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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 Oct 15 - 31, 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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    -- guru Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
    Unanswered questions from the archived half of the month. -
    Blacksmithing school(s) on Faro (sp) Island Denmark?
    Info on Rock Island vises and tools?

    -- guru
    Saturday, 08/01/98 00:00:00 EDT
    I am looking for a supplier of stamped steel candle cups and the dish shaped disk for under them. I need a large quantiy (1000+) of them for a new project. If you could help me find a supplier it wold be a big help.

    Tim Bennett -- slatesigns at Friday, 10/16/98 01:39:13 GMT


    Valley Forge & Welding
    280 Franklin Ave.
    Willits Calif.
    1 800 367 5373

    Dallas, TX

    I couldn't find "candle cups" in the KING catalog but they have a LOT of stuff.

    You might also try:

    Kayne & Son Custom Harware
    Candler, NC

    Besides making the "Blue" air hammers and selling a lot of blacksmithing equipment the Kaynes also make a line of Colonial period hardware. They may be able to supply your candle holder supplies.

    -- guru Friday, 10/16/98 03:38:06 GMT

    Off to California next week (any of you fellows near Arcata, Orick or Whiskeytown?) but one quick question:

    My second anvil is a 70# Mankel farrier's anvil, mounted high for light and close work. Around the turn of the century (I believe) the farrier's anvil picked up an extra pritchel hole. I've never seen it used except as an alternate punching hole. Is there some other tool or some special technique that would involve two holes? Clip starters and thinned out heels make sense, but this leaves me a little puzzled.

    Clear, breezy and cool on the banks of the Potomac and at Oakley ("We don't do horses.") Forge.

    Visit your National Parks:

    Come have a row with us (last voyage Saturday; alas, I can't make it.)

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- bruce_blackistone at Friday, 10/16/98 14:38:18 GMT

    I was handed down, when my father died, a metal vice from the Rock Island Mfg. Co. The vice is a #141. It is also quite large and heavy. Iwas trying to find more information on the vice and don't see anything on the Internet. Does the Rock Island company no longer exist? Thanks in advance for any help or information!

    Charley Jacob -- jacob at Friday, 10/16/98 15:45:06 GMT

    I have seen the second pritchel hole being used for a hold down wen a farrier was punching the holes for the nails
    I guess it is kind of hard to hold a pair of tongs a hammer and a punch with only two hands;-)
    (In the old days you probably had a apprentice doing the holding for you)

    Örjan Sandström -- pokebacken at Friday, 10/16/98 19:33:40 GMT

    sorry for the spelling

    Örjan Sandström -- pokebacken at Friday, 10/16/98 19:36:47 GMT

    first off what a great site, I have looked in every day for the last 5 weeks. I am based in the UK and am new to forging.I have built myself an atmopheric propane forge which is heating mild steel hot enough for me to play with on my "H" girder anvil. I tried the rose from the fremlington forge site and was pleasantly surprised.
    My question relates to what we call cages, 4 pieces of square steel welded together in a bunch twisted and pushed inwards at the same time ? sounds like Ive answered my own question, but how do I do it?

    Toddy the would be blacksmith.

    Toddy -- david.todhunter at Saturday, 10/17/98 09:53:17 GMT

    FARRIERS ANVILS: Paraphrased from Richard Postman's Anvils in America:

    The pritchel hole or something similar was found on Ancient Bronze Age anvils. The English anvil did not have it until the after 1830. In 1882 a company called Kimbark made a special farriers anvil without on side of the table producing a longer horn on that side. After 1910 all American "farriers" anvils had two pritchel holes.

    Under some other subject Postman notes that he has found heal caulk wear spots on a number of old anvils. The extra hole may have been a place for the heal caulk to drop into. On a 200 pound Hay-Budden farriers anvil I had the second pritchel hole seemed to have had little use AND appeared to be bigger that the standard one closer to the heal. In the modern era all it takes is one manufacturer that whants to be different to start a trend without historical reason.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/17/98 12:33:17 GMT

    BLACKSMITH or BASKET TWIST: First, note that most books have this WRONG. DO NOT tap downwards as you twist. Heat and twist the bundle tightly (until the bars are at about 45 degrees) with one end anchored in a vise and then reverse or try to straighten the twist while pushing downward (gently). The initial twisting stretches the outer portion of the bars, when you reverse the twisting the bars will open up on their own. By either method you often need to adjust the bars slightly with tongs or a small bar.

    Preparation of the bundle may be by arc welding or forge welding the ends. Wire or hose clamps can be used to hold the bunble together. If arc welded then thouroughly remove ALL the flux before forging to clean up. When using the "untwist" method you can generally finish the end of the twist (if its a handle) before twisting as it will not be hammered on.

    The basket twist can be made with 4 or more bars. Five looks the best. With five it helps to have a filler bar in the ends to be welded. It needs to be about 20% smaller than the other bars to fit in the center.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/17/98 12:43:47 GMT

    I do saw smithing. I smith cold steel saws, not hot steel. Getting the right saw smithing anvil is a problem. They now come from Europe at crazy prices. I am working with a foundry to make them here. Need to know the ;proper Rockwell hardness, harder than a file. Chilled steel is one term I've heard. Would like to know R.C. and do you know of a source for smithing anvils. I do not want to reinvent the wheel. It probably has a soft core with the outer surface tempered to a certain depth. Need to know all these specs.



    Karl Schmidt -- gfalconer at Saturday, 10/17/98 23:16:27 GMT

    I have a question about anvils:
    If only one company, Pendighus is currently making anvils by forging, why hasn’t some one else made there own forged anvil?..
    I mean we forge most of our own tools. We are “Blacksmiths”. Its just another tool, A big massive tool. If you had A big enough forge, big enough friends to swing the hammers, And big enough steel, couldn’t an anvil be forged? My idea is to take 6” solid square and stack about three chunks of steel together. forge weld them, weld on a leaf spring or what ever for the face and throw the thing in the garden pond(dont tell mama what’s up before hand) I don’t know maybe I’m crazy but it should work
    Tell me what you think , or if I’m just crazy let me know.
    Nice and sunny in OH

    Lon -- lhumphrey at Sunday, 10/18/98 01:18:26 GMT

    Hey, How are you? I`m a new smith, wanting to make some hammers for myself. My question is concerning puching the handle hole in the hammer. For making a 2-3lb cross pin what size should my initail punch size be? Thanx in advance

    mike -- Sunday, 10/18/98 02:24:33 GMT

    I followed your instructions for the basket twist. Brilliant I have today created my first basket twist, later this week I will try the pineapple twist. If anyone can shed any light on any other fancy twists or formations in iron please let me know them, however simple
    I will keep you posted on my progress.
    Once again THANKS.


    toddy -- david.todhunter at Sunday, 10/18/98 15:26:10 GMT

    Hello. I am a looking for information on setting up a small forge in my sculpting studio. In my research I have seen pictures of portable forges yet have not been able to get the info for putting one together. Is there a resource that I am overlooking?

    Nick Gehlhausen -- ngehlhausen at Sunday, 10/18/98 17:51:15 GMT

    I acquired an oxy/acet cutting torch and dont know much about setting the regulators for O2 psi/acet psi for cutting thin stock (1/8 to 1/4". My cuts seem to backfill with molten slag. Is there also different settings for using a brazing tip to attach bolsters on knifeblades. I cant find anything in my 11th edition Machinerys Handbook. Can someone sugges a good reference book for cutting/brazing with Oxy/acet. Guru..many thanks for this great website.

    Randall Guess -- rguess at Sunday, 10/18/98 20:29:43 GMT

    SAW ANVIL: The only saw makers anvils I am familiar with look like the bottom half of a standard anvil. Many just look like a rectangular lump. Is there something special about the shape of a modern saw makers anvil?

    Just found an ad for Hanchett saw makers anvils and leveling blocks. Had pics of round and square anvils and long 5" thick leveling blocks. Mentioned the words "cast" and "chilled" and "hardened". Try these guys, Hanchett Manufacturing, Big Rapids, MI 49307 - (616) 796-7678. I tried the number its good (no info on Sunday night).

    In blacksmithing, chilled cast iron anvils are just a hair better than cast iron door stops and are pretty useless for serious smithing.

    Hardness. A tricky question. Since anvils have been being made since before hardness standards the hardness was always pretty much described as better than the other guys or suitable for the work. Modern ads seem to continue this tradition. The only reference I could find was for a Mankel cast steel anvil at 48Rc.

    Long experiance with anvils indicates that the hardness varied a great deal. Small anvils would quench better than large anvils and were typically harder. Most descriptions of anvil manufacturing does not mention tempering (may be omitted on purpose). Anvils were hardened to the max (for the given steel). The result is that the corners of many old anvils are often chipped pretty bad. The shape of the chip spalls indicating a high degree of hardness. See my article on hardness testing under 21st Century.

    "Chilled" is a term used with cast iron. Hardened and tempered are terms used with cast and forged steel. The terms and materials are not interchangable.

    Chilled-Iron castings have a hard surface and an interior of normal properties. If your foundry doesn't normally manufacture items using chills you had better find another if that is what you are asking.

    EARLY ANVILS were made by forge welding a tool steel face onto a wrought iron body and then hardened. Later processes were developed to make cheaper anvils by welding the steel plate to a cast iron body in the mold.

    THE BEST modern anvils (since about 1918) have been made with a forged steel upper body and a cast or low carbon steel base. Later Hay-Buddens were made this way and now Peddinghaus is the last maker of forged steel anvils.

    See response below for more about anvil making.

    -- guru Sunday, 10/18/98 22:01:19 GMT

    as for paying $10 for a set of plans for the rear axle hammer I'd pay $ for it and if you get it togeather I buy the plans. Thanks.
    I'm a cabinetmaker and classical woodcarver who makes my own chisels and I also make exotic hinges and hasps and latches for wood/hand formed Iron gates.

    Thomas Laman -- tlmn at Sunday, 10/18/98 22:07:38 GMT

    MAKING ANVILS (Lon, etal): Before attempting to make an anvil you should first get Richard Postman's book Anvils in America (see my anvilfire review for ordering information). It includes several accounts of how anvils were manufactured. The reason no one else makes forged steel anvils is because it is so expensive.

    In my piece of fiction A day in the Life earlier this month I described an anvil being made (from the new apprentice's point of view) in a Colonial era blacksmith shop. The anvil that took a team of experianced professional smiths all day to make probably weighed 100 pounds and didn't have much shape.

    READ Postman's book. THEN, look at the equipment used. The earliest manufactories of anvils (1500-1600) used water powered "trip" hammers. Later steam and air hammers were used (See the review and link to the on-line biography of James Nasmyth and the anvilfire Power hammer Page). Postman's book also shows several of the special forges used to make anvils and the special quenching and grinding rigs. He also notes accounts from makers of forge welds that suddenly popped loose with a bang long after the anvil was finished. . .

    IF YOU ARE SERIOUS about making an anvil. See the article Anvil, MAKE on the 21st Century page and the link to METAL WEB NEWS and Ernie Leimkuhler's articles (2) on making anvils from plate. Late Hay-Buddens and new Peddinghaus anvils are arc welded at the waist, presenting another design possibility. A modern option is to flame cut the entire anvil from a solid slab of steel. Fine (machine) flame cutting produces a 125RMS or better finish and requires little grinding to finish. Cut, grind and harden.

    Whether you forge OR cast an anvil, hardening is going to be a hugh problem. The truck springs you mentioned are a modern oil quench steel and would probably shatter on quenching in the pond. Peddinghaus induction hardens their anvils (high frequency electromagnetic field to heat - probably the surface - and then quench). They are the hardest anvils I've tested. Another method for modern alloy steels is to flame harden - heat with a row of oxyactylene torches and quench with water behind the torches as the move (mechanicaly) along the surface.

    If you are intrested in making a REALLY fine forged anvil I have a 2,300 pound steel billet I can sell you for 12 cents a pound! Alloy unknown - ex-ship drive shaft.

    -- guru Sunday, 10/18/98 22:35:59 GMT

    PORTABLE FORGE: Portability is a relative term. I used to make "portable" machine tools that weighed around 10 tons. They were "portable" because they were transported and attached to the work!

    Gas forges can be used without a chimney in a well ventilated shop with high ceilings. However, they SHOULD be vented to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. If you have a welding bench with vent hood a small forge can be placed there. Small ones can be quite portable (See the anvilfire NEWS Vol 3 (Camp Fenby) for some cute little forges. Then check the Centaur Forge catalog. They have little bench top farriers and knife makers forges and big floor models too.

    If you want to build your own I have several articles (no plans yet) about gas forges on the 21st Century page and then check the links page and go to the Ron Reil page. There is lots of do-it -yourself info there.

    -- guru Sunday, 10/18/98 22:50:05 GMT

    TORCH GAS PRESSURES: Often the manufacturer provides this information as it varies from brand to brand. Any good welding text book will have pressure charts for some applications. The copy I have is titled Modern Welding by Althouse, Turnquist, Bowditch and published by Goodheart-Willcox. I saw it for sale somewhere recently so I know it is still available. It is pretty standard.

    There are two types of cutting torch, the equal pressure type and the injector type. Pressure settings are different for the two types. Time to contact the manufacturer.

    For an equal pressure torch 1/8 to 3/8 material: 20-30 PSI Oxy, 3 PSI acetylene. For an injector type the oxygen is about the same or a little less for this range but the acetylene is 1 PSI or less.

    Pressure required is also determined by the tip in use. A small tip will need less pressure than a larger tip even on the same size work. Travel speed is often the problem with a cut closing up but so is using too large a tip.

    Heating/welding tips. The gas pressure for these tips should be enough to supply enough fuel and oxygen. If the mix slows too much (below the flame front velocity) then the flame pops up into the torch and the flame goes out OR WORSE continues to burn in the torch and hoses (be sure you have good check valve/flame arrestors). Excess pressure just makes it hard to adjust the torch. Again, the exact numbers vary according to manufacturer and type of torch. Tip size makes the biggest difference. Although you can go by a chart most welders go by experiance gained from trial and error. Heating/Welding tips vary from little aircraft types with .010" orifices to big ones with 1/8" orifices. Any time you get into multi orifice "rosebud" type tips you need to get multiple fuel cylinders to provide sufficient volume to prevent flashback.

    There are a LOT of details to know about oxy-acetylene welding equipment and just as many safety rules. This is the one set of equipment I recomend EVERYONE going to school on. Especially the guys that learned "on-the-job". They learned half the safety rules and often get those wrong. How do I know? Anytime you go by a construction site and see oxy-acetylene cylinders hooked up and laying on the ground, the welders, the foreman AND the boss don't know what they are doing! Yep, you see it every day! Its wrong, and its dangerous.

    -- guru Sunday, 10/18/98 23:32:58 GMT

    HAMMER HANDLE HOLES (say that ten times, fast): Good question. I recently heard some good advice from Bill Epps (See the AFC edition of the NEWS), he says make your hammers fit commercial hammer handles and then reshape the handle to your hand.

    Handle holes are oval and require two dimensions. You can punch a round hole but you will want to drift it out oval. I'll have to go measure my hammer handle. . .
    Dimensions at top and bottom of hole 7/8" x 1-1/4" (22mm x 32mm) in a 3lb hammer.

    The hole isn't realy oval but a stretched circle. Taking the circumference and dividing it by pi resulted in a 1.17" (30mm) dia hole (if round then flatened). You could use either a 1-1/8" or 1-3/16" punch. However, it wouldn't hurt to pick a handle first.

    While we are on hammers and Bill Epps - He had done something I had thought about years ago and not followed through on. He makes his hammers with a diagonal pien. Makes a lot more sense for fullering with the pien.

    -- guru Sunday, 10/18/98 23:39:14 GMT

    I am trying to find the address or phone number of the Fiorini Metalsmiths. They sell line and chasing tools. Any help would be greatly appriciated. Bill

    Bill -- applecross1 at Monday, 10/19/98 01:37:58 GMT

    Forging Anvils:

    A while back the Blacksmith's Association of Missouri had a feature on "BAM's big meltdown". Their link is accessable via ABANA. The meltdown site is presently inactive (C'mon BAM, bring it up again!) but it depicted an attmpt to forge weld a new steel top to an anvil the old fashioned, open forge way. Slag city! I've burned stuff before, but to see what they did with a hundred pound anvil just...
    I'm speechless in astonishement.

    And yet; if you put together a team that knew what they were doing, if you were willing to risk several failures as you perfected the techniques; if you were willing to make the investment in time and coal and iron and steel, it may well be a fascinating and educational project. The team could help each other to create custom anvils for each member the old fashion way. As a comercial enterprise, it would be hopeless, but as a group project, it would be fascinating. Jock's "aprentice" posting gives just a taste of the challenge. Meanwhile, I'll stick (for demonstration purposes) to 10# early medieval plate anvils and the ilk, and haunt the flea markets for the more modern stuff. (Now, if I could just borrow the water wheel and trip hammer at Saugus for a bit...)

    Outward bound from the banks of the lower Potomac; crisp, cool and clear.

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- Asylum at Monday, 10/19/98 03:10:48 GMT

    EXPERIMENTATION: Bruce brings up a point that I failed to mention. Manufacturers experiment a LOT to get production methods to work. A case in point, the "chilled" iron casting. Chills are created by putting some type of heat sink in the mold. This is common practice in almost all metal casting. Chills can be put directly against the surface to be cast becoming part of the mold or embeded beyound the surface of the mold. A variety of materials are used depending on the type of mold and the material being cast.

    However, it is tricky and not very scientific. You take a guess, put a forign object in the mold and pour the metal. The result? Can be a huge mess with the casting a total loss and maybe not even good for scrap! Sometimes there is no noticable change. Put in a bigger heat sink. Try again. Trial and error.

    I've put chills in solid cast iron molds for zinc castings! How? The ejector bar that also happened to be the end of the boss that needed a chill had an aluminium heat sink with cooling fins attached to it. While the rest of the mold was being heated (can't gravity pour zinc in a cold mold) the heat sink was being cooled by forced air. Worked great but took a week and dozens of castings to figure out.

    To the manufacturer who is going to make a thousand or ten thousand of something a few lost castings are no big deal. How many experiments can you afford to pay for?

    -- guru Monday, 10/19/98 03:32:00 GMT

    Does anyone know the proper way to adjust the clutch on a l00 lb murray hammer?After loosening the locking nut,it still seems like a major job,i.e. using special pullers or jacks to make the adjustment.Any experience out there? Clifton Ralph implies in his video that its simple,but I dont see a delicate way to do it.

    Earl Rogak -- earlrogak at Monday, 10/19/98 04:58:54 GMT

    Guru, I was doing a little JYH/ manual hammer comparison this weekend and noticed that I can do more damage with my arm than my JYH. Could it be that my anvil for the JYH hasn't enough mass? I read here that the conventional ratio is 10:1. Mine is approximately 1.5-2:1 How does the larger anvil affect the "power" of my power hammer. cold but productive in Rochester! Thanks Brian Rognholt, Odin Forge

    BRIAN ROGNHOLT -- BROGNHOLT at AOL.COM Monday, 10/19/98 08:48:34 GMT

    BRIAN - MW-JYH: Ratio problem may be one of shock to ram weight. The EC-JYH originally hit like a powder puff. We had to do two things. Increase the ram weight and slow down the hammer. I think yours is already going slow enough, you may need to add some ram weight. I haven't had time to experiment further but it seems that about 35 to 40 lbs. per shock is about right. Currently the EC-JYH is at 65 pounds total ram weight. Originaly our anvil ratio was about 9:1 but adding mass reduced that to 6:1.

    That was with an 8" stroke. Shortening the stroke on this type of hammer can also be disasterous. It is a hard thing to experiment with but I am sure the EC-JYH would perform a lot better with just a little more stroke.

    Anvil efficiency ratings are somewhat misleading. Although a heavier anvil DOES make the hammer perform better, the most noticable difference is the transmitted shock (or lack there of). On industrial size hammers the effeciency of the worker (who isn't bouncing up and down) is also a consideration. When the anvil stops absorbing the shock then the floor does the job. Andrew Hooper's New Zealand Air Hammer was built with a hollow pipe for an anvil and probably had a NEGATIVE anvil ratio! He does a lot of work with it but he says it creates a regular earthquate and is VERY noisy! A new anvil is his next step.

    The shock absorber linkage will not hit as hard as a spring and toggle hammer of equivalent ram weight. Although the EC-JYH did not perform as well for drawing operations as other hammers it would produce tapered points in 1" stock all day (something most smiths can't do).

    The BIG advantage of the shock absorber linkage is it is easy to build.

    It was also better suited for under hammer tooling work than most mechanical hammers. Even though the first blow is harder than expected the shock compensates for the tooling length and gives clean consistant blows neccesary for hand held tooling.

    We recently had a long discussion about what hit harder, a man or a given weight hammer. Most smiths hit harder than a 50 pound Little Giant and a few might out perform a 100 pound hammer FOR A MINUTE OR TWO! However, a team of strikers with heavy sledges would have a hard time keeping up with a 100 pound power hammer running all day being fed by one man. But the LG would have a hard time keeping up with an air hammer of the same ram weight. There are comparisons, and there are comparisons.

    When you consider the work your hammer does also consider that a 25# Little Giant weighs 800 pounds and a 50# comes in around 1,800 and were designed and built by professionals. The EC-JYH weighed 1,500 pounds and the WC-JYH weighed in around 600 pounds. Again, these were designed by professionals AND required a lot of experimentation after they were built.

    Must hit the road. . . .

    -- guru Monday, 10/19/98 12:47:08 GMT

    Is there any difference between "refractory" clay or bricks and the fire brick that I buy from the local contractor here?

    David White -- dwhite at Monday, 10/19/98 21:11:17 GMT

    REFRACTORY BRICKS: Yes there is a difference. The bricks required for use in domestic chimneys are relatively low temperature. Refractories come in a variety of temperature ranges. The heat resistance is proportionate to the amount of allumina (Kaolin clay) in the refractory. Some refractories are rated for just above 1,000 degrees F. Others are good above 3,000 degrees F.

    Now here's the kicker. Sometimes your construction supply has left overs or odd lots from a foundry supply that are good enough to use for a gas forge. Generally the whiter the brick the higher the temperature. Buy a sample and test it with an oxyacetylene torch. If after bringing a spot to a white heat the surface doesn't appear glazed or the brick cracks it may be a pretty good refractory. Please wear safety glasses and heat the brick slowly at first. A wet brick or a low temp refractory may shatter under sudden extream heat.

    -- guru Monday, 10/19/98 22:32:55 GMT

    I am once again writing on behalf of my Sergeant B.J. Brown. He lives in Jasper Florida and has been forging blades for about (8) years. He haas even dabbled in making Damascus, (cable and conventional). He would like to knoe the best approach to getting into the American Bladesmithing Society. Do you also know the AISI rating of lawn mower blades and roller bearing races? Thanks for your time. Thanks to Mr. Mark Kisner who answered my last e-mail. The information was much appreciated and helpful.
    Mary Beth DeCosta

    Mary Beth DeCosta -- doubletrouble at Monday, 10/19/98 23:13:08 GMT

    Mary Beth: American Bladesmith Society
    P.O. Box 977
    Peralta NM 87042
    The easiest way would be to fill out the online membership form on the ABS website and send the money in, membership is $50.00 a year for a regular member.

    Lou -- anglou at Tuesday, 10/20/98 00:57:51 GMT


    American Bladesmith Society Inc.
    P.O. Box 977
    Peralta NM 87042

    Two varieties of membership available. Full at $50/year and associate at $25/year. On-line sign up available.

    I previously (indirectly) answered the question on steels. AISI is the American Iron and Steel Institute. They publish data on structural steel (I-beams, angle iron, etc). They DO NOT get into non-structural manufactured items. ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) has specifications for just about everything HOWEVER, THEY DO NOT determine which of their specifications apply to specific items. That is determined by either building codes, government regulations OR individual manufacturers. SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) publishes or published a list of recomended steels for automotive parts which can be found in Machinery's Handbook along with heat treating information. ASM (American Society for Metals International) publishes dozens of materials and engineering references including: ASM Metals Handbook (an encyclopedic set from which they sell individual references), ASM Metals Reference Book and the ASM Engineered Materials Reference.

    Roller Bearing races can be either high carbon high alloy steel or are often case hardened carbon steel. In some "needle" bearings and marine bearings the steel may be a 400 series stainless. Occasionaly a manufacturer will tell you what they use but they do not have to as it is their proprietary information.

    Lawn mower blades are made of what ever the manufacturer wants. Late model blades are not as hard as old blades were. This may be for safety or libility reasons. Commonly a grade of steel known as "agricultural" steel was used for this type of part.

    Any time you are making something from scrap or recycled materials it is YOUR responsibility to determine what the material is. Every other bearing, spring or lawnmower blade you pick up may be made from a different material than the last. The only way to be sure is to test every piece.

    There are a number of shop tests that can narrow down the type of steel. The most common is the spark test - grind on a sample and observe the shape and branching of the sparks. Branching indicates the amount of carbon, certain patterns often indicate certain alloying ingreadiants. Next is to harden (air, oil and water) a sample then break it, temper it and test its hardness.

    To specifically identify any given alloy would require a laboratory analyisis. However, since their are tens of thousands of steel alloys it may be possible to determine what is IN a piece without being able to positively identify the exact alloy.

    I do not wish to sound pessimistic but this is a complex question that requires a lot of study by the individual involved in the business. There are no easy answers.

    Knowledge is the craftsperson's most important tool.

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/20/98 01:05:34 GMT

    An expansion on a comment by the guru.

    Knowledge is the craftsperson's most important tool.

    One of the Foxfire books covers blacksmithing. I demonstrate at a museum in TN. When they have kid's days, I frequently get asked "What is a blacksmith's most important tool?" The Foxfire book says that is the anvil. I give the kids that answer (hell, the teacher got the question directly out of the book!) but I add that I dis-agree. I tell them that they can see an anvil, but that they will hopefully never see the blacksmith's most important tool because it's located between his ears!

    Sometimes they understand.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 10/20/98 12:20:24 GMT

    Dear Guru:

    I am new to blacksmithing but have considerable metal working experience. I am making a portable coal forge for home/recreational use and have a question about the blower design.

    1) Approx how many cfm are required by the blower. My forger is 17" x 30" and is made of a 5/16" plate bottom with 3" wide 3/16" sides.

    2) I plan to use 2" pipe from the blower into the bottom of the forge. Do I need a manifold or a grate of sorts to diffuse the air into the coal? If so, do you have any suggestions for its construction? I was thinking of using an old cast iron wheel drum (similar to your wheel drum forge) or front wheel disc rotor. I was planning to use a Tee connection as suggested on your wheel drum forge.

    3) Do you know of a source of bit. coal located near Ottawa Ontario?

    Thanks for your help and I really enjoy your site. Very professionally put together and extremely informative!

    Mark Blaisdell -- blaisdel at Tuesday, 10/20/98 16:46:20 GMT

    What type of rear-end do you recommend for the East coast JYH?

    Bill Lubich -- n3yvc at Tuesday, 10/20/98 18:51:08 GMT

    FORGE BLOWER & GRATE: One thing missing from the brake drum forge drawing is a grate. Several 3/8" round (or square) bars dividing up the hole help keep coal from falling in. I forgot to draw it in because I built and used two different forges without (using stoker coal!). Some grates spread the air to the sides to help make a long fire while others just blow straight up. The style with the triangular "ball" clinker breaker would spread the fire in one position and focous it in the other. Most anything works.

    A blower in the range of 150 to 300 CFM works fine for a small forge. 300 to 500 CFM will run a BIG forge suitable for heating 4" (100 mm) stock!

    Check the "Coal Scuttle" but I don't think it lists Canadian sources. Both Centaur Forge and Bruce Wallace ship bagged coal but I don't know how that works on your end. Perhaps one of our readers will supply the answer?

    Canadian Coal anyone?

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/20/98 21:14:13 GMT

    EC-JYH AXEL: A cheap one! Idealy a high reduction unit from a small truck (Import type) would be best. You only get half the reduction the way the axel is being used so a heavy duty 4.55:1 axel gives you only 2.225:1 reduction.

    I used an axel from a really big 1970's American car. Why? Because like the mountain, it was there. I called a junk car removal guy I know and he had it laying in his front yard waiting to be put into a race car. He said $50 and he would deliver. I said sold!

    A smaller (shorter) axel would be better so the machine would not be so big. The one I used would probably run a 100# hammer for years. If you are building a small hammer a small car axel would do fine. I don't know if any of the small trucks have a "floating" real axel but that would be ideal. A floating axel has a seperate carrier for the bearing and the axel can be removed without the bearing. These tend to be heavier duty than the type with the bearing pressed onto the axel.

    Why am I not being specific? I don't want to start a run on an automobile part that may be more important to some collector.

    You also want to be sure you don't get a "posi-track" or "positive traction" type. These have a rotation limiting clutch built into the differential that would prevent the "brake as clutch" system from working.

    If you are looking to build a "heavy hitter" JYH, I've designed (but not tested) a shock linkage with spring. Picture this:

    Dual shocks as originaly built. Spread the shocks about 12-14" at the bottom. Bolt a flat leaf spring horizontaly to the top of the ram. At the ends of the spring use "U" clips under the spring with a bolt going through the clips and shock.

    Just a guess, but the spring wants to be about 1/8" thick and about 1-1/2 or 2" wide. If it is held down by a clamping plate it would be easy to add partial leaves to stiffen it up if necessary. Drill a hole at the center of the spring to fit over a dowel or pin to prevent shifting. Rivet the the clips to the ends with two 5/16" flat head rivets.

    Will post a picture next chance I get (to get to my scanner).

    NOTE: This design works with the overhead design but I haven't figured out how to do it with the "under-slung" design on the Power hammer Page.

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/20/98 21:50:21 GMT

    Re: Canadian coal supply. I live about five hours from Ottawa, but have two possibilities. One is Enniskillen Farrier supply in Uxbridge (45 min. north of Toronto) telephone 1 800 882 6082 and cost is 25 cents a pound plus shipping, and another source (that I have not used) is HM Stevens in Edmonton Alta. 1 403 389 2137. Hope this helps. Also, my present home brew forge uses a 50 CFM bathroom fan hooked up to a dimmer switch into a 2" tuyere. I recently placed a 5" piece of pipe on top of the plate of my forge to create a makeshift firepot. Works well on smaller stock -- max I have heated is 1.25" square. Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth...mark

    Mark Hachmer -- marlin at Wednesday, 10/21/98 00:41:42 GMT

    Thanks Mark!

    Forges can be pretty fancy but anything that holds the fire and lets you get air to it works! Primitive jewlers crucuble metling operations have been blown by lung power for millinia, early forge/foundry furnaces were often blown by natural draft and were only about as tall as a man. Woodburning potters "groundhog" kilns work on the same principle and produce temperatures above 2,000 deg.F.

    Modern smiths are blessed with commonly available blowers of all sizes and plentiful "junk" to throw together a forge in a few minutes. The forge thus thrown together is more advanced than those used for the majority of the iron age. Preconcieved ideas about how to go about something are often our worst enemy.

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/21/98 01:30:22 GMT

    I am fairly new to metal work but do understand alot of the terminology that is used. My question involves finishing metal. I am working on some projects that are cut from 16 and 20 guage cold rolled steel. I would like to have the black finish on them that I see when watching blacksmithing. If I understand your article correctly I can get an oxide coating on the steel to turn it black by using an oxyacetylene torch. Is that correct? How hot do I get the metal? You mentioned a wax or oiled finish. Is that how I get the black finished look I am after? What kind of oil or wax and how do you apply it?

    Thanks for all the help, Jeff Mamone

    Jeff Mamone -- sha_jeff at Wednesday, 10/21/98 14:37:21 GMT


    I found a nice little forge last week, iw was a combo gas/coal forge and was being used for a production run of chairs.

    The forge consisted of a square steel box lined with fire brick, in the base was a cast iron gas ring, coal was piled over the gas ring and the gas was ignited, once the coal was burning the gas was turned off and the gass feed line to the ring was plugged into a compressor.

    I talked to the owner of the forge, and he told me that it used standard grade coal.

    Guess it must work prety well as i noticed there were about 200 chairs at the back of the workshop.

    Andrew Hooper -- andrew at Wednesday, 10/21/98 21:15:53 GMT

    OXIDE FINISH (Jeff): Heat any steel to a red heat and you get a coating of dark grey or black (anhydrous) iron oxide. Depending on the type of steel and how it was heated the scale (oxide coating) will be tight or loose. Scale is brittle and a heavy coating of scale flakes and chips off easily. Heavy scale should be removed with a power wire brush (wheel).

    Anything that "wets" the surface turns the dark grey scale black. Wax and oil finishes are a high maintence indoor finish. There are numerous "recipes" for was finishes but liquid floor wax works very well. You can also use clear varnish or laquer. The advantage to these finishes is that they are more durable than the oil and wax finishes and the piece can easily be painted later. Any work that is to be used outdoors should be properly cleaned and painted (See my article Corrosion and its Prevention on the 21st Century page.

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/21/98 22:16:08 GMT

    GAS/COAL FORGE: Strange Forge! Sounds home made or modified OR is this one of those NZ things? :)

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/21/98 22:19:02 GMT

    Guru..Thanks for the info on oxy/acet tourches. I didnt give very much info on what I was using, ie brand, tip size etc, but your answer covered my question. I have had the O2 psi way too low and the acet. just about right for the thin stock I am working with. I DO understand the dangers of acetylene, with a flamable range from 2%-80%, and the expansion rate of compressed gasses. I cant disagree that anyone using such a volatile mixture should have formal classroom training, but alas I havent, but will locate books, charts etc. and thanks again for the help.

    Randall Guess -- rguess at Thursday, 10/22/98 01:39:28 GMT

    Randall (and all), the important safety features of an actylene cylinder.

  • Cylinder is filled with volcanic pumice rock to retard probagation of explosive shock waves.

  • Cylinder is then filled with liquid acetone which absorbs the acetylene (there is virtually no GAS in an actylene cylinder).

  • In the bottom of the cylinder there are fuses that melt out and release pressure at a temperature designed to prevent an explosion by overheated acetylene.

  • Acetylene regulators have further pressure safety devices.

  • The reason acetylene regulator guages are marked red "danger" above 15psi is that acetylene is an unstable gas that disassociates (comes apart) and then combindes with other things at high pressure.

    The reason you NEVER use and acetylene cylinder laying on its side is that the acetone mixes with the gas and burns thus depleting the acetone and leaving space in the cylinder for GAS at high pressure which as noted above is unstable and likely to explode.

    Oxygen cylinders are completely different and have their own set of properties and rules which apply to most high pressure cylinders.

    Briefly, they are forged/drawn and necked from a single steel billet and then carefully inspected. The cylinders must be inspected regularly for corrosion and arc damage and discarded if they fail. Passing cylinders are annealed and the date stamped on them (yeah, thats what ALL those years stamped on the cylinder mean). The cylinders are anealed because they stretch and expand considerably when filled and the fill/empty cycles can work harden the cylinder thus making it likely to crack.

    ALL the above is why you RENT welding cylinders and do not want to own them. The costs of inspection, refilling the acetone, anealing, are all part of your welding suppliers overhead.

    -- guru Thursday, 10/22/98 02:33:52 GMT

    I am a prebeginner into metalworking.. I actually want to know how to go about learning how to metalwork. And the basics to get started in this field... Any help would be appreciated...


    WereHawk -- werehawk21 at Thursday, 10/22/98 02:55:13 GMT

    First I'd like to thank you for the wealth of info this sit has to offer! My Question: Is there any difference in the quality of silver bearing solders from manuf. to manuf. I have been playing with a little bit of coppersmithing. In applications of jewelryware can there be a specific low temp solder that has good shine keeping and low oxidizing qualites without going to a high temp purer form? I have tried the basic plumbing no lead tin antimony variety with fair results except oxidation. A welding store sold me a 1lb. spool of "Silver Bearing Solder" for $34.00. I later found Silver Bearing Solder At Home Depot (a different Manuf. for $11.00, can these give the same results at over three times the cost difference?

    Stephen Erickson -- E26Fish at Thursday, 10/22/98 05:32:53 GMT


    I suspect the brand sold by your plumbing supplier has a higher percentage of silver than the Home Depot brand. I could be wrong.
    Check the labels, they MAY specify percentages.

    But I think the higher the percentage of silver, the stronger the joint. Silver is going to oxidize, I don't think there is any way to beat that other than sealing it with a finish coat of some kind.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Thursday, 10/22/98 12:20:25 GMT

    As a retreaded manufacturing jewler, I'd like to toss in $0.02 on the "silver solder" thread. Basically, there are two types of solder, hard solder (brazing, silver brazing) and soft solder (lead, tin, etc.) Rule of thumb: if the melting point is over 1000 degrees F. it's hard solder, under 1k degrees, it's soft solder. Hard and soft solders may both contain silver, or may contain no silver. In general, soft solder is a "last resort" thing for jewelry, silver, and coppersmithing. If you use it, or try to repair something on which it has been used, you need to remove it completely before making substantial repairs. Substantial repairs (and original manufacturing) should be made with hard solder. Soft solder doesn't hold well in small cross-section. A solder job is limited in strength by the adhesion of the solder to the base metal and the strength of the solder itself. Soft solders aren't that strong, and some of the lead-free solders don't adhere that well to the base metal. When making jewelry, there are various grades of hard silver solder (hard medium, easy, easy-flow) that melt at successively lower temperatures. This allows you to construct subassemblies with higher temperature solders, then solder subassemblies together without destroying them. When constructing silver jewelry, experience shows that each time you heat a silver soldered joint, the melting temp rises (due to alloying with the base silver) so you can construct complex things with one grade of solder, but the envelope for success is tighter. Gold works the same way, but gold solder is usually simply gold about 1 karat lower than the base material. Gold and silver solder are usually used to join gold and silver. If you use jeweler's silver solder to join non-precious metals it should be called silver brazing.
    If you are coppersmithing, the closest analogy to a jeweler silver soldering is using a brazing spelter. Brazing rod works. The problem is that brazing spelters are quite yellow against the copper red. I've had the greatest success in copper work by using easy and easy-flow jeweler's silver solders. The keys to success are simple:
    1. The joint must be absolutely clean. Pickled with acid, washed well to remove all the acid, and untouched by greasy fingers.
    2. A GOOD flux must cover the joint. (Battern's self-pickling flux works well as long as you don't believe the "self-pickling" part.)
    3. The parts must fit PERFECTLY. If you have a gap more than the thickness of tissue paper, it doesn't fit.
    4. Use TINY pillions of solder. About 1/32 " square. About 1/4"
    apart along the joint.
    5. Heat from the back of the joint to pull the solder into it (it flows toward heat).
    6. Both sides must reach the melting point of the solder at the same time, or the solder will stay on the hotter and not fill the joint.
    Done properly (remember the PERFECT fit?) the solder joint is invisible on polished metal, and a very fine line on oxidized metal. Even though the solder is white in comparison to the red copper, the perfect fit makes it so tiny that from a couple of inches away it disappears. Brazing rod doesn't work this well. It stays fairly thick and pasty, doesn't flow and close tight gaps, and always leaves my work looking globby.
    Hope this helps,

    Morgan Hall -- morganh at Thursday, 10/22/98 14:37:51 GMT


    Very good post! Thanks!

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Thursday, 10/22/98 15:03:39 GMT

    Dear Guru, or helpers,

    I have happened upon your site while browsing weapons links from various sites and I am entranced. I have done a fair bit of work with sheet metal in the past, but I have never tried to take raw steel and create something, although I have always wanted to try. Some things I might be interested in making are tools, hinges and latches for furniture, swords. Anyway, I have read through some of the questions posted on this site and have quickly realized that there is a lot I need to know about steel, anvils and tools before I even begin to buy some of the stuff needed to try my hand at smithing. Do you think you could recommend a couple of good books to read that would give me info on what to look for in steel stock (ie. what makes good steel), how to heat it, hammer it, bend it, shape it, What kind of anvil should I use... I guess I just need a couple of good books about the basics of your trade. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate hearing them. Thanks for listening.

    Dan Dimond.

    Daniel Dimond -- dadimond at Thursday, 10/22/98 18:17:04 GMT

    Morgan, Thanks for the solder info!

    WereHawk and Dan, one of the best general purpose books on blacksmithing that gets into sone of the technical details you are speaking of is Jack Andrews NEW Edge of the Anvil. For a more in depth view of traditional working methods (from an 18th-19th century point of view) the clasic Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer is a must have. After these there are loads of books that get more specialized. Centaur Forge carries these and many other references. Order their catalog while you are at it and be SURE you tell them I sent you!

    WereHawk, see my article "Learning Blacksmithing" on the 21st Century page. Finding anvilfire was a good start!

    -- guru Thursday, 10/22/98 21:58:01 GMT

    Guru: Have you ever had a look at "The Blacksmith and His Art" by Jess Hawley?

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Friday, 10/23/98 03:57:51 GMT

    Grandpa, I think I have that one in my library, alas I am not there. Will check tonight. With the exception of a few recent editions most of my blacksmithing books date from when I was researching the art in the 60's and 70's. At the time I didn't have much of a budget for books so that is pretty sparse.

    Over time I hope to obtain many of the other general titles and review them. My problem is my current intrests are in vague engineering and metalurgical titles and it is hard to get excited about purchasing books that cover subjects that you've read over and over. I NEED to do it but have little incentive at the time. I currently have a backlog of books (from my library) to review but have not had time to work on them.

    AUTHORS and PUBLISHERS: I will gladly review books you send to me and permanently post the review ASAP. I will also entertain offers to post reviews by third parties. We are also looking for sponsors for the book review page.

    -- guru Friday, 10/23/98 16:21:29 GMT

    Hello Folks,
    A friend offered me about 200 plates that go under the rails on a railroad track. Can you think of use for these? I don't know what material they would be made either, do you? Thank you!

    Bob Conner -- bob.conner at Friday, 10/23/98 21:21:25 GMT

    hi I am totally new to blacksmithing. And I wanted to know if you could
    tell me if there were any books you would suggest I read or something

    Daniel Pullen -- jdpullen at JUNO.COM Friday, 10/23/98 22:21:11 GMT

    Bob, I've seen those plates used for all kinds of ods and ends but nothing specific. I doubt if they are anything special but you never know with railroad stuff. With scrap being bought at 1 cent a pound I'd hold on to them for a while.

    -- guru Friday, 10/23/98 23:40:09 GMT


    I frequently use those plates for hardie mounted jigs. Hang onto them.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Saturday, 10/24/98 00:24:52 GMT

    BOOKS: There is a lot to know about blacksmithing and not all of it is in one book. The two books I repeatedly recommend are Jack Andrews NEW Edge of the Anvil and the clasic Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer. Above, grandpa is recommending The Blacksmith and His Art by Jess Hawley (I think thats a recomendation). These books are available from bookstores, Centaur Forge or Norm Larson Books.

    OK, now I'm home and I DO have a copy. The Jess Hawley book is a very good and has wonderful historical background including biblical and literary references with hundreds of illustrations. I'd love to study it now except. . .

    My unread hardbound copy is falling apart and was in my "needs to be rebound" pile. Another wonderful book, Knives and Knifemakers by Sid Latham is in the same condition. Norm Larson refuses to carry Knives and Knifemakers because he had inventory go bad and the publisher still uses the same glue binding. There is nothing wrong with glue binding. I have books that are fourty years old that the glue binding is in fine shape but poor quality glue binding is a rip off. I do my own book binding using a notched sewn and glue binding method that is very sturdy. It takes a full day to rebind a book so my backlog is piling up. I don't need this kind of agrevation just because a publisher or bindery wants to save two cents on the cost of a book. It is a disservice to the both the buyer AND the author.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/24/98 00:56:42 GMT

    Guru: What I like best about the Hawley book is that he divides Blacksmithing into 6 or7 Basic steps. Of course there are thousands of special cases, jimcracks,etc. But a beginner can get started at least. Nothing beats Bealer on the romance of blacksmithing. If you don't want to be a blacksmith it's better to not even pick that one up. "Edge of the Anvil" is also very good as you have said.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Saturday, 10/24/98 02:37:02 GMT

    are rivet forges still being made. I found an old one for $250
    don't know what they are worth
    thanks a lot

    ELLIOT TOPPER -- etptatop at Saturday, 10/24/98 14:58:12 GMT

    RIVET FORGES: Not to my knowledge. Not too much riveted construction going on any more! Today a small gas forge would probably used for the same purpose. They also made electric resistance rivet heaters toward the end of the riveted construction era. As a collectors item it might be worth $250 in the US. These items are still being found and traded for as little as tenth of that depending on who's buying and who's selling.

    New shop size forges sell for about $800 with electric blowers and a hood. If you NEED a small forge check out the plans for a brake drum forge on the 21st Century page.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/24/98 15:48:29 GMT

    To answer the question about the lowrider JYH and the spring and shock linkage. (Great minds think alike! And so do sick ones like ours!) Attach the spring to the axle and the two shocks to a rigid bar coming down from the ram (Adds weight, but doesn't pinch fingers!)
    On another note, would it be possible to fashion two halves:upper and lower, of an anvil from 4x4x36 4140 and thermite them together?

    Chris -- kilpe4 at Saturday, 10/24/98 15:51:34 GMT

    Guru, i am no where near the be-all and end-all of swordmaking knowledge or ability, but would you like me to write an article for you about it, so you can direct others to it. Or better yet, send them to Don Fogg's web site. Either way, we seem to be inundated with people new to smithy interested in sword making, and I would be glad to help.


    Chris -- kilpe4 at Saturday, 10/24/98 16:16:48 GMT

    Lowrider JYH: I'm still looking for a SIMPLE solution. Have to be careful about angular dual linkage. On the EC-JYH one shock tended to "lead" the other and do more work. My triangular linkage works (gotta post that drawing today) but if it is pushing at an angle (like on the Lowrider) it might do some strange things.

    The simplest DESIGN solutions are to forget standard components and build all special parts to idealy suit the purpose. The trick with the "build-it-yourself-from-junk" stuff is to use relatively simple methods to produce a durable machine from readily available parts. It is actually harder to do from a design standpoint.

    MAKING ANVILS: Thermite would probably produce a waist joint almost as good or maybe better than forge welding. Late Hay-Buddens and current Peddinghaus waist joints are arc welded. I have no idea how far the weld penetrates. On heavy sections there is a method called "electro slag" that is used in big industry. I thought about an arc welded joint started from a piece of square stock turned on edge. This spaces the two pieces apart at the center and a full penetration weld could be built up from there.

    NOTE: Thermite (like welding rods) came in a variety of carbon and alloy contents depending on the strength needed.

    Look at the drawing of the German double horned anvil I have posted on the 21st Century page. The base could be cut from a big slab with very little loss. The upper body if cut from plate would produce more loss but only about 10-15%. Modern practice is to make the top of tool steel and the base from whatever is cheapest.

    SAE-4150 is available in plate and produces a considerably harder surface than 4140. I still do not know how high a carbon content the better comercial anvils are (or were).

    I keep thinking about making an anvil by this method. The only holdup I have is finding a method to harden the top. Flame hardening appears to be a good method but to do it right requires a multi headed torch and a motor driven carriage to smoothly and evenly traverse the surface while heating and quenching. (You may notice I've thought about this more than a LITTLE).

    Like all projects of this nature it is easy to get so far and then fail in the end producing a (large, heavy, expensive) monument to our ignorance. If one can afford to experiment and learn from their mistakes then I'm sure success would come with little trouble.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/24/98 17:05:48 GMT

    SWORD ARTICLE: Chris, thanks. I'd gladly post your article. I have Don's site on the links page and I often send people there but probably not as often as I should. If you have photos of drawings to include that would be good too. I can scan if necessary and return your originals. It could also be a good place to post all the knife and sword related links.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/24/98 17:12:26 GMT

    I have recently decided to persue the art or metal working and smithing. It seems to be difficult to find a school or even a craftsman to work under and learn the trade and such in my area. Being a guru perhaps you could inform me of the "better" places or schools to look to find the training and teaching i desire. I already have learned some basic metal working and shop skills as part of my former major in Engineering. I discovered i realy LOVE metal working and love even more to work with a forge rather than with just milling, welding, and using molds. I looked arround lots of places offer you metal working courses that deal with your lathes, drills, and the like. i am looking more into the art side of it, my engineering courses taught me those things already. Can you direct me to a source even here in the most complex and confusing internet there is too much infromation and i am lost. You have probably been askes similar questions in the past. The general area i am looking to find some place to start in is the Central Coast, California.

    Thank You

    Nathaniel Schultz -- Meaty-BTZ at Sunday, 10/25/98 02:09:26 GMT

    Dear Guru,
    I have recently aquired a 25# Little Giant hammer. I really need some information concerning maintainence, operation, and rebuilding. I have talked with Sid Suedimeyer who was a big help with parts lists, etc. He says he is in the process of putting together a book or manual which will be published "someday". In the meantime, I need some information. I have seen an old, out-of-print book, "Little Giant Powerhammers", by Richard Kern. Unfortunately, Norm Larson does not have it and neither do the various internet booksellers. How about it? Do you have any secret sources for old powerhammer info?

    John Crouchet -- jac at Sunday, 10/25/98 02:14:14 GMT

    Junk Yard Hammers:

    Hmmm; smaller and lighter is better? And my neighbors have moved out and left a wrecked Volkswagon Beetle on the edge of our swamp. I was just checking it for springs today. (Nope, torsion bar.) Do you think it would be worth my while to deprive it of its back end? I may not get around to it soon, but I have plenty of spaces to store it. What do you think, Jock? Are there any odd tricks with old Bug rear components that should disuade me?

    Back from Redwoods, Whiskeytown and San Francisco (some nice ironwork on the houses). Cool and clear, and far too many stars, on the banks of the Lower Potomac.

    Go viking (upgrades on the way):

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Sunday, 10/25/98 03:59:35 GMT

    Took a closer look this morning. Looks like the VW would have transaxels that would be flopping all over the place without some sort of bracing. More trouble than it's worth? Extra labor vs. cost (free).

    A sunny Sunday morning on the banks of the lower Potomac.

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- asylum at Sunday, 10/25/98 16:44:16 GMT

    Weygers in one of his smithy books has complete instructions on heat-treating anvils. From building the fire to quenching. I can't lay my hands on my copy at the moment, or I would give you the title. Also, for the guy trying to make an eye for a hammer. Weygers would drill a 1/2 hole, then key a 1/2 rod and place it in the hole and then drill two more holes side by side with their edges touching in the center of the rod. The he would drift the holes to a uniform shape and then drift them again to make the openings at either end larger than the middle, so when you put a handle in it, and drove a wedge into the endgrain, the head would hold onto the haft.

    Chris Kilpatrick -- kilpe4 at Sunday, 10/25/98 18:02:31 GMT

    LITTLE GIANT (John): I bought (traded for) a copy of the Kern book from another blacksmith who had two! Slowly I will be putting as much hammer info as I can find, create, research. . . on the Power hammer Page.

    Do you have a specific problem? Little Giants are pretty simple machines. You should fix obvious mechanical problems. Bearing wear is a problem on the 25 pounders. Seems the farmers most od them were sold to never saw an oil can.

    Shaft bearings can have a little play without being a problem (keep em oiled!). Sloppy guides can cause a lot more wear and should be fixed. Some can be shimmed, some have to be remachined (the late type tend to wear curved).

    I have some pictures posted and can post more if you have something missing and need to know what it looks like. We also have the last specs for LGs posted.

    -- guru Monday, 10/26/98 01:32:01 GMT

    BUGS (Bruce): VDubs have a trans axel.. . . Clutch input - axel output. MIGHT make a good unit. The short half axels make it more convienent (smaller) and you'd have a 4 speed hammer with reverse!
    You would probably want to dump the axels and connect direct or with a short shaft on its own bearings. Brake clutch could be cobbled on without the axel too. Be a little more work.

    But if the unit is good it may be worth more as a VW part.

    Saw some SCA types doing battle at Virginia Tech today!

    -- guru Monday, 10/26/98 03:09:56 GMT

    HAMMER: I try to stick to forge methods on my answers for making tools but yes, you can probably make a standard pattern smithing hammer almost as easily with a hack saw and a drill press as by forging. Of course that depends on how good you are with a hack saw or how desperate for a hammer!

    The eye in my hammer is a little over two diameters long so it would be easy to drill two holes almost adjacent and then saw or torch out the extra between.

    However, with practice, punching has a LOT of advantages. It IS a bit of work punching that big a hole. That's probably why you see smaller handles on a lot of old hand made hammers!

    Jim Wilson is fond of saying that there are as many answers to a question as there are smiths to ask!

    -- guru Monday, 10/26/98 03:25:17 GMT

    Nathaniel - Sorry I missed your question earlier. Go to the ABANA (Artist Blacksmiths Association of North America) web site. They have a list of blacksmithing schools and there is a Journeyman program if you are really serious. California has a very active ABANA chapter and they will be your best source of help. The ABANA chapters hold workshops and hire demonstrators from time to time. Probablably the best reason for joing ABANA is to meet other people with similar intrests.

    -- guru Monday, 10/26/98 05:32:59 GMT


    If I'm one of the smiths being asked, there may be MORE answers than the number of smiths! (grin) Most of us can figure several ways to accomplish a given task.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Monday, 10/26/98 21:19:56 GMT

    John; Centaur Forge in Burlington Wisconsin is also out of the old Kern Little Giant book.

    Bill Pieh -- cf340 at Monday, 10/26/98 21:51:05 GMT

    Elliott; A Centaur Model B forge is better than any rivet forge and has a cast iron firepot and a variable speed electric blower and a removable hood for only $215.00 in 12 volt or 115 volt. The same forge with Stainless steel sheet metal instead of painted is $295.00.
    For a complete 200 page catalog of blacksmiths' supplies, tools, anvils, forges and equipment, you might contact Centaur Forge ltd. PO box 340, Burlington, Wisconsin, 53105-0340, USA
    If you do not already have one, our catalogue at U.S. $5.00, ($10.00 foreign airmail) has an extensive line of books and videotapes also. The phone number is 414-763-9175. Fax is 763-8350 and E-mail cf340 at We take Visa and Mastercard.

    Bill Pieh -- cf340 at Monday, 10/26/98 22:05:52 GMT

    G'day Guru:
    I'm a woodworker running a small shop and specialize in colonial mouldings and panel-stile/rail doors. Frequently have metal/iron fabrications of traditional hinges, straps, braces to add. I have gone out for these and we have made them ourselves, expending considerable oxy-acetylene or amperage...
    My question: What is a good source of reference or help to obtain:
    1. Basic-to journeyman techniques for blacksmithing.
    2. A source reference to obtain the commercial parts and plans to set up a small shop forge?

    We would appreciate your help. Herlihy Millwright Company, Camas WA

    Doug Herlihy -- airsafety at Monday, 10/26/98 22:52:51 GMT

    Horsshoer's anvils have the second pritchel hole for several reasons. The most common reason; When making horseshoes up, ³clips² are often drawn to help hold the shoe from moving on the hoof. When making side clips, the nail holes are often damaged and the clips prevent easy repairs to the nail holes if there is only one pritchel hole located in from the edge. With two holes it is easier to do the right/left hand side of the shoe.

    Bill Pieh -- cf340 at Monday, 10/26/98 23:01:12 GMT

    REPRODUCTION HARDWARE (Doug): First, let me say this. There are a lot of guys that do nothing but make little colonial type hardware (hinges, hasps, latches and locks) doing it far faster AND better than the typical artist blacksmith. They do accurate reproduction work at a price you will never beat doing it yourself. The heart of this industry is located in Pennsylvania where there are both individuals and factory type operations.

    Centaur Forge has numerous books on the subject and on Colonial hardware. I recommend Jack Andrew's New Edge of the Anvil as a good general (starter) reference. Centaur Forge can also sell you ALL the tools, equipment and machines you need. They will sell you parts for forges or complete forges.

    Steve Kayne and Son, 100 Daniel Ridge Rd. Candler, NC 28715 828-667-8868, makes hardware, air hammers and also sells blacksmithing tools.

    Bruce Wallace, lives in the heart of the Pennsylvania blacksmithing area I mentioned (he has done some and continues to do certian types of hardware). He is also a Peddinghaus anvil dealer, buys sells and trades used blacksmithing tools and machinery. Contact him at WALLACE METAL WORK, R.D. 1 Blacksmith Lane, Kempton, Pennsylvania 19529, 610-756-3377. Bruce may be able to set you up with one or more of the hardware makers.

    And last but not least, contact ABANA. They have listings of blacksmithing schools and local chapters. The Northwest Blacksmiths Association is very active in your area and could be a lot of help.

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/27/98 00:53:29 GMT


    Got a customer looking for some candle sconces with a south western or northern Mexico flavour, and every illustration that I can frind is from the east coast.

    Does anybody have any idea where I should start looking?


    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Tuesday, 10/27/98 03:06:02 GMT

    Old John Wayne movies? :o)

    For those of you that have noticed the Slack-Tub Pub is back up please note that this is a temporary solution (some bugs were just fixed). We hope to get the old version back up and running soon as it is more suitable for running discussions.

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/27/98 03:41:07 GMT

    Books on Southwestern architecture might have something.

    -- guru Tuesday, 10/27/98 03:42:54 GMT

    First let me congratulate you on an excellent site. I'm not a blacksmith (maybe some day), but I am a collector & dealer in old tools. Patrons of my shop are often asking for anvils & other smithing tools and until recently I had none to offer. In the last couple weeks I've managed to acquire 2. Along with these tools came a lot of unanswered questions like; 'How old are they?', 'Who made them?', 'Are they rare or special in any way?' and of course 'What are they worth?'. Much of this is research thay I can probably get started on by getting "Anvils In America". In the mean time a head start would really be appreciated ... one of my anvils was a lump of rust when purchased. After a thorough electrolitic cleaning characters appeared on the side of the anvil which I reproduce here as best I can:
    M & H

    . . . . . . .
    . |. . .| . .| 5.

    Can you help me make sense of any of this, particularly the dots, lines & numbers? Any info will be greatly appreciated.

    Bob Boldt -- rboldt at Tuesday, 10/27/98 14:30:05 GMT

    Anvils: What Are They Worth?

    If you're buying, the rusty old lumps of iron are practically worthless. If you're selling, these kings of tools are practically priceless!

    We lost our best used tool dealer in Southern Maryland a few years back. He practically crawled off his sick bed to complete a lay-away with me for a B-3 Beverly Shear. I miss the fellow. Now I haunt a used tool shop whenever official business takes me to Tucson. Sure makes my luggage heavy.

    Of course, your anvil is a "classic". ;->

    Cool and overcast on the banks of the Potomac.

    Visit your National Parks:

    Come have a row with us:

    Bruce Blackistone (Atli) -- bruce_blackistone at Tuesday, 10/27/98 16:43:56 GMT

    Your JYH ideas are great Ihave just started mine. Sign me up for the JYH Builders Guide.

    Keith -- KLHeff at Tuesday, 10/27/98 21:03:43 GMT

    Armitage mousehole (or any english anvil) are coded on the side for weight. The first number is in cwt (Hundredweights), the second number is in quarters and the third is in odd pounds. An anvil coded 1 2 5 would be decoded as 112# plus 56# plus 5# or a total of 173# I don't know about dots or lines, unless the lines are actually ones. In which case your anvil would weigh 112# + 28# + 15# = about 175#

    Bill Pieh - -- wpieh at Wednesday, 10/28/98 00:17:27 GMT

    Anvil Values and Weights: Bill covered the weight issue. I have seen dots like periods between the numbers on some mousehole anvils. Sometimes rust or wear and tear makes the numbers illegible. I recently sold an unusual mousehole anvil that was a "second". It was a perfect but slightly misshapened anvil. The name which could still be identified had been (mostly) obliterated with vertical chisel marks. The style of the trademark can help date the anvil. I could look it up for you but you REALLY NEED to buy Richard's book. There are ordering instructions on our Bookshelf review page.

    Value, as Bruce mentioned depends on who's buying and who's selling. Used anvils still occasionaly sell for as little as 25 cents a pound (US) while some new anvils sell for as much as $6 to $&7/lb. Typically GOOD used anvils sold by dealers go for $2/lb to $2.50/lb. Some brands sell for more than others and the condition means a lot. I'd buy all the old forged anvils I could get at a dollar a pound! However, scrap yards won't even haul away cast iron at this time and cast iron anvils are still doorstops (But people will pay for door stops).

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:01:52 GMT

    When setting up the anvil for the proper height is the "knuckle" rule the only smart one to follow? Is there leeway of any kind?

    Bill Maguire -- recumboman at Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:35:40 GMT

    JYH - Keith: Some warnings (or advice). The shock absorber linkage works but is not as good as it could be. What it IS is easy to build. If you read all the follow ups you will find that we had to increase the ram weight to 60-70 pounds (could still be more) and had to slow the machine down to 140/SPM (Strokes Per Minute - RPM). I suspect a single shock machine would need a 45-50 pound ram.

    A new version of the linkage will include a flat spring (which I've been promising a drawing but haven't had time). I used no springs in the original partly because the "competition" said the shock linkage wouldn't work and kept razing me about needing springs. It was also an R&D project to prove/disprove the idea. Well, it worked, but didn't hit as hard as a machine of its ram weight should. However, it had excelent control of the calibre only found in air hammers and the best mechanicals.

    Building a JYH is actually more of a chalange than building a machine from "plans" or from scratch with new material. Plans would tell you the exact stock size and where to drill every hole. Building with new material means you can obtain the size, shape and type of material you prefer. The JYH requires you to have an idea, find the parts and pieces that you can, with little or no budget and taking what you find rather than what you want. Then modify your ideas and make a plan from the found materials fitting them together the best you can within your means. The results cannot be garrenteed and will (should) vary with every machine built.

    The booklet (when available) will include numerous designs with lots of options. A large part of it will be about how to design your own JYH with the parts you find. One of the reasons the booklet has been slow in coming is that I want to build another JYH (the "lowrider" hammer) and make the flat spring mod to the original EC-JYH. Meanwhile people ARE building JYH's and I would like to hear from those folks and include some of there sucesses OR failures in the JYH Design Guide.

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:36:40 GMT

    Our son is in school at Hocking College in Ohio taking the Backcountry Horsemanship program and was asked two questions:
    When was the first time that steel shoes and steel nails were used
    and when did people first start caring about horse's feet. Your help would be appreciated.

    VIN -- VINRUSS at AOL.COM Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:36:51 GMT

    Horeshoes (Vin): I am not an expert in horseshoeing but I do know that the Romans are reputed to have been the first to have shod their horses on a regular basis. This was the result of being the first to produce paved roads on large scale. The chariot came from the Caucuses as well as the first smelted iron and may have some close relationship. Although there were Bronze Age chariots they came in the late Bronze Age just before the Iron Age (I think). Like a lot of technological history the actual facts are dificult to acertain and in our case often Eurocentric (The Koreans invented movable type hundreds of years before Gutenburg).

    You may get more accurate information on this subject from one of the farrier's web sites.

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:53:23 GMT

    Horse's Hoof Care? I would expect that the first man to ride any beast would have immediately had concern for the beasts feet. Better to take care of HIS than to have to attend to yours!

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 01:59:26 GMT

    ANVIL HEIGHT: The "knuckle" height is a "rule of thumb" (strange pun) but a good rule. However, the type of work you do AND your eyesight can make a difference in anvil height. For small or detailed work a higher anvil can be benificial. For heavy work the anvil could be a little lower. As our eyesight gets weaker I think we can use a slightly higher anvil.

    The BEST height is the one comfortable for you. One at which you can stand straight up and work without being hunched over. Good working posture is overlooked by many. Bad working posture is inefficient and can result in a variety of physical problems.

    Until you have enough experiance to have a personal preference the knuckle height is the best (+/- 2"[50mm]).

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 02:12:39 GMT

    Vin, (and guru)

    As the guru said much of our history is badly Euro-centric.

    If I remember correctly, both the horseshoe AND the stirrup were invented by the Chinese (Han Dynasty, I *THINK*) long before the Romans.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 02:21:42 GMT

    Vin: If your son wants to nit pic, steel shoes and steel nails were probably not used until quite recently,maby within the last 100 yrs if then. What Guru and Jim were refering to were technically iron shoes and nails.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Wednesday, 10/28/98 02:44:29 GMT


    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 03:39:19 GMT

    Well grandpa, I guess if Grant isn't going to keep me accurate, now its your job! But how about Damascus (ie wootz) vs. laminated steel?

    More ANVIL HEIGHT: Hold your hammer level with your arm slightly bent (not fully extended) and thats a good height. Then after a while look at how your hammer wears (heal or toe) and adjust accordingly - Josh Greenwood.

    -- guru Wednesday, 10/28/98 04:13:20 GMT



    The earliest known (chinese) stirrup is made of brass. I'd expect that the same thing would be true of the earliest horseshoes. There probably aren't any examples of the horseshoe. Once they were worn enough to need to be replaced, they'd very likely be re-melted and re-cast.

    THEN came the iron shoe and nails! (grin)

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 04:40:37 GMT

    I need to know what kind of sealer to put on a rusted piece of metal to bring out the color of the rust and seal it. I am needing a sealant that is capable of withstanding the elements.
    Thank You

    jo -- rayjo at Wednesday, 10/28/98 05:29:47 GMT

    Guru: If your interested in about 20 different points of view on the wootz/patternwelded/damascus/lamanated/hada definitions,check the posts for the last 2 days on "". I've always been a nitpicker. Lots of trouble in my school days when I answered the question asked rather than the question meant.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Wednesday, 10/28/98 05:35:50 GMT

    Jim: Wouldn't be all that surprised to find those brass stirrups and shoes followed by cast iron ones. I believe the chinese were casting iron long before anyone else.

    grandpa -- darylmeier at Wednesday, 10/28/98 05:41:57 GMT

    I am just starting and would like to buy a forge for making knives and swords. What kind should I buy, coal or propane. what model and who makes the best. I also could use any tips on equipting my shop that a beginer like myself could use. thank you.

    dan russ -- hogmanruss at Wednesday, 10/28/98 06:12:57 GMT

    I am located in Dublin, Ireland and I am currently looking for information on where I could take some courses on Black Smithing. If you have any ideas or references I would greatly appreciate it.

    Any help or pointers about training or course work would be greatly appreciated. I am originally from NC and will one day return to the States, but I am here for nearly another year and would love to find some classes locally if at all possible.

    Thanks in advance

    Jason Key
    Black Mountain, NC
    Dublin, Ireland

    Jason Key -- jkey at Wednesday, 10/28/98 11:39:28 GMT


    I think you're correct. Been over twenty years since I did the Area Studies that I'm drawing on, but that sounds right.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 12:38:41 GMT


    I can't help you with classes in Ireland, but when you come home, you won't find a better school anywhere in the world than the John C. Campbell Folk School. Right down the road from Black Mountain, in Brasstown, NC. They have classe for beginners (starting with how to build a fire) on through advanced.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 12:42:16 GMT

    im just starting out and i need to know what some of the equipment that i need would be. i about to start building a place to work and i would also like to know about whats good for building sizes. im a very very much a begginer so please any help would be thanked.

    scott -- cotsa40 at hotmail Wednesday, 10/28/98 19:53:10 GMT

    Hi there,

    I have an old brass bathroom door, it is so old it has gone to silver to green. I am to put it up soon, but there does not seem to a cleaner
    good enough out there that I can you have any suggestions
    on how to make it shine agian?


    Giancarlo -- glanzano at Wednesday, 10/28/98 20:03:23 GMT


    How big is the door? That's not a silly question. A solution of cram of tartar added to water and brought to a rolling boil will clean any brass item back to the base metal. But the problem is that the item needs to be immersed in the solution. A door is probably too big to work with.

    Next product I would suggest is called BRASSO. You can usually find it in the housewares section of the grocery store, or at a hardware store. Better buy a couple of cans. Just follow the directions on the can.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 21:36:30 GMT


    My shop is 12' X 16' and it's much too small. When I build my next one, it'll be at LEAST 20' X 40'.

    Jim Wilson -- pawpaw at Wednesday, 10/28/98 21:38:14 GMT

    RUST as FINISH: This is a suitable outdoor finish only in arid regions. Everywhere else you should sandblast, zinc prime, neutral prime and top coat. See my article on the 21st Century page, "Corrosion and its Prevention" for reasons and details.

    There is one type of steel developed for this application and is used without sealer. Its called COR-Ten. It rusts to a point and then stops. You must pay attention to details when using it. Fasteners must be made of the same material, there are special welding rods and how you mount or attach the work to the ground or a stand is critical.

    A good coat of clear laquer will do what you want but I do not recomend it.

    -- guru Thursday, 10/29/98 00:14:22 GMT

    GETTING STARTED (Dan): Please see my archived responses on getting started in knife/swordmaking earlier in the month.

    Before going on an equipment buying binge I suggest you order a catalog from Centaur Forge then one or more of the books on knife making. These will describe the equipment necessary for the different techniques. Then you can start your search for equipment. Centaur can supply most of it (one stop shopping anvils, forges, powerhammers).

    COAL vs. PROPANE: Lots of arguments on both sides of the issue. You will find many shops with both. Today we heated a 20 x 30 inch piece of plate (average thickness 3/4") in a propane furnace, while at the same time heated several pieces in the coal forge to demonstrate forging under power hammers.

    COAL forges are great if you have a local supply of fuel. PROPANE is absolutely necessary in enviromentaly concious areas such as California OR in many subburban areas. COAL heats quickly and produces a more penetrating heat. PROPANE is clean and reliable.

    THEN there are oil forges (an oft overlooked option) and the need for controlled heating for heat treatment which is most often provided by an electric furnace with temperature controls. Knife makers currently are using salt baths for heat treatment. These can be fueled by ANY convient fuel including electric and solar. Like I said, read the books, think about what you need and where you are going to work, THEN lets talk forges.

    EQUIPMENT IN GENERAL: Hoisting equipment to unload forges, power hammers and that 800 pound anvil you bring home from the flea market :o)
    A bench grinder for sharpening tools and a diamond dresser to dress the grinder! A drill press for drilling holes, sanding, spot finishing and making spun rivit heads (on knives). A cut off saw to do clean cuts on the thousands of feet of material that is going to go through ANY productive shop. A small bench lathe (6" or greater swing) for maintaining the other equipment and making special fittings punches and dies. Welding equipment of all types (oxy-acetylene, AC-DC arc, MIG and TIG). A heavy duty vise (or two) and even heavier benches to attach them to (HEY, this is METAL working). Small tools, number letter and fractional size drill bits, files, measuring tools. . .

    Hmmm, I haven't gotten to anvils, forges and power hammers. That's because these VERY important items are still the LEAST important in a general metal working enviroment. A blacksmith can go a long way with just an anvil and a fire but blacksmithing and knife making especialy are NOT just forging hot metal. The most used and most important tools in my shop are my MECHANICS TOOLS. When that brand new forge you bought from Centaur is delivered you are going to need to put it together and adjust it! . . . . And Geeez! I forgot the HD all American Pickup Truck! Gotta have a truck to haul home ALL the above!

    Dan, I'm NOT targeting you with this little tirade! Its something I've wanted to say to ALL the begineers for a long time. If you are going to do metal work you need a LOT of tools. A cutting torch and an arc welder should be at the top of the list. You can learn FORGING with an anvil, hammer and a fire. But blacksmithing is much more than that. It ends up being virtualy ALL of metal working combined into one. Then in knifemaking you need tools and equipment to handle the wood, horn, leather and precious metal working.

    You may have a lot of these tools, great. If you don't, think seriously about the kinds of work you want to do and what you need to achieve that goal. It takes time and cost too much to do all at once. On the other hand the above was in fact a VERY short list.

    I was serious about the truck and hoisting equipment!

    -- guru Thursday, 10/29/98 01:12:35 GMT

    MORE STARTING OUT (Scott): See the above! Now I can add a small milling machine (Bridgeport type), arbor press or hydraulic equivalent, A WELD PLATTEN (you may not know what one is but you WILL need one)!

    The tools you need can grow and change drasticaly depending on the type of work you do. Are you thinking about doing architectual work? You may find you need a hammer drill or a diamond core hole saw for doing installation work!

    A blacksmith shop needs to be as big as you can afford. I spent the day working in a shop that is 30 x 50 feet and was cramped! You need over head height too. It helps dissapate smoke but is also needed for that hoisting equipment! My personal shop has a 20x40 foot combined forge and welding area with 16' ceilings. There is also a 12x30 machine shop to one side. It was bigger than I could to finish but is still not big enough (it is unfinished and FULL of machinery). The flush to the ceiling monorail hoist has been pushed to its height limit every time it is used!

    Everything depends on what kind of work you are going to do and how heavily mechanized you plan (or want) to get and how much you can afford. I want (and NEED) more, better space, but I can not afford it today. I don't think you can ever have too much shop space.

    -- guru Thursday, 10/29/98 01:35:58 GMT

    Oh knowledgeable Syeeb, I am at a lost at trying to find out what is mentioned in blacksmithing books and in the last post!What the HEC (no pun intended)is A Weld Platten?If possible,a picture would be worth a thousand words;not necessary your words but must definitely mine,if I knew what the (HEC)I am talking about!

    BUB -- hagiumet at Thursday, 10/29/98 09:32:14 GMT

    I knew I was asking for THAT one! Not many people have ever seen or know what one is so don't feel embarased asking.

    WELD PLATEN: Often called an "Acorn plate" from the name of the most popular manufacturer. It is a big cast iron plate with holes for dogging down work. A good small shop size is 4x4 feet (122x122cm) and will weigh about a ton. Most have a 2" thick top with a pattern of 1-1/2 to 2" square holes. Super heavy ones often have 8" (20cm) thick tops! Bent bench dogs are used to hold down pieces of work during assembly. Acorn makes a varity screw clamps and cutting dogs for use in the platten.

    Many smiths do gate layouts ON the plate with chalk and then fit the pieces there. Its a little tricky learning to draw over the holes but the benifits are tremendous. These super heavy "benches" are a great place to anchor a vise or bender and many other tools like stake anvils.

    They are rarer than anvils but almost as indespensable in shops making gates and architectual work.

    -- guru Thursday, 10/29/98 13:08:19 GMT

    My father-in-law is very near completion of a restoration project. He is re-building a 1920's Little Giant 25lb Trip Hammer. He's primarily in need of the pulley sizes and RPM information.

    Dennis Hayslip -- dhayslip at Thursday, 10/29/98 22:47:43 GMT

    Once you work on a platten in someone's shop or at a school you will quickly find yourself in the market for one, they are GREAT! My forge area is very small 11x20' I was lucky to find a 30"x60" with a stand. It enables you to do things that cant be done on a 3/4" welding table,they eventually warp on you. When my new shop is compleated I'm going .to look for a 5x5 or bigger. Watch out for ones that have cracked in the middle and have been welded though. Pete

    Pete -- Ravnstudio at Thursday, 10/29/98 22:48:14 GMT

    LITTLE GIANT: Sid Suedimeyer,420 4th Corso, Nebraska City, NE 68410. (402) 873-6603. Sid purchased the Little Giant power hammer company and has most of the parts back in production and available off the shelf for 25, 50, and 100 pound hammers.

    The basics of the hammers didn't change much and I have a chart with technical data from 1976 posted. Go to the Power hammer Page, the link is listed there and from the 21st Century page. Note that Little Giant over rated their hammers and ran them too fast in doing so. It doesn't hurt to run them slower (say 20%) than recomended.

    -- guru Friday, 10/30/98 02:17:48 GMT

    I'm making fire place doors and I'm not sure how to attach the glass to the metal work?

    Tim Dodd -- ffdoddt at aol Friday, 10/30/98 10:57:00 GMT

    GLASS IN DOORS: Like porcupines making love, very carefully!

    First, there should be plenty of room for the glass to expand and contract. Glass and steel have different rates of thermal expansion.

    Second, the glass should be easy to replace.

    How? The glass should fit behind the front and set in a sheet metal "track" on three sides (bottom and sides). This can be done with a piece bent like a "Z" bar and rivited on or an inverted angle welded on. The inside edge of your frame should be flat, burr free and have a rounded edge. If you use fairly light sheet metal it can clamp againt the glass but other wise it should be slightly loose. To keep the glass from rattling (if your track is too loose) you can make some little bow (as in archery) shaped springs that fit between the glass and the track. These should also be fairly light so they do not apply too much pressure on the glass.

    You ARE using double tempered heat resistant plate glass?

    -- guru Friday, 10/30/98 12:58:27 GMT

    GLASS (more): If you are having the glass custom cut, be sure to have the edges lightly beveled by the glass cutter. Raw edges chip easily and cracks probagate from the chips.

    -- guru Friday, 10/30/98 13:00:55 GMT

    Dear Mr. Guru : PLEASE HELP, I have an 8 yr old cutting horse,, I had his shoes pulled 9 weeks ago to give his feet a break , to let the nail holes grow out ect . He was sound for 8 weeks I competed on him with no problems, 3 days ago I had him trimmed and as soon as my ferrier left he was lame, he doesnt look like he was trimmed too short but I cant tell, I soaked his feet in eppson salt and he was a little better. at a trot hes not real lame but at a walk hes real ouchy he doesnt posture like a nevicular horse and theres no heat in his feet, I have a compition tommarow , will I cripple him if I ride him? or does he just need to toughen up his feet? his feet arent splitting up but where the nail holes were his walls are trying to roll up a little PLEASE tell me what to do. I have limited confidence in my black smith hes farly green. Thanks a bunch

    Jessie James -- chasencows at Friday, 10/30/98 17:24:10 GMT

    HORSES (Jessie): Sorry I can't help you. We use the words blacksmith and farrier in the technical sense and define ourselves accordingly. Only in America of the last century were a large number of blacksmiths also farriers.

    I know almost less than nothing about horseshoeing. I (we) answer metalworking questions not animal questions. I wish I could help you.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/31/98 13:13:35 GMT

    Reading the Blacksmithe Gazette, I have a question regarding the use of clay. I recently found a portable forge (22" diameter cast) which is in excellent condition. I have rebuild all of bearings for the crank assembly and the blower which were out of round. The Gazette has various comments about the use of clay to line the case bed which is where the fire is built. Is this necessary and is so where do I obtain the clay?
    I have been workng with metal for years and have been wanting to obtain a forge to eliminate the use of a gas torch to work metal. Can you please give me the answer so I can proceed?

    Paul Wilson -- paul_wilson at Saturday, 10/31/98 13:37:53 GMT

    COAL FORGE LININGS (Paul): There is a lot of debate about forge linings (To line, or not to line? THAT, is the question. . .)

    Some people say line all forges and I say not. Here's my advice:

    Portable forges with sheet metal pans are generaly lined with sand, ashes, loose dirt or the coal itself if you don't get overly rambuncious with the blower. The flexible sheet metal isn't condusive to having a brittle clay lining and the extra weight makes the forge much less portable. Note: These forges left out doors with coal ash in them will rust away to nothing in short order (lined or unlined)!

    Small cast iron or steel plate shop forges are also commonly used without linings. If you are going to do mostly small work there is no need for a lining. If you are going to be doing heavy work (stock 1" (25mm) and up) you should probably line the forge pan, not the fire pot. If you are burning coke or hard coal (anthicite) the forge should be lined.

    Heavy shop forges where large fires are built on a daily basis should be lined with clay or half thickness fire bricks.

    Clay? For THIS purpose the clay is simply an insulator and doesn't need to withstand extream temperatures like the lining of a gas forge. That means almost ANY clay will do. Here in Virginia most of the soil in the Piedmont and mountains is red clay (like they make bricks from). It works fine as is. In most other parts of the country any naturaly occuring clay will also work as well as any ceramic clays you purchase.

    There have been several recipes posted here for home made refractory linings (July 15-31 archive) and the method should apply to low temperature clay too. These had no more than 15-20% portland cement mixed with fire clay and vermiculite. The cement binds it together and the the vermiculite makes it light, acts as an insulator and adds permiability.

    NOTE: Cement breaks down at high temperature and concrete (made from cement, sand and stone) spalls (small surface explosions caused by steam) at high temperatures. Cement as binder above still breaks down but does not spall.

    Fire-clay (refractory clay): Kaolin clays are high in alumina (an aluminium oxide mineral). The higher the alumina content the higher the temperature resistance or the refractory. "Fire bricks" are made in varying proportions and qualities of Kaolin clays. The ceramic cup on your TIG torch is pure alumina.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/31/98 15:13:26 GMT

    TROUBLE WITH WORDS and NUMBERS: From a letter to a new immigrant to America about terms and metal designations.

    In English there are many blacksmithing terms that have double and triple usage - it is even confusing for us. Forge can be a verb - "to forge with a hammer" OR a noun "the fire is in the forge" OR ANOTHER noun "the blacksmith works in his forge". The term "wrought iron" is almost as bad or worse depending on your point of view. "Wrought iron was made in blommery or Catlan furnaces hundreds of years ago. It had no carbon and couldn't be hardened." OR "The building has beautiful wrought iron balconies and railings" - which in common non-technical usage might include cast iron work!

    Metal identification. This can be confusing but generally it is confused people that make the problems. There have been a BUNCH of numbering and identification systems for metals. The earliest numbering system is SAE (Societly of Automotive Engineers). In the SAE sytem "mild" steel is 1018 or 1020 steel. The 10 stands for plain carbon (no alloys) anf then the 18 the decimal percentage of carbon 1018 = .18% carbon steel.

    Tool steels are described by SAE numbers but MOST commonly they use letter number combinations. W-1 = common Water hardening tool steel. O-1 = an Oil hardening steel and A-2 = an Air hardening tool steel. Shock resistant steels start with an "S" for Shock. Heat resistant or hot work steels start with an "H". H-13 is a very common tool and die hot work steel.

    The problems come in when someone uses a trade name (private brand name) when describing a steel. Many times people use names no longer used by the manufacturers themelves or not in any interchange book.

    There are a number of other systems but most are based on something like the SAE system or include the SAE number within a longer number. There is an organization called ASM (American Society for Metals International) that publishes technical books on metals and metal working. Their "ASM Metals Reference Book" is very useful. It defines almost every known steel. It gives content, properties and heattreating information. The also carry "Metals and Alloys in the Unified Numbering System" published by ASTM and SAE. ASTM is the American Society for Testing Materials = THE standards people. See the links page for the ASM web site.

    -- guru Saturday, 10/31/98 15:21:19 GMT

    Dennis; Little Giant suggested 375 rpm on the crankshaft on a 25# size. (do a ratio problem. He knows the RPM of his motor and the clutch pulley size. The rest is simple arithmetic.) (Depending on his motor and where the clutch pulley is located, he might have to use a 'jackshaft') 375 is more than max. as far as I am concerned. They ran them that fast so that this small underpowered (1 hp.) hammer could get some work done. Don't run any faster or use a bigger motor than that. Slower is safer.
    Speaking of safety, be sure to tell your father to construct a good guard around the ram and linkage, but one that can easily be opened for lubrication purposes, which should be done FREQUENTLY while using the machine. Greasing once a day is probably OK, but oil at least 4 times a day if using it very hard. There is a standing joke here in Southern Wisconsin, that "if you aren't ankle deep in oil, you are probably underlubricating it". (a bit of an exaggeration, but, you get the idea. "Oil is cheaper than parts."). Be sure that the spring is tight enough so that the toggle links do not 'sag'. Good luck

    Bill Pieh-Centaur Forge Ltd. -- cf340 at Saturday, 10/31/98 23:27:21 GMT

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