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This is an archive of posts from February 16 - 21, 2012 on the Guru's Den
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Moving stuff: I have a mantra I chant to myself when moving large items by myself: "Slow is Safe" don't put any excess energy into a system that could be misused by it!

Thinking about it I realized that this was rather traditional as wagons used to tow a log behind them on steep downward slopes such that the horses or oxen actually had to *pull* to get it to move. It being safer than relying on crude brakes.

When I moved my screwpress I had bolted 4x4 runners to the legs with the ends trimmed at 45 deg and then chained it to the back bumper of my truck and SLOWLY drug it over the gravel until it was in front of the shop. Then I put down 2x6's and 1/2" pipe sections and used a come-along to pull it into the shop. It never had enough energy in the system to lift it past the tipping point.

PTree; the tale of getting the lighter jib cranes reminds me of why I like having both a 4" and a 6" postvise near the forge. 4" is *fast* and great for light work and the 6" is slow massive and good for heavy work! I have a number of vises; but I'm not tempted to switch out the 4" one for another heavier one!
   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/16/12 16:51:10 EST

Small is better. . . : Sometimes - and I did preferred my little 30 pound vise on my shop trailer to bigger clumsier vises. Being able to spin the handle with a finger made it faster. And on small hot work it was still powerful enough to squash up to a 1/2" bar. . So why would you want heavier?

Bigger is better in many other cases. A bigger vise with bigger jaws does not mark the work (or smash hot work) so easily. The heavier mass is better for pounding and chiseling, especially if there is a lot to do that could work loose in a small vise.

In our family shop we had three lathes. The little Craftsman got used more than the bigger, newer and more accurate lathes because it was more convenient. When it takes two men to change a chuck on a bigger machine its a LOT faster to do a small one off job on the lathe you can hold the chuck in one hand. . . When we had two mills, one a small benchtop Clausing, got used a LOT because it was at a work height where you could see better on picky work. On most jobs it would be second choice but on small work it was more convenient.

Its great when you have a choice in tools in different sizes.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/16/12 19:41:35 EST

Sonja's Horse Bit : Sonja, Is the bit a two reign bit or a single reign? Could you describe its general appearance? Is browned or "while" metal? Can you give the dimensions? I might be able to look it up in one of my reference books and get you a little more information.
   - Bill - Thursday, 02/16/12 21:18:04 EST

Horse Bits : Is it my imagination or did horse bits become illegal to use. When I say bit, I'm thinking it would cut into the corner of the mouth.
   Mike T. - Friday, 02/17/12 05:52:59 EST

Radiused Corners : Just wondering if you someone could clarify the tip of the day and what "radiused corners" are exactly. Do you just mean beveled along the edge at the tip of the bunch? Thanks
   - Eric - Friday, 02/17/12 09:40:24 EST

sorry, *punch
   - Eric - Friday, 02/17/12 10:14:58 EST

Horse Bits : Mike T.
I seriously doubt bits will ever be illegal as long as people are still allowed to own horses. Bits come in a very broad range of designs. Depending on the individual animal you will need a different kind of bit. Some animals do not respond to snaffle bits or "broken bits" which have a sort of hinge instead of the more commonly recognized port. Some animals respond to a low port and others respond to a high port. Without a bit a horse can become uncontrollable if it is frightened or excited.

I will not present myself as an expert on either horses or bits. Someone else here may have better information than I, but what experience I do have is that horses are large, dangerous animals needing your full respect for their potential and power. A properly fitted bit and bridle is essential for the rider's safety and the horse's comfort.
   - Bill - Friday, 02/17/12 10:20:52 EST

Eric, Yes and no. A bevel is a chamfer, an angular relief. A radius is part of a circle. Chamfer the punch slightly then round the corners off the chamfer. .

You want the metal to flow around the punch. Cold punching cuts or shears the metal and sharp square corners produce a cleaner more accurate hole. Hot punches displace the metal requiring it to flow.
   - guru - Friday, 02/17/12 11:21:03 EST

Bits : Thanks for the information Bill, sometimes I have a brain fart and don't remember where I got the idea or impression. You are right about horses being dangerous animals. I remember when I was a boy, this young man was trying to practice calf roping, he tied one end of the rope to the saddle horn and the other end around his waist, he was pulling, trying to get the horse used to the routine of everything, something spooked the horse and it took off running, dragging the boy to death. People have to be aware that large animals such as these are very muscular and strong, capable of harming someone.
   Mike T. - Friday, 02/17/12 11:31:23 EST

Horse Shoes : I was thinking about something concerning horse shoes. I know there are regular horses, such as riding horses, then there are plow horses ( work horses ). My brother in law said their family used to have some plow horses with feet as big as plates. Do these work horses wear horse shoes ? If so, they would have to be very big and heavy.
   Mike T. - Friday, 02/17/12 11:37:05 EST

Draft or Work Horses :
Mike the typical Horseshoes game shoes are about as big as draft shoes.

There are many variations in horseshoes including the material (steel, aluminum, plastic, surface treatments (heals, traction caulks, carbides), styles and sizes from miniature horses and ponies up through draft horses.
   - guru - Friday, 02/17/12 12:10:41 EST

Horse shoes : And they shoe oxen, too. They're funny looking things, ox shoes, shaped about like a comma. I wonder if anyone shoes water buffalo? Or musk ox?
   Rich Waugh - Friday, 02/17/12 13:15:49 EST

They shoe goats when used for pulling carts. These have split hooves as well. Water buffalo are used the same as oxen in many places so I expect they are shod as well.

On one of our trips to Costa Rica we saw oxen being used to pull a big rubber tired wagon in a sugar cane field. A team of four I think. They were in a low wet area where tractors could not work. I SHOULD have stopped to take a picture. . .
   - guru - Friday, 02/17/12 13:36:32 EST

I hear tell that the Budweiser Clydesdales have their own farrier traveling with them to keep them shod!

As shoes are needed to work horses on hard surfaces the big dray hauling teams were pretty much always shod.
   Thomas P - Friday, 02/17/12 13:43:52 EST

Anvilfire Catchup (not Ketchup) : I’ve finally caught up on the Gurus’ page, and I’m glad I took the time!

Shims; radial & rotary aircraft engines; beryllium bronze ("...beware the red colored bronze; m'lord!"); the Napoleonic plot of the Metric system (another favorite whipping boy of mine, for the reasons discussed above); CAD programs (I was chained to an AutoCAD computer for several years, back at the SEC); building a new shop (just finished that last year, presently writing it up for the BGOP newsletter); crane failures and the roles of deflection and inertia; Horseshoes and horse bitts…(…or is that horse bits- perhaps a snack food for Frenchmen?); lots of most excellent stuff.

This place is an absolute gem of information and informed opinion. Compared to the chaos of some other internet bulletin boards, I find it a haven of bliss and reasoned discussion. Thank you Jock, and the rest of the crew, for keeping this fine tradition alive and well. Now that I’m back on line, it can once again become part of my daily routine; happy to learn and happy to teach.

The fog has burned away on the banks of the lower Potomac; and a lovely day is in progress. I’m on light duty due to a pulled back muscle. I plan to spend part of the day sorting through about 20 pounds of open-ended wrenches from my father, Finnr’s estate and other accumulations and sort out the redundancies for my friends at Camp Fenby; and the redundant redundancies for the church thrift shop.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/17/12 14:45:38 EST

Horses and Horseshoes : My friend from the Longship Company, Andrew (aka Drey), raises Haflingers with his wife, Devon. He also teaches library and reference skills at the Elementary School. They describe the horses as “the equivalent of 1,000 pound 3-year olds!” Large, powerful, impulsive, not-too-bright animals require both care and respect. When I visit their farm, it makes me appreciate the simplicity of running a Viking longship!

One of my back-burnered projects that I’m getting around to is turning horse shoes into cooking trivets for one of our Civil War reenactor friends. I have a nice amount of stock from Drey and Barchan and some of our jousters, so I can punch couple of more holes, mount some legs, and there-you-go.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/17/12 14:48:34 EST

display : Any ideas out there on displaying anvils? Im getting too many for my man cave. Ive built stands for some, but that takes more room. Ive envisioned a stand like you fill with flower pots only heavy duty with an anvil setting on each arm. Any suggestions or pics of what others do?
   vern kelderman - Friday, 02/17/12 17:12:01 EST

Bruce : You joked about horse bits being a snack food, I remember about 20 years ago they were going to build a horse processing plant at St. Genevieve Missouri. They were going to process the meat and send it to France. The animal rights activists protested this so much, they decided not to build the plant. I was watching Strange Foods with Andrew Zimmern and they were in China, the main course was donkey meat. He said, believe it or not, donkey meat is very delicious. I talked to a friend of mine about it and asked him if he was game about butchering a donkey and trying it, he said he would if I would. I think I may want to, but haven't yet. :-) Of course you can't let PETA find out about it. Another friend of mine had served in Viet Nam, he said you didn't see stray cats and dogs running around over there, because they would wind up in someones pot.
   Mike T. - Friday, 02/17/12 17:48:20 EST

Vern, A barn or garage, pallets and a pallet truck or fork lift? REALLY Heavy duty shelves? I've got a 40 x 60 shop that's not big enough for the few tools I've got and I'm not a collector. . .
   - guru - Friday, 02/17/12 19:10:38 EST

A bit about bits and horseshoes : Horses have an interdental space between incisors and molars, and when inserted, the mouthpiece bar (cannon) of the bit sits on that space.The bridle is adjusted to hold it in place. Riders and drivers are taught to go easy on this gummed area, as it can be damaged. A well trained horse is taught to respond to a light touch.

It is said the the large draft front shoes for the Clydesdales are made of 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 22" of stock. Part of that length is lost, if heel calks are bent. Many riding horse shoes are made of 5/16" x 3/4" x 11" to 12".
   Frank Turley - Friday, 02/17/12 21:06:39 EST

Anvil Display : Vern, While you are making this plan, think about where it is going to go. Even the best built homes are not designed for such exceptionally heavy loads. Any high density display rack needs to rest on a masonry foundation unless your home is built like a warehouse.
   - guru - Friday, 02/17/12 21:37:05 EST

General Interest : Hi there, my brother and I are interested in trying out blacksmithing as a hobbie. I've been reading through the site and have found it extremely helpful and informative thus far and am glad to have found it. Blacksmith resources are pretty scarce from what I've seen so far. I wanted to ask your guys' opinion on the classes offered by some schools. The Crucible, for instance. Are those good ways to go or would it be better done as a home project (or is it just a matter of affordability?)?
   Josh - Saturday, 02/18/12 01:12:33 EST


A friend recently passed away and I am helping his widow divest herself of the mass of stuff he left behind that he amassed over the years here on the NY/CT border.

One of the things was a large anvil that is sitting outside on a rock. The guy was a collector of things from old barns so I would say it at least 100-150 years old. The only mark I can find is
   - Robert Di Stasio - Saturday, 02/18/12 04:03:08 EST

Help with Antique Anvil size/weight : Hello,

A friend recently passed away and I am helping his widow divest herself of the mass of stuff he left behind that he amassed over the years here on the NY/CT border.

One of the things was a large anvil that is sitting outside on a rock. The guy was a collector of things from old barns so I would say it at least 100-150 years old. The only mark I can find is "051" and that does not correspond to the hundredweight system of marking. It's 36" from tip to tip, 14" high, 13" wide and the base is 13" x 14.5".

The widow wants to sell it but before I can advertise it I would like some info. It's to heavy for me to get to a scale.

I have some photos I can send if you like I can email them.

Thanks for any help you may offer.

Rob Di Stasio
   Robert Di Stasio - Saturday, 02/18/12 04:03:24 EST

you can e-mail me at....... smithy@hvc.rr.com.....I'm not far from the Newburgh Beacon bridge
   - larry - Saturday, 02/18/12 09:11:13 EST

anvil : You can e-mail me at ...smithy@hvc.rr.com I'm not far from the Newburgh Beacon bridge, I can help you lift it
   Larry - Saturday, 02/18/12 09:14:13 EST

General Interest - Josh : A good school is, far and away, the best method to learn blacksmithing in the shortest time. While you can learn on your own, you can learn bad techniques instead of good ones, even working with the better books available. There are several schools out there across the country. Check the ABANA.org website for a listing of classes and schools, also look into the school run by Frank Turley in New Mexico. If you can afford to take a week or two week course it will put you a year or two ahead of where you can get on your own.
   Rich Waugh - Saturday, 02/18/12 10:16:42 EST

Schools or Self Taught :
Josh, Either way works depending on the person. Some people can figure things out for them selves and others need to be shown. There is also the matter of expense. You can purchase a nice small anvil or a bunch of tools for the cost of a class. On the other hand blacksmithing classes with a good instructor can be a real jump start to getting started.

Some of the important things taught at blacksmithing classes that are hard to pick up on your own are good work posture, work position and how to hammer.
  • Don't hunch over, if the anvil is too low then raise it.
  • Stand close to the anvil, take position of it as if someone is trying to take it from you.
  • Don't hold the hammer with a death grip, hold it loosely.
  • Don't push or drive the hammer, raise it high and let inertia do the work.
  • Make points on the edge of the anvil, not the middle.
  • When the metal cools stop and take another heat.
  • When muscles become sore, quit. Save yourself for another day.

Hammer control is of utmost importance. Hitting the metal where you want and moving the metal the way you want. Working small stock (1/4" and 3/8" - 7 to 10mm) is better than trying to work large heavy stock where power is important. Develop strength and control on small work then graduate to heavy work. The same applies to hammer sizes.

Also remember that blacksmithing is not all pounding on hot metal. It is sawing, filing, drilling, grinding. . . A modern blacksmith shop, even a hobby shop is more like a machine shop than the romantic old fashioned smithy. However, a first class smith can turn out fine finished work with nothing more than a few forging tools.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/18/12 10:28:49 EST

Making Leather stamp tool : I have been planning on using large coil garage spring steel (high carbon) to make some small custom stamps like Hackbarth or a higher quality craftool. Not the big platform/bolt types.
Is there a reference that will give me the various options (to an approach)?
   Dean Lapinel - Saturday, 02/18/12 12:47:41 EST

Dean, See my iForge demo on matrix punches. For repeat work you will want hard high carbon dies, possibly H13. You hand make a punch to make the dies. A guide hole a little deeper than the length of the heat will hold the punch true and keep it from buckling or accordioning.

A lot of this original work is done with punches in annealed blanks then die grinders. To get good sharp parts you want scale free steel and to blow off any scale from the dies. Coatings such as ITC-213 are used to get scale free blanks.

Coining dies are made with special reducing mills that work like a tracer but make the die many times smaller than the original.
Today dies are also made using EDM. But you will need a good small local shop or do it in house.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/18/12 20:45:28 EST

leather stamps : I don't know of a reference for making leather stamps. If you use the garage door spring, it might be the alloy, 5160. which is a silicon-manganese-chromium steel. To grind, Dremel, file, and sand a stamp design, the 5160 should be annealed to make it soft at ambient temperature. Take it to 1450F to 1500F (bright cherry red) and slow cool in lime, wood ashes, or vermiculite. After getting the design, it is best to normalize to refine the grain structure: 1600F - 1700F (bright red approaching orange). Hardening is 1500F - 1550F in oil. Temper after abrading to a full blue, 560F. Because this steel can stain and rust, it can leave black marks and smudges on damp tooling leather. That is why Hackbarth and others opted to make their stamps of stainless steel. I would suggest using a light buff with appropriate compound to make the metal bare and shiny before using on dampened leather.

I have two well made silver stamps that I can use on leather. They are made of half round files by Navajos, and I got them at the Gallup, New Mexico flea market. Both are done by very careful filing using Swiss type needle files. I would be tempted to use blueing and scribe the design before filing. Things like pear shaders would be fairly easy. A backgrounder with cross hatching takes much care.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 02/18/12 21:28:58 EST

Guru's advice: "Stand close to the anvil, take position of it as if someone is trying to take it from you." Heh heh, as IF!! I'd like to see ANYone try to take any of my babies! Seriously though, do get in close in there, nice and intimate, as you would with a long time lover.....
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 02/18/12 21:52:41 EST

General - : One of the books I was reading through mentioned using a chunk of rail road track as an anvil at least for a start till I could afford a legit one. Is that a viable option or would it be worth the wait for the real deal?
   Josh - Saturday, 02/18/12 23:16:34 EST

I have anvil that measures 30.5 inches in length, the face is 5 inches, height of 13 inches, it has a number on the side 257. It has no other marks as I can see, I would like to know what I have. it has a horn, stepdown, 3/4
   - maurice - Saturday, 02/18/12 23:16:46 EST

maurice, To parphrase Thomas P., "I have a vehicle, it has 6 wheels, is painted white and has a 8 x 12 foot bed. What do I have? What is it worth?"

Sounds like you have a 257 pound anvil. . maybe.

Occasionally an anvil can be identified from a good photograph. Mail me one and I'll see what I can do. Otherwise, try our anvil gallery. There are hundreds of anvils and more than one will look like yours more or less. Anvils in America lists nearly 100 brands. In researching a new book the author has found well over 200 English manufacturers alone. There were that many or more in Europe. Only a few had trademarks on them that anyone recognizes or have history on.

So, imagine if there were four or five hundred auto manufacturers and I asked you what kind I had based on it having four wheels and the number 257 on the side?
   - guru - Saturday, 02/18/12 23:47:29 EST

General - RR-Anvils

See my article on making RR-anvils

First, even a big piece of heavy RR-Rail is not a very good anvil if used the way 99.9% of people do, with the flange down. The web of a rail road rail is thin and flexible making a springy, inefficient, difficult to use anvil. Their best use is a light hobby or bench anvil for bending of wire, doing sheet metal work and light riveting.

IF you put the mass in-line with the blow of the hammer as I show in the how-to article the efficiency increases greatly and you can do relatively heavy forge work on it.

Note that if you have to buy the rail (even at scrap prices), and pay someone else to cut it and weld it, then you could probably afford to buy a good but beat up old REAL anvil which even if in terrible shape is an infinitely better tool than a cast iron ASO or RR-rail anvil.

Finding Anvils Anywhere in the World How "finders" find anything.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/19/12 00:16:26 EST

rock island : found a mint 300lb rock island anvil in georgia-AIA mentions them but gives no material--does anyone know if they are iron with a palte or cast steel?
   vern kelderman - Sunday, 02/19/12 17:15:13 EST

anvil display : Thanks for the concern for my house. My mancave is in the basement so im safe. It brought up a memory 50yrs old though. My dad was a carpenter. He got a call on night from a man who along with his wife were college english professers in our town. The complaint was that his livingroom ceiling was coming down and had a terrible bow to it. Upon our arrival we discovered an upstairs sandbox for the grandkids. They had carried it all up in buckets without considering the weight. It was my first experience with people who have all thier marbles in one bag. But, I learned the weight thing young.
   vern kelderman - Sunday, 02/19/12 18:22:51 EST

Rock Island :
This was a vise manufacturer that changed hands several times I think. Anvils would have been a side line as they were for a number of vise makers.

Unless made by one of the three makes of steel plate cast iron anvils (Fish-Norris, Vulcan and Star) and it looks cast then its all cast in one piece. If made in the manufacturer's foundry the best it would probably be is ductile iron. But they might have had it made by one of the major anvil manufacturers.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/19/12 19:07:47 EST

knigh shields : Hi I am looking for somebody who is making knight shields (25-26 inches or a little larger )which I can use for a family crest. The shield has to be blank so I can do the painting on it. Steel shield can also have a brass rim. Thanks
   Gerhar ML - Monday, 02/20/12 10:33:33 EST

Knight's Shields :
Gerhar, Round, oval, heater, period, country? Many types vary in proportions so 25 inches wide may mean over 60 inches tall. The majority of shields were wood with metal trim, but the period and place make a difference.

I've made display shields from plywood with a rib to give the front an arc plus support for a handle. The wood was then sealed, filled and finished to paint. I've also used plastic putty to make raised decorations.

If you don't think plywood is authentic, ancient shields were made of laminated wood with crossing grain for strength (ie, plywood).
   - guru - Monday, 02/20/12 12:02:17 EST

Shields : Gerhar; first what country are you in? If you are in the USA you would probably best be served by checking in with the local SCA group see www.sca.org for a listing by area.

Then as mentioned knowing the general area and time period if you want a shield appropriate to a specific era and location.

You may want to make sure you have the right to display the crest if you are in an European country that still regulates them. (IIRC In Scotland the Laird and his Tannist have the legal right to show the full deal; others can be sued!)
   Thomas Powers - Monday, 02/20/12 15:24:40 EST

Shields : No problem, Gerhar. Next time you are passing by Chengdu call in and I can show you some designs. Try not to make it a Tuesday, though, as I teach judo that day. Monday would be fine.
   philip in china - Tuesday, 02/21/12 07:22:01 EST

My Grandfather's vice : With my father's passing at 91 1/2,I now have my grandfather's vice 'from the farm" I am currently building a bench for it. It has to date from the 2o's or 30's but may be my great grandfathers and far older.What I hope you can help me with is who made it. It only has 2 markings on it. One is the number 50 which appears to be struck (rather than engraved or cast) on the top of the vice jaws which I assume means 50 pounds. The other mark is struck on one of the vise arms and I assume is the maker's mark. It appears to be a star shape with a word in the middle. Unfortunately its mis-struct and you can only see part of the star with the last two letters being "ON". Given the size of the star versus the size of the type it had to be a short word like UNION (but, of course, it be BOON, ONION, LOON etc.) Any Ideas? THANKS FOR THE HELP
   Nell Armstrong - Tuesday, 02/21/12 23:55:29 EST

Neil : It is probably IRON CITY in two lines. They stamped it within a six pointed star. It is a quite old Pittsburgh, PA, company dating back to the 1850's. A century later, it was acquired by Warren Tools in Ohio, which continued the line for a few more years. The ones I've seen are stamped on the pivoting leg.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/22/12 00:02:14 EST

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