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Ask the Guru any reasonable blacksmithing or metalworking question. 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 November 1 - 15, 1998 on the Guru's Den

The Guru has three helpers that have been given a distinct colored "voice".
  • Grant Sarver of Off Center Products (purple).

  • "grandpa" Daryl Meier a Damascus steel legend (green).

  • Jim "Paw-Paw" Wilson, official demostrator at Bethbara Historical Park, Winston-Salem, NC (OD green).

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    Your input, answers and comments on questions to the Guru are welcome.

    -- guru Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
    Unanswered questions from October.
    Blacksmithing school(s) on Faro (sp) Island Denmark?
    Info on Rock Island vises and tools?

    -- guru
    Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
    To all;
    Centaur Forge Ltd. now has a new E-mail address for business communication.
    It is centforge1 at

    Bill Pieh -- wpieh at Sunday, 11/01/98 05:20:41 GMT


    GARY GRANDSTAFF -- GARYGS at STARGATE.NET Sunday, 11/01/98 15:45:02 GMT

    Looking for a large stone for a treddle grinder- someone told me that some of these were still being quarried near Leitchfield Kentucky. Any Kentucky blacksmiths out there know anything about this. Thanks

    Mark P. -- mark36 at Sunday, 11/01/98 16:24:14 GMT

    NO FLAME (Gary): You mentioned coal & coke. Coke requires a LOT of air continously. Coal should burn on its own once lit if there is a way for air to get to it. Poor grades of coal are somtimes hard to keep lit. Much Western coal is closer to oil-shale than coal and will not burn long or without a forced air. I have also found some of this in the East (for fairness). Smithing coal is a soft high grade (bituminous) coal. Anthacite (hard coal) works but is difficult to get lit and requires a very deep firepot.

    Your forge may be too deep too but I think the coal may be the problem. Forges generaly have a deep firepot and then a shallower area filled with coal that is continously raked into the fire. As the coal approaches the fire it cokes down (the volitiles gas off) and the coke makes up the hot center of the fire. Some coals do not coke down well. Coke looks like carbon sponge. If your coal doesn't coke down then it is not very good coal.

    To start a forge fire you generally need a small wood fire in the bottom of the firepot directly over the tuyer (where the air comes in). Then coal is piled around the sides leaving an opening in the top (a little volcano). A gentle air blast is applied and the coal pushed to the center as the wood burns up. Once the coal is going more coal is piled around the center and alowed to coke down with almost no air blast or the blast turned off.

    The highest grade of coal can generaly be started with a few pieces of news paper.

    -- guru Sunday, 11/01/98 17:46:34 GMT

    Mark P. A friend has TWO sandstone grinding wheels on steel stands with foot treadles and seats! Will e-mail contact info.

    -- guru Sunday, 11/01/98 17:48:56 GMT

    I'm very new to forging. I have foreged a few knives that turned out pretty good. I would like to know how to make mokum. I have read how to stack copper, brass and nickel silver sheet in a press and heat it into a billet, but how do you get the different patterns? Do you work the billet like pattern welded steel or what? Thanks for any help.

    Dale Huckabee -- fdhuckabee at Sunday, 11/01/98 18:27:36 GMT

    Just starting to make a little damascus for knives and was wondering what type of steel was used to make pinaple pattern? Great site .

    Larry Strandquist -- strandql at Sunday, 11/01/98 19:07:14 GMT

    MOKUME-GANE: A great site for info is James Binnion's Mokume-Gane Jewlery. He has the history and the technique described and also includes links to more information including his workshop hand out on

    The pattern developemnt is virtualy identical to laminated pattern welded steel and was designed to reproduce the same.

    -- guru Sunday, 11/01/98 19:15:44 GMT

    PATTERNS IN LAMINATED STEEL: Any number of steels with different coloring or resistance to etching and coloring can be used in pattern development of any type. The trick is to find steels that are suitable for the final product OR produce a suitable final product.

    You can use plain carbon steel with low carbon (mild steel, SAE 1018) OR wrought iron. This produces a low contrast but fine pattern when etched and is excellent for blades or the cutting edges of blades.

    Any nickle or chrome alloy steel will etch less than a plain carbon steel producing better contrast. Nickle alloys have a yellower color and Chrome whiter. SAE 4000 series steels such as 4140 fall into this catagory.

    Pure nickle is often used to produce the brightest contrast. Stainless steels are used by some but present heat treating problems that require great knowledge AND equipment. Pure nickle, 300 series stainless and certain monels cannot be hardened and must be used judiciously in blades. 400 series stainless steels are precipatation hardening and are often not suitable to use with other steels.

    I have not given specific alloys because this would defeat your current learning process and I am not an expert in laminated steels. If you are going to work in laminated steel you need to thoroughly study alloys, heat treating methods and will need references such as the ASM Metals Reference Book and ASM Heat Treaters Guide. I also highly recomend the works of Jim Hrisoulas. And wouldn't it be wonderful if we could talk grandpa Daryl Meier into writing a book!

    See the ASM link for their references (they take credit cards and if you are purchasing more than one reference then membership is usualy a break even deal but worth it). Jim's books are available from Centaur Forge as well as other references on knife making and blacksmithing. MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK is available from numerous sources and contains alloy and heat treating information besides a wealth of other useful things.

    -- guru Sunday, 11/01/98 20:15:29 GMT

    Larry: Guru has answered your question better than I would have. There are no standards in the patternwelded business as far as steel choice is concerned. Pick what will suit your needs and go from there.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Monday, 11/02/98 03:25:34 GMT

    Thanks grandpa! Its good to know I didn't stick my foot in my mouth!

    -- guru Monday, 11/02/98 03:34:25 GMT

    GURU: Been planning to write a book for some years now, but will have to wait until I get my application in for membership in the procastinators club.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Monday, 11/02/98 04:32:05 GMT

    I am just getting into blacksmithing and I was wondering what I should use as a forge and where I could find fuel?

    Jerry -- trishareed at Monday, 11/02/98 15:34:20 GMT

    If Y2k sends us back to the late 1800s, how would we prepare a "Blacksmithing" shop to fit the limited resources that we might

    Dave Jones -- dfj at Monday, 11/02/98 19:42:59 GMT


    You waiting for that too? I've been waiting for mine for YEARS. Best excuse in the world!

    BTW, Package in the mail this morning.


    A hand crank blower, a coal fired forge,(with a supply of coal) hammers, tongs, a hack saw, a vise, and some files. Hopefully some stock.

    Then get to work.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 11/02/98 21:56:38 GMT

    I'm looking for a source for spring metal. Do you know of any? Thank you.

    Jay -- bird82 at Monday, 11/02/98 22:02:54 GMT

    FORGES (Jerry): Almost ANYTHING works as a forge if you've got decent coal. See the article on the 21st Century page on building a brake drum forge and the piece Blacksmith of 1776. Then check the Centaur Forge page for what commercial forges currently look like. While you are at it order a Centaur catalog. You WILL eventualy need something from them and the catalog is an education in itself.

    COAL: Is available in most of the country from fuel dealers like your local heating oil folks. It also available by the bag from Centaur Forge and Bruce Wallace. Ask for smithing coal. If they don't carry that ask about Pochahantus "Nut" size coal or stoker coal.

    Then you have the option of running a gas forge. These are also available from Centaur and many smiths build their own. The advantage to gas forges (Propane or natural gas) is that they are clean (smoke free) and fuel is readily available everywhere. Oil forges are also an option but I do not know of any commercial units.

    Simple question - long answer. I suggest you get a copy of Jack Andrew's New Edge of the Anvil and study it. Jack covers coal and charcoal forges in detail as well as blacksmithing in general. There is a review of the book on the Bookshelf page and you can order it directly from Jack or from Centaur.

    -- guru Monday, 11/02/98 22:26:19 GMT

    Y2K: First, Y2K is a highly over rated problem with the following exceptions. The U.S. Federal government doesn't have a plan of action and will just have to fix its computer problems when they happen. Many other foreign governments are even less prepared or don't believe the problem is real. The good news is that U.S. businesses including financial institutions have all addressed their problems. Most of the foreign governments affected can do without computerized administration and will just have to cope. The only systems that are going to go belly up are old mainframes running old software. The rest of the world will do just fine. If you don't believe me, just set the date on your PC to 2000 or 2001 and see what happens (nothing). No Problemo (unless you are running software with a time limited license).

    As blacksmiths in North America we are already doing business in a Post Industrial society. Every hear of the "rust belt"? Our heavy industry has largely been exported along with the best of our West Virginia coal. Hot rolled steel in small sizes (3/16 and 1/4") hasn't been available for 20 years! Hardware dealers have to order bolts a year in advance and sometimes take what they can get!

    A friend of mine recently obtained 40 tons of coal (you move it, its yours) from an old school that was being remodeled. He figures he's in pretty good shape. He also knows that if there is an economic collapse its because of our stupid greedy leaders not a computer glitch.

    If you are worried about some post apocalyptic future you should worry about where your food will come from. For the blacksmithing, educate yourself.

    Knowledge is your most important tool.

    -- guru Monday, 11/02/98 23:06:12 GMT

    SPRING STEEL (Jay): Old springs. . . ? Try McMaster-Carr (see link on links page). They have selections of round and flat spring steel as well as stainless steel spring wire. They are an industrial supplier but they will sell any quantity of anything to anyone and they take credit cards over the phone.

    -- guru Monday, 11/02/98 23:11:37 GMT

    I am a beginner, and I am looking for ideas of stuff to make. I have made meat skewers, a couple of punches, and a lot of hooks.

    Nico Eadie -- eadienic at Monday, 11/02/98 23:20:34 GMT

    STUFF to MAKE: The problem generaly is finding "stuff" that fits your capacities. What is the status of your tools? Making your own tools is good practice. Tongs, punches chisles. . . When I was doing craft shows I made THOUSANDS of hooks from 1/4" stock. Most tongs are too clumsy for small items. I made several sets of small tongs for light work with 1/4" x 1" bits. If you get into work with chisled or decorative surfaces you need a variety of punch and chisle shapes. Click on my portrait at the top of the page and then look close at the the duck andirons. The eyes of the ducks were made using several special punches made for that job. Tongs are a lot of work to make (with OR without a power hammer) and help sharpen your forging skills. See the article of the 21st Century page on making tongs.

    Spend a day or so doing special twists in 1/2" bar. Plain twists, incised twists, double incised twists, pineapple twists (plain and incised). Experiment with decorative patterns in plain bar. Incised edges (hard to do), Incised edges with punch marks or rippled edges. . . There are thousands of variations you can try AND practice.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/03/98 00:30:11 GMT

    I need to know a pretty good way to make a forge for pretty cheap and the basic way to get coal to burn. Thanks Jon

    Jon Perkins -- gecko6969 at Tuesday, 11/03/98 01:34:15 GMT

    CHEAP FORGE: Jon, see the drawing of the brake drum forge on the 21st Century page and the link to My first forge (Hey! that was a LONG time ago!). All that is missing from the drawing is a grate (add one or two parallel 1/2" round bars across the hole in the center of the drum or wheel).

    Even cheaper, see the article Blacksmith of 1776. There I describe a portable forge being constructed "on the road" and a camp fire forge. Cheap as you can get. . .

    COAL FIRE, TO START: The most fool proof and classic method is to start a small wood fire (or pine cones) over the air inlet grate. Then pile fresh coal around the little wood fire and turn up the air. As the wood burns up the now burning coal replaces it. As it burns the nearby coal cokes down (volitiles are gased off leaving a carbon sponge, coke). The coke is what burns hot enough to melt (and burn up) steel.

    The lazy way is to stick the end of your cutting torch down in the forge and crank up the air as soon as the coal is going. . . . Actually doesn't work as good as it sounds.

    Dry coal is easier to light than wet. Some books call for weting down the coal before it is lit. Never saw the point and it make the coal REAL hard to get started.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/03/98 02:04:03 GMT

    Year 2000 Computer Bug

    Federal Government here (at least the National Park Service part of it), and YES we do have a plan. We have several plans! Some things MIGHT go down. It MIGHT not be a good day to fly. Due to embedded chips in the control equipment, your heating, ventillation and air conditioning equipment may not automatically turn on in your place of business on 1/1/00, but almost all of this stuff has a manual overide, so (as I suggested to my friends at the Department of the Interior) PUSH the BUTTON! The biggest problems would occure if the power grid goes down. Think of all the stuff that runs on electricity: the oil heater moter, the water pump, the wood stove air blower, your forge blower (Buffalo and the others slacking off, as it were).

    Part of our plan is also to encourage our staff to check out their own equipment (radio, telecommunications, GIS, VCRs with clocks, whatever...) and establish corrections and contingencies. In other words, establish priorities and use some individual initiative. This is also happening on an individual level in the civilian world. Just check the web and you'll find Y2K preparedness groups all over the country (some more apocalyptic than others).

    It would wise to lay in a fair supply of fire wood, water, lamp oil, batteries, food, fuel, and other necessities in case the electrical and transport nets run afoul of the millenium, but this is stuff that we keep on hand anyway, and are easily consumed after the non-event. Compared to the Blitz, the Black Death, Krakatoa, and the dozens of other man-made and natural disasters of the last 100 years, this is like comparing hicups to heart attacks. As a reenactor and occasional historian, I can assure you 1900 looks pretty good from here, and it's a nice place to take a mental vacation, but you wouldn't want to live there. (Mental exercise: replace all the cars in a city with horses. Now guess how much horse dung [being produced 24 hours a day] you have to get rid of each day. And a new set of shoes every six weeks, instead of tires every 2+ years. Fun, huh?)

    Getting off the soapbox, I add the disclaimer that all of the above is my own opinion and observation, and does not represent the official policy of the National Park Service or the Department of the Interior.

    Visit your National Parks:

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- bruce_blackistone at Tuesday, 11/03/98 03:55:09 GMT


    You bring up a point, and I'm about to disply my ignorance.

    Lots of folks advise "wetting" the coal occasionally while working with the forge. I've never seen the reason for that, and nobody has ever been able to explain it to my satisfaction. So I don't do it, and never have.

    Care to take a crack at helping me to at least understand the rationale behind the idea? (grin) Use short sentences and small words! (grin)

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 11/03/98 03:56:06 GMT

    Jim: Back in the old days, when I was using a coal forge, I would occasionally wet down the COAL around the fire to keep the fire from speading.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Tuesday, 11/03/98 05:51:04 GMT

    Here's a quote that I refound the other day, thought some of you might enjoy it. It's from the frontis piece of "ET MEGET MAERKELIGT METAL" by Robert Thomsen, 1975,Varde Staalvaerk.

    Iron seems a simple metal
    but in its nature are many mysteries
    and men who bend to them their minds
    shall in arriving days gather therefrom
    much profit
    not to themselves alone, but to all mankind.
    (Joseph Glanwill-1650)

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Tuesday, 11/03/98 06:00:47 GMT

    Great quote, I may need to find some place to permantly post it.

    Jim, grandpa covered it. I do the same. It depends on the forge. Some spread the fire more than others and anytime you want a small very intense fire (such as for welding) the fire will try to spread out of control. What I don't see the point of is wetting all the coal before starting a fire. It might help if you are using very fine coal with a lot of dust but other wise make the fire hard to start.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/03/98 13:01:33 GMT

    Y2K revisited. The last I read, the power grid folks discovered they had major bugs in their software (the hard way, using my PC test) and have corrected the problem. The problems will be in those countries we sold the same software to while helping build their infrastructure.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/03/98 13:10:31 GMT

    Guru and Jim: Again back in the old days(Damascus research team days) we had some rice coal(sifted coal the size of rice grains-no dust) which we kept in a portable steel box saturated with water. We lit our fires using the coke remaining from the previous days fire, THEN packed the wet rice coal around the new fire. It packed well and formed a solid ring of coke around the fire. Never tried to light wet coal!!

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Tuesday, 11/03/98 14:17:32 GMT

    Wet Coal --
    When I'm using the coal I get from Valley Farrier's supply at Beavercreek Oregon, I keep it wet. Keep it in a 1/2 barrel under the forge, dig it out to start fires. Why -- several reasons.
    1: There are enough very fine particles in it that I can dig to the bottom and get a kind of pasty slurry. I can use this like clay or cement to make shapes.
    2: Skimming off the top, I get very clean nut-sized lumps of coal.
    3: The fire spreads much more slowly and stays under better control with less use of the sprinkler (actually I use a ladle that I also dig coal with, and if you don't like ending sentences with prepositions, you're out of luck).
    4: It works better for the style of fire I build.
    Here's how I build my fires.
    First I clean out the firepot down to the grate and make sure that the airway is clear. Then I take a 1/2 firebrick and set on end over the grate. I pack a mixture of wet coal and wet fines around the firebrick, tamping it well. I get it up to the top of the 1/2 brick. I then rock the firebrick left,right,fore,and aft and remove it, leaving an open center surrounded by a firm wet coal wall. I start to lay my fire with some large pieces of coke on the grate, a layer of wood shavings (from a woodworker friend's planer) and a fair number of chunks of dry wood. I chunk wood (about 1/2" square splits) by whacking it on the step of the anvil with a straight peen hammer. I keep the center open till I have a good supply of wood around the outside. I then light a splint and lower it into the shavings. As it catches, I SLOWLY give it a little air. As the shavings catch, I add splinters of wood, then larger chunks. When the chunks are burning merrily, I start adding coke left over from the last fire. As I build up the core of the fire, I start building a cone of wet coal around the outside (not packed at this point). I add coke to the center, coal to the outside and fill with coke as the wood burns. When it gets going, I keep adding wet coal in a ring (or two lines) around the fire, moving generated coke to the core.
    This gives me a small, intense fire that fits most of my work. If I need a bigger fire, I break up the coke ring that limits my normal working fire and expand the whole thing. If I need to reduce a fire in size, I work wet coal down the outside of the firepot, trying to pack the edges keeping the center open. My primary fire tool is a kind of rake that started with 1/2" round -- flattened and pointed one end, then made a flattened 's' bend so the handle comes out in the center of about a 7" flat. I can swing it like a pick, scrape, or press hot or wet coal into shapes with it.
    When I'm over at a friend's place, I use the same coal dry. Works fine that way, but I find myself using the water sprinkler a whole lot more.
    Basically, I think of the wet coal as a fire construction material. Lay it wet, it burns slow. Lay it dry it burns faster.
    I'm not a fanatic about ONE WAY to do things, just about finding the way that works best for you and what you do!

    Morgan Hall -- morganh at Tuesday, 11/03/98 18:39:31 GMT


    That makes sense. I've never had a problem with my fire spreading out too much. That may be due to the shape of the firepot.

    I like the quote.


    See my response to grandpa. And I've been having the same results with the trailer, as with the rivet forge. I had the same results when I was using my home made job. Three different shapes to the firepot.

    Some of the five gallon buckets that I use for coal leak. Since they sit outside, that means that the coal is frequently wet. But I've never had a problem lighting it. I may go overboard some on my lighting method. I clear out a hole in the middle of yesterdays fire, throw in a couple of crumpled up paper towels, build a little log cabin out of oak flooring scraps, push the coke close to the cabin, add a dollop of firewater, (two cycle gas) thrown on a match and step back. When the wood is blazing merrily away, pack new coal on top of the fire, and keep the air going.

    The rice coal sounds like it'd be fun to work with. I sometimes use "fines" (coal dust) to build an oven roof over a fire to really concentrate the heat.


    Our methods are different, but your last sentence is the key. What ever works for each of us is the right way for the person it works for. (is for a preposition? grin)

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 11/03/98 19:28:25 GMT

    Morgan, thanks for the detailed description.

    One warning (to all) about using water or a watering can. Be very careful not to quench a hot cast iron fire pot! Cast iron can take heat fairly well but it can't take being quenched. In my all-steel forge I used to splash around quite a bit of water but its not good practice in other forges.

    My watering can was a small (6oz. I think) bean can that I had made a spring open handle to fit. The cans rust out pretty fast so I made the wrap around handle to make it easy to replace cans. In the all-steel forge I didn't put any holes in the bottom and just splashed water where I needed it. With a cast iron firepot or forge you want to be sure to punch a bunch of little holes in the bottom of the can to make a sprinkler out of it.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/03/98 22:59:25 GMT

    Jock or Guru(whichever you prefer). Thank you for the overview of steel identification. It's really helpful. I'm slowly adapting to the American environment.There is another thing I'd like get some information about (I also posted this question in the Blacksmith Junkyard). As an East Europian blacksmith, I have worked with traditional coal forges only. Gas is not very popular over there yet. I'd like to learn about basic differences between using coal and gas forges. Especially forge welding. In your guidelines, you are asking for clues to metalworking experience. Well, I have been blacksmithing since I was 14, which was 10 years ago. Have mainly worked in restoration and copying of antique ironworks(anything from locks to gates, romanesque through jugendstyle, mostly rennaissance) for castles and churches.

    Martin -- ironworxs at Wednesday, 11/04/98 01:59:57 GMT

    GAS vs. COAL (Martin): Coal is still probably the best fuel for blacksmithing in general but some people prefer and use gas only while some shops use both. The advantages and disadvantages to gas are:

    Burns clean. In a well ventilated shop with high ceilings no chimney is necessary.
    Availability. Coal is being used less and less for heating purposes and is becoming hard to get in many places. Propane gas is available everywhere and natural gas is available in most cities.
    Enviromental regulations. Smokey coal fires are frowned upon in some places. A gas forge can be operated in a residential area and no one would notice until you fire up your power hammer!
    Convienience. Gas forges are easy to light (mine has electric ignition), there are no ashes to haul away and some can be fitted with temperature controls for heat treating.

    Gas takes longer to get a penatrating heat.
    Scale builds up faster as gas forges tend to run lean.
    Some gas forges are noisy. Most forges with blowers make quite a roar. "Atomospheric" forges (those without blowers) make a lot less noise.
    Many find them hard to forge weld with but most people doing laminated steel work (Damascus) weld using gas without any problem.
    Gas is probably more expensive (though I haven't seen a comparison).

    Last - There are probably as many or more user built gas forges in blacksmith shops than there are commercially manufactured forges. They are not very difficult to build and plans are readily available. I've built several gas forges and I will build more. I designed and built the one I am currently using which has electric ignition and semi-automatic controls. I like a gas forge for all the advantages listed above but admit the disadvantages too. Another option not mentioned very often are OIL FORGES. These have most of the advantages of both gas and coal but need a good vent (chimney).

    You may address me however suits you best or not at all. This is a question and answer page and most questions are simply stated without addressing someone specificaly.

    Your experiance will b greatly appreciated here. I think you will soon find there are only minor differences between blacksmith shops the world over.

    -- guru Wednesday, 11/04/98 03:21:24 GMT

    Morgan Hall-Starting Wet Coal:

    What? You mean I was supposed to REMOVE the brick? Well, no wonders...! ;->

    Cold drizzle on the banks of the lower Potomac.

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Wednesday, 11/04/98 03:39:45 GMT


    Snort! I started to do the same thing! We've both got warped minds. (grin)

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 11/04/98 04:03:21 GMT

    Gas vs Coal: The cost for me is cheaper for gas then coal. I think the cost comparison will be different for each shop. My gas costs about $1.25 per hour of forge time, and it's delivered to my shop. Good forging coal is about $125.00/ton, I have to go after it 200 miles away. Martin: I can and have accidently MELTED stainless steel in my gas forge. By the way, where are you located in the U.S. Are you looking for work, or are you going to set up your own shop.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Wednesday, 11/04/98 04:31:27 GMT

    Bruce & Jim --
    See, it's not too hard! Just chant the mantra, over and over-- "remove the brick... remove the brick... ooohhmmm..."

    Morgan Hall -- morganh at Wednesday, 11/04/98 14:49:30 GMT


    Guess I'd better write that down. (grin

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 11/04/98 20:45:31 GMT

    I tried using a gas furnice at my future employer's place. Couldn't get it hot enough to be able to melt the surface. I didn't try really hard. How and what do you use as a flux for forge welding in a gas furnice?

    Grandpa: My wife and I live in Columbus, Ohio right now. I don't think we'd stay in the U.S. more than a couple of years. So I don't plan setting up my blacksmith shop. I have a job prearranged here in Ohio. But the next summer or fall, we might want to move elsewhere (within the USA). No plan in particular, it just has to be a little bit more interesting place than Columbus.

    Martin -- ironworxs at Wednesday, 11/04/98 23:34:56 GMT

    Ah, bored in the heartland. . .

    Flux in gas forge - same as in coal, borax or the flux of your choice. Ah, but this brings up another disadvantage I forgot in my list! The borax eats up refractory linings. Folks doing heavy forge welding such as in laminated steel work create pools of flux that disolve the bottom of the forge! Grandpa has reported creating stalagtites of flux in the roof of his forge!

    There are several solutions to this problem.
    Cover the floor of the forge with absorbent clay (high-dry or cat litter). Cover the floor with a protective ceramic plate. OR just consider the forge floor another consumable.

    Special protective plates are sold for forge floors but they are expensive. It has been recomended to use unglazed terra-cotta (red) clay tiles. These are cheap enough to be considered a consumable and a readily available.

    I'd be careful about looking for someplace more "exciting". Remember the old curse, "May you live in intresting times!"

    -- guru Thursday, 11/05/98 00:36:48 GMT

    I am starting to make mild steel sculptures. I would like to find
    some techniques for coloring the metal. I do not want to use paint,
    but still retain the look that it is metal. Can you help?

    chris schwartz -- ccs at Thursday, 11/05/98 02:15:42 GMT

    Do you know were I can get Smithing coal in Minnesota I
    live in central part of Minnesota.
    Thank you

    Mark Parrish -- mparrish at Thursday, 11/05/98 02:44:12 GMT

    Chris, you can paint or rust. Gunnmetal (blueing, browning etc.) finishes rely on oil for the real protection. Clear lacquer will give some protection if the metal is very clean (no welding flux, oil, wax) but will not hold up outdoors. Consider paint that looks metalic. There are some nice gunmetal colored automotive finishes. See my article on Corrosion and its prevention on the 21st Century page.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/05/98 03:38:11 GMT

    Martin: The maximum temp attainable in most gas forges is 2500 to 2700 farenheit but in a coal fire 3500 to 4000 f is possible. The flux used is the same, as Guru has already said, but the technique may have to be a little different. You are used to working with a fire that has more heat potential than you need, whereas a gas forge just barely has enough. Not all gas forges have the same upper limit.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Thursday, 11/05/98 05:35:28 GMT

    FINDING COAL: Mark, have you checked the Coal Scuttle? I haven't updated it in a while, you may want to check the version on the Blacksmiths Gazzette which is where the original list is maintained.

    Check fuel oil suppliers. They often supply coal too. You may even find one thats getting out of the business and will make a deal on whats left. Then call local farriers. Many still hot shoe and they may know of a source. Joining ABANA to find other smiths comes under this method also.

    NOTE: It always pays to get a small quantity of the coal you find and test it. There is a lot of coal the is unsuitable for use in a forge.

    If you can not find a convienient supplier and you are not doing a large amount of work, Centaur Forge and Wallace Metal Work both ship good coal by the bag.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/05/98 12:52:05 GMT

    Guru, I am a senior parks and recreation managment major at West Virginia University and the more I find out about professinalism, evaluation tecniques, certification's, an managment the more i realize that i do not want to spen a life in this field. I spend my summers doing intense manual trail maintinence and this is when i am most content. livin simple and working hard. the most important part i think is the creativity that i put into it and the tangable outcome at the end of a project. that is why i think i want to take me college degree and use it to start the flames in a forge and begin blacksmithing. I have read quite a lot on the subject and even played around with heating metal and pounding it into shapeless forms. so my question, can a fellow make a living (not wealth)black smithing and what are the necessary steps to reach such a goal. I love hard work i love tools, i love being creative, and i love to get dirty. I want to be a blacksmith can you help me?
    tired of school
    zach snider

    zach snider -- zsnider at Thursday, 11/05/98 18:33:12 GMT

    MAKING A LIVING: Yes you CAN make a living blacksmithing. However, if you want to avoid the tediom of paper work you don't want to get into your own business unless you have a spouse or partner that enjoys it! Blacksmithing in the U.S. is largely an entreparnurial (sp) business. There are few shops where you can go to work for someone else and just work. Most blacksmiths are sole proprietorships and they spend a large part of their time hustling work, dealing with clients, contractors etc. Then there are bills, licenses, taxes. . .

    If you are not familiar with the blacksmithing community you will be surprised to find out that you have a LOT of competition. There are hundreds of top notch smiths in the U.S. and thousands of lesser smiths. Then there are the ever growing number of bladesmiths where there are dozens (maybe hundreds) doing today what only one or two were doing twenty five years ago.

    It is very difficult to make a living blacksmithing if you try to compete in the arts/crafts market. Architecual work is difficult to learn AND build up a reputation where people will pay what it is worth to do custom work. It is also a highly competive field where fabricators now have stock parts available that allows them to do beautiful work that you can not compete against with hand work. Most succesful blacksmiths have either spent years developing a reputation and clientel OR lucked into a big job AND pulled it off managing the near impossible.

    For many of us blacksmithing is LIFE. There IS no other occupation. I've spent most of my working carreer as a machine designer and computer programmer but I was a blacksmith first and I have always considered myself and listed my occupation a blacksmith. Now I am mixing my blacksmithing with my computer skills and design skills to bring you anvilfire!

    -- guru Thursday, 11/05/98 23:02:44 GMT

    Hi Jock and everyone. I have been spending some time looking into propane atmospheric forges. Why are most commercially built propane forges rectangular while most homebrew propane forges that I have found on the net are made out of a section of pipe? I ordered the recuperative forge plans from ABANA, but think a "pipe" forge with Kaowool would be less expensive (and easier to build). Thanks in advance for your time and knowledge...Mark. p.s. I have welding facilities.

    Mark Hachmer -- marlin at Friday, 11/06/98 00:32:35 GMT

    GAS FORGE DESIGNS: The cylindrical forges made with Kaowool are simply easy to build. The Kaowool is pretty much self supporting inside the tube as it is cut to be a tight fit. Steel tubes in various sizes are also relatively easy to find compared to say a rectangular tube or box of sufficient size.

    The same goes for rammed or molded refractory forges. Tubes and cylinders are easy to come by in the various sizes needed. However, if you wish you can always make a rectangular wooden form. These are reusable and suitable for production purposes where forming the refractory inside a relatively expensive piece of pipe is not. If you are making forges by the hundreds or even the dozens you would find that the supply of cheap scrap pipe (for the outer shell) runs out in a hurry and new is WAY too expensive.

    Making rectangular forms or molds is easy. All you have to do is remember to have some slope (draft) on the sides of the box so that the hardened refractory can be removed. About 1/8" per foot (100:1) slope is all that is necessary (Same as making molding patterns for sand castings).

    Moldable refractory is much cheeper than Kaowool or ramable refractory. If you make pieces that fit together easily and then make some extra you will have a supply of spare parts for your forge. IF you try to purchase Kaowool as an individual you will find the minimum you have to buy (a box) suitable for 6 or 8 forges.

    NOW, for certain applications such as Don Fogg's vertical salt bath or for crucible furnaces cylindrical is better in both cases. The difference here is that some manufacturers make the interior of the furnace round and the exterior octagonal, again for manufacturing reasons. Both the rectangular forge and the octagonal furnace are easier (from a manufacturing standpoint) to make outer shells for.

    Manufacturability in quantitys (and a better product) is why commercial forges are rectangular and do-it-yourself forges are round.

    -- guru Friday, 11/06/98 01:14:17 GMT

    Zack: Every thing Guru said is true, some of it with capital letters even. From your post I get the feeling that you would not be happy handling the business management part of having your own blacksmith shop. The ABANA web site has a list of blacksmith businesses that are looking for help. It's under education/journeyman program. I have a friend (blacksmith) who now has 5 employees. All of his time is spent on administration. He doesn't get dirty anymore, and he complains about missing the actual work. Best of luck to you, I have lived through what you are experiencing now.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Friday, 11/06/98 01:26:34 GMT

    Flux Removal...Guru, Grandpa and all who helped. Found a refractory retailer in Jax. Fl., who was very helpful. I purchased a few thin bricks at $2 each to catch the flux. They are working very well and I just throw them out and replace. They also had several broken bags of castable refractory for half price and a box of insuwool pieces that I got for $20. I stuffed a few small pieces on the sides of my forge and fired it off...perfect...when the wool gets damaged from the flux I can pull it out along with the sacrificial brick in the bottom without any more damage to the origional forge lining. Guru, Many thanks for this page..I continue to learn here with each visit.

    Randall Guess -- rguess at Friday, 11/06/98 03:58:18 GMT

    Got a tool question for you guys. Which is generaly more usefull in a small home shop . An abrasive saw or a metal cutting bandsaw.I do mostly knives(forged not stock removal) and other small work and I'm just not sure which to buy? They both seem to do about the same job because you can't cut much of a curve on the band saw??

    Ron Hardy -- rhemail at Friday, 11/06/98 04:47:55 GMT

    Guru;I found a book with compositions of pipe and flanges[re conversation on the pub on wed. nite].It is called a pipe fitters manual.This one is put out by a local oil patch supplier.The problem is I don't know how to read the chart.I'll use a forged flanged as an example;under chemical comp.% C-.35(5)max MN-.90max P-.05max S-.05 max.It gives tensile strengths and something called ASTM-spec no.A105 and grade 1.What does this all mean and why Is the sky blue?

    dimag -- dimag at Friday, 11/06/98 04:58:03 GMT

    We are restoring a turn of the century blacksmith shop and will install an antique 42" double-chamber bellows. But first it needs new leather. We need someone who is sensitive to the fact that this is a century old artifact and should be restored as accurately as possible to original appearance. Do you know of anyone who could do that for us?

    Neal Bullington -- Friday, 11/06/98 13:58:18 GMT

    I Am a Master Farrier & Blacksmith from Yarramalong NSW Australia. I Specialise in making Coke coal forges, 1&2 Burner gas forges. Blacksmithing & Forging tools Fullers (creaser) stamps punches.I will be only to happy to pass on the drawings & plans to any one that is interested. My tools go under the name of B&B.
    My design for rubber hammer handle insert is free for all to use.Some people have tried to claim this invention them selves.I will explain with drawings how it is used. It does away with wedges,reduces concusson on the hands. No more dropping the hammers in the bucket overnight. My own comp & working hammers (turning)have had the same handles for 5 years.
    I have only just come across this section, I find that it is about the best that I have seen to date. I hope that I may be of Some help to you. After 28 years of Blacksmithing I get no greater pleasure from my craft than seeing someone take home there first hand made piece or Handmade shoe. I sure hope that this is in the right section. regards Brian.

    Brian Rourke -- canart at Friday, 11/06/98 14:16:53 GMT


    Is an old controversy. But they both have uses and a place in our shops. Why?

    Because an abrasive cutoff saw will cut ANY kind of steel. Tool steel of any hardness just makes the cut slower.

    And a band saw runs quieter, with less mess, and you can walk away and leave it while it's cutting. So your cutting time can be productive in other ways in addition to cuttin.

    I don't currently have a dedicated abrasive cutoff saw. I sometimes put a metal cutting blade in my power miter box. But the cutoff saw is on the "someday" list.


    Take a look at the pictures of the ultimate forge and you'll know who to contact about your bellows. The guru built the one in that forge trailer over 20 years ago. I just used it weekend before last to make some "sparklers".

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 11/06/98 17:09:14 GMT

    I recently found out that my great-grandfather was a master blacksmith. I would like to learn his trade and help keep the art and craftsmanship alive to pass on. What is the best way to get started?
    I don't make very much money, but can build anything. any advice would be welcome. thanks.

    David Wilhite -- DaveandChristy at Friday, 11/06/98 18:51:30 GMT

    heard anything about Laurel Machine & Foundry's 60lb ductile iron swage block? I guess it's forged from a block of mild steel and durable do you think it is? Size-12x7x3.5
    price $85.00 I'm on a limited budget otherwise I'd invest in the Centaur Forge pair ~$400.00 Is the LMF block worth it?
    Thanks, Kev

    kev -- kevzb at Friday, 11/06/98 20:17:27 GMT

    Neal Bullington; Your E-address slbe does not work.

    Bill Pieh -- wpieh at Friday, 11/06/98 21:41:56 GMT

    Neal Bullington; Your E-address slbe does not work.

    Bill Pieh -- wpieh at Friday, 11/06/98 22:01:15 GMT

    I've got a question about stove/chimney pipe. If I operate a coal burning forge indoors ( a garage) what type of pipe should I use to go through a metal wall (which is presently not insulated or finished)?
    I've been told single wall stainless, double-wall insulated stainless and triple-wall stainless pipe. Centaur Forge Ltd. catalog safety information says,"needs 'Class A' chimney if used indoors" for burning coal.Help! What DO I need and what's most commonly used?
    I'm new to blacksmithing and setting up a shop.
    Thanks, J. Wright

    J. Wright -- FeForge at Friday, 11/06/98 23:13:51 GMT

    STOVE PIPE (J. Wright): Part of the answer is a question "Do you want to meet the local fire code?" In many cases this is important while in others you may not even want to ask the question (for a variety of reasons). If you have fire insurance their inspector will advise you correctly. Consider this. Your steel shell building is probably painted. Paint burns (even on masonry buildings). Then there is the consideration of trees, leaves or other flamables coming into contact with the stack. It's common to use a short triple wall roof penetration and connect to it with single wall pipe inside (straight up).

    SIZE: Be sure you use a big enough pipe. 8" will not work. 10" is OK IF you use a good side draft forge hood (See the Centaur Forge and the anvilfire NEWS coverage of the AFC conference). Side draft hoods exhaust the heat and smoke while a conical type hood also tries to suck up about 10 times more fresh air. Plain hoods reguire a 12" or bigger stack if you want it them to work at all.

    STAINLESS: Coal smoke is full of corrosive compounds that will disolve a plain carbon steel pipe in a season and heavy galvanized in a couple years. Stainless will pay for itself after the second time you DON'T have to replace the stack.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 01:52:47 GMT

    SWAGE BLOCK (Kev): Ductile iron is CAST. Swage blocks are mostly cast iron but ductile is better. The particular pattern you are looking at was made by my friend Josh Greenwood. We have had many blocks cast from the ORIGINAL of that pattern. Laurel is using one of Josh's blocks they picked up somewhere as a pattern. Its a good block as that type goes, the bowls are a little too deep and Josh got carried away with the draft. The price is right however.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 01:59:40 GMT

    GETTING STARTED (David Wilhite): The best start is to get some books on blacksmithing and study them. Then put together a small forge and start. Remember however, that blacksmithing isn't all pounding hot metal. It is metalurgy, mechanics and physics. The trades of the welder, machinist and many others started with the smith and are still part of his craft. If you want to do creative work it is also art and design. A knowledge of balance and proportion as well as the history of decorative metalwork. If you are intrested in industrial smithing, tool making or knife making then you need to understand metalurgy (heat treating and alloys).

    The books to get -
  • The Art of Blacksmithingby Alex Bealer is a classic and gives a romantic historical view of blacksmithing techniques

  • NEW Edge of the Anvilby Jack Andrews is an update of another classic and is more practical and technical at the same time.

  • Machinery's Handbook by Industrial Press (also a classic) includes tons of information needed by ALL metal workers not just machinists. It has heat treating data on the more common steels. The new edition is fine but for blacksmiths the older the better.

  • The Centaur Forge Catalog
  • currently the most complete source of blacksmithing tools equipment and supplies is an eductaion in itself and includes the first two books above.

    Finding anvilfire was a good start. Check out my article under 21st Century, Getting Started. It is a little blunt and I am working on a new one but most of it is good advise.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 03:28:04 GMT

    Brian Rourke, Welcome to anvilfire! And thanks for the praise. If you have any drawings or images you would like to share with the blacksmithing public I'll gladly post them.

    The is the Question and Answer page. Generally I, or some of my helpers answer questions here but all are invited to comment. The Hammer-In is a general purpose forum for posting ads, notices or telling stories. There is a little overlap but its the nature of the medium.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 03:36:39 GMT

    BANDSAW or ABRASIVE CUT OFF (Ron): There are cut off band saws and then there are BAND SAWS. A true metal cutting band saw is a vertical machine like a wood working saw. The difference is that they run a LOT slower and often have power assist feeds. Vertical saws can be fittted with blades of various widths and the small blades can cut some pretty fancy curves. Cut off type band saws are limited to ONE blade size which is determined by the width of the wheels which have a shoulder on them. The small ones take a 1/2" (13mm) blade. Although these are designed for straight cut off work most of the small ones flip up to vertical position. They will cut curves if you are patient and I expect most of the blades made by stock removal are cut out on these saws. I have a GOOD one (Made by Ridgid but no longer made) that has been copied and cheepened to the point where most of them are worthless. The closest copy (sold where American shops) had the cast iron table replaced with pressed plate making the machine to flimsey to stay in alignment. Most of the $300 models you see are worse and not worth even THAT low price!

    The ONLY advantage that I see in abrasive cut off machines is that they will cut hardened material. Otherwise they are noisy, leave huge HARD burrs (from the heat), create a lot of grit and will absolutely NOT cut a curve. Anywhere you see both a saw and an abrasive cut off machine the saw will be in use a lot more than the "chop saw" which is generally used as a last resort.

    Like Jim said, there are a lot of opinions on the matter.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 03:54:29 GMT

    OLD BELLOWS (Neil): Sorry it took me so long to get back to your question. There are many craftspeople that could probably restore your bellows. I recently obtained a catalog from 1899 with blacksmiths bellows and I will post a picture from it.

    The problem with repairing OLD bellows is that the nails are so close together on some that there is little good material left for a second go around. Then there is the problem with the wood aging and getting harder and making the nailing problem even worse. Some kinds of pine get harder than oak with age. If the bellows is constructed of poplar (many were) then this is less of a problem. Bellows with split hardwood hoops will need new hoops made as these were often worked wet or green and were dry but not aged when the nails were put in.

    Have you considered having a reproduction bellows made? If it is intended to be used for demonstrations this may be a better option.

    Whomever you have replace the leather, be sure they understand how far the bellows travel. Each half of a double chambersed bellows should open nearly as far as it is wide. I've seen many that were releathered with half this amount (determined from the old shrunken leather).

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 14:50:36 GMT

    Hey! All you early book collectors out there! Ebay currently has a 1st Edition (and first printing) of MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK listed. The auction ends at 11:28 EST TONIGHT! The price is too high for my blood and the 5th Edition I have is the same as the first in content. Good luck!

    -- guru Saturday, 11/07/98 21:47:03 GMT

    I am a 17 year old learning blacksmith. I have just completed a propane forge made from a freon tank. I took a piece of leafspring and forged it into a wood chisel. It turned out great, but no matter what I did I could not get it to harden. I tried temperatures from a bright orange to almost welding, and quenching mediums from air to oil. I even tried quenching in water once, I could only try it once because immediatley when I stuck it in the water it cracked in a million places, like I expected. What am I doing wrong? I know it is carbon steel because when I grind it there is a shower of white bursting sparks everywhere.
    I was also wondering what kind of steel is used in leafsprings and coil springs? Is leafspring steel suitable for edge tools, or do I need to use something else?

    Stewart Alexander -- stewart4th at Sunday, 11/08/98 04:22:00 GMT

    SPRING STEELS (Stewart): Theses vary considerably but most are suitable for edge tools when oil quenched. The correct hardening temperature has been poeticly described as a "sunrise red" however I put little value in temperature colors in general as they depend on the ambiant light. Steels become non-magnetic at the hardening point, and this has become one of the most reliable tests. It sounds like you are over heating your steel. Patience and careful judgement is required while heat treating. Over heating steels while working them can also damage the structure and produce poor results.

    Many spring steels are both oil and water hardenable. The difference is the sensitivity to thermal shock and size of the section. Thin sections like a blade or chisle cool rapidly and oil is best but heavy sections sometimes need a water quench in order to harden fully. The recomended SAE steels for leaf springs are, 1085/95 4063/68 9260 and 6150. The steels recomended for coil springs are 1095, 4063 1nd 6150. These are old recomendations, manufactures make their own decisions for both economic and engineering reasons. The 1095 is a sort of universal tool steel. Being a plain carbon steel it can be tempered to almost any hardness. I don't think it is commonly used for springs any more, the alloy steels having replaced it.

    When water quenching you must be careful not to overheat the steel and the water should be warmed to 100 degrees F or so. The part should be quickly thrust into the water and stirred around to prevent uneven cooling. When oil quenching you must be sure to have plenty of oil and follow the same recomendations as for water. Oil has a lower density than water, slower heat transfer and less thermal capacity so it takes a lot more oil than water.

    After hardening it is best to temper as soon as possible.

    Anytime you are using scrap material it is best to test a sample. Harden it in various mediums and test it with a file. I recently heard of an outfit selling SAE 1020 steel as spring steel! 1020 will harden a little (cold water or brine) but it is generally classified as mild steel!

    -- guru Sunday, 11/08/98 16:44:44 GMT

    P.S. (Stewart) congradulations on getting started at your age and building your own gas forge!

    -- guru Sunday, 11/08/98 16:46:24 GMT

    Please Guru tell me if you can make a custume sword. A massive
    sword with durable light materials and enchanted metals. one of great
    size and proportion and one that is fully usable

    Odin of The Gigas Knights -- Natrlforce at Monday, 11/09/98 02:33:42 GMT

    Say, Odin, you wouldn't have a lame horse would you?

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Monday, 11/09/98 03:14:54 GMT


    I don't see why the Great Guru could not make such a sword for you, but I would suggest that you first supply him with the traditional materials. As I remember, they are: the cry of a cat, the beard of a woman, the roots of a mountain and the breath of a fish. He will also need one dispensible captive for the quench. (I trust that you do not adhere to the White Christ, and are, therefore, not too squeamish about these things?) After you serve him as an apprentice for seven years, he may, if he has the time and it's not too much trouble, reveal the dark secrets of the ultimate sword.

    As for me, after 29 years experience, the sword is a nice backup, but I much prefer my axe.

    Atli Vathason
    First Warlord, Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia
    (Check out the Camp Fenby pages in the Anvilfire news for some of our fun and links!)

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Monday, 11/09/98 03:57:28 GMT

    Yes, I can make such a sword, but the enchantment is thus. It will strike true and strong only against the enemys of light and truth and must be weilded by one that is pure in thought and deed (standard virginal clause). The price. . . . well, we shall have to discuss that in private but as they say, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it".

    However, for a price affordable in the mortal realm, grandpa makes metals that are as near enchanted as have ever been seen since the gods left man to his own devices.

    -- guru Monday, 11/09/98 05:22:31 GMT


    I have no clue on blacksmithing, however I have been asked to find out what the three types of blacksmithing coals are. If you would please educate me on this I would apprieciate it greatly.

    Amy King -- arweharis at Monday, 11/09/98 13:19:00 GMT

    Dear Guru or helper,
    I live in Seattle, Wa. and am a senior in high school. I am very interested in reaserching blacksmithing as my senior project. I was wondering what the best source of information is?
    I am also interested in making blacksmithing my full time hobby. So I'd like to learn everything i can...not just the peices I need to pass.

    thanks for your time,

    P.S.this site is great, the most helpful I've found

    Phillip -- Narezooll at Monday, 11/09/98 16:05:14 GMT

    To anyone who tried to e-mail me and could not, the problem could be that the address is at The underline portion was invisible because the entire address was printed underlined.

    Thanks for the bellows information. As usual when dealing with old stuff, there are two sides to the argument. It would be nice to us an original (and incidentally save money) for absolute accuracy, but you might have to make alterations that change it forever, something that sends shivers up the backs of museum curators and other strict preservationists.

    Neal Bullington -- Neal Bullington at Monday, 11/09/98 18:49:58 GMT

    I am an eight year old boy doing a Pioneer project on tools. I have chosen the anvil. Could you please send me some basic information that will help me get started - the history, how they were made, materials used, how the anvil was used, changes over the years. We have just started to look for information so anything you might be able to send us would be appreciated. from Tyler and his Mom with thanks.

    Tyler -- tjmcd at Monday, 11/09/98 19:44:26 GMT

    TYPES OF COAL (Amy): I assume this is a question for school. A test! Pressure! Panic! I hope I get it right ;)

    The first type of fuel used by blacksmiths was charcoal. Not quite the same as charcoal briquetts but charcoal made from wood that has had all the volitiles (sap, water) burned out. Charcoal was the primary fuel of smiths starting before the bronze age and up until the 1700 and 1800's. In England and Europe they started using coal before we did in the U.S. We continued using charcoal for a 100 years longer because we still had huge forests to cut and make charcoal.

    Both types of mineral coal are used by smiths today. Bituminous (soft coal) is prefered but Anthracite (hard coal) is also used when soft coal is not available.

    Modern blacksmiths also fuel their forges with gas (both natural and propane) and oil.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/10/98 01:23:11 GMT


    I can use some help with die making for grills and such.

    tony -- Tuesday, 11/10/98 01:46:14 GMT

    ANVILS (Tyler): A more complicated tool and question than you would think!

    HISTORY: Stone age man's first tools were the hammer stone (or bone), anvil stone and scraper (made by spliting flint with the hammer on the anvil stone). In the bronze age bronze and copper were forged using stone hammers and anvils and later bronze hammers and anvils. The earliest blacksmith (forger of iron, the black metal) probably used stone tools but they quickly changed to iron hammers and anvils.

    In Europe of the middle ages the anvil as we know it started to evolve. Early anvils were rectangular lumps of wrought iron. Wrought iron is a soft form of iron that was the most common material worked by the smith. In the 1700's along with the industrial revolution specialized anvils started to evolve. Each craftsman had his own type of anvil. Some were made with a stem the was set into a post while others were great lumps of iron still made on a tall rectangular pattern. Some were shaped sort of like a ship with a pointed front. The first iron anvils to have a horn (or beak, bick) were the horseshoe makers anvils. This was sort of a reinvention since bronze age bronze anvils had horns.

    The changes in the anvil were rapid in the 1700's. The "Colonial" pattern anvil appeared. It was a relatively boxey little anvil but it had most of the features of the modern anvil. It had a heavy horn for bending (anything, not just horse shoes), a flat steel face and a small square "hardy" hole. The body had little feet pinched out of the corners. The hardy hole provided a place to hold tools the first of which was a hardy or "hack iron", a small upside down chisle for cutting metal. The appearance of the hard steel face is important. Steel, unlike wrought iron, can be hardened. The hard steel face protected the anvil from wear AND made the anvil easier to use. The hard face was "resiliant" and gave back a lot of energy that the smith put into it.

    The "Colonial" pattern evolved into the "London" pattern anvil which looks almost identical to the modern anvil. The horn was longer and the "heal" (the square end opposite the horn) also became longer. The feet became more defined. Sometime during this period the "pritchel" hole was added. This is a small round hole closer to the edge of the anvil than the square hardy hole. The pritchel hole is used for punching holes in metal. When anvils started to be made in America they followed the London pattern fairly close. Then the "American" pattern evolved out of the London pattern. The horn and heal became even longer and the waist very narrow (about half the length of the face). The feet became squared off and with this last change the modern anvil was born.

    MATERIALS: All the best old anvils were forged of wrought iron with a tool steel face. The best modern anvils are forged of tool steel. Anvils were also made of a mixture of cast iron and steel and very cheap anvils are made of cast iron. Many modern anvils are made of cast steel. These are very good anvils but not as good as forged.

    HOW USED: The anvil is the blacksmiths universal work bench. It is heavy and strong with a hard tool steel face for forgeing (hammering) red hot iron and steel into shape. The horn is used for bending and occasionally "drawing" (hammering metal out thinner). A little place between the face and the horn called the shelf or step is used for cutting metal with a chisel because that part of the anvil is soft and won't flatten the chisel. The square hardy hole is used for holding any kind of tool you or the smith can imagine! Hot hardys. cold hardys, swages, bickerns (small anvils with long beaks), hold downs and benders. The hardy hole is also used for punching like the pritchel hole but for bigger holes. The pritchel hole is thought to have evloved for the use of farriers (horse shoers) and farriers anvils sometimes have two. Some anvils have a big block that sticks out from the side at the base called an "upsetting" block. Upsetting is when you pound the end of a bar of metal toward the bar to make the end sweel and get bigger. Upsetting can also be done on the face of the anvil.

    There are several pictures of anvils on anvilfire. The anvilfire anvil is accurately reproduced from a CAD drawing. There is a picture of a collection of blacksmith tools including an anvil and a heavy "bickern" which is also known as a "stump or post anvil". Then there is the Peddinghaus ad with sizes and weights on the Wallace Metal Works page and several other types on the Centaur Forge page (both advertisers on anvilfire). There is even a Russian anvil on the "Camp Fenby" volume of the anvilfire NEWS! AND there is a book review about the most authoratative book on anvils ever written on the anvilfire book review page the bookshelf (Anvils in America by Richard Postman).

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/10/98 02:43:50 GMT

    Guru: Well done!! (as usual) You amaze me with your patience and devotion to the cause, with your freely giving of your time and energy. I salute you!!!

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Tuesday, 11/10/98 02:56:29 GMT

    STUDY of BLACKSMITHING (Phillip): You are lucky, when I first started researching blacksmithing in the 60's there were very few books available. Today there are hundreds IN PRINT and there is anvilfire!

    You are also lucky in that the NWBA (North West Blacksmiths Association) is very active in your area. Go to the ABANA web site and under chapters you will find a list of contacts. Finding other blacksmiths in your area will be your most important resource.

    The books you want MAY be in your local library but these are also references that you will probably wear out reading so its a good idea to buy them.

  • The Art of Blacksmithingby ALex Bealer, A classic that describes historical methods best.

  • NEW Edge of The Anvil by Jack Andrews takes a modern educated approach to blacksmithing and includes a lot of technical information not found in Bealer's work.

  • MACHINERY'S HANDBOOK by Industrial Press, another classic metal workers reference. Don't get this one yet but your local library will have a copy. Its FULL of detailed technical information including steel alloys and how to heat treat them, strength of materials, material densities, speeds and feed for machine tools. I recommend you look for a old copy. Editons prior to the 20th have more info applicable to blacksmiths.

  • These books and many others are available from Centaur Forge and Norm Larson (his address and phone number is in the "Learing" article under 21st Century.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/10/98 03:04:09 GMT

    DIE MAKING (Tony): Your question is a little vague. Are you looking for information for making decorative bar for grills or a method of punching out a grill? Is this for hand, power hammer or punch press?

    In the anvilfire NEWS AFC Edition (Volume 6, p.14) there are photos and a brief description of Gary Gilmore making a hand held or clapper die for use under a power hammer. Dies for low production can be made of mild steel. 4140 holds up very well for medium production dies with sharp detail. H-13 and H-27 make dies that will last longer than anything else.

    For hand work I found a simple half depth rectangular die for supporting a bar while I chisled and punched a great help. The die fit in the hardy hole of my anvil and kept the bar from moving without being clamped down. This type of support draws less heat from the bar than a vise or a clamp. A tool that is often overlooked for this type of work is an air chisel. A simple mechanics air chisel can greatly improve your productivity.

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/10/98 03:45:46 GMT

    This is Monday evening quarter after 10 PM. I'm reading messages posted 3 something tomorrow (6 hours ahead of Central Standard time,USA). I am quite tired right now and am feeling like the guy on the tv that gets tomorrow's newspaper (and praying that at this moment that I am not making a royal _______ of myself. Fill me in, will you please. I think I am missing the meaning of GMT.

    Mark Kisner -- mekisner at Tuesday, 11/10/98 04:30:14 GMT


    Well done, Oh Wise One. In a few solid paragraphs you covered everything except road runners and coyotes. (On said subject, my kids look on even cartoon anvils with more respect.) Looking forward to your (someday) book.

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Tuesday, 11/10/98 04:46:47 GMT

    Hi Guru

    I am 67 year old engineer looking to get set up in blacksmithing.
    I recentely attended a week course at John C. Cambel folk school
    in blacksmithing. Thats the extent of my experence in blacksmithing
    other than reading everything I can get my hands on about blacksmithing.

    I am looking to build a table forge simular to the ones at
    J.C.Cambel blacksmith shop.

    Which and from where can I obtain a comercial fire pot and
    associated hardware? Where do I find plans to build one? What should
    I do about lining it (fire clay)?

    I have an old (more than 80 years) and it needs lining. How do
    I go about doing that?

    The anvil I have, about the same age as above, Has the following
    Info on it. [ [ I.I.&B. ] [ 12 ] ] Can I find out where it was mfg? How much it weighs?

    Buzz Gibson

    Buzz (Herman B. Gibson) -- buzzgfe at Tuesday, 11/10/98 04:59:19 GMT


    GMT = Greenwich Mean Time. The time in Greenwich, UK, which is the time that all other time is related to.


    Check the Centaur Forge link here at anvilfire. Also the Bruce Wallace link. Get the Centaur Catalog. Even if you never buy anything from them (unlikely as hell, but just in case) the catalog is worth the $5, just for the education you can get by looking at it.

    About your anvil, with the brackets, it's hard to tell what is actually on your anvil. Can you clarify a little bit?

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 11/10/98 12:27:33 GMT

    I.I.&B ANVIL (Buzz): That anvil is an Illinois Iron and Bolt Company anvil. It is a cast iron steel faced anvil. It was sold under the Vulcan trademark from 1875 to the 1960's by hardeware stores and school suppliers. The 12 would be 120 pounds rounded off.

    Check the archives or earlier this month for my comments on lining forges and fire pots. I think the Blacksmiths Journal has on-line forge plans.

    TIME TIME TIME: Yes Mark it IS confusing. A one point the Slack-Tub Pub was on New Zealand time and for a week this was on EDT! I'd like to get all the times unified but it has not been a priority and in some cases it is not up to me.

    Thanks grandpa and Bruce. Just trying to make the kids happy!

    -- guru Tuesday, 11/10/98 13:34:06 GMT

    I have no experience of smithing whatsoever. I am writing a novel which will, at some point, require the forging of a sword. I would really like to know if there you could help by pointing me in the direction of a reference book? If you could help yourself then thank you but it's a lot to ask. I am based in the United Kingdom.

    Tony Cross -- tonycross71 at Wednesday, 11/11/98 13:32:29 GMT

    I am just starting out, and I have a gas forge on order. I've been told to coat the kaowool with ITC-100 or Satinite.
    1) Which is better?
    2) Which is easier to apply?
    3) Which would you use if it was your forge?

    Lou Polsinelli -- L_Polsinelli at Wednesday, 11/11/98 17:29:52 GMT

    I have a history project due on being a blacksmith in Colonial Williamsburg. Can you give me some information or point me to other sites that might be able to answer questions such as: tools used, how they were paid for their work, what kinds of things did they make, materials needed to do the job, how the materials were obtained, how did they learn to do blacksmith work, and what a typical day might be for a blacksmith, such as hours of work and number of days a week they would work. Are there any known illness that developed from doing this type of work.

    Your help is greatly appreciated


    Daniel Tomkinson -- ktomkins at Wednesday, 11/11/98 23:35:05 GMT

    FORGING A SWORD (Tony): To write about smithing (even fictionaly) it is good to know the basics. Forging a sword is not much different than forging anything else unless you are describing a specific type of sword. Most medieval swords are made of a combination of soft iron with hard (imported) steel edges. These edges were forge welded on to the body of the sword. Japanese swords were made by a different technique that also required forge welding.

    I always recomend Alex Bealers The Art of Blacksmithing for a general historical look at a blacksmithing techniques. For the sword smithing I recomend The Master Bladesmith by Jim Hrisoulas. Both these books are available from Centaur Forge There is also quite a bit of information on the Internet. See our links page.

    If you need a technical advisor let me know.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 00:21:57 GMT

    WILLIAMSBURG SMITHY (Daniel): The tools of the time were near identical to modern blacksmiths tools. Anvil, forge, vise, hammer, tongs, chisel and punch. Anvils were boxier and had a relatively short horn. The forge would be brick, stone or mud wattle and blown by a wood and leather bellows. The rest of the tools would be hard to tell from their modern versions. Look for the pictures of Peter Ross in our ABANA news coverage. He is working at a reproduction Williamsburg forge with bellows. Peter is currently the head blacksmith at Colonial Williamsburg.

    A smith of that time would be paid the same as any professional craftsman with cash OR by barter.

    They made everything you can imagine that was made of metal. Nails, hinges, fireplace tools and cooking equipment, farm tools from hay forks to plows, candle stands, chain, horse shoes, wagon parts, TOOLS for themselves and other craftsmen.

    The material used was primarily "wrought iron". Wrought iron is nearly pure iron and unlike steel it can not be hardened. Small pieces of expensive steel (iron with some carbon in it) was carefully welded to the edges of cutting tools. Some wrought iron was made in America during the colonial period but most of it and practicaly all steel was imported from England. Imported iron was expensive so most things made of iron were no heavier than necessary.

    The fuel used at the time was charcoal. The charcoal was made by partialy burning wood (keeping air away from it) so that the nearly pure carbon charcoal was all that was left. Huge forests were cut for charcoal that went into making iron as industry grew in America.

    Colonial blacksmiths learned their trade by the apprenticship system. At age 10 or 11 You were bonded or "bound" to a blacksmith for 7 years and worked for him every day in exchange for him teaching you the trade. When you were done you became a "Journeyman" and would move on to work in other people's shops to learn more until you were ready to set up your own shop. I wrote a story about "A day in the Life" of an apprentice last month and you will find it in the archives.

    Most laborers of the time worked from sun-up to sun-down (sometimes longer) six days a week. (See that same "Day in the Life" story)

    Illnesses and injuries: Blacksmiths are prone to glacoma (resulting in blindness) from staring (or pearing) into the white hot forge fire watching the iron to see if it is hot enough to weld. Occasional burns from the hot metal were (are) unavoidable. Loss of a finger or toe is also common among those that work in forges and machine shops. This is due to working with heavy objects or high forces that occasionaly get out of control.

    For more details see the collective works of Eric Sloane (A Museum of Early American Tools, A Diary of an Early American Boy, American Barns and Covered Bridges). For some insight in to eary American iron industry find one of the many books on Saugus Ironworks. For general info on blacksmithing see Alex Bealers Art of Blacksmithing. And for a little historical fiction see my story, A Blacksmith of 1776 on the 21st Century page.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 01:13:28 GMT

    FORGE LINING (Lou): If you have "ordered" a forge the lining should be ready to use or come with the proper product to finish the refractory.

    I'm not familiar with ITC-100 but have heard others recomend Satinite. If I were coating a Kaowool lined forge I had built I would use a mixture of sodium silicate (water softener), a little fireclay and sugar (for glue) as surface toughener. The same mixture without the clay is used for glueing the kaowool into the forge.

    Kaowool lined forges are light and relatively easy to build but the Kaowool is too delicate for me. I build stacked brick forges and plan to try castable refractory as an R&D project. I know a lot of people build forges with Kaowool but it is designed to be insulation (outside of a hard refractory or metal lining) and it is expensive compared to castable refractory.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 01:26:36 GMT

    Hi Guru,

    I'm trying to set up my first time forge, and I've got a few questions. First off, I'm possibly planning on using some heavy angle iron and steel plate for a base for my forge. I have a small, round cast iron sink basin as well as some heavy duty brake drums - would either of these be a good firepot, or do you have other junkyard tips? I have both oxy-acetylene and a small mig welder, so I could also fabricate something if you have ideas. I would like to build a clinker breaker gate, also, but I can't find info or pictures to judge the size or shape - can you help? The location will be in or near a 20' x 20' stone garage that I have. The garage has a patch of gravel behind its North wall. I thought that with a metal awning and removable side walls I could make a fairly weather-proof outdoor forge as a sort of lean-to on this dark side of the garage. Winter can get a bit cold though, and I was toying with the idea of building a hood (the garage has a chimney in the back corner, the ceiling is 16' high and there are several windows and doors) and putting the forge indoors, but I would like to know of any pros and cons for that, especially since the garage is also used for other projects, like woodworking. If you can help me get on my way, I will be very grateful.

    Thanks, Rob Wotzak

    Rob Wotzak -- gerzak at Thursday, 11/12/98 01:44:18 GMT

    GARAGE SHOP & SINKS for FORGE: Most sinks are a little deep for a coal forge but would make a great charcoal forge. Since you have cutting and welding equipment I'd recomend building a forge from plate either making your own fire pot or buying a comercial one. A firepot the shape of an inverted pyramid works well. 12" x 14" and about 5" deep. See the "brake drum" forge plan for tuyer. A clinker breaker can be just a piece of steel welded or bolted to the side of a 1/2" round bar fit between the firepot and the tuyer so that you can turn it. It should fit in the pipe so it can turn and air get around it when it is in the "down" position. This also acts as a grate. Another option is to just use a couple pieces of bar for a grate. You end up fishing clinkers out of either type forge.

    Hoods do not work very well. Check out the side draft forege chimney in the anvilfire NEWS, AFC Edition and the last pages of the ABANA coverage. These work very well. The reason a hood doesn't work well its that ALL the air at its opening must move UP the stack. This is about 8 to 10 times the amount needed to vent the forge. The problem is, all that air can't go up the stack so smoke billows out and you have a smokey shop.

    If you regularly use the welding equipment in the garage I would put the forge and anvil there too. The biggest problem with a mixed wood/metal working shop is that weld sputter and grinding sparks burn and stain wood. Iron filings on wood leave black stains when it gets damp. The scale from forging tends to stay around the anvil though coal ash does spread some. A lot depends on which you will do the most, wood work or metal work. The tall ceilings make it a GREAT metal working shop (good ventilation).

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 02:38:48 GMT

    Daniel: Williamburg Blacksmithing-

    If you haven't already, see if your librarian can pull a copy of the 31 page pamphlet "The Blacksmith in Eighteenth-Century Williamsburg (An Account of his Life & Times and of his Craft)" published by Colonial Williamsburg, 1978. For a contemporary English point of view, try having them look for Joseph Moxon's "Mechanick Exercises or the Doctrine of Handy-Works" first published in 1703 (my copy is a 1979 reprint by the Early American Industries Institute).

    Good luck and good grades.

    Visit your National Parks:

    Come have a row with us: (case sensitive)

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Thursday, 11/12/98 03:59:25 GMT

    Daniel: try this for images. espesialy the viking black smithing ones if you compare them to modern tools you would be faschinated by the similarities (it seems we haven't developed the hammers at all)
    BLACKSMITHS Sketchbook

    OErjan -- osa0219 at Thursday, 11/12/98 08:51:12 GMT

    I am building a propane forge. Do you have a source for Kao-wool insulation?

    Carr -- cdupuyiii at Thursday, 11/12/98 16:02:46 GMT


    I went to the web site you mentioned above, just out of curiosity. Then I book marked it because it was so interesting. THANKS!

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Thursday, 11/12/98 16:58:59 GMT

    Hi, I am 16 and I live in Ontario, Canada. I was wondering how I would start getting educated in the art of blade smithing? I have found several other sites on the net and so far no one else has been able to help me. Also how much would it cost to get into the buisness?

    David Overholt -- Ravenwing2000 at Thursday, 11/12/98 19:12:03 GMT

    David: If you have any outdoor space at all at your disposal, why not try the realy primitive and cheap method: a shallow pit, charcoal, a hairdryer vacuumcleaner "turned backwards", and any old lump of iron for an anvil. It worked for me twenty years ago. I still smith´ that way from time to time so as not lose sight of the fundamentals of earth, fire, wind and water.

    Olle Andersson -- utgaardaolle at Thursday, 11/12/98 20:02:47 GMT

    Where and from whom can I buy forge coal in Guthrie Oklahoma?

    Mo -- sharon at Thursday, 11/12/98 22:39:42 GMT

    KAOWOOL (Carr): Note that "Kaowool" (from kaolin wool) is a trade mark of Babcox & Wilcox (or McDemot, or Framatome - whoever they sold out too). Kaowool and similar products are sold by foundry suppliers. It comes in boxes or cartons of 20 square yards or so (Enough for several forges) at a cost of around $100/carton depending on the thickness.

    It is also used by furnace and boiler service people and I've been told you can occasionaly get scrap or broken cartons from them.

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 22:58:14 GMT

    GETTING STARTED in BLADESMITHING (David): Try the Don Fogg site on our links page. Cost depends a LOT on how resourceful you are. The range of equipment needed ranges from a hole in the ground and a rock or two as our Swedish friend has suggested which is a good way to learn the BASICS such as how a forge works (or doesn't) and why you want a REAL anvil. Olle's suggestion may sound primitive but I know a smith that made a bellows from a 5gal plastic pail and some thin plastic sheet taped to it! Others have used stone anvils (not recomended). It is too easy to find better alternatives (see article on the 21st Century page on the Brake Drum Forge). If cost is no object you can buy everything you need from Centaur Forge. A "complete" tool list would run several pages and include machines that you would need to purcase from a machinery dealer.

    The FIRST thing you need is knowledge. If you intend to forge blades you need to know the basics of blacksmithing. See my many posts (this month alone) on getting started and the standing article on the 21st Century page. You can order a catalog listing books covering everything from the basics to Master Bladesmithing from Centaur Forge. Try your local library. Look for books on blacksmithing and knifemaking. One of the Foxfire books includes some articles on primitive knifemaking. The techniques described require very few tools other than knowledge and craftsmanship.

    Once beyond the basics of blacksmithing and knifemaking then you need to study metalurgy. The top bladesmiths know more metalurgy than most engineers (and need to). Once you are familiar with alloys, heat treating and related engineering THEN you could start experimenting with your own laminated metals (commonly and eroneously called Damascus). Fancy laminated or "patern welded" steel is what the high dollar knives and swords are being made with.

    Cost? Bottom line - nothing (but your time) OR tens of thousands of dollars (The more you know the less it will cost).

    -- guru Thursday, 11/12/98 23:36:43 GMT


    anvilfire! has had over 25,000 visitors in 10 months! Currently there are an average of over 150 visits a day. The average half month archive for the guru page is over 100 kb!

    Thank you!

    -- guru Friday, 11/13/98 00:11:49 GMT

    No Jock,


    You gave us the forum we needed. You keep working on it to keep it interesting. You keep expanding the information available.

    THAT's why we are still growing!

    Paw Paw

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 11/13/98 01:09:14 GMT

    What is a cone mandrel used for.
    I'm looking at a 100# Meyers #D164 it is well used what is it worth.
    Also a 25 Or 50# Hammer Made by Kerrihard co. what is it Worth.

    Bobby Neal -- bneal at Friday, 11/13/98 02:25:17 GMT

    someone ask me about sharping jack hammer bits.??? what about the tempering , anneal.forge and retemper?? how much to charge????


    MIKE IVEY -- SRiverF at Friday, 11/13/98 02:41:58 GMT

    A CONE MANDEREL is used for EXACTLY what it looks like. A cast iron monument for the corner of your shop! Looks good on the living room hearth too! Simple, balanced proportions. . . . Actually they are for making rings round (any size that fits). They come in a variety of sizes including short "partial" cones, solid ones and those with a "tong" groove. Every blacksmith WANTS one but I've never spoken to one that used theirs more than. . . well, they ALL say they've used it but can't remember when. . . I've never used mine that I can remember.

    Power hammers vary greatly depending on where they are, the condition they are in and who's buying and who's selling. Neither machine is manufactured any longer. The Kerrihard is featured on the cover of the book Pounding out the Profits and that may ad some collectors value (see anvilfire review). The Meyers Brothers hammer was made by the company that became Little Giant. Sid Sudemeyer currently owns what is left of the company's parts stocks and rebuilds the machines. A 100# hammer is a very nice machine (I just sold my Meyers 100#) for a variety of work. It is a serious machine but its size makes them less popular than the smaller hammers. Currently, in good running condition, 25#, 50# and 100# Little Giant/Meyers Bros. hammers all sell for about the same money (about $1,000 to $3,000 US). I bought and sold a 250# in the same range too. With any major broken or missing parts they often sell for a LOT less.

    -- guru Friday, 11/13/98 03:47:49 GMT

    Mike, did you mean TELL you about sharpening bits? Here goes anyway.

    First, you need a BIG power hammer. This work will wear out a 100# hammer in no time. A 300 to 500 pound machine is the range you should be using. You also need a gas forge (see the 10 Minute Gas Forge on the 21st Century Page. If you do pavement cutters you will also need a special machine set up or special dies (details on request).

    Folks that do it are generaly careful not to heat anymore bit than necessary and then oil quench the point.

    Now the dissapointment. There is a lot of competition in the field. The going rate is something like $2.50 to 3.50 per bit. A friend of mine set up to do it. He could do 30+ bits per hour! Good money. It took a 3B Nazel, the special forge, dies, a quench tank and oil and a big HD grinder (You should also have a fork lift and ton truck). The other problem was that he is a very talented smith and he couldn't get employees to produce at half that rate.

    To compete, you need to have the equipment and the hustle!

    -- guru Friday, 11/13/98 04:05:48 GMT

    Hi Jock. I found a Canadian pottery supplier who has castables, wool, and ceramic board. I have emailed them and am waiting for a response regarding prices. You stated in an earlier post that you tend to use brick forges. I have seen the sketch of the10 minute forge, and remember a picture of another one here somewhere. Question: do you need to use morter between the refractory bricks? Thanks for the great site and congratulations on the high usage rate.

    Mark Hachmer -- marlin at Friday, 11/13/98 05:14:27 GMT

    Hello! Fantastic webpage!!
    I'm going to Scotland with my business partner...He's a bona fide welder and I'm his happy-go-lucky apprentice. We're both quite interested in blacksmithing, and are looking for suitable classes here in the Seattle Area. I'm trying to find a blacksmith in Scotland who we might visit, or at least correspond with via e-mail in order to get some ideas of places to go and things to see related to blacksmithing, and other ornamental iron work. Can you give me any suggestions? I'd appreciate anything you might think is helpful.
    Thank you very much!
    P.S....I look forward to asking you "real" blacksmithing related questions soon!!!!!!

    Jackie -- Hotrodf1 at Friday, 11/13/98 07:27:45 GMT


    I can't give you but one piece of advice about your trip. Well, actually two. First, have a great time! and Second, take LOTS of pictures. I'm certain that Jock would like to scan some of the pictures and get you to do a page for the NEWS.

    Paw Paw

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 11/13/98 15:06:53 GMT

    Need advice on refacing anvils.
    My background. novice to intermediate smith.
    Reasonably handy with arc (stick welding, including multiple
    pass stuff).

    I have one of your basic farm/light industry AC/DC stick welders.
    Access to milling machine, also live in area with lots
    of heavy industry (ship building) so if need be, may be able
    to contract out some of the work if needed.

    I have two anvils. One, an old 100# forged Peterwright with a hardened
    plate face. This is in reasonable shape, mostly needs touch up
    for a few low spots and chips.

    The second anvil, 200# also an old forged anvil, don't recall the
    brand. The face is in rough shape, with some half ass attempts
    by previous owners to reface (The hardened plate may have
    popped off this one, at least in places and been filled
    in with god knows what type of filler electrode.

    I figure I have two options.
    Surface weld the entire face and then grind or mill flat
    or weld a new hardened plate to the surface.

    Not real strong on forge welding, so I've been trying to figure how
    to arc weld a plate to an anvil. Do you just run a bead around the
    edge and hope for the best or gouge out the face to
    let the electrode get further in.

    For building up by face welding, what type or types of electrode
    (in what order), any other instructions, like
    preheating, hot working, quenching, etc.

    Of course the two anvils have different size hardy holes.
    Been debating either shrinking the hardy on the #200 anvil
    or opening up the hardy on the #100. Does this make sense
    or should I just live with having to find/make two sets of hardy

    daveu at

    Dave Uebele -- daveu at Friday, 11/13/98 16:55:22 GMT

    I see what you mean Jim I was in a hurry I meant to say:
    “Daniel: try this for images. Especially the Viking blacksmithing ones.
    If you compare them to modern tools you would be fascinated by the similarities (it seems we haven't developed the hammers at all)".
    (ok better material)
    BLACKSMITHS Sketchbook
    (a href = "" BLACKSMITHS Sketchbook)

    That means a link will form with the title BLACKSMITHS Sketchbook
    (here it is if this forum doesn't support that script )


    O by the way I seem to spell my name and use a different address every time I come here Oerjan, OErjan, oerjan.

    OErjan -- osa0219 at Friday, 11/13/98 18:43:50 GMT


    So which one is correct? (grin)

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Friday, 11/13/98 21:59:19 GMT

    Hey Guru,

    Thanks for the suggestions on setting up my forge! I saw some pictures of the sidedraft chimney you told me about and I was hoping I could find out if there are any technical specs I need, or is it basically just a big air box with a hole next to the firepot? Also, I've noticed that alot of folks are asking you about lining their forges. Is this for heat or for durability? Thank you again. I have been wandering around your site since I last wrote, and I want to say how great it is to find a site that is both well designed AND informative.

    - Rob

    Rob Wotzak -- gerzak at Friday, 11/13/98 23:44:37 GMT

    REFRACTORY BRICK FORGES: I have used refractory mortar with firebrick and was not happy with it. Loose brick is easy to replace and can still be contained in a steel frame. To bridge a large span you can use unmortared arch bricks (exensive) OR wedge the bricks with pieces of broken brick. If its a large arch (over 16") then I would use refractory mortar on the back side to help wedge the bricks.

    The next small gas forge I build will have cast refractory top and sides (one piece or three, I haven't decided). The floor will be refractory brick turned on edge. This is a planned anvilfire R&D project that has slipped a few months.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 01:56:16 GMT

    Hows it goin! I was lookin for my long lost buddy. We were in highschool, his name is Jim Kieley,(GREAT SMITH)cant locate him. If you can help email blwood at thanks

    joe maloney -- blwood at Saturday, 11/14/98 02:11:42 GMT

    ANVIL REPAIR (Dave): First, let me say that I do not believe in atempting to repair an anvil that has a little cosmetic damage. The likelyhood of doing more damage (as you have described on the second anvil) is greater than doing good. It IS done all the time but you ARE risking making things worse.

    If the entire face of the anvil is bad you will want to remove as much of it as possible (torch it off) and build up a new face. This is especialy true when you think parts of the face may be loose. This is a BIG job and you want to remember that your farm welder probably has a 10% duty cycle. You are talking about applying about 20 pounds or more of weld metal (50 lbs of rods!).

    Bill Pieh of Centaur Forge says,
    I like McKay 886 (or 86) for buildup on anvils. Hard rod is too brittle. Better too soft than too hard. . . .You should use at least 250 Amps, DC-reverse. Peen between passes. (Or you can just buy a new anvil)

    Another rod that is often recommended for repair is Stultz super manganese. When dealing with hard facing rod much of it is designed for abrasion resistance and as Bill says may be too brittle. The best instructions to follow are those of the rod manufacturer for making repairs to tool steel dies. I've seen recomendations of using stainless as transition between low alloy to high alloy (the hard face or high strength rods).

    The face of an anvil is too hard to be machined. If its machineable then it wasn't properly hardened, been in a fire and annealed OR you have done a poor repair. Anvils must be ground. Hand grinding with a heavy angle grinder is a lot of work but the other option is Blanchard grinding on a $100/hr (or more) machine.

    People have arc welded new plates to the top of anvils but I do not recommend that either (long discussion about why not. . .).

    Modifying hardy holes is a bear of a job. Most folks just make a bushing to fit tools from the smaller anvil in the larger. The bushing should have a flange that the entire tool can set on.

    Before attempting to weld and refinish an entire anvil face I suggest you try a test block about 3 x 3". Then take a heavy hammer or sledge and "work" it. If it holds up to attempts to TRY to destroy it then the technique may be suitable for an anvil.

    You may find some of the information in my anvil series on the 21st Century page helpful.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 03:15:27 GMT

    OErjan, on anvilfire I've turned off embedded HTML for users other than myself because it is easy to make a HUGE mess. Even simple italics or centering without both open AND closing tags can screw up all the following entries! I have a hard enough time fixing MY mistakes much less everyone elses! If I remember, I'll make your link "hot" when I do the archiving.

    Thanks for your input.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 04:36:56 GMT

    Thanks for the info you provided me with on hardening leafspring steel.11/08/98 The problem was that I was heating the steel too hot, and it needs a water quench instead of an oil quench. At the lower temp the steel does not crack in the water.
    My question this time is in reference to the article in the section Blacksmithing in the 21st century called "LaGrange Hoho." It is about the water pail forge. I was wondering how it actually worked? What kind of solution is used in the bucket? Do you stick the piece that is to be heated in the solution or do you just let it touch the solution? Compared to a gas forge, which do you think would be more efficent? Could you provide me with a breif description of how to build a "waterpail forge."
    I have one more question. What book would you recomend as a good reference for the different steels and heat treatments for each one. I am looking for a fairly inexpensive book.

    Thankyou for your valuable time!

    Stewart Alexander -- stewart4th at Saturday, 11/14/98 04:41:59 GMT

    Thanks for the tips. I found the 21st Century page after I posted.

    I took a closer look at the faces of the anvils, and
    wire brushed them.

    Both have been repaired via arc welding in the past. The 100#
    peterwright is in pretty good shape, a just a bit of waviness
    and a few pits/holes. I know the person whe re-surfaces it,
    and he did attempt to re-harden (big bonfire on the beach,
    followed by quenching. That I'll leave alone or do minimal
    work, since its been my working anvil for several years.

    The other one, it can't get much worse, lots of illregularitys,
    pits, groovees, bumps and divits. I can make it my project piece.

    I did a summer of vocational welding, multiple pass on 1/2 inch
    plate, covering the surface, I know what I'm up against there, but
    I like the idea of testing various surface treatments on smallar
    plate first. The limited duty cycle could be a pain, especially
    with preheating before each session.

    I may just have to break down and buy a new anvil if I want a flat
    smooth face. I saw some new anvils that had were half and half.
    The top steel, the bottom cast aluminum. Any opinions?
    Seen in a ferrier supply, with mostly over extended
    anvils for shaping a pre-made horseshoe.

    I may be able to finagle some grinding time from some
    friends at a submarine base. The navy has been pretty
    happy to support his living history work (civil war re-enctment)
    and I'm helping with some of the ironwork needed for a period
    cannon. Might try to scrounge some metal scrap. There seems
    to be a certain amount of sub skin hy-80 floating around.
    Might make a nice anvil face, probably more trouble than I want
    to mess with.


    Dave Uebele -- daveu at Saturday, 11/14/98 04:43:23 GMT

    I just read on what you wrote (2 articles above) about refacing an anvil. I was thinking if it would be possible just to grind the old face fairly flat, roughen it up, clean it, apply some type of high compression metal epoxy to the top and then just place an already hardened and tempered steel plate to that? Just an Idea, wanted to see what you thought. Any Ideas about what kind of epoxy would be suitable?

    Stewart Alexander -- stewart4th at Saturday, 11/14/98 04:52:42 GMT

    SIDE DRAFT CHIMINEY (Rob): The commercial metal ones are built with a "smoke shelf" like a fireplace but I have seen brick side drafts that just went straight up (14" to 16" square stack). I think if you look close on the ABANA news coverage (Volume 2, page 24) I show a back view. The back plate reduces the "box" to about half depth at the top.

    Lining of coal forges is supposedly for heat AND durability but I think it is largely a waste of time and effort. Good firepots and forges last a VERY long time if not abused (without lining). What is abuse? Dumping water on a cast iron firepot (cracks them every time). Building an oversized forge fire and then not tending it (Will burn out ANY firepot, lined or not). Leaving a forge out in the weather with coal ashes in it (I'll admit to this sin - Will rust them out no matter how heavy they are built).

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 04:54:06 GMT

    EPOXY (Stewart): I just did some epoxy/fibreglass repairs this week (low pressure oil/water barrier in a machine). The strength of the best epoxy is about 10,000psi. Tool steels (such as an anvil face) are 100,000psi (shear) and 29,000,000psi elastic.

    Modern equal part (like "5 minute) epoxies are the pits. Pure epoxy hardener is something like 1% of the volume of the resin. In equal part epoxy the hardener is mixed with inert filler. The resulting product is a 2,500psi material! Its OK stuff but its NOT industrial strength epoxy. I tried to find some of the "good" stuff (on short notice) but found that the commonly available "professional" versions were equal part.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 05:10:07 GMT

    SUBMARINE & ANVIL: Not a pretty picture! :) The aluminum based anvils are designed to be super light weight farriers anvils (mostly for light cold working as you mentioned). It is just half an anvil with a stand to make it LOOK like a whole anvil.

    MODERN FARRIERS ANVILS: The few farriers I've spoken to that have moved up to "real" anvils say they can't believe the difference! Those springy looking things ARE as bad as they look. All style, no substance.

    Be careful when you take a hard faced object to be machine ground. A grinder that will take off 1/4" (6mm) or cast iron in one pass will bounce off unhardened medium carbon steel. Wheels designed for hard carbon steels will bounce off abrasion resistant steels. Just be sure the operator knows he may need to change wheels before taking on your little project!

    New anvils are always an option. Bill Pieh, Bruce Wallace or Steve Kayne will be glad to sell you a nice new forged steel Peddinghaus! Although you have a couple of rough used anvils there are a LOT of good used anvils to be found. Be patient and tell EVERYONE you are looking for anvils.

    -- guru Saturday, 11/14/98 05:39:31 GMT

    Hello Guru, I am a Mechanical Engineering Student from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I am doing my final year project on Metallography of Antique Gun Components. I am having some difficulty in finding material covering the historical manufacturing processes of materials (in particular, wrought iron) around the 18th and 19th centuries. If you have any information on this subject or you know of somewhere i could find information relating to this topic could you please forward that information to me as soon as possible. Thank you very much for your help!

    Nelm Dhaliwal -- dhaliwn at Saturday, 11/14/98 18:29:43 GMT

    HISTORICAL METAL STUDIES: Technological history is very poorly documented, however, the manufacturing processes of wrought iron are well known. Several processes were used.

    The bloomery process: In this process a furnace of the Catlan type is charged with layers of fuel, ore and flux. In most early iron production limestone was the most common flux. The furnace is fired and more layers of the charge are added. In the bloomery process the fire is carefully controled so that the iron does not become too liquid and drop to the bottom of the furnace (at which point it has absorbed too much carbon and becomes cast iron). When the conditions are just right a spongy mass of pure iron and slag forms near the bottom of the furnace. This mass is pulled from the furnace and immediately forged under a trip hammer to squeeze out the excess slag and weld the mass into a bar. The mixture of iron and slag is what gives bloomery process wrought iron its characteristic wood like grain. Because the fuel used in this process was always charcoal the metal is also known as "charcoal iron".

    The puddling process: This process was a fairly modern developement (Late 1700's, I THINK). Here cast iron is melted in a reverbatory furnace with an oxidizing atomosphere. As the carbon is burned out of the cast iron and becomes pure iron its melting temperature rises and forms a skin of pure iron on the surface of the melt. A worker with a "rake" would skim the surface of the melt (called a puddle) and form a spongy ball of pure iron. When the ball was of sufficient size it was pulled from the furnace and forged into bar. This produced a very nearly pure iron bar without the slag inclusions of the earlier bloomery process. This process was used to make the famous "Swedish" iron up until the 1960's and has been resurected by a few small manufacturers today.

    In both processes the bar produced was often forge welded to other wrought iron bar and forged back to the merchant bar size of approximately 1" x 2".

    I'm not home in my library tonight or I'd give you specific references. I looked in Alex Bealers Art of Blacksmithing and he had several technical details incorrect.

    Look up Bloomery, Catlan furnace, puddling process, Saugus Ironworks (A restored colonial period works in Saugus, Mass, USA).

    Diderots Encyclopedia has illustrations and discriptions of the process and so does Agricola's DeRe Metalica. I cannot remember the author's name but there is a book by the title Pioneer Ironworks about Saugus Ironworks. It is "Juvenile" literature but still very informative. The autobiography of James Nasmyth describes some of his experiments with steam in the puddling process where he co-discovered what became known as the Bessemer process. There is a review in the anvilfire Bookshelf with a link to the on-line version of the book.

    -- guru Sunday, 11/15/98 01:49:23 GMT

    Nelm: Antique Gun Components-

    A quirky, but very good book is "Quest for the Indian Trade Gun" by Robert Heath, available through Centaur Forge and sometimes Lindsay Publications ( Centaur has it for $26.00 (US) plus shipping. The print runs are so small (home publication) that you probably won't find it at the library (but it's worth a try). Really interesting stuff.

    Meanwhile, hit the National Park Service web page (, go to "Visit Your Parks" and pull up Saugus, Springfield Armory, and Hopewell Furnace. These three sites cover ironmaking and arms manufacturing from the 1600s to the 1960s. Call or write the Chief Historians (or equivalents), once you get an idea of their scope, with any specific questions you may have. Springfield Armory has an incredible collection of historic firearms and the tools that made them, and a first rate staff to go with them.

    Good luck.

    A cool and rainy night on the banks of the lower Potomac. Just had a car pulled out of our north feild. Odd, the temporary tags were expired and altered and the driver was nowhere to be found! I love tromping through our fields in the drizzle, looking for possible bodies/drunks/casualties! Another exciting night in St. Mary's (By Gawd) County (and why I'm posting this so late).

    Come have a row with us:

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Sunday, 11/15/98 05:06:04 GMT

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