WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from January 24 - 31, 2012 on the Guru's Den
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Brass or Bronze :
As mentioned, there are a LOT of copper alloys. Without chemical analysis they are very difficult to identify. Some are forgeable, some are not, particularly bearing bronzes. The fact that the part you have is an unusual machined part probably indicates a bearing bronze of other exotic alloy. . . But it COULD just be forging brass.

I would not try to heat and forge the whole piece, cut an inch or two off.

Copper alloys conduct heat VERY fast and must be handled with tongs no matter how long the piece.

The forging temperature of copper alloys is a low red in low light and undetectably red in "normal" light. The forging temperature is just a few hundred degrees below the melting point. It is easiest to see using a gas torch and very tricky to hit with anything other than a temperature controlled forge but it CAN be done.

I heat brasses with a torch until a blush shows on the surface indicating a relaxing of the surface just before melting. Brass moves easily under the hammer and the better forgeable types will forge until quite cool as the heat anneals the metal and its still soft below forging temperature.

If you forge too cool or work brasses too long they work harden and crack. If you overheat brasses they will crumble if forged. This is a point JUST below melting. If you crumble the brass it can often be repaired with a torch, melting small sections back together at a time. This is one reason I like working brass with a torch, you can make quick repairs as you work.

Brazing rod (called a bronze) is a good forging bronze if you want to play with some. It comes in diameters up to 3/8" (10mm) but that size is very hard to come by. The most common large size is 1/4" (6mm).

   - guru - Tuesday, 01/24/12 00:15:42 EST

Engine Block Anvil :
I built a Junk Yard power hammer using a V8 engine block. . . not much better than a wooden anvil stand. Besides the hollows they do not weigh much when stripped of all the parts. Even when you bolt a big piece of steel to one its not much. Keep searching.

For alternative anvils and making your own see our Anvil Making articles.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/24/12 00:24:34 EST

tool rack design : Anyone have a favorite rack design? Having outgrown yet another tool box in the smithy, I'm thinking open rack with space for handled tools, hardy tools and a shelf for the heavier stuff. Currently thinking of a right triangle frame, on casters, spaced bars on top for hammers and set tools, some sort of rod for tongs. Traditional blacksmiths tool table seems to be square, wooden, with spaced wood or iron racks surrounding the central square table. Has anyone worked from this design and would it work on casters? Pondering my options here. Thanks.
   - Mike S. - Tuesday, 01/24/12 01:08:55 EST

Tong Rack : I think Dave Hammer made a tong rack with short lengths of pipe welded to angle iron. One tong rein drops into the pipe and bottoms on the angle. There may be a picture of it on Forgemagic.com
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 01/24/12 03:21:25 EST

Tool Rack Design :
Mike, I have one made in the 1930's that is about two feet square about the same height. It is an angle iron frame with a steel plate filling the middle and another shelf underneath about 6" off the floor. There is a half inch steel bar about 1-1/4" from the upper edge to hold tongs and make a space for hardy shanks.

Empty it weighs over 150 pounds with the two 10 ga. steel plate shelves. Built from lighter material I figure one could weigh about 100 pounds. Loaded it probably weighs 400 pounds or more. You need to know this to select casters.

It is a great rack and like all storage spaces it quickly became overloaded. I need another. Wheels would be great since it is nearly impossible to move loaded.

Alternately the load of tools would make it a good vise bench. Most blacksmith vises need a table surface for tools including tongs and a couple shelves built underneath and loaded with tools would make a very stout anchor for a vise or lever bender without bolting it down.

A stand 39" tall (+/- 1" required for a blacksmith vise) is fairly tall. There would be room for two tiers of tongs, one spaced about a foot below and 4" out from the first. I don't know about others but I've always used a lot of tongs at the vise and its usually close enough to the forge for convenient tong storage. A triangular shape works best for blacksmiths vise stands so that there is room to work to the sides bending and twisting. Even with the weight I would prefer to have a floor plate to stand on so that the vise and I are ONE.

The one complaint I have about my current tool rack is like all storage surfaces it is too cluttered. A taller stand with several tiers for tongs and at least 3 or four shelves would hold more tools and the height MIGHT reduce the amount of clutter. I've thought of making a second rack to sit on top of the first. . .

Lots of ways to go about this. If its a storage rack only then casters for portability would be very useful. I find that even with a large shop space it is nice to be able to rearrange for specific jobs, make room for new tools and just generally keep as many things portable as possible.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/24/12 03:34:18 EST

Tool rack : My smithy doors are steel sheet welded to a ladder framework. Riveted some strip across the uprights of the ladder frame. Hey presto a very useful rack. Best half hours work I have done for a while
   Philip in china - Tuesday, 01/24/12 08:04:30 EST

Racks : I put my tools on racks along the wall. I figure that any tool table, even on casters, is going to be in the way; it will be something to bump into while you're doing other work.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/24/12 09:51:03 EST

I found an old large aquarium stand and bolted two sets of 1/2" ID pipe to it with the outside pipe justified to the edge piece of the stand and the other pipe set inside by enough to fit a hammer handle. Held 100 hammers and there was a shelf underneath it for hardy tooling.

On the front of that I bolted a piece of 1/2" rod with the ends bent to offset it 4" or so from the hammers to hold tongs.

Blasted thing did cost me 10 bolts to build and required no welding...

My latest one is much similar only higher and longer and angle iron framework that John Neary once gave me---I don't like bending over as much as I once did.

I also once scrounged a piece of c channel that someone had punched out 1" holes in for use in making a gate---then messed up the spacing and tossed it. I forged a couple of straps to hang it horizontally off the mid wall channel of my shop extension and drop hardy tooling in the holes and stack others in between. Wish I could find a section with 1.5" holes in it...
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/24/12 12:37:14 EST

columbian anvil : They have a letter on the side opposite the triangle My 34 pounder has an s----ive seen an M on bigger ones Anyone know what it means? Could red have been the color of even the biggeer anvils they made?
   vern kelderman - Tuesday, 01/24/12 18:20:00 EST

Columbian :
Vern, I've asked Richard Postman about those letters and all he has to say is they are probably foundry marks.

Foundries have various methods of identifying and tracking patterns. Most include tacking on sheet metal numbers or letters. Usually the manufacturer has nothing to do with these characters. They do not relate to models, catalog or inventory references.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/24/12 22:17:18 EST

Columbian : My 100-pounder has the M.
   Alan-L - Wednesday, 01/25/12 13:11:09 EST

At VOGT we retained the number maker used in the foundary long after the foundary was closed in the early 70's. Sort of like a giant Dyamo label maker, but used 1" wide soft steel tape to emboss. We used these numers to label the machine numbers and even when they had a hundred years of paint over the tag it was still readable as it was raised about 3/8".
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/25/12 14:22:49 EST

Blacksmithing : I need to slit a piece of 3/4 X 1/2 the HARD way.

I'm not having great success (I'm doing it, but it isn't coming out as good as I want). I've failed both ways, but is it better when slitting something this thick to slit from both sides and hope the cuts meet in the middle, or slit from one side and be careful to keep the tool aimed for the center of the other side?

I normally don't slit anything thicker than 1/8, so I'm a little inexperienced here.
   Rudy - Wednesday, 01/25/12 14:22:50 EST

Slitting :
Rudy, It just takes practice. Some suggestions.

A chisel with a slight radius to the edge and rounded but sharp corners is easier to "walk" on the work to start your slit.

Starting lines can be done cold to act as a guide.

Narrow work requires a thinner than normal chisel (one of those high alloy French chisels the Kaynes sell).

Working from both sides is best IF the starts on both sides are accurate.

These operations do not go fast. Cut, look, adjust, cut, align, reheat, cut. . . patience is important.

The REAL hard way is on the diagonal. . . worse on a rectangle!
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/25/12 14:41:04 EST

multiple part question here:
1. in making a forge, whats a good metal to use in the actual forge? like where the charcoal and iron goes?
2. any good designs for a forge?
3. where can i get an anvil for cheap? (or an ASO)
   - mike - Wednesday, 01/25/12 16:28:11 EST

forge making : multiple part question here:
1. in making a forge, whats a good metal to use in the actual forge? like where the charcoal and iron goes?
2. any good designs for a forge?
3. where can i get an anvil for cheap? (or an ASO)
   mike - Wednesday, 01/25/12 16:28:28 EST

1) Steel plate - any kind, thickness as needed
2) Best - Purchase commercial fire-pot, blower, gate, put in steel table with edges.
3) Finding Anvils Anywhere in the World see also, DIY Anvil Making
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/25/12 16:42:17 EST

Slitting : Rudy:

For deep slitting, I prefer to drill small holes at or near the ends of the slit. 1/8" holes work pretty well and can be drilled as much as 1-1/2" deep with care and plenty of lube in a drill press. With a hand drill you probably can't get much deeper than 3/4" without breaking the bit.

With the ends of the slit drilled the punch/chisel will follow the holes and stay on track much better. You still have to exercise care and not try to do too much in one heat, but it should work fine. Like anything, it gets easier with practice.
   Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 01/25/12 17:54:09 EST

Ptree, I have one of those oversized label makers. I got it at an antique store in Jersey for $20 because it was rusted shut. Took it home, cleaned it up and it works fine. Embosses regular strapping steel.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 01/25/12 19:02:33 EST

Nip, they are a true relic, but pretty neat. Great machine labels.
I am envious.
   ptree - Wednesday, 01/25/12 19:15:31 EST

I need one. . . : The problem is they come in many sizes and those you find will always be too big or too small. So you end up hand carving letters. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 01/25/12 19:33:13 EST

Columbian : My 150 pound Columbian has a U
   Willy Cunningham - Thursday, 01/26/12 13:54:15 EST

wrought iron : Any tips for working wrought iron? I have got some old fencing. It is heavily pitted, seems bright when cut, but tends frequently to delaminate under the hammer. Usually i use a gas forge which does not reach white heat.
Forging is a hobby. I am a retired teacher and carpenter. I live in Reading, near to London, UK.
Sincere thanks for this great free resource.
   Philip Davies - Thursday, 01/26/12 14:58:36 EST

Working Wrought : Phillip, Here is the same I emailed you about a week ago.

First, Wrought needs to be worked very hot or dead cold. A yellow heat (near welding is best).

Old wrought is often rusted internally and the slag inclusions dissolved out. The only way to work it is to get it to a welding heat and flux heavily and reweld it. Unless you have a very hot well controlled gas forge it will only get worse.

When wrought is visibly delaminating and internally rusted you may need to clean it with acid prior to fluxing and welding.

Gas forges will work but the flux is bad on the lining. I once saw a demonstrator throw some coal in a gas forge as a joke but then got the heat and atmosphere he needed for a long weld. . . Made a lot of smoke and a mess of the forge. . . Blown gas forges run hotter than most atmospherics.

For wrought and the necessary high temperature for welding (2700 F) coal or charcoal is best.

Note that the welding temperature for steel is much lower.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/26/12 15:56:49 EST

wrought iron : Philip, wrought iron used fencing is often of low quality and therefore more prone to laminations. Also wrought iron needs working at a higher temperature than mild steel. If your gas forge is not getting the necessary temperature then that maybe part of the problem. Chris, Lincolnshire
   - Chris E. - Thursday, 01/26/12 16:00:34 EST

rhino horn forging : I am a beginner blacksmith/metal sculptor and want to make a rhino horn with a 6-8" diameter base and about 36" long. I first thought i would get a piece of 6" steel water pipe and cut out a section and heat and bend the rest to the form I want. Then I thought that the steel is probably too thick. This isn't structural, after all. Now I'm thinking of 4 pieces of rod bent to the horn shape, and to slowly weld say 4" x 6" pieces of steel to this frame after I heat and shape them. Any ideas to help? Thanks greatly.
   Bill - Thursday, 01/26/12 16:40:45 EST

Horn Shape :
Bill, There are many ways to do this. A lot depends on the results you are looking for. In sculpture it is often easiest to make segments of the shape then weld them together. This starts with flat pieces that are cut to shape, then formed (hammer, press. . ) to a three dimensional shape before welding together. 16ga (about 1/16") thick material is very good for this in you size sculpture. 16ga is easy to work in a wood stump with dished forms using a ball pien hammer. About 8 pieces would work well. Less could be used. As few as three would work but would require more forming and more care fitting.

If carefully fitted and welded you could grind all the welds smooth and have a fine finish if wanted.

Another way would be to take bar or strip stock and coil it (like making pottery) and weld. Round bar (3/8" - 10mm or 1/4" - 6mm) would work easiest but be a lot of welding and be fairly heavy. This would result in a spiral surface texture.

Yet another way is the armature method you describe. However, armatures usually make a grid. Your four bars would have fitted rings every few inches. Then you would fill in the spaces with flat or shapes pieces.

Another armature method is similar to my Fabricated Cone Mandrel plan. This uses a simple armature built around rings then the spaces filled in. Flat and square bar is used. You could use many pieces of round bar and weld the gaps. This would give you a result like the coiled method except with axial texture.

The pipe is not too thick but you would be cutting out a lot of material and the forming a curve in two directions (a compound curve) would require heating to a red heat and some skilled hammering. . . All the above are easier.

OR you can combine any of the methods above to get the textural results you want.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/26/12 18:16:03 EST

Horn shape; : I don't know what to say besides "Thanks!!!" I'm 62 and want to explore my passion for working with my hands and steel and heat and dirt and movement after pushing papers for 30 years. I have a great mentor who lets me use a terrific shop, but today, as I got excited about the idea, he's in Germany for 3 weeks. Having this resource is just so great. What you say makes all sorts of sense, and I may just try all three, to see the visual result, the textures, and to learn under all techniques. Thanks again, oh guru. Bill McGrath Batavia, Illinois.
   Bill - Thursday, 01/26/12 18:38:28 EST

I often put rhino horn shapes in small black gas pipe as part of forging them into Chiles (here in NM they do well at sales)

But forging down larger pipe without practice and a powerhammer might be a bit much.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 01/26/12 19:37:04 EST

Bill, As Thomas noted pipe can be forged. But it requires a forge, some specialized tools and lots of practice. Large pieces need a power hammer or press. But it might take months or a year or so to build up to 6" diameters.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/26/12 20:49:51 EST

If I were going to use pipe, I think I'd try starting with 7" of 6" pipe, 7" of 5" pipe, and so on. Forging 6" pipe would still be a challenge (I'd need to start by building a forge), but tapering a short piece by 1" would be a lot less work than forging a long piece to a point. And you wouldn't have to handle a heavy length of hot steel.

Come to think of it, if you cut a triangle out of each piece and then closed it up and welded, you'd need to do pretty minimal forging -- it might even be possible cold.

While I'm on a roll, if you laid out a series of progressively smaller truncated cones in 16 ga steel, you could roll them up with little effort at all. Then you'd just need to weld the longitudinal seam on each and assemble.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 01/26/12 21:29:24 EST

Truncated Cones : Given the length of the curved side vs. the length of the straight side and a layout with tangents to a neutral axis (half way between the straight and the curve) the pieces would be fairly precise.

A good old fashioned drafting projection problem.
   - guru - Thursday, 01/26/12 23:52:01 EST

wrought iron fence repair : Guru,

I have been asked to repair a wrought iron fence. Though I do have experience in shaping mild steel and doing decorative work I have never worked on Victorian Era wrought iron. The repair will likely involve welding some of the parts back onto the fence. As I understand it, the fence was hit by a truck at some point. Could you please point me to an article or any other reference that would be useful for me to read in preparation for determining whether or not this task is within my skill range? I am a capable welder but not the most experienced. Also, I know I am not properly equipped to repair the fence if it turns out to be cast iron.

Thanks for any help,
   - Bill - Friday, 01/27/12 00:12:45 EST

Jock- I finally sent you an email with full size images of the fabricated anvil and the text of the word doc you couldn't open before embedded in the email. I hope this one makes it through and avoids the spam box.

   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 01/27/12 00:30:48 EST

Tool Racks : Most of my shop is has bare 2x4 studs on the inside so I have taken to mounting flat bars between the studs to hold hammers and tongs. Its very similar to what Otto Schmirler shows in his book on tools accept I donk't have the centuries old grotto to work in. I also have a mobile rack built from angle iron with the top made from a piece of heavy floor grate. That works very well but takes up a fair amount of floor space.

   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 01/27/12 00:34:33 EST

Wrought Fence repair :
Bill, A Victorian era fence is not just a "wrought iron" fence in the decorative sense it is made of "wrought iron". This material does not like to be arc welded due to the slag content that runs out while welding. Traditionally wrought was welded by forge AKA fire welding.

Good wrought is very ductile cold but should not be overworked. Hot, it needs to be worked VERY hot to avoid cracking and delamination. Bad and much old wrought should be worked hot only. Very old wrought often rusts internally depending on well maintained it has been. This makes it brittle and even more difficult to weld. Paint often hides these problems.

Repairs to good old wrought work should be made with wrought (not mild steel which corrodes much differently. If its a classy piece of work you don't want to mix materials. One high class work repairs are made by the methods used to make the piece in the first place. This means forge welding, riveting, collaring. If you arc weld on it you might as well go all the way and use J-B weld and bondo.

Cast iron is infinitely easier. Parts can be welded (with a little practice) and reshaped by a little grinding and filing.
   - guru - Friday, 01/27/12 00:44:43 EST

Wrought iron fence : Bill,

Check everything over carefully. I have seen wrought iron gates w added on parts that were mild steel, modern welding and rivets. In the case I'm thinking of, the match was darn good. Had to look close to see the top foot on the gate was "different" w rolled stock that had corroded ALMOST the same as the rest.
   Rudy - Friday, 01/27/12 02:18:46 EST

Other Considerations on Old Ironwork :
Most old ironwork is inch (or local traditional dimensions of the time) sized stock. But some of this can be very odd (2-1/18") or forged to size for the job. 7/16 and 9/16 inch square stock was not unusual and were even standard hot roll dimensions well into the 20th Century. Old fasteners did not meet modern standards and threads such as 1/2-14 were common.

Repairing old or historical ironwork comes more under the classification of restoration than just simple repair. When restoring historical work the refinishing is critical. Sandblasting or chemical cleaning is not recommended due to its removing scale which helps protect old iron and can bring out the wood grain texture of wrought. Walnut shell blasting or mild paint stripping is the norm. Removing paint entirely and properly refinishing is best. However, this can open a can of worms on very old work. I have seen ironwork that all that was left was the shell of paint around crumbly rust. . .
   - guru - Friday, 01/27/12 12:27:30 EST

Wrought iron : Guru, regret I did not receive your email, but thanks very much for your advice and for your patience, and also to you, Chris. Interesting to see all the other comments added too.

   Philip Davies - Friday, 01/27/12 15:38:51 EST

Wrought Fence Repair : Guru,
I was aware of the difference between decorative iron work and actual wrought iron. However, I do thank you for taking the time to spell it out. I should have mentioned my understanding of the difference in my original post. After your explanation I fear this job may be beyond my current ability to repair. At least I can give my client some useful advice, if nothing else. I won't know until I look at the fence, though.

Would it be a wise idea to practice welding cast iron brake drums in preparation for welding decorative cast iron? Or are the two kinds of cast too different for it to be useful?

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and thank you all for the advice.
   - Bill - Friday, 01/27/12 22:47:15 EST

Wrought Iron Fences : I was just wondering, if you could take up old wrought iron fences from around old cemetaries ( just for example )and save all of the posts, ornaments etc. and then when a job comes up where someone needs a wrought iron fence repaired, you will then have parts to make the repair. The decorative parts might not match up exactly, but might be close enough for government work. OR....ask around at salvage yards to see if they have old iron work you could purchase. If you have the antique parts on hand, you might get jobs no one else could.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 01/28/12 00:29:31 EST

Practice on Cast Iron :
Many cast items are ductile iron or nodular iron. They are weldable and not very good practice for grey iron welding. When I was taking welding classes the instructor picked up a bunch of "cast iron" parts from the local foundry for us to practice on among them were brake drums and rotors (1970's). At the time I did not know much much about the various cast products. When we tried to break them up with a sledge they were very tough to break up. True CI breaks fairly easily. We did our brazing and NI-rod practice on these. . . Got good practice but NOT on CI. Later I learned these were ductile iron which does not exhibit the brittle shrink cracking problems in CI.

SO, to practice, be sure you are working common grey iron. Many things are made of it. Steam radiators, most old engine blocks. . . The best test is if a piece breaks off easily.

Its good to be ahead of the job before you look at it. But you never know what it really IS until you look.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/28/12 00:46:56 EST

Old Wrought Inventory :
Mike, Many smiths collect old wrought just for such purposes. Everything from fencing and lintel bars to bridges. The trick is being sure you have wrought, not just old mild steel. AND as noted in the discussions above, delamination due to rust can make the material almost worthless (or very expensive depending on your point of view) due to the amount of labor required to clean and weld it back together.

Most places that have old fencing know its value. Lots of old fencing gets recycled, repaired, installed between new posts. . . Old gates (any size) are the most valuable.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/28/12 00:55:28 EST

beginner anvil: : i have recently became interested in the world of blacksmithing, and wondering if a cast iron anvil like you see from harbor freight would be ok for a beginner, because at this time i can not afford the higher # anvils...
   Zach J. - Saturday, 01/28/12 09:28:09 EST

Beginner anvil : Guru,

Thank you again for the advice. I'll see what I can come up with and I will take your recommendations to heart.

Zach J.

I know the Guru will have a much better post regarding your question and you should pay close attention to everything the man says. My own experience with a cast iron anvil from HF revealed how dangerous they can be. I had bits of the striking surface shatter when I tried to use mine. Thankfully I was wearing my safety glasses. They aren't much good for anything except boat anchors. If you look around this site you will find multiple references to them as ASO (anvil shaped objects). I ended up going to a welding shop and purchasing a 4X4 block of solid steel about 7" long. It's construction grade material and not hardened but it worked so much better for me than the crappy ASO. I paid less for it too. I still use it on small jobs and it makes a great addition to my tool inventory. Even an old, beat up anvil is better than buying one of the cast iron ones from HF. I suggest going to the plans page on this site and having a look at some options. If you are really strapped for cash go to a junkyard and see about getting a piece of leaf spring. It doesn't have the mass of an anvil but for a starter project and just getting to know how metal moves It's a good surface to practice on. Be certain it is well mounted.

As I said, the Guru will have much more to say on the subject and when in doubt take his advice over mine. I am an artist. He is a blacksmith. There is a great deal of difference in the skill set and the experience.

Good luck.
   - Bill - Saturday, 01/28/12 12:10:45 EST

ASO's : Zach, See my article on Finding an Anvil Anywhere in the World

For what you will pay for a new ASO plus shipping you can usually find an old, albeit beat up REAL anvil. An old sway backed, chipped ancient anvil with parts broken off is a better tool than a nice shiny ASO.

The ASO, once used has almost no value or 10 to 20% of what you paid for it NOT including shipping. The old beater if you have cleaned it, dressed it up a little, can be worth the same or MORE after years of use. One is a bad investment, the other a no-brainer that may appreciate in value.

The ONLY good point about an ASO is they are readily available if you have the cash and you don't mind throw away tools.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/28/12 12:41:47 EST

Wrought Iron : Mike T.
DON'T steal iron fencing from cemeteries.
   - Tom H - Saturday, 01/28/12 13:01:43 EST

Bill's 4 x 4 x 7 Mild steel "anvil" :
The weight of that block is about 32 pounds of compact mass. If set upright using a stand or holder the mass under the hammer blows is equivalent to a nearly 100 pound anvil. If you work nothing but hot steel on it the surfaces will hold up well and the corners become a bit rounded. Being a "junk" anvil you can take a grinder to it as many times as you need to. Using a soft anvil is also a good way to learn hammer control to avoid striking the anvil with the edges of your hammer (which will ding good hard anvils as well).

You can purchase such material NEW for about the same as an ASO. A local steel supplier can probably do much better for you. Pieces of heavy shafting (cylinders) also work for this purpose.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/28/12 13:34:22 EST

More on mild steel blocks :
Almost every shop has SOMETHING they use as an anvil. If its heavy and steel and not used for something else it usually gets left on the bench as an anvil. Over the years we have had odd blocks of steel, one a 1.25" steel part about 12" in diameter. It sat on the work bench between machines as something to hammer things on when necessary. Before that the "shop anvil" was a welded angle bracket made of 3/4" steel plates. I did my first hot forging on that. . . and immediately realized I needed a REAL anvil. .

If you purchase that block or cylinder for scrap price, like the old beater anvil it will keep its value fairly well (scrap goes up and down but does not lose 80% of its value like an ASO).

That steel block is most likely weldable. This means you can weld on feet, a horn, a side mount hardy holder and make a DIY anvil out of it. However, as a DIY anvil ist will probably be worth less to resell than a plain solid block (just a warning).

Scrap blocks are often heavy flame cut plate that may have torch starter cuts in them. . These are easily filled in or repaired by welding.

AND if you don't sell it off or trade it on another anvil you WILL find use for it in your shop. Portable anvils or job site anvils are very handy and a big old block of rusty steel is much less likely to walk off than an anvil. . .

Learning to make scrolls and curves over the square corners is good practice. A anvil horn is a convenience, not a necessity.

Thousands of smiths world wide use nothing more than a 10 to 20 pound block of steel set into a stump in the ground. Very often these are nothing more than old 15 pound sledge hammers set face up. The size work that can be done on such an anvil is limited but everything iron needed for village life often comes off these "anvils". Farm implements, weapons, tools, cooking implements and even sculpture.
   - guru - Saturday, 01/28/12 14:04:15 EST

Bill- wrought iron : There is no mystery to wrought iron repair, it welds nice and its easy to work...blends as good as your skill can make it blend ( its painted right ? ). I repair it on a weekly basis in N.YC. Its a shame they stopped production for fence use. It resists the elements better than steel by a wide margin. Dog pee, trees and vehicles are the causes of most damage I see....after 100 years in the weather
   larry - Saturday, 01/28/12 16:10:17 EST

Ive seen quite a bit of very old 'high quality' decorative wrought ironwork restored. Its amusing just how many 'bodges' have been in there from day 1, lots of lead filling gaps that shouldnt be there! the bondo of its day :)
   - John N - Sunday, 01/29/12 13:22:43 EST

Lead :
Lead was used a lot on old decorative fencing. Not just for repairs but for decorative elements that were cast in place around the iron bars. Some were simple ball elements, other spindles and I've seen a few floral. However most of this was on lower quality (simple high production) fencing.

On a similar note, I was once disassembling some old plumbing fitting using a torch to heat the pipe and break down the rust . . Unknown to me, one of the fittings was zinc. As I heated the pipe the zinc melted and ran off onto the floor (luckily not in my shoes) and the remainder flashed into flames. . . SURPRISE!

As I've noted before, it is a common practice South of the border to use bondo to blend in welds and fill gaps on ironwork. Put a torch to this and it will burst into flame and is hard to extinguish.
   - guru - Sunday, 01/29/12 15:30:51 EST

Lead... : Bad stuff as we now know it,also used to set wrought iron fencing posts into holes bored into stone or concrete...
   - Sven - Sunday, 01/29/12 16:04:36 EST

Mystery metal : The shop just got a gift of a broken shaft from a hydraulic unit (probably a backhoe). We're wondering if there is any guess as to the probable alloy.

FYI: About 4 feet long, 1.25 inch diameter, VERY smooth. It is magnetic and a carbide scribe skates on the smooth surface.

We heated one end (seemed to get a slight blue flame, but nothing serious - we hope) and worked it a bit w a sledge hammer. Very hot hard, but nothing special - it was workable. Let it air cool and now a file would bite (not well) and it would not bend or break. Reheated and water cooled. Did not break and even bent a bit.

Any ideas?
   Rudy - Sunday, 01/29/12 17:03:33 EST

Rudy, that shaft is probably a hydraulic cylinder rod and will have a hard chrome plate over an induction hardened shaft. The shafting will be a case and core condition as made, IE the surface just under the Extremely hard chrome will be harder than wood pecker lips. As you transition to the center the shaft will get softer to pretty soft in the center.
   ptree - Sunday, 01/29/12 18:08:35 EST

Lead : I watched a documentary on how lead was used in the old days. The Romans liked to drink their wine from lead goblets because it imparted a sweet taste to it. There is speculation that this may have caused a lot of the people to go nuts,especially emperors like Nero, and Caligula etc. Back in the old sailing ship days, all of the canned goods had their seams sealed with lead. It is believed lead leached into the food stuffs causing sickness, disorientation, bad judgement etc. that might have caused some of the disasters at sea.
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/30/12 03:18:41 EST

Lead :
Until fairly recently all plumbing solder had lead in it (often 60/40 lead/tin). While it was not supposed to be inside the pipes there was always some. At this time the government required copper pipe in homes for FHA loans and many with iron pipe had them removed and replaced with lead soldered copper. Replacement solder was tin/silver and then tin/antimony.

Copper pipe is still used in many applications and it leaches into water as well. . . Plastic pipes also gas off a small amount of plasticizer.

While lead paint was given a lot of grief for soil and apartment lead content in cities it was found out that this was NOT the source. It was high traffic highways, especially at major interchanges. When high lead zones were mapped they included new neighborhoods without lead paint and coincided with highways. . . A case of bad science. While lead paint is still given a lot of grief it was lead from auto exhausts that was found in Antarctic ice and snow. . . Can't blame the Penguins for using lead paint.
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 11:05:38 EST

Bad Science : I'd argue that the science wasn't bad, the interpretation of it was. That wasn't the purview of the scientists; it was the politicians and hucksters who drummed up a lot of public uproar over the wrong thing. This happens all the time and the results are usually unfortunate. The typical result of this hype and hustle is over-reaction by legislators and we end up with stuff being banned that only needed to have some moderate controls and monitoring put in place. When the facts come out later the people blame the scientists, but the real culprits are the politicians and the public.

I remember when they had the big mercury in the Great Lakes fish scare - someone said the levels were high and everyone went wild. However, when the scientists tested fish specimens that were taken in the Lewis and Clark expedition they discovered that the mercury levels were much higher then than later. But no one paid much attention to the facts, only the hype.

Rachel Carson wrote a polemic about DDT and got the use of it totally banned in the US. The real problem was gross misuse, not the chemical itself. Rather than regulate and monitor the use, they banned an insecticide that has excellent results - if used properly.

When they banned the use of lead in paints, I owned a sign company and the difference in quality of lettering enamels after the ban was very noticeable. The new pigments had no hiding power at all and resulted in short life and poor quality. How many children are going to be chewing on a billboards?

Fifty or a hundred years from now years they'll discover some negative side effect of plastic water piping and ban that. We'll have to get our plumbing replaced with glass, I suppose. As time goes by we develop ever more powerful means of measuring minute amounts of things. We can now measure down to parts per billion of a number of things, when a few years ago it was only parts per million - with each increase in resolution we find new things that are destined to end life as we know it, if you believe the hype. It's amazing any of us are still alive after all those years of not knowing, huh? (wry grin)
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 01/30/12 12:09:02 EST

Iron : I read somewhere that people get all of the iron their body needs just from cooking food in iron skillets. I don't know how much truth there is in that........If you will remember years ago, there was a sacharine scare. My mother made our tea with sacharine and I really liked it, apparently scientists found that massive amounts of it produced cancer in mice. Gradually after the scare died down, you now see it back on the grocery shelves.
   Mike T. - Monday, 01/30/12 12:55:21 EST

Wrought iron: I picked up a wagon tyre at the scrap yard Saturday that was real wrought iron. The manager was telling me it was worth US$100. I pointed out to him that CraigsList had a couple of wagon wheels with tyres for $60 and the wheels were what was the expensive parts.

Anyway I got the tyre, a steel milk crate (handy to store scrap metal in) and a revere ware pot for $5

The problem with storing old stuff for later is the Storage! So you start collecting, then you need to keep it in good condition and have to build a structure to house it---it quickly becomes expensive to have it hanging around.
   Thomas P - Monday, 01/30/12 12:59:26 EST

Iron in food, I remember when I was a kid an experiment we did in school. We took an entire box of cereal, mushed it with water and let it settle for a week. The cereal was removed and there was about 1/4 teaspoon of PURE iron powder at the bottom and was extracted with a magnet.

Pure wrought iron, I live in a historical town with the Neshaminy creek running alongside. I have pulled lots of wrought from the creek in different stock and size. I also have a family friend who owns a gate company who has a nice amount of old wrought gates he lets me cut pieces off.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 01/30/12 13:15:58 EST

Iron in your diet : Mike T, I might disagree with that point about getting all the iron you need from eating food cooked in iron skillets. Most iron has some rust, even the cast iron that is well seasoned. That rust is what comes off first and as Iron Oxide, it is extremely stable; it is basically insoluble and indigestable. I've seen folks put iron shavings on their flower gardens thinking it would put iron in the soil. Same problem: it rusts first and becomes impervious to further chemical reactions. Now if you heat it up in the presence of CO or CO2, you can reduce it back to liquid iron but my digestive system doesn't work like that. Take yer vitamins.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 01/30/12 13:19:44 EST

Cutting an O2 Cylinder : A while back I asked about cutting the bottom of an EMPTY O2 cylinder. Following everyone's advice, I did not use my brand new cutting torch I got for Christmas (much as I really, really wanted to...). I was going to use my band saw, but discovered the cylinder was too big to fit on the platform, so I put it up on a couple of saw horses and took my trusty old saw-zall to 'er.

Four hacksaw blades and 45 minutes later, I had just managed to cut completely through about a half inch length. So I gave in and broke out the cutting wheel. Lots of sparks, but I was finally able to get the bottom off to use as a poor man's swage block for dishes and ladels.

So, long story short, thanks to everyone who gave the advice on cutting through this beast. Now I just need to find some plans to turn the top nto a bell or wind chimes or something to torque off the neighbors....
   Chris C. - Monday, 01/30/12 13:29:57 EST

O2 Gong :
Chris, Nothing to do but weld a ring to the top an hang it from a sturdy support. You could use your new torch to cut some decorative holes but I would keep them along the bottom edge or top bell.

The best I have seen had high grade industrial lifting eyes welded in to replace the valve and then were hung on an oriental looking heavy wood frame (might have been red-wood). The joints were mortise and tenon the top cross piece being wider than the columns with slightly decorative ends. Very clean and simple. Should sell for $400 - $500.
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 14:06:06 EST

Glass Pipe :
This was used universally in dairies so that it was easy to inspect for cleanliness. Then the government decided stainless would be better for some reason. . . Put lots of dairies out of business. Then about a decade later they decided that was a mistake and required glass again. . . Put MORE dairies out of business.
We have a clear water filter housing. . . you don't want to know what grows in water pipes. . .
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 14:09:50 EST

Lead Paint :
One of the big advantages to lead paint was its color fastness. Even non-lead colors benefited due to the shielding effect of the lead. It also slowed (but did not stop) cracking of oil based paints. When it was first introduced everyone WANTED it!
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 14:14:43 EST

Lead in paint : A few facts. The following based on both my training and EXPERIENCE as a federally certified Lead risk assesor and inspector.
Lead in paint definetly does end up in the soil. The outdoor white paint used for decades was designed to chalk off and retaim a bright white appearance. Guess where the chalked off lead paint went? Right along the drip line of the house. Of course when a quality paint job was done on an existing house the walls were scraped to remove loose paint and guess where that went?

Tetra ethyle lead was indeed a huge problem, and leaves deposits over a huge area.

Folks that cast bullets and fishing sinkers also tend to badly pollute the area where that activity was conducted.

Was blaming paint that traditionally contained as much as 80% white lead bad science? NO, just not enough science.
   ptree - Monday, 01/30/12 14:17:43 EST

You're right, not bad science but misapplied. . . Our lawmakers tend to be very reactionary and the loudest protest tends to get the attention.

Lead is bad stuff but the lead paint issue was just as bad in the suburbs and in up-scale housing as in low-income inner-city housing. Too much politics was involved. Then the leaded gas "rain" was determined to be a bigger factor in certain areas. Nice new neighborhoods in the county but near interstates had been effected. . . The major difference being that the farther out you get the more buffer between homes and highway. But much of that "buffer" is agricultural land where the lead has an effect on the food supply rather than directly on children.

I remember back in the late 60's my Dad telling me about land use in Europe. Highway medians and airport open spaces were being farmed. . . Think of the lead levels next to the Autobahn and along airline runways.
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 15:30:22 EST

Guru, the only saving grace at an airport is the low traffic level of civilian airfields. An airliner of the late 50's burned 115/145 octane fueal at about 2 gallons per minute per engine at sealevel and take off power. Consider that the airliners had 4 engines, and to get that octane rating the upper number is actually a Pn or performance number based on extra rich fuel mixture to cool the combustion. Many of the none turbo supercharged engines would throm 4' exhaust flames from those 8" id exhausts!
BUT, take off were usually maybe 20 a day to 100 a day. The really busy airports had trainer traffic and those little engine burned maybe 0.1 gallon/minute on takeoff.

Now the bomber bases in England would have often seen a every 30 to 60 second take-off cycle when launching, and perhaps as many as 100 birds.
   ptree - Monday, 01/30/12 15:50:09 EST

The Silent Spring :
Rachel Carson's book The Silent Spring was not just about DDT but an attack on the entire chemical industry. This was an industry that was literally getting away with murder. They dumped anything and everything into streams and rivers, or onto uncontrolled dump sites. Even after the EPA was formed and dumping of many toxins was prohibited many still did so.

In the paper making process there is a waste "liqueur" that is not good for anything and difficult to get rid of. Somewhere upstream from our rural country home they had a dump site or pond for this on private land. I found out about it when a neighbor commented on the heavy foaming in our stream after a heavy rain (every significant rain). He said it had been going on since the 50's. He had lived on the stream since the teens and knew about the change. . . The dump is still washing into the stream 50 years later. .

I knew a business owner who would go into his plant on weekends when it was closed and open a valve that dumped chemicals into the James River. He told his gullible wife who went along on these trips that he was purifying the river. . . This went on for years.

In more recent times organized crime has become involved in toxic waste disposal. . . Put up a front run by shell corporations, make it look good on paper, charge the expected rates for doing the job properly. . then dump. OR stockpile until there is no more room then file bankruptcy and abandon the property.

Corporations have no conscious, no morals and the problem of dumping toxins continues globally. This is one case where you do not want the return of "the good old days".
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 20:16:24 EST

I have a star fdy. no 50 power hammer in working order ,I would like to know what it might be worth
   - R.D. Campbell - Monday, 01/30/12 21:05:13 EST

I have a star fdy. no.50 trip hammer in working order,I would like to know it's possible value
   - R.D. Campbell - Monday, 01/30/12 21:08:05 EST

Star Hammers : R.D., Star hammers were relatively lightweight for their size/capacity. "Working Order" can mean a lot of different things. Old orphaned machinery in poor condition or with questionable repairs is not worth a lot. Currently good condition Little Giants, which are well known and you can get after market parts for are selling for up to $4,500 or so. But needing rebuilding they sell for half of that or less. If your hammer was in "mint" condition it is probably worth half that of a good working LG. If in not so perfect condition, needing repairs, then half again.
   - guru - Monday, 01/30/12 23:15:03 EST

Iron in Food : A lot of iron in food is intentionally added as fine iron powder -325 mesh, or about 45 microns in size - think talcum powder or finer. We have plants making 2 types that are used that way. One produces electrolytic iron - nearly 100% iron and mills it to a powder. The other takes mill scale from selected carbon steel plants grinds and sizes the mill scale and reduces it at high temperature in a hydrogen atmosphere to iron,with some minor alloying elements and then grinds and sizes the iron cake to powder. Both plants produce irregular shaped particulars with lots of nooks and crannies that increase surface area/volume ratio improving absorption during digestion. Both plants are also inspected and certified as being hallel and parve but not on the same day.
   - Gavainh - Tuesday, 01/31/12 00:55:09 EST

Fence Update : Guru and Company,

I spent about an hour looking over the fence my customer wants to get repaired. It is not what I had imagined. No decorative work at all. It's just a simple wrought Iron fence composed of two horizontal supports and eight or ten vertical palings. The pieces "broken" off were actually corroded to the point they fell out of the holes in which they were originally mounted. I'll be able to do the repair without needing to weld. It looks like a day's worth of work with an acceptable profit margin so I've taken the job. The hardest part will be pouring the concrete needed to remount the fence post.

Thanks all for your advice. It made me sound like I knew what I was talking about.
   - Bill - Tuesday, 01/31/12 10:52:23 EST

Bill, Glad you got the job. The next one that comes up may be more complicated (they are ALL different) and you will be better armed to approach it.
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/31/12 11:22:09 EST

Star Hammers : R.D., I have one of those, and it's a very good little hammer. A 50 lb hammer only slightly larger than a 25 lb Little Giant. Mine is in what I'd call good working order. The spring eyes are a little worn, the dies could use dressing, but the shaft is tight and nothing wobbles that shouldn't. They made these with two different guide types, depending on when and where they were made. Mine is the older style wrap-around guides where the corners of the square tup bear on the frame on one side and the guide on the other. Needs lots of grease and is messy, but adjustment is easy. Later ones used a sliding gib arrangement. I paid $2500 for it several years ago, and that's probably a fair price today. BUT as the Guru said, condition is everything. Mine has an attached motor, which is a requirement for someone who want a ready-to-run hammer. If it needs new clutch blocks, a motor, or new babbit on the shaft, all bets are off.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 01/31/12 12:37:26 EST

spokeshave blade : Guru - do you know the proper procedure for forging a spokeshave blade for a wood body? I have a few blacksmithing books but nothing on the specifics of making that type of blade. Thanks
   black - Tuesday, 01/31/12 21:20:59 EST

Gavaihn, so THAT's where the iron powder was made. The object of the school grade experiment was to show how vitamins and minerals are added to products we consume.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 01/31/12 21:57:17 EST

Spokeshave Blade :
Black, These are a relatively modern tool most having iron bodies. The blades are a uniform thickness blade between 1/16" and 1/8" (1.5 to 3 mm). They have a ground edge and one of more milled or punched slots.

There are many types of spokeshave with various screw and clamping arrangements. Details of making the blade are determined by the tool.

The most primitive spoke shaves had the blade held in by two tapered tangs. The tangs are short (about 1/3 the blade length) tapered extensions of the blade bent at right angles. They protrude a bit out of the back of the shave and are bent just enough to hold the blade snug. Fitting and adjusting is a bit picky.

If you need a drawing of this type there is one in Eric Sloane's A Museum of Early American Tools
   - guru - Tuesday, 01/31/12 23:52:06 EST

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