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 June 16 - 22, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Epoxy Resin & Paint : I've had good and bad experiences with both. I've used up a few gallons of Devcon steel filled industrial resin as molding material and a few gallons of resin for fiberglass. All of it set rock hard, some a little faster than expected. . The last epoxy paint I dealt with was applied by others in cold damp weather. It was applied to a special wood deck that part of a machine that we had to stand on a few days later. . . It never set right. Pulled the heals off one guys shoes and ripped the surface of the plywood up on another's. We had to have the deck replaced on the job. . . . I've not been a fan of epoxy paint since even though it was probably user error.

   - guru - Wednesday, 06/15/11 23:59:14 EDT

Black Oxide Finishes :
Not for this application. Blueing, parkerizing and other oxide finishes are a preoxidized finish to avoid more oxidation by rust. But they are not very resistant to chemical attack such as salt from hand prints and are mostly something to hold oil. A blued gun will rust badly if not kept cleaned and oiled.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/16/11 00:20:53 EDT

Epoxy & temperature : With epoxy, You need to use the proper hardener for the temperature You are working at, and the desired pot life & cure time. The proper ratio MUST always be used.

In this respect epoxy is completely different than pollyester or vinilester resins You might have used, where You can odd extra hardener for a "hot batch" that will cure fast in cool weather.

I have used quite a lot of the Devcon tooling epoxy as well. With the puddy type, to get reasonable pot life, I mixed it on a scrap of .004"steel [the material We were stamping] laying on a die set or layout table. The idea here is that You spread it out thin on the steel scrap and the generated heat transfers to the heavy steel below, rather than building up in the mix and hastening the cure.

The epoxy paint I have is a long open time [slow to cure] product. If I remember right, it is supposed to "sweat in" for 45 minutes after mixing, before aplication. I don't remember the temperature limitations.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 06/16/11 01:01:58 EDT

Metal finish : A close finish,(pun),to the certainty of death and taxes is that if a thing is made from iron it will rust. It's what our present mild steel does best and you better make sure the customer is aware of the fact. For indoor use like my bottle openers, letter knives and candle stands, I wire brush the finished article, heat it gently to below red heat and polish with Johnson Paste Wax while still warm. Unfortunately Johnson's is hard to get in Australia now. This turns a nice matt black, still looks like hand forged iron and will last for years even with handling.
Doorknockers and anything exposed to the weather will eventually rust whatever you do. For these, because my work is small, I use spraycan anti rust enamel over the recomended primer. If you use any colour except black, the prospective buyer will always want yellow or green when you have only red or blue. Stressing future maintenance is not a great sales pitch but is better than complaints down the track!
My Dad built jetties and warves and the genuine wrought iron bolts lasted about as long as the woodwn piles and beams but mild steel has a very short life near sea water.
Hugh McDonald
   Hugh McDonald - Thursday, 06/16/11 02:29:05 EDT

I've seen stainless tableware in some of the higher-end stores with a translucent black finish. I have no idea what it is or how it's applied, but assume it must hold up pretty well if it's used in that application.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 06/16/11 20:14:24 EDT

Black finish : The durable black finish is probably black chrome. Quite durable if done properly, and only moderately expensive in batch lots.
   - Rich - Thursday, 06/16/11 22:36:30 EDT

I was just looking at a website that sells over 500 different designs of stainless steel flatware- not a single black set. And these were from the major manufacturers, world wide.
Stainless can be heat patinaed, and it will keep its color, but reliable coloring of stainless beyond oxidisation colors is not very common commercially.
I am with Rich in thinking you saw black chrome plate, quite possibly on bronze. There has been some mid price flatware in Bronze, mostly coming from Thailand. Most flatware, though, is either stainless, and silver in color, or real silver, both sometimes with real gold plated detailing.
   - Ries - Thursday, 06/16/11 23:35:22 EDT

Wrought Iron :
I think the corrosion resistance of wrought is over rated in many cases. However, at today's prices for recycled wrought you can use aluminum, stainless or even bronze. I would go for the stainless but you have to keep in mind the labor is much higher on stainless. Bronze also sags proportionally more than steel due to being weaker and more dense.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/16/11 23:46:59 EDT

Flatware, Silver and Stainless :
My Mom's fairly classy silverware had hollow silver handles on stainless blades. The handles were hollow due to their fairly large nearly square cross section. 60 years of use and none of the joints loosened or failed.

The stainless flatware we purchased in the 70's had black oxide floral decoration with lightly polished highlights. It was a nice simple modern design, not too feminine or two masculine, just heavy enough not to feel flimsy of clumsy. The black oxide parts of the finish never changed in 40 years of use, abuse and neglect. The black appeared to be just unpolished oxide but may have been chemically enhanced.

Quite a few exotic coatings are being used on modern flatware. Gold TiN like used on cutters and drills is being used as a gold plate over stainless. It has excellent color and superior hardness.

   - guru - Friday, 06/17/11 00:16:48 EDT

Rustoleum : Mr. McDonald,
Don't know if they have Rustoleum where you live, but I think it is a great product. We replaced outdoor steps and sprayed all of the metal work ( with no preparation ) with Rustoleum flat black over a year ago, still looks good. A month or so ago, I painted my mailbox with it.
   Mike T. - Friday, 06/17/11 02:21:34 EDT

Guru, "Kelly" green?? You doing some work for the Eagles?
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/17/11 08:06:29 EDT

Any Color as Long as it's Black : Actually, Henry Ford wasn't being a jerk, it's just that the formula for black, at that time, was the fastest drying and did not hinder the speed of the assembly line.

I've done a few "garden" items (hangers, boot scrapers) in green; but mostly as gifts. My one attempt with painted ironwork (trumpet vine flowers) for a BGOP contest was a loser. (Actually, when I look at how good some of the other losers are at BGOP contests, especially some of the work by Phil Heath, I never feel bad about losing. ;-)

Really, given the colors and durability of paint that we have available today, there's nothing to hold us back except the "traditions" in our friends', customers', and our own heads. I think if I do a longship weathervane I'll paint it a royal blue or some other non-traditional color.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 06/17/11 09:26:37 EDT

All this talk about paint.... I just finished a wireform hand sculpture with 2 coats of cold galvanize, then two more coats of fleckstone paint!!

Oh, and by "Eagles", I mean the football team, not the band.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 06/17/11 09:58:31 EDT

Paint : I use a critter paint sprayer (google it) from Lee Valley Tools. I find it considerable cheaper, than using rattle cans. Plus by mixing different colours of paint I can come up with some unique shades of black.
   JimG - Friday, 06/17/11 10:02:07 EDT

Paint for garden items : I have built a large amount of garden art, and at first most was flat black. My Mother, an excellent and very experienced gardener noted that black iron work burned the more delicate vines like clematis, and requested an arbor in a milky chocholate color. Did well and no damage to the plants. Ever since I always suggest colors other than black for trellis, arbors and the like and explain why. Have not painted any of those black since.
   ptree - Friday, 06/17/11 10:29:25 EDT

Paint for Ironwork : I have had a garden sculpture/windvane floating around my head for a while. I am seriously thinking of getting it painted at one of the body shops down the street using one of the "chameleon" paints that change colour depending on the angle you look at it. If we are going to do high end expensive work why paint it to blend in. Of course most customers just want black.
   - JNewman - Friday, 06/17/11 14:16:07 EDT

Color for Ironwork - Philosophy :
While the general public and even many of blacksmiths think of ironwork only being black I think this is often due to the fact that most iron work when seen at a distance is a dark silhouette against a bright background. Even when painted a light color it can appear this way. However, the lighter the color, the less the silhouette effect and the more shape and texture can be seen. If you are selling hand made work based on details of depth and texture then black is a horrible color to show off the work with. This may be why many smiths like the color of raw forged steel. The gray scale color shows off subtle texture much better than black especially when wire brushed to bring out highlights. But the EXACT* or even better effects can be created with paint and protect the work for decades.

I've seen a lot of ironwork painted white along with the rest of a house paint job, including fences and trellises. Not a great color but it does not look out of place. . I've also seen some painted white with gold highlights. Kind of a cheapo antique or garden shop look but its better than black.

We have some oriental elephant bookends. They seem to be lead castings from their weight but might be brass or iron. They are painted a deep red with black rubbed into the crevices and textured areas. Sort of like my maroon and black anvilfire colors. The red does not look out of place at all and is very rich looking. The color scheme would probably work very well on large iron work.

The heating aspect related to plants is an interesting fact and might also apply to small animals and birds. Come to think of it, I've seen a lot of old lawn furniture painted white, probably for similar reasons. But a lot of modern lawn furniture is painted a nice dark green.

The screen I need to build is designed to be hummingbird friendly and was going to have large broad horizontal leaves (about 4 to 6" wide) for shade and rain protection with little scrolls from round stock under them for perches (hummingbird umbrellas). I had not thought about the color/heat issue. However, I have thought about the flight space issue and you have to be careful about V shaped places that could catch their feet. One hummingbird feeder manufacture had reports of birds getting stuck on their feeders where perch loops came together. They recommended customers break off every other perch and made their new feeders with wider spacing. Kind of like trying to make child-safe toys.

This time of year we have dozens of hummingbirds at our feeders. When thunderstorms roll in they try to feed up the last second then scatter for shelter. As soon as the storm is gone they are back. I thought I would try to make some natural looking rain shelters for them as part of a railing/screen. Thus the green paint. They seem to like my leaf S-hooks we hang many of the feeders with and tend to perch on them more than others. While they are attracted to bright colored flowers they seem indifferent to perch color (rust red at this point). I would not want colored iron flowers on work to confuse the birds.

* If you want a good durable paint job to look like fresh forged and wirebrushed steel it is not difficult. Many smiths use a clearcoat directly over the steel but this is not a long life durable finish. It may hold up indoors but even indoors it will eventually start showing some rust.

Step one is to clean the work chemically or by grit blasting. If you chemically clean with an acid it must be neutralized then the neutralizer rinsed off with fresh water. Once clean you want to be careful not to get oily hand prints or sweat stains on the bare metal. Depending on the size of the work this can be easy or a significant task.

The next step is to prime the metal. I prefer a two step process with zinc cold galvanizing followed by the primer recommended for the top coat. Alternately you can paint directly over the cold galvanizing. The tricky part of cold galvanizing is that it looks almost identical to a clean sandblasted or chemically etched surface. So care must be taken to cover the entire piece. IF the work has collars, layers or deep crevices you may want to thin some of the cold galvanizing paint and run it into these places first, then spray the entire piece. Note that these are places that powder coat often misses entirely. Using a different color second primer (dark gray) is useful so that you can see where it is applied and get 100% coverage. Red oxide works BUT shows like rust if the work is chipped. This could be good or bad depending on your viewpoint. Attention to details is one of the things that makes a long life durable job.

The first top coat for a "raw forged" look is a dark silver metallic or gunmetal light blue or blue gray automotive lacquer. You have a choice of thousands of colors and dozens of silvers to suit your taste.

The next step would be followed by dark shading by one or more methods. One is to use a clear coat tinted with black applying it to shaded areas. This takes careful practiced use of the spray gun. You can use thicker layers to get darker shading OR different batches of tint. The final finish is all lacquer and very durable.

Alternately you could apply one or more colors of "Baroque Art Gilders Paste" over the base coat. This gives you a bit more control because it does not effect the lacquer base coat and you are applying it by hand. A slate color could be applied first to tone down most of the metallic except the highlights then another layer using black in the shadows and deeper textured areas. These colors can be mixed with a drying oil or varnish to make them more controllable and produce translucent shading. Using oil over lacquer (or powder coat) has the advantage of not damaging the base coat which is your primary surface protection AND giving you manual control of the added colors.

These methods take practice but can produce a 20 to 30 year outdoor finish that looks like bare metal. However, it can be a tossup between this and using stainless steel to get the same effect. The advantage of the paint is that you have complete control of the exact color you want. The advantage of the stainless is that once you are done it is pretty permanent and difficult to damage the finish.

   - guru - Friday, 06/17/11 20:13:54 EDT

NOTE : The all lacquer method I give above is a 20-30 year finish. Using the hand applied tints may not hold up as well. While this second method will hold up against rusting rusting as well as the first the overall appearance may degrade with time, fading or even pealing off the base coat. There are always compromises.
   - guru - Friday, 06/17/11 20:31:59 EDT

A SAD CASE Finishing Work :
A number of years ago a smith came to me with a liability question. He had done a complicated indoor railing job with a vine and leaf design. The customer wanted it to be polished and clear coated. The smith and his helper slaved over doing all the polishing and finishing. But there were initial finish issues and installation issues including welding and riveting in place. These were cleaned, hand finished and lacquered in place. But much of the finishing that looked perfect in the smith's shop was not as perfect in the bright light of the customer's home.

Problems were immediate. The welding caused dark areas that the customer did not like. There were also some large flat panels that were difficult to get an even polish that showed up in the home lighting at certain angles of view. There was issues around screws. More refinishing was done in place and the customer seemed happy. But THEN. . faint hand prints started showing under the clear finish as rust blushing. The customer also had time to pick all the faults of the polish job and had quite a list. . .

Law suits were about to be launched. The smith claimed the customer was at fault because it was the finish HE requested. I said the smith was at fault for taking the job OR not convincing the customer that the job was impossible in steel and that it would have to be done in stainless at a very high premium. On the other hand the customer did not express what he wanted clearly in writing (a specification) while dictating the finish. While both had some blame the smith was ultimately the responsible party because he accepted the job.

I thought the the job was very well done as far as I was concerned and that the faults were to be expected. But what the customer wanted was something that looked like polished stainless or chrome plate at a much lower cost. No matter how perfect the job in mild steel the customer was never going to be happy.

I suggested that as a remedy the work be refinished in a color rather than clear coat which the customer was never going to be happy with even though that is what he asked for.

I do not know how the story ended but you know it was not good for either party. The customer was not happy, the smith probably lost most or all that he had in the job.

While the general rule in business is that "the customer is always right" there are jobs that you want to walk away from if you cannot educate or sell the customer on what is right. Many times the customer has higher expectations than they are willing to pay for. You cannot afford to give in to those expectations at your expense.

In the case of smiths that fall in love with bare forged steel THEY are their own worst customer.
   - guru - Friday, 06/17/11 20:48:38 EDT

Poor misunderstood lady : That PML the mother of my first wife had a "wrought iron" (i.e. hack and tack mild steel) bannister rail installed. I wasn't good enough to do it. When that looked ursanally rough guess who got the job of refinishing it all? Of course I was considered good enough for that!

Speaking of finishes I have just been doing some decorative work for strictly indoor use. That isn't really my metier. I wanted a finish that looked just exactly like raw forged steel (I am my own worst enemy, Jock). So I used my favourite for the purpose- neutral wax shoe polish.
   philip in china - Friday, 06/17/11 22:41:48 EDT

Shoe Polish :
I've never used it on steel but I have done a couple sculptures in wood that I finished with a combination of bowling alley wax and oxblood wax shoe polish. It takes a LOT of wax to build up some color over light colored wood but you can get a sort of walnut color with enough applications.

The beauty of a wax finish on wood is that if cracks open up in the wood the finish does not crack and peal. It also prevents someone from applying another non-wax finish over it unless they strip the wax. . .
   - guru - Friday, 06/17/11 23:06:12 EDT

If you google "Oneida Romano Black," you'll see the kind of black flatware I had in mind. The websites says it's a "titanium" finish. Maybe some kind of modified TiN?
   Mike BR - Saturday, 06/18/11 11:06:52 EDT

Titanium metal takes a wide range of temper colors. It may be possible to electroplate with Ti then color it.

With an outfit like Oneida it could be a very technical process made affordable by the high production rates. As I noted above we have some "gold" stainless flatware that appears to be TiN.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/18/11 12:15:04 EDT

Any historty?
   - Hayden - Saturday, 06/18/11 14:12:08 EDT

Belknap anvil, history? I don't have Anvils In America
   - Hayden - Saturday, 06/18/11 14:13:19 EDT

Belknap : William Burke Belknap founded this historic hardware company in 1840, along the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky. It started in a small shop that produced iron products, such as horse and mule shoes, nails, spikes and other forged items.

The first building was a three-story brick on the corner of Third and Main with three employees. When Belknap celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1940, it had grown to a complex of 37 buildings, covering 37 acres of floor space under one roof. Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing was among the nation's largest wholesale enterprises with nationally recognized quality brands.

Belknap contracted to have goods of all sorts manufactured as well as purchasing recognized brands and having them branded under their name. Columbus Anvil and Forging Company, the maker of Arm and Hammer Anvils. Their guns and pocket knives are collector's items. They went out of business in 1986.

I've got a 1917 Belknap catalog. Its about 2.5" thick. Under anvils they list their "WBB & CO." anvil, Peter Wright, Vulcan and Ajax.

Prices per 100 pounds:

PW, $48.75 (all sizes)
WBB, $42 (most sizes)
Vulcan 22.50
Ajax, 22.50
Swage Blocks, 10.50
Cones, $9.75
Leg Vises, $40

One thing about these old catalogs is that they clearly discriminated price vs. quality. The steel faced cast body anvils selling for less than half the wrought anvils. The import PW being a little more expensive than the U.S. made wrought anvil of equal quality but not quite as pretty of shape.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/18/11 15:34:50 EDT

Browning Ironwork : I was wondering if browning ironwork would darken and protect it at the same time ? I think I read that during the Civil war browning compound was made with nitric acid and steel wool. The steel wool was added to the nitric acid until no more would disslove, then the liquid was applied to the steel and allowed to rust for several days. Then the rust was wiped off ( this might have been done another time or two ) then after the last wipe down, the steel was oiled real good. Why wouldn't this work with ironwork ?
   Mike T. - Saturday, 06/18/11 21:18:59 EDT

Browning metal : It worked for me. Cleaned the metal, applied per instructions, plus another round, still good after 20 years with simple maintanance. Also depends on wear amount.
   - Keith - Saturday, 06/18/11 23:36:44 EDT

P.S. : Got mine from Dixie Gun Works
   - Keith - Saturday, 06/18/11 23:38:12 EDT

Browning :
This is one of many oxide coatings for steel. Old fashioned browning was just plain rust on a polished surface applied in a controlled manner (rust, clean off the loose, rust again, clean again. . .). The repeated cleaning prevents pitting and builds up a dense smooth brown rust.

Bluing, often called nitre blue is made with nitric acid and produces a blue black. There are dozens of commercial bluing compounds some with dies in them. Parkerizing is a method that makes a thick black oxide surface.

All oxide finishes including forge scale protect by "pre-oxidizing" the surface. If the surface is already oxidized there is less to rust and it is hard for rust to get started. Secondarily the texture and porosity of the surface holds oil which will keep moisture from becoming an electrolyte supporting corrosion. But without maintenance, keeping the surface oiled and/or dry it WILL rust.

Bluing and browning have limited uses and are generally used where paint is not a suitable finish such as on tools, gun parts, precision instruments. . . Many places where bluing was common are chrome or nickle plated or stainless steel. If paint can be used it is a much better protectant. If you do not need a fine finish and want heavy duty rust protection zinc galvanizing is another route to go.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/19/11 00:54:44 EDT

gun blue/ clearcoat : Probably because i didn't know any better, and the designer loved the shade we finished the wrought steel fence panels for the Giradelli Soda Fountain in Orlando Fla. with a straight gun blue over shot blasted steel. It did not turn blue rather it was a multi-shade brown. We just finished the job with automotive clear coat the three part kind. As far as I know it has lasted since 1995.
   danny arnold - Sunday, 06/19/11 08:56:36 EDT

pipe wrenches : My wife LOVES garage sales, and consequently i get some great tool finds. No anvils yet, but i did get a 6" wide 200lb post vise for $100.00 US. Three chain falls from one seller who was amazed that a lady would buy them "things" and plenty , PLENTY ! pipe wrenches. Are the Stilson brand made from wrought iron? There are some other brands I have that are obviously not cast iron, got plenty of them too, and a 24" wrench is a lot of metal. anybody needs to kit a plumber, holla at me.
   danny arnold - Sunday, 06/19/11 09:07:15 EDT

Danny, you don't need to post your questions in two places. I answered the wrench question in the Hammer-In.

Great price on the leg vise. In many cases vises are used more often than the anvil and more than one is convenient.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/19/11 09:18:06 EDT

Blueing with Clear Coat :
This combination is pretty good as long as the finish is not damaged. Nicks, scratches or flaws in the finish offer no protection as does a cold galvanizing or active primer. Many clear coats are not very UV resistant.

Of primary importance this finish requires scrupulous cleaning, neutralizing and rinses. The chemically applied oxide finish gets into places that other finishes often do not. So you have cleanliness combined with completeness of coverage. Put a top coat over it and you have a pretty good finish.

Many years ago I made a polished steel butt-plate for a small shotgun and finished it by temper bluing it then applying a light coat of clear lacquer. The finish held up perfectly for many years. But a change in storage location where there was probably more condensation and rust started forming under the clear coat in various places.
   - guru - Sunday, 06/19/11 10:03:10 EDT

Phosphate conversion coatings. : These are varied by type and have from a very fine crystal black to grey to very large crystal black. If no oil is used this is "Bonderized, an excellent paint prep, but it must be done quick, as the phosphate coating is very weak at protecting against rust. The secret in phosphate conversion coating for rust protection is the synergistic effects of the oil and the coating. In the valve and fitting trade we used air dry, water displacing oils that had a wax content. The oil or the coating by themselves were short lived in the salt spray cabinet, together they could yield 1000 hours, an excellent result if one is shooting for warehouse rust protection as we were.
By the way, Parkerize was a trademark of Parker Amchem, but is used pretty generically.
   ptree - Sunday, 06/19/11 17:58:32 EDT

Phosphate : Befor Christmas I made some punches and chisels. Just left them a while in a cold shop in a bath of phosphoric acid. They came out with that sort of matt finish I associate with forces issue rifles. So far there isn't a bit of rust on any of them and currently it is very hot and humid here!
   philip in china - Sunday, 06/19/11 21:02:49 EDT

Conversion Coatings :
I know a fellow that swears by them but I've seen some bizarre results. The ads show it applied to old rusted steel and the results being a nice even black. . . What I've seen is splotches of black with white frosting mixed with patches of mill scale as well as unconverted rust. . The white crystallization stuff doesn't rinse off. Handling the steel with bare hands is tough on the hands making your skin feel weird months after application and leaving out in the weather. . .

Even though the acid is not entirely killed (by the skin test), it seems that paint sticks to it well.
   - guru - Monday, 06/20/11 00:53:11 EDT

Magnetism : I am prototyping a wind chime for our blacksmith's guild to make as a gifts for our steel donor. I found a great site for calculating the exact lengths and hanging points. I am using steel tubing 0.75 OD and .035 wall thickness. I cut the steel to length, deburred the interiors with a rotary file in a drill, filed the ends and hung the four tubes so that they would ring on each other rather than with a center ringer. They rang beautifully but they clung together at the bottoms.

In checking the setup, I noticed that the bench vise used to hold the tubes had a magnet attached to the base, but the tubes had been in the vise for two or three minutes only. Could this be the cause? Or does the fabrication process have anything to do with the magnetism.

In any event I want to avoid this happening again, but also how do I demagnetize the prototype? Tried rubbing with a magnet in all directions but no luck.
Any comments would be helpful. Thanks
   Jim Curtis - Monday, 06/20/11 15:04:08 EDT

Magnetized work :
Jim, It is possible that the magnet is the cause. Swiping the tube past the magnet may have done it. But the tubing may have already been magnetic. If its smooth finished structural tube the work hardening and drawing through a die OR handling with a magnet might have done it.

There are several ways to demagnetize work. One is with a demagnetizer. Its a two pole AC electromagnet. The reversing fields neutralize the magnetism. Another is with heat. If you heat to nonmagnetic then cool slowly the soft or annealed steel will be demagnetized. The problem with using heat is that it will effect the temper and thus the tone of the chimes. They will be a little lower. Another way to demagnetize is with a hammer and tapping on the work. The disadvantages to this method are it may take lots of blows and it may mare the work.
   - guru - Monday, 06/20/11 20:24:55 EDT

Jim : A demagnatizer is pretty simple, You can probably make one that will work. Make a coil of a single strand of insulated wire big enough to easily pass the tube through. Put a lightbulb IN SERIES with the coil [this prevents it from being a dead short] and plug it into AC power. Pass each tube completely through the energised coil several times. Don't turn off the power while the tube is in the coil.

The power goes through 1 prong of the plug, then through the coil, then through the lightbulb [100 watt should be fine] and back to the other prong. The number of turns in the coil isn't critical, a dozen should work.

Many machine shops and most tool & die shops have demagnatizers, if You have connections with any.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 06/20/11 21:08:54 EDT

stolen item on west coast : I made a wall hanger sword a couple years ago for a freind. It was stolen a couple weeks ago (I just found out) and may be up for sale at a flea-market. It is a two-handed broadsword 51" long. If any one out west sees something like it PLEASE let me know on this post. It has some brass inlay, 'looks' old, rough polish blade, temper colors on blade. THANK YOU
   - keith @ geezers forge - Tuesday, 06/21/11 00:04:34 EDT

Coal or gas? : Due to the raging fires, and extremely dry and windy conditions in Texas. Should I continue using my coal forge, and build a complete hood around it with a chain gate to prevent any possible embers from falling out. Or go buy a gas forge? If gas, what brand for knifemaking and some moderate blacksmithing?
   Hayden - Tuesday, 06/21/11 01:13:39 EDT

Magnetising : I have the opposite problem. I have made some little paper weights. I actually want to magnetise these. I have stuck them to a magnetic rack, on which I keep knives, as that should magnetise them. (It has magnetised the knives). This is, howver, a very slow process. Is there a faster way?
   philip in china - Tuesday, 06/21/11 01:40:26 EDT

Harbor Freight 12 volt hammer : Recently Nippolini (sp?) said he found the little HF hammer useful for his work. I have to agree; I rapidly textured copper sheet with a neat "hand hammered" looking pattern. The magnetic nail holder captured a 7/32nds ball bearing on the hammer face and the ball did the texturing better than the almost flat face of the hammer. Thanks Nippolini
   Bob Johnson - Tuesday, 06/21/11 01:46:07 EDT

Making Magnets :
Phillip, Making a magnet is done in a setup similar to the demagetizer that Dave Boyer described except you want a lot more coils and instead of a light bulb you want a low amp fuse (piece of aluminum foil). When you plug in or turn on the switch the fuse pops making a single fast magnetic field that builds up then collapses. That one pulse magnetizes anything made of a magnetizable alloy inside or nearby.

The basic rule to ferrous magnets is that the harder they are the stronger and more permanent the magnet. Pure iron does not magnetize and low carbon and mild steel does not magnetize well. Nickle alloys are better than plain carbon and aluminum really enhances the power. Look up Alnico for details.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 02:25:04 EDT

Texas Fires : Hayden, I am extremely pleased with my Diamondback Blacksmith forge. However, i got many years of trouble-free service from my Whisper-Baby. I also live in Texas and will not be firing my coal forge for a while.
   quenchcrack - Tuesday, 06/21/11 07:42:41 EDT

Stolen Wall Hanger Sword :
It MIGHT show up at a flea market but I doubt that is where it will be traded or sold. I expect that it was traded to someone for drugs or some other illicit business deal - Unless there is a hint of who stole it the vast majority of property thefts in the U.S. are by drug addicts looking for things to sell for their next "fix". Electronics and weapons are at the top of the list because they are easy to convert to quick cash. Electronics are almost always sold at street prices but weapons have trade value directly with the drug dealers.

With the HBO show Game of Thrones being one of the hottest things on cable TV and the web at this moment I'm sure the value of such items has recently increased.

Have you seen the "Iron Throne" made of hundreds of swords of the vanquished welded together by dragon fire?
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 07:51:17 EDT

Forges and Wildfires :
Coal fires do not make much in the way of flying sparks that travel on the wind. However, kindling and paper used to start a coal fire do make light embers that can float. You can avoid this by starting your coal fire with a torch. In fire hazard areas the stack should have a stainless spark screen.

I have had a number of small fires in my work area and they were all caused by flying scale or a piece of hot iron tossed on the ground, not from the forge fire. I have also been in shops where fires started from grinding and welding sparks. Again, not from the forge fire. I'm sure it is possible, but it seems to be the lesser cause of fires in the forge.

Enclosing the working end of the forge more than usual is pointless since hot flying scale is always present in the work area. Of greater importance is the removal of anything flammable on the work area floor.

If you work outdoors then the problem is dry grass, leaves, thatch. All must be removed or wetted down in a fairly large area, at least 20 feet in all directions.

When I was working craft shows doing demonstrations it was most common to setup on a field of lush green grass. Even with typical summer thunderstorms by the second day there would be a circle of dead grass where I worked. It was not unusual to have it catch fire even though all the surrounding grass was green. Small grass fires were common. I would not want to be in that situation when grass was too dry and fires could spread.

Gas forges are clean, fast and convenient but have limited capacity. Doing small work in a large gas forge is very inefficient. Many smiths that use gas forges have more than one. Some shapes work better for one type of work and some sizes better for others. While you can do a broad range of work in a single solid fuel forge it requires a broad range of gas forges for the same work.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 09:33:34 EDT

Stolen Sword : Guru, did they steal it out of your home ? I had a theft five years ago. They stole my television, computer and some other small items. The insurance company reimbursed me somewhat, but I felt violated. Yes, these things are mostly sold for drug money.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 06/21/11 10:03:09 EDT

Stolen Sword : Mike, Not from me, see Keith's post a couple posts up.

I've only had one criminal theft in my life and that was enough. One night in 1976, while we were working on a new shop we were moving into, a fellow rummaged through my tool chest sitting on the back of my truck and took all my sockets and ratchet wrenches. We were only 20 feet away in the light of the shop and he was out in the dark. My wife surprised him and all she saw was a flash of white t-shirt disappearing around a corner. Since I was currently making a living as a mechanic the loss was significant. About $400 at the time. All the tools were marked with my name and social security number . . Yep, that is what we were told to do in the 1970's. . . It did no good.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 10:44:25 EDT

For knifemaking a propane forge is tops! Usually you are working with fairly small materials and having very even and extended heats is great. Get one that allows you to control the atmosphere in it and you can reduce decarburization and scaling way down.

The problem is when you want to do a lot of pattern welding as many gassers are not designed for lots if any welding. Those that are generally are welding beasts---most of the pro's making pattern welded blades use a propane forge for welding and working the billets often by the pounds a day!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 06/21/11 13:52:28 EDT

Guru, I still have tools marked as yours were.
I too had most all my tools stolen in the early 80's. To add insult to injury, almost all had been gifts. Starting at 14 I asked for tools for birthdays etc. To really tick me off, the theif was my next door neighbor, and the tools were gone by the time the cops got him. To REALLY burn my rear, the insurance policy was not "replacement value" so my hand tools like box wrenches were deeply depreciated.
Karma was that the day after the loss, another neighbor cuaght the theif coming out of his garage with his arms full of stolen tools. The homeowner used a ball bat to stop the thrif with his arms full. I have never, ever seen a black eye like that one. Both eyes black and mostly shut all one big black eye that went up into the scums hairline. He got sent back to jail for probation violation. The judge ruled that when he came out he tried to throw the armload at the homeowner and so he was justified in defending with the ball bat:)
   ptree - Tuesday, 06/21/11 13:56:56 EDT

The guy that stole my wrenches carefully picked out sets and matching ratchets. I figured he was looking for tools to use rather than hock. . . While I hated the fact of the loss I would rather it be someone with a true need than a drug addict looking for quick cash.

In Costa Rica Josh has had truck loads of tools walk off. . . Again, these are folks that are probably going to use the tools OR give them to a family member that will. It is a completely different culture where what we think of as a small collection of personal tools is looked upon as enough for a significant professional business. While stealing is still considered wrong it is different if you are stealing for your family. Family comes first. AND of course, the "Rich Gringos" have an unlimited supply of tools or money. . .

Yep the replacement value vs. actual or depreciated value is a big difference. However, I feel that many of my tools have appreciated, not depreciated. Most are currently worth more on the used market than when I bought them. . . and it is difficult to find the same quality.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 14:29:26 EDT

Magnetizing : When I was a kid my father showed me to make a coil to put the piece in and then scratch the wire on a car battery. "Make & break" works best.

For de-magnetizing I used to use an old motor. Remove the end bells and rotor. Pass the work through and energize the windings momentarily.
   - grant - Tuesday, 06/21/11 16:47:17 EDT

Thieves : I had one guy try to steal some tools from my truck about twenty years ago. He reached in an open window to grab a Simpson multimeter sitting on the seat, but he should have stopped to ask himself why the window was open like that. I'd left that window down about halfway so my dog could get some fresh air.

My dog, a generally friendly little cocker spaniel, thought of that truck as her sacrosanct turf and took real umbrage at someone other than me trespassing on it. She latched on to the guy's arm and refused to let go. Thief was still there, screaming bloody murder, when I came out of the supermarket. He was demanding that I call the dog off him, and I said I'd happily do that - just as soon as the cops arrived. They did, I did, and he went to jail via the emergency room. Took something like forty stitches to close up what he'd done to himself trying to tear his arm out of the dog's mouth. I was really glad I had vinyl upholstery, though the stains never did come out of the carpets.

The best part of the whole show was when the guy told the cops he was just walking by the truck when the dog stuck her head out and grabbed him and pulled his arm in - I thought the cops would die laughing at that one. They told me to buy the dog a nice juicy steak for dinner, which I did. Well, she got a couple bites of mine, anyway. (grin)

My toolboxes, which often sat open on the back of my service truck, had the following legend lettered inside the lids: "Please note - I make my living with these tools. So these tools are my life. If you take my life, I'll take yours. Love, Rich" The only tool I ever had stolen was a nice handyman farm jack taken from my crane truck while I was on a job in Show Low, Arizona. I think whoever took it probably needed it, because there were other much more valuable tools there with it and that was all they took.
   - Rich - Tuesday, 06/21/11 17:08:43 EDT

Funny : I talked to a guy awhile back that was stationed in Egypt when he was in the military. He said they worked on Army equipment, trucks etc. The Egyptians would go to prayer three times a day, but when their backs were turned, they would steal every tool they had.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 06/21/11 17:11:26 EDT

Magnetizing : Make and break works with DC but using AC the current needs to be made and broken in less than one cycle of the AC so the magnetic polarity does not change. Thus the very light fuse. Make the circuit and "pop", you have a magnet.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/21/11 17:32:10 EDT

Won't letting a piece cool through the curie point in a magnetic field magnetize it? Not sure how well it works, but at least it's a blacksmith way . . .
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 06/21/11 20:23:06 EDT

Mike; that probably can be said about some folks in every religion.

I once found one of my tools at the fleamarket that I hadn't realized had gone walkabout---a nice drawknife with folding handles. Didn't use it that often and hadn't noticed other stuff missing. Still had my tool color paint on it!

I bought it back as it was a good price for it even when you added in what I had originally paid for it.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/22/11 11:29:41 EDT

More Magnetizing : Mike, since the "world" is a weak magnetic field I would think all steel would be magnetic. One article says letting steel cool in the North South direction will magnetize it.

One article I read said that heat makes the iron easier to magnetize but also makes it easier to become non-magnetic so its a wash. But the fast transition or quenching avoids the loss. One commercial process combined magnetizing and quenching to harden. Steel magnets are tempered at the lowest possible temperature (boiling water).

The "fuse" type magnetize I described is known as a "half cycle" magnetizer. These were made in commercial versions before the invention of capacitor discharge magnetizer. Their advantage was their ability to be connected to commercial power lines and draw very high amperage for just an instant.

The following link has some information on the subject but is not very detailed in low tech methods.

   - guru - Wednesday, 06/22/11 12:08:44 EDT

Some of the Stainless steel will magnatize from straining the metal or work hardening. 316 SS in the fully annealed state is non-magnetic. Bend it, roll thread it and bingo it is magnetic. Not as magnetic as the 400 series, but when someone tries to determine if a metal is 300 stainless by using a magnet they can be quite wrong.
   ptree - Wednesday, 06/22/11 13:53:45 EDT

Dropping through the curie temperature should "set" the current earth's magnetic field in magnetic materials. Of course this field is relatively weak and so not real noticeable and shock can disrupt it in a piece.

One of the best early indicators of continental drift was that the sea floor around a spreading center was stripped with areas of higher and lower magnetism in the basalt. As new seabed was made and cooled through the curie point it would pick up the magnetic field of the earth at that time. When the earth's field reversed the new seabed would get that orientation and so on. Areas that hold the 'reversed" orientation to today's field show up as lower in magnetism than the areas that are in agreement with today's orientation.

Originally the data was noticed doing magnetometer mapping for enemy subs.

   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/22/11 15:06:33 EDT

Would you be speaking of MAD ThomasP? That is Magnetic Anomoly Detection technology, the stuff insdie the long stinger booms on the sub hunter aircraft.
   ptree - Wednesday, 06/22/11 15:17:17 EDT

Gotta love acronyms.

MAD = Mutually Assured Destruction
MAD = Magnetic Anomaly Detection
MADD = Mothers against Drunk Driving (two D's but sounds the same).
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/22/11 17:22:13 EDT

Making the Fire : Hello all,
I'm a rather new blacksmith, with enough tools, stock and literature to get by, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so the moment I feel like something's not working the way it should I want to fix it.

I'm wondering about setting up the fire, getting ready to forge, as well as improving my forge. The bowl of my forge is small; it's about a foot square at the top and tapers down to about 4x6". However, I do have a metal plate extending about 4" on every side outside that, except for the side I work from, which also has a depression in it which allows me to get the work deeper in the fire without angling it downwards.

My fire tends to be irregular, and I can't really get a roof to form in the coal. One of the reasons for that, I think, is that I'm not sure when or how much water I should really be adding to the coal. As far as the fire being irregular, I think one reason might be that I'm not using the best coal at the moment (some of the green pieces are the size of a fist or larger before I break it up), but it was free; another reason perhaps: I dug all of the coke out of the bowl today, and discovered that there was far more coal dust lingering in the bowl than I expected. When I first got the forge I got it from a man who ran a foundry business, and suggested I make a couple of improvements to it; the first, to line the entire bowl with refractory (measurements earlier with refractory), and the second, to place a piece of grate at the bottom. This piece has holes maybe 3/16" across. I'm not sure if it's getting plugged during use, but if I removed it, there would be a bit more space, and two holes about 1x2" each (for a bar to come in and knock stuff about).

Would taking out the grate help? Can anyone offer pointers on building up the fire, when to add water, how high I should build it all up. Or is there a good website I could visit? New Edge of the Anvil and Practical Blacksmithing and Metalworking by Percy W. Blandford don't offer much on this.

Any help would be appreciated, thanks.
   Korigan - Wednesday, 06/22/11 18:02:34 EDT

Well with the coal I used to use I would never add water---formed beautiful roofs and had nearly zero clinkers form.

I moved 1500 miles away and with the coal I get out here I *store* it in a bucket of water before use, It doesn't coke up anywhere near as nicely and clinker is much enhanced. Size is not generally a measure of quality---in coal.

With the coal you use---it's probably somewhere between that or even over the edge of the stuff I'm using. Just as you probably can't tell me what brand of peanut butter I use I can't tell what type of coal you have without a lot more information.

You may have to lean to use an open fire instead of a cave fire; some of my old smithing texts consider you to be a better smith when you can do so for welding.

I would not line the forge with refractory we are not doing foundry work.

How are you supplying air to your forge?

You know visiting a smith local to your self would be only, say, a million times better than trying to learn off a website.

Have you checked the ABANA-Chapter.com page to see if there is a group in your area?

If you are near me I'd be happy for you to stop by some Saturday (if you are under 18 parental accompaniment is mandatory) The local ABANA chapter is having a meeting at my shop in October
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/22/11 19:12:40 EDT

The same principle (almost) can be used on more recent archaeological sites. If, for example, you find a rock containing magnetite in the remains of a hot fire, it will have a magnetic field pointing to where magnetic north was when it was heated. Since the position of magnetic north is known over time, in the right circumstances a site can be dated this way. (Google "archaeomagnetism" if you want to know more.)

And, Thomas, I wouldn't heat a person to the curie point, no matter what their religion was. (Different Mike, I know, but I couldn't help it.)
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 06/22/11 19:57:57 EDT

Don't forget DAMM - Drunks Against Mad Mothers
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 06/22/11 20:25:17 EDT

Forges, Fuel and Grates :
Korigan, Coal is infinite in variety. It all acts differently. Top quality bituminous coal melts like plastic and sticks together then cokes down. A "beehive" or cave fire lined with coke comes from that. Water is generally only used to hold together coal or coke breeze (dust fine coal). Otherwise water is used mostly to control the fire.

The character of your fire is also somewhat determined by the size of the lumps. Big lumps have large air spaces and are better for a bigger fire. Small lumps make a denser small hot fire. Most smiths adjust to the available size coal but lump (what you have) is generally too large and must be broken up. Uniformity of size is also helpful as it makes the progression of the fire predictable. All this can only be learned from experience.

In a fabricated steel forge a refractory liner is generally not needed if the forge is heavy enough. I prefer to use bricks which can be removed or adjusted as necessary.

I hate pin hole grates. I prefer an open tuyere even with bottom blast forges. I would much rather lose a little coal down the ash dump than have a clogged fire. See our plans page and the brake drum forge for the closest thing to a grate I would use. Also see our article on coal fire management and about coal reserve.

   - guru - Wednesday, 06/22/11 21:59:02 EDT

Magnetism : Thanks for the info. I am experimenting with amps time and movement. One interesting point is that the steel tubing is magnetized in the as received condition, slightly but evident. Cutting it into 15 to 26 inch pieces results in smaller magnetized pieces. Heating it to bright orange removes the magnetism but greatly complicates the finishing of the pieces.
   Jim Curtis - Thursday, 06/23/11 11:52:11 EDT

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