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This is an archive of posts from January 16 - 23, 2012 on the Guru's Den
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Health & safety : This isn't so much a question as a story about safety.

Yesterday, i was cutting a piece of cast iron plate into a decorative axe-head as i hate to see iron go to waste and i have no better use for it. As i'm doing this, using a 9inch angle grinder, i wasn't wearing safety goggles. partway through the cutting, the blade has "jumped" and kicked something into my eye. now, over 24 hours later, i've had to visit the Accident & Emergency department of my local hospital, deal with no sleep and had constant pain from my eye.

Arrogance gets you nowhere! remember to wear safety gear!
   Serj - Monday, 01/16/12 06:40:36 EST

Cutting with hand held Grinders :
This has become a new "standard" thing to do in the shop but is VERY dangerous. Even double safety gear (glasses and a face shield) may not protect you from injury. While working in a narrow notch a grinding wheel or cutting wheel can snag and kick the whole grinder back into your face with enough force to knock you unconscious. If an unguarded edge of the wheel hits your face shield it will cut through and hit you in the face as if you were not wearing the shield.

We had a fellow in the shop do this after my telling his to stop three times. The wheel his him in the mouth and cut him nearly to the ear. After numerous surgeries he is still not right having permanent nerve damage. Another friend using a cutting wheel had it snag and tear a piece out and strike him in the eye. The accident nearly killed him. He lost one eye and has vision problems in the other. These are NOT rare accidents. However, they happen more in DIY and private shops where they do not get reported to OSHA.

The shatter guards on stationary grinders prevent this from happening IF they are in place and properly adjusted. Hand held grinders have no such guards. Wheels DO occasionally shed parts at high speed.

I've known many people to remove the guards from hand held grinders rather than adjust them for the job. . . (do that in my shop and you are fired or banned from the shop). Back when I purchased my B&D 7" HS Wildcats (Then made by DeWalt - possibly discontinued) the guards were a "OSHA option" that cost about $15. I bought them for both. I occasionally adjust their direction but NEVER remove them.
   - guru - Monday, 01/16/12 08:39:30 EST

Safety Costs :
It is hard to imagine those guards costing as much as many of the cheap 4.5" grinders sell for today. . . At the time those grinders listed at over $200 and sold for $180. The optional guards were almost 10% of the cost. When they last sold the grinders listed at $310 and sold for about $200.

I've seen old bench grinders without the shatter guards. I bought one of these and retrofitted it with guards I made. It was not hard to do.

In many cases face shields are much better than safety glasses. But when a shield is needed you should wear safety glasses underneath. Both have sufficient space around them to let flying grit get by.

I have only had a rust spot (spot caused by a piece of metal in one's eye) once. It was NOT from moving machinery. It was simply from a piece of rust or chip of metal falling off the underside of a car while inspecting the exhaust pipe. It was easily taken care of but happened easily as well.

Years ago I had noticed my favorite pair of safety glasses getting hard to see through. When I examined them I found them pitted with dozens of spark burns and embedded grinding swarf. . . It was something to think about. Without them, all those sparks could have hit my eyes. . .

While you can work with many injuried or missing parts it is very difficult to be a craftsperson if you cannot see. Take care of those irreplaceable eyes!
   - guru - Monday, 01/16/12 09:42:45 EST

Didn't this come up a little while ago? A 9" handheld grinder is a beast to be reckoned with. Jock, did it ever occur to the folks who removed the guards on the hand held grinders that adjusting them takes less time? I wear regular glasses with saftey lenses in 1950's frames. My optometrist advised the lenses as he knows what I do (I made him 4 foot long eyeglass frames from mild steel). Only once have I had an issue, when an errant metal chip bounced from my cheek to the inside of the glasses and into my eye. The lost inertia from all that bouncing stopped it from REALLY messing me up. A neodynium magnet and 2 seconds later and I was fine. Sometimes I worry about when I use stainless......
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/16/12 10:13:33 EST

safety : There are face shields and there are face shields. I buy the almost 3/16" thick windows for the face sheilds at the factory. Many folks buy the very thin flexible windows, not much resistance to objects with energy.
At the axle shop, a 7" grinder with the guard removed had a new 9" wheel installed, and it shatter from excess RPM right away. Slit the throat of a nearby coworker, nearly severing his head. He was DRT.
Another case, same shop, no shatter sheild on a BIG pedestial grinder (2" by 24" diameter, new wheel, no ring test, it shattered and the half wheel hit the operator and went through his breast bone. He was DRT.

At the valve shop, a ZIP wheel on a small die grinder, no guard, shattered. The operator came into my office holding his crotch, blood flowing between his fingers. Rushed him to the hospital, where the wheel fragmet was removed. The wheel fragment had bruised the femoral artery, but not cut it. Talk about close. He lived to work another day.

For those not in the trade, DRT ruins the day of all involved, the responder often suffer from PTSD.
DRT= Dead Right There. I have been very very lucky and not had a DRT in my career yet.
   ptree - Monday, 01/16/12 10:47:51 EST

Change of topic.... way off as well. Can anyone point me in the right direction for re-pointing colonial fireplace mortar? I've seen some really nice work where the mortar literally points down the center painted white. Would love to surprise the wife with that one.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/16/12 11:12:01 EST

Ptree, those stories are as bad as the guy who opened the screen door and when the spring came loose and slung around, it pulled his eyeball out. I would always grab my butt crack when I heard that one. Sort of like sliding down a giant razor blade into a tub of alcohol. :-(
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/16/12 11:19:37 EST

Spring in the eye : I will not use bungee cords after seeing what the hook on the end will do to an eyeball when it comes loose under tension, I use rope or straps or chain.
   Willy Cunningham - Monday, 01/16/12 14:27:05 EST

Tire Shrinker Capacity : In the shop at Sutter's Mill, we have a rather modern "tire shrinker". One of those gadgets that refitted the iron tire around a wooden wheel.

This is one of the late (early 1900s by one advertisement reproduction I've seen) big, elaborate ones.

Thing must weigh 800 lb. Mounted on wheels and still almost impossible for five guys to move. Big windjammer type wheel geared down to cams that will grab a tire 6 inches wide by about 3 inches thick. Obviously intended for very heavy work, but still possible to abuse.

Here's my question. I have no need to shrink tires, but I would like to use the machine too upset some one inch square stock to a larger size.

The machine dimensions and adjustments imply 6 inch by 3, but that seems just plain HUGE. Does anyone know what size material this machine was designed for and can be used without abusing it?
   Rudy2 - Monday, 01/16/12 16:02:28 EST

Tire Shrinker Capacity : I'll look in my catalogs and get back to you. The general rule of thumb on hand crank devices is that they are rated for what ONE reasonable strong man can do WITHOUT cheater bars, humping his weight on the handle or using other methods to increase the force.

Tire shrinkers are made for very special cases. The force is there but you may have trouble applying it straight enough to do what you want.
   - guru - Monday, 01/16/12 17:28:00 EST

Old Mortar. : FIRST, VERY IMPORTANT, The mortar is always softer than the brick. Repoint with hard mortar and after a winter or two the brickwork will be destroyed. Ask a mason how to control the hardness.

SECOND, Old mortar is often colored. In the South this is done with red clay to make the mortar a soft light orange color. Clean the old mortar and try to match the color or it will look like a patch job from a mile away.
   - guru - Monday, 01/16/12 17:31:09 EST

Tire Shrinker : I always thought the iron tire was heated and beat on to the wooden wheel.
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/16/12 17:46:10 EST

Using a tire shrinker---anybody? : I just finished reading about tire shrinkers in H.R. Bradley's book.* He claims that the two clamps push the hot metal together, thus upsetting it. I've never used an upsetter, but that sounds like a crock to me. I thought that the smith would first forge a bump-like ripple in the tire at the anvil, the raised part facing the interior of the tire. If this portion was placed hot between the clamps and held, there would be daylight under the "bump" where it resided on the anvil of the shrinker (upsetter). By hammering it down the material would need to thicken, because it would have nowhere to go in terms of draw. Perhaps someone will correct me and give us all the straight skinny.

About 30 years ago, I visited the "Enterprise Blacksmithing and Wagon Repair" in Gallup, New Mexico. There was lots of wogon work done for the Navajos in those days and before. They had got around this upsetting problem by making a big vertical clamp of large roller chain. After measuring, the smiths would cut out a section of the oversized tire and place the tire in the big clamp. Force was applied until the two cropped ends were close together. The gap was then arc welded and cold finished.

*"Blacksmiths' and Farriers' Tools at Shelburne Museum" by H.R. Bradley Smith. 1966.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/16/12 18:01:09 EST

Soft mortar : For old masonry pointing, the mortar of choice is white lime mortar, rather than Portland Cement. As Jock notes, using Portland cement will result in fractured bricks, cracked stones, etc. For general purpose re-pointing of older masonry, I use a mortar comprised of 1 part white lime to 3 or 4 parts sand, de3pending on how hard the old stuff is. If the old mortar is really hard, you an add a bit of Portland to the lime mortar, but don't go more than 20% Portland in the lime.

Here in the Caribbean, much of the old mortar was a mixture of lime, sand, and molasses tailings. Much of it has held up for 300+ years, surprisingly.
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 01/16/12 18:11:56 EST

Tire Shrinker : Frank,

I've done the math based on the gearing and experimented a little bit w the gadget. I agree, the gearing itself will not "squash" the metal in to upset it. The ripple technique sounds better (especially since I've seen shrinkers that had no gears and were all "ripple). Also, the machine has a pawl that should hold the gripping blocks in position after you have adjusted them to the reduced size and then start hammering.

   Rudy - Monday, 01/16/12 18:51:49 EST

Masonry Pointing : Actually, I don't know what pointing is. Years ago I went to work in St. Louis, and that was the first time I ever heard of tuck pointing. I do know there are large areas of St. Louis where block buildings were built. The reason for this was to provide quick and simple housing for railroad workers, and probably other kinds of industry. My curiosity is now renewed as to what pointing and/or tuck pointing actually is.
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/16/12 21:47:16 EST

Masonry Mortar : I think I read where air entrained mortar is used quite a bit up North which allows it to expand and contract due to the extreme cold. I did not know that lime and sand mixed together would make a mortar. Is it for esthetic purposes or will it actually hold up ?
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/16/12 21:52:52 EST

Mortar : Mike,

Before the invention of Portland cement, lime mortar was the mortar of choice for permanent work. Over the years, in various locales, everything from mud to epoxy has been used to set masonry. Lime, readily produced by cooking sea shells or other calcium carbonate sources, is pretty much waterproof once fully cured.
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 01/16/12 22:01:43 EST

Mortar : Thanks Rich.... :-)
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/16/12 22:13:36 EST

Historic questions : My great-grandfather was a blacksmith in Hungary and I am doing some historical research into blacksmithing in the late 19th century. Can you recommend someone who might be able to answer a few general questions?
   Katherine - Monday, 01/16/12 23:28:32 EST

Would it be OK to advertise some welding wire for sale? : I could remember if it is alright to advertise any for sale stuff here. If I get an OK I will post details. Thank You
   - tmac - Monday, 01/16/12 23:53:22 EST

Loads on steel beams : A long story but I want to put a couple of long steel beams in to support a gallery running round 3 sides of a large high room. My idea is to run 1 down each long side with the ends supported by new stone walls. Box section will probably be ideal for aesthetic reasons. How do I calculate what size to use?
   philip in china - Tuesday, 01/17/12 01:14:59 EST

Tmac, That is what our new Tailgate page is for. No problem.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/17/12 01:16:41 EST

Loads on Beams :
Phillip, While load is a factor, deflection is more critical in beam design. When deflection is under control stress is usually within very reasonable limits.

Normal deflection is usually limited to about 1/4" per span including both dead and live load.

There are various manuals where you can find the math. Machinery's Handbook has simplified formulae. The AISC Steel Construction Manual includes formulae AND the standard properties of various cross sections. If you are fabricating a section both these references have the math for calculating the section modulus needed to plug into the stress and deflection formulas.

If you want to shortcut all this download


This is the install file for my beta engineering calculation program Mass2 which includes the 1973 AISC Database and a rudimentary (simple case) stress and deflection calculations. The database includes W Beams, M Beams, S Beams, HP Beams, C & MC Channels, Equal and Unequal leg angles, Square and Rectangular Structural Tubing, and pipe. (Over 30,000 data points hand entered and proofed to perfection).

The classical method is to start with loads, spans, deflection and then determine the necessary section modulas. THEN you search the AISC sections for a "fit".

My method is to input the load and span you want to carry then scroll through the structurals until the deflection and stress are within your design limits. The general goal is to find the lightest beam that will do the job. OR if you have structurals on hand, determine if they are suitable. A LOT easier. Note these are SIMPLE cases.

The program is a Beta copy with some sections incomplete. It is a DOS program. It was written in the Win 3.1 era and did not work very well with that OS (one reason it was abandoned). It works good with Win 98, 2000 and XP. The mouse support is tweeky as it was designed for DOS. Use Function and arrow keys to navigate it.

Go to the Structurals Section, select pipe, then enter a length of 20 feet. Look at the deflection of 1/4" pipe. . .

I wrote code to calculate rounds, pipe and tubing. It was more accurate than the AISC data so the pipe data in the program is mine. I was going to add rounds deflection and alternate materials but did not complete the project. The program is still VERY handy and there is still nothing like it on the market. Occasionally I think about redoing it and the Mass3j on-line version was a test (see drop down menu).

I've used the program to design cranes and analyze existing structures. The values have been tested against other engineering programs AND against real world cases. You can trust it.

The two general rules to follow are limit deflection to 1/4" and stress to 10,000 PSI. If you want to get complicated then talk to an engineer.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/17/12 02:08:12 EST

I should have been more clear. The fireplace/chimeny is of rubble stone construction. My plan is to remove the mortar to about 1 or 2 inches deep, then fill with fresh new mortar. There are many different types of pointing, the one I'm looking for is the triangular peak style. I'll try to get a pic of the current mortar/pointing. I'm not looking to historically reproduce the actual mortar itself, just the appearance. The wall measures 6' wide 7' high. If this works well, then the cellar foundation is next (same rubble construction, but 30' x 15' all around, one wall gets both sides).
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/17/12 09:21:47 EST

Forgot, also planning on putting up a mantle from reclaimed wood.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/17/12 09:22:45 EST

Mortar for Stone :
This is generally a Portland cement, sharp river sand mix. Some masons would prefer a faster setting lime mortar as it does not go through the weeping stage that cement mortar does.

The shape of the joint is an art. Our friend StewartheSmith makes tools for this purpose. I do not know about a crowned joint but I suspect there is a tool for it. For the beaded type joints you would need lessons from a mason (helper/apprenticeship) and for stone. . . good luck.

Dressing these is like oil painting. You work, rework, touchup and then STOP before you overwork the shape. Minor cleanup is done after the mortar is completely set.

Stone wall by Jock Dempsey

The photo above is the style of Southern stone masonry I learned. The joints are scraped out about 1" and the stone laid to look dry masoned. This wall was built with stones from an 18th century chimney, thus the black. The end of the wall (out of sight) has a column slightly larger than the wall capped with a large naturally square flat rock and a bowling ball sized piece of granite found in a local stream. A really nice touch in natural stone. Wish I had a photo of it. . . My brother and I hauled the stone in a 1950 Chevy truck. . . We also built a fireplace. First time and LOTS of mistakes.

   - guru - Tuesday, 01/17/12 11:25:41 EST

Ever see one of the medieval Cathedrals in Europe? Lime mortar. Roman Aqueduct? Lime mortar. The real question is how well the modern stuff will last as we have no samples over 500 years old.

Rich what is the freeze thaw cycle like in the US VI?
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/17/12 15:35:10 EST

Katherine; Late 19th century is pretty recent for me but please ask and we'll see if we can answer the question or make a suggestion as to a possible answer. I will not *guess*.

May I commend to your attention "Practical Blacksmithing" Richardson; a collection of articles from a blacksmithing journal from 1889, 1890 and 1891.

The big problem will be location as a smith in a small rural village would be quite different than one working in a large factory in a big city.
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/17/12 15:42:23 EST

V.I. Freeze/Thaw Cycle : Thomas,

Really, really slow - still waiting for that first freeze...

In addition to lime mortar being a bit quicker setting than Portland, it is also more "slippery" and it adheres to natural stone better. The slipperiness makes it a nightmare for doing glass block, too.

To get a struck joint with a raised peak down the middle you use a striking tool that is "V" shaped.
   Rich Waugh - Tuesday, 01/17/12 18:27:07 EST

mortar : Nip, Try using masonry cement mortar ( such as Brixment Type N for gray or white masonry cement). If your mix is one part mas cmt to one part sand, your mix should not be to hard for old stone masonry. If you use white masonry cement your finished joint after cure time and a wash will look like a very light buff color which matches a lot of old work that was originally a mix of slake lime and sand. I could tell you how to achieve the joint you are trying to do. ( Iam a professional mason since 1978 and in business since 1983. I work on historical jobs as well as new jobs.) For real soft stones ist is probably best to use a slake lime mix. Ther is a company in Ohio that produces this lime for historical applications. For deep joints; fill up joint a little at a time until the mud gets thumbprint hard and then fill some more over the top unitl finished joint is achieved. Raked exterior joints are not the best for northern climates (too much water penetration and percolation).
   jkmas - Tuesday, 01/17/12 21:47:33 EST

mortar : I also meant to add: Avoid water sealers such as Thompsons, they trap moisture in the masonry and add to efflorescence and spalling off of clay brick or stone faces.
   jkmas - Tuesday, 01/17/12 21:53:11 EST

Electro Polishing : Guru

I have a project now that requires me to polish several 304 stainless steel knobs. I have read of electro polishing as a way to quickly polish S.S. Do you know the procedure for doing this on a small scale.
   Erik Newquist - Wednesday, 01/18/12 09:59:41 EST

Electropolishing : Erik, I do not but I suspect someone will chime in.

Most processes such as this use a simple DC power supply. Auto battery chargers used to be commonly used but most modern chargers are loaded with control electronics that make them difficult to use in other applications.

As a reverse plating operation you do not need a special cathode as the part is the source metal. So all you need is your power source and electrolyte plus copper connectors and a non-metallic tank.

There is a nice brief youtube video on the process.


Note that this process only removes minor surface texture (.0001 to .0025 - max)and makes smooth parts slightly smoother.

Good article on Home Shop Machinist:

   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 10:48:35 EST

Posts from an outfit that does this commercially (Caswell Plating) say don't DIY and tumblers are a better choice. They sell plating kits but NOT electropolishing kits.

Amperage required is 1 to 2 amps per square inch. Commercial processes use nitric acid. The Home Shop article above used concentrated phosphoric acid and shrugged off the handling issues. .

The bath is a mixture that forms a coating on the parts surface that focuses the electrical action on the high spots and thus smooths the part. So bath formula is fairly important.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 10:57:25 EST

electropolishing : At the valve shop we electropolished a few tons a month. Ours used a wicked hydroflouric and another acid mix, Nitric as I remember. The vapors ate EVERTHING around the area. The bath was a vicous green nasty looking stuff, extremely hard to nuetralize as it was so strong and well buffered. The sludge was a RCRA Characteristic Hazardous waste, both low Ph and a Toxic. The sludge was full of chrome, iron and nickel.
As it was explained to me the high points burned off due to current density, and light scale was also pickled off by the hydrogen generated by the acid attacking the metal. If the forgings were left too long, or not enough part surface area for the applied power, you strange "flow lines" in the part surfaces. When we moved to the new plant the process was abandoned and we out sourced all of the electro-polishing. I as both Plant Engineer and EH&S was very glad to leave that behind.
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/18/12 12:45:15 EST

Around here anyway, commercial electropolishers have been using phosphoric acid mixes for 20 or 30 years now, works fine, and is way less dangerous than nitric or hydroflouric, which I would NOT recommend. I work a lot with a commercial electropolishing house, they use a proprietary phosphoric mix, and 1000 amp / 100 volt DC power supplies. They heat their acid- imagine a hot tub full of 120 degree acid.
However, for small scale stuff, use CITRIC acid. Cheap, safe, and makes your shop smell nice.
A battery charger should work. I would start with a big plastic storage tub, a garage sale battery charger, and a box of citric acid from a grocery store that is in area where people put up food. Or, order citric acid based chemical from Stellar Solutions.net, in Mchenry Il. (google em)
With the relatively low power and weak acid that a safe home setup uses, expect long soak times- commercially they might run a heavily forged part for a half hour or 45 minutes, but you will probably be looking at a day or two.
   - Ries - Wednesday, 01/18/12 13:24:33 EST

McMaster-Carr also sells citric acid. Easy to deal with.

I think the anti-freeze in the mix is necessary to polish, not just de-scale and de-plate. .

If you cannot find or do not have the necessary battery charger you can build your own DC power supply. All you need is a transformer to reduce the voltage to 30V (below which the codes do not apply) and a properly sized bridge rectifier (about double the voltage and watts). If you cannot find one big enough the gang up a couple. A control circuit transformer will do (usually 24V) and is a lot heavier duty than a door-bell unit. Two wires go from the transformer to the bridge AC terminals and the DC come off. Put an enclosed switch on the AC side. Fuse the DC circuit to prevent burning out the bridge if there is a short. EASY. . .

This makes an unregulated power supply that will be slightly higher voltage than the AC input. Amps dependent on the transformer size.

You could also use a DC welder. . . but shorts could be a disaster. Parts and container flambe'.

   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 13:48:27 EST

Genuine blacksmithing question : I'm trying to make a special pair of tongs w a box hinge. The problem, I want to use 1/2 square and drilling for the size rivet I want leaves little metal left.

The obvious solution is a frog eye. However, this comes out to having two pancake like frog eyes facing each other w a third in between. The double is the problem. I have tried making the frog eye then splitting, folding and welding (miserable failure), and a couple other things.

Is there an approved method for doing this?
   Rudy - Wednesday, 01/18/12 14:10:55 EST

Box Joint Tongs : The problem is the initial premiss, making them from 1/2" square. In a box joint this produces little electronics or surgical tools. . . Use larger stock (1" square) and draw out where you want it smaller and weld on reins (OR draw out with power). OR the more difficult method, upset a lump in the bar.

   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 14:36:19 EST

Making a Wood Stove : I want to make a small metal wood stove. Small enough that one person can lift it by themselves (maybe two depending). I will be mig or gas welding it together and was wondering if anyone know where to find plans for this kind of thing? Obviously I can make up the design myself, but just curious if theres anything out there on this kind of thing. Its gonig to be all plate metal, no stone or the like. Thanks,
   - Eric - Wednesday, 01/18/12 14:38:37 EST

I am looking for plans on how to make a draw knife. Any help in finding this will be greately appreciated.
   - thomas guidry - Wednesday, 01/18/12 15:26:20 EST

Making a Wood Stove : If you do end up making a welded up stove.
Be cautious of your design and the weld joints. You should take into account that the steel will not heat evenly therefore not expand and contract evenly.
I have seen small homebuilt stoves crack and tear themselves up over time as there is not enough room for expansion to move into before that stress is captured into an adjoining welded piece that does not share the same expansion.
Dont misunderstand, I am not saying it might immediately fail, Dont be surprised if they eventually do.
My experience is on stoves that see daily use and the cracks developed after a few seasons.
They were not showpiece of workmanship either so the repairs are just more welding and patching every year or so as cracks develop.
Good luck.
   - Sven - Wednesday, 01/18/12 15:42:06 EST

Forging air hardening steels : I am looking to forge some stainless sanmai, with cores of CPM M4 and CPM S35VN. what temp range would be considered ideal, and in what temps, higher or lower would the most damage be caused?
   Pierre - Wednesday, 01/18/12 15:48:57 EST

wood stove : Thanks for the advice Sven. That is definitely something I hadn't taken into consideration, but now will.
   - Eric - Wednesday, 01/18/12 16:20:08 EST

Wood Stove: make it a standard log size. We once owned a house with a "small" stove and having to chop all the logs in two to fit was a pain in the long term. Much more of a problem than having to borrow a friend to help move it on rare occasion.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/18/12 16:45:24 EST

I would also say go normal sized on a wood stove for the reasons Thomas Mentions, but then what I can move may be different than what you can move.
Ptree who understands and loves forklifts, tractors with loaders and very heavy 2 wheel dollies.
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/18/12 19:34:46 EST

Wood Stoves :
I've used them, built them, lived with them, and finally got rid of them all.

The BEST was a cheap ($24 in the 1970's) tin heater. These were the classic oval shape about 2 feet deep, 2 feet tall and about a long foot wide. The body was 26ga blackened tin and the door a loose fitting cast iron affair about 1/8 to 3/6" (4mm) thick. The lower half had a second layer of tin and needed 2" of sand fill before use. If it did not set on an asbestos/steel fire pad it would set the floor on fire.

The tin heater burned clean and fast. You had to feed it all night but there was no problem with creosote. It was old when we moved in and we used it for about 5 years. It was rusted but still working when we got rid of it at about 20 years est. age.

Our Second wood stove was the Mother Earth News Top Loader made from a small hot water heater tank. I improved the damper/air control by making a small 7 x 10" door from 1/2" plate with a rotary shutter type damper. It lifted off the hinges like big wood stove doors. Inside the stove the door had a metal shield that prevented sparks or coals from bouncing out the open damper. It also helped preheat the air as it entered the stove. The bottom 1/3 of the horizontal tank was covered with fire brick.

The top loading aspect filled the house with smoke every time it was loaded. The small door was a pain to shovel ashes out through BUT it was much better than the original design which had NO door.

It was a good size for the house but still needed filling at about 3am (after the midnight fill and before the 6am fill). You had to turn on a light to avoid the smoke when loading. . . If you got an oversize piece of wood in it or one too many then you were screwed. . . I carried a number of flaming pieces out the door while the house filled with smoke. NEVER believe what they say about a top loader.

We had stack fires about once a month due to the air tight nature and smoldering of this stove. ANY stove that holds enough wood to last all night and not burn it in short order produces copious amounts of creosote no matter how good of quality wood you use. When you hear the Rail Road running through your bedroom you know you've got seconds to act. . .

The next stove was a BIG expensive one that I designed. This was a classic "air tight" with big door and ash shelf. It was a typical 1980's steel plate stove made from 1/4" plate. The door was 1/2" plate and had a spring loaded round shutter damper like the stove above. It was brick lined with 9" bricks on edge around the sides and flat on the bottom. The top of the stove had a big heat exchanger made of dozens of pieces of angle iron welded together to create heat radiating fins. This 6" tall section was bolted on with 12/" SS bolts. It was a work of art.

This big air-tight could be loaded with wood and burn (smoulder) all night. We had to clean out the stack weekly (more often in January) to prevent stack fires and we STILL had them more than once a month. The three winters we lived with that stove were the scariest of my life.

This last stove was a great stove but was too big for our space. We could never run it hot enough due to the small space it was in. Trying to keep a fire going all night created massive amounts of creosote.

I finally gave these stoves to my brother who had two large spaces to heat with good tall chimneys. He could run them hot enough to prevent creosote deposits. The tall chimneys also reduced the smokiness of the top loader. But it was in a studio/workshop where a little smoke was not critical. He has used them for decades.

Neither had trouble with warping or cracking but I suspect the heavy brick linings had a lot to do with that. The big stove was one of two that I built with a friend. His was the same pattern but about 9" wider (weighed about 500 pounds!). He heated a large 3,000 square foot house with it. It was setup on a basement fireplace and a hood fed hot air into the central heating system. It worked well but had to have the chimney cleaned mid winter every year as well as before the heating season.


So, don't build too big, don't expect all night heat (without reloading in the middle of the night or more often) and by all means be careful heating with wood.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 19:43:45 EST

Wood Stove Costs :
Back in the 70's and 80's during the big wood burning craze almost every hardware store had a poster that ran something like this:

Fisher Wood Stove $800
New Chain Saw $350
Gas Can $20
Saw Files $2
Gloves $8
Truck to haul wood $20,000
Fuel for truck $500 (gas was less than $1 then)
Insurance for truck $200
Wood Splitter $800
Wood Lot Lease $100
Back Surgery $50,000 (medical costs were lower then)
Helper to do heavy lifting after surgery. . .
and so on. . .

Cost of wood heat $100,000
Cost of oil $500
Savings -$90,500

After my 3rd chain saw and 2nd pickup and spending every other weekend hauling wood I got the point. The thought of nearly waking up in a fire filled room (or not waking up at all) finally made the decision for us.
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/18/12 19:59:12 EST

stoves : Ive lived with a woodstove my whole life, had a huge metal boxy one and now have a soapstone lined stone. Never had much of a creosote problem. Clean it once a year in the summer. Its our only source of heat though and we burn it pretty hot.

Anyway- the one i want to make is for a very small log cabin style cabin that is a fair distance from a road. For those two reasons I would prefer it to be small. To carry it through the woods, and because its only going to be heating a very small space. I'm thinking I may make slots in it somehow to slide in either concrete or soapstone to hole the heat a bit. Though still playing with this idea.

As for small wood. Its true that its a pain to have to cut the wood smaller, but for me its worth it. Thanks for all the advice and good stories of wood heating past.
   - Eric - Wednesday, 01/18/12 20:16:42 EST

I have been heating with wood since 1985. A little solar, and the remainder wood. I had a Fisher Grand Pa bear, and cleaned the stack once a year. Mine was a straight up stack, properly high and was a premimum triple wall. NEVER had a chimney fire. It would heat thru the night in my super insulated house and have a nice bed of coals in the morning, I just reloaded before I left for work. We used that stove until we built an addition. Then I converted to an outdoor wood burning stove. The first one lasted 18 years but was built from 304 SS and cracked badly from the chlorides in our water. The new has been in use 4 years and is a newer EPA Phase II model. Emits about 80% less smoke, burns about 40% less wood.
The Rock loves the outdoor burner, no smoke or dirt in the house, no fire in the house, and she sets a thermostat and the temp is even.

The latest models of these stoves are often wood gassifiers that coal the wood, burning the gases first then the coal, and are EPA phase III. Expensive yet.
I burn about 10 to 12 truckloads of wood a year that is scrap from a pallet mill, it is dumped in the bed of the truck for me and about 3000# is $25, + $15 for gas round trip. I also burn scrap pine from around the place and neighbors also give me pine. I only burn that spring and fall as low btu. How many of can heat a 3000' house to 72F in a mid-west winter for say $400 to $600 for an entire year?
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/18/12 21:10:35 EST

Wood Stoves : A friend of mine built an outside furnace that heats water tanks, a water pump that brings the heated water into the basement, which circuates through car radiators with a fan blowing the heated air through the duct work. He puts wood in the furnace before bed time and it keeps the house warm all night. The furnace is enclosed and far enough from the house to prevent a fire hazard. The water lines as well as everything else is very well insulated which keeps heat loss to a minimum.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 01/19/12 04:47:02 EST

Mike T, my outside woodburner is pretty much as you described but fatory built. firebox surronded by a water tank, circulator pump to send water into a heat exchanger in the air handler and all automated except adding wood and removing ash every 3rd day or so.
   ptree - Thursday, 01/19/12 07:18:36 EST

Shaker style wood stove : I made mine of 1/4" plate about 20 years ago. I'm still using it, although it did get a crack in on side which I MIG'd up two years ago.
The Shakers made their stoves of cast iron, the measured plans of which are in the book, "Shop Drawings of Shaker Iron and Tinware" by Ejner Handberg, Berkshire Traveler Press, 1976. Mine follows the lines of the one on page 25. There is creosote buildup, which I work on with my stovepipe brush 2 or 3 times a winter. We do what we can afford.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/19/12 08:51:09 EST

Box joint Tongs : Here is a video of some guys in India or Pakistan putting box joint pliers together. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCYSXpS9keI&feature=player_embedded#! If you click on the guy who posted this video you can see his video of how they forge the pieces. They are roughed out on a power hammer. Looks like they slit the hole after they are forged to shape. I think the drop hammer video is them slitting them.
   - JNewman - Thursday, 01/19/12 09:17:55 EST

Box Joint Pliers :
You can see why so many of these type tools are worthless POS. . . Even standard joint pliers like electricians side cutters often do not work smoothly. The few I have that were purchased decades ago were hand selected. I would test every pair to be sure they smoothly opened and closed in their full range. Only one in ten would work to satisfaction. I've seen many that took two hands. . . I've also seen them that were too loose and sloppy but if you tightened them (a tap with a hammer) they would not open or close well due to rough mis-aligned surfaces. . .

I've got a pair of fancy surgical stainless steel side cutters a doctor sent me. Beautiful polished things but miserable action. Every now and then I oil them and work them and more scale work out of the joint. Being stainless you cannot count on them wearing smoother. They are just as likely to gall and get worse.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/19/12 10:56:28 EST

I've been hankering to build a stove for my shop. I planed to make a nesting body with clean sand poured between the pieces and then burn it fast and hot to heat the thermal mass and then coast. Probably justify the pieces so I can have a hot topside to cook on too. Current plan is to find a couple of apartment water heaters as they are much thicker than barrels...

Of course this awaits getting power to the arc welder...
   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/19/12 12:29:34 EST

I have an old Warm Morning baseburner coal stove in the shop. Old enough that it has "U.S. Army space Heater #1" cast in the lid, most likely a surplus find from Camp Forrest in Tullahoma, TN immediately before WWII. It's a brick-lined sheet metal shell with cast legs and top. It is far from airtight, and I only use wood to get the coal started in the mornings. Coal = no creosote, thus no chimney fires!

Of course, the rain of soot across the back sidewalk does not amuse the wife when it gets tracked in on wet shoes...
   Alan-L - Thursday, 01/19/12 14:08:39 EST

ThomasP, the ARMY has been selling their latest tent heaters surplus new in sealed boxes. Burns deisel, and at $125 locally, including the flue not a bad deal. A local surplus dealer has been selling on Craig's list
   ptree - Thursday, 01/19/12 14:26:27 EST

Alan-L, I have been looking for a surplus Cannon brand pot belly coal burner. When in the ARMY in the 70"s at Ft Knox, most of the WWII temporary buildings had them. Big pot belly's at maybe 5' tall and in an orderly room boy did the make heat!
I see one once in a while but way too much $
   ptree - Thursday, 01/19/12 19:13:58 EST

Sand - Mass :
Thomas, While the sand is cheap mass it is a poor conductor of heat. Something more solid would do better. Refractory bricks are often mistaken for insulation, they are not. They are high temperature resistant and very dense. They hold a lot of heat. Same with castable refractory which is much cheaper and moldable in place.

The trick to mass heat storage is a LOT of mass and a lot of passages to get the heat into the mass.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/19/12 19:16:23 EST

Fixing a Brass Casting : More antique gun repair suggestions if you please. I'm now working on a 1864 Manhattan pistol with a broken back strap. Some gorrilla tried to yank it free without fully removing one of the screws(I think). The back strap is brass and I want to fix it in the least noticible way possible. Is there a low temp brazing rod that I can use with OA, or should I get a welding shop to do a silicone brass tig repair? I'd like to do it myself but I think regular rod would get it too hot.
   Thumper - Thursday, 01/19/12 20:34:12 EST

Masonry pointing : Nipulini find a joint rake. It looks like half a roller skate with a handle. There is a collet between the wheels that holds a tempered rod to scrape the joint to a measured dept. It can be used to rake the joint with a shaped and tempered rod. I saw one in the hardware store and recieve a little more education.
   tjstrobe - Thursday, 01/19/12 20:46:34 EST

pps : pull it don't push it. this is one tools you want your hands in front .It is all so known as a joint skate
   tjstrobe - Thursday, 01/19/12 20:55:32 EST


Can you silver (hard) solder it? That's the closest thing I know of to low temperature brazing rod.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/19/12 21:23:45 EST

Mike, I want a color match if possible and when the clown broke the piece, he bent the fracture and lost some of the metal so I have to fill as well as fix the break. I read on another site that a guy had a casting for a gatteling gun with major porosity and a welder filled it with some sort of tig operation and the color match was pretty good.
   Thumper - Thursday, 01/19/12 21:47:36 EST

Color Match :
Thumper, Color matching brasses is an art. There are thousands of alloys as well as whatever just happened to come out of the pot. A color match might accidentally happen but the odds are against you.

Your best chance it to make your own brass/bronze adjusting the copper and zinc/tin until you get a match.

If you can TIG brass you have a better chance of maintaining the match as OA tends to burn out zinc. You can also do less damage with TIG but only after quite a bit of practice. You can also work the repair into the base metal to blend the parts so that any mismatch is less noticeable.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/19/12 22:13:54 EST

box joint : I've never made a good looking box joint, but David Gano of Montana made me a pair of slender pickle tongs [getting them outta' the jar] that have an exquisitely made box joint. It is not just good looking, but it required no rivet. It is a friction fit. When I tell people that and give them the tongs, they immediately want to pull at the joint, but that wrecks the friction. So I don't show them off much without the warning, "Don't pull on them."
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 01/19/12 22:52:58 EST

Sand and Stoves : An other problem with sand between two containers it the steel will heat up. The sand tends to settle. The steel then cools down and the stresses build because it can not contract. Over a relative short time the heat cycles build up tremendous stresses and pull everything apart.
   Milton - Friday, 01/20/12 07:22:04 EST

Sand : Aluminum is a great conductor of heat. Some stainless steel cooking pots and pans have aluminum coatings on the bottom of them to speed up the heating time. You might use sheets of aluminum or fill the box up with coke cans.
   Mike T. - Friday, 01/20/12 07:38:58 EST

"Brass" is one of those things that can mean a dozen different alloys.
Some of which are weldable, and some of which are not.
360, the most common brass, has a lot of lead and zinc in it. It can be brazed, but Tig welding it is a mess. The lead and zinc melt out at very low temps, and bubble and smoke, leaving pits.
I have had some success Tig brazing this with a silicon bronze (not "silicone"- thats a rubbery plastic that doesnt weld worth beans) but its not an exact color match, and it isnt easy to get a clean looking finished product.
So dont assume that the gun part is fixable by Tig welding. Maybe it is, maybe it isnt. Silver solder might work- it would leave a visible repair, but that might be more honest on a vintage gun with original parts.
Or, you could have a new piece made. I know a guy in Seattle who does small scale brass and bronze casting for a living, making replacement parts for hardware, sculptures, jewelry, and appliances, new drawer pulls and doorknob plates, stuff like that. Somebody like that could take your old piece, and make a new one in a variety of brass/bronze alloys. Of course, this can lower the value of the gun- it will vary, depending on the gun.
   - ries - Friday, 01/20/12 14:37:56 EST

Brass repair : On an unknown alloy of copper (brass), I'd not recommend trying TIG welding. I think you'd be better off to err on the side of being safe and just silver solder it. One company makes a silver solder that is supposedly a color match for copper, though I find it is a better match for silicon bronze and will work pretty well for repairing brass where the brass is to be given a patina to "age" it. It melts at roughly the same temp as "easy" silver solder, around 1350°F, and is actually a phosphorous bronze similar to SilFos, but served up as 20 gauge wire. You can get it from http://www.rawtreasures.com/detail.asp?product_id=WCOPSDRE
   Rich Waugh - Friday, 01/20/12 15:02:11 EST

Marking metal : What can be used to mark, without scratching/punching, stock and still seen when the metal is heated?
   - Paul - Friday, 01/20/12 15:16:51 EST

Making Replacements :
If you are setup for it or know someone close by replacements made by casting using the original as a pattern are often the way to go.

Castings often replaced fabrications and fabrications can often replace a casting. Bending, forging, brazing, carving, filing. . A die grinder and some files can be used to make amazing things.

I've made a lot of things starting with 1/4" brazing rod. Rods can be brazed together to make larger sections and forged and brazed more without worrying about color match. You can also melt and cast brazing rod and use the same for OA brazing the castings. . .

I've also seen jewelery built up from a drop of brazing rod and adding to it as desired. This was all OA work with a flux feed torch but I've done similar with coated and dipped rods.
   - guru - Friday, 01/20/12 15:37:29 EST

Marking Metal At high Temperatures. . . :
Paul, I assume you mean at forging temperature of steel? Almost nothing works.

However, the higher temperature Tempil temperature indicating crayons still show on a scaled surface. I haven't tried it but I suspect ITC-213 would work since it it good for protecting from scale formation at full forging temperature of steel. Both of these would be difficult to make a fine mark with.

Anything you mark the steel with that has a high temperature rating will leave as permanent mark than punching due to the reduced scaling or oxidation.

Punch parks are commonly made with a center punch but using this sharp point is bad forging practice. You should be able to use a round point punch or narrow fuller (dull chisel) and still see the marks well enough. A little forging should make them disappear.
   - guru - Friday, 01/20/12 15:49:57 EST

Marking metal: May I commend an old set of blacksmith made calipers! You don't mark the metal you set the calipers to the correct length and then use them to show where things are supposed to happen when the metal is hot.

I also mark my anvil's face or side to indicate lengths I need to know for a project.
   Thomas P - Friday, 01/20/12 18:24:55 EST

Jock; I wanted to post our Conference on the event's page and seem to have difficulty with February 2012. The automail script also resulted in a kickback when I tried to report the issue.

   Thomas P - Friday, 01/20/12 18:33:43 EST

New Calendar :
Thomas, I'm a bit behind launching the new calendar. . . Will finish it up this weekend. It has the events in daily order, not just by Month.
   - guru - Friday, 01/20/12 19:14:58 EST


I have a package of copper phosphorus rods from a welding supplier. Didn't think of those (have only used them on copper), but that are a pretty good color match on that. Probably about the same alloy as the wire you mention, but in flat rods maybe 1/16" X 3/16".
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/21/12 08:23:34 EST

Ordinary White Out works reasonably well for marking steel that will be heated. Eventually it will come off with the scale like anything else.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 01/21/12 09:12:29 EST

U.V Light from Forging : How much U.V light is actually emitted from a coal forge? Is it enough to worry about for the future and get U.V protection glasses? Thanks
   - Eric - Saturday, 01/21/12 09:46:10 EST

InfraRed (IR) : Eric, Forges do not produce Ultraviolet light, they produce InfraRed (the heat end of the spectrum). Arc welding produces Ultraviolet which damages and burns skin and eyes.

Infrared exposure is related to late life vision failure and the damage is cumulative. While general forging is no more of a problem than a life time of sitting around camp fires or close to a fireplace, staring deep into the fire such as when trying to judge welding heat or a delicate weld on a small part is a different thing. Gas forges are worse and ceramic chip forges are the worst (due to the large radiant area).

Because peoples' work habits are so different the data on this is conclusive but not as specific as it could be. If you are worried about this then it is a good idea to wear filter safety glasses.

Filter glasses not only protect the eyes they make seeing into the fire easier.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/21/12 10:10:46 EST

In my shop, I use silver pencils all the time for marking, along with Sharpies, ordinary pencils, and soapstone.
Of course, it depends on the part and the heat, but I find that both silver pencil and soapstone are usually visible after heating a part in the forge- enough for the first hit in the right place.
   - ries - Saturday, 01/21/12 12:12:46 EST

unuseal shop hassards : MY aunt told this story at grandpa funeral: She as a small child stuck her finger in the pritchel hole of the anvil. the finger started swelling.removal was impossible. She now had a 170 pound ring which was so heavy she could not leave the shop. soapy water was pour around the finger of the sobbing little girl, to no avail. grandpa then started tapping the anvil with a 4 pound hammer. The vibration allowed the finger to be removed. My aunt said it taught her to be careful where she stuck her finger. I changed the hammer size in this retell she stated that it was a 44 pound hammer. Imagine swinging that a few licks.
   tjstrobe - Saturday, 01/21/12 13:18:08 EST

What works for me marking hot metal is to mark it cold (black heat whatever) with soapstone, bring the piece up to red, mark it again while red hot, then finish bring it to full working heat.
   JimG - Saturday, 01/21/12 14:11:20 EST

Hammer Sizes :
In many places it was normal to give the weight of all hammers in ounces such as carpenters hammers up to 28 oz. Ounces are still used for carpenter hammers and some ball pien hammers along with tinners and riveting hammers which were sold in ounces to one pound or more then in 1/4 pound increments. Blacksmiths and engineers hammers were sold in pounds and ounces of various increments (6, 8, 10).

A 44 oz. hammer is 2-3/4 pounds or 1250 grams (1247). Not a large smiths hammer but a good sized farrier's hammer.

So that 44 pounds might have been 44 ounces and your aunt remembered the right number, just not the units since ounces might seem small to someone. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 01/21/12 17:51:55 EST

Quenching: Water vs. Oil : I apologize if my questions seem basic- this is just a newly found resource for me, and having real blacksmiths answer questions seems more reliable and useful than other sources like books that do not know my specific questions.

Anyways- My blacksmith teacher back in high school always taught me to quench my high carbon steels in oil. I am not sure specifically what kind, my guess is just motor oil that we used. I made various things out of mainly leaf springs and quenched them all in the oil to heat treat and temper. In many books and online videos it is recommended (and traditional) to quench high carbon steels in water to do these processes. My teacher told me that due to the unknown metal makeup I was using, oil was a safer bet for hardening due to the possibility of cooling too fast and cracking the piece. Seems fair enough to me.

Honestly though, if I could I would rather use water than oil because of the toxic fumes that the hot oil produces. What do you recommend I do. I have had hardening success with oil, but could I use water instead if I temper it correctly to take oout some brittleness?

I am using all scrap steel for my high carbon work, leaf springs, coil springs, old files and pry bars. I also have an old axle from an unknown old vehicle.

Thanks for helping out a beginner blacksmith, this is really an amazing resource for someone like me with a whole lot of questions.

   - Eric - Saturday, 01/21/12 21:26:34 EST

Quenching: Water vs. Oil : Just for seat of the pants quenching of mystery steel. (thats what you seem to be doing) you can use vegetable oil. its not going to be as toxic of mystery fumes as petroleum oil creates.
   - Sven - Saturday, 01/21/12 22:36:56 EST

Quenching :
Eric, see our FAQs page. Read the following:

Junk Yard Steels
   - guru - Saturday, 01/21/12 23:53:35 EST

Salt Bath : Since quenching questions are being asked, I might as well as ask another one. What is the benefit of quenching steel in a salt bath ? The way I understand it, salt is gradually added to the hot water until it will float an egg.
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/23/12 01:36:48 EST

Brine and Salt Bath :
Mike, A salt bath is molten salt and can be anywhere from 700 to 2800°F depending on the type of salt. Salt baths are used for heating to hardening temperature without oxidation and for controlled steady tempering.

Brine, is a salt and water mixture used to increase the severity of the quench. It is also believed to be a more uniform quench. Brine as a quench is also less likely to freeze in the winter.

Keep your terminology straight and do not listen to folks that don't know one from the other.
   - guru - Monday, 01/23/12 02:10:10 EST

Salt Quenching : In addition to what the Guru has said, there are a couple of other processes where molten salt is used for Quenching. The process of martempering involves heating a steel part of the normal austenitizing temperature then quenching it into molten salt which is at a temperature just above the martensite start temperature. The salt quickly cools the part to just above the temperture at which martensite begins to form (generally about 700F) and holds it briefly at that temperature so that the entire part is of uniform temperature. The part is then removed and allowed to cool in air thru the martensite transformation range. This results in uniform hardness and little to no distortion. The process is commonly used for intricate parts. A sister process is called austempering and it is the same as martempering but the salt temperature is held just above the bainite start temperature. The resulting microstructure is bainite rather than martensite. These temperatures can be identified for any commercial steel using a Time-Temperature-transformation curve.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/23/12 09:19:48 EST

Salt Baths and Salt Pots :
The subjects of QC's comments above and the critical nature of the melted salts are why good temperature measurement and control are an absolute requirement of this equipment. Besides being needed for good results the controls are needed for safety.

   - guru - Monday, 01/23/12 10:20:30 EST

I have forged a small
   - we@nb - Monday, 01/23/12 10:42:34 EST

hardening small hammer : Try again
I seem to have two methods available to me for hardening a small leafing hammer.
Heat and quench the hammer and then heat the cheeks with a torch and watch the colours run to the ends and quench again.
Or heat and quench then heat in a toaster oven to approx 450 to temper.
Any thoughts gratefully received.
   we@nb - Monday, 01/23/12 10:52:56 EST

Salt Bath Maintenance : If you want to have a really bad day, let some water infiltrate your salt bath while it is cold. Then fire it up and watch the excitement unfold!
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/23/12 13:09:02 EST

Best Tempering Methds :
Eddy, both methods work. Selective tempering is generally better than general tempering, but general tempering allows a soak time that produces better specific results (depending on the steel). Using both would produce the best results assuring that all of the tool is well tempered AND some areas are softer and less likely to break.
   - guru - Monday, 01/23/12 13:09:52 EST

Hammer head hardening : we@nb: Personally, I think the heating of the cheeks will insure a tougher metal in that area which is important if you quench the entire head. If you want a uniformly hardened head, the toaster oven may be better but you may want to check the accuracy of the oven temperature indicator by using a temperature indicating crayon, like a Tempil-stik (or check the temper color against the temperature). Or, a third method might be to harden the entire head, temper in the toaster oven, wrap each end of the head with wet rags, and heat the cheeks with a torch. Decisions, decisions.....
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/23/12 13:15:03 EST

Quench excitement : Quenchcrack is correct in that water in you cold salt bath gets exciting, but water in your oil quench bath also gets exciting when you quench a hot part.
   ptree - Monday, 01/23/12 14:16:25 EST

still got both eyes! : Hey,
last week i posted about a piece of *something* being stuck in my eye due to poor safety procedures with an angle grinder; To update on this, i've managed to keep my eye AND most of the cast iron fragments that were stuck in have been removed by the fantastic men and women of the NHS. I have since purchased a (rather attractive) pair of DeWalt safety glasses and i'm in the process of finding a full-face shield as well.

Now, for several questions:
1) i have a piece of one and a half inch diameter, 18 inch long threaded brass bar. if i were to shape this into, well, anything in a forge, what do i need to look out for? i've worked with steel before now, but never brass and i've seen several things on the tv showing brass becoming extremely brittle under heat.

2) lacking in an anvil, i have a small 15lb anvil that at the minute is neither use nor ornament. However, i do have an old engine block(straight 4 pistons, and comes from a landrover) laying about that i could be able to repurpose. would this be suitable for an anvil or prove to be utterly useless?

3) does Anthracite prove to be a good fuel source for a forge? i've spoken to our local coalman and he's certain that the coal will somehow alter the carbon content of the steel. i think differently, but i'd much rather ask the guru's
   - Serj - Monday, 01/23/12 14:18:16 EST

Serj : There's brass and then there's brass - too many different alloys to catalog here all the various factors involved in trying to forge them. Cut off a small piece and heat it to cherry red, then quench in water. Try forging it cold. See how it works. Then try forging it at a dull red heat. Some you can forge, some just turn to cottage cheese or crack. No way to tell until you try it. Since it is threaded, it may be free-machining brass, meaning it has lead in the alloy, making forging it very dicey.

Use what you have. The engine block has more mass but may be so filled with hollows it isn't too good, and it will be cast iron, of course. Doesn't hurt to try it. A 15# anvil is too small for forging anything above small jewelry work.

Anthracite coal is nasty to work with - requires too much air, won't keep going, is often filthy dirty, and doesn't produce good heat. It will not affect the carbon content of your steel, unless you overheat the steel and thereby decarburize it somewhat. That only happens on the surface, though. You'd be better off using lump wood charcoal or good forging coal.
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 01/23/12 17:57:38 EST

Thanks for the advice rich! So far, with the set-up i'm using, i've not had very many issues getting anthracite to forging temperatures. used it to make some very nice hooks etc, but i have to use a cage, with a brick surround&open front with the chimney on a slide so that it will stay at high heat. however, when it's hot and staying hot, there tends to be very little smoke. i was more worried about affecting the carbon content of the steel.

thanks a bunch for the advice on the engine block and the brass, however, as it's enlightened me somewhat as to how to test the metals i'm working with and with the "modified-purpose" anvil
   - serj - Monday, 01/23/12 18:55:03 EST

serj : You have the right attitude about looking at an item for use as an anvil, that does not look like an anvil. What you need to forge well is decent solid mass under the hammer. Now think about how big the end of you hammer is. Right about 50-75mm. So something with a an area bigger than 75mm, say 100mm will actually make a decent starter anvil. Think Rail Road track. BUT, think about a length of track set vertically. Set it into the earth and a meter of good heavy line track will go in the area of 55Kg. That is a real good start for a beginner. AND you get good steel. And you have enough area for a hand hammer to forge on. Lay the track on its side and it will be a bouncy thing that will drive you to distraction.

My friends and I recently forged a split cross made from 2.5" square steel (63.5mm) on a big earth mover axle, set up gust this way.
If fact video on YouTube, search forging a cross, and look for the 6 segments that mention the IBA. Now we were sledging with 2 sledges and that axle is about 205Kg, but you can get a good idea.
A lenght of bar steel also will work.
   ptree - Monday, 01/23/12 20:27:25 EST

Quenching eye cheeks : I don't quench the eye of a hammer. I quench the faces/peens separately. I've witnessed two instances of quenching the entire hammer head, and the cheek of the eye cracked, prbably because of the difference in quenching speed and perhaps distortion on plain carbon, medium carbon steel.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 01/23/12 21:04:45 EST

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