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 May 23 - 31, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Time wasters : Guru. Yesterday you mentioned nuisance requests. I spent some time working out how to make water bufallo heads to adorn bottle openers for a chap who had a tourist ranch. Sent samples and never heard from him again. Hope he got in a stampede.
   Hugh McDonald - Sunday, 05/22/11 22:41:45 EDT

Guru and Mr. Boyer, Thank you for the input, you are very helpful.
Mr. McDonald, It is GOOD that you spent that time making the water buffalo heads, no skill is ever wasted. As a matter of fact I don't think it would take much more effort to make a big horned sheeps head ? The buffalo and sheeps head would look good on the butt cap of a knife. Mr. McDonald, would you show your technique on the how-to section of this web site ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 05/22/11 23:11:23 EDT

Hugh has a CD with Animal heads we need to get into production. I'm afraid I have been the hold up, wanting to add more content.

Hugh's animal heads have great style capturing the character of the specific animal. His water buffalo captures the character of the beast. Many heads of this type are as much dragon or dog as goat head or more symbolic than portraits.

Nuisance jobs take many forms. In Hugh's case it was development of samples. In other cases it can be doing the design on paper and not getting paid for it. I once designed two gates and provided detail drawings only to have the client give them to someone else who bid the job less than I did. Of course, the other fellow did not have to meet with the customer, or do the design work. . .

Sometimes this is the risk we take bidding any job. Often preparing a quote requires preliminary design work, research, calculations. Time and expense is involved and the job rarely guaranteed.
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/11 01:09:00 EDT

Hugh McDonald Water Buffalo :
Hugh sent us this last night.

hand forged water buffalo head by Hugh McDonald of Australia

See iForge Rams and Roos for similar heads.
   - guru - Monday, 05/23/11 08:28:39 EDT

Hugh's Heads : Guru, Please post when the CD is available for sale.
   Carver Jake - Monday, 05/23/11 11:42:15 EDT

Hugh McDonald - Water Buffalo : That is a nice looking head. You should have been paid for the samples or gotten them back, but I know this is an area where You have little to no recourse.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 05/23/11 20:58:49 EDT

navicular aluminium or metal : hello I have just found out my mare has navicular. it is mild to moderate in her club foot
and mild in her right front. she has just went through tildren treatment. she has a hear bar shoe on right now for support. she is a high level barrel racing horse. she has bone bane across the navicular bone area so she is needed support there. I am asking your opinion on what to do in this matter or what have you heard of that has has successful results. everyone is telling me to use aluminium shoes because if shock absorption ? please help any info would be appreciated.
   - Tammy - Tuesday, 05/24/11 00:51:52 EDT

Farrier Required :
Tammy, we (almost all of us) are blacksmiths, not farriers.

The aluminium shoe is lighter and will stress the horse less but does not absorb shock any significant degree more than steel (from an engineering stand point). Shock absorption would have to come from padding such as foam rubber.

I know nothing about horses but if they were my feet I would say its time for a rest.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/24/11 03:49:03 EDT

Horse Problems : Theres should be a local farrier in your area, if not get online and look for one, in say.... Kentucky or Tennessee.. Call a thorough-bread ranch they'll probably tell you who shoes there horses, then call the farrier
   - Hayden - Tuesday, 05/24/11 09:22:45 EDT

Navicular aluminium or metal : Guru, thanks for your reply... I am just looking for any help I can get on this matter. Yes, she is resting now and will be for a few months, but the main goal is to get her back to competition. I still would like you to clarify the metal, aluminium, or even titanium shock please, so I can be more knowledgable about the irons. I am constantly being told aluminium absorbs more shock, but I am not convienced of it. I would think more dense the metal the more shock absorbtion you would get??? please clarify for me? Thanks
   - Tammy - Tuesday, 05/24/11 12:31:21 EDT

Tammy, "shock absorption" is the dissipation of force or energy. To do so a material must be compressible. The amount of force applied by the horse does nothing to the metal (unless the shoe is VERY thin and bends). While aluminum IS softer than steel to tell the difference you must permanently deform the metal. Nothing of the sort occurs on the horse's hoof. So the folks telling you that one metal shoe absorbs more force than the other are just blowing smoke. The aluminum shoe may flex more, but this is different than absorbing shock.

To the horse the difference would be like you changing from a heavy work shoe (steel) to a light tennis or deck shoe (aluminum). It would make your feet fell lighter and perhaps be more comfortable. But the heavier shoe would offer more protection. However, unlike the tennis shoe which has a perforated rubber core the aluminum is not compressible, just lighter.

As to curing your horse's problem there are a few very good remedial farriers around and that is where you need to be seeking advice. I do not have his contact information but Benard Pelletier is one of the best in the country and the only one I know to recommend. He has cured many severe problems that would normally result in an animal being put down.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/24/11 12:50:38 EDT

Horse shoes : I don't know diddly squat about farriery but I seem to recall that horses used in municipal police work, where they have to walk on asphalt or concrete all day, are shod with shoes that have a rubber component. I believe this is mostly to decrease the chance of a hoof slipping on a hard slick surface than to cushion the foot, but the rubber is compressible and would certainly have a cushioning effect, too. You might ask a good farrier about it.

Frank Turley, one of the gurus here, spent a number of years holding up horses before he came over to the dark side, so he may check in with some more knowledgeable advice for you.
   - Rich - Tuesday, 05/24/11 13:03:54 EDT

Navicular : Guru, thank you for your knowledge it is much appreciated. I will search Benard out. Again, thanks for your time and words!
   - Tammy - Tuesday, 05/24/11 13:45:19 EDT

Navicular : Guru, I am looking for his info, but I can not seem to track it down. The number I have is disconnected. Any info would help??
   - Tammy - Tuesday, 05/24/11 14:00:07 EDT

I found this on-line. . Bernard Pelletier Horseshoe, NC (828) 508-6767

The fellow here: http://www.dixiefarrierservices.com/ says he apprenticed with Bernard.

   - guru - Tuesday, 05/24/11 15:43:22 EDT

Navicular : Tammy, ALL shoes cause vibration when contacting the ground, a pad, of rubber ( or nylon) is going to give you some of the cushioning you require. Maybe an "easy boot", put on over the shoe would be a good padding, ask your Vet, not all farriers are created equal, you need to find one who specializes in corrective trimming and shoeing, I'm just an experienced horse owner, not a farrier and as such, please take my recommendation with agrain of salt, it's not gospel!!
   Thumper - Tuesday, 05/24/11 17:32:27 EDT

It seems to me that if you put stress on a horseshoe, it would "compress" slightly in the vertical direction and bulge out slightly horizontally. Assuming you didn't reach the yield point, it would recover when you removed the stress. And aluminum has a Young's modulus significantly lower than steel, so it should compress more under the same stress.

While the horseshoe would thus act as a (*very* stiff) spring, I'd be stunned if the amount of energy absorbed even by an aluminum shoe would be enough make any difference at all to the horse.
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 05/24/11 19:35:52 EDT

Rosettes is now an iForge demo.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/24/11 22:59:03 EDT

Anvil Re-Surfacing : I live in North-Central Texas, I'm looking for someone to resurface an anvil for me. Anyone know of an old timer that still does it? I asked the local machine shop, he said, "It'll cost you around $400-500 for me to surface grind it, then do any other alterations." He told me this and I laughed at him. I'd rather take a few hours and grind, and file it smooth than pay $500.
   Hayden - Tuesday, 05/24/11 23:54:59 EDT

Hayden, On my list of anvil evaluating items is
"Repaired / Resurfaced = zero" Now an ASO with no value.

I have many reasons for this.

Anvils of all types have a limited depth of hardness and old anvils have a steel plate with a finite thickness (from 1/2 to 5/8"). Machining surface of the anvil leaves it soft or soft and weak. I've seen many old anvils ruined by machining the surface. 1/4" is all it takes and the anvil is scrap.

Corner weld repairs generally produce brittle over hard OR soft spots OR a mixture of the two with brittle HAZ areas at the weld line. Many have slag or weld inclusions and others just cover underlying cracks. The result is poor quality metal in the most critical area of the anvil. Since most corner repair is purely cosmetic and not warranted this is even a bigger waste.

Complete resurfacing with hard facing rod results in a very brittle surface full of slag inclusions. Hard facing is designed to be abrasion resistant not particularly high strength. It requires expensive materials, expensive abrasives, lots of electricity (an often overlooked expense) and lots of skilled labor. Even when you do it yourself there is a question of economics.

Anvil flatness is often an overrated attribute. An anvil face IS NOT a precision measurement surface. It is a hard use surface pounded by sledges and repetitive hammer blows from every angle. It is a surface that is often used for straightening with a hammer - a task that is easier to do on a slightly swayed surface than a perfectly flat one. You hammer straighten with your eye, not the work surface.

For a brief time Peter Wright made their anvils with a distinctive crown to the face (NOT flat) and advertised the fact. This was because it was well known at the time that all anvils of the period eventually ended up swayed faces. The logic was that if you started high it would take longer to end up low. But the NEW face was NOT flat to start with. It was also considered a superior drawing surface. I've seen one of these that was an unused anvil and it was indeed peculiar looking. While PW thought it was an advance in anvil technology the buyers did not.

THEN there are the many ancient anvils you can see in our anvil gallery with faces that look like a roller coaster landscape. They were used in this condition for generations. . .

Many folks that know what they are doing make acceptable minor anvil repairs. But most are cosmetic and have nothing to do with the usefulness of the anvil as a tool and possibly reduce the durability.

I'll take an old worn beat up anvil over one that has been "beautified" any day.

Light grinding to radius sharp chipped edges or remove rust pitting is acceptable. Soft anvil horns are often full of dings and cuts that can be safely dressed by grinding or sanding.

If you want a perfect anvil then buy one. Don't ruin a tool that could be used for another 100 years turning out fine work.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/11 06:48:28 EDT

I have a customer/performer who orderd a sword blank from me. He swallows it and wants to use the handle as a brand. Due to fire codes, most venues won't allow open flame, so his idea is to use a hot plate for heat source. He wants to brand a plank of wood, but says if the wood won't brand he was thinking of using wax paper in between. Any ideas?
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 05/25/11 08:06:38 EDT

Navicular Syndrome : The navicular syndrome indicates that the navicular bone is necrotic. It becomes "spongy," less sclerotic. I can't see a big difference between aluminum and steel in affecting or correcting the problem. In my early shoeing days, we would us a plain bar shoe, not a heart bar, and we brazed on low jar calks to raise the heels. The calk lengths were aligned in the line-of-stride. The theory was to lessen the pull of the deep flexor tendon where it "rides" over the navicular bone.

I would suggest tuning in to www.horseshoes.com/forums and scrolling to "Farriers Helping Horse Owners with Navicular Syndrome." You'll find other ideas and suggestions.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/25/11 11:54:46 EDT

Nip : Use a VERY soft light color wood.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 05/25/11 11:57:14 EDT

Horse Injuries : Mr.Turley,
There is something I have wondered about. You see where a horse and rider take a spill on the race track, the rider is not injured much, but the horse has to be put down. Is this because a broken leg etc. on a horse doesn't heal ?
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 05/25/11 12:26:22 EDT

Sword Brand. . . : Nip, This is a very strange combination.

As noted, light woods like bass and balsa wood brand well. This is largely due to being highly insulative thus keeping the heat on the surface. Yellow pine is surprisingly difficult to brand. It is always wise to test samples in this process.

To reduce the necessary mass to be heated I would insulate a copper brand in the handle. Insulation would want to be something like packed kaowool with a high temperature elastomer seal (maybe a silicon rubber o-ring).

Often when branding wood you often create an "open flame". . . so much for avoiding that.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/11 15:32:32 EDT

Mike T. : A good explanation about the broken leg is at http://www.slate.com/id/2142159/.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 05/25/11 15:54:02 EDT


What about replacing the wax paper with carbon paper? (grin).
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 05/25/11 19:09:04 EDT

Hayden : You can remove a small ammount of material from Your anvil face with a woodworkers portable belt sander. Use the blue Zircona belts. Be sure to remove all sawdust before You start.

The machine shop is not out of line charging You $500 to surface grind an anvil, but that is a precision operation that You DON'T NEED. A surface grinder grinds truely flat, and to clean up the entire surface often removes way too much material as Jock told You.

An hours work with the portable belt sander and a hand full of belts can make a marked improvement, depending on what You are starting with. Hold the sander about 45 degrees to the length of the anvil, and change to 45 degrees the other direction every few passes. This will give the best cutting action. Finish with a fine belt or a dull one inline with the length of the anvil
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 05/25/11 21:10:29 EDT

Dressing Anvils : I prefer a belt sander for both faces and horns. For chip divots a flap wheel works well.

If an old anvil has chipped corners it's often slightly mushroomed at the edges as well. Dressing the sides back to vertical OR slightly sloped inward toward the face a few degrees will remove a lot of damaged edge. Then radiusing the resulting edge will often dress out most of the chips. If there are chips remaining they can then have any sharp edges softened. This can often clean up an anvil that you would have otherwise thought needed welding or machining.
   - guru - Wednesday, 05/25/11 22:17:57 EDT

comic of the week : I get a chuckle out of the wannabe smith dipping hot iron in water. Once upon a time when I was demoing, Some older gentleman said they used to call those guys " kushmachers".
   JimG - Wednesday, 05/25/11 23:12:06 EDT

German, Kussmacher = Kiss Artist or Kiss maker (when used with machers) ?
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/11 03:10:18 EDT

Broken Leg Link : Mr. Turley
Thank you for the link, it is very informative.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 05/26/11 07:49:03 EDT

kushmachers : I met an old, retired swabby who told about a sailor who had a bucket patch within his petty officer stripes. Nobody on board the shiptender ever saw him do anything. The higher ups were becoming suspicious. Finally, he was approached and asked what his job was. "Well, I have a Kush Makers Rating." When pressed to explain, he told them to follow him to the shop where he heated a piece of iron red hot. He put it in the slack water, and it went "kush."
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 05/26/11 08:16:10 EDT

Frank, I was thinking the kush was a sound effect since nothing I tried translated to German.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/11 10:08:51 EDT

Oil in Oxy/Propane Cutting Torch : I lit this torch for the first time in over a year yesterday and it wouldn't stay adjusted I turned it off and found oil in it. I have drained or blown about an ounce of what seems to be 20 or 30 weight oil from it. The LP tank was filled probably 3 times this winter it's also used for cooking and gas fireplace. Never noticed this before. What's going on?
   Thad C. - Thursday, 05/26/11 15:41:03 EDT

Thad, It could possibly be the oil they put into the propane to make it stink. But if not then there was a problem from the propane company fill. I would contact them with recipt in hand.

To get excess oil out of the tank it would have to be drained of propane, the valve removed and then the tank upended and drained.

   - guru - Thursday, 05/26/11 16:25:19 EDT

ethel mercaptan is the additive. it tends to be 'extra' added in winter fuel. has to do with 'oderant fade issues'. it will separate when not in use for an extended time. it also builds up in tanks and cylinders. Guru said how to remove
   - keith@geezers forge - Thursday, 05/26/11 17:49:39 EDT

oil in propane : ethel mercaptan is the additive. it tends to be 'extra' added in winter fuel. has to do with 'oderant fade issues'. it will separate when not in use for an extended time. it also builds up in tanks and cylinders. Guru said how to remove
   - keith - Thursday, 05/26/11 17:50:10 EDT

last post : sorry, computer issues
   - keith - Thursday, 05/26/11 17:51:20 EDT


That's like the story about the CEO of a large conglomerate who's touring a steel mill the corporation's just acquired. He keeps passing an employee stroking away at a large steel billet with a hand file. Finally he can't take it any longer and asks the guy what he's making. The answer? "About $25/hour."
   Mike BR - Thursday, 05/26/11 17:53:34 EDT

Slack tub : I remember my Dad throwing an uncoperative piece of hot iron into the water tub and telling me, "It will only make a good Fizzle."
   Hugh McDonald - Thursday, 05/26/11 21:12:52 EDT

Oderant in Fuel : My cousin's husband was in the Navy, stationed in Spain, she was with him during this time and was having dizzy spells and headaches. Come to find out there was a gas leak where they lived, but there was no oderant in the gas to warn of a leak. I'm glad we have it.
   Mike T. - Friday, 05/27/11 00:39:45 EDT

anvil stand : I just bought a cast iron anvil stand. Should the anvil be mounted directly on the stand,or should I install something softer (wood,lead,silicone)between the two? Will different mounting affect stability and anvil ring?
   Donald - Friday, 05/27/11 09:09:32 EDT

Oil in propane : The principle thing to remember is that propane is a waste product at the refinery, and often carries long chain molecules that don't vaporize. This gunky dark oily substance builds up in the tanks since it does not vaporize. Real problem in forklifts in that the are usually pulling liquid from the tank and vaporizing in a engine coolant heated vaporized before the carb. So the gunk builds up and will eventually require maintenace to allow the engine to run cleanly or in some cases to run period. There are additives available placed into the propane motor fuel that help by breaking down the long chains and allowing them to vaporize and combust. Reduces Carbon Monoxide as well.
Propane has three grades, all refering to actual propane content versus the contaminants.
   ptree - Friday, 05/27/11 10:15:49 EDT

Anvil Stands :
Donald, The #1 question about an anvil stand is does it set the anvil to proper height for you? The problem with cast iron stands is that they are very difficult (nearly impossible) to shorten. You can raise the anvil a limited amount with spaces but at some point they become problematic and you have to modify the stand to hold everything in place.

Anvil height is determined by a couple things. The general rule of thumb is knuckle height. When standing erect, arms relaxed and hand closed to make a fist the anvil should be knuckle height. If you do a lot of small picky work the anvil may want to be about 2" higher than this. If you do heavy work or expect to use strikers is may want to be an inch lower. This is only a 3" range for a person of a given height and build. On average people vary from 5 foot to 6-1/2. Anvils also vary in height from about 11" to 17". While most stands fit the average person with an average anvil the total range is about 18" of variation (+/-9"). . . Anvil manufacturers who made stands reduced this range somewhat by making stands to fit a range of anvil sizes thus taking the anvil out of the equasion.

You need to determine if the height is right Or can be made right before doing anything else.

Today many folks glue their anvils into the stand with silicon caulk to help deaden the noise. In years past they leaded them into cast iron stands. Cast anvil stands and anvil bases vary a lot, neither being very flat. So some sort of soft material between anvil and stand will reduce rocking of the anvil or allow places to be cut out to fit. But there is also a chance that the anvil will sit rock steady. If the stand was made for your anvil then it may be a good fit. But it also may not be. A piece of wood with blocking attached may make the anvil a snug fit.

Some stands have provision for bolting the anvil down but most anvils do not. Neither do most cast iron stands. Late Fishers had bolting tabs and occasionally a matching stand. PW's and others who copied PW had clamping flats. My Hay-Budden was drilled by someone (perhaps even the factory) for bolting. But I would never bolt it down unless it was going on the bumper of a truck or something. . .

I prefer anvils and stands that are portable, easy to move and remove. In a modern shop your anvil may be in a different place for every job. I like wooden stands with the anvil blocked in (not strapped). Another preference.

See our iForge article on anvil stands.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/11 10:41:05 EDT

Anvil without marking : I just bought an anvil that must weigh 150 pounds. The overall lenght on the base to the tip of the horn is 19 inches. It is was painted red but most of it is faded off. Not sure if someone painted it or if it is original. I would like to get some information on it if possible. Thanks so much for any help....
   Donna - Friday, 05/27/11 14:52:21 EDT

Anvil ID :
Donna, click on my name and send some photos and I will try to help.

The vast majority of old anvils were painted black or had some sort of rust proofing on them (tar, cosmoline). Most anvil paint does not last long in service.

The only anvil that I know of that is red from the factory is currently the Grizzly (a Chinese made junk anvil sold by Grizzly tools)- but they have also used blue green and metallic blue. Vaughan Brooks - who makes a cast steel anvil paints theirs blue.

Otherwise many anvils have been painted bright colors by their owners so it does not mean much.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/11 16:29:50 EDT

Bellows valves : I'm constructing a bellows (large European two-chamber style) and I have a problem: Very thin, very flat wood for the flap valves is beastly hard to find. I'm trying hobby-type 1/8 in birch plywood, but it is not super flat, and seems a bit dense to me. I would like to make the valves (particularly the ones in the lower, inlet board) very light and flat.

Had an idea: if thin, flat wood is hard to find, what about corrugated board, cut from boxes? It is very flat, very light, and quite rigid, if not stressed badly. If mice don't nibble it, it ought to last. Has anyone here tried such material for bellows valves? I would add felt or leather for the "soft-seal" underneath.

If this is a bad idea, does anyone have ideas for other valve materials? I thought of balsa, but 6 in wide is all I can find in my area, and none too flat, at that.

   - Eric T - Friday, 05/27/11 20:05:59 EDT

anvill stand : With the anvil directly on the stand, total height is knuckles height plus one inch. I consider that one inch too low, but it is easy to raise as a whole assembly. I want to mount the anvil directly on the stand because I hope the cast iron stand will deaden the sound of the anvil just like the cast iron base of the Fisher anvil does. Of course, I may be completely wrong!! if so, I will raise the anvil from the stand.
   Donald - Friday, 05/27/11 20:39:43 EDT

some info : Ptree....thanks for the indepth, i didn't know how deep i could have gone with the additive stuff.
Stormcrow....what is the weight of the camp axe and handle length? i'm having a "balance" issue with mine and feel a lighter head is the way i need to go. currently just under 2 lbs.
   - keith - Friday, 05/27/11 20:49:57 EDT

Bellows Valves :
Eric, What you want more than flatness is durability. If you laminate two layers of the birch plywood it should be stiff enough to stay very flat. Glue with carpenter's glue and clamp flat between two boards.

The flatness of the wood does not make the seal. The leather or rubber flap under it makes the seal. It wants to be soft and thin enough to conform to the mating surface. All the thin board above it does is keep the center from bowing and reducing the seal. It should be attached at one point to the center of the leather flap.

When I built my bellows I used a material that was rubberized laminated cloth and no backup boards. I had four of these valves on the bottom board and two on the middle board. They outlasted the outer leather working perfectly for over 25 years.

The reason for double the number of intake valves is the low pressure differential on the intake side during refill.
   - guru - Friday, 05/27/11 20:54:32 EDT

Anvil Stands and Heights : Another factor to take into account is who is using the anvil, and how often. At my height of 6'1" I keep mine a little lower than ideal (although still comfortable to me) for the convenience of friends and family. I have the other two mounted at different heights, just like my vises. I think Jock has posted that any anvil used with a striker or a team of strikers is usually mounted a hair lower. (Further illumination, Greater Guru?)

Warm and cloudy on the banks of the lower Potomac, but the rain keeps passing us by. (Alas.)

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 05/27/11 21:45:30 EDT

Anvil Mounting Methods/Heights : Donald,

I'm going to toss in my two cents worth here and it will be at odds with many others' opinions, but I have sound reasoning behind what I say. First, the "standard" anvil height of knuckle high is a prescription for tendonitis according to two sports medicine doctors and a physical therapist with whom I consulted. They all explained to me that hammering at that height is going to result in pulling of the tendons in your forearm unless you bend over, which is going to wreck your back. Those over-stretched tendons inflame the point where they attach to the bone, resulting in what the docs call "lateral epicondylitis", better known to us laymen as tenis elbow. After I demonstrated for them what my work position was, they all suggested raising my anvil about 4" above knuckle high, so I tried it. This was *after* I went through the nine weeks of intense therapy for a career-ending case of lateral epicondylitis, by the way. I used the anvil at that height for about a week and became quite comfortable with it and after a month of it I would never go back. I can work longer and harder now than I ever could before - with no pain at all. Well, other than the pain of writing hefty checks to all the medicos. (grin)

My main anvil is a 450# Nimba Gladiator which had the most piercing, ear-splitting ring I'd ever heard outside of a Peter Wright. I mounted it on a heavy welded steel stand set in a bed of high-density silicone construction adhesive. That anvil now sounds much like my Fisher - kathunk! I love it. My hearing loves it, too. Obviously, portability is not a big factor when you're dealing with a combined weight of ~550#, but I built the stand so I can move it easily enough with a hand truck or pallet jack.
   Rich - Saturday, 05/28/11 00:16:45 EDT

Bellows valve material : Why not aluminum sheet. This, flat, strong, humidity won't bother it and mice don't care for the tast.
   ptree - Saturday, 05/28/11 07:41:27 EDT

The thing about exotic valve materials in a bellows is that they are hidden and no one needs to know.

Aluminum would work nicely. So would many plastics. Many old bellows just had wood plates that pivoted on a couple staples, no leather seals. One author speaks of the musical sounds of the bellows valves rhythmic wooden clacking sound. If the leather is heavy enough it can be used alone and makes its own hinge. Flap valves do not move much in low velocity applications.

There are lots of options for bellows valves.

Probably the most important thing is that the valves do not get flipped over. Heavy wood boards mounted the typical method on staples can flip and so can leather valves. This happens most often when moving the bellows. The leather can take a set and be difficult to get back into place. In either case once a bellows is mounted overhead this can be a real pain to address. The best thing to do is prevent it from happening at all.

bellows valve design illustration by Jock Dempsey
The valve above is a soft leather flap backed by a thin wood board. It is held down by a strip of wood and there is a guard wire to prevent it from flipping. The whole is mounted on a removable "valve body".

When I built my Great Bellows I but both sets of valves on seperate boards so they were easy to remove. The bottom exterior valve body had 4 valves and was large enough that when it was removed the middle board valves could be removed through it. Besides valve maintenance this allowed one to reach inside the bellows and make repairs to the leather if need be. This came in handy when shortly after taking possession of my forge trailer with the bellows Jim Wilson poked a hole in the leather with a piece of 1/4" bar. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/11 13:23:47 EDT

anvil high : After 40 years of using a large-knuckle (fist) high anvil, I changed to 2" above that. After 35 years of a most-used 3# hand hammer, I now use a 2.5# one. Now, after a total of 48 years of hammering, I'm doing OK. I have some limited range-of-motion in my right shoulder, but I am not in pain. I started tai chi and chi kung in 1981, which has to do with relaxation (sung) and deep breathing.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 05/28/11 15:58:18 EDT

Limited range of motion :
An older artist friend of mine many years ago had a problem with limited range of motion in her arms. She painted large portraits and when she could not reach above shoulder height she could not work. Several times she had shots in her shoulders which relieved the problem for a brief while but was not permanent.

She started doing yoga stretching exercises and soon had better range of motion than in decades. She was still painting into her 90's.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/11 16:39:33 EDT

Relativity :
Another consideration in anvil height and work position is the style of hammer one uses. Some relatively standard hammers are as much as 1" to 2" (25 to 50 mm) different in grip to work surface. Then there are the long front hammers such as the old European style, Japanese and bladesmiths hammers which may be 3" (75 mm) longer from grip to work surface.

If you work a lot using bottom swages or top sets your work height is 2" to 8" (50 to 200 mm) higher than without. Using hinge or spring fullers raise the work height a significant amount as well.

If you use a power hammer for the majority of your heavy work then little anvil work is done at anvil height. Anvil work is then mostly tooling and light work such as chasing.

Absolute anvil height is like work position. The standard that has evolved over the years is horn left, heel right. This is evidenced by centuries of anvils worn and chipped on the far side. But others teach standing to the end of the anvil or slightly to the left of the end of the anvil with the (round) horn away. Neither position is absolutely right. Both assume worked wrapped around the horn needing to be removed away from the smith. But what about when work is wrapped around the heel or square horn? While this is not common on English and American style anvils it is more common on European double horned anvils. This makes the best positions opposite the "normal".

So normal work position is anywhere that works. There are better positions for each task but no single "right" position.

Leg vises were standardized at 39" in height to the top of the jaws but I have vises mounted at about 30 to 47". The tall vise is a large chipping vise mounted on a 36" tall bench. It is one of the most useful vises I have. It is very handy for planeing, chiseling, bending. . .

If you have only one work surface in your shop and only use it one way with the same tools for long hours every day its height may be very critical. But in a modern mechanized shop with many work stations there should be little chance of repetitive stress injury.

   - guru - Saturday, 05/28/11 18:07:38 EDT

navicular disease : I just saw the post on this problem. I was a lameness shoer for ten years,...roller toe, swedged-up heel, full bar and slippered heels are used. The raised heels and rolled toe reduce concussion of the deep flexor tendon against the navicular bone, the raised heel reduces frog pressure and the full bar across the center third of the frog eliminates trauma to this area.Slippered heels help the walls to expand and overcome the contraction caused by the raised heels. A pad will aid the sole dryness and reduce concussion
   smithy - Saturday, 05/28/11 18:37:27 EDT

Tube Bending : How would you make a bending tool for square tubing, as is used in railings, porches, steps etc. ? Or can you just buy one ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 05/29/11 01:28:13 EDT

Tube Bending : Mike, Yes, you can make your own and they are available to purchase However, there are some things to understand that affect both bender and ironwork design:

1) There is a minimum radius for any given tubing that no bender is going to make a tighter bend.

2) There is a limit for unwrinkled bends, and one for wrinkled bends. Most tight bends in square tubing push the inside surface IN so that the tubing is not square. This avoids some wrinkling.

3) The thinner the wall of the tubing the larger the minimum radius (due to wrinkling and crush).

4) Minimum cold bending radii can be found in the AISC steel construction manual for some cross sections.

The two important design considerations for tube benders is minimum radius as noted above and snug side support. The method of bending varies from form followers to rollers and activation by rotary lever or directional pressing (mechanical, air, hydraulic).

Hossfeld benders do this type of bending in a mechanical press fashion the long lever operating a toggle that presses the dies together. Bending is done in short sections. On some benders 90° bends are one-shot.

For large low production bends you can get away with wooden bending forms with steel side plates bolted on. Bending can be by roller or lever press. I have seen fixtures made of wood used on light tubing for decades. . . But the maker either used a lot of trial and error, was lucky or knew a LOT about tube bending.

I suspect wood is not strong enough for your application but it is something to keep in mind.

The most recent tube bending job we did was 15" ID power hammer treadles from 1" SCHD 40 pipe using a temporary fixture. See Power Hammer Treadle

See also Benders:
   - guru - Sunday, 05/29/11 09:36:32 EDT

Repetitive Stress Syndrome : One of the more common complaints I hear from blacksmiths is tenderness and pain in the tong hand. Not surprising since the grip on a pair of properly adjusted tongs is pretty much the same regardless of stock size so the hand is doing the same thing all the time. A few guys have had this RSS problem badly enough that it threatened their careers. The solution, however, is relatively simple - use rein clips on your tongs so you can hold them with less grip pressure. A good buddy of mine, Steve Parker, is an industrial smith and *always* use a rein clip - he's often working test bars that are at the limit of what you can hold up manually so reducing the required grip pressure is a big help.
   - Rich - Sunday, 05/29/11 11:43:05 EDT

A hossfeld will bend the common sizes of square tube. I have done a lot of it. I have built furniture, fixtures, and even rafters from square tube in the 3/4" to 1 1/2" square range, bent by hand with a hossfeld, without wrinkles or dimples.
Of course, you need to buy the right dies, although many curves can be bent with the angle iron flange out dieset, and there is a definite minimum radius for each size and wall thickness of tube.
Section rolls (angle rolls) are used for bigger curves in tubing, but they are much more expensive. A fully tooled hossfeld is under $2k, while section rolls start at $5k, and quickly get up over ten grand if you want to roll 2" square.
   - ries - Sunday, 05/29/11 13:48:04 EDT

If you are only occasionally doing long curves in tubing it can often be surprisingly cheap to sub out section rolling. I have a local shop that will roll a couple of pcs. of tubing for around $20 cash. Really cheap when you consider the cost of the rolls. Subbing out things like this can save you a lot of time that you can use for the forging part of the job. I sometimes sub out welding as well the welding shop rates are lower than mine they have bigger welders and honestly they are better at it than I am. As well some have certifications for critical welding such as lifting devices.
   - JNewman - Sunday, 05/29/11 18:05:55 EDT

Rein clips : a link of large chain slipped over the reins does well to hold the tongs tight and freeing the hand of continous squeeze, I have found that using a large rubber band to exercise the muscles of my tong hand OUT eases the cramps it seems to equalize the hand .
   DANNY PAUL ARNOLD - Monday, 05/30/11 07:24:50 EDT

I've found that good springy tongs are much easier on the grip. I have heavy tongs I never use because they fell like they hurt as soon as I pick them up. . . Some tools feel right, others do not. It could be avoiding tools that don't feel right is why I've avoided repetitive stress issues. . .

On the other hand, in the past I had wrist trouble using a track ball. The issue went away when I stopped working in a cold office and had a lower work surface. I know the cold had a good deal to do with it because the problem did not occur in warm weather. But I know the posture was a problem as well. Gotta watch out for those combination issues.
   - guru - Monday, 05/30/11 08:49:24 EDT

Tong clip/link; no circular ring : I was told to NOT use a ring on the reins, especially when forging at the power hammer, as the ring may go shooting off in your direction. So yes, the slender link or tong clip would be best. The tension of holding the reins in the hand can cause wrist troubles, but it depends on the kind of work you're doing. When I was hot-shoeing, I couldn't use clips, because the tongs were repeatedly placed on the shoe in various positions. Fortunately, the tongs were made to fit exactly with a parallel closure on the shoe, and the tongs were springy and light, not over 14" long.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/11 09:19:32 EDT

anvil stand : This morning,I took a closer look at my stand. Even if the previous owner used it as such, I don`t think it is a real anvil stand. The top table shows circular lines from a cutting tool. So it was machined flat probably on a vertical lathe. The corners of the table have threaded holes like if something was bolted there. It is probably some old machinery stand. Anyway,since total height is half an inch above knuckle, it will make a working set-up. The anvil mounted loosely on the stand has lost it's loud ring. I tried a 3/4 inch plywood shim between anvil and stand: it started ringing, so I will mount it in a bed of silicon directly on the stand. Total height will be adjusted from under the stand's feet: this gives infinites possibilities. Anvil: 75 pounds Soderfors. Stand: 75 pounds. Portability is no probleme. Thanks to all of you for your advices.
   donald - Monday, 05/30/11 11:01:53 EDT

tongs : If you have not tried Off-Center Tool tongs, you need to. Very light, springy, and yet stiff enough to hold the work piece securely. Grant is an old curmudgeon but his tools are first class.
   quenchcrack - Monday, 05/30/11 18:56:32 EDT

Grants tongs : Since my joint issues I have been fighting wrist and elbow problems, and find I really like the light springy tongs Grant makes. I have 3 pair and plan to obtain more either at Tipton or Sofa depending on availability. My blacksmithing is on hold till the nylon and steel rigid boot comes off my right foot anyway. about 6 more weeks.
   ptree - Monday, 05/30/11 19:50:12 EDT

OC Tools tongs : I have half a dozen pairs of Grant's tongs and love them. Worn out a couple pairs of them. I'll get more the next time I run into Kaynes or John Elliot. I used to make my own but I can't afford to to make them for what Grant sells them for. I think every smith should know how to make tongs, but when you do it for a living it makes more sense to buy good ones.

Grant is only a middle-aged curmudgeon, by the way. (grin)
   Rich - Monday, 05/30/11 23:28:24 EDT

Cast anvil stand : I have one in my shop that I'm pretty sure was an old cream separator stand.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 05/30/11 23:48:13 EDT

Repurposed Stands :
Champion Vise on stand The Champion Universal Vise at left has been in our family for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I thought this was the biggest vise in the world. It only has about 3-1/2" jaws! While it has tilt and rotate features I do not think it has ever been moved from its slightly out of square position.

In the mid 1970's I was helping a friend scrap out an old laundry built in the 1800's. There were several industrial duty ironing boards for use with steam irons. The stand the vise is one of the stands from from one of those ironing boards.

If you did not know better you would think the stand was made for the vise.

Laundry equipment to metal shop. . .

I've got an old 20" drill press that is no longer worth repairing that will be cut off at the top of the column and used as a vise stand as well.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/11 00:57:42 EDT

Ironing Board Stands : Dang! My mom had one of those in the basement back in the '50s (Lord knows where she got it, but there it was. If I had but known when I was 7 that I could use it over 50+ years later... She wouldn't have kept it anyway. :-) I will say that blacksmiths are some of the best repurposers I've ever seen. One glance at some spare part or piece of scrap and you start thinking: "What can I make with that?"
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 05/31/11 09:23:17 EDT

So many of those old castings were too beautiful to throw away if you could use them for anyhing else. I thought the ironing board stand would make a nice grinder stand or some other use when I brought it home. There were two and I now wish I had gotten both. . .

I was just thinking this mounted the vise a little low. . but then looked at the photo and realized that there is over a foot of vertical adjustment in the vise!
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/31/11 10:19:12 EDT

Tong Rings : I often use a tong ring under the power hammer and I find it to be much easier on my hands and arms as I can hold the tongs much looser. I know a couple of guys that worked in the local steel mill blacksmith shop most of their work was done under steam hammers and an air hammer and they almost always use tong rings. For bigger forgings the rein rings had handles to help rotate the stock and were called "twangs". I have used one a few times and it does make rotating heavy stock or stock in swages much easier. The only safety thing I would say about tong rings is to keep your fingers out from between the reins. If you have a ring on the reins and the tongs break the reins can slam together with incredible force.
   - JNewman - Tuesday, 05/31/11 13:13:26 EDT

Tong rings and turning handles : In the Valve and fitting forge shop, under steam hammers and closed dies, we used big billits, up to 12" round corner square. These billits were often 2500# and were moved by overhead trolly. Once on the dies, a tong hold would be drawn out open die style on the die flats. Then the billet would be turned around, and much shorter and smaller tongs with turning handles and reain rings would be used. The Hammerman would usually be the sole man holding the tongs and driving the hammer, using a treadle. The helpers would know when to help turn the forging or to lift it out of the impression to allow scale blow. The helpers often used prybars to help.
The one thing to be very careful of when doing closed die work under a hammer is that the forging is often going to stick in an impression. Usually the top one and up goes the billit and tongs, at steam cylinder travel speeds. If leaning over the tongs, the stick in the upper can be fatal. Never had an issue with tong rings that I knew of.
   ptree - Tuesday, 05/31/11 14:07:39 EDT

My double lunged bellows used T6 Al for the valves with a keeper installed and wool felt as the seal. Worked for about 20 years and then I gave the bellows on to a friend---in working condition.

Anvil Height: several inches higher made a big difference in how my back felt at the end of the day.

Anvil Orientation: recently I did a trawl through my old books looking at how folks suggested that anvils be oriented as someone was claiming that horn left was an ancient tradition---ignoring the fact that in ancient times anvils were generally hornless! I found that the horn left seems to become prevelant in the last 100 years, yet in Richardson's Practical Blacksmithing there were several different orientations shown---including one where the anvil's horn was pointed towards the forge so the smith would approace it from that side!

Cleaning up the anvil face: old smithing books mention that rounding the edges of an anvil should be done whenever you buy a new one; helps to keep them from chipping *and* halps to keep them from putting cold shuts in your work!---what is the fascination in making them sharp?

I purchased a nice HB that had been stored in damp conditions for about 50 years and had condensation rust pitting on the face. I wire brushed off the loose rust and then just went to using it---the scale is doing a nice job of gradually polishing out the face with no excess thickness removal or wasted work time.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/31/11 17:06:37 EDT

I sat my anvil horn right. I like this as it places the hardy away from my hand, and works well for the little bit of curling iron around the horn for me. My anvil is at traditional height, but I may try raising a couple of inches. I know when I go to a friends shop where his anvil is about 4" higher than mine I have real trouble:)
   ptree - Tuesday, 05/31/11 19:17:06 EDT

My anvil is set quite high. The heaviest hammer I use regularly is 3 pounds. On occasion I will use an 8 pound hand sledge. My work is never bigger than 1/2" to 3/4" max. The geometry of my movement allows close work without hunching over. Never had any back issues. Also allows my shoulder to position directly over the work, so I never had any arm/elbow problems either. I find that when I work how my body FEELS right, everything flows nicely. I have attempted the "rule" of standing fist knuckle height and immediately hated it.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/31/11 21:38:18 EDT

Champion blower : Anyone having a champion blower they might wanna sell please contact me. A newbie blacksmith friend has aquired a champion forge that needs a blower. I think it is the # 85 blower but I am not sure on that. Danny Arnold aka "old n rusty"
   DANNY PAUL ARNOLD - Wednesday, 06/01/11 08:18:22 EDT

Sharp Edges : Once more an illustration of perception vs. reality. In the machine (machined?) age sharp corners and edges are either "new" or "gently used" and therefore superior. Rounding implies wear and tear and age. (Hmm, that sounds like most of us blacksmiths... ;-) Nice straight lines and sharp corners are just fine on a lathe bed; anvils are rather the exception to the rule following the Industrial Revolution.

We worship the straight, the flat, the clean, the regular, the symmetrical. Even our curves must be clean and regular. I think this is why blacksmiths are fascinated with the sinuous, the organic, the dendritic; leaves and branches and snakes and other irregular shapes. "Because we can." Sort of like Thomas's story of the machinists and the corkscrew- our minds tend to run in a different track.

Hot and sunny on the banks of the lower Potomac, and I’m off to the cardiologist today.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 06/01/11 09:09:30 EDT

The Machine Mentality : I second what Bruce said. Peter Ross gave the keynote talk at the Asheville, NC, conference, and he talked about what he called the machine mentality. I jokingly say that everyone wants the work to look like an electric toaster. Peter was in a shop where his smith friend had a fire going and needed to cut a piece. He walked 60' to the other end of the shop and used the chop saw. He could have heated the piece and used the hardie or hot cut, but no! The chop saw gave a neater, polished, 90º cut. I say, "Get over it!"

I make many of my strap hinges out of 3/16" stock with a 7/16" or 1/2" ID welded barrel. I've had more than one customer ask whether it would really be "strong enough." Yet they will purchase a standard five knuckled hinge of sheet metal with a small pin. They do not ask the hardware salesman if it is strong enough.
   Frank Turley - Wednesday, 06/01/11 11:18:28 EDT

The Machine Mentality : Frank I have to agree. I have a former co-op student who after getting his masters in Mechanical engineering, took over his Dad's sheet metal shop. He had grown up in that shop, and is a master sheet metal guy and has been since he was 20. He can CAD with the best, do finete element anaylisis, and yet his shop is "Tape measure" accurate in his words. He always quotes that way as well. And he makes a good living as his Dad did, and works about 45 hours a week and has a familiy. No CNC, no CMM's just a tape measure, and protractor and a huge knowledge of what he is about.
I have spent my career working in precision machine shops and am very used to drafting to the ten thousandth, measuring to that and machining myself to the thousandth. I have even measured in Millionth's and lapped to that level, but when I am in my shop at home, I usually work to Tape Measure accuracy. And I unstress making things that are pleasing to the eye and made to the accuracy of the simple tape measure and by eye.
Disclaimer, I do make machined parts when I am building machines at home and work to the necesary accuracy, and while it is very sastifying when everything fits and works as I intended, I find banging out a trowel by eye, and using a straight edge as the only measuring tool to be more sastifying yet:)
   ptree - Wednesday, 06/01/11 19:51:19 EDT

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