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 March 16 - 21, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Tom on all good vises the ball ends are upset on the bar. Occasionally you can see the marks from the gripper dies from the upsetting machine. On very old vises with wrought handles the ball ends may have been forge welded on as a ring then shaped in dies. I have made replacement handles this way.

I've never used a vise with screw on vise handle knobs that stayed put. I've had them with plastic handles and brass inserts, screw on balls and the current Chinese cap with socket head cap screw. These last ones work loose even when the vise is not in use. . .
   - guru - Monday, 03/07/11 20:56:40 EST

Besides buildings and old fire places what is wrought iron used for? I looked at your faqs page and saw that it looks like wood and is soft. also would cast iron make a good blade? would wrought iron? also iron vs steel which one is better when it comes to swords?
   jeff - Wednesday, 03/16/11 02:12:51 EDT

Iron vs. Steel; Jeff: Go to the Anvilfire Armoury (on the pull-down menu) and click on my old article "Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel. You may find a lot of answers to your questions. The bibliography (and a trip to the library) are useful, too.

It's warm and rainy on the banks of the Potomac today.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 03/16/11 08:43:39 EDT

Mike BR:
Aside from the pressure differential and friction in teh pipe, you also need to deal with the initial energy investment... building something so improbable as a pipe to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

That initial energy investment is no different than the morot which starts a flywheel or the "cost" of breaking the water ond to get "free" hydrogen. Putting that 30,000 foot pipe in place, one strong enough to resist the initial collapse when its full of air, would be extremely expensive. Even IF friction and pressure differentials were NOT a factor, how long would your freshwater spout have to turn a paddlewheel to generate electricity sufficient to pay for the building costs?

Arthur C. Clarke illustrated a similar problem in his novel "Ghost of the Grand Banks." In an attempt to raise the Titanic, someone proposes using glass spheres with bubbles of air in them as floats. Hwo to get them down there? Just sink a big pipe, pump out all the water, and pour them down the empty pipe to the ocean floor. Clarke, having a decent grasp of real science, must have been laughing as he wrote this... a classic problem of letting a "businessman" try to apply commen sense without regard to science. In the end, I think they cause more problems and spend more money trying to get the glass floats down there than the competing team who brings down icemakers and a nuclear sub as a generator.

Sadly, generations of hard science has already found all the easy answers we're ever likely to see. Progress these days comes from increasingly complex answers, or extreme miniturization of the easy answers we already have.
   MikeM-OH - Wednesday, 03/16/11 14:06:34 EDT

scroungers tip: swimming pool service companies always have GOOD clean plastic buckets with lids to give away, big buckets
   danny arnold - Wednesday, 03/16/11 16:29:00 EDT

Jeff try to explain a saturn rocket to a new guinea tribesman and you will see why the questions you pose cause experienced bladesmiths to sit silent, read all the stuff offered to you free here and other sites and you will go a long way towards your goals
   danny arnold - Wednesday, 03/16/11 16:53:46 EDT

a big plastic bucket, water, washing soda, a piece of steel for anode, a battery charger, + to work - to anode. de- rust by electrolysis right? what will it do for melted borax flux?
   danny arnold - Wednesday, 03/16/11 17:19:44 EDT

I can'T ever seem to jump up metal as large as I'd like to without running ito problems (i.e. bending and occasional cold shunts). I've been staring at the end of a piece of metal, would I get better results staring a few inches back (that part to be removed after jumping up), and quenching on both ends of the heat before enlarging?
   Thumper - Wednesday, 03/16/11 17:56:01 EDT

jeff please excuse me if i sound like i am being flippant with your questions , read all you can on these websites and if you still am interested in making a REAL sword get the books Dr. Jim Hrisoulas wrote and start practicing forging your sword and cast iron dont make swords
   danny arnold - Wednesday, 03/16/11 18:36:07 EDT

Thumper, Upsetting is one of the most difficult things a smith does. There are often two ways to go. Get a bigger hammer, or a smaller one. With big stock a bigger hammer is almost always necessary. With small stock lots of fast blows often works better than heavy blows. Lots of skill required.

The first question to ask is if upsetting is the best way to go. Forging larger stock DOWN can often be just a efficient.

Rounding the end of the stock to be upset, that is, making a raised center, helps focus the upsetting blows to the center of mass and reduce bending. Keeping control of the heat helps reduce bending. So does support such as in a swage block or other support. Lots of lighter blows while rotating the work to keep it straight reduces uncontrolled bending. This is the high skill level way. .

Cold shuts are usually caused by mushrooming the upset. Rolling the corners to make that high center before doing the upset can reduce this problem.

   - guru - Wednesday, 03/16/11 18:47:37 EDT

Thanks guru...I learned a long time ago in jewelry, sometimes the easiest way to do something is to just do it right (stop looking for shortcuts), this fit's right in with that mantra.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 03/16/11 19:17:38 EDT


I cheat - I use an air hammer. The little muffler guns that HF sells for ten or fifteen bucks work just dandy for upsetting in you make a tool for it with a 1-1/4" diameter slightly domed face. You can buy the tool ready-made at automotive tool centers and/or aircraft tool places. Easy enough to make your own head and weld it onto one of the chisels that comes with the air gun. Use 309SS or high-nickel rod for the welding, it sticks better to tool steel and is less likely to crack.
   - Rich - Wednesday, 03/16/11 20:22:38 EDT


You're right, of course. Even if the thing would work, it would be completely impractical. It was just bothering that I'd thought of something that seemed like it shouldn't work, but couldn't figure out why it wouldn't.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 03/16/11 20:29:47 EDT

Question for the Little Giant experts. A buddy has a new to him 50# little giant with wood shoes in the clutch. I think I remember that these should be lubed with oil. Correct? What is the wood of choice for these? Lube of choice, if oiled?
   ptree - Wednesday, 03/16/11 20:41:56 EDT

At work today, the Japanese engineers were discussing a vist they had just made to another Japanese American plant. That plant had a supplier in Japan that was washed away. Seems they found a 250 ton stamping press 250 meters away from its installed location due to the tsunami! A 250 ton stamping press is a very heavy and not a lot of surface area for the water to act on, the power of that wave continues to astound me.
   ptree - Wednesday, 03/16/11 20:46:45 EDT

wow a bit of trivia popped into head Lignum Vitea ?sp? is the wood old timers would use for that and pulleys for oily work how i know that is a mysterus thing, i dunno
   danny arnold - Wednesday, 03/16/11 20:47:55 EDT

Interesting idea Rich, I've got an air hammer just gathering dust, might be just the ticket.
   Thumper - Wednesday, 03/16/11 21:03:43 EDT

The heat length for upsetting should not be longer than 2½ times thickness. If the end you're upsetting has a right angle cut, the thin edges will mushroom out right away, and you'll get a crappy upset, something like a valve head or golf tee. If you chamfer the end first, what we call a blunt taper or short taper, it will centralize your blow and push the stock farther back from the end, where it should be. You may still get a bit of a bulb or bell shape to the upset, but it will be thicker than if you didn't blunt-taper it.

Most of the time, the hot end will face the anvil or upsetting block, not the hammer head. I use a coal forge, and I pour water on the bar before taking the heat. I take the heat at the edge of the fire to keep it to the right size. If the heat still gets too long, QUICKLY quench again before hammering.

You can upset in the vise, if the piece is of a managable size. It normally goes in the vise horizontally for extra jaw grip. You run the risk of getting vise jaw marks on the work, which is undesirable on fine ornamental projects. In using the vise, again 2½ thickness, the hot end, is protruding beyond the vise jaws. The water quench is not necessary.

It helps to upset at a light welding heat or at least a lemon heat. When it gets to a bright cherry red, take another heat. If the metal starts to bend while upsetting, give it a couple of quick level-up blows, and continue working.

Terminology varies. We usually "jump" a longish bar by lifting it vertically and forcing down onto a swage block or thick steel plate that is grade level. I use the term "upsetting" most of the time. Some Scots "stave up" a bar. Horseshoers "bump it up."
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 03/16/11 21:07:11 EDT

Little Giant Clutches: Ptree, lots of oil every use. . . 20W to 10W40. . . I like 20W20 Non-Detergent if you can find it. All the cone clutches in LG's were originally designed as engage/disengage clutches with a soft engage, not for speed control. To get speed control they need to be kept well lubed.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/16/11 21:31:43 EDT

Along with other aspects of blacksmithing, I also like the history. If there is anyone who could answer this for me or point me in the direction of a good answer I would appreciate it. I am curious about the history of fuel used in blacksmithing(particularly the western world). I know charcoal was used first and for most of the iron age, but I don't know a whole lot about exactly when coal came into use with blacksmiths. Also it seems like smiths would have also used coke some. When did smiths start forging with coke? Also what were the ratio use between coal and coke and did smiths still continue using charcoal to some degree or did its use pretty much become obsolete? I aploagize for the load of questions. Thanks.
   RM Howell - Wednesday, 03/16/11 21:32:01 EDT

Lignum Vitae: This is one of the densest woods known. It is used for carving mallets due to its weight and hardness and for water bearings due to its natural oiliness and wear resistance. It could also be used for machine guides. I have a lignum vitae carving mallet but prefer a less dense cherry root mallet that I made and a hard rubber one.

For clutches (and musical instruments) they use New England Rock Maple. Rock Maple is common maple that has grown in a cold harsh environment. The slow growth makes it much harder than common maple but it is far from lignum vitae.

There are many other tropical hardwoods that come close to lignum vitae in performance. Central American Cedra, a type of "rosewood" makes good bearings and guides.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/16/11 21:46:08 EDT

Coal vs. Charcoal: RM, This is a long complicated history and depends on where the history occurred. I believe coal was first used in the Nordic and Scandinavian countries quite a long time ago. England used coal heavily starting in the 1700's and built their colonial era industrial superiority on coal. In North America we had huge timber reserves and our iron industry ran on charcoal for over 100 years after coal was universaly adopted in England. Even well into the 20th Century Swedish "charcoal iron" was prized for its lack of sulfur and thus superior corrosion resistance.

Then there were Eurasian and Far Eastern trends. . .

If you want details you'll need to research the book. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/16/11 22:06:28 EDT

RM Howell,

When Marco Polo returned to Venice from China in the 13th century, he wrote about "black rocks" being used for fuel by the Chinese peasants. His fellow Venetians dismissed this report as fantasy. At that time, it is said that none of Europe knew of the use of coal as fuel. Much later in Northern Europe, coal was mined and this led to the 18th century Industrial Revolution. Charcoal was used in the bloomeries and iron furnaces until the mid? 19th century, when blast furnaces were developed which could handle coke. The coke was made in coke ovens.

Once coal was mined on a fairly large scale, blacksmiths found that they could us a coking grade of coal (now called metallurgical) for their work. The heat of the forge fire converted coal to coke as they worked, so there was no urgency to use the same coke that fired the blast furnaces. I understand that in the U.K. nowadays, there is a wide use by smiths of "breeze" which I'm told is a high quality coke. Some smiths in the U.S. use ready made coke, although it is a little hard to start, and it goes out readily, unless the fire is kept hot with an air blast.

Smiths still use charcoal when coal is not an option. For instance, when I was sin Costa Rica, we had professional colliers (carboneros) to deliver charcoal, because coal was not available. In Japan, charcoal is preferred. It doesn't have the impurities that coal does, so the bladesmiths and toolsmiths use it.

Today, coking grade coal for the steel industry is being sold in 100,000 ton lots for overseas shipment to, pimarily, China and Japan. It is getting more difficult for smiths to locate coking coal in the quantities that they like to buy.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 03/16/11 22:36:34 EDT

Thank's Frank, sound's like I'm not heating enough. I agree, I don't like vise marks on the finished product, so I try to do my jumping, upsetting, by holding it in my left hand against a concrete floor and hammering w/ my right, sometimes lightly stabilizing it with the vise jaws. Don't have a swage block that would work with the process.
   Thumper - Thursday, 03/17/11 01:03:55 EDT

It looks like you could cut a steel pipe in half, put each side around the work, place it in a vise ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 03/17/11 02:00:25 EDT

Where can I find charts to reference for the hardening temperatures and the tempering temperatures for boron steels.
   Bruce Johansen - Thursday, 03/17/11 09:00:54 EDT

Heat Treating References: Bruce, these type things are generally not published in wall charts but are list in table in books. The two primary books in the U.S. are both published by the same company, AMA International. The most comprehensive, that is covering the most steels is the ASM Metals Reference Book. It includes chemical compositions and properties of steels, stainlesses, tool steels and non-ferrous alloys. The one with the most details about each steel including graphs of all applicable heat treating processes (from annealing to tempering and cryogenic treatment) is the Heat Treaters Guide, Standard practices and Procedures for steel. The guide only covers standard steels and tool steels that are normally heat treated in industry. Those it covers are covered in great detail. These references are not cheap but they do not become dated other than the development of new alloys. If you are serious about heat treating you should have both.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/17/11 09:40:36 EDT

Anyone know what the demonstrators will be demonstrating
at the Southeastern Blacksmith Conference? Conference
flyer lised only impressive biographies not specific
projects or techniques for the May event in Madison Ga.
   Har F. - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:05:40 EDT

Upsetting Blocks: Depending on the length of the work upsetting is done against various surfaces. Josh Greenwood once observed the tell-tale square handling hole of an old anvil in the floor of a German blacksmith shop. He studied it a moment and then the "light" came on. The German smith saw the moment of recognition in Josh's face and they smiled together. . . An old worn out or broken anvil had been set flush into the masonry floor for upsetting. Josh told the German smith "Very good idea".

Anvils with upsetting blocks are handy for only a couple lengths of work but they are there when you need them. I've seen simple cubes of steel about 4" (200mm) dogged down next to an anvil for this purpose. You could also weld it on. Those on old forged anvils are welded. . .

Upsetting on the floor can also be done on a heavy plate 2 or 3" (50-75mm) thick. We have video of Josh Greenwood upsetting 2" square bar to 3" on such a plate.

Upsetting with sledges is often done horizontal on a heavy bench or weld platten. Weld plattens are best because the work can be bucked against a block or anvil supported by large pins. If the end is just off the surface it will stay much straighter than otherwise. When it becomes distotred the work is straightened on the platten.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:08:45 EDT

I found a 2 inch thick piece of 4140 round stock at 10 inches that was cut for someone who didn't pick it up at Metal Stock Inc (here in Philly), got it cheeep. Works really well as an upset block for long pieces. Someone here a while ago advised me that upsetting in a vise can be done much easier with rapid light blows... very effective... even more effective when used in conjuction with O/A rosebud.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:16:53 EDT

Coal and Coke: I like to use coke while out demonstrating
with a hand cranked rivet forge. The coke cuts down on
smoke drifting onto other "crafters" but is very hard to
keep a fire. Coke likes a steady air blast! What I do is
mix the coke about 50/50 with regular smithing coal. Lump
charcoal helps keep it going or for restarting if you
get engaged in converstion with a customer.
   Har F. - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:25:09 EDT

For upsetting I set a 6" by 6" x 18" die insert flush with the floor. Nice hot work die steel professionally hardened and since wornout, got it for $0.06/# :)
   ptree - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:33:50 EDT

A compadre is making a hydrostatic power hammer. I have never heard of such a thing. Nothing like it on the JYH page. Have you ever heard of such an idea? Did it work? should it work?

Thank You
   William - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:42:14 EDT

William, I have no clue what you are talking about. Generally fluids move to slow for a hammer. Perhaps he is building a hydraulic press? Or is using incorrect terms?
   - guru - Thursday, 03/17/11 10:51:19 EDT

Can anyone tell me aprox. what date they stopped using wrought iron for bridges in the US? There is one by me they may be scrapping out.
   Carver Jake - Thursday, 03/17/11 12:57:34 EDT

Several German firms build hydraulic hammers Lesco being one I think. These are for closed die work, and are often counterbalance units. Usually very large industrial units.
   ptree - Thursday, 03/17/11 13:08:47 EDT

Jake, the 1930's I think but more likely the 20's.

The best way to identify them is to go LOOK. One feature most of the wrought bridges had is flat forge welded tension bars with looped ends with a hole like a tear drop. The wrought texture is pretty easy to see around these forge welds. The other thing to look for is sagging load members. The old wrought bridges were too soft for heavy loads and often show it.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/17/11 13:12:32 EDT

Upsetting: a lot of times they forge welded more stock to an area that needed to be bigger. This of course was more popular in the wrought iron days.

LG clutch: Hard rock maple and no such thing as "too much oil"! (well it will sling...)

Coal History: According to Gies & Gies in "Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" coal started being used in blacksmithing around the high to late middle ages in Europe.

Researching this is complicated as the original documents refer to charcoal as "coal" at those times and you have to look for "earth coal" or even "sea coal" (and a few other names) for the rock stuff. (coal is not a mineral BTW)

Charcoal may be more common than coal use these days as you can make charcoal pretty much *ANYWHERE* but coal is harder to get and ship. (Put me on a desert atoll and I'll forge with coconut hull charcoal! Or driftwood charcoal.) Read the UN book on blacksmithing for Africa or look at pictures of smiths in India and see them using charcoal. The lack of good coal is a big push for smiths to go to propane.

All smiths use coke as you coke your coal before putting it in contact with your steel. Commercially coke became much more available around the time it was made for smelting of iron ore---1700's Abraham Darby, Coalbrookdale England, and perhaps more importantly used for making gas for gaslights---passing steam over hot coke did the trick and so coke was produced and shipped everywhere for gas plants. (1800's). Ratios would be completely time and location dependent. (Note that the last charcoal fueled blastfurnace in the Hanging Rock Region, SE OH & adjoining states, went out of blast around 1914! And IIRC the last big one in Brazil went out of blast in the 1970's??; but some small scale plants have been built since then evidently)

Smiths tended to use what was easiest and most cheaply available; so on the American Frontier charcoal would be used until the RR came and then coal might get used. Coke was never as popular in the USA as in the UK and Europe.

Feel free to e-mail me if you want to discuss this at length; of course I'm gearing up to do an early medieval iron smelting this weekend so I'll be a bit slow to dig out books for a while...

Frank, there is some pretty good documentation on the Romans using coal for salt boiling in certain places.

Wrought Iron: WHERE in the USA? I believe that Florida was the last place to spec real wrought iron for highway use and that was in the 1950's So any bridge from the 1870's through the 1950's Might be either WI or Steel or a mix of both! With the earlier years tending to WI and the later years tending to Steel rather asymptotically on both ends. Coastal areas tended toward WI a bit more than inland areas too.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/17/11 13:41:19 EDT

Given a lot of thought to hydraulic drive for a hammer. If you've ever seen a hydraulic shaper run at full speed you'll know right away that it can certainly be possible with the right design.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Thursday, 03/17/11 14:14:02 EDT

Grant, while I have heard of the hydraulic hammers, to my knowledge none in the US. In my experience in comercial forge shops, hydraulics, in any form, using any fluid save pure water, will end up in a fire sooner or later.
The water Gylocl fluids are called "More fire resistant" fluids in the industry since they too can and do burn, especially when the water content evaporates out and is not maintained.
At VOGT, we had a 4 post 1200 ton hydraulic forge press, that was circa 1913. Ran on straight water. Good thing as the clyinder packings were just that, tallow coated hemp rope. The thing laeked all over the plate and hemispherical drum haeds we made in it. The water just knocked the scale off:)
I have worked fires from hydraulic billet handling equipment, hydraulic conveyors, hydraulic presses, and so forth in the several big shops I worked in.
Hydraulics are a wonderful thing, but if you forge with the hydraulic equipment, and do not plan fo the leaks, drips equipment failures and misplaced hot billets, you will suffer a bad fire sooner or later.
   ptree - Thursday, 03/17/11 19:40:31 EDT

Wrought iron bridges were mentioned in the above posts. I saw a documentary on the History channel about the building of the Brooklyn bridge. Nothing like it had ever been attempted before. The guy that designed it had to figure out the cable system, twisting and wrapping the cables etc. This bridge was built in the 1800's.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 03/17/11 20:21:27 EDT

That's more of a design problem. One that I envisioned worked similar to a KA hammer with all of the hydraulics contained in a tank/base. A "draw-down" design but the draw down rods are not the cylinder rods.

Many of these ideas have been put aside because, while they are interesting and challenging, they add complication to something than can be very simple. Most of my mental energy on the subject now focuses on the simplest possible design that can do useful work. Not finesse or power or even efficiency, just simplicity.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Thursday, 03/17/11 20:43:28 EDT

Thanks for the suggestions guys!
   - pete - Thursday, 03/17/11 21:14:06 EDT

Grant, I wonder if you have looked at the hydraulic "hammers" used to drive sheet piles the waterfront, SODO, Seattle? Might seem that installing two opposing driver heads on the same track, and with the needed plumbing, controls, and hydraulic power supply (huge!), you might have something that could bang out work from closed dies?
   - Bob Johnson - Thursday, 03/17/11 21:23:19 EDT

The Brooklyn Bridge was far from a first. The Engineer that designed it, John A. Roebing, built the similar suspension bridge across the Ohio River at Cincinnati that bears his name. Roebling died prior to construction of the Brooklyn bridge due to an accident while surveying the location.

The Roebling bridge has numerous wrought beams that look like the plastic material they are, with waves and twists. You KNOW its wrought from hundreds of feet away. . .

I know this bridge well. When I was a kid (earliest memories) we called it the "singing bridge" due to the sound cars made going across the bar grating deck. The bridge ends just above the famous Riverfront Stadium. Any time I am passing through the area I try to take the opportunity to cross it. On the Kentucky side you can pass through the flood wall and view the bridge from underneath.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/17/11 22:01:52 EDT


I remember when I was a boy, we had several single lane bridges in Arkansas, and probably all over the country. When you came to one of these bridges, the unwtitten rule was, the first one there had the right of way. I don't know if they were wrought iron or not. Do any of you remember the old ferries ? Years ago, when we came to the Arkansas or White rivers,our cars were loaded onto these ferries. For me it was sort of an exciting adventure. At Helena, Ark. there was a ferry that carried Illinois Central railroad cars across the Mississippi river. Of course, bridges now take their place.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 03/17/11 23:51:40 EDT

The first iron truss bridge in America was forged & built in Pottstown, Pa. [My home town] at the Redding Rail Road blacksmith shop. There is a sign along the main drag to this effect, but it gives the wrong location.

"In the early 1840s the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad constructed extensive machine shops for the repair of locomotives, cars, and bridges in Pottstown. A P&R blacksmith shop on Beech Street fabricated the country's first iron truss bridge in 1844 for use in Philadelphia. One of those trusses is now at the Smithsonian Institution."
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 03/18/11 01:11:05 EDT

Leave it to Me to misspell Reading. Shoot, I even worked in that town.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 03/18/11 01:16:02 EDT

Here's a video showing a hammer set-up to run off of hydraulics:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqPa3X8Bmg0&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1
It's a really big hammer but I think the concept could be scaled down.
   randy calhoun - Friday, 03/18/11 10:34:31 EDT

I forgot to mention that nitrogen is used to provide the down stroke. Maybe someone can explain how that works. Is the nitrogen compressed and acting as a spring?
   randy calhoun - Friday, 03/18/11 10:38:12 EDT

Randy Calhoun,

That hammer is hydraulic for the lift but pneumatic for the blows. Yes, the nitrogen is compressed by the hammer and drives the tup piston down. Basically, a self-contained pneumatic hammer that uses hydraulics to raise the ram.

I think the advantage here is that hydraulics handle the heavy lifting while compressed gas does the speedy work of sending the ram down. The gas is not a spring, it is the driving force lust like in any air hammer.

Did you notice how many hydraulic pumps that hammer needed and the size of the hydraulic reservoir? Lots of heat being built up in that fluid, I would guess.
   - Rich - Friday, 03/18/11 12:56:18 EDT

Bridges and Ferries: The single lane bridge is alive and well in many places. Central America is loaded with them. The signage there gives one end or the other the right of way. This alternates from bridge to bridge but is also based on visibility as many bridges are on curves in mountain ravines. You need to learn the local signage!

A few decades ago there was still a small human powered ferry somewhere in Virginia. The same guy had been running it for a very long time and there was a question about what was going to happen when he retired. I think he poled the ferry across the river. . .

There are still ferries in many places but most are in places where it is impractical to build a bridge. Coastal Ferries are common such as the Cape Hatteras to Ocracoke Island and Ocracoke to the mainland. Its a nice trip. Many harbors have ferries and water taxis. New York has several. Savannah GA has a water taxi that carries pedestrians from the old town river front to the new developments across the river. In Europe they are big on high speed ferries and quite a few operate on hydro-planes. Ferry accidents are common enough that you hear about one almost every year that makes international news.
   - guru - Friday, 03/18/11 13:32:08 EDT

I have walked across the bridge at Iron Bridge Gorge--a *cast iron bridge* that was in service starting in 1781 and as I recall was shut down to vehicle traffic in the 1930's and is still used by pedestrians to this day!

The Rhine river in Germany has a large number of ferries as it is still an important commercial waterway and so bridges have to be constructed to allow for shipping which makes them expensive.

I crossed the Mississippi by ferry when young; quite a bit more impressive than taking a bridge, it was only about a mile wide where we crossed...

And of course one of my favorite place names "Toad Suck Ferry Arkansas" dates back to ferry days.

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/18/11 14:03:21 EDT

Prior to iron bridges (and I think the one Thomas mentions was the first OR one of the first), the gold standard of bridges was the stone arch. Concrete arch bridges are still very common but I think their popularity is lessening due to their expense. Amazingly many Roman arch viaducts are still standing in Earth quake prone Italy.
   - guru - Friday, 03/18/11 14:52:34 EDT

Ferry, Ford and Mill are common place names right along with Forge.
   - guru - Friday, 03/18/11 14:54:15 EDT

That's an interesting hydraulic hammer. I believe the nitrogen is used as a type of spring, note the second cylinder up on top. In the forging of the second piece notice the dreaded double blow it often gives.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Friday, 03/18/11 15:15:47 EDT

Do you know if 26 gauge plated steel is useful for any artistic metalworking? I just acquired a rather massive amount of the stuff for free, and I'd like to see what I could do with it. It polishes beautifully, but I don't know if it'd be good for a blade or if it can hold a decent edge. Any advice?
   Jon - Friday, 03/18/11 17:13:48 EDT

Lasco (German) have been making (supurb, trouble free) hydraulic hammers for many, many decades. Massey designed and made the 'hydro-stamp' in the 60's , amazing power.

Im guessing that 90% of the big (2 ton +)industrial hammers (open and closed die) being made in China have a hydraulic head on them, they are super efficent. They use oil for the uplift that compresses the nitrogen above the cylinder, that then provides the motive force down (when the oil is dumped from under the piston head via quick release spool valve).

Make no mistake, hydraulic hammers are amazing machines, and can be fully PLC controlled. If the first blow of a '10 blow' closed die forging only needs 20% of the machines available power, the second 38%, etc, thats what you program it to give. Nothing wasted.

On the hydraulic open die hammers you can still take the shell of a hard boiled egg with them, very controlable.

My contacts in the forging industry in China laugh at me in disbelief when I tell them that we still use 'wasteful' compressed air hammers in the UK....
   - John N - Friday, 03/18/11 17:27:50 EDT

Just had a looksy at the youtube hammer, I know it well as the only hydraulic hammer in the UK ! :) Its a chinese hydraulic head mated onto a massey 30cwt air hammer leg, baseplate and anvil (a couple of my guys did the conversion for them)
   - John N - Friday, 03/18/11 17:33:42 EDT

Jon; plated with WHAT? Silver?, Gold, Brass, Chrome, Nickle,...

In general steels used for plating are not suitable for knifemaking---except when they are. Some quite old bumpers were plated spring steel as I have been told.

However how will you shape and bevel the blade without messing up the plating?

I would suggest talking to armourmakers who might have a use for steel that light in overlapping plates of a brigandine or coat of plates.

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/18/11 17:43:00 EDT

Artistic Metalworking: I'd have to ask Jon first, what does you mean by artistic metalworking? And what type of blade are you he going to make from that thin of sheet? While safety razors use very thin blades even surgeons scalpels are thicker than 26ga.

The vast majority of plated sheet this thin is galvanized mild steel used for gutters, flashing, roofing and duct work. That is what it is made for, and that is what it is good for. While zinc (from galvanizing) polishes easily it also oxidizes fairly rapidly and is prone to showing fingerprints. Usually zinc needs to aged or be artificially aged then painted.

"Artistic metalworking" could mean many things. You could make all kinds of bent and mechanically joined sculpture or art work from any kind of sheet stock from aluminum foil up through heavy steel plate.
   - guru - Friday, 03/18/11 18:42:45 EDT

Thanks for the responses, I have no idea what it's plated with, it's just marked "plated steel sheet 26ga". I thought it might be zinc at first, but it doesn't oxidize very easily at all, so possibly chrome or nickel.
By artistic metalworking, I mean pretty much any cool stuff I could do with it. This thin and bright it could probably be nice for jewelry, maybe rings/bracelets or such.
About blades, it's definitely too thin for a knife, but I thought it might have promise for a razor blade if it can take an edge.
I don't do any metal sculpture, but I'd welcome any more ideas if you have them. Also, if it does have any nickel or chrome, I've heard that I should wear a fine powder mask when polishing it. Is that necessary?
   Jon - Friday, 03/18/11 19:43:36 EDT

Maybe "tinplate" if it's bright,
   - Grant - Nakedanvil - Friday, 03/18/11 20:07:27 EDT

John N, I wonder what your Chinese forge industry contacts would think about a steam hammer energy wise:)
   ptree - Friday, 03/18/11 20:30:48 EDT

Thomas P.

Yes,there is a quite a bit of history in Arkansas. The first shot of the Civil War at a Union gunboat was at St. Charles on the White river, another place where I have crossed on a ferry. :)
   Mike T. - Saturday, 03/19/11 05:47:58 EDT

Dave B,

At least you clued the rest of in on how to pronounce "Reading" . . .

A few years ago, I'd made a reservation at a hotel in Gothenburg, Sweden. The directions said to the the E6 north along the east coast of Sweden, and then get off at the Kiel exit. I kept staring at my map looking for a Kiel, Sweden. There isn't one. But surely they couldn't have labeled an exit just for people who had decided to drive to Kiel, Germany, and were so lost they were going north instead of south?

When I got there, all became clear. The hotel was next to the terminal for the Kiel ferry.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 03/19/11 09:46:03 EDT

Maps and Signs. . .

Years ago I was visiting my brother in Brooklyn. I decided to go out on Long Island to visit the Kaynes. I had a map an the signs along the Hudson said "Long Island Parkway", over and over. But when I got to the exit the sign said "Lands End". . . . Well, I knew nothing about what locals called things or that the end of Long Island was called Lands End. . so I missed the exit. About that time you see the Brooklyn Bridge going into Manhattan. . . I was Driving a big old Chevy Suburban towing a car and I KNEW that would be a disaster so I took the NEXT exit. This put me in Queens. . .

At the time many places had trouble keeping street signs so here I am towing a car in downtown Queens and there are NO street signs to give me a HINT of where I am. So I just keep driving straight since the general direction seemed to be East which I knew I needed to go. . . Finally I peeked up an alley and there was an Interstate sign (for the Long Island Parkway) and I took it!

The first time I traveled to Costa Rica and rented a car I thought all I needed was good maps and everything would be fine. I had THREE Costa Rica maps. One recommended by locals, another I found on-line and a National Geogaphic Traveler map (the best). The signage just outside the airport and in the surrounding urban area is not too bad. The airport is on the Inter America Highway and major 4 lane. IF you know what you are looking for you can get by OK. But as soon as you get out of the Central Valley there are almost no road signs. There are also almost no signs identifying cities and towns. . . You have to guess by the business names. . . which occasionally use the locality name but can just as often use another locality name IF that is where their home base is. . . We finally found that your best bet was in the small villages the phone company had two signs indicating a public phone with the village name on the sign.

I had always thought given a map I could navigate almost anywhere. . . But a lack of road signs can make you rethink this. Next time, GPS. . . Even if your GPS doesn't have an internal local map, it can tell you where you are and you can find THAT on a map.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/19/11 11:06:05 EDT

ammonia. sometimes i smell a whiff of it when forging mild steel does anybody else? perhaps i got my nose too close to the anvil.
   danny arnold - Saturday, 03/19/11 13:59:51 EDT

Danny, I've never noticed an ammonia smell using coal, coke, oil gas or charcoal. . . Perhaps scale is getting on something you are wearing. Various synthetics and other clothing items, especially rubber shoe soles make pungent smells. It could also be your anvil stand. Over heated wood or wood smoke can make odd smells. This is especially true if it has cat or dog urine on it. Perhaps paint or oil on the anvil?
   - guru - Saturday, 03/19/11 14:53:01 EDT

Disposable Diapers. Any info. on dissolving (clean) diapers in water to be used for a quench as opposed to oil or some other liquid?
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 03/19/11 17:52:11 EDT

There are always quirks, of course, but I've found the signs everywhere I've been in Europe remarkably good. If you're approaching anything bigger that a village and smaller than a major city, you'll see prominent signs for the city center. Follow those, and you'll see signs for the tourist information center. That will have a place to park (not necessarily free) and local maps (always free). Pick up one of those, and you're pretty much set.

Try that in the U.S. Of course, European towns are much more likely to have one-way streets, extensive pedestrian zones, and limited and expensive parking. So driving usually isn't the best way to get around once you're there.
   Mike BR - Saturday, 03/19/11 17:53:38 EDT

In much of the U.S. maps are free from the state highway departments. Most of the Interstate rest stops have them but usually the welcome centers are your best bet. However, get off the Interstates and you have to know where to look OR pay for maps at roadside stores. But finding directions just by signs in U.S. cities is very variable. Few are navigable entirely by foot.

On the other hand I would not think twice about getting in the car to drive from any major city to another in the U.S. without a map or directions. Know the general direction, just get on an Interstate and go. All you need to know is a couple of the major North South and East West corridors and follow the signs. But I generally do a little research before I go.

In Costa Rica we drove all over the country but it took Very careful attention to the maps and signs. Where both failed was in large urban areas if you got off the main highway or where the highway ran out and became a city street. If you made a wrong turn you could go a long way due to the lack of signage. IF you got seriously lost you had better speak Spanish very well. . . and understand the quirks about local directions and the etiquette of always trying to be helpful when if you don't know the answer. . .

I'm sure the poorer the country the worse the situation with signs. In other parts of Central America the only way you drive around or through cities on the Inter-America highway is with a guide. Often these are provided by the locality but you may also need to negotiate and pay for one yourself. The joys of foreign travel. . .

   - guru - Saturday, 03/19/11 20:36:24 EDT

Reading Pa. should be pronounced just like Redding Ca.
Locals might pronounce it "Redin", both vouls short.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 03/19/11 23:24:49 EDT

Carver Jake, I dont know how well it would work as a quenchant, but the material in diapers is the same polymer stuff they sell to put in potting soil for moisture retention. Being the proud father of a 4 month old boy, I can supply you with as much hydrated diaper material... should explain the ammonia smell too!
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 03/20/11 13:18:04 EDT

Yall gave me an idea. Can mud or mud made with dirt and oil be used as a quenchant ? Let's say you heat the steel way above magnetic ( orange ) it seems like mud would cool it down, but not fast enough to cause brittleness, or am I out in left field ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/20/11 19:06:30 EDT

Mike T,

The piece you were quenching would very rapidly burn off the oil in immediate contact. The mud would prevent more oil flowing in to replace it, so the quench would stop before the piece hardened. In fact, what you've suggested isn't all that far off from burying a piece in ashes or other loose material to anneal it.

On the other hand, it is true that hot oil quenches faster than cold oil, because the viscosity drops and it circulates more easily. At least that's what I've read. So if the oil you had was quenching a little too fast, it might be possible to add a *little* of the right mineral to increase the viscosity a little. But that would hardly be practical.
   Mike BR - Sunday, 03/20/11 20:04:20 EDT

guru thanks i am sure tommy the cat is the culprit and shows the anvil his disdain
   danny arnold - Sunday, 03/20/11 20:20:45 EDT

Male cats in the shop are a vile and evil thing causing both stench and corrosion. Tool chests with durable paint that will hold up for decades is often ruined by animals marking their territory. They also have a bad habit of knocking things off shelves and benches. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/20/11 20:51:38 EDT

I have had good luck with fixed female cats. They keep the rodents under control, don't pee on My stuff and generally don't climb around on the tools or benches. This one is white, and does explore some pretty dirty places from time to time.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/20/11 22:14:36 EDT

Dave Boyer,

I am a cat lover myself and have noticed they are a great judge of character. If a cat runs from or won't go around someone there is a good reason why. When someone kicks a cat, that shows me a personality defect in that person. I like to start training and talking to them when they are kittens. All I have to do is tell them what to do and they do it. I told my cat that I saw a couple of rats outside and to take care of them for me. The next day both rats were laying by my car door with their heads chewed off. I could tell similar stories all day.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/20/11 23:03:45 EDT

Fixed male cats dont always do those bad things- mine dont. I have had 3 males over the years, all have been fastidious and invisible in their bathroom habits, and none have ever befouled my shop.
My current big tom, Agent Buchwald, was in the shop for a few hours today, sleeping on a chair and ignoring the power hammer, the grinder, and the very loud music I play. When he was ready, he went and stood by the door til I let him out.
He is also an amazing mouser- I have witnessed him eating 3 in one day- and he could have gotten more when I wasnt looking, as he doesnt leave much behind when he is done.
You just havent had the right cats.
   - Ries - Monday, 03/21/11 00:43:05 EDT

This cat and the last one were drop offs, and living on thier own out doors when We took them in, so there is no way to know of thier prior circumstances. They both warmed up to Us after a little time, but always leary of strangers. Neither are "lap cats". They like attention & petting, but not being held.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/21/11 00:45:30 EDT

My cat is not a shop cat, she is a scardy cat. Air blow guns, A/O torches, noisy machines and running engins will send her running. She will go for a walk with Me around the property, much like a dog would.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 03/21/11 00:51:49 EDT

A friend got me a couple of plywood veneer peeler blades that I'd like to cut up and reuse in some knifes. I haven't been able to find any manufacture marks on them and subsequently haven't been able to figure out what type of steel they are made out of. Anyone have any ideas?
   Brian B - Monday, 03/21/11 01:50:16 EDT

i am trying to make some metal. i made a roman blast forge to melt it down. i am uesing black sand that i get with a magnet in my back yard. im melting it down with my blast forge and gitting what looks like odd shaped metal rocks. they are magnetitk. how do i clean off the slag and make it pure anouf to work with it. also when i heat it up in my forge it is brittal. even at yellow hot when i hit it with my hammer it crumbels. what am i doing rong or what am i missing. eany help or nohow will help me greatly. thank you
   - clayton - Monday, 03/21/11 02:54:58 EDT

Making Iron: Clayton, Even the most ancient Ironmasters or smelters had a high degree of technical knowledge (for the time.) The processes are finicky and every ore, fuel, flux and furnace combination is different and must be figured out. Even when the science was not understood many other factors that produced success were handed down from one Ironmaster to Ironmaster.

The first thing you should do is look at our current NEWS page 19 and order the CD. Then closely study all the articles and obtain the any references suggested.

Iron ore, even the best black sands and magnetic minerals are less iron than rock. The iron is usually part of a compound (iron oxide) and the rest various silica minerals. In the furnace you are doing more than just melting the ore. The atmosphere in the furnace must be such that it strips away the oxygen and does not burn the iron. The result is a LOT of liquid slag which is usually "tapped" off and a little iron which will be in several forms in the furnace.

There are three basic iron products you can get from a small smelting furnace. Pure iron with slag (wrought iron), steel, and cast iron. In some cases you get some of all three. All can be produced with the exact same furnace simply by pushing more or less air and using flux. The most commonly desired product is wrought iron due to its ductility and ability to make so many things from it. Steel is also highly desired but is more difficult to produce. Cast iron is the result of running very hot and producing a pool of liquid iron in the bottom of the furnace. This is normally tapped and poured directly into molds (another specialized process).

All of these processes produce a lot of slag. What you are most likely producing is just that, rock that has been melted. However, in the wrought and steel making process you often get iron nodules in a matrix of fuel, ash and slag. This can often be retrieved in the forge but it is a LOT of work. This crumbly material is heated to a welding heat and consolidated (packed gently) several times until you get workable metal. Like the initial smelting this must be done with great care or the iron/steel will end up red-short, burnt or overly decarburized (bad for steel).

Normally this process is done using a piece of previously made iron to support the crumbly stuff. If the material is very low slag then it may need fluxing. But if there is a high degree of slag then that will act as flux. Part of this process is working out the slag while consolidating the metal.

These final process assume you produced iron and not just melted ore.
   - guru - Monday, 03/21/11 11:16:43 EDT

I was wondering what is a reasonable price for some bees wax? I am trying to buy some locally and I don't want to get ripped off. I know I can buy it in Hobby Lobby or craft stores but it is way to high.
   Dillon - Monday, 03/21/11 11:48:25 EDT

Bees Wax. I've always been told you can use the wax ring (gasket) they use to seat a toilet. Use a new one.

Any help on using disposable diapers dissolved in water for a quench?----------Thanks Nip, but I'll have to beg off on your offer.
   Carver Jake - Monday, 03/21/11 12:04:03 EDT

RE: smelting iron in Roman blast forge--It has been noted elsewhere, there is a certain knack to using a stone axe that is not apparent in our modern age.

Have a local kid who wants to use my forge to finish a knife he started using a RR spike, nice work so far, can't quite figure out a way to tell him it is the wrong material for a knife, even though the spike sez "HC". Perhaps suggest steel the edge? although my forge welding skill is less than zero
   - David Hughes - Monday, 03/21/11 13:13:54 EDT

Bees Wax: McMaster-Carr sell a 1 pound block (~1.5" x 4.44 x 4.44) for $13.46 USD plus shipping. They have other sizes and types. MCMC is often a little high but they are easy to find and get stuff from. You may want to try local beekeeper suppliers before the craft shops.
   - guru - Monday, 03/21/11 14:17:46 EDT

When using a stone axe the word "bludgeon" comes to mind.

Forging just any old material is a good place to start. In tool and blade steels the first projects should be as simple as possible and thus the standard cold chisel project in many metal working classes.

On the other hand a "soft" wrought iron dagger will kill just as dead as a super alloy combat knife or modern Damascus blade. But a good wood carving knife (a Sloyd knife as Frank noted) needs a nice piece of steel. Old files are a cheap source of very sharpenable steel
   - guru - Monday, 03/21/11 14:32:28 EDT

40 Pt. Steel & Knives: 40 pts. is just about where hardenability starts to mean something. It's the sort of steel that you can quench, and then (depending on geometry and use) you don't really have to draw the temper. I will note that most (All? I'll have to look…) of the tools with cutting edges in the Mastermyr find that were tested had 40 point steel for the edges.

An HC railroad spike may be at 40 points, and is possibly high enough for a tough, useful tool. However, what it will not make is a super-duper cutting edge that shreds car bodies, cuts a silk handkerchief in one swipe and only needs to be sharpened every five years. At its worst it's a nice novelty letter opener, at its best, it's a somewhat useful, utilitarian piece.

Your reality (and that of others) may vary. ;-)

It's a lovely spring afternoon on the banks of the Potomac. Happy equinox +1!

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/21/11 15:23:56 EDT

I was part of a bloomery smelting crew for over ten years and yet when I built my own short stack scandanavian bloomery and ran last Saturday I had a lot of issues---most of them involving much more difficulty with slag than I was used to when I helped out back east! (and I was using the same ore!)

First take a piece that's magnetic and lightly touch it on a grinder---I like using a hand crank as it's safer and more gentle. If you don't see shiny metal---even little bits; what you have is a high iron slag which may contain some unreduced iron ore---note that unreduced iron ore can become magnetic as the mineral magnetite is know to sometimes be magnetic!

So what was your ore to fuel ratio by weight? How was it blown? What was your total fuel weight used and how long did you run? (a description of your bloomery dimensions would help too!)

Rehder's "The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity" has quite a lot of information for running stack bloomeries, (as compared to bowl ones) with suggestions on fuel to ore ratios to get blooms of different carbon contents.

In my run we at least got some iron reduced (per the grinder test) and will try to consolidate the bloom; however the yield was quite poor I believe.

My next step is to try to locate the most promising part of the bloom and heat it to welding temp and let as much slag as possible run off and try to nudge the bloom together with a wooden sledge using a stup as an anvil---keeps it from splashing all over the place as a steel hammer on an anvil can at this stage.

Hopefully we will start to get a consolidated bloom that we can then heat to welding temp and swith to steel hammers and the anvil.

Currently my bloom is residing with one of my helpers who happens to be a post-doc metallurgist at the local university. he's going to do some investigation of it on his "off" hours.

With all the slag issues we had we re-drilled the tuyere twice more rotating it 90 deg from the last and about 4" higher each time and still had to call it a run before we had used up all our premeasured charcoal and magnetite loads!

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/21/11 15:39:14 EDT

All my official RR company specs say that a HC RR spike CANNOT be higher than 30 points. I keep hearing people claim higher amounts C for them but have not found any *documented* data for that.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/21/11 15:41:43 EDT

Spikes I didn't look for markings but the one time I visited a rolling mill operated by the historic Tredegar ironworks of Richmond, VA they were rolling heavy RR axles about 6" in diameter into square bar and then into spikes with some sort of rotary forging machine. We were there to pick up a piece of steel purportedly "4140" rolled to 4" square (an intermediate roll) from the same axles. We made hammer dies from the material but I did not see any heat treated. I think this small rolling operation was the last thing Tredegar did before going out of business.

SO here is what we know and don't know:

1) Spikes were being rolled from RR Axles of some sort - steel unknown, supposedly 40 point carbon.
2) We do not know what the spikes were for. They may have been for private sidings or someplace that did not require "spec" spikes.
3) On marked spikes I would believe the book.
   - guru - Monday, 03/21/11 17:54:59 EDT

Iron Making: I've been to a number of smelts run by various people using a wide variety of furnace. The first was the Rockbridge Bloomery MKI. It was about 10 foot tall and made of heavy castable refractory. It worked no better than later versions only about half the size made of much less durable materials. I've seen steel made directly using a Japanese style furnace. However, it was using very high grade processed ore and the results were marginal. But the conditions, a weekend build and smelt were not ideal.

At all the smelts I've been to the Ironmasters were people who had lots of experience and good previous results. All had difficulty and marginal results at the smelts I attended. This demonstrates one of two things. You either do not want to invite me to a smelt, OR that it is much more difficult than just following the steps. . .

I've been told that the production from traditional Japanese smelting operations was equally variable. When the results were good all the steel went to the high ranking masters. When the results were poor the results went to the unproven smiths. When the results were mixed the good and bad were separated and distributed as above. Getting the trash iron taught the newbies how to process it and to appreciate GOOD steel.

Today the finest steels ever made and far superlative to any ancient or primitive made steels, are readily available to anyone for a reasonable price. To make your own steel you must REALLY want to and fully understand that the effort put into it may produce a product more costly than gold or platinum, OR complete failure.
   - guru - Monday, 03/21/11 18:30:08 EDT

I have forged over 300 RR spikes into trowels, and another 50 to 100 into letter openers, knives etc. I would say that since every single blessed one had to be ground, that they all ground like mild steel. They all refused to get hard, but rather got tuff, that I have used both MC and HC head stamped spikes, and I firmly belive that the spec ThomasP repeats on a regular basis is absolutly correct. I have not in the 400 + spikes I have forged and ground any that behaved like anything other than 30 point or less plain steel.

From experience I have also found that at demo's etc everyone used to state that truck axle was 4140. Has not been an industry standard since about WWII. I have no idea what RR car axles are made from, but in that size, and considering that they were probably made on an upsetter, I would say that 4140 would be a good choice. Not that they are 4140, but that they could be. Or not.

AAR standards are adhered to pretty tightly by the main lines, and you will see HC as "Main line spikes", with MC being siding and secondary use according to the RR contractor I buy my new, HC spikes from.
   ptree - Monday, 03/21/11 18:35:44 EDT

And yes I make spike knives, mostly as "Japanese Garden knives" and letter openers. They don't get hard enough to hold a decent edge to make a really good knife, unless you use the urine of a red headed orphan on a blue moon while facing north to quench.
   ptree - Monday, 03/21/11 18:38:23 EDT

fat furry feral felines find forging fearfull, flee fast. forge for fun ,forge for feline freedom
   danny arnold - Monday, 03/21/11 19:12:38 EDT

There are two craft store chains in my area that put flyers in the Sunday paper most weeks. They generally have a coupon for 40% off a single items, sometimes 50%. The last (and only) time I bought beeswax, I used one of those coupons. I think it ended up being around $5 for a pound, maybe a little more.
   Mike BR - Monday, 03/21/11 19:15:42 EDT

The last bees wax I bought was some years ago at the Indiana State Fair from a beekeeper. $4.00/# if I recall correctly, but that was about 8 years ago.
   ptree - Monday, 03/21/11 20:04:40 EDT

I was thinking about the possibility of making a hammer with a heavy cam. As the cam turns, the ram comes down until the lobe hits top dead center, then a spring in the ram would allow it to start the upward return. With a big motor turning the cam, just use a pedal to control the speed. How it is geared would also control speed and power.
Just a thought.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 03/22/11 02:37:33 EDT

Do you flux with borax each time you forge weld layers together for damascus steel
   bluey hocking - Tuesday, 03/22/11 02:42:39 EDT

Iron making. I watched a program the other day about prospecting for gold in Alaska. They were looking to see how thay could seperate the gold from the magnetite. They had a large magnet and would place it in the slurry and large globs of magnetine would stick to it. I was thinking to myself that all that magnetite would sure make some good iron. Apparently where there is black sand,(the ideal place to prospect for gold ) there are also large deposits of magnetite.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 03/22/11 02:47:26 EDT

PTree: You forgot to cryro-treat the RR spike knife seven times in liquid nitrogen, then dip it in motor oil and do your FINAL quench in liquid oxygen!

People will be talkiing about it for years! ;-)

It's actually springtime on the banks of the Potomac. Back to freezing by Thursday night.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/22/11 09:13:42 EDT

Fluxing: Bluey, If you are using flux (open welding) then yes, flux as soon as it will start to melt and stick. It also helps to grind the scale off between welds.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/22/11 11:14:43 EDT

Jock, I think mild steel rr spikes are no longer made. All the spikes on main line or sideings are marked "HC" in this part of Florida. We find a few of the really old spikes that were dug out of the burm. I have permission from the section foreman and the security chief to pick up whatever I want as well as any other rr junk. Spikes become a bit more than a novelty when split and a piece of high carbon steel forge welded in for the blade.
   - Ron Childers - Tuesday, 03/22/11 15:09:54 EDT

Black Sand or Magnetite and Gold: The occurrence of magnetite has nothing to do with where gold is found. However, in placer mining (digging alluvial deposites such as in steam beds and valleys then panning for gold) the iron minerals is considerably heavier than the other minerals and is an indication that you are digging in the deposit where heavier materials settled out and formed deposits. Gold, especially as dust and nugget is very dense compared to other materials so the places where heavy or dense material settled is where you want to look for it. The "black sand" is just a convenient indicator that you are near the right spot.

So, if you have black sand, that is good but does not necessarily mean there is gold. But if you do not have black sand then either you are digging in the wrong place OR there is no black sand. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/22/11 15:39:12 EDT

Mike T: A cam forcing the ram down would not obtain the kink of velocity we get from the various acceleration linkages found in most hammers. It would also be difficult to allow for changes in thickness. Often we are working on a piece that is maybe 1/2 inch thick and need to also be able work the edge that could be 4-5" or use a tool on it that is 4'5" tall.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Tuesday, 03/22/11 16:42:12 EDT

kink = kind
   - grant - nakedanvil - Tuesday, 03/22/11 16:42:56 EDT

Cam Hammer: Mike, You can use a cam to lift a hammer then let it drop. This is one of the oldest types of hammer. The freedom of the dropping hammer allows for variations in work height. The disadvantage of various drop hammers is the lack of velocity beyond the acceleration of gravity. A spring can increase this a little but nothing like a good power hammer mechanism.

Balanced Spring Helve Hammer by Jock Dempsey
Balanced Spring Helve Hammer

See the archive from February 6th

   - guru - Tuesday, 03/22/11 17:30:22 EDT

Important points about the design above.

1) The counter weight and springs hold the helve above the cam until the operator presses down on the treadle. Thus the driver can run without the helve moving until needed.

This treadle engaged helve is different than other helves because it can be used to hit light or heavy.

2) When the roller drops off the cam it should never strike the low point on the cam. The dies should contact each other OR the work first. Then the cam can gently lift the helve without impact to the mechanism.

3) If the hammer is fairly light (20 - 30 pounds) the treadle spring can be quite heavy and add a lot of velocity to the blow. But if the hammer is heavy (approaching 100 pounds) the force necessary to counter the return spring will be great enough that the machine will become difficult to operate and cause operator fatigue.

Truss helve drawing

4) The helve should have pivots fairly far apart to reduce side to side movement and twisting. The drawing above was made to show how it could be done with fairly light tubing. But heavier would probably be better. The helve could be wood, steel or a combination of the two.

5) This machine has not yet been built. It is an idea that will work but may need some experimentation to get right.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/22/11 18:03:55 EDT

I am a junior in highschool, and I am planing on going into Astrophysics. Yet I am also looking at blacksmithing as a "profesional hobie" because, frankly, astrophysics can get booring. Can you suggest any mentors, books, and other materials for me? Your help would be appreciated.
   L Ross - Tuesday, 03/22/11 20:35:20 EDT

Mr Ross; you ever get out to visit the Very Large Array in New Mexico; look me up! I'm a bit herder for NRAO on the ALMA project (if you're planning to be an astrophysics person you should know what they are!) I've also been smithing for 30 years and so can give you both a tour of the VLA and of my smithy!

Of course my job may end before you get out here...

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/22/11 21:01:35 EDT

thanks for that GURU best regards from TASMANIA
   bluey hocking - Tuesday, 03/22/11 21:06:25 EDT

L Ross,
The above post reminds me of a show I saw one time on the Beverly Hillbillies. Uncle Jed asked Jethro if he had made up his mind on a career. Jethro said, " Well,I can't make up my mind Uncle Jed, I either want to be a brain surgeon or a street car conductor. "
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 03/23/11 00:12:02 EDT

Speaking of using railroad spikes to make knives, the rail should make real good knives. I've seen them drill holes in the side of the rails and they would use a gasoline engine. The drill would turn very slowly and as it cut the metal, they would turn a handle, just like tightening a vise. It seemed like it took 15-20 minutes just to drill through.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 03/23/11 00:23:03 EDT

Astrophysics and Blacksmithing: There is a surprising amount of cross over between the two fields. For one thing I am constantly telling folks they need to keep up their shop math (mensuration, volumes, density, mass, ratios, geometry and tolerances). Blueprint reading applies to many fields. Then there is shop chemistry and alloying.

I was told about a decade ago by a NASA scientist that metallurgy was still a heat-it and beat-it level technology. At the time they still had a blacksmith on staff and a forging shop for metallurgical research and manufacturing with special alloys and techniques. In virtually all high tech the development of new materials is crucial to advancements.

All that said, blacksmithing is absolutely hands-on. While there is some theory it is pretty basic. When practiced as a hobby there is little or no math. It is a great way to relax and take out your frustrations on something that is hard to hurt while playig with fire. . . But there is a good bit to study and there are many books on the subject. See our (dated) Getting Started article, its links to our book reviews and sword making resources (a good list no matter what you want to make). The Getting Started article is a gateway to others such as the one on Apprenticeships and about schools.

On the other hand, if think a field is boring why would you want to get into it. Astrophysics is a pure science subject where there is little money ad jobs are far and few between. If you can't get excited about searching for mysterious objects among billions, doing spectral analysis of faint specs of light looking for indications of life supporting elements, doing statistical studies of estimated planetary bodies every time there is an advance in data gathering, studying ways to predict events that may never happen in the future of mankind. . . then WHY do it? If you aren't the kind of person that is willing to spend a lifetime advancing science by ONE arcane fact, ONE inapplicable theory or ONE numerical constant, then you probably shouldn't be going into pure science.

Engineering is a similarly math intensive field but it has real world applications making "things", and is much more closely related to blacksmithing. While it doesn't pay like it used to, jobs are much more available and have a wide variety.

   - guru - Wednesday, 03/23/11 00:46:47 EDT

Hello, I have a very nice old 150 lbs. anvil that has gone through a barn fire recently. The barn fire was hot as it melted all aluminum and some copper. I the anvil ruined? Can it be rehardened? It definitely sounds less ringy if you know what I mean.
   Jerry Black - Wednesday, 03/23/11 18:03:41 EDT

Jerry, Barn fires often anneal (soften) anvils but it is hard to tell what is happening in the fire. Then there is the question of how the fire was put out. If the anvil was at a red heat and hosed down by the fire department it may have been rehardened. But this is unlikely.

Generally you can file an anvil but not easily. On a really hard piece of steel a file will "skate" or slip across the surface without cutting. But anvils are generally not this hard and the file will cut but not easily. Note that on most old anvils only the face is hardened, not the horn or the step.

Ring can indicate hardness but the shape of many anvils is tuning fork like and rings well if soft or hard. The ring is more of an indicator of lack of cracks or weld flaws than hardness. A rebound test tells you more but can be subjective.

Generally re-heat treating an anvil will cost as much or more than a good used anvil of similar make. It is also a task that is done in very few places. On old anvils the type of steel and the construction will be unknown and thus the proper method of heat treating will be a question.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/23/11 19:09:57 EDT

Country Blacksmithing by Charles McRaven describes how he re-hardened an anvil once. Note that it is a hard, hot and tricky thing to do. many folks fail when they don't realize that the quench has to be done with considerable pressure and flowrates---just dumping a hot anvil in a large amount of water won't harden it as the steam blanket will keep it from cooling fast enough to harden.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/23/11 19:30:47 EDT

I'm looking for some advice on an anvil I'm constructing. I have used an forklift fork for the construction. I am at a point when I am trying to do some type of hardening to the face. The section that I am attempting to harden is approximately 2" x 5" x 18". It was cut from the upright portion of the fork and after heat treating will be welded onto the the tapered flat portion which will protrude from the front with a small section of a horn. My question concerns the hardening heat and quench. I am not certain as to the type of steel, but after doing some research, I am proceeding under the assumption I am working with 4140. For the sake of ease, will any attempt to air harden this steel work? If I were to get a good soak time and then pull the peice and cool the face with an air compressor, will the sheer mass of the piece prevent me from getting a good hard face? I know that this steel is best oil quenched, but I believe it would be dangerous for me to try and submerge that much steel in a drum full of oil. I really prefer not to use hardfacing electrodes, but will if I must. Is it possible that carburizing this peice would be a better option for me?
   Don - Wednesday, 03/23/11 20:27:15 EDT

Don, Normally 4140 is an oil quench steel. In a section this large you cannot blow enough air to make difference.

You might get away with a water mist spray.

Carburizing also requires a quench to be hard and is VERY shallow, insufficient for an anvil.

4140 is pretty tough and those forks were already heat treated. I would use it as-is.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/23/11 21:21:32 EDT

For someone starting off I recomment The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith by Lorelei Sims. Wonderful book. She starts out with the basics, then demonstrates the tools and techniques and, at the end, has about 20 projects to make based on what was in the book. Should still be available at on-line book sellers. Suggestion: Go to www.amazon.com and do a keyword search on blacksmith.
   Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 03/23/11 21:55:40 EDT

Blacksmiths Depot sells Lorelei's book.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/23/11 22:43:19 EDT

I built my anvil using a piece of 4140 2"x5"x16"long welded to a new chunk of mainline rr iron and then added a table and horn with weld build up. This was done over a period of a couple months in between jobs so there were many pre-heats and periods of cooldown and actual cold. Anyways without any heat treating or quenching I have a nice ring and 70% bounce back.
   Amos - Thursday, 03/24/11 02:29:02 EDT

I'd go with the current heat treat on a fork lift fork rather than trying to modify it!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/24/11 11:46:04 EDT

I would like to build a tire hammer. Only I would like to have set plans at least for the hammer mech.
   Tom Johannsen - Thursday, 03/24/11 13:39:32 EDT

Guru, Thank you for the info on the anvil in the fire. My insurance company is replacing everything that was in the fire, I have new replacement. What anvil do you recommend at the 150 lbs. wt.? And where should I be looking? I live near Dayton Ohio.
Thanks Again, Jerry
   Jerry Black - Thursday, 03/24/11 14:14:32 EDT

I'm looking for a nonflame way to solder aluminum cans together. I'd like to work with this metal in a high school art class. What would I need?
   Eric - Thursday, 03/24/11 15:38:05 EDT

Tom Johannsen,

You can buy sets of plans for the tire hammer from Clay Spencer, who also conducts workshops to build the hammers for groups. Write Clay at Clay Spencer, 73 Penniston Private Drive, Somerville, AL 35670, or contact him by email: clay@tirehammer.com
   - Rich - Thursday, 03/24/11 15:50:15 EDT

Aluminum, AL: Eric, Joining aluminum is usually done with relatively high tech welding called TIG or Heli-Arc. Soldering is not usually applicable to aluminum. Both welding and soldering have issues with the natural oxide coating on aluminum that prevents welding and soldering. Welding uses inert gas to shield the surface while a high frequency electric arc breaks through the aluminum oxide on the surface. The high intensity arc is also required to dump a huge amount of energy into the weld zone because the high thermal conductivity of the aluminum rapidly moves the heat from the weld zone.

The best way to work with aluminium cans is mechanical joining or glue. Mechanical joining includes sheet metal screws, machine screws and nuts, pop rivets, wiring, folding. Glues that will work are 5 minute epoxies and hot glue. You could also use construction glue (liquid nails) but it is ugly and messy.

The handiest tool for mechanical joining sheet metal is a hand punch that makes small holes (1/16" to 1/4"). A Roper Whitney #5 Jr. is the most common punch used for this purpose. They sell for about $80 US in set with 6 punches.

But the cheapest way to go is with an ice pick or prick punch, sheet metal screws and a screw driver. Note that both tools here could be considered dangerous weapons in the paranoid North American school environment. Ask both your teacher and school principal about any tools you plan to take to school before doing so.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/24/11 16:23:52 EDT

I've been looking up ways to remove scale and prevent rust spots on some stainless steel spoons I've made (unknown alloy, it was in the bargain bin at my local supplier). When reading about passivation, the descriptions give recipes for a diluted acid (citric, etc.) but they don't mention the starting molarity of the original strength acid.

My wife is a high school chemistry teacher, and although she says she's sure to be overthinking it, she tells me that a 30% solution doesn't mean anything if you don't know the molarity of the acid to start with.

I'm guessing that there's a "standard" for industrial acids.

Can you shed some light on this?
   Bajajoaquin - Thursday, 03/24/11 16:28:33 EDT

Stainless & Rust: First thing to be careful about is to use smooth clean tools (no rust, no scale) when working stainless. If you wire brush it be sure to use a stainless brush that has not been used on carbon steel. Same with grinding belts (clean - no steel use).

As to the strength of the acid solution I'd refer to where you got your directions. With citric I would make a strong solution or near saturated and test it.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/24/11 17:14:43 EDT


Can I infer from the phrase in your last sentence "near saturated" that the starting concentration of an acid would be the strongest that will remain in solution? I.e. a 30% solution is 3 parts fully saturated acid 7 parts distilled water?

The acid solutions I've seen have been from places like the Modern Machine Shop: "20% by vol. nitric acid at 120/140°F (49/60°C) for 30 minutes" (http://www.mmsonline.com/articles/how-to-passivate-stainless-steel-parts).

There doesn't seem to be anything there about the strength of the acid to start.

Other sources, such as The New Edge of the Anvil are similar in the instructions.

Or, looking at it from another direction, could you share a formula for a passivation solution?
   Bajajoaquin - Thursday, 03/24/11 17:27:24 EDT

When a student of mine had his insurance company replace his anvil that had been stolen he presented them with the Catalog from a blacksmithing supply place Catalog and they presented him with a Peddinghaus.

DON'T let them try to fob off a cast iron ASO on you to replace an anvil that was once one of the upper grades!

(Why sending them to a blacksmithing supply is a good idea)

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/24/11 18:01:33 EDT

Citric Acid formulas now give the solution as percent by weight. 10% being recommended for citric acid and 150°F bath for most stainlesses.

Note that chloride contamination can cause a "flash attack" when using citric acid. To help avoid this a wetting agent is recommended (a small amount of detergent such as Dawn dishwashing soap).
   - guru - Thursday, 03/24/11 18:09:05 EDT

I have had pretty good luck using grocery store bought white vingear for pickleing and passivation of SS. I currently have some citric that came to me as a sample and it is listed as 95%. I dil;uted to 50% water and 50% citric and it does a good job as well as a pickle. Have not done any SS since I got the citric.
The white vingear was used at room temp to pickle, and I simply quenched the SS for pasivation. At room temp the vingear takes a couple of days to pickle off heavy scale.
   ptree - Thursday, 03/24/11 19:11:44 EDT

4140 and oil quench - it depends on the size. I spent about 3 years running the quench and temper line as the HT Metallurgist at Crucible Steel in Midland, PA. One of our brad and butter items was quenched and tempered 4140 to ASTM bolting specification sizes from 1/2 " round to 8" round, minimum tempering temperature was 1100 F. 2" round and under we almost always oil quenched (Sometimes with 2", if the Cr and Mo content were low we'd water quench.) Any diameter over 2", we water quenched in an extremely well agitated water quench that was coupled with a heat exchanger to maintain water temp. In the summer, we struggled to keep it below 100 F, which was where we needed it to be. The oil quench was also well agitated, and was heated to maintain a relatively constant temperature.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 03/24/11 22:10:58 EDT

Insurance Anvil Replacement: The question about replacement depends on what class anvil you started with. While many of the old anvils were top quality and as good or better than what you can generally get today, many were cheaper anvils.

If your anvil is any one of the older forged anvils then the pricier new anvils are a suitable new replacement. But if its one of the cheap cast anvils like a star or Vulcan then many of the available ASO's are as good or better.

Seeing as you are in the heart of the rust belt where used anvils are plentiful I'd collect my money for a new anvil and then buy a good used anvil like you had for aout 1/4 of new price. The rest could go to other blacksmithing tools if that is your thing. OR you could get a shiny new Peddinghaus anvil.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/24/11 22:18:01 EDT

I asked this question over on iforgeiron and was surprised with the answer, so I wanted to double check. I'm ready to heat treat the main flat dies for my homebrewed power hammer. The ram weight is 88 lbs, and the dies are 3" square 4140. After hardening (thanks for the timely tip on quench medium on large 4140, Gavainh!), where do I need to draw the temper to? I was thinking in the 500-600 degree range, but the answer I got was 350-400. I don't want the dies deforming during use, but I also don't want them cracking or chipping and sending out high-speed shrapnel.
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 03/25/11 02:57:58 EDT

Oh, and some new texturing tooling and some texture samples that I made this week: http://helmforge.blogspot.com/2011/03/power-hammer-tooling-and-texture.html
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 03/25/11 03:20:03 EDT

Ptree, if'n you don't mind, where are you buying brand new railroad spikes?
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 03/25/11 03:21:30 EDT

Stormcrow, I get mine from Associated Railroad contractors in south Louisville KY. He has HC only, and will consent to sell a keg or two. None of the other outlets would even return a call about that small a quantity.
Depending on your location Birmingham Spike in Alabama said they would ship to me in keg lots, but the very nice and helpful lady there suggested I try Associated as I could pick up.

On thinking, since I am just arriving at work, let me check this evening and I will confirm the name and give further contact as well.
   ptree - Friday, 03/25/11 07:37:40 EDT

Hammer Dies: Stormcrow, the steel used and the heat treat are somewhat shape dependent on power hammer dies.

1) 4140 is an OK die steel but is not recommended for radical shaped dies such as narrow fullering, crown and so on. All those fancy relatively aggressive dies and dies used for cold work that Big BLU sells are made of carefully heat treated S7. Early Big BLU dies were 4140.

2) Fully hardened 4140 ranges from 54 to 59 HRC. But it should be tempered for any heavy use.

3) Tempering recommendations from the ASM heat treaters guide for 4140-4142 is a minimum of 400°F. This leaves near full hardness. The following is extrapolated from a hardness graph given in Brinell Hardness with nearest points taken from a conversion table for Rockwell hardness. Tensile values are generic, not specifically for 4140. All data is +/- 10% as read at best and conversion tables rarely agree on Brinell to Rockwell. (HB = Bhn)
SAE 4140 Steel Tempering
400°F 200°C 514 HB 55 HRc 297 KSI
500°F 260°C 477 HB 50 HRc 243 KSI
550°F 290°C 461 HB 48 HRc 235 KSI
600°F 320°C 444 HB 47 HRc 225 KSI
650°F 340°C 429 HB 46 HRc 217 KSI
700°F 370°C 415 HB 44 HRc 210 KSI
800°F 430°C 363 HB 39 HRc 182 KSI
900°F 480°C 331 HB 36 HRc 166 KSI
1000°F 540°C 293 HB 31 HRc 145 KSI

The ASM Handbook on forging recommends 6G and 6F2 (??) steels for large dies and 4150 for small dies (4370 for higher carbon dies). In this case "small" is probably 300 pounds or less. . . Small die hardness in 4150 is recommended at only 277 to 321 BHn. In our small shops with hammer sizes of 50 to 150 pounds dies are generally harder. Note that S7 is in the same carbon range as 4150.

So, your initial thought was right. Note that Rockwell 44-45 is just barely in the machinable range and that a grade of H13 is sold in this condition to avoid heat treatment after machining. This saves a lot of trouble in small shops. I have seen corner impact chip this steel. Corners should be rounded. . .

The 350-400°F value commonly given is a MINIMUM starting point for almost all steels so is a safe answer but non specific. I often use this value but qualify it as a minimum AND because it can be achieved in a kitchen oven. It is recommended that you temper immediately after hardening and before the steel reaches room temperature to avoid cracking. But you can always re-temper to a higher temperature - so a minimum temper is a good start if you do not know what your final temper should be.

Grant Sarver makes a lot of his tools such as clapper dies from 4140 but I do not know the heat treat.

The one thing I do not like about the Heat Treaters Guide is that the data, collected from many sources is not given in a uniform form. Charts on the same page will give Rockwell and Brinell hardness.

Hardness Conversion Table

Temper Color Chart with sample steels
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 09:45:37 EDT

Hello Guru,

I was curious to know is it possible to cast a finished 440 stainless steel dagger's blade into melted copper?

If so would, the blade is doubled edged would it the copper casting dull the sharpness of the blade?


Daniel Ra
   Daniel - Friday, 03/25/11 08:22:45 EDT

Stainless and Copper: Daniel, I am not sure what you are trying to ask.

If you are trying to cast a grip or handle around the tang of a stainless blade without ruining the temper (hardness) then probably not. The melting point for copper is well above the tempering temperature for blades made of 440 stainless. It would result in a hardness less than 43 HRc which is OK for the tang but probably too soft for the blade. The pouring point of most metals is considerably higher than the melting point.

It MIGHT be possible to do what I think you want by using a heat sink to keep the blade cool beyond the tang. However, to get a good casting some of the blade is going to be overheated.

To encase the blade with copper or to make decorative slabs on the sides of the blade probably would not work.

It is common on cheap "wall hanger" swords to cast a zinc handle directly on the blade. The difference is that the zinc melting point is about half of copper and the pouring point considerably less as well. We are also talking about a product that is usually NOT a hardenable grade of stainless so there are no concerns about ruining the blade.
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 10:09:03 EDT


How about electroplating the dagger. As far as molding a handle for a knife, I received samples of plastic used in silicon molds. The company told me I could make a silicon mold of an exotic antler or horn, pour the plastic in the mold with the appropriate coloring and duplicate the antler-horn. I don't know why the tang couldn't be run into the mold and the handle just molded around it.
   Mike T. - Friday, 03/25/11 11:14:00 EDT

Insurance and Anvils: My student had "renters replacement insurance" for his old worn "farm anvils", cast iron! The insurance replaced them with Peddinghaus---because they didn't know where to source anvils and so the cost of going with a top of the line product from a catalog they could easily reference was less than spending the time tracking down a more even match. (probably got a commendation for being able to close the case so fast)

I know about all of this as I had to attest in writing that he had had the said anvils and they had been stolen. (and then put up with the gloating over his new anvils, sigh)

   Thomas P - Friday, 03/25/11 13:08:01 EDT

Insurance and replacement costs are a peculiar thing. I had a relatively new camera and an old laptop stolen. A new replacement for the camera in nearly the same model cost half of the original but the laptop replacement was maybe 20x what I paid/traded for on the old one. I was happy and the insurance company did the only thing they could.

On the other hand you almost never come out even on used automobiles. Right now my 15 year old van is valued at only about $1000. But to find a replacement in similar condition would cost at least $5000. Same with my old truck. I paid $1000 for it and have invested another $3000 in it and need to put another $1000 in it. I MIGHT be able to sell it for what I have in it but finding a replacement at insurance value would be very difficult to impossible.
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 13:41:14 EDT

Guru: Does the below statement mean that Fisher anvils are ASOs as well? They have cast bodies and crucible steel face plates (only thicker) just like the Vulcan anvils? The star anvil just have chilled faces, so I understand concerning those.

Guru wrote "If your anvil is any one of the older forged anvils then the pricier new anvils are a suitable new replacement. But if its one of the cheap cast anvils like a star or Vulcan then many of the available ASO's are as good or better."
   - Huckleberry - Friday, 03/25/11 14:25:56 EDT

Fisher Norris Anvils are the original steel faced cast iron body anvil. They had the original patent and made a good product. The face was plenty thick and the part extending out on the horn created an all steel tip. Fishers are a good anvil and still sought after due to being a "quiet" anvil. When new they sold for less than forged anvils of the time.

Other manufacturers made anvils by the same process after the Fisher's patent ran out. The process is not fool proof and the other makers cheapened the product as well as doing a poor job in many cases. The cheapening included using faces as thin as 1/4" where 5/8" was necessary. Shapes were made heavy and cludgy to support the thin pages. These anvils are not much better than a plain cast iron ASO and their new prices reflected it at the time.

In the 19th century and early 20th century many retailers sold anvils and they had a range of quality honestly reflected in the prices. The problem today is that cast iron ASO's are sold with claims of being "professional, high quality, "steel" . . . Iron maybe, low carbon un-heat treated ductile iron sometimes, but not steel. Its a buyer beware world.
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 15:53:26 EDT

Thanks, guru. I'll look at the color chart again and pick were to put it. Given the amount of force on it, I'm guessing a bit harder, so in the lower 500 range. I'm seeing a bit of deformation on one of my pairs of railroad track dies.
   - Stormcrow - Friday, 03/25/11 18:09:05 EDT

Stormcrow: one of the reasons for using a higher alloy (4340, S-7, etc) than 4140 is quench reliability. While large 4140 rounds can be water-quenched, squares are a different story. Each corner of a die is a three-sided pyramid and in quenching the corners will cool very quickly, often causing "finger-nail" cracking of the corners. That is the main reason for switching to an alloy that will give good results by oil quenching. If your dies survived the water-quench then you're good to go.
   - grant - nakedanvil - Friday, 03/25/11 18:52:37 EDT

Thanks Guru
   - Huckleberry - Friday, 03/25/11 19:22:12 EDT

4140 - Good reason to knock off those corners as much as possible before hardening. But dovetails add more, and sharper, corners that cannot be but so round.
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 20:27:46 EDT

I would like to forge some oak leaves. Any advice or demonstration sites you would recommend? Thanks! RG.
   RG - Friday, 03/25/11 22:13:25 EDT

Oak Leaves: RG, Oak leaves start with an appropriate blank. Trace your favorite leaf sample, use on size or enlarged. I've seen some nice oversized leaves over a foot long. I would probably draw my own but everyone has different skill levels. Make the stem about 1/2" to 5/8" wide and plenty long. This can be rolled up and forged into solid OR wrapped around a tapered bar and forge welded on.

To use with forge work 1/8 to 3/16" (3 to 5 mm) plate works well and oversize leaves easier to work with. Today most folks plasma cut such blanks to get a clean cut but it can be done with oxy-fuel and ground to clean up. If you are making a tree's worth then your patterns needs to be produced in CAD, converted to DXF and cut by a production house. I would make three variations in size/shape.

Your blanks are then worked hot. A fold down the center slightly hammered then opened back up will have a permanent crease. If you want a high rib clamp the edge in a vise when you open it up. Side vein creases are worked hot on a wood block or special made support swage. This is a good job for a helper or on a treadle hammer but can be done alone. A pivoting creasing tool works.

After creasing and rolling the stem then hammer the edges out a little thinner. The extra material will force the leaf to warp and wrinkle the way an oak leaf does. You may need to consider the thinning and widening in your blank design. Then working on a wood block (or the anvil horn, swage block. . .) with a ball pien hammer give it some curls.

The stems can be forge welded or arc welded and blended in, preferably by forging. Grinding always shows and rarely looks like part of the work. Have fun!
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 23:09:10 EDT

Michael Walker Making Oak Leaves at Dan Boone's Hammerfest 2000.
   - guru - Friday, 03/25/11 23:20:12 EDT

I was wondering if there was some reason I couldn't just get http://www.magidglove.com/Magid-Zetex-ZT1314WL-High-Temperature-Safety-Gloves-ZT1314WL.aspx?DepartmentId=197
instead of tongs. They're rated to 1100 F, and I'm not planning on doing any welding. Thanks!
   Baruch - Saturday, 03/26/11 00:13:44 EDT

Baruch, Smiths hold "long" pieces in their bare hands. But long is proportional. In small 1/4" stock one foot is long enough to hold bare handed. In 1/2" it needs to be two feet or more. In a gas forge you usually need longer pieces for bare hand work than in a coal forge.

But pieces like that 12" length can become 6" or less when the ends are curled up into an S hook. If you heat the middle for twisting the hook is being held 3" from the 2,500°F heat.

Now, those gloves are resistant to 1100°F but that DOES NOT mean you can handle things that temperature with them. The inside of the glove will rapidly reach a significant proportion of the external temperature. There is no "magic" to them. They are not insulated any better than the kitchen cooking mitts. Probably not as well. You can pick up relatively hot low mass items with them for a very short time.

1100°F is right at the limit for what smiths call a "black heat". You cannot see the heat. It is not hot enough to work the iron. But it is very hot to organic life. Our normal working temperatures are well above a black heat. This means that short pieces that are red or yellow on one end are at a high black heat on the other. Far too hot for gloves.

Use pliers, make or buy tongs. Learn to use them. It is an absolutely essential manual skill.

Smiths often wear light knit Kevlar gloves to prevent getting burns from accidental slips and touches on hot iron. However, all these are is a little extra protection, not a replacement for tongs.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/26/11 02:23:05 EDT

Thanks for answering my questions about copper plating my modern dagger yesterday.

Do anyone have a recommendation of where or who to go to so I can have it done?


Daniel Ra
   Daniel Ra - Saturday, 03/26/11 07:02:25 EDT

Thanks for answering my questions about copper plating my modern dagger yesterday.

Do anyone have a recommendation of where or who to go to so I can have it done?


Daniel Ra
   - Daniel Ra - Saturday, 03/26/11 07:04:59 EDT

   JOHN L. - Saturday, 03/26/11 12:14:55 EDT

Grant - So in that case, would it be better for me to go with quenching in oil, not getting it so hard but also not risking cracking as much? Or will rounded corners be sufficient for a water quench? What is the difference between 4340 and 4140 in terms of heat treatment and performance?

Guru, my dies don't have dovetails; they're welded to base plates.
   - Stormcrow - Saturday, 03/26/11 12:20:09 EDT

4140 Again: The oil quench is recommended in the ASM Heat Treater's Guide for all sizes. The steel will get fully hard on the outside but the center may not fully harden. I do not see this as an issue in a big rectangular die.

Water quench as suggested by Gavinah should be tested. That is the problem with one off jobs. . . The Guide has all kinds of graphs with hardness depths and so on. But other than cylinders there is not much about variations in shape. I have seen a number of places listing this steel as 4140-42 which means either the chemistry is not tightly controlled OR their inventory has both sold as the same product. The Guide lists the two as different with variations in treatment and results. As Gavinah stated they used different quenches depending on the exact chemistry of what was being processed. So everything is not always equal. . .

Rounding the corners before heat treatment is a good idea no matter what. As Grant pointed out those outside corners with three vertexes are the first thing that is going to quench and much faster than the rest. Uneven rate of cooling is the primary reason for the stresses that result in cracking. The ideal shape would be a sphere. . . So, the more corner you can take off of a cube the better.
   - guru - Saturday, 03/26/11 15:29:29 EDT

Guru, you mentioned kevlar gloves....where can I find some that aren't "fuzzy"???? Presently I use Costco thin leather and I'm getting a nice collection of unused right handed ones,LOL.
   Thumper - Saturday, 03/26/11 15:33:13 EDT

Thumper, All of the industrial glove compainies such as Memphis Glove make knit kevlar. These are usually sold as singles and fit either hand. They come in many weights and the heavier the weight the beter the protection for small scale. The light weight kevlar string knits will have siginificant open space in the weave and let smnall scale right through. These light weight string knits are more for cut resistance the heat.
What you should look for are medium or heavy weight string knit Kevlar. Expect to pay in the $3 to $7 each.
For forging, I prefer leather palm gloves. These have a chrome leather palm and fingers with a canvas back and cuff. Good cut, abrasion and scale resistance. Not much heat from a big hunk of steel, but enough for you to drop the steel and pull off the glove without a real burn.
I buy these by the dozen at about $).85 to $1.15 a pair.
ptree the industrial safety guy:)
   ptree - Saturday, 03/26/11 17:52:55 EDT

Blacksmiths Depot sells a variety of gloves in singles or pairs

When I wear gloves in the shop I use the gloves PTree mentions (common cloth and leather work gloves). I use them for anything I need gloves for in the shop, welding, schleping stock or lumber. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 03/26/11 18:15:42 EDT

John L.
It is probably Warren Tool and Forge Co., Warren, Ohio. Their tools were sometimes marked QUIKWERK. They acquired "IRON CITY" brand tools (Pittsburgh) in 1958. Iron City was a manufacturer of leg vises and other tools.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 03/26/11 18:51:41 EDT

Wood basically is a series of fibrous annular rings forming tubes. Why is it that when it burns that it transforms into crystalline shapes of carbon? I assume that the ash may be the same giving it some of it's abrasion. Something I have watched all my life and have taken for granted...what's up with rapid oxidation?
I have also realized that "perpetual motion" is only temporary.
   S K SMith - Sunday, 03/27/11 12:55:44 EDT

Temporary perpetual motion is an oxymoron.

The cellular structure of the wood is still in the charcoal. I think any time carbon is not part of a compound it is crystalline. But when you hang a bunch of hydrogens and oxygens on a carbon atom it can no longer align in crystalline form. Interestingly the natural state for many carbon compounds is proteins which due to a natural "kink" in the molecules always arrange in spirals when joined. We know these as RNA and DNA.

Rapid oxidation compared to what? Under what circumstances? The more oxygen or the more oxygen rich the atmosphere the faster things burn.

   - guru - Sunday, 03/27/11 13:29:03 EDT

I was watching How It's Made on TV and saw something pretty interesting. They were making bolts and during the tempering process, they had flames coming up, they remarked that the flames were not part of the tempering process, but to prevent scale on the bolts. I thought to myself, is it possible that the flames were burning off the oxygen ? I don't know what the source of fuel was, any ideas ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/27/11 14:28:12 EDT

Mike it makes sense and is probably cheaper than other methods. Burners (gas or oil) with no mixers or adjusted to produce a carburizing flame will absorb oxygen in the space around the parts.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/27/11 15:33:14 EDT

I have a very old pair of pliers in good condition labeled "Snap Lock" #1607 mfg. by Semour Smith & Sons, Oak Ville, Conn. There is no patent date.

They look just like Vice Grip pliers, could they be the originals ??
   Carver Jake - Sunday, 03/27/11 17:11:33 EDT

OK let me rephrase. When round wood burns much of it will change into squarish shaped cubes. Why?
Deep thoughts: I think during our short little life spans perpetual motion does exist in life forms like plants which might be able to be stretched into a quasi-mechanical definition. However that is still in a temporary climate. I like oxymorons. A stiff wind.
   S K SMith - Sunday, 03/27/11 17:27:18 EDT

SK, When the organic matter sh5inks from the outside in cracks form. But this is not true with all charcoal. These "cubes" are not crystals, just convienient strss crack locations. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 03/27/11 17:34:53 EDT

   - guru - Sunday, 03/27/11 17:38:51 EDT

OK I got it..thanks. The cubes are formed by shrinkage from heat, that's cool. I can't stop.
   S K SMith - Sunday, 03/27/11 17:41:32 EDT

Mike T. I have seen that How Its made. Many of their narratives are a little off. That flame at the entrance of the furnace is a standard flame curtain. The purpose is to burn off any leaking gas, as it leaks, before a big cloud forms. Most controlled atmosphere furnaces use argon, or nitrogen or some combo to prevent scale. We had radiant tube heaters in our controlled atmosphere furnaces. These had the combustion from natural gas and regular atmosphere inside the tubes and the tubes would radiate the heat into the furnace chamber. The chamber had a constant nitrogen purge, And a flame curtain at both doors.
   ptree - Sunday, 03/27/11 18:43:35 EDT

Popular Television, particularly the History Channel and many of the specialized cable shows almost always get something noticeably wrong in their facts in almost every show. The surprise is that one of the the most sensational shows, Myth Busters, get their science and technology right more often than the less sensational "fact based" shows. Besides, they blow things up every chance they get.
   - guru - Sunday, 03/27/11 19:51:43 EDT

Another thing that caught my attention on How It's Made was the forging of the hexagon heads on the bolts. They placed the round bolt blank in a coil that used electricity to heat it up. It heated it up very quickly to over 2000 degrees ( just before molten ) then placed the bolt in a powerful punch ( die ) that formed the head in one motion. You couldn't call it a hammer, because it was just one quick punch. What came to my mind was this...How practical would it be to build a coil, heat it with electricity, place a knife blade in it and heat it and forge it ? No scale from an open flame.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/27/11 23:29:01 EDT

Mike T: What You saw is an induction heater. It is a great idea if all the parts You are making fit into the same or a few coils. The reduction in scale comes from the short time at heat. A reducing flame doesn't make scale, but as soon as You take the work out into the air, the scale starts to form.

Grant Sarver sells suitable induction unit for knife forging, if You wanted to go that rout. Initial cost is farly high, but it is fast, and can be cost effective in a production setting.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/27/11 23:47:00 EDT

Mike T: A little more detail. The electricity is high frequency high amperage AC, the power unit is an inverter, too complicated to make at home, and not cheap to manufacture. The frequency is ajusted according to the size of the work. The coil is copper tube with cooling water going through it. This is entirely different than an ordinary electric stove burner, which operates on resistance.
   - Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/27/11 23:53:58 EDT


Thank you for the information. You learn something new everyday, I think I would like the induction unit. I will contact Mr. Sarver.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 03/27/11 23:59:36 EDT

Mike T. - If you poke around Youtube you can find a number of videos showing the induction forges in action, including Grant (look for "nakedanvil") using them in a production capacity to manufacture blacksmithing tools.
   - Stormcrow - Monday, 03/28/11 02:28:04 EDT

Mike T. Induction heating has been around since at least the '40s. Properly tuned for frequency and times, you can heat a billet through, or get surface heating for hardening. Cam and crankshafts are good examples of hardening performed by induction. In many cases the cam or crank is induction heated through, forged, machined and then induction hardened followed by precision grinding of the bearing surfaces. Axles are also made the same way. In the average automobile there are several hundred items made with induction heating.
   ptree - Monday, 03/28/11 07:36:52 EDT

Weather Report: Here it is, almost April, the flowers in Sherie's garden are blooming, we are looking for the humming birds that should arrive soon and at 8:30am EST this morning in Boonville, NC it is 37°F, snowing and sticking to the ground! On surfaces raised off the ground there is a 1/2" accumulation.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 09:08:12 EDT

My shop is in oakville CT I just googled it an it seems the semour smith and sons building was with in a block of my shop (in the old pin shop building) that is kind of cool.
   mpmetal - Monday, 03/28/11 09:08:18 EDT

In the 1960's, a "Lever Wrench" plier came on the market. They were a self adjusting locking pliers. The company was a flash in the pan; didn't last long.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/28/11 09:34:23 EDT

Induction Forge in the anvilfire NEWS. At the time Blacksmiths Depot was selling them for Grant Sarver but dropped them. I think sales were too slow for them.

The entire outfit was selling for over $4,000 at the time. So you REALLY needed it. An American made unit costs over twice that amount. But there are some tremendous advantages. Among them:

1) No fire, flames or exhaust fumes.
2) No waste heat raising shop temperatures.
3) Very controlled focused heat.
4) Very fast. So fast you do not need multiple pieces heating.
5) Low scaling due to the fast heating.
6) Energy efficient - 90% or more of the energy goes into the work. A small amount of radiant heat from the work must be removed from the water cooled coils and there is a little loss from the electronics. Compare this to a traditional forge where probably 90% of your fuel energy is wasted. . . While this is great to heat your shop in the winter it is very wasteful the rest of the year.

Induction heaters are used for almost every application whee steel needs to be heated including heat treating.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 09:42:32 EDT

When I was a kid, I had an electric train with a transformer that provided electrictity to the tracks. Being one to experiment, I would attach a paper clip from one terminal of the transformer to the other. The result was that the paper clip would get red hot. I guess an induction unit works about the same way.
   Mike T. - Monday, 03/28/11 12:26:27 EDT

Mike, that is resistance heating or a dead short. It is NOT the same as induction heating.

In induction heating a strong high frequency magnetic field is created. When a piece of iron is in this field the rapidly changing magnetic field heats the metal. The piece is NOT directly in the electrical circuit. Most of the heat is in the work piece, not the wires leading to it. Most of the heat in the coils is from radiant heat from the work piece.

In many industrial applications the induction coils are embedded in ceramic or refractory. The heat is created in the steel inside the furnace, not from the coils.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 12:51:30 EDT

One major issue with induction forge: once a piece is forge into something like a scroll or other non-linear form it cannot be put back into the coils for further forging... better be good at forming stuff in one heat or you're screwed.
   - Nippulini - Monday, 03/28/11 13:10:40 EDT

Guru, your post of 3-27 was interrupted re: my vice grip pliers and did not go through. Any info?

Thanks Frank for your input, I had some of those automatic pliers.
   Carver Jake - Monday, 03/28/11 13:14:30 EDT

Jake, Its just a link to the Vise-Grips article.

Induction Coil Limitations:

You can say the same thing about a gas forge. Many that you can heat a 1" bar will not accept the forged results for a second heat (usually when using a power hammer).

But as Grant also shows in the photo of heating just the edge of a blade to harden it, the "coils" do not need to be circular. And many systems use loops where the part is heated from one side. A surrounding coil is more efficient and heats more evenly but a side loop will take a scroll as long as it is on one plane. Surface heat treating systems use a loop and "scan" it across the surface.

Induction heaters are a high production tool where you are generally making a LOT of something. That is most often done in dies or bending jigs where you do everything or most of a job in one heat.

When you change from a typical coal forge to a gas forge you suddenly find that you can evenly heat way more bars than one man can forge. So you add a power hammer to your shop. These work well together when doing open die and free hand forging. But as soon as you start production work in dies (either on the hammer or in a press) the gas forge needs to be larger OR faster heats are needed, and the induction forge often meets than demand.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 13:52:53 EDT

In forgeing billets for closed die work, we used circular pattern tunnel induction forges. These had a coil sort of like a coil spring, embedded in insulation and had water cooled stainless steel tube rails. The billets were placed on the rails and on a timer, the next billet was pushed into the coil and the oldest one exited to be forged or rejected if not ready to forge. Many of the billets we forged were 4" diameter by 12" long and the coil would be perhaps 8' long. Residence time was probably about 6 to 7 minutes. In the bigger diameter parts it takes longer to get the heat to the center without burning off the od, since skin effect heats the OD the most. The advantage is very uniform heat, in very high volume. You use way less energy, and generate way less employee sapping heat. You still have the radiant heat and the cooling forgings. You also have a cooling tower moving water through 6 or 8" headers to cool the coils and electronics.

In the axle shop we were still running a natural gas forge, heating big billits when I started. heated about 4 foot of a 7' long billet, by sticking the billet through a water cooled water front. Held 20 or so billets, and once the forge was hot the billets would be at heat in about an hour. As a billet was pulled a cold billet was replaced. Once the first 20 had been forged, then another 20 minutes or so was required to fully heat the billets. Now this forge fed natural gas thru 3/4" orifices at 20 psi. Not inches of water column 20 PSI! And there were 6 burners each with that 3/4 orifice.
Replaced with a single coil, took about 6 minutes for a billet to heat, and that matched the cycle perfectly.
Oh and by the way, even taking out for the added electricity cost, we saved $20,000 per month when that gas forge was turned off.

Many of the smaller axles were run on a conveyor through a C tunnel and never heated more than say 20" of a 6' billet. That way the rest of the billet was much less likely to distort in an upsetter.

Like all things in engineering every choice is a compromise. The induction vs gas vs coal. Each has +/-.
   ptree - Monday, 03/28/11 14:32:27 EDT

I'm also cross-posting on I Forge Iron, I hope nobody minds. But I thought that, since asking kind of open ended, I'd try to do some follow-up here, too.

After checking out these replies, and others, I think I've figured it out. One of the issues was that I was always thinking of acids as being liquids, but citric acid is a solid, so "pure" citric acid doesn't make sense as a bath, or as a 100% solution.

So the percent solution thing comes in two different forms:

1) Liquid acids (hydrochloric, sulfuric, etc.), otherwise known as a miscible acid. A 100% solution is just pure acid. The confusion was coming in that you can also describe the strength of the acid in terms of molarity (moles per liter of solution). So, according to the chart Jack provided, phosphoric acid is at 100% at 17.3 moles/liter. My wife was working with acids using molarity, and I was asking in terms of percent solutions.

2) Solid acids (citric). For these, the solution is figured as percentage by weight. A certain number of grams per liter. In this case, you may not get to a 100% solution, since there will be limits on solubility.
   Bajajoaquin - Monday, 03/28/11 14:42:22 EDT

While induction is nice for production, once you have one you find it incredibly convenient at the anvil. Easy to get a juicey white heat right where you want it and the machine can be right next to the anvil - no walking back and forth. While a gas forge will heat the shop in the winter, carbon monoxide can build up fast, so then ya gotta open the doors. Gas forge also heats the shop in summer, I get twice as much work done in the summer with induction. And yes, energy cost is about 10% compared to gas. Coil can also be in the shape of a cinnamon roll.

There's a Mark Aspery video on Youtube showing Darryl Nelson working on an animal head. With induction he can heat the near-finished head without the detail parts over-heating. He also works on one head while keeping it clamped in the vise using an extension flexible "wand".
   grant - nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 15:01:45 EDT

Well now that the forge extension is nearing completion---I mounted the cross beam for the front doors over the weekend---it looks like my nightmare might be true.

Just got word that the project plans to go to about 1/2 the current head count over the next couple of years.

Anybody need a UNIX based software tester/Geologist with a BS in each?

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/28/11 15:03:33 EDT

I have to correct the Guru on one point. The induction machines I sell are 10% of what new American made machines cost. They are made in China and in the five years I've been selling them I've had nearly zero problems. I have more than 100 machines in the hands of blacksmiths and knife makers and many more industrial installations running all day, every day.
   grant - nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 15:21:12 EDT

Thomas, it may be time you learned to make a living from your hobby. . .

Citric Acid. . . knowing the form helps, that is why I was confused by your question. I gave the right answer but you were confused by the "saturated" solution. Yes it is a white powder and dry food stuffs often have a considerable amount. Remember "Tang", "the stuff astronauts drink". A large part citric acid, sugar and a little flavoring. Just add water.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 15:27:19 EDT

Grant, one of our Google advertisers, an American manufacturer whom I spoke to, sells a machine similar to yours for $10,000. If yours are down to $1,000 I'll take TWO today!
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 15:33:33 EDT

Guru, as an insulin dependent diabetic I *HAVE* to have health insurance.

   Thomas P - Monday, 03/28/11 15:47:42 EDT

If I understand what you are saying about induction coils, they work similarly to a microwave oven. I think microwaves move the atoms in the food rapidly back and forth producing internal heat. The induction coils produce a magnetic field that moves the atoms in the steel back and forth producing internal heat ?
   Mike T. - Monday, 03/28/11 16:04:11 EDT

Lets make sure we compare apples to apples. Is that a 15KW machine? Does it come with a cooler? You were quoting my machine with cooler ($700.00 extra). The 15KW machine I sell is $2,995.00. Got a link? The domestic ones I've seen at that price were like 3KW.
   grant - nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 16:15:43 EDT

Here's a video showing what I beleive is an induction forge being used in a production setting, making Wetterlings axes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdwZnuX8nBU You can see it just before the four minute mark. That's a pretty funky hammer they're using, too.

Actually, there are quite a few different videos on Youtube showing the induction forge in use. Do a search and you'll see.
   - Stormcrow - Monday, 03/28/11 16:17:24 EDT

Tocco/Inductotherm was demonstrating a little induction unit to blacksmiths a couple years ago. It was 3 or so KW and heated a 1/2" bar to a bright red in a minute or so. The machine I sell will bring 1/2" to yellow in 15 seconds and melt it in two in 20 seconds. Many of these manufacturers have a rather poor understanding of what a blacksmith needs. They seem to think we heat a small piece to dull red and beat on it for a couple minutes.

Oh yeah, At the time that machine was $20,000.00!
   grant - nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 16:31:29 EDT

This may be a dumb question but I'll ask it anyway. When steel is brought to a white heat, is there an infrared spectrum that requires eye protection ?
   Mike T. - Monday, 03/28/11 17:11:41 EDT


Yes, it was your response about percentages by weight that made the bell go off for me. That's when I was able to put together all the things I'd been reading.

Thanks for the replies.
   Bajajoaquin - Monday, 03/28/11 18:15:36 EDT

Thank you Jock, for sparking me to do some (self-enlightened) research. There only seem to be three American manufacturer of induction equipment suitable for blacksmithing/forging. That would be Inductotherm/Raydyne, Ajax/Tocco and Ameritherm. None of those seem to offer what you are referring to. Other "American" sources all appear to be re-branding Chinese equipment and taking a whole lot more mark-up than I do. I really would like more information on the one you are referring to.
   grant - nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 19:43:12 EDT

Grant, I am not positive on the specifics. It was over a year ago when I spoke to the fellow. He called me wanting to know if I would like to handle his machines. It was a pretty short conversation. Also can't remember the name but DID see it on one of our google ads as the other day. . I don't think it was Inductotherm. I mostly remember it was running in an odd place (you can never figure google OR the key words some folks use for their ads).

Its against the rules for ME to click on the google ads. If I want to follow a lead I have to copy the link and go to it without the tracking numbers. . . Its a pain so I rarely do it unless I think its an ad that shouldn't be running here OR something I'm really interested in at the moment.

Wetterlings Axe Video I think that is a Toggle Press being used for the finishing the forging. They don't show the Notice the different possitions for each part of the taper. The press doesn't work so much like a hammer. It always goes so far and returns. I would have liked to see them punch the eye.
   - guru - Monday, 03/28/11 20:45:08 EDT

I would have loved to see the eye punched as well. I think it's a pretty nifty layout, though you'd have to have a pretty large monetary investment to set it up initially. 'Course I do have a poorboy mentality about things...
   - Stormcrow - Monday, 03/28/11 20:49:35 EDT

Thomas; jobs:

This is probably a bad time to go Federal (what with them folks on the hill still arguing over this year's budget and threatening to pull the plug on both the government and the debt) but check out http://www.usajobs.gov/ for both jobs in your area of expertise, and the area of your interest.

There are a number of NPS sites that use blacksmiths as interpretive rangers. The jobs are rare, but they do come open from time to time. If you spot anything interesting, contact me and I can at least give you some background. (That's the NPS jobs, not fed. bit-pusher jobs. ;-) If you see anything in DOE, DVA or GAO, let me know and I can check with friends or family.

Check the site every week or so; there is a constant turnover.

Good luck.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 03/28/11 21:15:07 EDT

Induction equipment in the US.
Having visited the main office and factory for Inductoheat, and in the old days Tocco, and American Induction Heating, all up in Detroit area, (Think Sterling Heights, I can offer this.
Look at the address for each company, and figure how many US makers there now are:)
   ptree - Monday, 03/28/11 21:22:16 EDT

By the way, the hammer dies are taking a nice, relaxing seven hour soak at 540 degrees in my kiln right now. Thank you, gentlemen, for your help on heat treating them. I'll let y'all know how they turn out.
   - Stormcrow - Monday, 03/28/11 21:22:21 EDT

Mike T.,
In the past, I've got mild eye burn if I've forge welded steadily for one half day to one day, a fairly rare occurence for me. A few eye drops in the evening seemed to help.

I'm not sure whether special glasses are necessary. I've tried didymium glasses, but they only work on sodium flare (the bright yellow of the flame). They make the heats appear as oddly colored.

I see that at least one firm carries glasses that are supposed to handle sodium flare, UV, and IR. sundanceglass.com carries "Green Ace IR" which they claim covers all the bases. I haven't tried them, so I don't know what the heats look like through the glasses.

I hardly wear darkened shades unless I'm electric or gas welding.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 03/28/11 23:19:40 EDT

Mr. Turley,

Thank you for the response.
   Mike T. - Monday, 03/28/11 23:39:19 EDT

One of the largest manufacturers of small (relatively speaking) induction generators, Lepel, went out of business a couple years ago. Actually they ended up being absorbed by their largest customer, a manufacturer of sealing equipment.
   - Grant - Nakedanvil - Monday, 03/28/11 23:44:31 EDT

I often want to use punch marks on work to mark lengths for bending or where to start forging etc.The trouble is when the metal is at a good heat you cant see those marks.Would ace or didymium glasses allow one to see those marks at heat?
   wayne @nb - Tuesday, 03/29/11 08:28:28 EDT

Heat and Safety Glasses Mike, Unless you are doing a lot of welding as Frank noted, OR you are working on very large pieces the infrared from the steel is not a problem. However, staring into a hot forge, particularly a gas forge where every surface is giving off large amounts of infrared can be a problem. Like many things, it depends on your work habits.

Note that both infrared (IR) and UV are damaging to the eyes and the damage is cumulative. However, the amount of IR that is damaging is not clear but it is a known factor in late life vision problems. We researched this and both OSHA and ASTM were so non-specific that they referred to each other for the information (which neither had).

We sell No.2 shade safety glasses for working in the forge. As Frank noted they DO change the appearance of hot iron but I think the color difference is less than with didyium glasses. Blacksmiths Depot sell the didyium glasses.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/29/11 08:28:58 EDT

Wayne, my post above was made at the same time as yours and was not addressing your question.

Tinted glasses MAY help. Note that the Didydium are designed to filter the orange sodium flare from glass furnaces and also reduce the flare from flux but and not specific to hot steel.

However, reduced vision generally helps nothing. If the work it too bright then shades WILL help. However, when not looking at the hot metal they make is more difficult to see in the shop. That is why we sell the No.2 shades. They give some protection against IR but are not so dark they make it difficult to see otherwise. Ambient lighting makes a big difference in all cases.

IF you have some standard oxy-acetylene welding goggles they SHOULD be a No.3 shade. Try them. Note however that many cutting goggles are No.5's and may be too dark.

Rather than punch marks (which mar the work), you might try narrow fuller marks (a rounded cold chisel). These show up better for me and do not make a hole in the work. While it is probably not a problem I always thought making punch marks where you were going to make a bend was a bad idea.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/29/11 08:42:58 EDT

In comercial forges, in the days of big gas forges our "heaters" the person the managed the billets into and out of the forge wore shade 4 green lens. Of course these were guys looking into a hot forge every day, and these were big forges.
A.O. Safety has flip up shade 4 glasses that have regular safety glasses as well as the shade lens. They also make a high quality green shade clip on flip up lens. I think I remember that the mill supply price was $29.00 in small quantity.

Remember that Polycarbonate safety glasses will filter UV.
Just another reason to wear safety glasses
   ptree - Tuesday, 03/29/11 10:43:03 EDT

Punch Marks..... Stationary store white out works fine, you can even get it in a fine pencil applicator. Don't worry about it burning off, it's a bitch to get off.
   Carver Jake - Tuesday, 03/29/11 12:54:53 EDT

Punch marks. Scale is awful, but it can be used as a guide. If you mark with a whiteout the length you need on the anvil or scrap material, you can quickly lay your hot picce on it and find an irregular piece of scale to use as a reference when you get to the anvil. You can also use dividers to find the length you need as the work is brought to the anvil.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 03/29/11 13:36:12 EDT

punch marks seem to show up better for me when i make a square point punch it seems to stand out better in the scale than a round one now if i could only figger how to temper the punches i make so i don't have to re- sharpen them so often
   danny arnold - Tuesday, 03/29/11 13:50:50 EDT

I made a special cutting plate for my anvil for billet welding: I marked the center of it on a side and then laid out a rule on it from that center in 1/4" increments all done with a chisel---makes it a lot easier for me to see where to nick for the fold.

I often use soapstone on the side of the anvil to mark lengths I need to reproduce and of course the old "bit longer than the width of the face", "Length from the edge to the near/far side of the hardy hole", etc.

Thanks for the leads; I'd like to make this more of a tactical re-deployment than a rout!

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/29/11 14:08:56 EDT

Vanishing punch marks. If you punch at the outer edge of the metal, the swell it makes will be visible at any heat. You could do on both sides for wide stock.
   Thumper - Tuesday, 03/29/11 15:18:15 EDT

IR glasses: Uvex sells safety glasses that are IR and UV rated. They have a yellow tint, and don't change the colors too much. If you search their catalog online you should be able to track them down.
   Bajajoaquin - Tuesday, 03/29/11 16:22:06 EDT

I am about to quote a fairly high end set of andirons (which should be fun to make) but I am concerned about the finish. Is there any paint that will stand up to constant fires? (this is a large fireplace) Is the "traditional" black hot/oil finish and warning to the customer the best approach or do you have some advice?
   nathan - Tuesday, 03/29/11 19:14:12 EDT

Guru, Print: Steel Temper Colors chart the colors do not print. Is there a way?
   - Anver - Tuesday, 03/29/11 19:48:25 EDT


Since this is a high-end set, why not just use stainless steel? The black oxide finish it develops after forging is quite stable. Stainless won't burn up over time, either.
   - Rich - Tuesday, 03/29/11 20:37:35 EDT

Anver, tell your browser printer setup to "print background colors" The default is off.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/29/11 20:51:46 EDT

Nathan, I'm with Rich on the stainless. But when you use stainless "high end" means REALLY high end. Materials will start off at 4 or 5 times carbon steel and then labor is three times as much. It dulls tools, does not drill or saw well and MUST be forged at a high heat. At a low red it is tougher than stone cold. You will also need various sizes of stock and possibly fasteners.

When heated in the forge and cooled stainless looks just like carbon steel and can be oiled or waxed to darken. But you can polish highlights and generally not worry about them rusting. Just BE SURE to use a stainless wire brush if you clean up with one.

You can't forge weld it but all other processes work. If it needs to LOOK forge welded dress the arc welds in the forge and the results are hard to distinguish.

The cost is high but the results are darn permanent. While they will not resist sagging at high heat any better than carbon steel the supports will not burn out or corrode away if ashes are left around them.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/29/11 20:59:31 EDT

High temperature paints, such as barbecue black hold up OK but will not withstand temperatures over about 500°F. Fronts of andirons hold up OK due the cooling by the draft but anything in the fire or coals is not going to hold up.

Also note that high temperature paints chalk with age and higher temperatures.
   - guru - Tuesday, 03/29/11 21:03:04 EDT

I missread your initial inquiry. I thought you were trying to avoid punch marks. A really old method is to punch and at a heat, wipe off the hot scale with a straight edge. The scale will remain and be visible in the punch mark.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 03/29/11 21:35:05 EDT

Guru, Did the trick. You Rock!
   - Anver - Tuesday, 03/29/11 23:51:59 EDT

Forgot to tell everyone about my Italy trip. We ended up in a small industrial town outside of Milan called Concorezzo. They couldn't find a small anvil, so I swung a bowling ball as a teaser, then pulled a horse drawn chariot loaded with hot Italian models inside a mild steel welded jail cage. The whole rig (Guinness ajdudicator called it a "vehicle" for record purposes) weighed around 1,000 kilos and was pulled over 20 meters. They fabbed up a railing setup so the carriage wouldn't wander. Problems arose when the load was displacing the air in the tires causing them to rub against the side rails. Their solution was to overinflate the tires and thoroughly grease the rails. I was appalled as a welder to their welding techniques. I attempted to give them advice, but the language barrier made it difficult. I picked up an electrode and demonstrated a weaving technique. They looked puzzled and continued with tacking without eye protection. I also tried to show them to tack the ends of the rails first, then do the supports on the inside at intervals.... nope. They just kept going, saying they would adjust for warping later. I lost count of holes burned through the pipe rails. I'll post pics when I get a chance. Either way, I did acheive a brand new record, got a medal and certificate. It will air on Canale 5 in Italy tomorrow, copyright prevents us from seeing it herein the states, but will be sure to be leaked onto YouTube by next week.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/30/11 08:54:54 EDT

Nip, Sounds like the welders were some kind of studio crew. . . and the usual "field trip" experiences. Congrats on the new record! The whole thing sounds like the cartoon idea we had of you pulling a circus wagon!
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/30/11 10:10:33 EDT

Yeah, they welded scraps of sheet and perforated all around it, hung chains from the bars with strips of black cloth material. They had this whole "artistic vision" of post apocolyptic slavery or something like that. Yes, very much like your idea Jock.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/30/11 11:10:21 EDT

thanks very much for your help, guess I should have defined "fairly high end" a little better. Don't think they will go for stainless (but it would be pretty neat).
thanks again
   nathan - Wednesday, 03/30/11 12:21:00 EDT

Andirons: Nathan, Carbon steel holds up fine. In a fireplace a good even scale finish with DeRusto barbecue black holds up fine.

The only parts that fail in large fireplaces is the log support. These get very hot, often to the heavy scaling or burning point. I've repaired many old andirons that were as big as 1" (25mm) square that had been overheated. It is common for them to get a heavy log dropped on them when at a red heat. So they bend and the andirons tilt back. This then puts the log support down into the coals farther. . . So bigger than 1" does not hurt.

On deep fireplaces it helps to put a support leg about mid span on the log support. Due to levelness problems on masonry floors I make the leg about 1/8 to 3/16" short. If the andiron get overheated and heavily loaded then it will droop to fit where it sits and go no farther.

The support leg on many andirons was tennoned onto the front. This makes them replaceable. On one old set I repaired you could set two or three forge welds in each leg toward the middle where they got the hottest.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/30/11 12:59:38 EDT

More Andirons: Something I have done on a number of andirons and fireplace tools is make brass accents. There are several methods I've used. I show one method on our iForge page using brass rod and brazing it to the steel parts. Another method is to use brazing rod to put a heavy coating of brass on the steel. This makes a heavy uneven finish but the texture can be interesting. It can be filed smooth or polished as is. The brass over steel is very strong and not effected by heat the way solid brass is.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/30/11 13:14:21 EDT

Nip, there was a welder in the small Mexican village we were living in that never used a helmet for small jobs.

But he did shield his eyes with his hand. (not OSHA approved)
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 03/30/11 13:24:05 EDT

You see those photos of Chinese construction welders using a paper bag with slits as a welding helmet and wonder if they are real. . . Of course China is in the stat of expansion we ere in in the 40's and 50's where jobs got done no matter what and WAY before OSHA. The difference being thee are a LOT more Chinese laborers they can use up. And a significant part of the world has become a lot more "enlightened" about safety issues.
   - guru - Wednesday, 03/30/11 16:05:07 EDT

I'd like to make some windbells (buoy bells)3 triangular pcs of plate in 3 different thicknesses welded together at the upper point. I know in the past you have talked about tubular bells, but I am wondering about the science in the triangle sides. Long and slender (? b x4h) or short and squat( b x 2h).Plate thickness will be 1/4 3/16 1/8. longer sides, more vibration, deeper sound ? Any help would be appreciated
   Yooper - Wednesday, 03/30/11 16:34:38 EDT

Andirons: I have seen ones made from railroad rail that have corroded out in a person's lifetime.

What about making the uprights plain steel and the log supports stainless?

TGN; I'll take your word on your part of the deal please provide pictures of cage and contents to verify the rest!

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/30/11 17:04:39 EDT

Stainless steel forging.
Having had some experience in the forging of both 300 and 400 series stainless, I can offer the following.
300 series will be easier to find in small quantity. Welds easily in most cases with stick or mig or tig. The scale will rust outdoors. The surface will rust if not passivated and descalled. The surface will rust if worked with carbon steel wire brushes or SS wire brushes if previously used on plain steel. 300 series is usually about 18% chrome and 8% nickel, and is a very corrosion resistant material if properly treated. Forging temp should be a nice lemon yellow, returning to the forge at dull orange.
400SS is harder to weld, and is a high hot strenght steel used usually for corrosion resistance at elevated temps. Also has very good strenght at high temps. All of the rusting rules apply. Forges about the same, maybe a little easier. Most of the 400 series will be hardenable by quench and temper. 400ss machines somewhat easier. Does not tend to gall near as badly and the 300 series. usually about 13% chrome and 4 to 6% nickel.
For a good high temp creep and oxidation resistant steel, that is NOT stainless, and welds ok machines nicely and forges pretty much like plain steel I would choose the steels used in higher temp boilers and piping for the very same reasons. A Chrome Moly steel of about 5% chrome and 2% or less Moly. Roughly equiv to P-22 piping, F-22 in forgeing steel for the valev and fitting trade. This is the steel of choice in 2500 psi/1200F steam. Chossen for that high hot strenght, high oxidation resistance, and good corrosion strenght. Very weldable with stick/MIG/Tig. Needs some preand post weld heat, but still easy.
   ptree - Wednesday, 03/30/11 18:55:22 EDT

We're all idiots! For a high end Andiron job---inconel!

Thomas suffering from extra stress lately...
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/30/11 19:33:50 EDT

Triangle Plate Wind Chimes: 40 years ago I bought materials to make about dozen of those. . . the plate is still stacked in my old shop under the bench rusting. I was not happy with the necessary weld joint and how it looked when finished. Most makers just buzzed them together to a round or square hook and that was that.

These don't ring particularly well. Generally low and soft.

There is math for a tuning fork but that is based on two perfectly equal masses moving diametrically opposite. The crux of the math is where the two pieces join and how much of the joint is bar and how much is not. While the math for the length LOOKS straight forward I had to do a lot of tweeking of the text book math to get accurate results based on measuring actual calibrated tuning forks. . but that is another story.

In the three sided wind chime each plate is vibrating in balance to the opposite two at an angle toward the center of their mass. Due to unequal masses this is not where you would think it is. Then those plates are vibrating toward opposite centers of gravity. . . As they move so does the theoretical opposite. It would make a good math thesis to figure it out (and prove it).

Anyway, back to tuning fork model. On the triangles which constantly vary in width the location of the end of the joint determines the stiffness of the plate attachments. The nearer the point the more flexible (and lower the pitch) and the farther down the triangle the stiffer and thus shorter motion (higher pitch).

   - guru - Wednesday, 03/30/11 19:35:13 EDT

ThomasP, ever forged or machined Inconel? I have,when forgable, as well as titanium, Monel,Hastaloy A and B, Waspalloy,Nimonic, TitaniumZirconium, F-22,F11, P-8 F-6 and several I am not allowed to discuss.
All of are a royal pain to forge, if at all forgable and most machine only in extremely rigid, powerful machines, and in the case of several of these top of the line taps last exactly one hole.
By all means for a high end job go Inconel:) May I suggest the Inconel X625? One of the worst machineing alloys I ever worked with.
But the titaniumZirconium would also be very high end as only one US supplier exists, Teledyne Wa Chung out west, and you need a government license to buy it:) Last project I did used 7" cubes, and in about 1992 they cost almost $10,000 USD each.
   ptree - Wednesday, 03/30/11 20:34:39 EDT

We stamped a small part from Inconel, a spring for Central Automatic Fire Sprinklers. These springs had to be able to shut the sprinkler off after the fire was extinguished. They were pure hell on the tooling.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 03/30/11 22:33:29 EDT

Tantalum andirons.. the rare earth solution

I learned about tantalum from an interesting article in the last ASM International newsletter about a tantalum treatment applied over steel. in the article it's used in elevated temperature acidic environments and is replacing super alloys consisting of mostly nickel. in comparison the initial cost is close to the same, but the tantalum serves a much longer life.
   - Ty Murch - Wednesday, 03/30/11 22:36:20 EDT

Andirons. I'm sure unobtanium would work fine and is easy to forge and never rusts. It's a little difficult to obtain though.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 03/30/11 23:13:50 EDT

I have a two burner blacksmith forge from diamond back. I notice that when I heat stock lets say half inch I cannot get it a bright yellow. The stock gets bright red but I cant seem to match that yellow heat I see on all the you tube videos. Is this because I am using a gas forge and not a coal forge? does it matter?
   Mario - Thursday, 03/31/11 00:49:38 EDT

Mario: Properly insulated gas forges with large enough burners for the forge interior size will get to welding heat or higher.

Not being familliar with Your forge, I can't say if this is normal or not. Can You increase the operating pressure to get more heat? If there is a lot of open area, reducing it some, but not enough to interfere with the burner operation will help.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 03/31/11 01:54:54 EDT

Mario, Generally you crank up the gas pressure to get the forge hotter. Note that the suggested pressures for these things are low enough that common pressure gauges do not read very accurately. A gauge reading 4 PSI many be reading an actual 2 to 10 PSI. You can also have obstructions in the line reducing the pressure at the burner. Often the forge opening is too large and needs to be partially blocked to raise the temperature.

If in doubt ask the manufacturer.
   - guru - Thursday, 03/31/11 03:04:58 EDT


are you using a picnic bottle with the new valve? Some of the ea4ly iterations of those OPD valves won't allow full flow - unless you open them extremely slowly, and sometimes not even then. A Diamondback forge should easily get to a high yellow heat.
   - Rich - Thursday, 03/31/11 09:46:47 EDT

Inconel: It was a *joke*! We made sword fittings out od some once; quite pretty and a pain to work!

Video's also think about how the camera interpreted the temps; I've seen pictures where the photo is way off what the eye saw.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 03/31/11 12:00:08 EDT

NIP, If you haven't seen it, check out the movie "Fur".
   Carver Jake - Thursday, 03/31/11 12:40:49 EDT

ThomasP, I knew:)
   ptree - Thursday, 03/31/11 14:42:06 EDT

This is Dennis from Diamondback Ironworks. What forge model are you using and what pressure are you running?
   - nordic_rage - Thursday, 03/31/11 18:49:54 EDT

Hello, I have a small Champion rivet forge: 3 legged stampe steel hearth with blower bolted directly to the hearth. Works fine. I just saw a similar forge for sale at $50. That forge has a 4 legs cast iron hearth and the same blower as mine. Question: are there any advantages with a cast iron hearth? I did not find anything about that in FAQ or IFORGE. Thank you!
   donald - Thursday, 03/31/11 21:04:54 EDT


A cast iron fire pot is less likely to burn out or rust away from the acids created by coal ash. At least I'm assuming that when you use the term "hearth" you really mean the fire pot. If you're referring to the flat area surrounding the fire pot (what I would call the hearth) then cast iron is not only less likely to rust out but the increased mass also means better stability when heavier work is in the fire.
   - Rich - Thursday, 03/31/11 22:25:34 EDT

I found a armstrong anvil. its 45 pounds,looks old and is well uesed.it has no cracks or chips but a lot of hammer scars.the oner wants 85 dollers fore it. is it worth the money.
   - clayton - Friday, 04/01/11 00:26:44 EDT

It is quite a while since I logged in with a query. I have been reading the forum though and have found it very helpful asI have now started doing some forging of small items- knives, bottle openers and other such items. Being small and slim means I just don't have the strength to do big projects without help.
My query is this. When I am cleaning out my firepot on several occasions I have recovered a clinker in the shape of the statue of liberty. Is this common? Would it be caused by the coal I am using, the blast or the shape of the firepot please?
Thank you for a great site, Jock. It is so helpful. Keep up the good work.
   Beverley Shears - Friday, 04/01/11 03:14:06 EDT

Clinker: Beverley, That is very strange. All my clinkers are shaped like doughnuts. Are you sure its not Pocahontas? Maybe a photo would help.
   guru - Friday, 04/01/11 08:16:38 EDT

Armstrong Anvil: Clayton. I have not heard of an Armstrong Anvil. But there is a Armstrong tool company that makes high quality small forged tools but I do not know of them having made or sold an anvil.

If its a good old anvil a price of less than $2/lb. is not bad. Small anvils tend to sell for more than average size anvils.
   guru - Friday, 04/01/11 08:26:37 EDT

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