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This is an archive of posts from May 8 - 15, 2012 on the Guru's Den
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Tsuba : Iron and gold Tsuba - photo by Jock Dempsey This tsuba is wrought iron (or pure iron) and gold. The dragon passes through it, appears on the reverse side then on the front again. It is a beautiful work of art in the simplest of materials.

Japanese sword furniture was easily replaceable. There would be practice furniture, dress furniture and perhaps battle furniture. A sword could be ordered with plain furniture and the owner upgrade it later.

Mokume' Gane' (laminated patterned copper and brass) was invented to match or complement laminated patterned steel for use as sword furniture. Its use has been expanded to all types of metal art as has pattern welded steel.
   - guru - Monday, 05/07/12 23:13:38 EDT

Folding : Use of this word in relationship to processing steels is common but inaccurate. The steel is cut and stacked or laminated in most cases. The only folded part is the thin hinge if there is one from the metal being cut almost all the way through. If the metal is just folded the ends do not refine nor develop clean patterns. These ends would be waste and have to be cut off. The amount of work that goes into this process is too costly to produce any more waste than necessary.

In most of the discussion above the steel has been processed. Early steel was made a number of ways, all resulting in a rather poor quality with a range of carbon from zero to cast iron levels in one piece. The lamination, welding over and over was to produce a nearly uniform and useful product. In fact, many of the statements of hundreds of "folds" are wrong. That goes beyond uniformity and just reduces the quality of the steel.

Layers and "folds" are different things and both terms poorly used. One "fold" creates X times the starting layers. The X is dependent on how many times the steel is cut. Two or three cuts produces a multiplier of three or four. Starting with 2 layers the first "fold" using two cuts produces 6 layers. The next 18, the next 54, then 162, 486, 972. . . If the finished billet is 1" thick then each layer is close to 0.001" or a fraction of the thickness of a piece of paper. Forge that out to 1/4" and the layers are only .00025". At this point carbon migration has made the steel uniform and the only pattern may be the result of the most recent weld joints. Number of of times "folded" SIX.

The dimensions of the billet are important to know. A braggart may claim XXX layers but what is that relative to? Is that in a 2" billet? 1"? or a finished blade about 1/8" thick? The difference is 16 to one.

There are two reasons to "fold". One to make the steel more uniform. The other to make pattern welded steel. Processing the steel may or may not be part of the blade making process but it usually is not. Making decorative laminations may be part of the process but are optional decoration.

Making the traditional Japanese sword starts with making the steel in a prescribed process, then dividing the steel up among the local smiths with the top ranked smiths getting the best steel and the lowest getting the dregs. The dregs take a lot more time to process and forces the lowest ranked or newbie smith to work harder to prove themselves. In this case there is a big difference in how long it takes to make a sword and how long to forge it. Forging by hand may take a day or two. Less with help.

So are we stating with making the charcoal and digging the iron all the way through fitting a scabbard and furniture OR just doing the forging?
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/08/12 00:08:51 EDT

From my understanding Asian iron had too much carbon content, and thus the steel made from it had to be processed as described to make the material more uniform, and carbon migration helped reduce the brittleness of the sword. The same understading I had (this is all from reference) is that European iron had very little carbon, thus the laminations in European swords were to increase the carbon so the sword would not be too soft. Again, I wasn't there thousands of years ago, so I am just going by books and I think I may even be repeating words I've read here in the Den.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/08/12 10:30:26 EDT

"folding", oh how I hate that term... : It all goes back to the method of steelmaking in use for each culture.

In the Japanese tradition you make steel directly from ore in the smelter, which requires a lot of consolidation via forging into barstock, which then must be refined to clean out the slag by stacking and welding many times.

In the European tradition, you usually made steel by starting with a low-carbon bloom of iron just like the Japanese version, just lower in carbon, but which requires the same stacking and welding to refine. After this it was carburized into steel and stacked and welded a few more times to evenly distribute the carbon.

So yes, in the most literal sense both cultures "folded" their steel. The Japanese just developed a process of polishing that reveals the grain of the steel. The Europeans generally did not polish to reveal the grain, they polished for shiny steel.

Note also that the famous "Hamon" or hardening line on Japanese blades is an artifact of using a shallow-hardening steel, polished to show that phenomenon. Early european steel was also shallow-hardening, and did produce the same phenomenon. It just was not polished by the same technique so it doesn't show up as it does on Japanese blades. There is an article about two ancient European blades that were given to a Japanese polisher a few years ago. Both showed good Hamon when polished by Japanese methods.

Deliberate pattern-welding in European swords is another process entirely.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 05/08/12 11:38:17 EDT

Jeff, I had nothing to do with the GI; you meant Jock right?

Pattern welding for swords was dying out in Europe around the year 1000 ("The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England" H.R.Ellis Davidson) as the metallurgy of the refined ores improved to where you were more likely to introduce problems pattern welding than to fix them. It had several revivals as an ornamental effect including during the enlightenment and during the nationalism of the early 20th century.

However the making of a more uniform steel by stacking and welding carburized wrought iron into what was known as "Shear Steel" went on into the 19th century (being slowly outmoded by cast steel starting in the 1700's---however casting of steel was know in places like central asia centuries earlier both in wootz and plain cast steel alloys.

Heber: Let say you are restoring a car and take it to get an engine repair, body work and re-upholstery if each task takes just one day do you expect to get your car 3 days later---or are you happy to have it all done in less than a month? How busy is each shop it has to go through? What is the priority of your job in each shop?

The repeated forge welding of japanese blade material did tend to lower the carbon content from near 2% down to about .5% which they then used their odd differential hardening process to make a severely hard and brittle edge.

However european bloomeries tended to have a wide range of carbon (and other elements) content as well as is seen by instructions on testing wrought iron when purchased to see what it was and was not good for.

For people interested in a bit of this subject "Steel making before Bessemer" vol i blister steel and vol ii crucible steel" may be of interest to you though it generally is UK centric and post medieval/renaissance times. "Sources for the History of the Science of Steel" is a good read on how people though about steel starting in the 1500's and going through 1786 (IIRC) when someone slapped their forehead and said "Of Course it's *carbon* that makes iron into steel!" (well it was in French...)

Finally I would like to point out that every culture that used the bloomery method of making wrought iron that includes cutting and stacking and forge welding up the material to refine the slag content and distribution and equalize the carbon better seems to have come up with the idea of pattern welding as well.

(and for a very early take on ferrous swords in Europe may I commend to your attention "The Celtic Sword", Radomir Pleiner)
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 05/08/12 13:27:30 EDT

Faux Japanese steel, Laminated "Damascus" :
One method that has been used to make a faux Japanese steel is to stack bits of cast iron on a piece of wrought iron and then forge weld them together, then use the stacking process to make more nearly homogeneous. Carbon migration is also part of this process reducing the cast to a steel level of carbon.

I've known people to do this and get fairly good results.

Pattern welding came back in a big way in the 18th century by smiths trying to reproduce wootz Damascus. A French smith made a bar of steel for weapons that had the slogan of the French revolution "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" throughout the bar. This task was not repeated until Daryl Meier made the American Flag Bowie to be presented to the first President Bush. However, "Damascus" became a popular steel for shot gun barrels all through the 19th century.

Today the modern techniques of making pattern welded steel far exceeds that of early smiths.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/08/12 14:16:58 EDT

Guru: Just doing the forging is what I wonder about.

I have see some documentaries about metallurgy and I am trying to get some of the books you guys recomended but here in Brasil is very hard to find then (and my credit card is not international T_T ).

On another topic have one of you guys know if someone tried to compare the 2 swords (longsword/european sword and the katana) edge? I mean to see wich one was sharper using traditional methods of forging?
   Heber - Tuesday, 05/08/12 17:15:30 EDT

Swords from Various Traditions : Heber: A lot of the above is incorporated in a narrative in the "Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel artical in the Anvilfire Armoury: http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/armor/main.htm It might be easier to understand in that form, if you haven't read it already. (Note: someday I'll re-edit and update and finish "Part 2.")
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 05/08/12 17:47:05 EDT

Sharpness : Heber,

Sharpness, that is "keenness of edge" has nothing to do with the method of forging and everything to do with the particular steel alloy and how it is heat treated, followed by how it is sharpened. One well-known bladesmith has demonstrated sharpening the edge of an aluminum can until you could shave with it - exactly one stroke. After that it was useless as a cutting edge. Want a really sharp edge for surgery? Some surgeons use sharpened agate. Want a super-sharp sword that will cleave in half a hair from the head of a Scandinavian princess, or one that might hold up in combat for more than two strokes - you can't have both in the same sword. Super sharp means hard and that generally means fairly brittle. No good for impact, in other words. Check out a good quality fencing foil sometime - you can bend one double and it will spring back. Without that toughness it would either bend or shatter in use.
   Rich Waugh - Tuesday, 05/08/12 18:38:20 EDT

anvil : I want to buy an anvil i found. It has a 2" V on the waist of the anvil. Was wondering what kind of anvil it is. Rings like mad when hit with only my bare knuckles.
   kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 18:38:36 EDT

anvil : what brand of anvil has a V on the side of it?
   kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 18:41:25 EDT

Hello want to buy an anvil i found. It has a 2" V on one side of the anvil in the waist area. Anvil rings when i hit it with my bare knuckles. Wondering what kind of anvil it is. Asking price $695.
   - kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 18:45:08 EDT

anvil with 2" v on the waist. wondering what brand it is. rings when hit with bare knuckles. $695 asking price.
   - kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 18:50:25 EDT

anvil : what brand of anvil has a V on the side of it?
   kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 18:51:36 EDT

anvil : there is a v on the waist of this anvil i want. does anyone know what kind of anvil it is?
   kevin ritter - Wednesday, 05/09/12 19:16:47 EDT

Kevin, It might be a Vanadium Steel anvil I think some versions had a V only.

Anvil value depends on size, type and condition, where it is located and how bad you want it . . .

If you can send me some photos I may be able to tell you more.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/10/12 01:21:21 EDT

It could also be a Columbian anvil. These have a large triangular depression with a C in it. The triangle could be mistaken for a large V.
   - guru - Thursday, 05/10/12 01:27:21 EDT

Multiple posts : Kevin, it is great that you are interested and we love to help but this is a BBS, not a chat room. Please allow us time to see your posts.
   Wayne Parris - Thursday, 05/10/12 09:06:41 EDT

Help - Power Hammer : My dad has retired and is trying to consider the best way to sell his equipment. The machine shop has been in business since the early 1900's and started as a blacksmith shop. My dad has worked there since 1948 and has owned it since 1975. There are some black smith tools including a trip hammer that I think is a little giant 1920's ? I was wondering if you could provide any information about the hammer or value. I have pictures but was not able to attach. Thanks for your help. I know there is at least 1 large anvil at the shop near the old forge but I did not think about taking a picture of it. Thanks for your help.
   Jeff Harrison - Saturday, 05/12/12 16:36:44 EDT

Little Giants :
Jeff, All Little Giants have their name and size in raised letters on the crank wheel. They will say Meyer Bros., or Little Giant and the size in pounds 25, 50, 100, 250. . .

Then there are models with motors and without (line shaft driven). Three phase (industrial) and single phase motors. Single phase is preferred in small shops.

A couple decades ago you could not sell an LG bigger than a 25 but now everyone recognizes MORE POWER is worth the effort. The bigger hammers now sell for more than the smaller ones.

Price is dependent on condition. Mechanical power hammers tend to get abused and the repairs are often worse than the abuse. Dovetails and frames break, bearings wear. . . Repairs can cost thousands of dollars.

To know what it is worth you will need to answer a lot of questions. Value? Anywhere from $800 to $6,000.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/12/12 19:00:33 EDT

Thanks : It says meyer bros on the frame. Is there a way to send you an e-mail of the pictures.
   Jeff Harrison - Saturday, 05/12/12 22:01:36 EDT

Click my name, if your mail is properly configured it should pop up with my address.
   - guru - Saturday, 05/12/12 23:32:09 EDT

wrought iron : I have been reading a little book called Wrought Iron:Its manufacture, characteristics and applications . Printed in 1939 the book was published by A M Beyers Co. a maker of wrought iron . According to the book wrought is a corrosion resistant and strong material. And it was produced in large quantities . So my question is what happened to all that production ? Why is wrought iron only found as recycled material now?
   wayne @ nb - Monday, 05/14/12 16:36:02 EDT

Beyond cast, pig iron, wrought, is/was blister steel then the Bessemer process. Wrought hasn't been manufactured in about a hundred years. It would be nice to see some freshly produced wrought, like artisian bread or a fine hand made linen... lumber made and dried the old way, feeling the earth in your hands...
   - Nippulini - Monday, 05/14/12 17:59:32 EDT

Wayne, There are a lot of reasons wrought was replaced by mild steel.

Wrought is not as strong as mild steel and has a lower modulus of elasticity. It takes more of it to make a beam of a given stiffness.

Wrought does not weld well by modern methods. The slag in it runs out when arc welding requiring much more filler rod to make a bead. Thus expensive riveted construction was the rule for most large wrought structures.

Wrought has a distinct grain along which it will fail under stress. Construction methods had to take in this consideration. Wrought bridge tension bars had loops forge welded into the ends to avoid splitting the grain and to make the parts as strong as possible. Obsolescence of forge welding as a common large scale practice made this design feature no longer an option.

Wrought's corrosion resistance is over stated (it was sold on that sales hype property for decades). If you read the British recommendations for maintaining wrought you are touching up annually and completely repainting in a decade or less. Mild steel treated this well will last centuries. A standard auto paint job (over mild steel) will last 20 years with little care if not abused or scratched.

The Beyer process started with pure iron made by the Bessemer process and then had extra processing. This was the most economical wrought ever made BUT it was more expensive than mild steel.

Wrought and mild steel both rust, but they rust differently. Mild steel pits when it rusts and looks rather ugly. Wrought rusts internally along the slag lines until it is nothing but a mass of iron fibers and rust. . .

Quite a bit of wrought is being made by the bloomery process, 20 to 40 pounds at a time. But it would be VERY expensive. Over a full day's labor for a crew of several men for a 40 pound lump of iron. . . more if you count processing the ore and charcoal.
   - guru - Monday, 05/14/12 18:33:46 EDT

Hand Made : If you are into the esoteric "made by hand" process there is an interesting Korean movie titled "The Recipe" running on Hulu. Its plot is a bit convoluted and I think some key parts were cut but its an interesting film.
   - guru - Monday, 05/14/12 18:36:36 EDT

Mostly *money* Stainless or even better Titanium would be MUCH better for car bodies than mild steel---you ever see any cars with a stainless or Ti body? (besides the defunct delorean)

Turns out folks want *cheaper* cars over better cars most of the time.

Same with WI; but with the caveat that it's not better for many common uses.
   Thomas P - Monday, 05/14/12 19:26:57 EDT

Wrought Iron was made in Sweden thru the early 70's, that was, I think, the last mill making it. By the end, it was almost exclusively used for pipe in certain chemical plants. But you have to remember, at the the height of wrought iron's popularity, stainless hadnt even been invented yet- many of the chemical resistant applications of wrought were much better done with stainless, which you CAN weld, electropolish, wont rust, and is stronger as well.
Wrought just doesnt do as good a job for most applications as the incredible wide range of modern alloys that are available now.
The corrosion resistance was real, but far less than that of stainless, Inconel, titanium, and dozens of other high tech alloys- and dont forget aluminum, which, also, wasnt even made til right around 100 years ago.
   - ries - Monday, 05/14/12 19:59:32 EDT

Wrought and Mild : I helped replicate an 8 foot section of wrought iron fence in mild steel. The copy was exactly the same dimensionally. The wrought section was disassembled, cleaned and reassembled with some minor repairs. The major difference between the two was when assembled the wrought sagged several inches or more. The steel section sagged but so little that it appeared straight. When installed the sections had center supports. The wrought side had a slightly visible sag in the two halves and the steel none that could be detected.

If someone were to climb on the two sections the wrought side would be visibly bent, the steel would just spring back. This was a relatively light fence that you would not think sagging was a problem. In steel it was not but in the original wrought it was fairly delicate.

Wrought has some very interesting properties but for general purposes steel is a much better material.
   - guru - Monday, 05/14/12 22:36:16 EDT

From an artist blacksmith perspective and the bladesmithing angle, wrought iron has tons of possibilities and uses. The iron world needs to know its more than just all about structural...
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 05/15/12 08:05:38 EDT

New Hammers : So my wonderful wife is "surprising" me with some new hammers - a couple of Sweedish style hammers she saw in an ad. I know I've read somewhere about dressing new tools (wasn't there just a daily comic about this?). What will I need to prep these for work? Belt sander? Any good, clear directions out there? I checked the FAQ page because I know I've read about it somewhere, but couldn't seem to find what I was looking for.

   Chris - Tuesday, 05/15/12 10:17:42 EDT

Dressing Hammers:
Chris, I have bits and pieces on dressing hammers but nothing I am happy with. I've been holding onto some undressed hammers with the intention of doing a photo how-to.

A hand grinder or belt grinder is the way to go. You could also use a file. I often use one combined with the grinding tools. DO NOT use a bench grinder with vitrified (hard) wheels. Pieces like a hammer tend to bounce and on one of those the wheel can shatter. Even with safety glasses, a face shield and proper safety features on the grinder you can be seriously injured AND if not, it often wrecks the grinder by bending the shaft.

Swedish style hammers are usually ground with a rocker face. That is, they curve from front to back but not side to side. Then the toe and heel are well radiused and the sides less so. This style dress moves the stock in one direction much better than the other.

These hammers can also be dressed with a non-direction curved face (hemi-spherical). It helps to study other hammers. Sheet metal or plannishing hammers have a slightly curved face. The radius is usually in the 20 to 24" range. A forging hammer may have a face with a 6" radius and then rounded edges (about a 3/8" to 1/2" radius) to prevent marring the work.

Don't forget the corners of the pien. Most are fairly sharp and some even have a squarish pien rather than smooth.

   - guru - Tuesday, 05/15/12 12:06:57 EDT

Wrought in Art :

Wrought iron has very interesting properties. Among them is the fact that it is almost an organic material. It has a "wood grain" from the layers of silica slag in it. This grain can vary from coarse to so fine it is indistinguishable. Also due to the different ores and manufacturing processes the slag is not always the same.

While many think of wrought as pure iron, it is not. The slag makes it very different than pure iron and the iron itself can vary from pure to having enough carbon to have some steel properties. However, most is pure iron fibers in a matrix of slag.

Besides the variations in coarseness, there can be joints (welds) and changes in grain direction. Welds are often a "clear" zone where the slag as been melted out or dissolved by flux.

All these variations make it very interesting to etch and use in art, jewelery and sculpture and laminated in pattern welded steels.

There is lots of old wrought still in use and being scraped daily. The important thing is for smiths to seek it and preserve it for future smiths.
   - guru - Tuesday, 05/15/12 23:51:15 EDT

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