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 16 - 23, 2009 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Big Hardy Tools: Well. . . if you have the big anvil, then you should be able to make the tools.

Note that it is generally easier to reduce stick than to upset. If you have a 1.5" hardy hole then obtain some 2" square or 2.25" round tool steel. Fuller a shoulder location and then draw out. In this size stock you will want a BIG hammer, help with a sledge OR a power hammer. Keep the amount to draw out short otherwise it will be a LOT of work. Once you have a shank you can upset the shoulder a bit larger. Plan to make a short heavy cold hardy and a tall slender hot hardy. If you form shoulders on both end of the bar then the triangular sections can be forged down in the middle before cutting in two.

I much prefer these tools to be solid one-piece steel. Others for anything but cutting can be mild or medium carbon steel. Its a heck of a job to do by hand but as I mentioned. . if you have the BIG anvil. . .

   - guru - Wednesday, 12/16/09 00:14:47 EST

Frank Turley, when my father passed away, we went through his belongings and found his old recorder; it was a WIRE recorder! You don't see many of those anymore.
   quenchcrack - Wednesday, 12/16/09 08:22:40 EST

WIRE? That is one I've never seen. Now, I have seen the old wax drum machines. . . Can't remember what they were called, or the major brand. The hardware was beautifully made. Designed to last.

   - guru - Wednesday, 12/16/09 09:40:44 EST

I've seen wire recorders at the fleamarket before and wires from them! Wondered what great or trivial info was stored on them.

Gentlemen no fighting in the War Room! (or something to that effect)

Peace on Earth!
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/16/09 12:03:41 EST

Anvilfire is a wonderful site. Mr. Dempsey is a good man,
fair man and very knowlegable. I enjoy this site, it is the very best one I have ever visited. As Thomas P. said, I also want to say Peace on Earth and do wish everyone a merry Christmas ( also remember God during this time ).
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 12/16/09 13:07:08 EST

When I was in the third grade, my Dad gave me and my brother a combo wire recorder phonograch, that played 45's and 78's only. And it worked. He had just transferred the recordings he had made of the family years before on wire to tape on a reel to reel. The one thing I really remember is that that durn wire would birdnest in a heartbeat if you mishandled the spool.
   ptree - Wednesday, 12/16/09 13:34:01 EST

Wire recorders -- I wonder if that's where the expression "wear a wire" came from?
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 12/16/09 18:13:01 EST

Are the Old WOrld Anvil company's anvils too soft? They emailed me and said the were 44 RC. Is that too soft for a general purpose anvil?
   - Jacob Lockhart - Wednesday, 12/16/09 22:04:51 EST

Jacob, The better made anvils today run about 54-52HRc. But you get what you pay for. If you want better then put that money on a first class old anvil. They often run from 50 to 58HRc. Some are too hard but almost all are as good as the best new anvils.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/17/09 00:18:12 EST

The Old World Anvil advertisement says they are a MINIMUM Rc 44. They could be, and probably are, harder than that. I have had one for about 9 years and it shows very little marking. The marks I can see are very shallow. When I bought it, the price was $360; a bargain. Now, at $850, I am not so sure it is a bargain.
   quenchcrack - Thursday, 12/17/09 08:08:11 EST

The thing about anvil hardness is the old ones were just sold as "hardened", with no picky specs. In general, due to the process many smaller anvils were too hard and chipped easily and big anvils were hardest on the corners where they needed to be a bit softer.

IF you use a hammer properly and work on well rounded edges of an anvil it will get smoother over time, largely due to wear from scale but also from a few strikes with a properly crowned hammer face. If you try to makes points in the middle of the face or do anything else that lets the corners of a hard hammer hit the best anvil face it WILL get dinged. If you use a cold chisel directly over the face it WILL get dinged. If you cold work hard steel on the anvil it WILL get dinged.

The anvils I used for years, including my first "starter" anvil, did nothing but get smoother over time. But in one day an "apprentice" but hundreds of dings in the middle of my big (too hard) Kohlswa by not working on the edges as he was instructed to do. . .

On the other hand, anvils used in commercial shops where a lot of punching and working with sledges goes on get pretty rough. Anvils used in production processes get worn and swayed. They ARE a tool and they do wear, and eventually wear out under heavy use.

The anvils that are "too soft" are the really cheaply made cast iron and near cast iron junkers commonly sold on ebay and by many hardware stores. If you buy an anvil from any reputable blacksmith too dealer (see our advertisers) it will be suitable for blacksmithing. But if you want the hardest top quality NEW anvil expect to pay a lot.

There are still thousands of very good OLD anvils to be found as well. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 12/17/09 09:35:39 EST

I have an old HB that was stored in an unheated shed for 50 or so years in a swampy area. Surface was finely pitted all over due to condensation. I decided not to touch it and just let it polish out from use---you can tell where the most iron gets hammered already. Lovely anvil and no problem with the face imprinting on the work.

Seems to be quite hard as none of my students has dinged it yet. (and they try---some are *very* trying!---one thing that helps is to mark the sweetspot on the face with soapstone on the sides and tell them *NOT* to try using a sledge out on the thin heel but to keep it within the sweet spot marks.)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 12/17/09 11:37:11 EST

Ptree mentions the wire recorder spool birds nesting.. kinda like any MIG wire spool? Not that it's ever happened to me (yet)
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 12/17/09 12:41:22 EST


question about the changing of OEM to after market dies on a 50 1942 model little giant hammer
Looked at the top die and it appears to have a taper on both sides I bought these dies from Sid Suedemier at a Bam meeting and have just tried to replace the OEM die. The question is........could this be right... according to your last explanation one side should be tapered and use a taper wedge to tighten the die flat edge to a flat edge in the hammer is this correct. Is there a possibility that the new die would need two tapered wedges to hold it in place .I sure hope I have used the right nomenclature to be understood.

   George - Thursday, 12/17/09 13:29:59 EST

Late Little Giant Top Dies

The above is what I remember from my 50# LG 25 years ago. . . AND from a LG ram photo. I cannot remember if the die is tapered or the dovetail. But in either case one side is straight and the wedge required two tapers. I may also have the wedge taper reversed. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 12/17/09 14:51:19 EST

I have one light straight pein hammer that's marked on both sides of the handle "DO NOT USE ON ANVIL." It's useful, but just too hard for any of the faces. When someone misses (and they _will_ miss) it will either ding or chip the face.

Hardness is relative!

Vaguely sunny and getting much colder on the banks of the Potomac. Snow due this weekend; just in time for my Christmas and MarsCon forging session.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 12/17/09 14:53:35 EST

I recenty found a 255lb Columbus Forge made Arm & Hammer anvil. I personally have never seen one much bigger than my 160lb, is this an unusual size? The horn has been worked on the bottom, back to around 3in so that you can form a pretty perfect 2.5in circle, the tip has been mushroomed out about an inch instead of coming to a point and there is a 1.5in long X 1/2in wide chip in the heel on the top plate. No other problems. Think this is worth $3.00 a pound?
   Thumper - Thursday, 12/17/09 15:09:12 EST

Out here in NM; maybe; back in OH *NO*; where you at ???????

   Thomas P - Thursday, 12/17/09 16:25:11 EST

A MIG wire birdsnest is nothing compared to a wire recorder one! The recorder wire is so fine.
   - John Odom - Thursday, 12/17/09 16:31:52 EST

There is always a question about the value of modified anvils. Horn cross section is a serious point of contention among many smiths. Round is considered bad as lightly ovoid gives a greater variety of curves to work with. In the end we all learn to use what we have. . .

Tip mushrooming is common from non-smiths beating on the tip of the horn. I do not know why they do it, but THEY have done it to thousands of anvils. . . However, horns do not come to a sharp point. From about a 3/8" flat to 5/8" (10mm to 16mm) depending on the anvil size is normal. A sharp point is dangerous. Can you say femoral hemorrhaging?

The price seems a little high for an anvil in not so pristine condition. On the other hand it is probably a better tool than you can but new for the money.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/17/09 16:58:21 EST

George, Sid has some information on his site about fitting die keys that may be useful to you. http://www.littlegianthammer.com/pdf_files/FitDieKey.pdf
   Dave F - Thursday, 12/17/09 17:00:51 EST

Has anyone repaired/built up an anvil with mig using Rankin “RANOMATIC DDG (martesitic alloy, rc 56). Have not tried or directly spoken to anyone who tried it but found it on web as alternative to the stoody rods. My main concerns are hardness and color difference after welds are ground. The stoody rods match the old metal so that you cannot see a color difference - mig sure would be easier.
   David Bernard - Thursday, 12/17/09 18:31:43 EST

I have restored a number of mushroomed horns on wrought anvils. Before mounting, I tip the anvil back on its heel and heat the damaged horn with a rosebud or gas hatchet. I start hammering on the bottom and gradually work my way up both sides, finally truing up the top. I round up the horn tip. Where the fibrous wrought structure separates, I forge weld as I go. Air cool.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 12/17/09 19:27:48 EST

I usually just grind them to dress the horn. But if it was bad enough I would use Franks method.
   - guru - Thursday, 12/17/09 21:20:20 EST

Nip, the problem with obsolete technology is not that it is old and some how should be seen as of no use, it's when that technology is no longer supported that it bcomes impractical.
I have a couple hundred casset tapes, probably a few MILES of reel to reel and probaly nearly 300 albums. I have all the fine equipment to play them on thanks to all the rich and stupid collage kids in town that have been throwing out all of their high Q audio for cd players and i pods for the last 15+ years.
What happens when the tape or album wears out? Most of my RtoR is no good because the iron just wipes right off from the plastic tape.
I recorded most of my albums onto casset for everyday play but what are guys like you and me going to do when the supply of NOS blank tape dries up?
BTW, don't think that good 'ol Uncle Sugar doesn't keep several examples of every kind of information storage and retrieval system made for just such the emergency you refer to.
Ever heard of an IBM Magwrighter? It's a type wrighter that makes punch cards from its type wrighten pages and visa versa. I have two working examples to go along with 30, 10" floppy disks for my Tanndy TRS 80
They all work fine but, to rely on them with out any kind of support structure would be folly.
Unfotunatly people that design and build information storage devices are only interested in making money not, preserving the knowlage of humanity. They will continue to come up with "new and better" ways for us to blindly give them all our money, I'm sure...
   - merl - Friday, 12/18/09 00:07:31 EST

Our first VCR cost $1500 and lasted almost 20 years. Cost, less than $100/yr. Our last VCR cost $50 but only lasted about a year. . . While the cost per time unit was less the quality of the play was also lower. Is this progress?
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 01:07:13 EST

My (uninformed & un-researched) theory for the blunting of anvil horns is that users try to drift an eye or hole over the tip of the horn, and due to lack of hammer control, miss the work and hit the horn tip directly with a hammer. This would happen when the diameter is such that it just fits over the tip, leaving none to maybe one inch protruding. This explains the slight blunting we commonly see. There are certainly other reasons.

This is based on self-observation. A better procedure is to use a drift over a hole in the face, which is less damaging to tools, and les distorting to the work.
   Dave Leppo - Friday, 12/18/09 07:00:17 EST

Anvil Horn Abuse: Dave, this might be true in a few cases but I've seen many otherwise pristine anvils with the horn not blunted but mushroomed and swollen. Then many that are not so pristine often look like they have been used to cut chain cold on both the face and horn but the cutting table is unmarked and horn tip mushroomed (expaning chain links?). These appear to have come from maintenance shops or garages where they cut a lot of chain (such as truck and auto snow chains - judging from the ding sizes) using a cold chisel. Non-smiths. . .

I've never seen the problem on other smiths tools used for similar purpose such as cone mandrels, anvil cones, or anvil bicks. Once in a while I've seen it on large stake anvils but not very often. Since these are tools rarely found anywhere other than a real blacksmiths' shops one could assume that the same people that like hitting the tip of a horn with a hammer were not in these shops.

I think as smiths when we run into the problem of the part not fitting the horn we find another way. We might find this limit with our hammer once in a while but I doubt we would repeatedly keep doing it. But maybe I'm wrong. . .

I have always imagined a mean red-neck type with a destructive streak that would sit on the anvil in a farm or maintenance shop and absent mindedly sit there taping the horn on the anvil with a big hammer just because he could and nobody stopped him. . .

You all know these guys by their works. They are the same ones that rip apart public men's room facilities and just HAVE to carve their names a hand high and half an inch deep in any wooden public structure, especially covered bridges and park signs.

   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 08:34:15 EST

Passing technology:

Merl's comment tied in with an observation I just made last night: I was at the funeral home for a friend's mother (she was in her 80s) and noticed in her biographical notes that her first job (before marrying and moving to the farm) out of High School was as a key-punch operator in D.C. Cutting-edge technology. One of my early jobs was converting the old key-punch room into office space. So, we went from cutting edge to technically extinct in about a generation. Not a new problem, as I recall; Queen Elizabeth I forbade early knitting machines lest they rob her female subjects of their livelyhoods.

Now fixing to snow 9-15 inches on the banks of the Potomac starting tonight.

Visit your National Parks: Now working on Boston African American National Historic Site www.nps.gov/boaf

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 12/18/09 10:07:18 EST

Frank, when you rework the tip, do you back the opposite side you're striking with a cone shaped swage? Also, Guru, my smaller (160lb), A&H has a point, not needle sharp, but not safe either (I've moved too fast in the shop a couple of times and paid the price on my thigh). Would this be a factory finish or a modification? I can send a pic if you'd like to see it.
   Thumper - Friday, 12/18/09 11:03:31 EST

Thumper, Each manufacturer was a little different but all those old anvils I've seen that appeared to be in factory condition had fairly healthy flats on the "point" as do all NEW anvil manufacturers.

Besides the bodily danger issue there are other practical reasons. One is that anvils were and still are often shipped loose. Shippers would not take one with a dangerous point. The other is that it could be easy to damage.
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 11:24:51 EST

Bruce. "Boston African"??
   Carver Jake - Friday, 12/18/09 11:28:44 EST

Thumper you may want to make a nose guard for that anvil to avoid intimate acquaintance with it!

Just had a birthday earlier this week and now am feeling *old* as I remember what a stride forward it was using keypunch over the teletype with punched paper tapes for programming...

   Thomas P - Friday, 12/18/09 12:25:43 EST

I know a rather prominent smith that has a sharp point on about a 350 pound anvil. He keeps the face of the anvil as well as that point polished. It scares the heck out of me to be around it. I've gotten more than one bruise bumping into the horn of my anvils. . . That sharp point would do damage to clothing and more than a bruise to flesh.

Yeah, I remember when "key-punch" operators were the big need and there were training schools for them. THAT was short lived occupational training. Many years ago I had my choice of my late father-in-law's programming manuals. All college level main-frame stuff but I thought they would be educational. . . almost NO programming info! They were about punch cards and how to manually punch a program onto one or more cards and how to run multiple cards as a "batch".
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 14:16:03 EST

Thomas, Just had my B-day yesterday.....61 and counting!! I've learned a healthy respect for my anvil horn and slow from 78rpms to 33 1/3rpms when going around it anymore!! Guru, mine came loose shipped 5 years ago with the tip as is, guess it's the exception that proves the rule....whatever that means LOL.
   Thumper - Friday, 12/18/09 14:20:41 EST

Thumper, You can't be THAT old! When I hear "Thumper" I think of the cute little bunny in "Bambi"

Since anvils are individually hand ground there can be quite a difference from one to the next.

Ever see what an anvil sliding around in the back of a pickup truck can do? Even fairly blunted horns make big ugly bullet holes in the sheet metal!
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 14:35:00 EST

Thumper, No. I hammer it "freehand." The anvil is heavy and doesn't go anywhere, nor does it need bucking.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 12/18/09 14:46:39 EST

Snow: Well, for the first time in decades the weather prognosticators predicted a major pre-Christmas snow in the South East and its actually snowing. . . 2" (5cm) so far in the Northern NC foothills and its still coming down strong.
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 15:12:23 EST

Yep, heading towards the NE region, to hit Philly tonight/tomorrow. Whatever Bruce is dealing with now I'll get later. Time to attempt the Conan sequence of quenching in snow... BOG
   - Nippulini - Friday, 12/18/09 17:30:22 EST

How to weld together letters to make words such as name and address in front yard. Bill Richardson, Blue Ridge, Texas 75424
   Billy Richardson - Friday, 12/18/09 17:39:10 EST

How is the best way to weld letters together to make words? Like my name for the front yard.
   - Billy Richardson - Friday, 12/18/09 17:41:20 EST

Guru, My wife annointed me with that nickname when I lit off my JYH for the first time....she's the cute bunny in our family. Also, actually I CAN be that old, but judging from the overzealous energy (some might call it immaturity), with which I attack some of the thing's I enjoy doing, I probably SHOULDN'T be that old, it's not safe for old(er) bones and eyes!!

Thanks Frank.
   Thumper - Friday, 12/18/09 19:28:23 EST

Words and Letters: Billy,

There are lots of ways to do this. They CAN be forge welded and would be very good practice for all the joint types. See our iForge welding demos and the on-line books.

I use oxy-acetylene welding for this kind of thing due to its flexibility and controlability. Others with TIG would suggest that as well.

Regular arc welding would also work but takes quite a bit of practice on small work. Besides welding, riveting can be used.

The first step to making forged letters is to plan them to be as few pieces as possible. In really first class work the letters are one piece. Chiseled, forged, cut, punched.

How you do such work is largely a matter of your shop or personal capacity.
   - guru - Friday, 12/18/09 20:41:39 EST

I use 1/8" rod for letters. I get lots of free rod after election season (all those little signs stuck in the grass). I forge the letters and arc weld them together. Sometimes I have even written words in cursive and use an entire length of continuous rod. As Guru mentioned, arc welding small stuff takes practice, but my specialty is small stuff.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 12/19/09 07:59:54 EST

Just noticed how someone could misinterpret my post. When I said "I use 1/8 rod" I meant as stock for the letters, not 1/8 welding rod.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 12/19/09 08:01:11 EST

Well, you COULD use 1/8" welding rod for the material OR for filler when gas welding. . . That size filler works almost as well as the smaller 1/16" stuff typically used on small work. I forged some very small horse shoes from 1/16" welding rod many years ago. Occasionally I use 1/8 coated stainless welding rod when I need a little piece for a rivet or a pin but I also used some for the frame of a belt buckle once.

In the shop things get used in every possible way, not just their primary purpose.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/19/09 10:45:24 EST

We were walking recently on our ranch in the Black Mountains in Kingman, AZ. We found a hand forged iron stake. It is about 36" long, 3/4" diameter, octogon shaped with a spade point and a looped top. It has been there a long time. By the marks on the loop is was driven into the mountain at one time. Can you tell us what it is.
Thank you Linda
   Linda Williams - Saturday, 12/19/09 10:58:47 EST

Linda, Not a clue. Loops are generally not a good hammering shape as they collapse.

My best guess is the anchor for something. If it had been in a drilled hole or very solid earth it could be the anchor point for a crane, hoist or derrick cable. Or it could have been the anchor for pulling something up a hill.

Various pins and anchors are often found in stone anywhere construction moving heavy stone was done. Mines, bridges, dams, RR cuts, are all the kind of place you would find such a thing.

On a much smaller scale you find some mountains covered with steel pitons used for climbing. It is only recently that climbers have realized that this was a form of defacing the thing they loved and now use removable hardware.
   - guru - Saturday, 12/19/09 11:12:00 EST

Iron Stake: It might have had a goat or a cow attached to it at some point.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 12/20/09 02:57:59 EST

Leave it to me to overlook the simple.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/20/09 03:50:41 EST

How does one become a "registered" user for other areas of anvilfire?
   smithy - Sunday, 12/20/09 06:51:30 EST

Smithy, Check your mail.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/20/09 09:49:54 EST

thank you, I was figuring there was some kind of tech. difficulty. Also I really haven't been using the computer since the days of the junkyard blacksmith in the 90's I think
I'm still full time smithing, gittin' older though. Thanks again.
   larry hagberg - Sunday, 12/20/09 10:41:09 EST

Grue,and the rest that helped get the dies into my 50lb little giant.
.Gents it took all weekend but I finally figured out what the heck was wrong with the die on top and the problem with the wedge not working and all the rest of the miss alignment problems.You know I just moved from one location to the other and Im the one a couple of months ago that ask about the base of a little giant. Which I built and works fine. Well guys the problem is when I moved and reassembled the hammer some how I put the sow block in backwards hence when I installed the new die on the bottom in the backwards sow block the die was backward congruent to the top and that is why the top was having so much problem.The new die needed no filling or any thing else in the way of machine fitting and the wedges worked perfectly from OEM to After market. Grue you might want to file this away for the next goof that cant get his dies to fit.If I had ground and filed
the die... that would have been a couple of hundred bucks shot in the butt. All the blue seating stuff and shims and wedges in the world wouldnt have solved this.Think twice and do once.
   George - Sunday, 12/20/09 18:40:46 EST

OK so I am ordering several of the listed books for beginners from the library. I h ave found my self a nice 14 inch brake drum and have a nice chunk o rail road. I understand there will be lots of mistakes and a long education ahead of me.
My goal is to become a primitive tool maker; not a machinist but the basic axes( I am aware this is a rather advanced tool and I will not be making them early on) shovels picks. Hopefully eventually working up to finer hand tools as my skill set evolves.
MY question is " are there certain skills or subsets of knowledge i should be paying special attention to over others for this goal?"
   Shiloh - Sunday, 12/20/09 19:38:57 EST

George, The other half of the story is. . . TELL EVERYTHING. You hadn't mentioned that the entire hammer had been disassembled including removing the sow block. Nore that the "fit" problem was between upper and lower die alignment. There are lots of parts on machines that fit backwards and go un-noticed until the end. . . Imagine if the machine had been sold with the dies removed and the sow block reversed. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 12/20/09 20:22:16 EST

How refreshing! A young'un that doesn't want to make The Sword of Damocles from a lamination of unobtainium and gold, folded a thousand times and tempered in the blood of a virgin (waste of a good virgin, that).

O.K. Shiloh, you're off to a great start. First thing is get a fire made, then beat a bunch of iron. Do/learn/do better. Read anything you can find. Tell us where you are located, might be a blacksmith right down the road from you.
   - grant - Sunday, 12/20/09 21:24:36 EST

Shiloh, Making axes by hand generally requires forge welding. This can be a difficult skill to master with a poor forge and frustrating for some at best. Others take to it like a fish to water. It is a key skill for what you want to do.

As Grant pointed out, get some steel hot, pound on it. part of training to do forge work is to develop the correct muscles along with eye-hand coordination for this specific skill set. Moving metal is an art. As you practice it will go faster and then all of a sudden you will wonder why you thought it was so frustrating at first. . . Practice making simple things over and over. And like any reasonable exercise program, stop when it hurts. Overdoing with a hammer can permanently mess up your wrist, elbow or shoulder.

It helps a LOT to work at it some every day. If all you do is make ONE little hook or point a bar each day you will advance more than if you work long hours every weekend.

Let us know when you are stumped.
   - guru - Sunday, 12/20/09 21:42:41 EST

I make a lot of collars for connecting square stock to flat with rivets, something like this ___| |___ (the top is closed, it's all one piece, just can't show it right w/ the symbols on the keyboard). Each one by hand, I'm trying come up with a set of swage & fuller (maybe a spring swage type), to make this unit in one heat, any suggestions?
   Thumper - Sunday, 12/20/09 21:58:34 EST

If its a flanged collar (upside down U with flanges) it should be pretty easy. Just make your matching tools with stock clearance PLUS a bit more (+.005" to .010). Radius the corners as much as you can stand but on fairly thin stock for small bar it should go pretty easily.

This kind of tooling works best if well guided. It can be struck by hand or used in a press (fly press, arbor press, vise).
   - guru - Sunday, 12/20/09 22:16:05 EST

I live on the east end of long island in NY. I would like to add btw that we have a coal supplier out here I forget their name but they are on rt 112 about a mile north of the expressway on the western side of the road. I am also aware that some where near Blue Point NY. Is a blacksmith supply shop. Being broke I'm starting as simply as possible.

As for swords well to be honest swords and armor are cheap and easy to come by. In fact almost as easy as to find some one who THINKs they have skill with them. Tools on the other hand are what make a society function. And so I have come to decide at 35 that I want to learn how to make them my self by hand. Besides there is an incredible aesthetic to a well made hand tool.

Some work every day sounds about the perfect pace for me as blowing out tendion would be well crippling.

As for axes I am aware this is not a skill level that I will be attaining early one. A knife can be a fairly straight forward proscess in its motion and shape. Axes are a matter of much more complicated motion and thought.

Again thank you fo the advice I will continue to check back and from time to time search out you advice.
   Shiloh - Monday, 12/21/09 01:41:33 EST

Shiloh, We assume you're a young'un, but we don't know how old. Toolsmithing is one of my favorite things. There is a market for some tools which may be hard to find. For example, Peter Gott, the log home builder uses a socketed 2" wood chisel. I had a student log builder who had me make a "gutter adze," an adze with a compound curve for cutting the saddle notch in the log. I made it from mild steel and forge welded in the high carbon bit. Many shops had a cold hardie as well as a hot hardie, the cold one having an included angle of 60º. I don't think I've seen them in recent catalogs. Hand forged tools can have a nice aesthetic. There are some books which are difficult to find and are expensive, but I will list them anyway. They are large, cloth back, picture books with accompanying texts.
> "l'outil" (French Text) by Paul Feller and Fernand Tourret. 1978. 225 pages.
> "le livre de l'outil" (French Text) by André Velter and Marie-José Lamothe. 2003. 479 pages.
> "Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use" by Toshio Odate. Taunton Press, 1984. 189 pages.
> "China at Work" by Rudold P. Hommel. Bucks County (Penna.) Historical Society. 1937. 366 pages.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 12/21/09 10:13:48 EST

Toolmaking: Alloys, forging temps, HEAT TREAT! and also ergonomics and aesthetics. Remember that the commercial examples are often not the best designs so copying them is not a good idea.

   Thomas P - Monday, 12/21/09 10:30:05 EST

Thanks Guru, pretty much what I figured, just thought it would be wise to ask before re-inventing the wheel so to speak.
   Thumper - Monday, 12/21/09 10:59:47 EST

The thing about tool making is that a very small shop can turn out a LOT of tools. One can start with all hand methods but to make a living at it a power hammer is a necessity.

There are lots of craftsfolks that need hard to find or specialty tools. Woodworking tools vary from turner's tools and fine carving to heavy timber framing tools. Repousse' artist's tools vary in size from little miniature jewelery stamps to heavy plate hammers the weight of sledges.

Due to the reduction in large tool companies making these kinds of tools the field is wide open for for small specialty manufacturers. However, like any business opportunity it should be well researched first.
   - guru - Monday, 12/21/09 11:10:30 EST


You'll need slitters or slot punches for pick eyes, and drifts for both picks and axe heads. They're reasonable beginner projects, and will help you learn heat treating and grinding as well as basic forging. (They do require tool steel, though, and you'll want to use mild steel for your very first projects).

Tongs are a bit more complex, but you'll need those as well, and they're good for working on precise forging.

When you're ready, the book "Swedish Blacksmithing" has a pretty good section on axes. It was reviewed briefly in The Hammer's Blow, and I flipped through a copy in a store in Sweden last summer. Unfortunately, it's not cheap, here or in Sweden.
   Mike BR - Monday, 12/21/09 13:15:10 EST

I thought I posted this question, but it must have been lost in my bit bucket. I have a friend who asked it replacing plastic bits on his (saltwater) boat with brass, which would be connected to aluminum would cause any problems with the brass and aluminum swapping electrons and the like, I told him I would ask the quantum mechanics. So if you can help
I thank you in advance
   - Tim in Orygun - Monday, 12/21/09 17:41:36 EST

Shiloh, I have made a small biz making trowels from RR spikes, with about 200 now sold. I find that marketing is key. I sell at a high end nursery, and demo there a couple of times a year. I sell them as "gaurenteed for my lifetime not to bend or break" I tell the old gardeners that the trowels are a tool that is nice to look at and use, and that a tool should be as nice as the work you expect to do with it.
Selling trowels at $40+ retail on a part time basis and selling 200 in about 8 years shows that there is indeed a market. I have put them recently on ETSY.COM and sold the first one.
There are people that like and treasure fine tools. Many of them write on this site:)
   Ptree - Monday, 12/21/09 18:34:55 EST

Brass is a poor choice due to "dezincifacation" properly, intergranular corosion, 2xxx aluminum alloys are suseptable to this also. Aluminum is low in the galvanic series, and will have problems with any common metals other than zinc or magnesium. If a more noble material is used for the fittings, it needs to be elecrticly insulated from the aluminum. Plastic or formica works well for this. Fasners made of stainless steel should be insulated with plastic tubes and plastic washers, where a stainless screw is used with a hole tapped in aluminum, Teff Gell or Lock Tight should be used to seal and insulate the junction. Otherwisw corosion is guaranteed, and removal of the fastner will be impossible.

Aluminum other than the 2xxx type, bronze and stainless could be used to replace the plastic parts, as could phenolic resin board
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 12/21/09 19:59:59 EST


Isn't 2XXX aluminum primarily alloyed with copper? I'm pretty sure 7XXX is the one with a lot of zinc.

   Mike BR - Monday, 12/21/09 20:19:20 EST

Mike, You are right, and it is the difference in galvanic potential between the aluminum and copper that causes the intergranular corosion. The noble copper causes the aluminum to be eaten away.

7xxx is not great for corosion resistance, but I used some for above deck hardware parts on My sailboat and it held up well. The aluminum and zinc are much closer together on the galvanic scale than aluminum and copper.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 12/21/09 20:37:43 EST

In saltwater applications the aluminum alloy parts should match the hull they are used on OR be pure aluminum. Non-critical parts could be any similar alloy but should be anodized.

Galvanic Series from our FAQ's pages.
   - guru - Monday, 12/21/09 21:14:41 EST

As a former weekend rock climber in the lower part of VA. I found the post on the steel pitons interesting. The December 2009 issue of Mother Earth News has an article on
the founder of Chouinard Climbing Equiptment, a Mr.Yvon Chouinard. Mr.Chouinard became a blacksmith so he could forge the harder steel pitons ,He and other climbers
were not happy with the soft iron pitons available at that time in 1950.He found a forge,anvil and some tongs at a junkyard and learned to forge the pitons and sold them for a $1.50 each out of the trunk of his car and in 1965 founded Chouinard Climbing Equipment.In 1970 he faced the problem of his pintons being hammered in and out rock
cracks that they were causing damage to the rock faces,
came up with aluminum chocks that only wedged in the cracks
and were easily removed with no harm to the rock called
"clean climbing" steel pitons sales dropped to nothing in a few months.His company today is called Patagonia, makers of many types of outdoor gear that now has grown to a $330
million dollar enterprise,the article shows Mr.Chouinard
leaning on his Little Giant power hammer.
   - Greg S - Monday, 12/21/09 21:49:41 EST

Hey Shiloh, welcome to the club.
Yes there are alot of good books out there on the subject of blacksmithing but, nothing beats first hand observation and guidence from a knowledgeable blacksmith. Try to find one someware that you can visit with or at least talk with on the phone now and then. It has been a great deal of help to me in my efforts to have a good freind who is an accomplished smith and can hang on the phone for a couple of hours every now and again.
Here are acouple of You Tube vids that you might enjoy.
If you search on you tube for: Schmieden von Forstwerkzeug
or, Blacksmithing forge-welding a branch, I think you'll like them.

I would also like to extend a winter solstice and holiday greeting to all of the fine folks and patrons who make this web site so enjoyable.
While we sit comfortably around the tree and table with our family and friends let's give a silent thanks to all our brothers and sisters at arms around the world who keep us free and safe. They won't ask for praise or recognition but, deserve it none the less. Let us also not forget those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and those for whom the wars will never end.
   - merl - Monday, 12/21/09 22:47:30 EST

Greg, Great history, and great "blacksmith" success story. While we can't all be the Michelangelos of the blacksmithing world, there are still a lot of niches to fill.

A lot of outdoor activities like climbing have had their ups and downs. The stability of some beach dunes is so fragile that one car or bike track through the grass can cause a blow out and complete reshaping of the beach. The formations in many caves are so delicate that simply letting in fresh air with people to look at them destroys them. Popularity is the doom of many wonderful places. Yosemite is a wonderful place but the traffic there is like down town in a city and car and truck fumes have replaced the smells of pine and moss. Most or the East coast beach areas are one long strip mall punctuated by a few swamps and limited access areas.

While it is sad in some ways, limiting access by reservation or lottery will be the future of more and more places in order to preserve them.
   - guru - Monday, 12/21/09 23:05:05 EST

Guru, My son-in-law said it best, "To many rats in the cage".
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 12/22/09 13:00:30 EST

I've got a 10" dia., two burner pipe forge I made at a blacksmith seminar. The 3/4" pipe burner tubes enter horizontaly at the top. Behind them are 45 degree ells about a foot long with the gas/air mixing chambers [pipe bell reducers] on the bottom end.
What I'd like to do is add another 45 degree ell onto the original so it makes a 90 degree bend so to save space and make my cabinet more compact. I would think a 90 degree elbow would be a to abrupt transition, but might be ok with the two 45's hooked together.
Any ideas?
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 12/22/09 13:17:43 EST

Jake, All you can do is try it. Many commercial forges have right angle bends at the top of the forge. On the other hand, I tried a 45 on a burner I have and it would not operate at all. So you have a 45 working. . . But I have a feeling that one 90 is better than two 45's. . . just a feeling.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/22/09 13:29:36 EST

Jake, A "Long sweep radius ell" would be best. Not usually available in small threaded pipe fittings. If you can weld, you can get the butt weld type and use that. A long radius sweep ell has the least restriction of any 90 degree type.
   ptree - Tuesday, 12/22/09 13:36:38 EST

hi kinda an odd question, but other then the obvious (damascus/ wootz steel) does anyone know any metal creations or history from the middle east? i am doing a project in arabic class and am having trouble finding good resources. if you all would not mind pointing me in the right direction or giving me sources and such that would be really great. thanks in advance and happy holidays!
ps. i actually do cite things so i give credit where credit is due.
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 12/22/09 13:45:06 EST

Bigfoot, Check my book review of "Locks from Iran". There is a very interesting religious connection with the wearing of locks besides the metalwork. The book is pretty rare but I managed to find two copies.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/22/09 14:31:04 EST

thanks guru, but a minor techinicality is that according to my teacher Iran is not part of the middle east (thanks a ton though, as this is one of the first thing i thought of on this site. his definition of the middle east is any country that speaks arabic, iran speaks farsi). still that was a great idea and happy holidays!
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 12/22/09 14:41:43 EST

Bigfoot, Look up "Hero" of Alexandria. He is credited with the first reaction jet engine, among many other items.
   ptree - Tuesday, 12/22/09 15:04:45 EST

   - guru - Tuesday, 12/22/09 15:42:57 EST

Hero (Or Heron) was a engineer and inventor in alexandria Egypt. He may or may not have been greek, but Egypt was in its Ptolemic era then.
Google him. He would probably have fit in on the Guru's den, as he was also a serious math geek Or Greek:)
   ptree - Tuesday, 12/22/09 16:12:06 EST

Bigfoot, I find interesting the blend of Moorish and Spanish cultures after the 711 AD conquest. The Moors stayed in Spain about 8 centuries. Where the arts blended, including some metalwork, the work was given the title, "Mudejar." Although Iberia is not the Middle East proper, if your teacher doesn't find the circum-Mediterranean connection fascinating, "I pity the poor fool." Thanks to Mr. T.

As an aside, I understand that Islamic art could not include human or animal figures, and that may explain why some of their work involved geometric patterns.
Ref: Byne & Stapley, "Spanish Ironwork," 1915.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 12/22/09 17:24:41 EST

Jake: I used a pipe bender to bend the burner tube on My forge, it turns about 135 degrees. This removes the "chimney effect" when the forge is shut down as well as keeping the whole assembly compact.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 12/22/09 19:35:21 EST


Google Uri Hofi and you'll find plenty of metal creations. I guess Isreal might not meet your teacher's definition of "middle east," though.

Dave Boyer: Thanks for the explantion on 2XXX aluminum -- that makes sense. I suppose aluminum bronze would be a bad material choice for the same reason. But then every time I think I understand something about metalurgy, I end up being surprised.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 12/22/09 19:47:54 EST

Again thank you guys. I was in the area of the coal shop to day and got the address and contact info for you guys to add to your resources list.
Rella Coal
2970 Route 112
Medford, NY 11763
(631) 736-0469

And the blacksmith shop ( i have yet to have a chance to visit.)

Spirit Iron Works Inc
732 Montauk Hwy
Bayport, NY 11705
(631) 419-1185

Thank you again for your advices. I already have my librarian trying to track down some of the suggested reading materials (though in honestly some of them do not look promising.) Aside from reading this winter i will begin turning my brake drum into a small forge. If all goes well I hope to be able to build a brick coal forge in the fall.
Again my thanks to you guys and guru.

OH on a side note. About mithiral or mythral or a dozen or so othe names I have seen it referred to by. Many years ago in an anthropology class we where discussing the the influence of myths in modern mythology and writing. We discussed Tolkien and his reference to it. IT seem that there is a historical version of this metal and its name in Babylonian times. IT is star metal or meteorites with high iron content. But t his is from one fairly insane professor who was also obsessive about Olmec's as well. But it struck me as logical and coherent with historical fact so I have taken it at face value.
   Shiloh - Tuesday, 12/22/09 19:55:39 EST

Projects: hey thanks guys for the ideas (i will ask about this stuff tommorow in school)! thanks ptree and Mr. Turley for the reference to Heron(?) and spainish muslim art (i forgot about that one!). i think i remember some stuff about that stuff so thanks a ton for the help and Mike BR, Mr. Hofi is a great idea, but i need a good grade! (muslim+Israeli references/compliments=bad combination if you do not like conflict) thanks a ton for all the help and i will for sure use theese references (and actually cite you guys as a source!) in my project. happy holidays to all and i hope winter goes well for you guys!
   bigfoot - Tuesday, 12/22/09 21:28:24 EST

Any idea what leaf springs and coil springs on cars are made of? I know certain Chevy truck leafsprings from awhile back are 5160, but what are most now adays? Anything that will hold an edge?
   - Anomaly - Tuesday, 12/22/09 21:36:12 EST

Anomaly, See FAQ's Junkyard Steels.
   - guru - Tuesday, 12/22/09 23:34:18 EST

hey guys sorry to sound like an arse yesterday (long day and i was taking it out on you guys) i just wanted to apologize and try to not sound so rude. thanks for the help though and happy holidays.
   bigfoot - Wednesday, 12/23/09 06:32:21 EST

Shiloh, The Indiana Blacksmithing Assoc. has a sattalite group in Paoli Indiana, that I belong to, know as "The Southern Indiana Meteor Mashers" This name came from the forge master, Billy Merrit's passion for making Viking style swords with iron/nickel meteor included in the billet. He makes very very nice full swords from the billets, and is known also as "The King of junkyard damacus" for his forgewelding abilities and use of everyday junkyard stuff to make high quality pattern welded steel.
   ptree - Wednesday, 12/23/09 07:03:36 EST

what town are you in, near medford? and most importantly you made a slight reference to"knowing how to use them" are you a kendo player?, the truth sure takes the fun out of those sword movies doesn't it? do you ever get to the city? could be interesting for you.
   - nysmithy - Wednesday, 12/23/09 07:08:07 EST

I live out in Hampton Bays. I goofed around with ARMA and SCA stuff for a little; I even l.a.r.p. from time to time. Kendo is not something i am terribly familiar with beyond a basic knowledge of what it is. On a side note to those interested in practicing early fighting styles i would advise beginners to use boffers. Foam padded pvc is their normal construction and with limited restriction they can be used for practice without grave injury. Swords ,daggers, Axes, stave's, and most weapons take time and patience to learn Like smithing itself. The stylistic fighting seen in most movies is actually done for safety reason fighting high and wide minimizes risk of accidental contact. Sadly the movies have driven errors in myth and fact home as reality. Sadder still because it detracts from the great amount of skill required to wield these tools of war. Personally i prefer an 1858 navy colt .44 mush less effort to master and much more likely to prevent me from getting harmed
   Shiloh - Wednesday, 12/23/09 14:50:42 EST

the old cap and ball? own one myself' 1864 rogers and Spence
the kendo thing, worked out with great grand master Chung Kwang Duk for two years, every day -6 degrees or not, snowing or not ,out side, 4:30 am
   - nysmithy - Wednesday, 12/23/09 16:28:32 EST

Is there a chart of the forces required for hot bending various sized solid bar? I need to bend a section of 50mm square bar - about a 350mm radius - and need to determine if it's something I'm equipped for. I have a largish mandrel which can saddle my anvil or mount in the vice. I'd need to make up a new bending fork. Alternatively, would a #5-6 flypress be up to the job and if so what kind of dies should be used. I have the means to heat and handle a piece that large plus competent helpers. My other option is to make it out of two 25mmx50mm sections, but that wouldn't be nearly as good.
   andrew - Wednesday, 12/23/09 17:19:42 EST

Andrew, I have not come across such a thing. I will say that leverage is the key. If you have some extra length, say 5 feet and can anchor the bending jig to an immovable object, then you should be able to bend it by hand.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/23/09 17:54:04 EST

Shiloh, I tend to be found of the Remington Navy. Never much liked the wedges in the Colts:)
Now in my youth, when I carried a handgun it was a colt, but it was a M1911A1.
   ptree - Wednesday, 12/23/09 18:09:59 EST

Andrew I think that the *immovable* part is the sticking point. I think the force needed would waltz most anvils around. Do you have access to a hydraulic log splitter that you could rig up as a bender for this?

Be sure it's HOT! help reduce the force a lot if it's close to forge welding heat! Note that it will throw off a LOT of heat at that temp as well and you may need to wear a lot more PPE than during normal forging.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/23/09 18:21:04 EST

Also Flypress numbers are NOT standardized; every maker uses their own so my #2 flypress stands over 7' tall and weighs a LOT. (Has a 42" wheel on top) what size is the #5-6 flypress you mention?

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 12/23/09 18:24:22 EST

When I speak of immovable objects they are benches that weigh in at a ton and UP that are also bolted down to concrete floors. Heavy machinery like tracked equipment tend to be pretty immovable and have hydraulics as well. . .

Blacksmiths' Anvils, even the largest are quite movable. They are only suitable for the lightest leverage bending tasks.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/23/09 18:45:39 EST

Andrew- Do you have a concrete floor in your shop that you could drill anchors or concrete screws into? If you do I'd weld a radius jig like the Guru suggested to a piece of plate and bolt the plate down to the floor. Leave some clearance for bolt heads and that piece of pipe he mentioned between the working part of the jig and the floor. Kind of a poor man's platen table.
   Judson Yaggy - Wednesday, 12/23/09 18:49:43 EST

Mike BR: I don't recall any use of aluminum bronze in marine hardware, probably for that reason.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 12/23/09 20:22:11 EST

That's funny you should say that ptree. I too prefer the Remington Navy model in cap & ball and have one each of the 1911 and 1911A1.
The straight 1911 was my first handgun but, I had to get an A1 because I couldn't take getting bit on the hand from the hammer any more (I have scars on both hands)
Besides, the old 1911 is formerly the property of the US from WW1 and probably needed the rest.
Most of the time I spent in the service I carried an M203 mounted on a Colt M16 and a 1911A1 made by the Remington Rand corp.
   - merl - Wednesday, 12/23/09 20:28:25 EST

nysmithy, is your R&S military of civilian? I have a civilian model (no martial stamps on it).
   Thumper - Wednesday, 12/23/09 20:28:52 EST

Andrew: Do You have or know anybody who has a hydraulic pipe bender like the ones Harbor Freight & others sell?
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 12/23/09 20:39:15 EST

I'm new to blacksmithing and this website. Been told the first thing I need to get is an anvil. Also been told to do research and read some books which I plan to do. Been looking for an anvil for a few months now at the usual places local flea markets, ebay, craigslist. I live in the panhandle of Florida and found an anvil listed on craigslist in Pensacola. Sounded good so I went to look at it. The owner is an elderly gentleman maybe in his 80's or 90's. Said the anvil was his grandfather's. He also said his grandfather lived in a little town called Rising Fawn in Georgia durning the Civil war. Said Sherman burned the town to the ground during the war. Also said his grandfather had used the anvil to make knives. I loved the history on the anvil and it was in pretty good shape so I bought it. My question is whether you can help me identify the manufacturer of the anvil and maybe some history on the company. It weights about 93 pounds has what I think is the makers name stamped on it but I can't make it out. It also has some numbers under the name, "0.3.12". I can also email some pics. Also what books would you recommend for a newbie. I eventualy would like to make knives and swords but I realize you must learn how to walk before you can run.
Thx Rick Fenlon
   Rick - Wednesday, 12/23/09 20:54:19 EST

Ok figured out it is a Mouse Hole Forge Anvil. Are they any good?
   Rick - Wednesday, 12/23/09 22:22:01 EST

Rick, Yes, They were one of the major English manufacturers of quality anvils exported all over the world. There are probably more Mouse Hole anvils than any others in the world. That is a great little anvil in the "portable" range. Bigger is better but I would not let that one pass me by. You can always trade up OR find more.

See our getting started article and book review pages for books. The Sword Making Resources list has many general metalworking books as well as blade smithing specific resources.
   - guru - Wednesday, 12/23/09 23:23:49 EST

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