, he heated the water to a tepid temperature by stirring with a heated rod of scrap steel. After quenching, no temper was drawn, which gives a martensitic cutting edge with the mild steel acting as a "cushion" to prevent thumbnail breaks or checking on the hardened steel, when correctly used. There is a very good reference: "Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use" by Toshio Odate. The Taunton Press, 1984. Chapter 4 gives a good coverage of wood chisels (nomi).

Yataiki was in Iowa at this time and was scavanging steel. He would hold a piece and listen to it's ring when struck. Seemed to work for him. Go figger. One piece that he liked a lot was an old American spike maul. He made a small hammer from that steel.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/05/07 11:23:00 EST

For rose petals, I have used an OLD truck hood for the thin steel that I need. I cut it with aircraft snips, and I use the suggested petal outlines shown in Schwarzkopf's "Plain and Ornamental Forging." I cold punch square central holes in the leaf layers into a block of wood. The remaining burrs are cleaned up with needle files. The square tenon through the square holes keeps the petals from twisting, either now or later.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/05/07 12:04:32 EST

UPDATE westren chief blower. clean up went well runs smoothly no growl. I will offer $100. Now I just have to build a bracket to mount it to my Centaur portable forge. any ideas? this blower does not have the stand flange, it appears to have been a forge mounted blower.
   Victor - Wednesday, 12/05/07 12:28:45 EST

Hey, Bender, I think we might be neighbors. I'm in the Annex and forge with charcoal on a 104 lb PW. ping me off list, It'd be great to have a fellow smith in the neighborhood.
   Michael - Wednesday, 12/05/07 12:31:06 EST

Further Thoughts on Anvil Stumps:

Given my time constraints I have to mostly lurk these days, which means i usually miss a prompt response within my areas of curiosity or (occasional) expertise.

In addition to what's posted in the iForge section on this subject, the ne plus ultra of anvil stands was traditionally an elm stump (dense, heavy, cross-grained wood; good for cannon carriages, too) buried about six feet into the ground. (Whether they really went six feet in is another question; these days, with the flexibility required in a modern shop, a free standing stump on a solid foundation is probably wiser.) Anyway, the buried stump frequently simplifies life for archeologists when they map the layout of the forge, as well as the accompanying heavy scale deposits.

I have often wondered if the real ultimate support would be something mounted on bedrock. You know- weight of hammer vs. weight of anvil + weight of stand + weight of the earth. Sounds very efficient to me. ;-)

Snowy and wet on the banks of the Potomac.

Visit your national Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.nps.gov
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 12/05/07 15:59:14 EST

Bruce; we're over a magma bubble, I'm afraid to dig too deep...

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/05/07 16:08:28 EST

Terry M, About the dirty apron, you can stretch it over your work table and lightly go over it with a hand held sanding block wrapped with coarse sand paper.

Stumps for anvil supports should be "squared up" so the base does not get in the way of your toes and legs. Some old paintings show an oversized round stump; not good.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/05/07 18:21:42 EST

Guru, I need to bend/form cold some lengths of 1x1.5x1/8 channel and 1.5x1/2x1/8 channel on edge "hard way". need about a 15ft radius. Do you have suggestion on any mfg. of rolling machine? Hand operated and cheap preferred. Thank you. joe@ironfish.cc
   Joe Myers - Wednesday, 12/05/07 19:52:51 EST

Hey all, i've been having some trouble getting my metal to forge welding tempertures. I've been using 1/4" round bar stock to practice faggot welding with, but i just can't seem to get it hot enough.

I'm currently running a mini freon canister forge with a simplified 3/4" Reil EZ burner, with 2" of Kaowool and a coating of ITC-100.

What can i do to acheive welding temperature? I've been thinking it's the altitude i'm at (around 6000 feet above sea level), but maybe it's something i'm doing (or not doing.)?

ANy suggestions?
-Matt A.

   Matt A - Wednesday, 12/05/07 23:02:37 EST

Matt, While building these burners looks easy they have lots of picky details such as burred holes, misaligned jets, wrong pattern pipe reducer. . They must also be correctly sized to the volume of the forge. Too small a forge and the combustion goes on outside, too large and the burner is underpowered. Forges also need doors or baffles to create some internal pressure and hold the heat.

Altitude does have an effect but many smiths have proved that it is not too much of a problem.

Forge welding with a gas forge IS more difficult than with solid fuels.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/05/07 23:54:12 EST

I do have doors on my forge. I'll measure it out to see what the internal size is to see if that's a problem.

If it comes to it, what is a good burner to buy that would be relatively affordable on a student-sized budget?

   Matt A - Thursday, 12/06/07 00:14:55 EST

Rolls Joe, we used to do a similar job bending small channel the so-called "easy" way on my Champion tire bender similar to the one below. It has 3" diameter rollers made of cast iron (for friction) with a steel shaft. The concentrated load on the edges of the legs of the channel cracked the upper roll and we had to replace it with steel. This was a tough job with several men guiding the channel and taking turns on the hand crank.

Champion Roller

That should give you an idea of how heavy the rolls need to be. Try Shop Outfitters (tell them we sent you). Then there is an outfit in Australia that makes a small rolls. However, I think both are too light for this job.

Your best bet may be a press or a Hossfeld Bender. For this capacity the Hossfeld works like a press. Since you may need to make dies either way the press may be cheaper. In a press you make a short bend, inch forward, make a short bend. . . It is actually not much different than rolls, just not continuous.

   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/07 09:59:51 EST

Joe, bending channel on edge is not easy. It requires a filler of some kind to keep the channel from collapsing. There are two ways to do this- either fill the channel with a low melting point metal like Cerrobond, or cut a stick of something flexible like PVC plastic, OR you include the profile on the rolls- which is more expensive, but faster, cheaper in large quantities, and give a more consistent result.
The Italians roll a lot of oddball profiles like this- they are often installing new aluminum window frames in 500 year old buildings with curved window shapes.
So the Italians manufacture some of the best rolling machines for this type of work.

Unfortunately, they are not cheap. You cannot roll that big of a profile with a hand operated machine. The biggest hand roller benders out there will roll 1/4" x 2" the easy way- which is a lot less work than your channel the hard way.

A powered roll to do this starts at around 4 grand. If you are only doing a few, you could try doing it hot, with a bending jig and a filler bar. OR, you could job it out- to someone who has already spent thousands on a machine. Even then, this is not an easy bend, and requires a skilled, experienced operator. Most fab shops roll flat bar, or square tube, or pipe, and have never even tried this sort of thing.

To see the machines that do this job properly, go to www.eaglebendingmachines.com
They sell excellent italian made machines here in the USA. There are a good half dozen other distributors of similar machines, including lower priced turkish and chinese models, but you get what you pay for.

Sometimes, there just isnt a hand operated, cheap way to do something that normally takes a $100,000 machine to do it.
Rolling these in quantity, with repeatable curves, is one of those times.

Bending em by hand, slowly and carefully, could be done- as long as you are getting time and materials for the job.
   - ries - Thursday, 12/06/07 10:04:41 EST


Thanks. Between the Guru's, Ries's & Ptree's comments, that's more or less what I had concluded.

I'm partnering up with another guy in my office (who has space for a lathe at his place; I don't) and we're bidding $410 on the Sheldon. I think we have a pretty good shot at getting it. I know it runs, and there doesn't seem to be noticeable slop in the handwheels, so what the heck. For $205, I don't think I'll go too badly wrong.
   Matt B - Thursday, 12/06/07 11:37:20 EST

When tuning a forge burner, what should I look for. I noticed that the zoellerforge site just said a steady flame, and showed a picture of a short blue flame, but the book that I have about propane burners says that a blue flame is a sign of incomplete combustion. Is this worrying too much about details, or do I need to fix something?
   - Hollon - Thursday, 12/06/07 12:10:59 EST

Gurus, Time to clean up the shop during this slow time, I remember my dad using cotton waste back in WW2 when he was a machinist for the RR, Is there any source for this stuff smaller than a trainload? My LG trip is a gooey mess and I like to shine it up for the Solstice. I should probably quit using that bar oil, it is soooo sticky. Thanks Tim
   - Tim in Orygun - Thursday, 12/06/07 13:05:26 EST

I recently came across a picture of a cross forged from a single piece of 3/8 " square bar 5" long,it was described as being made by folding out two perpendicular overlapping saw cuts . I would love to replicate this for a christmass gift. No other info was provided with the picture and I am stumped as to the steps and sequence neccassary to produce the cross. I am a begining smith. Can you provide some instructions? Thanks Chris
   Chris Spach - Thursday, 12/06/07 13:23:59 EST

Hollon, The flames shown outside of a forge mean nothing as the forge creates back pressure and changes the way the burner operates in open air. In a forge I always go by how much flame is outside the door. Too much and you are running to much gas and or too rich. When the forge is operating properly I've never seen a flame in the forge as everything is white hot including the burning gas.

A gas flame normally has two cones, a bright white blue inner cone and a large dark blue outer cone. You want to adjust the mixture until the outer cone just disappears or leaves a slight fuzzy outline. Les fuel and you are oxidizing.

Adjusting a gas flame is the same on a torch, bunsen burner or forge burner. However, doing such with home made burners is DIY engineering where you have to figure it out on your own.

   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/07 13:41:18 EST

Fold Open Cross: Chris, See our iForge demos #56 and #79. It can be done by splitting with a chisel but most folks use a saw.

Since this was posted here in 2000 thousands of smiths have made them and several make a business out of it.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/07 13:54:34 EST

Tim in Orygun,

You'll be sorry if you clean up that LG. If they're not liberally decorated with mung and drool, they don't work right. Be one with the goo, the goo is your friend.
   vicopper - Thursday, 12/06/07 16:14:57 EST


Blue flames coming out of the forge are a sign of (seriously) incomplete combustion. Could that be what the book was referring to?
   Mike BR - Thursday, 12/06/07 17:00:18 EST

i just googled sid sudemayer and your archived site came up wherein you referenced www.littlegiant.com. no matter how i type it in it keeps cross-linking to little giant pump company. do you have contact informtion for sid - i need to get clutch re-babbitted on a 25 lb little giant.
wm. g. greene, blacksmith
   bill greene - Thursday, 12/06/07 17:07:59 EST

I've not bent channel the hard way, but I have bent angle 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 the hard way, by cutting an L-shaped hole in some heavy plate (annealed grader blade) and then an L-shaped bender (also annealed grader blade), heating the angle maybe 6 inches or so at a time with an oxy-acetylene torch/rosebud and leaning into it. You have to have a stout leg vise to hold the angle square to itself. I would try this same approach with channel of the size you are dealing with before I started thinking Hossfeld No.2 or other fab shop-type equipment and such.
   Miles Undercut - Thursday, 12/06/07 18:18:28 EST

How much does a 1/4" thick 4' x 8' plate of steel weigh? I am a 34 year boilermaker.
   Melvin Tennyson - Thursday, 12/06/07 18:40:41 EST

Little Giant Hammers: Bill, I get nothing with your spelling but if you google Little Giant Hammer they come up #2 and our Power Hammer Page is listed shortly after. Our Power hammer Page manufacturers list has the correct address.

   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/07 19:10:42 EST

1/4" thick 4' x 8' plate of steel 326.59 pounds

A cubic foot weighs 490 (489.88) pounds.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/06/07 19:14:44 EST

ello there we are stuck on this question does steel corrode quicker with either a higher or lower carbon content thanks.
   shaun - Friday, 12/07/07 05:45:39 EST

From a past discussion, mild steel weights about .2835 pounds per cubic inch. If I have this correct: .25 x 48 x 96 x .2835.
   Ken Scharabok (Poor Boy Blacksmith Tools) - Friday, 12/07/07 06:55:49 EST

Burner flame: Like Jock says you have to tune the mix to the way combustion occurs inside the forge. Once the forge is hot, increase the propane until you see soft blue tonges of flame at the mouth of the forge. This is unburnt propane and the mix is too rich. Cut the propane back until you see almost no flame at the mouth of the forge. This is too lean. The right mix is inbetween those two settings and usually there is about 3"-4" of yellow /orange dragons breath at the mouth of the forge. You can put a small piece of kaowool in the forge near the mouth and fine tune the mix according to the color of the edges of the wool. Partially covering the mouth of the forge, or even putting a work piece in the forge will alter the back pressure and my require further fine adjustment. After a while you learn to read the dragons breath of your forge.
   adam - Friday, 12/07/07 09:20:01 EST

Weight. We previously talked about the factor of 3.396 which I got from a British chart. If you're in the field and all you have is a pencil for a calculator, you can multiply thickness times width times 3.396, and that will give you the weight per foot-length.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/07/07 09:20:46 EST

The factor I gave for a cubic foot is sometimes helpful. Roughly 500 pounds. There are 32 square feet in the plate. Stacked up in 1/4" layers that is 8" or 2/3 or a foot. This would give you 333 (1/2 of 2/3 of 1000) pounds without using pencil and paper. That is only off by 3.5 pounds which MAY have rusted off the plate or be wintin the tolerance of the plate.

The thing about any of these methods is that they assume you have have a little skill in arithmetic AND that you have some interest in knowing how to figure these things out.

Most people have forgotten all their 8th grade math (if they had it) and do not care. Books are FULL of chars with pounds per foot, pounds per unit of rivets. . . on and on. I never use these except for weights of structural steel sections because THAT is how they are speced out.

Most of my weight calculations have been of hollow cylinders and complicated assemblies here I needed the exact center of gravity. The CG question can be done by hand but I wrote a computer program for it. When you do enough of these it is faster to write code than to make repetitious calculations. . .
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/07 10:10:19 EST

STEEL Rusting My experience is that high carbon steel rusts faster than low (generaqlly). However, this is only true for carbon steels. When you add high amounts of alloying ingredients such as chrome and nickel corrosion often goes way down. Many high carbon steels such as many tool steels are high alloy and thus rust less even though they are high carbon.

THEN there are corrosion resistant steels with small amounts of copper and aluminum that reduce corrosion. They are often plain steels otherwise so it is hard to tell them from other steels without laboratory analysis. Too much of either of these and strength goes way down and corrosion UP. There are also many other factors in why one piece corrodes more than the other.
   - guru - Friday, 12/07/07 10:18:32 EST

Japanese Chisels- The hollow on the back side of these chisels is to allow easier sharpening, specifically when you are flattening. It doesn't add to their cutting ability. I have used several brands extensively as a timber framer and all the ones I used were of very good quality. However, they were all (even the largest, over 2" wide) left very hard during the tempering process. That means they maintain whatever edge you put on them very well unless you have a piece of wood that is dirty or has lots of hard knots. Then they tend to chip. A few years ago the Timberframer's Guild of No. Amer. hosted a team of Japanese temple builders at their annual confrence. I watched one of their masters plane a 6"x6"x8' timber. He spent 5 min. setting his blade depth (by eye) on a 7" hand plane. He then pulled the plane along the timber and shaved off a 6" wide ribbon the length of the timber that was so thin you could see thru it. After one pass he handed the plane blade to an apprentice to be sharpened. They did this after every pass. The blade was incredibly hard.

There is an American blacksmith in California that makes chisels under the "Barr" brand name that are of excellent quality and whatever alloy he uses seems to be less prone to chipping and nicking.
   Jud Yaggy - Friday, 12/07/07 13:09:55 EST

I recently inherited an old forge that my dad had some years ago on the farm from the 1950s. He got it second hand so I'm sure it's much older and that's my question. What have I got and how old is it.
It has a Champion Blower and Forge Co. hand cranked blower. The blower unit attaches to the side and blows through a 2.5" dia. cast iron vent coming up under the fire box and exiting at the middle of the box.

The fire box is cast iron, 18" x 20" x 4" deep.

It stands on 4 rolled steel pipe legs at a heigth of 30". The legs are braced with a 1" x 1/4" flat bar that attaches to all four legs about 6" from the floor.

Except for the legs, all are in good condition, no cracks in the table and the blowers works pefect. I've found no Pat. dates anywhere. On the blower tube there is a number #145-18 and on the underside of the box is #NO-164. I believe these are casting numbers. Inside the fire box is cast "XXXXXXX BEFORE USING" I can't make out the first words but I'd assume they say something like "pre-heat". Cast iron doesn't always do well with a cold start up.

This is obviously an old piece and one I would like to play with. Can you give me any ideas as to what I have and where I can go to find a picture? I have to fabricate a heat shield and need to know what it might look like. I've looked through the web and found nothing.
TY/ Mike Collins
PO Box 146
Southworth, WA. 98386
   Mike Collins - Friday, 12/07/07 14:12:43 EST

Champion Forge: That forge said "Clay Before Using". Forges with flat bottoms needed clay to help reduce thermal shock from heat and to form a "fire pot" around the tuyeer.

It is difficult to determine age on these things because they made the entire line until close to the end in the 1960's.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/08/07 07:58:32 EST

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