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Virtual Hammer-In!

This page is open to ALL for the purpose of advancing blacksmithing, swaping lies, selling tools.

January 2011 Archive

WANTED Tips of the Day:
I'm sure most of you have seen our Tips of the Day. There are currently 6 categories, General, Safety, Buyer, Newbie, Anvil and Welding with some overlap between the categories. We may add a Machinery tips in the future. The tips are spread around on various pages and will be added to more.

Currently we have nearly 6 months of tips in the "General" category and will be closing that one out other than swapping better tips for lesser tips. The goal for the other lists is 73 tips (1/5 year) or more. Some categories currently have less than a month's worth.

We are looking for new tips to add particularly in Safety and Welding but are open to tips in any category.

We can add tips any time but it changes the display order resulting in tips repeating so we would like to add new tips at the first of the year. If you are interested in sending in some tips let me know. I can help with duplication problems.
- guru - Sunday, 12/04/11 12:23:39 EST

Pocket Hammer: I've been doing a lot of small tapers for the past year when making candlesticks. Tedious work when done by hand and very time consuming. It cuts into my profit margin a lot. On youtube I came across a video of what the guy called a "pocket hammer". It's a very small power hammer and it looks like it might answer my need for a compact machine to do light work. Has anyone else seen this video and if so what do you think of it? I'm considering building one.
- Bill - Tuesday, 01/31/12 23:39:26 EST

Bill, Power hammers include small palm hammers operated by air and little riveting hammers with heads of only a few ounces.

On a good power hammer up to 100 pounds or so you can draw tapers on wire with a little practice.
- guru - Wednesday, 02/01/12 00:18:44 EST

Tapers: Bill,

As Jock said, with a controllable power hammer you can draw tapers on a wire. When I have to do a bunch of identical tapers I use a taper die on my power hammer. This is just a ramp die I drop over the bottom flat die on the hammer and it produces controlled identical tapers very quickly. I have ramp dies in about six or seven different angles.

Tapering works best when you can flip the work 90° with each blow -0 this keeps the metal moving and that creates heat in it so your heat lasts longer. This applies on both hand hammering and power hammer work. Because of this, small "power hammers" like hand nailers and re-purposed air chisels, are not satisfactory. You can't flip the material fast enough to keep up with something that operates at thousands of blows per minute.

You could make Kinyon-style power hammer that was small, say 20#, but it would cost nearly as much as making one three times that size and the bigger one would do more work. I looked on YouTube and found the link below - that looks like a small "Rusty" type mechanical hammer. They're cheap and easy to build but not as easy to get right as an air hammer. That one didn't look like it would be much advantage over hand hammering, frankly. Again, might as well build the bigger one and have the capacity to do bigger work as well.
Pocket Hammer
Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 02/01/12 11:33:37 EST

Powdered Metals: Rich - thy're a high raw material cost of making a product. Where they excell is unique alloys that can't be produced by normal metallurgiacal methods, and for parts that would require a lot of machining from bar stock. Press the powder, sinter it, and minimal machining @ adequate strength levels.
For example, to make our iron powder, we melt scrap in an EAF, atomize it by hitting the stream with high pressure water, dewater and dry the powder, anneal it in a furnace @ over 2000 F in a nitrogen/hydrogen atmosphere, mill/size it, then usually sell it to a customer as a mixed powder with lubricant, graphite, and alloying element poders added.
It's a lot easier to melt, continuously cast and roll to size.
- Gavainh - Wednesday, 02/01/12 13:11:01 EST

The above linked hammer only works on sheet metal. It does not run fast enough to actually do the work it should. There is no thickness compensation as needed in a forging hammer. Many builders do not understand the need for springs and or toggle links in this regard. They do many things.

1) Compensate for material thickness change.
2) Increase the throw of the hammer (should be as much as 3x the crank throw), to hit harder.
3) Absorbs the upward inertia. Without this the mechanism will be wrecked in short order.
4) Return that absorbed upward inertia as downward force.

Small hammers that run high speed are fine for heavy drawing but their speed make them difficult to control and manipulate stock under them. Larger hammers do the same or more work at slower speed thus are easier to control and manipulate stock under.

Air hammers intrinsically have thickness compensation but they have no inertia return. Upward motion is stopped with power, not saved and returned. Between this and the general inefficeincy of compressed air it takes 4 to 5 times the horsepower to run an air hammer as a properly built mechanical hammer. A 100 pound mechanical will run on 1.5 HP but the same hammer would take a 5 to 8 HP air compressor.

While everyone should have a good air compressor in their shop it is not necessarily the best way to power a hammer. However, air hammers have other benefits so its often comparing apples and oranges.
- guru - Wednesday, 02/01/12 13:36:28 EST

I have a "Rusty" style hammer. More correctly these are "Powell Patent" as the patent goes back to something like 1872.

Mine is set to run at about 180 BPM, and is very controllable, and at 70# definetly beats a hand hammer. As the easiest hammer to homebuild and to scrounge for they are a good choice for the first time machine builder.
Unlike Rich, I would argue that an air hammer is harder to get right, especially when the parts are scrounged.

Mine is fully adjustable for stock thickness, and using a tire clutch I can single blow, feather for light blows and run wide open, all by the movement of the treadle.

I have run this style hammer with a 12# ram, and it beat a hand hammer. My 70# started as a 32# in 2002, morphed to 45# then got a new clutch the compact spare system, then got a much better, Tire Hammer style slide and morphed to 70# this past winter.

I would also say, ANY running power hammer is better than no power hammer.
ptree - Wednesday, 02/01/12 14:31:18 EST

Power hammers: Once I finally got my head around the way a Kinyon-style air hammer is designed to work, I found it simple to build one, Jeff. It was that first hurdle of understanding that was the tough part for me, though. As Jock noted, an air hammer just naturally adjusts for stock thickness and that, to me, is the big advantage of them. I like the fact that mechanical hammers use a lot less energy, and I may still get one made someday. Due to floor space restrictions, I'd probably try to build a Dupont-type rather than a spring helve, and that is more trouble to get right than a spring helve. I will try it though, if I can ever find the time. Too many projects.

I agree that scrounging parts for the air circuit of a power hammer is likely to make it very tough to get things right. Good working parts can be had new at a fairly reasonable price, if you look around. I just bought all new stock for replacements for my air circuit; cylinder, control valve, roller valve, check valve and mist lubricator, and the whole shebang was just over four hundred bucks. Not cheap, but in my case, making a living with it, cheap insurance against downtime. All the rest of the parts for a power hammer are about equal as far as scrounging goes, whether you make an air or mechanical hammer.

I agree wholeheartedly that any power hammer, even a rope drop, is better than a hand hammer. Without a power hammer I wouldn't be able to do half the work I do now. As I get progressively older and less physically able, it will only get more important to have the power hammer.
Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 02/01/12 15:09:00 EST

While Any power hammer is better than no power hammer many DIY hammers are as good as no hammer. . . Many are built without understanding the basic principals. Yes, a simple drop works but it needs distance and mass. On spring hammers the blow needs to be before the spring starts the return.

I've seen hammers from the Clay Spencer workshops that were completely uncontrollable. This was due to building a machine thinking it would be used with hand tooling that was going to used for free hand die to die forging. To get a hammer to strike at 1" that is built to strike at 6" you have to run the hammer nearly full speed to get it to contact the work. . .

I've seen DIY air hammers with no or very little anvil mass, the frame doing all the work. This is noisy, inefficient, produces low power blows and will eventually rip the machine apart.

I've seen DIY air hammers that the ram repeatedly "topped" out striking whatever was in the way. . . Even with retrofitted snubber springs this is a very bad condition requiring a lot of redesign to fix.

Many of the tube in tube guide systems are impossible or difficult to adjust properly. The result is dies that can shift when they make a blow. This makes it difficult to do fine work and tends to spit the work out of the dies.

LOTS of folks successfully build DIY hammers but I think nearly as many are not successful.
- guru - Wednesday, 02/01/12 19:05:07 EST

DIY/JYH: I would offer that many folks try to build beyond their skills when it comes to Power hammers. I would offer that anyone that can make a sound weld, and visit a decent auto salvage yard can build a workable spring helve. The Dupont style are grand, but are a more precision demanding design, that takes decent machine tool work. The air hammers require either 10 times the initial cost of my spring helve or fantastic scrounging ability.And you have to have a pretty decent compressor.
A total rebuild for my machine would be one leaf spring, about 1 square foot of UHMWPE and a compact spare tire + some iron with simple drilled holes.(I did just rebuild by the way)

It must be said that I am a good scrounger, with great scrounging opportunities. It must also be said I designed machines for a good deal of my career, so design and building was a breeze. It must also be said that I used the best features of the Powell patent spring helve and the tire hammer.

As an aside I built a miniature facsimile of the Kinyon hammer as a co-op at WABCO in about 1979 or 80 as a trainer for our sales rep's. Smaller and lighter, and designed to crack pecans without smashing the nuts. Built for our school, to demonstrate many of our control circuit components. I had never then seen an air hammer, and noodled it out. It worked, and by the way it was auto fed and auto unloaded, and the sales guys loved it. Still used as a trained as far as I know. But I had access to any pneumatic component I could desire, and a full machine model shop. Great learning experience, but not an easy build.

I have been around that baby hammer. I have a small impact air hammer for forging sitting in my shed. I have built and improved my Powell patent hammer, and have worked around steam and air drop hammers from 1500# to 25,000 pound. I have run 25 and 50# LG's, aBig Blu's and Saymaks. If money were not a factor and I could buy any hammer I desired, give me a rotory valved steam hammer. BUT money is a factor, and was a big factor when I built. So the then $43 installed in 2002 was a big issue. After rebuilds, upping the ram to 70# and the anvil to something like 900# by scabbing on scrap,and a new old stock motor, I am still less than $400. And I have used that hammer hard. Not every day hard, but weekend business hard.

If some one gave me a Kinyon I would be glad to accept it. Same for almost any reasonable sized hammer. But after 10 years of running, if I were to have to scrounge and build another hammer, it would be a Powell spring helve.

And yes Rich I still like you and will not call you names:)
ptree - Wednesday, 02/01/12 21:22:17 EST

Power Hammer: Sounds like I have a huge amount of research to complete before I can continue with my design.

I'm afraid I have asked too many questions of the Guru lately. He might be getting tired of me about now. I'll be looking up some terms and some designs I am not familiar with. When next I ask a question I hope it will be somewhat less basic.

Thanks to all of you gentlemen. You've given me much to consider and much to use in planning my next step.
- Bill - Wednesday, 02/01/12 22:02:20 EST

Power Hammer Space:
The two hammers that take up the most space are the self contained hammers and spring helv hammers. But one of the worst was my EC-JYH due to the length of the auto rear-axel.

One of the most compact is our current project hammer with a 16 x 30" base plate and taking a total of 24 x 36" (edge of motor on one side to edge of treadle in front). Most of the machine fits in the 16 x 30. But its a little tall at 92". It could be shorter if it did not have a tire-hammer clutch. Its a 100 pound hammer.

A Little Giant 100 requires 28 x 42 but that width did not include the motor, so (~36 x 42) AND that also does not include the necessary access to the back. Ours is a lighter machine but takes 6 square feet less floor space (10 if you include the wall offset needed by an LG). Of course its best not to cramp machinery. . .

In most shops 10 square feet should not be an issue for an important machine. But it all ads up and I've seen folks working in some amazingly small spaces.

Air hammers seem very compact until you include the air compressor. However, you can put it outside where you don't have to listen to it. . But the farther away the more piping $ is required.

The difficult (or expensive) parts of building a DIY hammer are 1) the mass, 2) the guide system, 3) the die system (if you want good interchangeable dies).

While the coil spring Dupont linkage is fairly picky the bow spring type is much more forgiving and has fewer parts. There is no more machining involved than making a spring helve. ANd the results are much more compact.
- guru - Wednesday, 02/01/12 23:23:31 EST

Power Hammer SPace: The requirements for power hammer space just keep dropping as time goes by, it would seem. Jock's latest venture in mechanical hammers only occupies 2'x3', a far cry from the 4'x8' for a Bradley Compact Helve Hammer of a hundred years ago. And the Bradley was "compact", compared to a steam hammer from fifty years earlier. The steam hammer required a boilerhouse, boiler, firebox, fuel storage, etc. Which was still less space-hungry than its predecessor the tilt hammer - those things required a sluiceway and a water wheel to supply the motive force. That's some serious real estate. I'm sure that, had there been power hammer forums back then, the guru-of-the-day would have remarked that every real blacksmith shop needed a water wheel anyway to run grinding stones, cool the tuyeres and remove waste from the smithy's privy. (grin)

Give it another hundred years and who knows what we'll have come up with. Perhaps a power hammer that operates on a quantum power source, or maybe a Star Trek pressor beam? Stay tuned...
Rich Waugh - Thursday, 02/02/12 12:09:14 EST

I know several people who really LOVE their Anyang 33lb hammers. These are small, relatively inexpensive, self contained air hammers.
Cast iron, built well, and they work right out of the box.

If you are interested in seeing how much work can be done with one, go over to our NWBA website,, and check out some of the postings of Sam Salvati. He has several threads where he shows how he uses the itty bitty Anyang to make knives, tools, hammers, and more.
- ries - Thursday, 02/02/12 13:50:18 EST

Influential black smith: Well I am doing the photo collage on frank turley. I figure photos of him and his work might be easier to find and use and he has helped me in many cases on here and other sites and I think founding that first school was a huge undertaking. Thanks frank and after the pic is done I'll put a link to it if you want frank. I tried to make sure all work was yours on it but if not I'm sorry. But the idea and design will still work its more for the concept of black smithing.
- Brandin lemons - Thursday, 02/02/12 15:37:07 EST

coal in mo: im looking for a reliable place for coal aournd Dexter MO ive bout from bam and its geting expensive and my forging oparashons are geting begger and begger its costing me a lot of money just for coal buying from there im looking for a place i can buy a ton or so aat a time thanks
brandon - Thursday, 02/02/12 23:32:29 EST

COAL: Brandon, Coal is infinitely variable and most good coal is trucked great distances such as from Pennsylvania or West Virginia. It used to be that coal yards received coal by train but coal yards are now mostly gone due to lack of use except by large power plants. So today you pay the market energy price equivalent for oil (for all fuels corn included) on the coal AND for the high fuel price in the shipping.

The best deal most groups get is by purchasing a large dump truck load delivered to someone who can store it (10 or 15 tons). Then they resell to members. This sounds easy but you cannot just make a call and place an order. Every time a delivery is made it is often with a new trucker and possibly a new source (which is a gamble).

A busy smith will use a ton or more coal a year. Most less. But even at several tons a year it is not affordable to pay for a truck load in advance unless you go into the business of reselling coal yourself (which many smiths do).

I've known others to drive their own truck many hundreds of miles to the coal fields and haul the coal themselves. In a small truck this can mean loading and unloading by hand.

Many pay the bagged price for coal shipped by UPS but their BEST deal is when their local group such as BAM is selling coal. More do not have this opportunity than do.

This is why so many smiths are using propane. OR charcoal if they need solid fuel and the higher heat (often making their own).
- guru - Friday, 02/03/12 08:58:24 EST

I have heard nothing but good about the Cumberland/Elkhorn Coal Company of Louisville, TN. May have the name backwards.

The Blacksmith Association of MO has a large annual conferance. Wouldn't surprise me if they had a least one vender that selling coal by the bag.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/03/12 11:31:31 EST

Cumberland Elkhorn indeed sells the very best in Blacksmith coal, from the seweal seam. I believe the company owns the mine. To my knowledge the Pocohontas caol that lots claim to sell is a closed mine, and has been closed about 30 years as it is on fire underground. This came from the guys at Cumberland Elkhorn. They have 2 yards in Louisville, the small one on Swan street an over 100 year old coal and coke yard. They ship and receive by both rail and truck their. They also have a location in an industrial park in southwest Louisville along the Ohio River. I believe that yard is also barge capable.
ABANA bought the coal for the Seatle conference from th Swan Street yard, I saw the stretch wrapped pallet of bags when I was there getting a load. A couple of months ago the rate was $512/ton loose. Very nice folks to deal with.
ptree - Friday, 02/03/12 14:25:28 EST

Pocahontas Coal:
I remember when I was a teenager shoveling coal to feed the furnace. The Pocahontas stoker lump and coal had little sheet metal tags all through it with an Indian head and Pocahontas around the rim. Looked a little like an Indian head nickle.

This was the coal I learned on and it was very good coal.
- guru - Friday, 02/03/12 15:17:58 EST

State EPA laws differ. When SOF&A were building at the Miami County Fairgrounds they were not permitted to store coal outdoor. They added on a side building and somewhere found bins. Once a year or so they have a large coal truck come in, dump on the parking lot and then a club crew puts it in bins and sweeps off the pavement.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/03/12 16:40:38 EST

Coal: Finally I have something to add without asking a question.

I sometimes buy from Cumberland Elkhorn on Swan Street in Louisville, KY. They have always been very helpful and tried to save me money when they could. The only thing I had a tough time with was catching them at the office between their deliveries. It has been a while since I last was there but they suggested getting to the yard before 7AM or around 4PM to be sure someone would be available. It's very good quality coal with very little klinker.
- Bill - Friday, 02/03/12 20:44:21 EST

Coal: Where my shop is located, there are NO zoning regulations, other than septic tank rules, because my shop is in the middle of nowhere. I can almost hear "dueling banjos" from the hills where my shop is located. About fifty miles west of me, also in the middle of nowhere, is a place called "Barklay Mountain". Back in 1986, I bought my first truckload of their coal, ten tons, which I had dropped outside of my shop. That coal burned so hot, that I decided to buy two more truckloads, at 80 dollars a ton delivered. It came from a private mine on Barklay Mountain, from an old codger named "red" Wittig. After trying some of that coal, I ordered two more ten ton truckloads, one piled in another pile outside my shop, and the last ten tons delivered down a home-made coal chute inside my shop, in a bin that I fabricated myself. This year, in 2012, I still have 14 tons left. I am sooooooooooooooo lucky to have good coal. It burns so hot and clean, that I can forge weld 7 consecutive slate shingle ripper handles to the bladestock before the fire fouls.
- stewartthesmith - Sunday, 02/05/12 08:12:43 EST

Stewart: A friend in Scranton saw a local TV program that had something about a shop forging the sort of items You are producing. Was it Your shop?
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 02/05/12 20:13:52 EST

Dave: Two weeks ago, I had a meeting with a representative of the Small Business Administration, in the Scranton area. She told me she wanted to do a video of me in my shop, manufacturing tools, as a marketing tool. Who knows! Someone might have been videoing me without me knowing it!
stewartthesmith - Monday, 02/06/12 08:10:51 EST

Ken as I remember it SOFA could store outdoors they just had to install a system to catch and process all runoff (and the pile had to be on an impermeable floor).

Putting the shed up was far cheaper than dealing with the rain water issues.

Thomas P - Monday, 02/06/12 16:38:26 EST

Stewart---I can't hear dueling banjos from my shop but I can hear Mariachi music all weekends...from several directions
Thomas P - Monday, 02/06/12 16:39:37 EST

Hammer in in brookfield CT: Brookfield Craft Center Hammer-In

Sat. March 10, 2012 10 AM - 6pm
All proceeds go to support the craft centers shop.

Cost $20 Includes lunch (hot dogs and chips)
Iron in the hat raffle (please bring items to donate)
free tailgate area
round table on heat treating of knives and swords.

Joe Szilaski (ABS M.S.) tomahawk forging
Mace Vitale (ABS J.S.) Knife forging
Matthew Parkinson Knife forging and finishing, fire poker
Peter Swarz-Burt Forging Tongs
Jamie Lundell forging faces (and a team forging demo with Peter)
Michael Coffey Armour
more TBA

hope to see you all!
please contact me with any questions
brookfield craft center
Matthew parkinson - Wednesday, 02/08/12 08:41:27 EST

Superbowl: I saw a bit of it. Being English I had no idea what was going on of course.

One thing I didn't understand is that USA is the richest country in the world so why were all those guys fighting over 1 ball. Why don't they have a ball each? I am sure you could afford ir.
philip in china - Thursday, 02/09/12 06:08:41 EST

Phillip in China, Because we are the richest nation in the world, we use extremely expensive balls for our football unlike the soccer balls used in football elsewhere. Therefore we only use one ball at a time, and we try very very hard to not let the ball land on the earth and get dirty. That is why we throw the ball and try very hard to catch it. It someone lets the ball down to earth the play is stopped and then the team huddles to discuss ways to prevent the ball hitting the ground. Clear now?
ptree - Thursday, 02/09/12 10:57:59 EST

Bruce is Back On the Line: Connectivity is achieved! Now, to catch up on the last month's postings.

Really sorry to hear about Grant. I had his "Good Fast & Cheap; Pick Two" saying posted at my cubicle at work, and left it there when I retired since a number of Park Service folks had wanted it for their offices or cubicles.

More information and comments over the next week, as I catch up.

A lovely, sunny day on the banks of the lower Potomac. It will creep up to about 50 degrees tomorrow, and then plumet into the teens for the weekend. I guess Winter is finally coming to Southern Maryland. Good! It will help freeze out all the bugs that have still been flitting about!

Go viking!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 02/09/12 17:44:19 EST

Saturday will be another miserable day to work in the smithy, 58 and blinding sun and just enough wind to take the smoke away.

The freeze is awaiting all the fruit trees to bloom.

Thomas P - Thursday, 02/09/12 18:13:25 EST

SuperBowl: Phillip and Ptree

Or, as Andy Griffith said.
"They had this funny lookin' punkin'. I knowed they couldn't eat it 'cause they kicked it the whole evenin' and it never busted. Both bunch fulls of them men wanted it real bad. And that evenin' I saw the awfullest fight I ever say in my life"


from "What it was, was football"
- Tom H - Thursday, 02/09/12 20:50:42 EST

Tip of the Day: When I salvaged the chuck from a small cordless drill with bad batteries, I took the shaft as well. Once I zipwheeled a gear off the back of the shaft, I was able to chuck it into my drill press and hold bits below the minimum capacity of the drill press chuck.
Mike BR - Thursday, 02/09/12 21:46:45 EST

What it was was Football:
- Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/09/12 23:16:28 EST

I'll take two, please...:
For our amusement-

A link from Lydia (from the Camp Fenby crew) on a 5,000 ton forging press. DO NOT wear a dangling necktie near this puppy!:

Boing Boing 5,000 Ton Press
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 02/11/12 16:34:53 EST

OOPS!: That should have been 50,000 tons! My misnake! ;-)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 02/11/12 16:36:13 EST

Big Press: If you read the comments you will notice that China is building a NEW press 60% bigger while we are repairing an old machine. . .

After TMI (Three Mile Island) Babcock and Wilcox let the world's largest Vertical Turret Lathe go. It was built to machine new reactor pressure vessels. The Japanese company that built it had spent 3 years setting up and aligning the machine (and about 5 years making it). It had never made an chip and away it went. . .

Industry in the U.S. has been declining ever since. THINK about it. Eight years to get the machine tool made before it can start making parts for a plant that may take 10 more years of construction after that part arrives. . .

Its not just the big toys that are going by the wayside. Its the little parts that make it possible to make the big ones. The seals, bearings, gears, motors. . . the availability of all the things needed to build machinery, ESPECIALLY special machinery, has been dropping steadily since the 1980's.

These are the things that make a healthy industrial economy work.
- guru - Saturday, 02/11/12 19:02:38 EST

While rummaging around a scrapyard I found a 6" length of 2 1/4" rebar. What type of contruction would require rebar of this size?
- Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 02/16/12 16:55:30 EST

Bank vaults, large bridge abutments, Nuclear power plant containments. . Did you check it with your Geiger counter? :o)
- guru - Thursday, 02/16/12 19:43:56 EST

Ken, the Ameristeel rebar plant in Knoxville makes it up to 6" diameter...Sounded like power hammer anvil material to me if it can be had in grade 60!
Alan-L - Friday, 02/17/12 11:51:39 EST

Rebar Gigantico!: I used a couple of pieces of the 1 1/2" rebar for the addtional legs of my tripod leg vise (in the Anvilfire Armoury). I picked it up from a closed-out office building construction site in D.C., so I figure larger sizes are not uncommon for heavier structures.
Portable Leg Vise
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/17/12 14:54:51 EST

Hollywood Opportunity: Hey there, people – I recently received an email from Joey Gemelli of Pilgrim Studios in California. Joey is the casting producer for a new Discovery Channel TV reality show to be called “Top Engineer” and wanted me to help him get some applicants for spots in the cast. Joey said he thought it would be really cool if a metal artist could make it onto the show, so he’s looking for artist blacksmiths to apply. This really is a legitimate deal, not a scam, so I’m passing it on. It sounds like it could be fun.

Pilgrim Studios is looking for, in Joey’s words, “America’s most creative and daring techies, machinists, inventors and engineers to design, build and BLAST their way to a Grand Prize on their new competition TV show TOP ENGINEER.”

Most of us who get into blacksmithing are the sort of people who have also do or have done construction, welding, machine work, engineering, electrical work, hydraulics, carpentry, and a whole slew of other things. In other words, we tend to be generalists and Joey seems to think that would be a really great attribute to bring to this new program.

So if you think you’d like a shot at being a TV star, maybe winning something and, if nothing else, getting an all-expenses-paid ride to LaLa land to do a screen test, here’s your chance. Joey even said they’d be happy to fly someone from the Virgin Islands, not that I have any intention of doing it – I just can’t imagine myself on TV, somehow. I’m willing to be you guys who know me can’t really imagine me on TV, either. (grin)

Here’s the pitch, from Pilgrim Studios flyer about the show:

“No, you don’t need to have an engineering degree to compete on this show, but you MUST be able to design, build, test and integrate an idea into a Final product the WORKS. These will be fast-paced, hands-on VISCERAL challenges! If your experience is strictly behind the keyboard, then this show is NOT for you.

We are looking for visual effects experts, accomplished home shop machinists, contractors and engineers with backgrounds in civil, structural or mechanical engineering.

If you have an outgoing personality and are ready to get your hands dirty for the chance to win a GRAND PRIZE and the title of TOP ENGINEER, then we want to hear from you.


Email with your name, age, location, phone number, a recent photo and a brief explanation of why you are perfect for this competition show.

Deadline to submit is March 7, 2012. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or residents at least 21 years of age. For more information please visit “

Okay, there you have it. Get those applications sent in and don’t forget - when you become rich and famous, be sure you remember who turned you onto it!

Pilgrim Studios
Rich Waugh - Friday, 02/17/12 16:37:02 EST

Dr. Jim Batson comes to find. Were his hand not impared, I'd say Tim Ryan.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/17/12 21:06:06 EST

Reality Show: "...but you MUST be able to design, build, test and integrate an idea into a Final product the WORKS."

Cap'n Atli designs, builds and tests blunt heavy object on monks at Lindisfarn. Cap'n wins prize, fame, fortune, a golden chalice and some silver candlesticks. ;-)

(Actually, we have some gigs with the History Channel under our belts; but when dealing with these shows, the people who pay the piper call the tune.)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/17/12 22:12:16 EST

We have had more than one of these every year for the past 5 years. EVERY single one wanted a sword made. . start to finish filmed in a couple hours.
- guru - Saturday, 02/18/12 10:32:59 EST

February Meeting: on saturday, Feb. 18, from 9-3, we had our monthly meeting of Hammertymephilly:The Philadelphia Blacksmiths Guild. The location was Pennsbury Manor, the plantation where William Penn lived at when he was in North America in the 1680's. The Colony of Pennsylvania came about because the King of England, in the 1600's, borrowed a ton of money from John Penn, William's father to finance wars he was engaged in. Unable to repay the debt to his heir, William Penn, who was a Quaker, he paid off his debt by giving Penn a whole colony in the New World, Pennsylvania Plantation, where Pennsbury is located. The have an excellent blacksmith shop on the grounds, complete with stone forge with leather bellows, and a "church window" anvil handstamped "1690" weighing close to 300 pounds, which was probably used by a blacksmith on the original plantation, which is a priceless treasure.
The weather was warm and balmy for mid-winter, and we got a lot of forging done. One of our members, Dan Manders forged a towel rack for his home, a very nifty one. The rest of us forged tong racks to hold blacksmith tongs for the resident blacksmith at Pennsbury, Robert Herrmann. A good time was had by all!
Our next meeting, March 3, from 9-3, will be at Ryerss Victorian Museum and Library in beautiful Northeast Philadelphia, where we will make a custom branding iron for a member of our group who requested one. I am also sending pictures of our last meeting to the Guru, with the hope that he includes some of them into this post!
stewartthesmith - Sunday, 02/19/12 09:34:13 EST

Bad Link: Sorry, I typo'd the link in the Top Engineer notice above. It should be:
Top Engineer
Rich Waugh - Sunday, 02/19/12 18:08:39 EST

My First Anvil: I just checked out the Anvil Gallery Page on this website, which is very cool. Let me tell you all about my first anvil. Back in 1974, I was a graduate student studying physics, while my youngest brother was still in college. He had taken up blacksmithing as a hobby, and it looked very interesting to me. I used to help him drag out his forge and anvil in our driveway for him to play at. My father had sponsored him, and had bought him his forge, a large industrial type champion, complete with rheostatically controlled blower, as well as a near-pristine 220 pound peter wright anvil that they had purchased from a farmer. My brother still dabbles at this craft, and still has his forge and anvil.
When I got my graduate degree, I had a hard time finding work due to cutbacks in NASA. I was parusing the sunday paper classifieds, under the heading of astrophysics, when I spotted a "help wanted" listing for an "apprentice blacksmith" in a tool forging shop. I showed up in a suit and tie, which impressed the russian master smith looking for an apprentice, so he gave me the job!
About two years into the apprenticeship, I knew for sure that I wanted to set up my own shop eventually, so I started searching in earnest for equipment. Lo and behold, after chatting with a famous blacksmith in pennsylvania, he told me about a guy who had a 700 pound pristine hay budden for sale. I arrived at his place with my parents, who lent me the money to buy the anvil. I was so excited, I couldn't sleep for three days straight. Back in 1977, 600 dollars was a lot of money, but I have gotten a million dollars of use and pleasure out of that anvil. Matter of fact, a picture of my anvil is on my business card!
Wanna know how mesmerized I was by that anvil? The guy who sold it to me had another monster hay budden, over five hundred pounds on the hoof. I was so excited, I didn't realize that I should have bought BOTH anvils. He wanted only five hundred for THAT anvil. oooooops!
stewartthesmith - Sunday, 02/19/12 18:29:39 EST

Spring Snow - Boonville NC: We had our first snow of the winter yesterday with about 3" on raised surfaces, 2" on most grass covered surfaces. It was a wet snow that stuck lightly to trees and grasses. Beautiful to look at but just enough to delay getting out this AM.
- guru - Monday, 02/20/12 09:52:29 EST

Sounds like game designers "I want help getting it right for a person to mine, smelt, and forge a sword----and it should take a maximum of 6 hours!" So much wrong there it's hard to know where to start.

When people ask me at demos "how long did it take a smith to make a sword?" I tell then that he didn't! He forged and tempered the blade but someone else would grind and polish it, someone else would hilt it. Someone else may ornament the blade and hilt and finally someone else would make the scabbard for it.

In Medieval and renaissance Europe these were often different craft guilds and someone doing the work of a guild not their own could be heavily fined and even have their shop torn down!
Thomas Powers - Monday, 02/20/12 15:30:19 EST

Having been on many television shows and dealing with producers, I have some advice IF this is really something you want to do. First, expect to not get paid for your time. The studios bank on the fact that most people are so gung ho on being on TV that they will gladly accept to work for peanuts. Two, expect to work.... really, IF they are paying you they want to make sure they get their moneys worth. I have an agent that takes care of these things for me, when I do a show, I am on set 8 hours a day for about a week, working with producers, directors, assistants, etc. ALL friggin day. They will put you up in a 3 or 4 star hotel, transportation to and from studios, and meals (depending on production the food can be AWESOME or really bad). Three, expect to have ideas scrapped when you're almost done with the project. Any executive producer can and will change up themes, formats, etc at the drop of a dime. "Reality" shows also bank on friction, so producers will hide your tools overnight so you look like an idiot when the cameras are rolling, encourage someone to be lazy, create scapegoats, etc. You could be holed up in LA for weeks getting menial pay. By the time you get home, you will have lost wages, rent and utilities to pay, angry wives... you get the picture. Is it really worth it to you to have all this added stress in your life so you can say "Hey, I was on the Discovery channel for 5 minutes!"? As I stated earlier, I do have an agent that DOES take care of me financially, even gets them to bring my wife (no angry wife HERE!), so for me, yes it IS worth it, and yes I do work 8 hours a day for a week to have 10 minutes of airtime on a set. So, maybe you might want to contact a Hollywood agent if you get on the show. If not, I HIGHLY suggest you join SAG (Screen Actors Guild) as it can take care of some of the headaches that occur with studio dealings.
- Nippulini - Tuesday, 02/21/12 09:46:12 EST

TV ad: Unlike Nipp, I was not used to the TV production scene nor did I have an agent, when I received a phone call about 35 years ago from a New York firm. This firm was hired to make a TV beer ad, and they wanted to use my shop and show me working at the forge. I told them that I was interested and that I would get back to them. I called my father-in-law who was a businessman and asked him what to do. He said to return the call and say, "I'm ready to negotiate." Over the phone, we settled on them paying a rental fee for using the shop for one day. Besides that, they said that if they pictured me with a "full face shot," I would get an "actors equity" royalty payments based, I assumed, on the Screen Actors Guild. I received paperwork in the mail a few days later, and I signed on. Two weeks later, a team of four people arrived along with a mod-dressed guy who was to be filmed as part of the ad. The advertisement hook was: I was supposed to be a master smith working away, and this mod guy comes up to admire the red hot scroll that I was making. He tells the viewers that I am a true master of my craft. Then the ad cuts to the beer bottle and the manufacture of their beer. "And our brew master, likewise, crafts our beer with an age old tradition." Something to that effect. Oh Brother! Anyway, everything was copasetic, and I got royalties for the 1 1/2 years that the ad was aired.

I fould out later that the ads had a Western theme, and that they also contacted Slim Greene, a master saddlemaker, using the same hook. There were other "masters" in the series, but I was unsure who else they contacted.
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/21/12 11:18:45 EST

15 seconds of fame OR more:
The old Andy Warhol saying that "Everyone will eventually get their 15 minutes of fame. . " has become more like 15 seconds (often 10 or less) in the modern world of tight editing. The was in national papers or television. In this era of the web and Youtube you are more likely to get your fame in other places than "mainstream" media.

I've had bits of fame my entire life. I've been on local television about a half dozen times and in local papers at least a dozen. I was in the local papers at age 12,13,14 and 15 related to the Soapbox Derby AND on a morning television talk show. I was in the local paper for a 7th grade science project (Van DeGraff Generator), in the paper for the art club with a large (very bad) painting of mine and me front and center. When I was blacksmithing I was featured many times in the papers and on local television. The local paper had a two page spread on me and I was interviewed several times by the local television station. On the road I was also featured in local papers and ads for crafts fairs and did another morning talk show. This was over a 5 state region that I traveled in. Today I suspect it is harder to get that kind of press as a crafts person.

IF you know you are going to be interviewed OR you do a lot of shows where it is likely then I highly recommend you carry a carefully crafted press release and perhaps a photo of you working and some of your work (glossy prints in Black and White). This will make sure your name is spelled right, and that you are a smith who forges hot iron NOT casting it as well as other facts you would like to see right.

IF you are doing a major show anywhere and the organization has contacted the press you should have a press release for the event. Similar to the above it would say "will be displaying his work (demonstrating, talking - whatever) at the "show name" on XXX date. . . News papers and magazines LOVE this. This is content they do not have to produce and its FREE and ACCURATE advertising for you. If you are a demonstrator doing club demos on the road OR are in some prestigious event or show and are looking for contacts/publicity you should be putting out press releases. This is often the job of an agent or press agent that you probably do not have OR is not making enough money off you to provide this level of service. So like everything else in our small DIY world you need to do it yourself.

If you want that sort of fame you need to blow your own horn AND KEEP blowing it. . .
- guru - Tuesday, 02/21/12 12:52:20 EST

Press Releases:
I learned about press releases from my late Aunt Barrie. There is a standard format but each industry has slightly different requirements.

The standard format for a press release is double spaced 250 words or less for a short release 500 words or less for a long release. At the top they say "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" and at the bottom "released by and date" Refresh the date every time you send out releases. Although the standard is on plain paper we used letterhead to good result. Be sure to include your web address (NOT email) in the release.

Back when we were sending press releases to magazines we sent a color slide, prints from the same large format slide (color and B&W) and long and short releases. This was all packaged in a priority mail envelope and addressed to a specific named editor at each magazine. Knowing WHO to send these to requires phone calls. Not addressing them to someone specific is throwing them away. Usually a secratary will gladly give you this information.

Today you probably want to send digital content (but ask first). Images should always be professional and high resolution.

In a little over a year we received FREE advertising that would have cost $30,000. The magazines our releases ran in included Byte, PC Magazine, New Equipment Digest, Design News, Motion and others. There were often repeats.

The same basic rules apply to articles about you or your work. Note that e-mail press releases are just more SPAM.

This is a lot of work and it helps to have a helper keep up with it. It will pay off MUCH better than being in a show or interview where you have no control and misinformation is the rule rather than the exception.
- guru - Tuesday, 02/21/12 13:49:16 EST

Back in the days when I was an exhibition skydiver I was on TV Radio, and in the papers often. Some of the newspaper photo's were neat, but the interviewers often got it wrong as the Guru notes.
On the ARMY teams we had a PR guy and that worked well.
On TV they seemed to like to find us when we would not notice they were filming, and ask a question. They often got an answer that they did not expect, and could not use:) We were testoserone dripping 20 somethings:)
ptree - Tuesday, 02/21/12 15:57:21 EST

Press Release: When I started my nipple career in 1999-2000, I was asked to join the Phila. Fringe Festival. They supplied me with a LOT of info, the best being how to write a press release AND a list of all the local TV, radio and paper contact info of WHO to send the release to. Since then, I have used that format and (just like Jock) became a local celebrity of sorts. I remember doing a world record attempt for the Kidd Chris radio show on WYSP. He didn't know about the release I sent out, I guess he thought I was just doing HIS show. While going from the "green room" to the studio, I was accompanied by NBC, CBS and FOX news camera crews to his (and even my) surprise. The first words out of his mouth were "Nippulini is a PR giant!". I am currently waiting for Hammertyme (our local Phila. blacksmith chapter) to get on its feet before I send out press releases. When that happens, you'll see..... oh, you'll ALL see........

BTW Frank, I vaguely remember such TV beer ads. What was the brand? Did you get a lifetime supply of free beer? I would have put that in the rider. :)
- Nippulini - Wednesday, 02/22/12 09:22:40 EST

That time of year:
The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time congress meets.
- Will Rogers.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
- George Washington
- guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 12:16:39 EST

Nippulini: The beer was Genesee. I was in my alcohol consumption phase at the time of the ad. I gave it up as I was soon to hit "rock bottom." I won't go into details, but suffice to say, I eventually found a new woman, my current toughie, Juanita. Someone asked me whether I did AA, and I said, "No, I have Juanita!" No alcoholic beverages in over 30 years.
Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/23/12 08:01:38 EST

Tip of the Day: I invariably have a camera with me. Not only is it an excellent tool for selling blacksmithing equipment that I find on dirt roads, but it is also an excellent instructional tool. Better to show someone how to do something than to tell them. A lot of learners are visual, and not auditory.
stewartthesmith - Thursday, 02/23/12 12:30:05 EST

Just Say No:
Frank, That is often the best way but most people do not have the family support. There are all kinds of issues that the spouse has to take absolute responsibility for things to work. Lots of treatment centers would not exist if family was supportive in the right ways.
- guru - Thursday, 02/23/12 12:39:19 EST

Small Guys:
It was not too long ago that many of the small brands advertised in national publications and on national TV. . But variety has vanished in big media. Its mostly the big auto makers, and mega brands. . . The variety is still there but disappearing fast. Many "brands" are simply names bought up by the big guys and distributed as part of their line.
- guru - Thursday, 02/23/12 12:39:31 EST

Port-A-Bender: Port-A-Bender For Sale On Ebay
- gint - Friday, 02/24/12 10:18:12 EST

There is a Blacksmith Brewing Company in Stevenville, MT and Guinness, in Ireland, produces a Blacksmith blend.

Do they still make Old Flosenstoff (sp?) - The Pale Stale Ale With The Foam on the Bottom? A gal couldn't be a model for them unless she went about 300 pounds.

Psbst Blue Ribbon is making a comeback.
Ken Scharabok - Sunday, 02/26/12 09:57:32 EST

When I was little, my dad drank Genesee Cream Ale in pony bottles. He figured the bottles were smaller thus he drank less. I remember the first time he let me take a sip. That was the most disgusting thing I ever had. Thank God he didn't give me a Yuengling.
- Nippulini - Sunday, 02/26/12 14:59:38 EST

Beer: Ken, the beer was Old Frothingslosh the lead in is correct, "The Pale Stale Ale with the foam on the Bottom" it was a product of Iron City Brewing in Pittsburgh, PA. Local lore said it was the dregs from when they cleaned their fermenting tanks once a year. As a local, I haven't seen it in years, and the brewery that made it is now closed, though the Iron City name and brews are still being made by what used to be Rolling Rock Brewery in Latrobe, PA. Rolling Rock was purchased by Anheuser-Busch and production was moved to another of their breweries. I haven't had a Rolling Rock since then. Anheuser sold the Latrobe brewery to another brewing company, and it is now contracting to produce beers for other companies/labels including Iron City, and from what I've heard Stoney's.
- Gavainh - Sunday, 02/26/12 15:21:13 EST

Beer brands: As a kid in the 1940's in St. Louis, besides Anheuser-Busch, I remember Griesedieck Brothers, Falstaff, and Stag. In the army stationed in Darmstadt, Germany, in the mid-1950's, we had a local beer, Pfungstädter.
Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/26/12 15:23:39 EST

Today the micro brewery products or boutique brands include old and new beers and wines. They still exist but are rarely advertised nationally as they once were.

Part of the problem is the government defined three tier distribution system in the US that prevents brewers and distillers from selling their products direct to stores OR customers. All alcoholic beverages must go through a national warehouse system that while it cannot be owned by breweries it is controlled economically by the big producers. The small producers have a hard time getting in the system even for local distribution.
- guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:53:06 EST

Pabst: Pabst Blue Ribbon is definitely making a comeback. When I was younger it was available only at Walgreens (In Arizona). It was highly discounted, and at the time I was drinking Buckhorn for $.59 a six pack. Coors and Bud were fair trade items and could not be sold for less than $1.33. A friend of mine bought Pop's Welding and Machine Shop in Phoenix in 1960. It took some time for him to break regular customers of the habit of bringing a six pack to pay for welding. Pop's minimum was $1.33. He would carefully explain, "I'm sorry, but my children don't drink beer. That'll be $2.00."
Now Pabst is one of many brands that doesn't have it's own brewery, but is done on a contract basis with other brewers.
If you ever get a chance to visit the Pabst mansion in Milwaukee, do so. All the Iron work was done by Cyril Colnick, a master blacksmith. His works are also on display at the Lloyd Smith mansion, now a Milwaukee owned Museum called Villa Terrace.
- Loren T - Sunday, 02/26/12 18:52:54 EST

Cheap beer: On my first Grand Canyon river trip (September 1986), the last stop out of Flagstaff on the way to the putin was at the beer distributer. We added another deck to the old bus we were using using beer. Cheap beer, the mothers milk of boatmen. After 5 days on the river, all the paint was worn off the cans EXCEPT for the black label on Carlins Black Label. Cheap beer but better black paint? That was the first time I ever saw the Canyon, from the bottom, rowing over 200 miles. Crystal (shudder), Lava Falls (shudder). That trip sent me back to college to study Geology, the mother of all sciences, and so here I am. My next trip is September 2013, the fourth time, hurrah!, another birthday in the bottom of the Canyon.

- David Hughes - Wednesday, 02/29/12 12:55:57 EST

I learned to drink beer during my Geology Summer Field Camp, West Texas in August! Beer was cheaper than Coca Cola and served at 32 degF! After a long day of packing rocks up and down hills drinking tepid off brand koolaid I gained an appreciation for other tipples...

Later when I did a summer long job in Germany I had already an appreciation for dark beers---my American co-workers were drinking pilsners and I was drinking Dunkel Doppelbocks---they started noticing that I was treated differently by the wait staff and I was able to talk them into trying some different ones.

Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/29/12 14:08:01 EST

Geology Summer Field: Thomas P--I know West Texas covers a lot of territory, but was your Summer Field in the Big Bend or the Solitarito? I spent 2 winters doing river trips on the Rio Grande in the Big Bend (wild country, mild river), that kept the spark of Geology alive until I went down the Canyon. Us UC types spent Summer Field in the Poleta Folds, Inyo Co, CA, early Cambrain shallow marine seds lightly toasted and folded, then faulted in 3 events, the third event reactivating the first and really scrambling things. I was 1 day younger than the prof who headed the field camp (gnashing of teeth), but he had never been down the Canyon (hurrah!). Our beer was the cheap stuff from Safeway in Bishop. I actually learned to drink beer at 16, burning off vacant lots with the Columbia Volunteer Fire Department--Since 1859, Never Lost A Foundation!

Blacksmithing content: on one high-water Tuolumne trip, a guide flipped in Clavey Falls and the thole pin on the frame bent over upon (violent/forceful) contact with Dinosaur Rock (NEVER get between the boat and a rock!). We camped below Clavey, untied the frame, burned up all the wood around camp over the bent thole pin, straightened it up when red, and tied it down again the next AM
- David Hughes - Thursday, 03/01/12 12:31:47 EST

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