Some tools to drool over.  Image (c) 1998 Jock Dempsey.  Click for enlargement. WELCOME to the anvilfire!
Virtual Hammer-In!

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J. Dempsey  <webmaster> Rev. 7/98, 3/99, 5/2k, 6/2k, Friday, 04/06/01 16:43:25 GMT

"COAL ?": Hello there. I am from North Bay Ontario CAnada, getting and finding Coal up here is getting real hard. ST Jacobs is the closest I can find. Shipping/handling etc etc comes to $58. per 70 lb bag. ANything closer or cheaper. Even if I switch to US funds it may be cheaper. Anyway ideas out there..
Barney - Saturday, 06/01/02 00:33:19 GMT

Rather than spending that much on coal, how about shifting to chunk charcoal? Most major resturant suppliers carry it, and it's cleaner than coal to work with. Just need a deeper fire. That kind of price for coal scares the fool out of me, for three times that price, I can buy a ton. And if I was in West Virginia, I could buy a ton for that price.
Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 06/01/02 13:52:42 GMT

Coal: I have switched over to chunk charcol. I use what little coal I have to give the smell to the farmers market. Then throw in lots of charcol. I also don't mind to be a little cleaner. Wife says I don't stink that much anymore. I guess you can say its a good thing. Shears work great Paw Paw.
Have a great day. Nice and sunny here..
Barney - Saturday, 06/01/02 14:33:07 GMT

I don't see that the smell of sulphur is all that great an addition to a demo, but whatever works.

I'm glad the shear is working for you.
Paw Paw Wilson - Saturday, 06/01/02 14:41:25 GMT

Barney, Good luck on finding a good fuel sorouce.
I would love to use charcoal, unfortunately it is more costly than coal around here.(Oregon)
Best price I can find for charcoal is 18.00 USD per 40lb bag. A 50 lb bag of coal cost about 15.00-18.00 USD....
Ralph - Sunday, 06/02/02 21:43:54 GMT

CLEANLINESS: A slur I say, Sirs, to suggest charcoal is cleaner that coal. You would soil the virtue of The Widow Kennedy? Try doing a coal drawing. And Ralph, "Would rather use charcoal" goodness, all that bulk and ash. Come on boys are we gonna let 'em talk about coal that way. Why be silent when our heart's love is despoiled? Let's hear it for the black beauty that burns with the feirce beauty of the morning star. We use not the humble coal, but rather attend to it like royalty, enjoy it's power, simplicity and grace as one would master musician. Make no excuse if you use this most ancient and noble of fuels and be not ashamed of a little soot on the snoot.
L.Sundstrom - Sunday, 06/02/02 22:25:03 GMT

Hate to disappoint you Larry, but charcoal was used for thousands of years before coal. So coal is not the "most ancient and noble of fuels". Charcoal holds that title.
Paw Paw Wilson - Sunday, 06/02/02 22:48:01 GMT

Ralph : I'm sending this from oz ,so i'm not sure on the conditions there . but why not try making your own charcoal , it's not that hard . all you need is a 44 gal drum with some closeable vents (1 1/2" pipe , with a flapper vavle ) in the side, from top to bottom , and a lid . as i said i'm not sure on the conditions there , but try any new building sites , they normally have to knock a few trees down to build and don't mind if you take some , or scrap from saw mills ,tho you don't want it too small .

give it a go
- wayne - Monday, 06/03/02 00:28:53 GMT

I hope that I can get around to making charcoal. But right now I do not have the time nor space......

Clean smean! I still get black boogers if I use NG or propane.... And I do use coal and I have used charcoal. As long as it gets metal hot enough to work I am happy.....
Ralph - Monday, 06/03/02 07:15:05 GMT

Refractory: All the way from Australia, Thanks for this whole site to all involved, very professional.
My Q. is, can anyone help me with the decision of what type of refractory to use. I have almost completed making a gas forge from a auto propane tank (100 litres water capacity). I have read as much as I can find about the various refractories available. My impression is that the ceramic fibre products (like KAO-WOOL)are the most efficient insulators, however they are fragile, even when coated with ceramic based paint.
The cost is another factor, blacksmithing for me is an passionate interrest, not a hole in my wallet. I am seriously thinking about using a castable cement, because it is cheap. It is tougher, but it takes longer to heat up ?I am undecided on how I will contain the pour once I want to put the cement within the tank, using plugs for the 3 burner flame outlets, some sort of thin board to retain the cement and form the forge wall - is it going to be "just one of those tricky tasks" ?
Jimme - Monday, 06/03/02 22:34:20 GMT

I'd say that considering your location, you'd probably be better off with a castable or a ramable refractory. But the guru will give you a more complete answer. I'll tell him to check this page.
Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 06/03/02 23:34:53 GMT

Forge material: Jimme, Kaowool is currently popular because it makes a lightweight forge and the efficiency IS a factor. However, castable is cheaper and more durable.

1) If you mix it to where it will pour you have screwed up. It needs to made a stiff as possible and then rammed into place.

2) The internal form in a tube type forge can be heavy cardboard (pasteboard). If it doesn't peal out you can burn it out. So folks use the heavy carboard tubes used to roll carpet around OR the ones made to cast concrete cylinders.

If you make your own internal form you can make it with a flat bottom. I would use turned wooden plugs to make the burner vents. These should have a 12 degree taper and the resulting hole will act as your nozzel.

If the forge is open only at one end you will need to ram the refractory mix into the back (bottom) and then install the internal form.

Be sure to give the refractory lots of time to cure AND dry. Then when you fire it up the first time only let it get hot enough that you start seeing a little steam coming from the refractory ends. Shut it down and let it steam off and repeat the next day. It doesn't hurt to have a bunch of holes drilled in the shell to let out steam. Even after the forge is completely dry it will absorb moisture when not in use for an extended time and need to be dried out before putting full heat to it.

I am building a forge this summer using a reusable mold box. The mold will be lined with framing lumber when the first batch of refractory is rammed up. Then the boards will be removed and the a second (outside) layer of refractoy mixed with vermiculite will be rammed up. The result will be a shell with a hard inner surface and lower density insulation on the outside. This will set on a base made of refractory bricks (on edge) to make a durable and replaceable floor.

So far I have collected all the materials and just need to decide on the final dimensions. It is to be a single burner test forge. I have several burners to test and this will have a molded in thermocouple well amoung other things.

"Kaowool" is a trade name for the product originaly invented by Babcock and Wilcox (the boiler and nuclear reactor people). It is now owned by ThermalCeramics Co. Other similar products go by other trade names but Kaowool is the original.
- guru - Tuesday, 06/04/02 00:32:47 GMT

Refractoy: Thank you both,(Paw Paw & Guru) for the information, some excellent ideas for me to think about.
Just for my own clarification,
1/is the castable product similar to a cement mix ? I havn't even seen the product yet !
2/When you say to make it stiff do you mean to make the mix really dry ?
3/By not mixing it where it is poured , do you mean to properly mix it in a barrow, then ram it into place ?
The idea of a cardboard tube is excellent as where I work, here at Kodak, there are abundant cores that the bulk rolls of photo paper are rolled onto,(they are 6000meters long, rolled onto cores about 200mm diam - perfect ) we coat the photographic chemicals onto the paper. I also worked in our own power-house, running boilers and steam turbines, but there are no refractory bricks available at the moment, you guessed it, I missed out by a few weeks as a whole load of them where disposed of,,,,,,,,,,,
Jimme - Tuesday, 06/04/02 03:53:39 GMT

Carbon Dating: Paw Paw,
My dear friend. I am always troubled when I hear coal slurred as dirty and as for Ralph's flippant lack of product loyalty, I guess he's just a young pup of the times. But kind and gentle smith, may I respectfully remind you that before any chunk of charcoal was even an acron gleaming in its father's bough, mighty seams of coal had reposed for thousands of years beneath, their origin lost in the depths of time and earth, patiently waiting for the enlightenment of the primitive wood smokers. Yes, ancient and noble.
l. sundstrom - Tuesday, 06/04/02 12:54:17 GMT

Thee had best re-think thy thesis. Coal was plant life, including wood, LONG before it was ever coal. I've seen perfectly preserved tree trunks in the mines. (grin)
Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 06/04/02 13:28:22 GMT

Coal in kansas: Are any of you out there from kansas? I am looking for a source of coal in kansas (surely there is at least one). I have been burning coke from a a refinery in Eldorado, which works but is a filthy experience. I tried to get some charcoal, but no luck there, either. Any help would be appreciated. Also a company named Armil (you can find them on the web) makes a product similar to Kaowool that I have had a lot better luck with, and the working temp ranges are higher.
If you want to build a REALLY BIG propane forge and set it in the corner of your shop, though, you might also look at
Werner-Herbison-Padgett, a company that sells a product called Padgenite, a silica based sheet rated to about 1300 degrees (600 degrees is optimal, though). I have this hanging on the walls and ceiling around my forge to keep them from catching fire (my wife is a little paranoid).

- Greg Jahnke - Tuesday, 06/04/02 15:12:55 GMT

Larry, Larry, Larry.... SIGH......
I am cut to the quick!!!! I can not believe that you have alluded to and alleged that I have a flippant lack of product loyalty. There is nothing flippant about it.......grin
It is completely and totally calculated and planned......

As to being a young pup, well perhaps. I am a bit young, only 42 this past May, and I came to smithing late in life. Only 8 years ago. I figure I have about 20 more years to go til I am merely adequate.
Ralph - Tuesday, 06/04/02 16:35:26 GMT

Age: Paw Paw and Ralph,
It's fun shooting the breeze with you guys and breeze is what all good blacksmiths burn. It just occured to me that perhaps your affinity towards charcoal has something to do with the spirits that are mellowed by it. I bought a half barrel to use in a water garden and the whole yard smelled like whiskey for about two weeks. I would not have been surprised by a visit from the law.
L.Sundstrom - Tuesday, 06/04/02 21:09:11 GMT

LOL Larry. I am going to be recieving a half barrel in the next week or so. Not the water of life but a wine barrel.
My wife has dibs on the first two halves, one of which we have gotten. Beautiful purple stained oak.....

As for fuel, I must admit I prefer coal but I need something that will not cause my neighbors to riot.... and with the price of NG being what it is that is not a good option right now. Which is a pity as I have a real nice NG forge
Ralph - Tuesday, 06/04/02 21:35:12 GMT

Blacksmith equipment forsale on ebay: Hi, thought someone would like to know that there is a blacksmith shop posted on ebay with 2 anvils forge & blower tongs and vise, not to bad of price I would have been interested but already have more than my wife will let me keep.
- John Ratliff - Tuesday, 06/04/02 23:14:21 GMT

Got an auction number for reference?
Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 06/04/02 23:31:45 GMT

I had an interesting morning you all might like to hear about. I always ask people I meet about any tools that might be for sale. I ended up talking to a nice lady named Mary who said that the company power hammers were not for sale but she had a shaper and a few others that I could look at, so I went down this am to take a peek. When I arrived she was dealing with some one and the shop was empty so I wandered in to take a look around. OLD shop, 2- 1B Nazels I think, forges, shears, grinders, heat treat areas, quenching tanks. Neat old shop. Used to make all kinds of forged tools, but now they mostly just repoint for the rental business. When Mary was done she walked me around and showed me everything, which dies were used for what, etc. She said not a lot of work any more, just enough for about s of a day. So I asked where were the guys today? I mean the tools and forges were warm. She looked at me and said Im the guy. Now this lady is about 5 nothing, 100 lbs and change, little teeny voice. And then she tells me shes 79 yrs old. Has been with the Co. for 25 yrs or so. Shes been out of work for a month because she hurt herself forging up 1500 picket points. Spunky little thing, says shes just gonna keep on going till she drops, cant stand to sit at home. I think what I learned this morning is that blacksmithing is goooood for ya. J I love meeting people like Mary. I hope she keeps forging till shes 92.
- Pete-Raven - Wednesday, 06/05/02 00:17:28 GMT

Must be something about Iron Rich blood!
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 00:19:27 GMT

Blacksmith equipment on ebay: Blacksmith shop complete anvils, forge, vise
Item # 1738227211
John Ratliff - Wednesday, 06/05/02 10:46:18 GMT

Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 11:13:31 GMT

Ralph, are you using a standard low pressure line for your NG forge? (my furnaces are suppplied at about 0.25 psi)? and if so, what is the dia of your gas orifice?

I had thought about using NG in my forge but am not sure if the line will supply enough BTU
  adam - Wednesday, 06/05/02 15:34:06 GMT

Making Charcoal: I love coal but my neighbors dont. Been thinking of using charcoal. There is an unlimited supply of tree trimmings at the landfill. I have two questions:

a. I typically use a full 5 gal pail of coal (40#) for a long day's forging. What would be the equivalent amount of charcoal.

b. At that rate, how many days worth of charcoal do I get out of a 55 gal drum full of wood scraps?

What I am really concerned about is would I spend too much of my time making fuel?

- adam - Wednesday, 06/05/02 15:43:15 GMT

Iron Lady: Pete, didn't you cotton on when you shook Mary's hand and she gave you the old bone crusher?
adam - Wednesday, 06/05/02 16:47:59 GMT

I've got plans for a charcoal retort that works well. Normally, you'll get between half and two thirds a barrel of charcoal out of a 55 gallong drum full of scrap. How much you use will be dependent on how much you work, how big a fire you build, whether you are forge welding, etc. Only you can judge whether or not the process would be worth while.
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 16:49:31 GMT

Coal to Charcoal Ratio: Charcoal has approximately the same fuel value per POUND as coal. Now. . if you don't understand which weighs more, a pound of lead or a pound of feathers, then you are in trouble here.

Bituminous coal has a specific gravity of about 1.27.

Charcoal has a density of about 25% of the original wood. Pine and many woods used to make charcoal have a density of about .5 (oak is .75 and white pine .4). So the average density of charcoal is .13 or about 1/10 that of coal. Both have about the same percentage of ash. SO. . . it should take 10 times the volume of charcoal to do the same job as coal. HOWEVER, coal contains a number of volatiles that required heat to evaporate and or burn off. The volatiles help keep the coal burning but are driven off by the time you have coke for the center of your fire. . . So the ratio between coal and charcoal is less for the blacksmith than for a furnace of a given BTU. Should be about 8 to 9 times.

Now testing this would require some careful book keeping on fuel used relative to work done. But I suspect it is very close.
- guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 19:46:15 GMT

I just added the above to the coal/charcoal FAQ.

Paw-Paw, if your retort is the same as OErjan's then that is also on our FAQ.
- guru - Wednesday, 06/05/02 19:53:59 GMT

Mine was the same as Kiwi's, but it's also on the FAQ.
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/05/02 20:46:30 GMT

blacksmith shop (sic): Just looked at the Ebay "blacksmith's shop," and am wondering, is that about $300- $400 worth (tops, (assuming no minute cracks, etc., mind you) of stuff-- two dinky anvils, a forge and blower and a leg vise-- they want $900 for, or am I just getting grouchy?
miles undercut - Thursday, 06/06/02 00:16:22 GMT

I looked at it when the price was $750 and thought it was too high. The anvils are not in great shape, the forge is small, and so it the leg vice. You could probably buy the same equipment at BGOP for $500 - $600 dollars.
Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 06/06/02 00:49:09 GMT

Hertiage Festival: The City of North Bay is having the Hertiage Village back this year. I am one of the main attraction. Or should I say the most active Demostrator. So any good comments or ideas towards this Festiavl from any smithty would be a great boost towards this event. Please sent them to the following The gentleman in charge is John Wilson. Do sent me a copy so I know what they are taking about. So if you are in this area do stop in. Its the first weekend in Augest.. So be cool folks....
Barney - Thursday, 06/06/02 02:10:21 GMT

I will have to look up orifice size, that is if I can find the manual.....
Yes I use the standard house pressure. The original owner had a NG line run to the back porch for a NG BBQ. Has a nice sy=hut off valve and quick disconnect.
Ralph - Thursday, 06/06/02 15:30:52 GMT

charcoal vs coal: Thanks Jock & PawPaw for your answers.

Jock, your estimate is not very encouraging. It suggests that the entire yield of a 50 gal drum would last me about one day. But I suspect the actual facts are confused than your back-of-the-envelope calculation. True, the volatiles in coal have to be driven off but they burn and generate heat. On the other hand, I think, most of the coal is burned while the fire is not actually being used to heat iron - while it's just idling or while its being cranked up to forging temp. Also, the coking process tends to require a larger fire than is needed for actual forging. With charcoal it may (I am just guessing) be possible to use a significantly smaller fire.

Like you said, best to just give it a try and see how it works out
adam - Thursday, 06/06/02 15:32:11 GMT

Adam, the fire can be smaller in diameter, BUT it needs to be deeper for charcoal.
Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 06/06/02 15:35:16 GMT

NG Forge: Ralph: Thanks. Don't go to any trouble for the orifice size. It's probably something like 1/2" :). The main thing I needed to know was that it's possible to get enough BTUs per second out of the low pressure house line.
adam - Thursday, 06/06/02 15:39:22 GMT

ebay auction: When did 102 and 120 lb anvils become dinkey, yes their not as large as the 300lb and 500lb that I have but are a whole lot easier to move around , I have an 70 lb that I use when alway from my shop know that is dinkey. I did email the seller ask what brand the anvils where one the 102 says Belknao No 1 and has some other writing on it but said it could be made out and the other had some writing but was hard to make out first part started with a ARM and the second name was house any ideas, also I am trying to trade a gravely tractor seller is a gravely dealer and is interested in old gravelys so if anyone knows of any let me know I going to try to trade him for this shop.
John Ratliff - Thursday, 06/06/02 15:48:05 GMT

ARM house anvil: John, That is most likely an M&H Armitage Mouse Hole anvil. I suspect that is the older looking of the two (short horn pinched feet). Probably dates from the mid 1800's. I don't recognize the name on the other.

They are nice size anvils. The price he is asking is about what you would pay individualy at tailgate sales for the same equipment including the small pieces. However, it is hard to tell from his photos. One of the "tongs" are fireplace coal tongs and a couple others are what I call "farmer tongs". Tongs made by an amature that are clumsy and almost worthless as tools.

But, its a great start.
- guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 19:05:28 GMT

charcoal vs coal: Adam, I do know that it takes considerably more charcoal by bulk than coal AND I have seen references that compare it by the pound. However, forge conditions are different than any other type of fire.
- guru - Thursday, 06/06/02 19:12:36 GMT

E-Bay sale: Jock, The anvil is question is probably labled Belnap. They used to be a large hardware company in Louisville, Ky when I was much younger. Who manufactured them for Belknap is unknown to me.
Brian C - Thursday, 06/06/02 20:37:10 GMT

E-Bay: Pardon me, that should have read Belknap.
Brian C - Friday, 06/07/02 00:12:46 GMT

ebay: Hi, I should have spell check on finger tip it is belknap No 1
John Ratliff - Friday, 06/07/02 01:49:49 GMT

Pewter sources: After recently looking at the lost-wax casting on the i-forge I was hoping to ask if anyone knew sources for lead-free pewter on the cheap or if anyone happens to know where to buy Tin and Antimony.I have acctuallly found one source at $12.00 a pound and a cheaper one in the UK but it has a 25 lb minimum and the shipping would more than make up the diffrence at price per pound. I am not quite sure if this is the right forum to ask this on but any help would be wonderfully appreciated.
- AldronSteel - Friday, 06/07/02 03:36:27 GMT

pewter sources: try
for pewter, 5-6 USD perpound, minimum 25pound order, shipping included in price I think
- JimG - Friday, 06/07/02 15:25:28 GMT

Pewter: Although it is not cheap the NEW lead free plumbing solders are tin silver alloys that are very similar to pewter, which actually has many alloys. Generaly pewter has additions to make it harder (the antimony and others). But for some purposes the plumbing solder works just fine. And you can purchase it in small quantities.
- guru - Friday, 06/07/02 16:19:45 GMT

Solders: All the lead free plumbing solders I have seen contain no silver but do contain antimony (2-8% of it).

Havn't seen any silver bearing plumbing solders; just stay-brite and it's ilk which are not plumbing solders.

I use the no lead stuff for making my own bronze so I pick it up cheap at garage sales when I can find it.

- thomas Powers - Friday, 06/07/02 21:07:22 GMT

Large Hammer In: Hello all. I was asked today by the Director of the Farmers MArket here in North BAy Ontario, if the Blacksmiths in the surrounding area and abroad would be intersted in a LArge Hammer In here while the Hertiage Festiavl is on. There is Camping on site etc etc. We can camp on site it is 4 days long 2,3,4,5 of Augest 2002. For more info you can contact me or John Wilson at In the text put Attn John. The more the better. There is well over 100,000 people here at this event.. So think hard and see if you can make it.. Chow for now...
Barney - Saturday, 06/08/02 21:32:40 GMT

Apprentice Wanted: Hereditary Blacksmith in Texas is interested in interviewing young adults 18-22 for alive in paid apprenticeship programincluding blacksmithing, silversmithing, jewlerymaking and agriculture. Country living is required. Serious inquiries only. Please send personal information and brief dissertation on why you want to be a blacksmith. please send to Guild Acktheleone RR1 Box 80W Brookshire, TX 77423
- Guild Acktheleone - Sunday, 06/09/02 15:29:02 GMT

Cool Hammer Trick!: This is not specificly something for blacksmithing, but you might find it useful. This is something that should have been painfully obvious to me before, but for whatever reason, wasn't.

I make armor, my "specialty" being helmets geard for SCA combat. Usualy I work with 14 guage sheet steel. I work it cold. Most of the hats I make are 2 halves, dished and then mig welded down the center.

When I dish the helmet tops I used to start with a 3 pound dead blow, and rough it out. After that to speed things up (and because it's easyer to me to start with big hammers and be mean, then planish it out with progressively lighter hammers) I switch to a 3 pound cross peen, 2 pound sledge, pound and a half ball peen, and touch it up with a 12 oz ball peen. Obviously, this leaves ugly hammer dings on the inside of my helmets.

Recently, in a flash of inspiration, I dug up some heavy scrap leather, and cut it out about 1/4th of an inch bigger than my hammer faces. I liberaly squirted the back side with hot glue, and stuck it to my hammer faces. It worked GREAT. When I was done and needed my hammer back to "normal" the hot glue peeled right off without a hassle. I decided I wanted the leather back on, so I reheated the hotglue on the leather by brushing it with my propane torch, and stuck it right back on.

This is something that some of you probably allready figured out, but I thought I'd post it for those who hadn't.

Happy hammering!
Mattmaus - Sunday, 06/09/02 21:57:15 GMT

Sounds like a handy stunt for cold work. Thanks for posting it.
Paw Paw Wilson - Monday, 06/10/02 01:01:09 GMT

pewter : I was getting the best price for pewter from reo grand out of AZ
I'll try to dig out a catalog and post the contact info later.
MP - Monday, 06/10/02 02:23:10 GMT

the web address for rio grande is neat stuff
  MP - Tuesday, 06/11/02 05:39:25 GMT

thank you everyone for the pewter resources they are helping alot
- Aldronsteel - Tuesday, 06/11/02 06:20:28 GMT

Hello, my name is broeders kevin and I live in Belgium (europe). I am in my first academic year of forging !!
I am working with my fellow students on a mirror with several ornaments which must be gastronomical objects ( vegetables and fruits). I was wondering if you could help me where I can find such examples, or if you have some techniques to help me !!
broeders kevin - Tuesday, 06/11/02 21:48:07 GMT

Smithing Demo Opportunity: Join members of the Saltfork Craftsmen ABA June 14 & 15 at the Shawnee, OK Antique Tractor Show. Location 7 miles South of I-40 on Hwy. 177; west side. Jim C.
Jim C. - Wednesday, 06/12/02 01:03:43 GMT

Looking for Blacksmiths : Looking for blacksmiths in Central Leatherstocking Country, State of New York. I'm a Gunsmith turned Blacksmith. I have a 1500 sq ft shop area and would like to find someone close by that I may learn and hammer with once and a while. I am working with a small gas forge now, but would like to build a coal forge. I do not have a power hammer yet, but I do have lots of room for muliple projects. My shop work is part time so this should be taken into consideration. I would be happy to email some photos of shop and some projects. Thanks to all for this outstanding web site.
- Keith Barker - Wednesday, 06/12/02 08:04:57 GMT

forging fruit etc.: Broeders,
Look in the iForge section of this web page. Then look for demo number 38, which is an apple forging demo.From this you should be able to do other fruits and some veggies.
Ralph - Wednesday, 06/12/02 13:25:01 GMT

Broeders, Kevin:
Other iForge Demos that might be useful to you are:

#13 - Rose
#32 - Lily
#47 - Snail
#52 - Snail-2
#82 - Rose-2
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/12/02 14:10:25 GMT

Abana conference: I had a great time at the conference in Wisconsin, althou many told me this was not one of the better ones. I was dissapointed that there was no mention anywhere of the anvilfire site. Is there any formal procedure for advertising this great site at gatherings? It would have been great to have had a way to meet some of the fellows from the slack tub pub who may have been there.
- Mike S - Thursday, 06/13/02 02:44:21 GMT

Mike S.:
At the 98 ABANA conference in NC, the meeting place was the JYH site. At the 2000 ABANA conference in Flagstaff, most of us got together at the JYH contest.

Since neither of those were done at the 2002, it would have been harder to do. One thing that might help would be for all the "pubbers" to wear Anvilfire hats.

Several members of CSI were there, but I don't off the top of my head know who all they were.
Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 06/13/02 13:06:31 GMT

a novice: Hello, my name is Andrew. I took metal work merit badge at a camp once, but that is the limit of my education concerning metal. Despite this, I'm exceedingly interested in learning about your art. Nobody in my family knows anything about it and I can't find any books in the library. I'm hoping somebody will respond at my email and explain where I should go to get more information. My email is Thank you in advance.
Andrew Robertson - Thursday, 06/13/02 15:11:48 GMT

Answer sent in email.
Paw Paw Wilson - Thursday, 06/13/02 16:02:10 GMT

Charcoal: Adam: Like you I am switching to charcoal. Appeasing the neighbors was the motivating factor but after using it for a bit, it is nice to not have to contend with the coal smoke when it is coking. When I forge for an entire day, 8+ hours, I might use a 55 gal drum of it. I allow for about 5-10 gallon volume per hour. I use a home built bottom blast forge with the inevitable 10" brake drum in it. Air is supplied thru a 3" opening. From stock laid across the firepot to the clinker breaker is 7". Then to heap some over that is another 3". It's fine for coal but not quite enough for charcoal. I used some logs to squeeze another couple of inches on top and that helped a bunch. ialso have to use more air to bring up to highter heats than with coal. If you leave it alone to take a break charcoal won't 'idle' . It just keeps on going even after a thorough soaking on the perimeter. The scale seems to be a bit easier to clean off but ashes float profusely throughout the working area settling on the neighbors cars. Next step for me is to build a screened in hearth as I have an open portable forge.

Cost wise this really puts a bite in my forging as I will use 20-30 lbs when I fire up. 10 USD for an evening of forging.

I have learned a lot in the few times since I started this and find myself swithing to coal for speed and higher heats quicker. I have forge welded with charcoal but there is a LOT more heat emanating from the firepot than with coal.

When I find a more reasonable price for charcoal I intend to build a charcoal type forge incorporating a deeper firepot and prbably sideblown with a bellows.

I would like to hear about your discoveries.
mills - Thursday, 06/13/02 19:16:27 GMT

Foe sale or Trade: I have surplus to my needs (except for my hoarding collecting need) a Bufalo post drill (plus a few spare parts) and a 36" slip roller C1920 on a home built stand both still work great but I have a small smithy and need the room for something that can earn its living. I'm located in Kingston Ontario, but I will deliver within 1/2 a days drive 200-300 miles or will meet you 1/2 way... so talk to me what ya got to trade :) I would like to find a tire (tyre) bender/roller but thats not writen in stone .... may have other items to trade/sweeten the pot just e-mail for details or more info

Mark P. - Thursday, 06/13/02 21:13:56 GMT

Mark what Number is your buffalo drill press i am restoring a No.124 and need some pic. or info

thanks Clint R.
- Clint.r - Thursday, 06/13/02 23:40:34 GMT

I may have a picture of a #124, let me take a look, and I'll get back to you.
Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/14/02 00:00:10 GMT

I should have checked first. The latest number I have a picture of is a number 88. Sorry.
Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/14/02 00:16:03 GMT

post drill: Clint. and others

sorry fingers in motion before brain in gear the drill is a Champion No. 1 .... the bench top one I have is a Buffalo

Sorry again
Mark P. - Friday, 06/14/02 01:17:12 GMT

Easy tongs, Charcoal and oil finish: I have made a pair of the Easy Tongs demonstrated by Jean Conner from demo 132. These are working out great for me and I plan on making a few more with that design until I get some more experience. I have put a little "twist" on the design though. I used 1" x 1/4" flat stock and the handle bit into my hand a little too much when used, so I put another 90 deg. twist on the handle side of the pin. At first I put the twist in the opposite direction for visual effect. Do NOT do this, the opposite twist will LOCK the handles shut and even if you put it in the vice and beat on it, it will not open. Put the second twist in the SAME direction as the first twist and it will work GREAT. I find that the reings are a lot easier to open and such with this little modification!

Right now I am using oak wood for my forge, it smokes a lot and takes a while to get a good hot fire but I like the extra weight of the green wood on top of the fire to keep it from being displaced when work is shoved into the fire.

Anyways, I noticed that almost all of the methods in the FAQ for making charcoal are of the direct type.

I remember seeing a method for making charcoal that is of the indirect type. The supplies needed are a large metal container(55 gal drum), and a small metal container with lid(5 gal bucket).

1. Put holes into the BOTTEM of the small container(lots of 1/4" or a few 1/2"). These holes alow the gases from the wood to escape without the wood ever catching fire(thus the indirect method).

2. Fill the 5 gal bucket with your choice of wood. Secure tight fitting lid onto said bucket. This wood is what will be turned into charcoal, the tight lid keeps air from going through the bottem holes, up and throught the bucket burning the wood. When the wood is burned the method is direct, when it is charcoaled by radiant heat the method is indirect.

3. Cut an opening into the side of the 55 gal drum at it's base. This is where you will feed the wood for the fire. That will drive the gases out of the wood in the 5 gal bucket.

4. Devise a way to suspend the 5 gal bucket about in the middle of the 55 gal drum. Two good sized rods shoved through the 55 gal drum with some cat walk(heavy grating, not galvinized) set on top of them would give the 5 gal bucket a good platform to sit upon that would "breath".

5. Although not nescessary I think that if one took the lid for the 55 gal drum and made a large hole in it, about half the dia of the lid. Right in the center it would slow down the smoke and give it more time to burn. Thus making this a cleaner process. One could even put a chimny on top of the 55 gal drum lid!

6. I would make a "peep hole" in the side of the 55 gal drum about the height that the bottem of the 5 gal bucket is. That way you can see when smoke starts seeping out from the bottem of the 5 gal bucket.

To use it.

1. Install the 5 gal bucket filled with wood and tightly sealed into the 55 gal drum. Remember suspended about in the middle of the 55 gal drum!

2. Optional, place lid with large hole or many smaller holes(one can use a pick ax) in it onto the 55 gal drum. This lid is not needed for the precedure but I think it would help the draft.

3. Start a fire in the bottem of the 55 gal drum. Using any wood as long as it burns. One could even use cow pies!

4. After about half an hour or earlier the fire should stop smoking and begin to burn very cleanly.

5. After about 3 hours or earlier or later. It would depend on wood used and how big of a fire ect. The wood in the 5 gal bucket should be charcoal.

6. Remove the 5 gal bucket while still hot and place on bare ground. Mabey even a specialy prepared pile of sand. Mound the sand around the bottem of the bucket and let sit till cool.

7. Use and enjoy.

Please note I can not take credit for this precedure as I have acquired the knowledge from someones web site which I can not recall. I have not even tried the precedure but the other fellow used it with great succes, even in the urban neighbor hood in which he lived.

This would be about the right amount of charcoal to cook a steak but not nearly enough to do any substantial forging.

I Would replace the 55 gal drum with a LARGE home oil tank from an old house and I would replace the 5 gal bucket with two 55 gal drums. I don't think that removing the two 55 gal drums after cooking the wood while still hot would realy happen but I don't think it is necessary. A precedure this large would produce a much larger volume of charcoal.


Thanks for enduring!

Now for my question in three parts.

1. How long will a tradition burnt oil finish last outdoors.

2. Will the durability of the oil finish change acording to the oil used.

3. Will using oil as a quenching mediam produce the same finish as using the oily rag to produce the traditional oil blackned finish.

Thank all of you for the vast information that you provide with this site. I will acquire a CSI membership as soon as my wallet allows.

Caleb Ramsby
Caleb Ramsby - Sunday, 06/16/02 18:53:51 GMT

Burnt Oil Finish: Caleb, I do not recommend it for ANY work much less outdoor work. There is nothing "traditional" about burnt oil finishes. Centuries ago paint was developed for this purpose. Today you can purchase economical professionaly formulated lacquers and other types of paints almost anywhere in the world.

If you study the "formulae" for the various oil finishes they are nothing expcept amature paint formulations. Why not use the REAL thing that has been scientificaly tested for performance?

There are other "easy" tongs methods. See the instructions on the 21st Century page and Bill Epps demos. Sean's "easy tongs" are for beginers that do not have a lot of time or the strength to draw out the reins.
- guru - Monday, 06/17/02 01:17:45 GMT

Camp Fenby, 2002, July 4-7: CAMP FENBY, 2002, July 4-7

Camp Fenby is a very laid back medieval arts and crafts campout and weekend get-together in St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland, sponsored by the Longship Company. The emphasis is on learning, teaching, and taking it easy, and people don't even have to wear funny clothes.

For those who would like to learn some basic blacksmithing, we should have Jim "Paw Paw" Wilson attending, from here at Anvilfire, and he will be bringing the foldable, portable, trailerable forge with the great bellows that Jock Dempsey built (see: ). I am planning to set up my early-medieval twin bellows forge rig, and I might have a gas forge going by then. So pick your period of technology to putter in.

Other possible activities (depending upon who volunteers) are early medieval spinning and weaving, leather shoe making, wood working, pewter casting, silver smithing, knot tying, information on longship sailing from our members who will be fresh back from a
course in Denmark, and possible voyages on the longship Fyrdraca (if we have a "shipload" of enthusiastic folks) or the faering boat Gyrfalcon.

Facilities for these activities include the forge, two airy tobacco barns, "maximum impact" woodlands and a small, somewhat useful junk pile.

Other non-medieval activities include hiking through the swamp, fishing off the pier, visiting local museums and early colonial sites; or sitting under the trees with a tall, iced drink, watching the clouds reflecting on the waters.

We are presently considering a site fee of $15 per person (w/family discount) to cover the cost of the porta potties.

We still need to update the site as our schedule firms up, but general information can be found at: .

Sponsored by the Longship Company, Ltd.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 06/17/02 14:06:58 GMT

Easy Tongs: Celeb, Seans tongs #132 are very quick and take minimual skills to make. The reins can be twisted as you say, or hammered to round, or modified to suite your needs. Their purpose is to get you started with a pair of tongs.

From there you can make better tongs, heavier tongs, and special purpose tongs. Demos #1, #5, #92, #93, #114, and #129 also involve how to make tongs. If you make one pair of tongs from each of the 6 demos, you will find a method you like, and have 7 pairs of tongs for the forge. A good way to learn and get tongs at the same time.

If you find yet another way to make tongs, let us know. I am sure the Guru would consider it for a demo.
- Conner - Monday, 06/17/02 21:52:22 GMT

new paint test: I just picked up a liter of "Vinylast"paint ot test, I had asked on here if any one hade used it now one replided so now I am going to try it.
it is reputed to be desiged for outdoor Iron work, it is a one step paint/primer self healing and the clamed life on it is 25 years+ it go's on with a brush and is self leveling.
If any one is interested I will post my results. (I plan on a informal...hard life test on it)
MP - Tuesday, 06/18/02 05:37:21 GMT

No one had tried it, I guess. I know I havn't. I certainly be interested in a report on how it works and holds up.
Paw Paw Wilson - Tuesday, 06/18/02 11:14:59 GMT

I have never heard of it either, but would like to know how it works out for you.
Brian C - Tuesday, 06/18/02 18:33:12 GMT

paint : Will DO!!
MP - Wednesday, 06/19/02 07:29:21 GMT

Thanks Guru and Conner for responding!

I did some searching and found Dan Gill's web site, where I had seen the description for the indirect mehtod of making charcoal.
It is . It was over half a year ago I found this site so I got a few things confused. Mainly he used a 15 gal drum for the retort(charcoal container) not a 5 gal pail, he did use a 55 gal drum for the furnace though. He got about a claimed 35% return of charcoal(a good return for the direct method is 25%), which ended up being 2 1/2 5 gal buckets. He did use a lid on the furnace with it cracked open about 1/2
  Caleb Ramsby - Wednesday, 06/19/02 18:15:34 GMT

Charcoal, Tongs and oil: Thanks to Guru and Conner for their responses!

I have done some searching and found Dan Gill's web site . This is where over half a year ago I found the description of the indirect method of producing charcoal, he also has a few interisting links to other charcoal sites. I had remembered a few of the details incorectly. He had used a 15 gal drum for the retort(charcoal container) not a 5 gal bucket, although he did use a 55 gal drum as a furnace. He had also used the lid of the 55 gal drum to hold the heat in and control the draft by placing it on top with a 1/2" space between it and the large drum. He had the retort suspended just about 8" off the bottem of the 55 gal drum. So when the gases escaped from the retort they were forced directly into the heart of the fire. This made the fire burn hotter, cleaner and saved fuel, since the heat of the buring gases would force out more of the gases. The buring portion of the charcoal making process took 3 hours. He obtained a 35% return of charcoal from his second attempt, compared to a average return of 25% from the direct method that others have tried. I had been thinking about something that he touched upon. Making a masonry furnace that could hold a bunch of 55 gal drums as retorts. Using the indirect method on this scale would permit one charcoal session a week to keep enough chacoal in stock for a weeks worth of forging! I am going to try the indirect mehtod on the scale that he did and see what kind of results I get. Using green oak as fuel for the forge keeps the mesquetos away but the smoke is becoming over bearing and I think it is less effecient!

I am in the process of modifing my forge so that I can fit the middle of long pieces into the fire. When I finish that I will be able to draw out the reigns for tongs much easier, right now I have to make multiple bends just to get the middle of a piece into the fire!

One thing that might interist you is that I almost ruined the set of Seans easy tongs when I used them to pry apart a stump that I got the wedge stuck in. The wedge was half way down the stump and I was using a long shaft so that I could hammer on it. Then I remembered the tongs, went and got them and then put the buisness end of them as far down the split as I could get them and pryed it apart. This worked GREAT and I have been using them as stump pryrs ever since. I can drive the wedge in just far enough to get a 1/2" split at the top and then use the tongs to pry it apart. I am going to make a more stout set of tongs using one of the other methods just for this job! I will update you guys on how well it works.

As for the oil finish. Thanks for the information. I am just trying to find a way to by pass paint without having to use expensive stainless or a lone inefective clear coat. I just can't stand to put paint over things like metal and wood. I think that the natural look of them is much more beutiful. I did read your thing about the door handle that you made out of stainless and I think that I will go that way. In the end it will probaly be less expensive when one includes cleaning time and such.

It is just so easy to look back at the old technics used by smiths as traditional and still a good idea. When the truth is that the blacksmith has and alawys will use the newest technology availiable. Many times the blacksmith invented a new technology to help him out! It apears to me that many of the admirers of the modern blacksmith as well as other trades, tend to snub their noses at one that uses a powerhammer, gas forge , electric blower or a plain old flat chunk of steel as an anvil. Many see these practices as the sign of one who is not a "REAL blacksmith". When in reality, using what is at hand and making do with it, the aplication of new technology and using things such as arc welders and finding ways to save time and effort are things we as blacksmiths should be proud of. My great-grandfather was a blacksmith all of his life. In the background of the picture of his shop that my grandfather has, there is a model T Ford. That was one of the first internal combustion vehicles in the area and although he made many things for the carige and horse(he worked for a logging crew for a while) he purchased and used the most advanced thing he could get. I believe that the real blacksmiths of the past would be very proud of the way we modern blacksmiths utilize the resources that we have at our control!

I guese that had been building up for a while. . . sometimes it just feels good to vent!

Thanks for enduring my ranting and raving session,

Caleb Ramsby
Dan Gill's charcoal making site.
Caleb Ramsby - Wednesday, 06/19/02 20:43:42 GMT

Sorry: Sorry about the triple post, the first time I forgot to put in my name and email and after I did when it prompted me it only posted a small portion of the post. After I wrote it the second time and tried to post it, it told me that I had left the comments box empty, so I used the back option and tried to post again and was successfull. I guese it worked the second time too! ooops!

Caleb Ramsby
Caleb Ramsby - Wednesday, 06/19/02 20:50:26 GMT

Locksmithing Book: The standard locksmithing text is The Complete Book of Locks & Locksmithing by C. A. Roper. Tab Books.
The book is in it's fifth edition. The list price is $30.00 Amazon sells it for $21.00.
A simpler book that is written at my intellectual level (Impaired). and has lots of pictures, is, All About Locks and Locksmithing by Max Alth, published by Hawthorn Books, is just the ticket. Unfortunately it is long out of print. The publication date on my copy is 1972.
Enjoy! and don't get cought with any lockpicks and tension wrenches, They are illegal in some states and provinces.
Regards to All.
slag - Thursday, 06/20/02 05:47:23 GMT

Re: Paint test: I would be very interested in a report on "Vinylast" paint test. Although, I am really starting to like working with stainless steel. Have made meny lantern/birdfeeder/plant hangers from stainless. Just add a coat of bees wax for color and your done!!! I have also found a great outlet for scrap stainless. I have found out-dated printers have stainless rod in them. Some round, some square. I have found them in langths of 12" to 20", and from 3/16" to 3/8" thick. Great for small projects. When I put the word out that I would take any old printers, they started showing up by the doz., had to start turning them away. I now have a large pile of stainless stock. Most of which a may turn into gifts and such. Just a thought.
- KDB - Thursday, 06/20/02 07:07:24 GMT

Beaudry Parts: I have a 100 lb Beaudry hammer that needs some major replacement parts. Anyone out there have a parts hammer they want to get rid of? I need an anvil base and new springs. Alternate - anyone have a line on some 12" round? I can repair the anvil with a 10" length.
- John McLellan - Thursday, 06/20/02 17:23:07 GMT

Beaudry Parts 2: I forgot to add that I live in Northern California. Since these things aren't exactly light, obviously the closer the better. Thanks
John McLellan - Thursday, 06/20/02 17:41:12 GMT

Historic smithies for Sale?sy:
Retired, recently windowed onetime hobby smith looking for any old smithies or historic sites that would lend themselves to rebuilding/refurbishing as working traditional "demo" smithies... MA, VT or Southern New England generally. Contact Bernie Powell . . .
Bernie Powell - Friday, 06/21/02 00:55:25 GMT

Cone Mandrels for Sale: I have 29 small cone mandrels for sale. They have a base diameter of 2 11/16 inches and are 6.5 inches tall. They are made from 52100 and have been spherodized annealed (they are unhardend). They have a finely ground finish and weigh 5 lbs each. They do not have any shanks attached, but these could be easily added by the purchaser. Cost: $5.00 each plus shipping. I do have a picture that I can e-mail to anyone who is interested. Contact me by email if interested. I will respond Monday-Friday as I don't have a home computer yet.
Patrick Nowak
Patrick - Friday, 06/21/02 12:38:18 GMT

Beaudry: John, Contact Bruce Wallace. He owns what's left of Beaudry and has the remaining parts and drawings. He also knows someone that has a frame and anvil. . . I have the name plates.
Jock D. - Saturday, 06/22/02 06:09:48 GMT

Thank you to everyone who has expressed interest in the cones I had to sell. It appears that they have all been claimed. If this should change, or I have more available in the future, I will certainly post a note here.
Thanks again.
Patrick Nowak
  Patrick Nowak - Wednesday, 06/26/02 12:31:42 GMT

The first pair of tongs: According to the Midrash (ancient Jewish commentary on the bible) the first pair of tongs was given to Adam together with his eviction notice from the garden of Eden. For, as the Midrash explains, without a pair of tongs one cannot make anything not even tongs.

I have always regarded this as an interesting challenge. Imagine yourself as a stone age craftsman with a lot of time on his hands but absolutely no metal tools or even ready metal stock. Given and adequate supply of iron ore, charcoal , assistants, etc do you think you could produce a pair of iron tongs? They would not have to be very good ones just good enough to hold the work to make a better pair.

I have my own ideas on this, but I am interested to hear what other people say.
- adam - Wednesday, 06/26/02 16:06:06 GMT

I think so, given the caveat's that you included. A pair of sticks would work to hold the bloom to re-work it into wrought iron bar. Sure, the sticks would burn, but it would work. Might need several pair of sticks. Using a stone hammer and anvil. Once the wrought iron bar is made, it's just a matter of steps to make the tongs.
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/26/02 16:23:46 GMT

Tongless Tong Making:

It is not hard. First, you don't go from the Stone Age to the Iron Age in one step. First, there was found native metal and then the Bronze Age before the Iron Age. Most Bronze Age tools and practicaly everything else (swords, tools) were usualy cast unless made of plate. Forged items were usualy cast to near shape before forging. Lost wax casting methods go back to pre-biblical times unless you believe in creationism. And before the Bronze Age there were craftspeople that used native metals, copper, gold and silver.

In basic casting methods there are no crucibles to pick up. Furnaces were taped and molten metal ran down clay or sand troughs into sand, mud (clay) or plaster molds. You can cast bronze tong parts without having tongs. The method of casting direct from the tap was used up into the 20th century in iron and bronze foundries.

You can forge the individual parts of wrought iron or steel tongs on long bars held in your bare hand. The bar does not need to be very long, 12 to 18" depending on the size of the part, shorter if you quench often.

Now, it would seem that it is impossible to make iron without iron tongs but bronze tongs can be used if they are cooled often, which they must be because they conduct heat quicky and will burn your hand in a very short time. But Bronze Age tools coexisted with Iron Age tools for hundreds of years during the transition from one to the other. The Classical Greek Civilization and that of the Middle East during biblical times were Bronze to Iron transitional societies.

Making a rivet would seem a problem to some but they can be made from headless bar and upset cold IN the tongs OR hot held by the tongs themselves. Or made on the end of a long bar, isolated above the head, heated, inserted and the handling part of the bar broken off then the second head upset.

Tongs can also be the spring type like tweezers and not have a joint or rivet. These are still common in the jewelry business and are probably derived from using green "wythes" for tongs and

Making tongs without tongs is only a problem to those that don't understand the development of technology OR the making of tools. Like many modern authors those that wrote the Bible were often ignorant of technological history OR mechanical methods.

Ever see a 5 sided nut or bolt head? I have, in illustrations on the cover of technical magazines. Aparently the artist didn't know bolts are square or hex. Authors are often no different. Alex Bealer is the one that said or repeated the erroneous statement, "The anvil is the only tool a blacksmith cannot make himself". Difficult, a little, impossible, no. And you don't start out making a 100 pound London pattern anvil from having no tools.

Now go into your shop and make a pair of tongs without tongs and say a dozen hail gurus as penance. . .

Sorry. . got carried away. . . Now I'm going to have the Christians, Catholics, Southern Baptists, Creationists AND Jews on my case. . .
- guru - Wednesday, 06/26/02 19:42:43 GMT

guru: don't forget all those pagins ... the first tongs were made by the god and given to the first smith!!!
MP - Wednesday, 06/26/02 20:15:12 GMT

Tongs from blooms: Having smelting WI from ore and consolidated blooms If I was restricted to stone and wood tools this is how I would try to do it.

1: fish bloom out of furnace with long green wooden pole onto flat rock.

2: consolidate bloom with stone hammer attached to wooden "handle"

3: draw out bloom with stone hammer into rectangular bar
(using wooden poles to move it from the "anvil" and the ground forge and back)

4: draw one end down for the rivit stock fuller a notch in the bar with the stone hammer, break cold both to seperate the rivit stock and the two pieces for the tongs.

5: use the rivit stock as a punch to make the hole (I'd probably point it and try drifting it rather than doing a punchout)

6: hot rivit the two pieces together and work while cooling

7: give thanks to the Diety you didn't have to mess with the sticks anymore! On to the metal hammer!

A bloom at consolidation temp is pretty hot---a high welding temp is good. Bronze would start meting at the surface pretty fast---or heating the hands of the holder. I'd rather use the sticks and have the anvil set in the ground close to the furnace/forge.

One other thought don't make tongs for the bloom just weld a drawn out bloom to it as part of the consolidation and use it as a handle. (of course you still need to draw out a billet to start with...)

BTW "The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity" Rehder; discusses early furnaces, biomass fuels, air handling from natural draft to blowpipe to bellows; copper and iron smelting (and how iron can be a by-product of copper smelting!), etc. It's a nice readable book written by a metallurgist with good well researched details in it. If you have an interest in early pyrotechnologies you may want to check it out!

- Thomas Powers - Wednesday, 06/26/02 20:17:44 GMT

Beaudry Parts: Jock, Thanks for the tip. Who is Bruce Wallace and how do I get in touch with him?
- John McLellan - Wednesday, 06/26/02 21:00:07 GMT

Happy Birthday to the Guru!
Paw Paw Wilson - Wednesday, 06/26/02 22:47:33 GMT

Beaudry: Drop Down Menu, or Advertisers Directory, Wallace Metalwork.

Thomas, we may have to make a pair of bronze tongs to prove it but I believe the combination of a poor thermal joint between the tongs and the billet and the high conductivity of the bronze would keep them plenty cool enough to work.
AND, we are not talking about doing it OVER and OVER. All you have to do is make that first pair of tongs "passed down by the gods" to move on to using iron tongs the next time.

Its like making the first screw turning lathe. Full of shafts, gears and THE lead screw ALL requiring the machine to make them that you are building. I know I can do it without anything that resembles a machine.

It is said that it is probable that EVERY turned screw and lead screw can be traced back to those that were hand made by Henry Maudslay. He used an ingenious method to make precision lead screws by hand. And after that others came up with even more precision methods, BUT they used lead screws that came from. . . A Maudslay machine.

And that has largely been the history of technology, the first tool being used to make more of its kind, often bigger and better than its parent. Each generation of tools improving on the past.
- guru - Thursday, 06/27/02 07:49:51 GMT

Past Times: I'll see about picking up some bronze, should be a 90:10 alloy I'd guess. May be christmas before the experiment gets done---gotta forge some Y1K stirrups for a friend ASAP!

The problem with a bloom at consolidation temp is that it's "mushy" with molten silicates so the temp conduction is probably higher than just grabbing a bar.

The "boot strapping" of the first screw and the use of lapping to even out the "errors" *is* fascinating. Human ingenuity at it's best. It surprises people to find out that some turn of the century methods are actually more accurate than modern ones *but* they take a lot more time and human intervention.

Me; I work to the thickness of a worn shilling---if it was good enough for the early steam engines it's good enough for me!

Thomas (perhaps I could just cast a pair of bronze tongs; faster and easier than forging---now to look at tongs in my metalworking in ancient egypt book)
- Thomas Powers - Thursday, 06/27/02 14:49:13 GMT

first tongs: First of all, thanks PawPaw, Thomas and Guru for very interesting responses to this question.

I thought along the same lines as Guru. Start with copper or bronze and cast a pair of tongs as close to finished as possible. then grind (by hand with a piece of pumice or sandstone) to final shape. The pivot hole could be drilled out with a stick and and some abrasive material - like using a wooden dowel and 100# grit to drill glass today. Bronze tongs could be used to hold the cool end of the bloom while the other end is worked at welding heat.

Another more complicated possibility is to cast the tong jaws out of cast iron and attach copper reins.

In any case, the idea is to go in technological increments. Use stone age tools to bootstrap into bronze age and then use bronze and copper technology to get to iron age. Of course, this is how it must have happened and it probably happened many times in different places since smiths in China could not easily share information with smiths in ,say, Africa .

One big advantage that a modern smith has over the early smiths, even when deprived of iron technology, is that he knows what a good pair of tongs looks like. I guess that the first few tongs to appear were very clumsy and awkward. Probably they were designed like fireplace tongs which are easier to make but give very little mechanical advantage. I imagine early smiths relied heavily on their strength to control the work. Also, like PawPaw suggested they probably did a lot of work with wet sticks. All this leads me to conclude that early smiths must have also pioneered the use of bad language and cuss words since even with good iron tongs the work gets dropped a lot :)

I completely agree with Jock that the Rabbis who wrote that Midrash didnt bother to check into the matter. They just wrote what made sense to them sitting in the study hall. Can you imagine a modern scholar in a respected university trying to get away with such shoddy work? He would be be very quickly rebutted and humiliated in a peer reviewed journal.

I also agree with Jock that he is now in serious trouble with the Christians, the Jews, the Druids, the Zoroastrians... :)
- adam - Thursday, 06/27/02 17:59:08 GMT

Bronze Tongs and Technology: I'm working on a little melting furnace for next week. Will see about casting tongs.

Adam, in lost wax or sand casting the rivet holes can be cast. In fact a stud could be cast on one half to fit in the other.

I'll agree that tong styles have changed. But flat bar with a pivot and tapered reins do not make bad tongs. One of my favorite pairs of tongs have a simple gradual offset at the joint rather than the fancy upset joint of common modern tongs. Just because the style is different doesn't mean the funtion is less efficient.

Often the first of something is clumsy but is quickly replaced as soon as the error is realized. The difference between versions could be as little as days if the toolmaker was a keen eyed inventor and had the where with all, but may have taken generations. However, in either case the time is insignificant historicaly.

The shape for cast tongs could be simple enough to make a an open face stone mold. Much of the shape made by bending after casting. However, holes would have to be punched or drilled. Lost wax has some huge advantages.

This is all hypothetical since no one will ever know what happened 6,000 years ago. AND our frame of reference, the knowledge we have, colors any theories of how it was done. However, I think that historians and others underestimate the intelegence of our early ancestors. Man has changed little since coming out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago.

Technology is a funny thing. There have been some great inventors that were was ahead of their time that made no difference in the advancement of technology. We know a few Ancient Greeks knew how to build complicated clockworks with bronze gears and differential or planetary gear trains as complicated as modern mechanical calculators. But there was no demand for such high tech and the knowledge was lost and not reinvented for over two thousand years. Lenonardo DaVince invented dozens of labor saving machines including a file cutting machine. But there was little interest. Many of his devices were also ahead of commonly available manufacturing methods. His gearing was also the primitive pin and cage style of the time. But that Greek gearbox from a thousand years earlier had cut gears that looked like modern involute gears. The need for machine tools did not develop until there was a need created by the manufacture of steam engines. At the time cannon boring machines could only make bores to a tolerance of 1/4 inch. Steam engines needed much tighter fits.

I suspect many smiths have the fantasy of going back in time and revolutionizing technology. But history has proved that there must be social economic forces to support and maintain technology. Great advances have been made from time to time and then lost for centuries or even millenia because it was not important to man's survival at the time.

Bronze tongs are not so far fetched. I have modern wrenches made of berylium bronze (anti-spark) and most machinists have brass or bronze hammers. But steel is lighter, cheaper and so much more efficient that we make few tools of it today.
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 06:44:17 GMT

Imagination is more important than knowledge..

Einstein.. (date ????)
Barney - Friday, 06/28/02 13:08:52 GMT

Inventions: There were also strong social aspects to new inventions; some were surpressed as they would throw a large proportion of people out of work; others ran afoul of the guild system. "A History of Western Technology" quotes Nuremberg guild accounts of them cracking down on a "red metal turner" who kept coming up with metal lathe improvements during the renaissance.

If I wanted to make a big difference in early times I would introduce the spinning wheel back in drop spindle days. Today we are so seperated from the ammount of effort that went into cloth production in earlier times, it took around 6 full time spinners and spinsters to provide the materials for one full time weaver---and that was using the spinning wheel! A large part of the "industrial revolution" was based on textile production.

- Thomas Powers - Friday, 06/28/02 16:08:54 GMT

Thomas et al:
I'm going to pose a slightly different question. Then I'll make my own nomination for the answer. Then we can bat it around.

What was THE most important invention of all time, bar none?

I'll nominate the plow. With the plow it became possible for a farmer to grow more food than he needed for his own family. That made it possible for other people to "specialize" in things other than farming. People had to work out a system to buy the food from the farmer, so barter came into being. Barter was not enough, so money was invented. Money required accounting, which required mathematics, so higher math was developed. And so on until today.
Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/28/02 17:47:01 GMT

Thomas, Social and cultural forces are still at work and the drop spindle is still in use in a few places. The spinning wheel is a big machine not condusive to nomadic life styles. It also takes time and materials to construct that are often not within the economic range or need of some societies. It would be no different than introducing any basic machine earlier than society had a need for it.

Religion also impacted the acceptance of new inventions as well as many new ideas. The threat of being tortured or executed for witch craft or heresy quicky curtails sharing new ideas. Churches have fought the truth about many things most of the world considers as fact and continue to do so today.
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 17:54:55 GMT

The Plow:
You can't make a plow without a hammer says the smith. . .

Prior to the plow was the sling and throwing stick. Both of which gave man a great advantage in hunting and thus insured the survival of more prople than could have before their invention. Mankind may not have survived to produce sufficient numbers to develop agriculture without these improved tools. . And on THAT note, the flaked point becomes even more important because it was used on arrows, spears, fishhooks, axes AND plows. . .

Written language is still more important. Send your plow to a non-agricutural society without instructions for what it is used for and how to use it and it will be looked at as a curiosity and discarded as useless bagage. Without written language technical knowlege can only be disseminated by word of mouth from one individual to another with many possible errors. The written word can inform without change for thousands of years.
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 18:12:25 GMT

Invention: The most important invention? A social construct: Commerce.
Without Ug who traded her basket of berries for Oog's basket of roots there wouldn't be much point in any subsequent inventions. Without trade there is no point in making a surplus of anything. . .
John Lowther - Friday, 06/28/02 19:25:27 GMT

Inventions: My first take was "communication" as it is what spreads technological innovation. While a nomadic society may not profit from the spinning wheel, (though there are photos of bedouin women using ashfords outside their tents), any stable society should be able to make a wheel with a spindle (the flyer with it's differential in turning rate is more complex). Bone, leather or even braided corn husk bearings can be used for the spindle, wooden, bone, etc for the wheel bearing.

I quite agree that *too* early wouldn't work; however there is often a long lag time between when a culture *could* do something and when it gets invented as invention depends on "eurekas".

One thing to note: The early and medieval christian church were big proponents of technology and monestaries often had the best and latest machinery. There is a theory that more advanced iron smelting technologies were introduced into england through the cistercians who had iron refineries as part of their monestaries and also had regular meetings with other members from areas where iron refining was more advanced. (Rehder mentions this in "The Mastery and Use of Fire in Antiquity" and IIRC provides a cite to the research on this).

Theophilus was a monk; all the early works on science and technology were written in latin. Due to the excesses of the Crusades and the later Witch Hysteria we sometimes lose sight of the positive aspects of early christianity. (strange to think that Bernard or Clairveaux, who gace Abelard such a hard time, paid to have the Koran translated into latin so he could read it).

"The Axemaker's Gift" James Burke and Robert Ornstein muses on technology and humanity. "Nuts and Bolts of the Past" "a History of American Technology 1776-1860" is an interesting work on a great period in American inventiveness.

- Thomas Powers - Friday, 06/28/02 19:52:23 GMT

So how many were put to death because they did not believe the Earth was flat or the center of the Universe? And how many church schools still teach to this day that the Earth is only 4,000 to 5,000 years old and claim that all evidence to the contrary was put there on purpose to try man's faith?

While the early Popes were having texts that suited their purposes carefully copied on one hand they systomaticaly destroyed as much evidence of the old religions as possible.

They melted down the Greek bronzes and defaced any statue of a god or goddess. Thus we are left with many statues in otherwise perfect condition with heads, and arms missing. Arms that held symbbols of the Greek religion. Literary works were also destroyed. After the accidental burning of the great Library of Alexandria, Ceasar had the entire Roman empire scowered for replacements at his expense. The restocked library was supposed to be much greater than the original. But this only lasted a short time. When the Muslims conquered Egypt they went to the Great Library to destroy the writings of the infidels. . . but they were told that they were too late, the Christians had already been there!

Of all the literature that was considered the best of the times by the Greeks and Romans, it is estimated that we only have 10% and much of that may not be the best. . .

Later the Popes were very interested in the technology of war and spent a great deal advancing any method that would make them stroger in battle. Today seems no different. Governments are willing to spend billions on technology for military purposes. Sure, we eventualy get the fallout of the advanced technology but at what cost?

Histories of Invention written in America and Britian are interesting as they completely ignore the other's contributions if possible. Steam shipbuilding and large stationary engines had run into the limits of the ancient helve hammer technology when Nasmyth revolutionized the industry with one little off the cuff sketch. . . and invented the steam hammer. But his most commonly used invention is the feed reversing mechanism invented for lathes and adapted for every other machine tool by makers on both sides of the Atlantic.
- guru - Friday, 06/28/02 20:41:43 GMT

> You can't make a plow without a hammer, says the smith...

Sorry, but that's not true. The first plows were nothing more than a pointed stick, steered by the man behind the plow while his family pulled a rope.

Then it was probably pointed with a flint point, possibly an obsidian point.

Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/28/02 21:34:53 GMT

Sorry, but I'm going to dis-agree with you, too.

Ug didn't trake her basket of berries for Oog's basket of roots. She grubbed the roots and gathered the berries herself, because Oog was out hunting for meat, and he'd beat the crap out of her if he didn't have tater's and mushrooms with his steak.
Paw Paw Wilson - Friday, 06/28/02 21:37:02 GMT

Pointed sticks:: My vote for the most important invention is a pointed stick.

If you subscribe to the idea that man was born/created/teleported/dropped-off-the-mothership completely ignorant of tools or how to make them, then the most significant invention was the FIRST invention (likely a pointed stick). It makes it a heck of a lot easier to kill slow moving meat, and yeah, it's a crummy shovel, but it beats scratching dirt with your nails. What makes this lowly stick so important is that it is the father of all tools, and as everyone has pretty much agreed, you can't make better tools without tools. More significantly, Og the cave dweller instantly realizes that "HEY! I DON'T have to do this by hand! There IS a better way." The realization that you DON'T have to cope with what nature gave you, and CAN make and use tools is what's important.

Also... A pointed stick makes a dandy weapon (much easier to beat the other cave men off your berries with than your fists), and lets face it... war/violence is a primary driving force behind technology.
- mattmaus - Friday, 06/28/02 23:01:29 GMT

Pointed stick :
First came the blunt object which Og knocked Ug over the head with to steal his berries. Ug survived to find and use the pointed stick. . but that is another story.

The definition of what seperated man from the animals was once "using tools". But then they discovered primates using sticks for all kinds of things and blades of dry grass to fish termites from a termite mound with the dexterity of a one picking a lock. . . SO, they said well they are closely related. THEN someone found birds using sticks for the same thing, fishing ants and termites from their mounds. And beavers by-god build DAMS! And did so for millions of years before man. . .

But as any kid that has thrown spears at his buddy will tell you, pointed sticks are found objects, not an invention. Matter of fact, beavers make GREAT pointed sticks and do so by the truckload!

Stone points predate the plow by many millinia as far as archeology can tell. So the first plow may have been a pointed stick but it wore out at the end of one furrow so they tied on a big spear point. . . So we are back to that.

Now. . . the BOW, not the one used to shoot arrows (early ones were lousy and spears worked better), but the bow used to spin a shaft and make fire. . and afterwards sitting around the camp fire made with the bow they would sing songs as they plucked the bow. . . A MUTLI-PURPOSE tool that brought light, warmth and music!

Now those that are fashion consious or just self-conscious could say the "sewing needle". It is a very old invention (not a found object) and it made a big difference in one's winter comfort. Un-sewn furs only go so far. Matter of fact, it is just as much a necessity in Northern climates as fire and shelter. And in a pinch it could be used to put YOU back together after failing to dodge a pointed stick or that Mastadon tusk.

- guru - Saturday, 06/29/02 04:26:31 GMT

my vote for the most inportant invention would have to be the axe (hafted) with out it man can't chop fire wood clear land to use the plow build much of any thing it is the most basic of tool and most likely one of the first (unhafted) with out an axe man would still be gathering around the side of some berry bush or other and tackleing small mamales for food.
MP - Saturday, 06/29/02 08:41:52 GMT

Canedy Otto blower: I picked up a crank blower at a sale which has a problem. It is similar to a champion in appearance. It has several gears inside which produce the driving ratio, and one of them is a "plastic" type material. The problem is it has swollen to the point that it has the whole gear train locked up. I was able to dissassemble it without much effort thou. The question here is, are there replacements available? Or do I search out a replacement from a gear manufacturer?
- Mike S - Saturday, 06/29/02 12:23:46 GMT

Parts:: Mike, Bad news. No. All the folks that made the old blowers , forges and blacksmithing equipment have long been out of business. To make matters worse most made their own gears and many had special spiral bevel and multi lead worm gears that are nearly impossible to replace. A custom maker would tell you that you need a pair of gears to be sure they mesh properly. You will also probably need to provide detailed drawings with industry standard tolerancing and AGMA gear specs.
- guru - Saturday, 06/29/02 13:42:00 GMT

Parts::: Mike S.. I run into that once awhile.. So I put it aside until another one shows up.. I advertise on the side of my forge while at the Farmers Market, doing demos... So far I have 40 plus bags of coal at 25 pounds each along with biggers bags for free. Today I got 4-100 pound bags given to me. All good soft coal. ALso today I had a large rivit forge given to me in trade for some sherpherd hooks.SHe didn't want it in her garage anymore. That will let me rebuid the one I have been dragging around looking for parts.So if you do any demos. Stick a sign on the forge and see what you get.. It works for me..
Don't forget about the Hammer In here at the festival (North Bay Ontario Canada)people. I can put 4 more up in the house the rest in the yard in tents.. It will be a good time and a change to sell lots.. Let me know please..Chow for now.....

Barney - Saturday, 06/29/02 21:22:28 GMT

hot flashes: There are just so many crtically important, vitally necessary inventions, it's almost impossible to choose just one as THE signal achievement of man (and woman)'s imagination: the ignition key... the shot glass... the ballpoint pen (for writing & signing checks)... plastic, for credit cards... the answering machine... the doorbell... the TV & VCR remote... the flush toilet... the still....
miles undercut - Sunday, 06/30/02 01:25:34 GMT

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