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 February 22 - 29, 2012 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

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

Niel's vice : Mr. Turley has described the marking on my vice, also. The touch mark on mine has Iron City clearly stamped in the middle. I doubt mine dates from the 1800's. It's a good tool and has served me very well over the last ten years. Being without children, I hope to pass it on to some worthy apprentice when I can no longer wield a hammer.
   - Bill - Wednesday, 02/22/12 11:00:46 EST

Multigenerational Tools : Many tools are multi-generational. Anvils, vises and many other tools will last many lifetimes in daily use if not abused. Vises can wear out but if kept clean and lubricated they will last much longer if not.

Some of the most popular machines in blacksmithing are Little Giant power hammers. The newest of these machines is 50 years old and most are 90 to 100 years old. Most have been repaired or rebuilt but there are tens of thousands of these machines in operation. The most popular self contained hammer is the Nazel. Due to their smoothness and controlability many have had tens of thousands of dollars put into rebuilding them rather than replacing them with new Chinese hammers.

Keep that oil can handy!
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 12:00:15 EST

What was the old Castrol ad? "Pay me now or pay me later" Oil it take care of it and tools can last for many generations says the guy who now has his Dad's and his Dad's tools. And hey work as well as the day they were made. Of course both of my relatives believed as my Dad often quoted, "Cheap tools is poor economy"
   ptree - Wednesday, 02/22/12 15:51:50 EST

Synthetic Oil : All I use in my vehicles is synthetic oil. Even the president of the American Automobile Association said, if you want to make your cars last longer, always use synthetic oil. I imagine this would apply to any kind of machinery also....any thoughts ?
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 02/22/12 18:52:41 EST

Synthetic oil : I have been warned by a professional mechanic to use only regular old oil in older vehicles. He said the synthetic oil is so fine that it does not properly lubricate older vehicles with a lot a wear and tear on the engines. I have a newer vehicle these days and use synthetic in it. If I ever get a beater truck again, though, I'll be using plane old oil.
   - Bill - Wednesday, 02/22/12 19:14:21 EST

Cheap and Not Cheap Tools : I always bought good to best. But who makes the best has changed over the years. I bought tons of Craftsman tools until they started putting more into glitz than into guts. ALL their electric tools failed me under moderate use. I had a grinder, drill and router all fail the same way (armature copper fly off) after only a few hours or minutes . . .
and a bench grinder with 6" wheels that are STILL 6" fail electrically. I also bought click type torque wrenches that the failure mode was to break engine studs. . . . . So I stopped buying Craftsman EXCEPT for their screw drivers which are STILL the best IF you buy their old red, blue and clear pattern. The new Craftsman ratchet wrenches were designed for looks and are MUCH too heavy. Bright and shiny can be cludgy as well. .

When I stopped buying at Sears I started buying Snap-On. They make good tools BUT, their plating on some wrenches is hard chrome, not chrome over nickle - they RUST. There is also something wrong with their screw driver handle plastic. It bleeds some kind of white plasticizer and then cracks. . I'll have to chase down a dealer and get replacements for my clutch bit drivers. . .

With the exception of these few problems Craftsman and Snap-On have done me very well. There are also major industrial brands such as Williams or Armstrong that are also indestructible. Most of my precision tools are Starrett. After the debacle with Craftsman "Professional" electric tools with 30 day warranties I started buying Milwaukee electric tools. Ironically Sears started handling them and the quality has dropped.

But I have had some real LOSERS. . I did not buy most of them, they were gifts or inherited. One year I was given a pair of bright orange Kmart electric tools. I put them in a corner and did not use them for a year or so. . Then I needed an electric drill to I put the little drill in service grinding valve seats. The little drill held up for years until the vari-speed switch wore out. But the reciprocal saw lived up to my low expectations. It cut 2 feet through 1/8" Massonite and then stopped working. The cam slide broke off the ram. I took it apart and welded it back on and it cut for 8 more feet! WOW, a 15 second life. . ! I needed a 1/2-20 tap recently. . . the only place nearby that had one was the auto parts store. $30 for a made in china set. . It would not make a thread and ripped up the part. Did you know that MOST of these sets are called "repair" sets in the fine print? In the trash. . . The die I needed and did the job with a week later cost more than the whole set. This was one of those purchases that a refund should include an aggravation factor 3x the tool price.

My ex wife was a sucker for free give aways. . . which were often little tool kits made of mystery metal. Nothing worked. Tossed a lot of them and finally bought a good small too kit. . .

When I bought the tools from Paw-Paws shop as a lot we had already decided to get rid of the Mini-Taiwan $39 drill press. . . and THOUGHT about keeping the HF saw . . until we tried to adjust the tracking and there wasn't any - broke a bearing tying to move it a hair. . . It went. The HF letter punches had shallow characters with flat fronts. Would not mark mild steel. . . two sets gone. Drill sharpener that made poor amateur points. . . gone. Another 4x6 saw with bad gears. . gone . . (But Dave repaired the box and is happy with it so far). There are more to sort and I suspect more heading to the trash. I do not put of with tools with ANY level of aggravation factor. If they don't work they go straight to the trash can. It does not matter if its a wrench or software program.

   - guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 19:21:35 EST

book : Guru,,,or anyone else that knows; I have an opportunity to get my choice of an older Machinerys'. Can only take one. Want to get the edition with best blacksmith section. I can't actually see to compare. One time I found a listing of contents per edition but can't find now.
My choices are, by edition, 5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16.
Any suggestions?
   - Keith - Wednesday, 02/22/12 20:45:34 EST

Machinery's Handbook: Out of that group I would go with the 16th. You do not want just old information you want as much metallurgical information as possible. The 16th has almost 100 pages more than the 15th and only 2 less pages (probably condensed) on blacksmithing.

Note that current fair prices on all of these is $15 to $25, no more.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 22:21:09 EST

Machinery's : Guru, thank you. Just got a line on a 23rd. edition. Was there an issue with this one? I seem to remember something, just can't remember.
   - Keith - Wednesday, 02/22/12 23:02:10 EST

Editing a single volume reference for 100 years. :
This is a continuing challenge for the editors or encyclopedic references. From the first to the 15th Edition of Machinery's Handbook all the original information remained but new articles and the expansion of articles has been continuous after the 5th "edition" which was actually a "printing" of the first edition. Space was made by careful editing of every sentence of every article and the addition of pages only as a last result. New articles tend to be more verbose and older articles very lean from careful editing. Over the years Machinery's has grown from 1400 pages to 2788 in the newest (29th) edition.

Only after careful consideration about how outdated information may be is it removed and only after it has been reduced as much as possible. It is much like the librarian's decision about what books to discard to make room for new books in a limited space.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 23:10:41 EST

info : Guru, thanks again. I think I'll go for the 23rd. Maybe add 16th. in the future. I already have ALOT of smithing / forging material. Just lack the info from a book like Machinery's.
   - Keith - Wednesday, 02/22/12 23:19:53 EST

23rd Edition : Thumb Tabs were an option, cost $10 more. I paid that on a 24th which I subsequently traded off for an out of print book.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/22/12 23:21:13 EST

My copy of the 23rd edition came from a public library deaccessioning Seems like nobody had checked it out and so I got it in "as new" condition, library cover, for $5.

Lots of "out of date" reference books will suit a hobbyist just fine. My ASM handbooks are that way---some are older than I am!

In fact for blacksmithing purposes some of the old ones are better as they cover small scale methods and odd techniques. "The Cementation of Iron and Steel" has in depth information on what is probably just a chapter in "modern" MatSci books.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 02/23/12 13:03:24 EST

Source Material :
Often the old references are the first publication from the original source (usually an industry, academic or scientific publication) on a subject and often give that source. After that the source is left out and you do not know how many generations of edits there have been (good or bad) much less where the information came from in the first place. Sadly, part of distilling information to its leanest form is to leave out the source reference.

Machinery's Handbooks in libraries are generally in the reference section and cannot be checked out. Often the reader reshelves the book and the librarian does not know if it was ever accessed or not. Also on this type reference where new editions come out every so often libraries replace the old with new.

Many of my old references are Ex-Library with little or no use. Sadly I know that there was no replacement for them. They were just removed to make room for new books.
   - guru - Thursday, 02/23/12 13:25:22 EST

Synthetic Oil : I see no benifit if the aplication is within the operating temperature range of mineral based oils, and the oil is changed when the additives are depleted.

Others feel that if it COSTS a whole lot MORE, it MUST be a lot BETTER.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/24/12 00:12:05 EST

I believe in straight petroleum oil, changed at 5000 mile intervals. The additives are depleted and the oil is filled with debris and chemicals from combustion that are harmful long before the petroleum molecules themselves are hurt. Also the viscosity improvers have sheared down and the viscosity that was say 10W30 is more like 10w10, which is the viscosity of the base oil. And since synthetic's use those very same viscosity improvers and antiwear and corrosion additives that deplete at the same rate...

By the way, my cheap little Chevy 99 Cavilier will turn over 250,000 miles in about 2 weeks, and the engine internals have never been touched since the factory. I happen to use Chevron 10W30, from the drum I buy, that is used to service 3 of my kids cars and my wifes and my cars, my tow van and the 72 Chevy pickup. When you change that much oil, the cost is important when there is no apparent improvement in performance.

Now in items like jet engines and screw air compressors the POA synthetics are worth the extra cost many times over. But those uses do not polute the oil with combustion by-products for piston blow-by like a car engine.
   ptree - Friday, 02/24/12 08:05:54 EST

Oils : I use synthetic oil in my I-R piston reciprocating compressor since I-R recommends it and extends the factory warranty if I use it. Other than that, all my lubricating needs are handled just fine by dinosaur squeezings. Back when I drove int he Sttates and logged hundreds of thousands of highway miles on vehicle engines, I used synthetic oils, but down here my mileage is all short-hop stuff that gobbles up additives so I use dino oil in the car, trucks and tractors. For low-speed intermittent use I see no benefit to the synthetics.

For cooking I use corn, olive or peanut oils, depending on taste/temp and mineral oil for the butcher block. For oiling the wheels of commerce I find that coin of the realm is superior to synthetics in every way. (grin)
   Rich Waugh - Friday, 02/24/12 08:59:54 EST

Steven Colbert on gas prices: "When I pay more fo my gas, I simply assume I am getting BETTER gasoline"
   - Nippulini - Friday, 02/24/12 11:17:27 EST

Cat Litter? : Ran into a fellow at an SCA event and got to talking about him getting started as an amateur blacksmith.

He asked a question to which I know the answer and don't know the answer.

Could you use bentonite (unscented cat litter to most of us) for a heat soaking tank (instead of molten salts) and could it be used for edge hardening a knife/sword.

Personally, I've only read about edge hardening. The only time a used a soak tank for tempering complicated shape I made a quick one out of a cast iron pot and sand from my back yard.

Any feed back?

Thanks. He was curious and now I'm curious.
   Rudy - Friday, 02/24/12 21:32:18 EST

Gas and Oil : I have been on both ends of the pendulum swing on oil changes. When my first car needed oil I asked for the cheapest oil I could get - recycled oil. . . not a good idea. I don't remember ever changing the oil . . this was my Dad's way.

A few years later I had a service station and changed oil for a living as well as buying oil wholesale. The top oils were about 20-23 cents a quart then. In my little junkers I would change the oil about every 1500 miles. It came out as black as if it had been in there 20,000 miles. . . But the frequent oil changes "healed" engines, reducing oil usage, quieting them, making them run smoother and with more power.

In my last few vans the oil changes were whenever they were in the shop for something else (tires, brakes, repairs). Increments varied from 5,000 to 20,000 miles and we never had an engine fail. Cars were scraped for every other reason but not engines. Most were well over 300,000 miles at the time and the oldest at 450,000 miles. My big ton truck has only had the oil changed three times in the last decade including when I bought it. . . three times in 3,000 miles. But time and condensation are an issue as well as operational miles.

Back when Ford was selling Pintos they came with special Ford 12,000 mile oil and filters. . . "Super economy". But trusting such a deal when the warranty on the engine was 12,000 miles and they often failed (due to lubrication failure) very near this was about as dishonest as you could get. Those that didn't believe FOrd got much longer lives from their Pintos. . .

Up until the 70's cars came with a break-in plan. They went something like this. . . Never drive over 25 for the first 500 miles then change the oil. Then never drive over 35 for the next 1,000 miles, then no more than 45 for the next 1,000 and change the oil again. Then at 5,000 intervals. Some owners actually followed this advice. . . But I remember driving Toyotas from one dealer to another in the 70's. They were so tight it was hard to get them going more than 35. But by the time the 75 mile drive was over they were doing 70. . . Not a break-in that anyone would recommend.


In my vans and cars before them I've always run high octane gasoline. I haven't heard a valve rattle or attempted diesel in 20 years. . I believe its as important in fast turning engines as oil changes. But in the heavy trucks nothing other than regular.


Wildly fluctuating oil prices are the scourge of our economy. 20% of our store gross goes to shipping paid by the customer. But we have nearly as much shipping on incoming product. The warehouse's have similar costs and so do the factory. Product has shipping on it at least 4 times. When you buy a commercial product you are often paying over 80% in shipping costs. While most of the products we sell have not changed in price much more than 10% in 15 years the shipping has tripled. Besides the actual cost there is the handling charge by the credit card companies (shipping does not just pass-through, there is a cost of handling ever increasing shipping. The oil companies and banks are making more while we (and many other businesses) make the same or less. . . These multiplied costs effect every product from food and fuel to clothing.

To reduce some of our inbound shipping costs we are now buying Kaowool by the pallet load (24 cases or more). The added quantity discount covers the fuel cost not the total transportation costs or my time. . I may have to increase the amount per trip but it takes a LOT of room to store that much product. Another cost. . .
   - guru - Friday, 02/24/12 21:32:38 EST

Cat Liter / Bentonite :
Rudy, This is used for a variety of purposes but not edge quenching or protection. A high alumina (refractory) clay like a porcelain clay is used for this. Clays are NOT used for baths. Someone might use Bentonite as an insulating medium for annealing but it would not be nearly as good as the standard substances (quick lime, wood ash, vermiculite, kaowool).

Bentonite as cat litter is nearly identical or the same as the grade sold for absorbing oil (just more expensive in small bags with lots of advertising overhead). It is handy to have in the shop for oil spills, hydraulic leaks. . . Some folks use it on ice for traction but sand is better.
   - guru - Friday, 02/24/12 21:52:35 EST

Engine break-in : For the past forty years I've followed the same break-in procedure on pretty much every engine I've owned, from one-cylinder lawnmowers up to heavy-duty truck engines of almost 500 HP. For the first one or two hours, the engine is run at or near a fast idle and then shut down and the oil and filter changed. Then the next twenty hours of engine time is run at under 70% of maximum design values for sustained operation, constantly varying the rpm so the rings don't develop a harmonic wear band in the cylinders. After those twenty hours are up the oil and filter are changed again and from then on I treat the engine as "broken in."

I have one-cylinder gas engines in 5KW generators that have over 1200 hours on them and they still run fine. I also have usually gotten 300,000 miles from my cars and trucks with no need for overhaul. I change the oil regularly, based on hours more than miles. Every 50 hours on the little air-cooled engines and every 500 hours on vehicle engines except for my tractors which are intermittently used diesels and get changed every 200 hours.

I think the biggest factor in ensuring long engine life is changing the initial oil after one or two hours of use. This rids the engine of the debris from manufacturing before it has a chance to do sustained damage to wear surfaces. If you saw what comes out of a new engine from a locomotive after the first oil change you'd cringe - a 2# coffee can full of sand, metal shavings, dirt and mold materials is about normal. Think of that staying in there, circulating through your new engine time after time for a couple hundred hours and you can understand why I change the oil after only an hour or to at the most.
   Rich Waugh - Friday, 02/24/12 22:38:45 EST

Reclaimed Oil : There was an oil reclaming plant near Me, they used the fractional distilation process to crack it, then added additives as per customer specifications. The main customer was the rail road, they claimed that reclaimed oil had fewer impurities than new oil.

The problem was that the plant did not dispose of the sludge properly, just pumped it into ponds out back. Ducks & other wildlife would get into it, a real mess. The flood of 1972 washed most of this sludge downstream, the wind kept it to the south side of the river. This was a huge mess for several miles downstream. The site became a superfund project to remove the sludge soaked ground where the ponds had been.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/24/12 22:52:53 EST

High Octane Gas : Unless You need higher octane to prevent excessive detonation, it is a waste of money. Octane rating is a measure of resistance to detonation, and does not measure available energy of the fuel.

I used 92 octane regular [before the '79 oil crunch] in My GTO. There was some detonation at full throttle, but not enough to hurt anything. That was the fuel We used in everything, as We had a farm pump.

Detonation has several causes. Glowing carbon in the combustion chamber can cause detonation and post ignition. High compression ratios agrevate this problem.

To stop post ignition, I stalled the motor by somewhat engaging the clutch while in gear with the brake on as I cut the ignition, on another high compression aplication with an automatic, We just cut the ignition while in drive.

Detonation is more likely with high compression ratios, greatly advanced ignition timing, high cylinder head temperature [air cooled engines] por combustion chamber shape and multiple spark plugs. Prior to the mid '70s the latter two were not well understood by the engineers.

On computer managed engines with detonation sensors ignition timing is controlled to eliminate detonation. A reduction in spark advance will reduce power output.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 02/24/12 23:17:15 EST

Mr. Boyer : You mentioned glowing carbon in the combustion chamber. Well. I had an old 69 Corvair, the thing had glowing carbon on the piston and burned a hole all the way through about the size of a quarter.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 02/25/12 07:21:43 EST

oils & gas : Dave Boyer is correct. Octane is simply the rating of a fuels ability to resist detonation, and has no relation in any way to the fuel value. Now as compression ratio increases the tendency of the the fuel to detonate is increased so the octane rating vs the compression ratio is one of those engineering compromises. In very highly blown engines, for instance the WWII aircraft engines like the P&W R2800 or the Packard Merlin the manifold pressures were often 70 inches Hg, and in full war emergency as high as 140" but that was only for the length of time the water/methanol injection lasted usually about 5 minutes and the engine was promptly junked when it got back to the ground. To achieve this fuel of Pn rating 115/145 was used. Pn is performance number NOT 145 octane as is often said. Octane is a scale of 0 to 100 with n-heptane being 0, and iso-octane C8H18 being 100. So in pure fuels 0-100. But we needed more resistance to detanation and started mixing things like tetra ethyl lead in and were able to make fuesl that performed like a 115 "Octane" at regular mixture levels and like 145 "Octane" at rich mixtures where the fuel is only partly burned and provides cooling to the combustion chamber, and when you need every single bit of power available to survive, you inject water at about a gallon a minute into those monsters to further cool the combustion. The Methanol in the water was strictly to keep it liquid at high altitude where the temps were often -70F. So unless you NEED the extra octane, you get absolutly nothing from that extra rating.

There are several ways to "put used oil back in service". I was the oils guy at Vogt and then the axle shop and bought hundreds of thousands of gallons of oils and so studied the subject pretty hard.

1. Recycled oil is used oil that is filtered, maybe vacumn dewatered and maybe re-additized. Mostly junk, and not worth using.
2. re-refined oil. This is usually fractionally distilled, run through a fullers earth bed and vacumn dewatered, and is basically returned to a base oil state. it is then additized to the oil needed. I would have NO issues using this in any machine, as long as the re-refiner is owned/operated by one of the major oil companies as this requires real infrastructure and a really good lab and quality control. I ran re-refined oil in industrial machines like upsetters that cost many millions in the usable condition. This oil is as good as any virgin oil additized to the same condition.

In aircraft, where the engine in even a small plane can cost $50,000 new and cost $20,000 to overhaul, (That is the really small ones) break in used to be the slow run etc.
But now these engines have hard chrome clyinders and iron pistin rings, and they are broke in by running just like normal except a push the throttles up to full power every 20 minutes or so in the first 10-15 hours and then an oil change. Now to Rich's change very very early, these engines are run on a dyno station at the factory when new, and the oil is changed before shipping.

I usually change the oil of a new car engine as soon as I get it home. Small engines get a change after about an hour. Used cars my kids buy get an oil change as soon as they get home and usually as soon as any healty black is seen repeated. AND I always change the filter with every oil change.
   ptree - Saturday, 02/25/12 09:15:05 EST

I don't know about my last two latest vans but those we had before would rattle occasionally under low speed loads and try to diesel once in a great while when my wife was putting regular grade gasoline in them. So I have continued to use premium.

Yes, putting load on the engine reduces the run-on from dieseling but does not stop the problem. Some makers used the AC compressor as a brake to stop runaway engines, instead of addressing the problem. A moment of dieseling does more damage to an engine than almost anything else that can happen. Often the engine runs in reverse blowing high pressure gases back out the intakes. I've seen dieseling bend valve stems and connecting rods, set fire to air filters . . .

Cars were supposed to run on regular starting in the 70's. Most of those absolutely did not. They got better in the 80's and still had problems due to the higher engine temperatures. In the 90's things got much better for some makes but not others. So I still run premium. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 02/25/12 10:43:53 EST

Anvil Weight : Here are some pics of the anvil I wrote about on 2/18, it's 36" long, 14" high and about 7" across the top face. The only mark I can find is 051. Any ideas as to weight?


   Robert Di Stasio - Saturday, 02/25/12 12:31:40 EST

Anvil weight : Robert, Do you have a way to lift and handle the anvil? One time, I took a big anvil to my coal yard scale. We weighed the pickup with and without the anvil and did a little subtraction. A pure guess would be 350-375#. The anvil has a Hay-Budden shape.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 02/25/12 13:21:52 EST

Anvil Weight :
I have a detail drawing of a 350 Hay-Budden that is 33" long but its a heavier pattern (wider waist and face).

The problem with guessing at anvil weights is that 1/4" added surface on the body can add 50 pounds. Wider waists can add 100 pounds on a large anvil without appearing any larger.

Frank's guess is pretty close. If you need to know, then weigh it.

To weigh a large anvil on a bathroom scale set the anvil on the center of a board about 3 feet long supported by a board or brick on the far end to make it level. IF the distances between the scale, the anvil and the end support (fulcrum) are equal then the anvil will weigh twice as much as the scale reading (more or less).

You can use TWO bathroom scales in a similar manner. Try to center things but its not critical. Just total up the reading on the two scales.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/25/12 16:29:17 EST

Cotton Scale : Lift the anvil with a cotton scale, that should work, if you can find an old one some where.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 02/25/12 17:21:16 EST

Steelyard (hanging balance scale) :
These are a great tool if you can find one complete. Old platform scales also work well. I've got one that goes to 1,000 pounds and another that needs repairs that goes to 500. The lower range scale can be read in 1/4 pound (4oz) increments.

I also have a modern 20,000 lb. hanging scale. This operates on a solid load element and a high degree of geared multiplication. It has a circular dial readable in about 5 lb. increments. Its basically the modern replacement for a large Steelyard.

The common thread to all these high range devices is getting the load on the scale OR lifting the load with the scale. . .

The alternative is to measure the anvil in as many easily definable geometric shapes then do the math. I've calculated large machinery castings to within 0.01% of the exact weight. But to do this on an anvil shape would require at least a dozen or more shape calculations using 50 to 100 dimensions to get an accurate number.
   - guru - Saturday, 02/25/12 21:59:32 EST

Non marring hammers : A little late to this one...anyone else use a garland hammer? I have a two pounder with which you can interchange heads. Non ferrous, rawhide(all I use), plastic, etc. love it.
   Jamie - Saturday, 02/25/12 23:45:02 EST

Jamie : If You are using the split head Garland, they are essentially the same as the "Basa" split head hammer I mentioned.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 02/26/12 00:05:51 EST

Garland Hammer : Until you guys brought up the subject, I had never heard of Garland ( split-head )hammers.I looked them up on the internet and immediately had an idea. Turn pine, oak, hickory etc. on a lathe to make your own heads with different densities. Also cut pieces of round steel bars for steel heads, could also mold aluminum, copper etc. Melt and mold old wheel weights. I think wheel weights have a lot of antimony in them which would make a pretty good head. Make your own box with pidgeon holes to store the heads.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 02/26/12 09:33:42 EST

Mike, I like to make a lot of my own tools but this sounds like a lot of work to replace a commercial tool that only gets used on rare occasion. For all the work, making individual types would be better time spent. Note that antimony is a hardener, something you don't want in a soft face hammer.

If you need disposable wooden mallets they are not hard to make but can often be purchased for what materials cost if you buy handles. I've made rough mallets from Paradise (AKA stinkwood) tree. These nuisance trees grow fast and straight reaching 3" in diameter in a year or two. We cut a bunch of 8" (20 cm) long pieces, drilled 1" cross holes with a brace and bit, then glued in 1" (25mm) hardwood dowel handles. The hard maple dowel is a little less expensive than premium handles but cheap handles are less. The advantage of dowel is they are round and fit in a drilled hole. You could also turn your own handles but this adds to the time and cost.

The green Paradise tree wood shrinks and checks but stays together. A couple year old tree will make a dozen or so mallets perfectly suitable for hot work. Other trash woods will also work but those with crossed grains like Sycamore work as well.

Dense hard wood burls and root knots from fine grained hardwoods make good carving mallets. My favorite carving mallet is made from a block of cherry root. Its nearly as hard as a commercial lignum vitae mallet I bought.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 12:59:40 EST

Trash Woods : I have never heard of a Paradise tree, wouldn't mind having a cutting or two to get a few started. Around here in Ark, probably a Black Locust would be similar to a Paradise tree, it is not used in lumber, but is popular for fence posts because it is hard and resists rot. Guru, you were talking about Cherry roots and Burls, have you ever tried making smoking pipes with these ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 02/26/12 14:57:03 EST

I have been calling this a Paradise Tree but the subject is Tree-Of-Heaven, Ailanthus altissima, also known ailanthus, Chinese sumac, and stinking shumac.

Tree-of-heaven is a fast-growing tree and a prolific seeder, that can take over sites, replacing native plants and forming dense thickets. Ailanthus also produces chemicals that prevent the establishment of other plant species nearby. Its root system may be extensive and has been known to cause damage to sewers and foundations.

Tree-of-heaven was first introduced to America by a gardener in Philadelphia, PA, in 1784, and by 1840 was commonly available from nurseries. The species was also brought into California mainly by the Chinese who came to California during the goldrush in the mid-1800s. Today it is frequently found in abandoned mining sites there. The history of ailanthus in China is as old as the written language of the country.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 15:17:51 EST

It really IS a weed and commonly seen in cites. It is one of the trees that gets started in the wall of old masonry buildings and destroys them. It can also take over a yard in a few years if you stop maintaining it. Once started it is difficult to get rid of.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 15:21:57 EST

soldering : I'm making an Old Western style fictitious badge and trying to figure out how to attach the pin to the back. I saw a spool of "metal working" solder at the hardware store and was wondering if this would be strong enough. Any advice appreciated
   - Robert Dean - Sunday, 02/26/12 15:29:13 EST

Problem Plants : Guru, you were mentioning the Tree of Heaven as a plant that was imported and can be a problem, well where I live, an area known as Crowley's Ridge ( Eastern Arkansas ), some guy was visiting Florida in the distant past, brought back some Kudzu and got it started on the ridge, now the Kudzu blankets the ridge for 250-300 miles.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:13:32 EST

Collasped pipe : I am wanting to make some collapsed pipe candle sticks and was wondering if anyone has had any hands on experience in doing this. A quick trial with a scrap pipe and trying to upset it did not give me the results that I wanted, was this done in a press with isolated torch heats?I operate a production shop forging 18th & 19th century door hardware so this is something I have not seen the technique for.Had a friend who had a Dan Boone table and the legs were in the style of what I want.
   Greg S - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:17:16 EST

Dogwood : Dogwood makes a good mallet for hitting hot iron as in straightening twists or for doing light work to avoid hammer marks. There is no flash, and it lasts a long time.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:19:09 EST

Tree of Heaven : Guru
Did you used to break off a branch and swipe it through your hands making a 'bouquet' of the leaves so you could shove it in some girls face and say, "here, smell this"?
Or am I the only one?
Smells to high heaven.
Maybe that's where the name comes from.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:21:22 EST

Robert Dean,

Yes, that solder will work fine if you clean both surfaces carefully and rough them up with some wet-or-dry sandpaper. That is, it will work if the pin back is the type that has a full-length mounting plate. If you're going to use the type that has a separate pivot plate and catch plate, then you'll probably want to use true silver solder if this will be subject to much use at all.
   Rich Waugh - Sunday, 02/26/12 16:58:41 EST

Collapsing Pipe : Greg, it is usually done with a press and a big rosebud torch. You can heat the whole pipe in a forge and selectively cool sections with a spray of water, too. For shorter sections, a fly press can be used, or even a hefty arbor press, but most guys I know who do it use hydraulic presses. Depending on the pipe you can do some of this cold with a hydraulic press, too.
   Rich Waugh - Sunday, 02/26/12 17:01:20 EST

Dan Boon's Pipe Techniques : I've seen some of this but not all. Many of the slumped parts are made from a short piece mashed hot on the power hammer and then fitted to another piece of pipe if length is needed. Controlled heat is part of the process. But pipe can also be drawn and tapered on the right dies. So you would slump one end then draw the other to get length. He can work fairly tall pieces (12" or so) on the Kuhn air hammer as it will hit near the top of the stroke. Much of the shaping is a random result but he does a lot of it so has developed some control over the process.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 17:08:40 EST

Pipe : Thanks for the info,thats kind of what I thought the proceess would be. I have a P6 flypress and I can get some height on the Big Blu 155 hammer I have, something I will have to play around with. I can't find any dates on the Big Blu hammer in for 2012, the website does not have any info for this year, are they having it this year?
   Greg S - Sunday, 02/26/12 17:42:17 EST

Pipe : I just found a Zack Noble You-tube video of him doing a slumped pipe if anyone would like to see this process. Thanks again.
   Greg S - Sunday, 02/26/12 17:51:02 EST

More Boone on Pipe :
Dan uses a pair of very slightly crowned dies (in all directions) dies for all his forge work on his Kuhn. The crown is about 1/4" end to end and less the short direction. When the pipe end is forged this causes some strange things to happen that you will not see on flat dies. Dan use the crown to create more movement on one side of the pipe than the other.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 18:48:10 EST

Cat litter for hardening: *NO* Molten salts keep the temperature more even through convection. They also keep O2 away from the hot metal. Using bentonite would be much more expensive as you would have to design a system to keep the entire tube at the correct temperature and it would take a lot longer to come up to using temperature.

Far better to just use a standard muffle furnace and an infrared pyrometer

Wood: Persmimon is related to ebony and is used to make woods for golf---so it's heavy/dense and resists splitting under impact. If you can't get dogwood perhaps you can get persimmon to make a mallet.
   ThomasP - Sunday, 02/26/12 19:17:17 EST

I have lots of persimmon, and many dead dogwoods, That the borers have killed. I use these for mauls and mallets, but the persimmon is lighter and not as tuff as the dogwood.
   ptree - Sunday, 02/26/12 19:31:03 EST

Crown Dies : Dan also uses the same dies for forging leaves that are a unique shape that does not come off other dies.

These type shaped dies can vary a lot in proportion and curves. Every style produces a different character work. Dan's dies almost look like flat dies if you don't look close. They have a near spherical surface with a radius of about 12". Big Blu's crown dies have a radius of about 5 or 6" the long way and a parabolic curve with approximately a 3/8" to 1/2" top radius. These are very aggressive compared to most power hammer dies but produce a very nice impression similar to squeezing clay with thumb and finger. There are other commercial crown dies but they were not designed by artist blacksmiths and are mostly large fullering dies.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 19:35:08 EST

Japanese Gouges : Hey Guru,
Why do the well known (high priced) Japanese chisel makers state they use wrought iron as their choice to weld to the blue or white steel? I would think that with availability, inclusions of slag that a clean low carbon steel would be a safer and cheaper bet. Tsai does use his primary then laminates of low and mid range carbon for his "back". This makes more sense.
   - deloid - Sunday, 02/26/12 19:57:07 EST

Japanese gouges : Deloid: Romance and tradition, like all things Japanese. Not necessarily better, just sounds that way if you don't know steel. ;_)
   Alan-L - Sunday, 02/26/12 20:44:45 EST

Japanese gouges : : Thanks Alan. That's my gut feeling but there must be something I'm missing since I see it so much. Wrought backed, wrought and high carbon damascus pattern and the advertised emphasis is the high carbon steel almost at the same level as the wrought. Either that whole market is based on myth and magic or I am overlooking something. Perhaps it is romance and tradition but how many people can be fooled?
   - deloid - Sunday, 02/26/12 21:05:22 EST

Japanese gouges : :
I watched a fellow using a set of these but I do not think they were wrought. They had VERY slender shanks that were sprung to control the cut. If these had been wrought they would have bent I think.

These were light weight gouges in a set of three that about 1/2". 3/4" and 1" wide. They were very shallow and had thin octagon shanks that tapered to the middle then back out again to the socket.
   - guru - Sunday, 02/26/12 22:08:55 EST

Hello I have a question about pickling steel. I forged 99 leaves and have them soaking in vinegar to remove the scale. Should I neutralize the acid after cleaning the black residue off with the wire wheel? Any comments are appreciated. Thanks.
   - Dan - Sunday, 02/26/12 22:40:19 EST

Cementation of Iron & Steel : Thomas, I'm pretty certain we didn't cover that when I went to CMU for Metallurgy, and I graduated in 1974. Unless someone is taking a history of Iron and Steel class I'm pretty certain no one would be aware of it. Also, many of the schools that used to offer Metallurgy majors are now labeling them "Materials Science" if they haven't rolled them totally into another department - The University of Pittsburgh comes to mind as an example of that trend, having moved metallurgy into MEchanical Engineering.
   - Gavainh - Sunday, 02/26/12 23:16:40 EST

Japanese chisels : A good reference is "Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use" by Toshio Odate, 1984. Some of his ferrous terminology is confusing, but he shows in diagrams and text that "soft steel is welded to high carbon steel." He claims that tools prior to 1900 were made with soft steel that had silica fibres, and apparently he means "wrought iron." He says that this is seldom used nowadays, because the iron must be recycled from old bridges, boilers, anchors, and anchor chain. From the way he talks, I assume that low carbon steel is used for the backup presently.

I believe the tatara furnace for smelting sand iron is only set up and run once yearly. I'm told that each yearly's quota is parsed out to mostly bladesmiths and perhaps a few chisel makers, saw makers, and plane blade makers. From the tatara comes both high carbon and low carbon steel. The high carbon steel, 'tamahagane', being rationed, so to speak, is fairly rare. If a chisel is made of it, the price would be rather high, no matter the backup iron or steel.

Is 'blue' or 'white' steel a present day manufactured steel?

   Frank Turley - Sunday, 02/26/12 23:47:29 EST

Locking Jaw plier help please : Guru and anyone else,
I just finished making a specialized set of locking jaw pliers patterned on the Vice-Grip brand jaw design. The set I made had to be slightly different in design due to materials at hand and the job they are meant for. Overall they came out very well and look like I expected. Unfortunately, they don't lock. I'm not sure but I think I got the length of the support brace in the middle wrong. That might not be what it is actually called. I'm talking about the small, stiff piece of steel that at one end is riveted to the swinging arm of the grip and at the other presses against the screw. I'm pretty sure I made this piece just a hair short and set the rivet a little too high. Any quick and easy way to figure this out or am I going to have to do some workbench engineering?

Thanks for any help.
   - Bill - Monday, 02/27/12 01:37:05 EST

Locking Jaw liers : Bill,

The key to making these work is the geometry of the pivot points. You are making what is called an "over center" lever action lock, so let's start with some nomenclature. You have a "fixed jaw" on the arm with the adjusting screw. The "moveable jaw" pivots on the fixed jaw arm and has another pivot point for the "locking bar", the other end of which rests on the "adjusting screw" in the fixed jaw arm.

The critical geometric relationships for this scheme to lock are this: The moveable arm pivot point for the link bar must be located so it is outside of a line drawn between the moveable arm/jaw pivot and the point where the locking bar contacts the end of the adjusting screw - when the pliers are in the "open" state. When the pliers are in the "locked" state, that same pivot point of the locking bar must now lie *inside* the line drawn from the moveable arm/jaw pivot point to the end of the adjusting screw. That makes the three points comprised of the moveable arm/jaw pivot, the locking bar pivot and the adjusting screw end contact point describe two different triangles depending on whether the pliers are open or locked. When open, the three points describe a triangle with a height roughly 1/3 of its base; when locked, the the apex of the triangle is now on the other side of the base and is much closer to the base line - a very "short" triangle. This creates the "over center" locking action.

This is vastly easier to demonstrate with a drawing but I have no way to post one here. I hope the verbiage has conveyed the concept adequately. Look at a pair of actual Vise Grips while reading this a couple times and watching the changing relationships and I think it will make sense. Well, I hope it will at least. (grin)
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 02/27/12 02:40:32 EST

Locking pliers errata : Bill,

Got scrambled in editing as I wrote, it seems. The the third sentence should read thus: the"moveable jaw" pivots on the "fixed jaw arm" and has a pivot point for the "moveable jaw arm", which, in turn, has a pivot point for the "locking bar" , the other end of which rests on the end of the "adjusting screw" in the fixed jaw arm. Sorry for any confusion this caused!
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 02/27/12 02:47:34 EST

Japanese chisels : Frank-

I think white steel is a just regular high carbon steel and that blue steel has a percentage of tungsten and chromium but I have never been able to find out if there are other alloys. I don't really care about that since we have just about any type of steel available to us here for whatever purpose. it still comes down to how it's worked and treated.
So many people are hooked on the wrought iron magic as well as the 65 RH that is so typical of these chisels. I wish I could find a good write up on this issue.
   - deloid - Monday, 02/27/12 03:12:47 EST

Dan, picling steel is usually done on stainless to passivate the material. Vinegar is a pretty weak acid, so there is no worry of chemical burns. Although, if it WAS a true acid hazard, neutralizing should be done prior to wirebrushing. How big are the leaves? If they're small I would recommend cleanup with a bench grinder mounted wire wheel. 99 leaves sounds like a lot of tedious cleanup to me, but if the job is worth it....
   - Nippulini - Monday, 02/27/12 08:40:44 EST

Locking Pliers : Rich Wauch,
Thanks. I'll print your post and take a look at my pliers and a couple of sets of Vice-Grips. I think I may be able to reset my rivet and avoid the tedious task of making a new locking bar. I like doing rivets, anyway.

And if you got scrambled in editing, apparently my brain unscrambled it. I knew what you were talking about.

Thanks again.
   - Bill - Monday, 02/27/12 09:30:37 EST

pickling leaves : Thankyou for the advice on pickling leaves. Blacksmithing advice is limited in this part of Canada.
   Dan - Monday, 02/27/12 10:38:28 EST

Over Center Locking :
There are many ways of doing this but the adjustability of the ViseGrip is what made them unique and patentable. Don't worry - the patent has run out decades ago.

The trick to over center locking is that the pivots create a straight line under compression that stretches the frame of the device then is snapped past straight without going too far and losing tension.

In custom made devices using this mechanism I put an adjustable stop near the middle pivot. This distance, if too great would mean excessive force to lock and then the same to unlock. Vise-Grips just have a fixed stop based on careful design and experience.
   - guru - Monday, 02/27/12 10:47:24 EST

PIckling to remove Scale :
Vinegar is not very good for this. Citric acid is used commercially on both stainless and carbon steels. Heat increases the chemical activity and shortens the length of time needed.

Neutralizing should be done to prevent rust in the future. A baking soda solution is used.
   - guru - Monday, 02/27/12 10:49:42 EST

Pickling steel : Steel forging are often pickled to remove the scale. The acid eats the steel just under the scale and forms hydrogen in the chemical reaction. The hydrogen pops of the loosened scale. Vinegar works fine, just slow. heat the solution and the pickling action is both faster and stronger smelling:) I would use a baking soda bath to nuetralize.
   ptree - Monday, 02/27/12 10:56:22 EST

Pickling : Would this technique remove the mill blacking from mild steel in the same way it removes the scale from forged pieces?

Also, would tomato paste work for this process?

Locking jaw Pliers: I'm just about to look over my design and see what went wrong. Thanks for the helpful information. I wasn't really worried about the patent. I doubt I will ever meet a representative of the company.

Thanks again.
   - Bill - Monday, 02/27/12 12:33:31 EST

Pickling : Bill,

Yes, it will - scale is scale, whether generated at the mill or in your forge. As for the tomato paste, it will work as it is acidic, but why do it? Unless you're making a steel pizza, of course. (grin) I use diluted muriatic acid as I find it faster and easier.

Interestingly, I met the grandson of the inventor of the Vise Grips many ears ago. His family, the Petersens, owned a plot of land in the Colorado mountains and I ran into him while fishing there. So you never know who you may meet where...
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 02/27/12 13:01:27 EST

Pickling :
Remember when you are done that you now have a toxic waste to dispose of. You have a weak acid with dissolved metals. Pure iron wouldn't be too bad but all steel has some alloying ingredients and tramp metals manganese is common in many steels, lead in small quantities is common in just about all metals. Then there are alloy steels. . .

The best way to dispose of such liquid waste is to first neutralize it, then dehydrate it (naturally or with a little added heat). If you do thin in a small tin can the remaining solid waste can then be sealed and disposed of. This method is also recommended for disposing of powdered metal waste from vibratory finishers (an option to pickling to remove scale).
   - guru - Monday, 02/27/12 13:54:33 EST

Locking Pliers update. : Followed suggested change. Pliers now work like they were intended to. Now to find out if I can use them for the task I had in mind.

Thanks yet again!
   - Bill - Monday, 02/27/12 14:12:56 EST

Striker Hammer Issues : I have a Striker hammer in our shop and it is causing problems. It just seems to hammer inconsistently...inconsistent force, sometimes a wierd double rhythm. I know nothing about this machine but it is pretty frustrating. I will get really light blows and then all of sudden it will get really heavy blows. Any ideas? I just used it for about an hour and it totally changed how it was working a few times....
   Lincoln Jamrog - Monday, 02/27/12 14:48:47 EST

setting up a forge : I live in Phoenix, Az and have been welding for years. I have made a lot of custom items but want to move into forging mainly sheet metal. I am building a small charcoil/coke forge and cant find any statutes on whether having a forge in a residential area is regulated under any laws. Can anyone out there let me know if there are any requirements or even good ideas for outdoor solid fuel forges?
   Dave - Monday, 02/27/12 16:32:07 EST

Striker hammer - If it was working ok, and the oiling is consistent, and it is running at a sensible speed (you can check it with a tacho, or calculate it from the motor speed and pully dias) it is worth checking that the valve sleeves are tight in the frame.

If you have got a loose one it can turn a little and change the characteristics of the hammer. Might only turn when the hammer is hot. A tap with a lump of wood and a hammer should show any movement in the tube. (you will need to pull the valves to check, a 2 min job)

If its loose set it back to the 'pop marks' and half n half grubscrew it.
   - John N - Monday, 02/27/12 16:47:18 EST

Forge Regulations :
Dave, The most common regulation applied to forges (usually by nosy neighbors) is the "open fire ordinance" which is often strictly applied in arid locations (for good reason) but in many other places as well. Some people get around this when there is a cooking fire exception by keeping a pot of hot water on the corner of the forge.

Some people have tried to apply EPA regulations on burning coal or coke. The first question the EPA will want answered is how many tons per hour do you burn. . . Then laugh you out of the office when you explain pounds per hour. . .

Note that while charcoal will smell like a weekend cookout, coke still smells a little sulfurous and people will ask questions.

Most of the things that apply to a forge in any location will be local regulations that vary from county to city to state. My suggestion is to go to the county clerks office and look up the various zoning and fishing regulations. NEVER ASK. Asking questions may get the zoning people on your case from the get go.

Note that many localities have zoning exemptions for artist's studios and blacksmith shops. Both make bad assumptions. They consider a blacksmith shop a farrier's shop and an artist's heaviest tool an easel. . . Blacksmith's shops are often allowed in residential areas because at one time they were like the local service station, it was a transportation necessity and people liked having these places nearby. Artist studios are allowed because nobody thinks of an artist being a metal sculptor and noisier than an autobody shop. However, you would not want to take either of these issues to court.

On sheet metal, I would not worry about the forge, I would worry about noise ordinances.

See The Law and Blacksmithing for more.
   - guru - Monday, 02/27/12 18:19:38 EST

Striker issues : valves seem fine and lined up correctly. any other possibilities?
   Lincoln Jamrog - Monday, 02/27/12 19:24:40 EST

Striker Hammer : How is the oiler system? Any crud in it, or erratic performance of the oiler will certainly affect the way the hammer runs.
   Rich Waugh - Monday, 02/27/12 19:37:55 EST

Pickling Steel : Commercially (in steel mills) stainless was/is usually pickled with nitric acid. Low carbon and alloy steel with sulfuric acid. Many mills now recycle/regenerate their sulfuric acid the recyling by-product from plain carbon is nearly pure iron oxide. Residual elements such as Mn are low enough that when it's reduced it will qualify as food grade iron powder. We pulled the sludge out of the nitric at the stainless mill I worked at, but I'm not certain what was done with it - recycled or?
   - Gavainh - Monday, 02/27/12 22:55:43 EST

Japanese chisel methodology : I will never have a Japanese smith's mindset. I know just enough to be dangerous. Ha! I spent 6 days with Yataiki, the premier saw maker of Japan. Two decades ago, he had come to Fairfield, Iowa, to present a 30 day saw sharpening/setting workshop. He was also to repair broken teeth etc. The workshop was advertised in "Fine Woodworking." Hardly any American smiths knew about it, but his host had set up a Japanese style forge arrangement. I found out about it by hearsay and showed up with three of my smith buddies. Yataiki began as a young man apprenticing in sword making, but he felt that in this post-Samurai period, it would be better to make tools, which were useful. When he found out via our translator that we were blacksmiths, he pretty much abandonded all the woodworkers who were silently and diligently sharpening their respective saws. He forged a small saw tensioning hammer, and then I forged the same style hammer. Then he showed us other pieces that he had made, including a recently made hand hammer, 4 1/8" long with a 1 1/4"D round face. He had also made a spear-plane.

He made two marking knives for our education. He had about 18" of mild steel and he forge welded high carbon steel on either end. After welding, the piece was "washed" eight times by heating the steel dark red and hammering it down to a black heat. Rain water is put on the anvil with a whisk, which latter is always hanging by the anvil. The hammer can be dipped in a small container of rain water, as well. Yataiki (we addressed him as sensei) said that washing the blade renders the tool "rust free" meaning that the red oxides are driven out of the steel. He said you are looking for a blue/gray scale finish on the iron part of the tool, no red oxide color. Then,the entire piece was heated and placed on the concrete floor to normalize. When the length was finally cut in half, he had two knives. Before welding, the small piece of high carbon was placed on the end and given a slip coating of miso bean paste mixed with salt water. He said that after mixing, you could still taste the saltiness (he demonstrated with a smile). On other tools, he used a clay/salt water mix, probably with the same results. A thin coating is put on with the finger, high carbon steel side only. The slip is allowed to dry. When the weld is taken, he hammers on the high carbon side only. He ssid that hitting the soft steel side would cause it to spread more and 'slop over the side edges.' He quenched at a "monkey butt red" in tepid water. The water was stirred with a red hot rod to warm it. No temper was drawn that I saw. I did not see the cold work or sharpening done on the finished piece, but a friend sent me one of the knives at a later date. At one time, Grant Sarver responded to a question about the salt coating. He said that when quenched, it throws scale exposing bare metal; it throws the vapor blanket; it prevents scale when heating.

On flat chisels and marking knives, the flat back of the blade is "hollowed." There is a depression that is shaved in with a "sen." Some sens are quite narrow, as for a mortising chisel. Some are wide, as for a slick. A sen is like a draw shave with a left and right handle. It is ussually pushed, but it can also be drawn (pulled). The hollowing leaves a flat all around the periphery making it easier to level and smooth the back before turning the tool over to finish sharpening the bevel.

As for Deloid's original question, I see no reason why wrought iron couldn't be used instead of low carbon steel, assuming one has a supply of it.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 02/27/12 23:59:03 EST

Chinese Work Holding Bench and Sen

Japanese smiths use a different variation of work bench (flat on the floor) but with similar work holding geometry.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/28/12 11:53:31 EST

Medieval shop design : Hello, I've been working out a Garage shop for a few years and I'm thinking about building a outbuilding to work in. I'm thinking about designing it to be like a Medieval smithy, but I having trouble finding any literature with any kind of specifics. would anyone be able to point me toward some literature, or living history museum that I might be able to contact.

Much thanks
   Aaron R - Tuesday, 02/28/12 13:56:02 EST

Medieval Shop : Gee Aaron, saying "Medieval" covers a multitude of sins and a span of some 900-1000 years. Do you have a more specific time in mind? Otherwise you're encompassing a span of time from about the end of the Iron Age to the Renaissance. A lot of changes went on during that period.

   Rich Waugh - Tuesday, 02/28/12 15:55:17 EST

Medieval shop design :
So Arron, Are you the village smith working from a small shack or rented shop, itinerant repairman, or armourer to the king?

Medieval era indicates serfs and nobility. The serfs owning little or nothing and the nobility everything else.

The oldest illustrations of European shops are from the 1300's (the end of the Middle ages, beginning of the modern era or Renaissance). See De Re Metalica and other early references.

The best shop illustrations come later but are just that, illustrations not portraits of actual shops. The illustrations in Diderot's are designed to show the tools and processes and are very likely fictional or composites. Then there are paintings most of which are allegorical (thus fictional).

Figure out what equipment you want or can afford and work around that. Bellows are large and the shop and forge used with them are arranged for their use. Start there.

Focusing on a specific time period puts a lot of restrictions on what you can and cannot have in a shop. Lights? Power tools? Oxy-acetylene? Vises? As soon as you deviate from the purely historical you are in the realm of fantasy. If you are going to go fantasy, then you might as well go all the way.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/28/12 15:56:06 EST

good Deal or not : Hello, I have recently come across a man selling s floor mandrel cone in Utah and I am wondering if it is a good deal. The ad for it is online (and nobody both trying to buy it out from under me, the man has already agreed to let me have first dibs.) The ad is on KSL.com in the classifieds, under the search word blacksmith. Also does it look to be damaged in any way. I am quessing the tip was designed the way it is. The man is willing to sell it to me for $5oo instead of $600. Any advice would be appreciated.
   RM Howell - Tuesday, 02/28/12 17:09:06 EST

Cone Manrels : RM, Like many such tools there is no standard. Some cones came to a point but those with a low angle did not. Some had removable points usually with a square shank that fit in a vise or hardy hole. Others had tong grooves, many did not.

Generally cones sell for more than anvils per pound due to rarity. On the other hand you may want to consider if you really need one. They are very handy when you need them but the same task (truing round rings) can often be done some other way.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/28/12 17:43:16 EST

Deal or Not : The price is not too much.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/28/12 17:47:29 EST

Medieval Smithies: May I commend to your attention "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" Gies & Gies for period depictations of several smithies of the medieval times.

Also for one almost a couple of centuries earlier than 1300 look up the door carvings of the stave church at Hylestad

Remember that the medival smith mainly used real chunk charcoal as a fuel with coal starting to transition in the high/late middle ages. They used twin single action bellows and a side blown masonry forge. Medieval anvils did NOT look like London Pattern Anvils and perhaps the biggest difference with modern smithing they *ALWAYS* had help in the shop---apprentices, journeymen, etc.

Note that sword making and armour making were distinct crafts from smithing and asking a regular smith to forge a sword would be a lot like asking your GP to do Neurosurgery!

This is my area of interest so feel free to contact me for a more in depth discussion of Medieval smithing.
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 02/28/12 19:07:23 EST

mandrel cone : Thanks for the quick reply guru. Does the cone on KSL look like the tip was broken off and redressed, or made that way? thanks
   RM Howell - Tuesday, 02/28/12 20:50:01 EST

Cone Mandrel : RM, it looks like it came that way.
   - guru - Tuesday, 02/28/12 21:41:51 EST

Medieval Blacksmithing : There is an illustration of the biblical Tubal Cayn, circa 1360, as the header for our Camp Fenby YahooGroups bulletin board at:


Note that he is using a block anvil on a stump with a separate hardy inlet into the same stump, and his hammer looks pretty much like the Swedish style, good for anything from the Viking Age to the 21st century. His leather apron uses the neck and shoulders of the hide for the bib section, and it's held by an annular brooch (pretty much the same style I use). I can't say much for his headwear, but he's wearing a substantial pair of toggled leather boots.

If you're interested in one of the smaller, temporary forges, the Vikings left one behind (or at least the traces of one) at L'Anse aux Meadow in Newfoundland, and I'm sure you can pull the dimensions off of the report from the archeological digs.

As mentioned above, important questions are: where are you (both in the present century and in Medieval Europe), when are you, and what do you plan to do? What I really miss in early medieval forging is the use of a blacksmith’s vise, a renaissance application of the previously invented (Classical period, Roman{?}) screw. If you go for historical accuracy, you may want to work towards the later medieval or renaissance period. If so, check out Biringuccio's Pirotechnia as well as Agricola's De Re Metallica.

Another cool and sunny day on the banks of the lower Potomac; I've been working with some of our crew on a yoke for a swivel gun for an 1812 reenactment, and cooking implements and a shield handle for the Carolingian camp. I use the 1 1/2# hammer as I recover from a bck injury and generously allow them to use the 3# and 4# hammers. :-)

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/28/12 21:43:29 EST

Anvil : I want to suprise my boyfriend with a new anvil. He is more of a bladesmith than a blacksmith. There are so many types of anvils out there that I don't know what the appropriate type to buy is. Any info would be great. I'm looking to spend around $300. Thank you for your time.

   leslie - Wednesday, 02/29/12 02:35:27 EST

glass metal fusion : Is it possible to melt glass to metal or metal to glass and if so what kind of gas would one use. I think the anvil would not work here, but still thought I would ask the guru anyways. I am just curious and want to get creative someday maybe. ps I love the shop rules and printed them up for posting in my rather benign
tool shed.
   mike - Wednesday, 02/29/12 07:10:24 EST

Dear Leslie : First of all, ma'am, most new anvils that are good ones are rather expensive. There are many used anvils out there, in excellent condition, which would give you way more "bang for the buck". On average, depending on location, $300 will probably get you a decent conditioned anvil in the 100-150 pound anvil. For GOOD anvils, size matters! The bigger the better! Keep in mind that your boyfriend will be beating on hot steel on this anvil, and the heavier the anvil, the more shock it can absorb. Another thing that you should know is that blacksmithing can be a shared activity; I know several female blacksmiths!
   stewartthesmith - Wednesday, 02/29/12 10:40:49 EST

Glass/Metal : Mike,

The short answer is that in a blacksmith's shop it isn't going to work well. Glass doesn't adhere to steel except under highly controlled circumstances in a sophisticated lab. You can "slump" (melt, sag) glass into a suitable receiver in a piece of steel if you have a way to anneal the glass after slumping, such as a temperature-controlled kiln.

For moderate melting like slumping a marble into a hole in steel, you can try it with your forge and maybe get away with it. The odds are against you, but sometimes you win. Generally though, the marble fractures upon cooling.

If you know a glass artist you can get him to do the glass work for you and fit it into your iron work with silicone, epoxy or mechanical retention. One problem with trying to fuse glass into steel, even in a glass-worker's annealing oven, is that the steel will be scaling all the time it is in there and the buildup of scale can exert pressure on the glass, eventually fracturing it.

Try a few things and see what, if anything, works for you. As I said, sometimes you get lucky.
   Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 02/29/12 10:49:17 EST

Would scale abtually build up while encased in glass? I would assume the steel would be sealed up, therefore no oxygen to cause scale? I have used a metal rod to mix molten glass (wasting time, having fun in the shop with old beer bottles). The glass did stick, but broke off pretty easily.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 02/29/12 11:17:16 EST

New Anvils - Gifts :
I did a brief survey this AM and new anvil prices are running $5/lb for anvils 100 pounds and UP. CentaurForge has a number of Farrier's anvils under 100 pounds (70 and 50) for about $300. However, these are specialty anvils and very springy for their mass. They are also light because they are hauled to the job several times a day.

If you have been shopping at popular discount tool sites STOP! The "anvils" sold by Harbor Freight, Grizzly, Northern Tool and others as well as by some dealers on ebay are phony junk tools we call ASO's (Anvil Shaped Objects). The are pieces of cast iron (a cheap brittle non resilient metal) in the shape of an anvil. The only thing these are good for is door stops or lawn ornaments.

Personal Preference: Many blacksmithing tools are a very personal preference. Buying the for someone else would be like buying perfume or shoes for a woman without a clue about what she likes or what size fits.

Used Equipment: Is more affordable but is not something you shop for without a lot of knowledge of what you are looking for. While there are some great deals on used anvils there is also a current collector's market with prices completely out of reason.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/29/12 11:23:53 EST

Medieval Blacksmithing : Sorry for the lack of clarity in my earlier post. I do realize That it is a huge span of time and to be honest I'm interested in all of it. However for the purpose of the shop I wish to build I'm thinking about 1300-1400 English/Scottish. What I plan to do with the shop is experimental archaeology just for personnel research, I still plan on using my garage shop for most work. cost for this project is not really an issue as I plan for it to take several years to complete.
Thanks for your help.
Thomas P, I would be interested how do I contact you?
   Aaron R - Wednesday, 02/29/12 11:40:53 EST

Glass/Steel Scale : Nip,

The problem I experienced was the formation of scale right at the margin of the glass and steel. The scale there did build up and apparently acted as a "wedge" at the margin and fractured the glass. In some cases this happened several days after the piece was removed form the annealing oven.
   Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 02/29/12 12:15:56 EST

New Anvil for Boyfriend : I think one of the key questions is: What type of anvil does he use now? If it's a reshaped piece of RR rail, or a beat up old anvil with multiple chips and slumps, then I am sure that he would welcome a new one. If he has a competent tool around 100 pounds that he's happy with, then a newer, shinier version may be redundant. (On the other claw, a second good anvil can be mounted at a different height. I have my lightest one mounted higher than normal for doing fine of delicate work.)

If an anvil would be redundant or overly expensive, then what else might he need? A leg vise (or an extra one, for varying work)? Buffers, grinders, stainless steel quench tanks? Check out some knife making and blacksmithing sites where they list "getting started" tools and see if he's missing anything basic or handy.

Good luck.

(What a nice girl; planning tools for her boyfriend! ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 02/29/12 13:52:51 EST

Presents: how about giving him a copy of the Pieh tools catalog (piehtoolco.com) and telling him he can order anything in it up to a total of $300 including shipping and let him get what he likes the most!

Or offer him a trip to Quad-State and $100 cash.

Me and my wife of 27+ years started out with a pact that we would never buy the other person anything to do with their hobby without checking with them *first*. The lack of surprise being counteracted by the lack of finding your SO has just blown the budget on something *you* *didn't* *want* *or* *need*, when that money could have been spent on something you'd *cherish*!

Over the years I have learned enough about her hobby to be able to make some very good guesses; but I still don't spend more than US$20 on something without getting it vetted first.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/29/12 14:18:00 EST

Aaron; to contact me you can click on my name and send me e-mail. If that doesn't work on your system let me know.

Glass: also look into enameling with real powdered glass enamels as steel is one of the metals you can enamel on. (Note you really do need to use the professional stuff unless you want to spend a lot of time experimenting in which case I commend to your attention "Divers Arts" by Theophilus who describes how to do it from the ground up as of 1120 A.D.)
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/29/12 14:22:19 EST

Gifts (books are always good) :
One gift very few bladesmiths would purchase for themselves is the ASM Heat Treater's Guide, Standard Practices and Procedures for Steel. Its an expensive reference, the ultimate for steels.

A wider ranging book that includes more metals and basic heat treating (nothing as in-depth as the Heat Treater's Guide) is the ASM Metals Reference Book. It includes non-ferrous alloys as well as ferrous.

THEN there is Machinery's Handbook. This is a more universal reference that every type of metalworker should have. There are many copies on the used book market with the price averaging a third or less of list. Many schools require Machinery's as a text book for metalworking courses and many of those new books end up on the used market.

IF the bladesmith is a newby then Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop is a great book for the low budget operation.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/29/12 16:46:32 EST

Galvinized Metal : I have concerns over "Metal Fume Sickness" and galvanized materials? Is there a way to discern galvinized metals? Some are obvious such as coated pipe but others leave questions; such as some smooth pipe, nuts, bolts, washers etc. Is there any handy reliable test?

ThanKs Joe
   Joe - Wednesday, 02/29/12 19:19:44 EST

Joe, Zinc is shiny to flat white and often crystalline - it oxidizes white and gray, steel is blue gray and rusts red and brown, oxidizes blue black with heat. The color differences are distinctive. Zinc is nearer in color to aluminium than to iron and steel.
   - guru - Wednesday, 02/29/12 19:46:30 EST

Zinc : Joe,

Zinc can also be removed w vinegar. Let it soak for a while, and if it DOESN'T come of it ain't zinc. 'course it could be arsenic.
   rudy - Wednesday, 02/29/12 21:15:54 EST

New Anvil : I wanted a new anvil for my wife. Problem is Vaughans do not do part exchange.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 02/29/12 22:44:55 EST

Striker Hammer : Be aware that James Cosgrove, of Striker, imported two different brands over the period of time he ran the company, and rebadged both as Striker. So the hammer could either be a Shanxi, or an Anyang. Both are variations on the Chambersburg design, but they differ a fair amount in execution.
Anyangs are supported in the USA, and John N, above, is the importer for Great Britain, so there is more info on them available these days. Shanxi currently has no US importer/distributor, so any parts would have to come direct from China.
So first step in diagnosis would be determining which it is, then getting a manual/schematic, if you dont already have one.
Shanxi is at www.sxqd.cn and there is indeed an english button at the top right you can press to get pages in english.
All Chinese self contained air hammers are generically called C-41- this is an internationally agreed upon designation for small (under 10,000 lb or so ram weight) self contained hammers.
These machines are pretty simple, and assuming there are no obvious broken parts in the driveline, and the oiler is working right, and there are no air leaks from the master cylinder in back,its a pretty good chance that something is wrong with the valving. The 5 or so moving parts seldom screw up- the drive pulley linkage to the master cylinder is bone simple, and the driven cylinder is basically a one piece piston. So air movement via valving is your number one culprit.
   - ries - Thursday, 03/01/12 09:18:58 EST

[ Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]
Counter    Copyright © 2012 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com Cummulative_Arc GSC

Get anvilfire.com GEAR.

International Ceramics Products