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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 8 - 15, 2012 on the Guru's Den
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Tong in cheek : I went to Oregon state horseshoeing school in the early 1960's, and we had 12 coal forge stations with all Champion and Buffalo blowers. Our instructor, Charles 'Dick' Dickenson, was asked about lubrication for the blowers. In an offhand manner, he said "Three drops of oil every third day." But ya' know, even though he said it sort of 'tong in cheek,' he was pretty right on. At least, I think so.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 06/08/12 09:43:31 EDT

Blower grease : Gavainh- My first forge blower was sold by Montgomery Ward and had a little brass plate on it saying so and that it was a "Lakeland" brand. That was their house brand if I remember correctly.

Said blower had no provision for oiling either. I packed it full of common auto grease from the dreaded Wally Mart and it served me well for several years.
   Brian C. - Friday, 06/08/12 11:57:32 EDT

We have two champion blowers in the Sutter's Mill shop. We took them apart a couple years ago, cleaned, etc.

We add oil semi regularly, and regrease every few month.

However, we don't really know how to maintain them. Would appreciate any and all postings for (cast) champions lube, schedule, settings, grade of oil, grease, etc.
   - Rudy - Friday, 06/08/12 12:59:16 EDT

Handles : Jock, I just read your article on tool handles for things like flatters that used to have cane notches and how they evolved to having an eye for a wooden shaft. Vibration is of course a problem with tools like this at times. When I lived in WV, an old boilermaker showed me an "in and out" tool used for knocking out bad rivets, It was a punch with an eye, but the handle was actually a cable and where the hand held it, the cable was sheathed in a short section of pipe. Almost all of my striking tools are like this now and it is very useful.
   Wind - Friday, 06/08/12 17:49:44 EDT

Mike T,

Greases are a lot more complicated than just thick oils. I don't think Vaseline would be a very satisfactory substitute.
   Mike BR - Friday, 06/08/12 19:35:07 EDT

Vaseline : It seems like I read where some guy was working around an oil rig and saw a clear grease like substance ( vaseline ) on a pump rod and thought it might be good for something,that is how vaseline was born.
   Mike T. - Friday, 06/08/12 20:27:30 EDT

Grease and Oil Types : Vaseline is a good rust protectant but not a lubricant, especially for gearing and bearings that need high pressure lubes. For the kinds of gears and bearings in blowers a modern wheel bearing grease will be the best. Chassis grease is generally thicker and not the right type. Gear oil like that put in differential rear axels is good put very thick. As Rich noted ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) is much thinner but much better a lube. Auto engine oils work OK but have detergent in them to absorb water from the fuel combustion, condensation and coolant leaks. This keeps the water in the oil until it gets hot enough to evaporate out. This property also lets is absorb water from the air and cause parts to rust under a coating of oil. So it is best not to use for rust prevention unless it is replaced often.
   - guru - Friday, 06/08/12 21:10:54 EDT

Non-Detergent Oils : You can get 30 weight non-detergent oils that do not absorb water and promote rust. Anyplace that sells lawn and garden equipment will carry it for use in lawn mowers, etc. Those of you in snow country may have lighter weights available for snow-blowers. (I would not know.)
BTW, that detergent water absorption property is why they recommend that you drain the oil and replace it and the filter with new stuff when you put a car in storage.
   John McPherson - Saturday, 06/09/12 07:50:29 EDT

Actually, in oils the detergent encapsulates particles and keeps them in suspension until change interval. The emulsifying agent causes water to not separate out. When you have high water loading and a strong emulsifier package the oil becomes creamy and froths, but will not separate into phases. There is also an anti-corrosion agent that neutralizes the carbonic acid formed when water interacts with the oil.
If you have smelled old hydraulic oil that has a faintly burnt smell, that is from the formation of carbonic acid after the anti-corrosion agent is consumed. In oils that run at high temp's such as turbine oils the residual sulfur in the oil causes all sorts of trouble. That is why the group II base oils which are "Hydro cracked, ISO de-waxed" are used for the ATF I suggested as a blower lube. In the group II oils there is almost no residual sulfur or wax. These base oils are water white, unlike the group I oils that have a yellowish honey color most of us are used to. Almost all of the new hydraulic oils are group II base oils, and so are the ATF oils. Think of the typical duty cycle of ATF in a car, most new cars have change intervals of greater than 60,000 miles, some no suggested interval.
In oils, much as steels, there is no one perfect choice that will do everything. I use ATF in my blower cases as they do not loose oil.

Greases are much the same way. The additives as well as the base determine which grease to use for an application. Then comes the choice of how thick the grease is. A "OO" grease is thin and runny and may be used in a slow gearbox such as a robot, a "O" is thicker and may be used in higher speed plain bearings like the wrist joint of a robot. A "#!" grease is just somewhat thinner than axle grease which is a "#2" grease and so forth. Some of the aliphatic greases used for high temps are "#4" These numbers are NGLI ratings.

Then you have the "Gear oils" also NGLI rated, that are extreme pressure rated and were originally developed for worm gear boxes. These come in a bewildering variety of viscosity's. ATF is actually a gear oil also and is used in many lightly loaded and higher speed gear boxes as well as being a rated hydraulic fluid. ATF would be about an ISO 24 to 32 viscosity depending on type. There are gear oils rated to ISO 780, which looks like pudding at room temp. The NGLI gear oils have specified high viscosity indexes. Viscosity index is a measure of the change in viscosity as the temp increases. High VI oils maintain the viscosity as the temp increases, important in a highly loaded application like a gear box.
   ptree - Saturday, 06/09/12 08:03:49 EDT

Cable Handles :
Wind, I am not a fan of cable but that is a good idea. I've seen it somewhere. It would be nice to have some details on how you make the connections.
   - guru - Saturday, 06/09/12 08:57:13 EDT

Waterproof Container : I am looking for a large container- 4-6 gallons - for holding oil to use for heat treating. What do other people use. Trashcans are not water tight. I do not have access to a welder right now so I cannot fabricate anything myself. Thanks,
   - Eric - Saturday, 06/09/12 12:18:56 EDT

Beer kegs?
   - Rudy - Saturday, 06/09/12 12:54:40 EDT

Container : Actually- I just today went down to my local salvage place and found an old ammo container for $12. Seems to hold water. I went to look for mineral oil at my local Agway. They have it in gallons, but its $23/gallon. Too pricey, so I got some soybean oil instead. Hope it works well.
   - Eric - Saturday, 06/09/12 14:17:30 EDT

I use a shipping pail. made of steel, to hold my veggi oil for heat treating. This is about 6 gallon size as it is intended to place a 5 gallon bucket inside, with absorbent for cushioning. Mine has a quick opening lever type band to hold the lid.
These are available from shipping supply company's and if you know an enviro services company they may be able to supply one as well.
   ptree - Saturday, 06/09/12 17:24:59 EDT

canady otto blower apart : ptree, I have my new/old blower apart, still in its greasy stage. When assembling, did you use a sealant or gasket material where the gear case attaches to the fan case. My groove has grunge in it. Perhaps it's just metal to metal? Thank you.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 06/09/12 19:07:46 EDT

Beer Kegs - Quench Tanks :
Rudy, Beer kegs are made from relatively heavy stainless steel and make excellent quench tanks. Generally they need the top cut off with a plasma torch. If you can score one or more they are very useful as quench tanks for oil OR water.

When using oil for quenchant you should have a cover to fit the container, preferably hinged to it for quick closure. This is the fastest, simplest, cleanest way to put out oil fires. A cover also keeps things out of the oil that should not get in (debris, insects, rodents).
   - guru - Sunday, 06/10/12 02:01:57 EDT

Sulpher in Oil : Ptree mentioned residual sulpher in oil. That reminded me about what a guy told me years ago. I told him I wanted to do everything I could to extend the life of the engine in my car. He said there are two types of oils..1 Paraffin based and 2 sulphur based. He said to look at the can and see which type it was. He then recommended always using a paraffin based oil because it was better for the engine. Now that we have synthetic oil, I now use it exclusively. Another interesting thing to note: I used to bill railroad cars for the UP. We used to ship oil from ElDorado Arkansas to Quaker State in Pennsylvania. If you remember their ads, it said " Made from pure Pennsylvania crude oil " well, I guess once the oil went from Arkansas to Pennsylvania,then it became their property, and thus the ad was legally and technically correct although misleading ( in my opinion ).
   Mike T. - Sunday, 06/10/12 05:42:24 EDT

Frank Turley, I have never had to take my Canady Otto's apart. I soaked in a bucket of kerosene with the drain plug and try cok out, then drained after a week or so. I then flushed clean kerosene through the case and then clean ATF. Worked well, but you would not believe how much crud I washed out.
I would guess that the case joint had a seal of some sort, since they don't leak. I have seen others with the tell tell little bit of RTV sealant at the joint. I personally would probably use a RTV sealant from the auto parts store and would choose the oil rated.
Originally I would think that a paper or cork gasket may have been used, or perhaps a linen thread.
   ptree - Sunday, 06/10/12 08:39:02 EDT

Parafin lubricating oils :
Back when I was with Phillips 66 the difference in oils was one of their big claims. They claimed their paraffin based motor oils (from Oklahoma I think) were superior to others, such as the Pennsylvania oils. .

I used them exclusively all the time I was a dealer. But we also sold Quaker State, Wolf's Head and even one of the other major gas company oils (for one particular customer). Phillips had a racing oil line that went up to 50 weight which I sold to a number of motor cycle users and traded a couple cases for my first pickup truck (a 1950 GMC with a 55 Chevy engine).

There ARE differences even though they are all supposed to meet the same specs. The Phillips 10W40 poured about like 30 weight at room temperature but Quaker State 10W40 poured like 10 weight at room temperature. Wolfs Head all smelled like dog poop same as gear oil. It made me wonder what additives they were using.

I had a 61 Pontiac Tempest with a big slant 4 that had valve rattles you would not believe. After doing everything I could think of I finally found in the factory manual where it said run SAE 20W20 year round. That stopped the valve rattle. It was logical, hydraulic lifters would want to run a specific weight oil. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 06/10/12 08:44:38 EDT

oil types : Mike T There are two types of crude oil, Napthalenic and paraffinic. The Napthalenic's are/were used more for fuels and the parrifinic's for lube oils. The Paraffin refers to the wax content. In today's world, the refineries take the crude and break it down to almost atomic level and then reassemble the molecule they desire. Paraffin is a hydrocarbon as is naphtha, and the catalysts used under great pressure in the "Cat Crackers" break down the crude and the in the "Reformer" the desired material is re-assembled.
That is the group II oil in a nutshell.
The sulfur I mentioned is present to some extent in all crude's. In fact no 2 wells produce identical crude's.

Interestingly a few years ago Consumer's Reports did a detailed test and as a R&D guy I found nothing amiss with their methodology. In cabs operated in New York City, they took re manufactured replacement engines and tore them down measured and documented the conditions. They then installed the engines and tried many many combinations of oil filter and oil change interval as well as oil types.
You see the ads all the time for oil change joints that tell you to change at 3000 miles. The car manuals usually say 7000 miles and filter every other time. The results came up that regular petroleum oil, from a name brand, of the correct type per the factory recommendation, changed at 5000 mile interval with a filter every change was the best all around choice for the average US driver. Now if driving all the time on dirt roads, or towing etc then 3000 miles and filter every change.
The general take on synthetic oils is that you need that 5000 mile filter change, and the oil may be good but contaminated. Also the majority of the synthetics are lower viscosity then the factory requirements and that becomes more of a factor as the engine wears.

The testing on all of the Patent medicines for engines IE Slick %) etc was that they were of no help and made zero change on the engines Consumer's tore down.

My personal cars and trucks get Chevron Supreme regular 10W30 from the drum I buy and are changed at either 5000 miles or 6 months which ever comes first. My cheap little Chevy Caviler has 254,000 on the engine and has had no internal repairs. I use it in my 40+ year old truck, my 22 year old van and my 28 year old Gravely mower.
   ptree - Sunday, 06/10/12 08:55:05 EDT

Beer Kegs - Quench Tanks : : Another option could the 'Corney Keg' Thats the stainless 5 gallon keg thats used for soda fountian syrup. Fairly tall but not so much diameter wise, If your quenching is OK with dunking long objects lengthwise, it could be a good solution.
   - Sven - Sunday, 06/10/12 12:58:36 EDT

Oil Change Recommendations :
What often happens in autos is that the oil is NEVER changed. Most hold up for a long time but the first time the engine overheats with very old oil it turns to a thick sludge that coats every part in the engine. This thick black coating does not dissolve with fresh oil or most solvents. You can run kerosene through the engine and it will have no effect. It requires mechanical scraping, high pressure cleaning or hot dip cleaning to remove.

Prior to the point above you can start changing oil on an old engine and improve its life, even reduce oil consumption. I've "healed" a few old engines with 1,000 mile oil changes. Engines that were using a quart of oil every 500 miles went to a quart every 2000 miles. Simply by getting the old gritty worn out oil out.

In the 40's and 50's manufacturers called for changing the oil at 500, 1000 and then every 2000 to 3000 miles thereafter. But then in the 70's Ford came out with its 12,000 mile oil and oil change interval. This was to make their autos appear cheaper to maintain. But you have to wonder about an oil change interval that coincides with the end of the warranty period. . .

Years ago we commonly put 20,000 miles a year on our vehicles with oil changes every five to ten thousand miles. These days with a home office/business and not affording travel I may only putting a couple thousand miles a year on my vehicles. My heavy truck often gets less than 1,000 miles a year but the oil and filter gets changed annually.

   - guru - Sunday, 06/10/12 17:45:26 EDT

Mike T : Those old oil cans say "Made from Pensylvania grade crude"

Pensylvania grade crude is an old phrase refering to Paraffinic crude oil.

The irony of this is that using the fractinal distilation process of those days, lubricating oil couldn't be made from napthalenic crude.
   - Dave - Sunday, 06/10/12 21:56:59 EDT

Valve Rattles : I had some sticking lifters in my car one time and after I picked it up at the mechanics shop, I asked him what he did to it and he said all he did was put a can of transmission fluid in the crankcase. From then on, every time I had a sticking lifter, I just added a can of transmission fluid to the crank case.
   Mike T. - Monday, 06/11/12 04:55:44 EDT

Dave : Thank you for the definition, I didn't know that about Paraffinic crude oil. :-)
   Mike T. - Monday, 06/11/12 04:59:39 EDT

Propane tanks : Thank you to all that helped me out with the problem with my gas burners and the propane tanks. Since the ones that i have have the OBD valves in them they didn't like the sudden loss of pressure when i lit my burners. As a result the pressure was nill to none. Once i put in my shutoff valves and pressurized the lines and then slowly opened the valves and lit the burners i had no problem with my regulator maintaining pressure and control. Man did it roar when i got it working right and heated up to i would assume close to welding temp as it was getting in the yellow region.

Speaking of which does anyone know of a good place to get a thermometer for reading high temps as the laser one i have does not go above 800 F/500 C.

Also i see all this information on Quench tanks, what is a good mixture for of oil/water for quenching in or is it just oil?
   Shane - Monday, 06/11/12 09:39:22 EDT

High Temp Thermometer : I just had an idea, take the thermostat in your furnace for instance, there is a coil of metal that tightens up or uncoils as the temperature changes. Why not have a device like that with a pointer on it with marks of ( let's say 500, 1000, 1500, 2000 etc. ). Lay it in the forge, pull it out and look at it just like the thermometer checking for a fever. Turn up or lower the heat as needed. Surely there are high temp metals and or combination of metals for this purpose.
   Mike T. - Monday, 06/11/12 11:03:35 EDT

linen thread? for gasket : On the Canady Otto joint for anti-leak, after cleaning, I did find a thread (small cord) in the groove. I reassembled as ptree advised using the cord and some rtv over it. We shall see.
   Frank Turley - Monday, 06/11/12 11:08:26 EDT

Bimetal High Temp Indicator : Mike you would need very high temp materials like Platinum and Tungsten bonded together. All the partsa would also have to withstand over 2,000F temperatures without oxidation. . .

IF you have have an iPhone you can get ThermaLight. Its the least expensive way to measure high temperatures there is.
   - guru - Monday, 06/11/12 12:28:15 EDT

Measuring High Temperatures :
The cheapest way to measure high temperature is with a Thermocouple and a Milli-Volt Meter. You use a voltage to temperature conversion chart. I said cheap, not easy.

A type K thermocouple (one of the most common) is rated up to 2,282°F but the conversion chart goes to 2502°F, type R, 2,642°F (closer to the top range of a gas forge and the voltage chart goes to 3100°F).

The reason these are not rated at their highest use is that the conversion is not a straight line and at the top it gets too extreme for most meters to compensate for.

You can purchase a simple panel meter to connect a thermocouple to for $225 from OMEGA (DP24-T) that will accept type R and S thermocouples and display temperatures up to 3214°F. All this little box does is connect to a thermocouple and display the temperature in degrees C or F. It will not control a furnace. They have a $250 model that will but you have to switch heavy loads with external relays.

   - guru - Monday, 06/11/12 13:14:07 EDT

Infrared Meters :
Most IR meters are designed for "normal" temperatures, peaking out at less than 1,000°F and "high temperature" being 1800F°F. The economical high temperature meters peak out at 2,500°F and cost about $300 and UP. If you need to measure up to 4,500°F then expect to spend over $1,000.
   - guru - Monday, 06/11/12 13:28:14 EDT

Seal for Cannady Otto blowers : Frank, before the days of common elastomeric seals, treated paper, and linen cord was common. The opposed piston engines used in small airplanes have used a red linen thread to seal the crankcase haves since they were first built in the 30's. Often held with gasket varnish.
Good luck, and let me know how it works as I may eventually have to reseal one.
   ptree - Monday, 06/11/12 13:44:23 EDT

quenching media and forge temperature : Shane, it depends greatly on the steel you intend to use, but NEVER mix oil and water in the same tank. Most blade steels will harden well in warm oil, even the ones that are supposed to be water-hardening. By "warm" I mean just hot enough that it's uncomfortable to stick your finger in it, about 130 degrees F. A few dunks of red-hot mild steel will get you there unless your tank is huge. Warming the oil lowes the viscosity and promotes a stable vapor phase, thus reducing warpage while increasing the speed of the quench.

As for which oil, canola is probably the best cheap veggie oil. I use straight veterinary mineral oil for most things because it never goes rancid, but it's a little slower and may not fully harden something like 1095 or W-1 that needs a FAST quench.

Then there are steels that harden in air, but you don't generally use those when you're starting out. Some common steels like 5160 will air harden somewhat in thin sections such as knife blades, but they need oil to fully harden.

Lots of companies will sell you a secially formulated quench oil tailored to the exact curve of the steel you want to use, but it's VERY expensive stuff.

As far as temperature measurement, the easiest thing to do is calibrate your eye. Welding is a very bright yellow for most high carbon steels, up to white for wrought iron. Watch the flux (borax), when it looks like honey on a hot biscuit you're usually good to go.

If you insist on an actual measurement, a type K thermocouple hooked to a handheld readout is not that expensive, (in the $80-$150 range) but as the Guru notes they aren't that accurate at the upper limit, and the probe itself is considered an expendable item, particularly if you leave it in the forge for any length of time.

Experience solves most problems of this sort.
   Alan-L - Monday, 06/11/12 14:23:58 EDT

And the rest of the story. quench oil with water in it is a diaster waiting to happen. Many factories have had bad fires from the oil on top of the water being blown all over when the water becomes steam. The oil flying by the hot part usually gets ignited.

There are some very special emulsified oil/water mixtures that are used for quench, but I would never reccomend these for home use.
   ptree - Monday, 06/11/12 15:17:41 EDT

DIY Temperature Measurement :
I found a nice high resolution USB voltmeter board that would work in the type R thermocouple range for 45 Euros (digital-measure.com). You would have to write your own conversion program to read directly in temperature scales.

The hardware would be relatively cheap with the exception of a PC or laptop. They make a temperature module but it is for low temperature only. For maximum accuracy you would need to type in the entire voltage table, or at least the parts in the range you want to measure.
   - guru - Monday, 06/11/12 15:31:54 EDT

As I'm usually quenching blades I made my quench tank from a pressurized gas cylinder. I built a holder for it so it can't be knocked over and preheat it with a chunk of steel on a heavy wire hook---I heat the chunk and then place it in the tube near the bottom and hang the hook on the side so as to heat the entire column of oil in the tank. A coffee can makes a nice cover for it.

One thing to beware of: Oil expands when HOT, so a tank that looks OK when cold can overflow when hot and if the top is on fire, "bad things can happen" (tm).

Finally for deep narrow tanks, a section of hardware cloth that will fit inside with a steel wire bail can make it a lot easier to get the "Oops" blades out of the bottom of the tank.

I've picked up so old rock drill steel I will need to see if I can harden in warm oil---the mines played out about 100 years ago so it's probably fairly low alloy and high C. (sparks like it...)
   Thomas P - Monday, 06/11/12 15:41:20 EDT

I have an electric #2eh buffalo forge blower with speed control. The speed control panel is broken and I would like to know if it can be repaired or replaced. The buffalo forge catalog shows that it was made in 1910.If it can not be fixed what type rheostat should I get. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
   - sandlapper - Monday, 06/11/12 15:41:53 EDT

I have an electric #2eh buffalo forge blower with speed control. The speed control panel is broken and I would like to know if it can be repaired or replaced. The buffalo forge catalog shows that it was made in 1910.If it can not be fixed what type rheostat should I get. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
   - sandlapper - Monday, 06/11/12 15:42:34 EDT

Belt Grinder Brand : What brand of belt grinder have people had luck with. I am pricing them out and don't want to end up with one that is going to give me a hassle. Or is it more price determined regardless of brand. Also- for general use/knife edges- is a 2" optimal? Thanks,
   - Eric - Monday, 06/11/12 18:17:19 EDT

Polish JYH : Hello!
I come from Poland. I built my owner JYH. Power hammer is equipped in original system adjusting the height of forgings. Spring on eccentricity, with ram, is raised reels.
Ram weight 50 kilos.
You can see on my movies:
You can inset movies and describe solutions in "Catalog of User Built & JYH Hammers".
I'm waiting for a response on sycylijskamafia@wp.pl
I greet
Szymek ┼╗arnowski

P.S.: My hammer is for sale.
   Szymek ┼╗arnowski - Monday, 06/11/12 18:27:35 EDT

Well the swordmaker I worked with used a Bader for years and so I bought one too. 2x72 is a good size as they make almost any belt known to mankind in that size.
   Thomas P - Monday, 06/11/12 19:17:13 EDT

That's an interesting hammer Szymek. I like the semi flexible link from pitman to rocking beam. Also not often one sees a home built hammer with wedged dies, well done.

Two suggestions - the narrow portion of your dies are very sharp. If you intend to draw with them, make that section slightly wider. And tighten up or enlarge your brake, you want the hammer to stop instantly if you intend to use tooling under it.
   Judson Yaggy - Monday, 06/11/12 22:03:14 EDT

Buffalo Speed COntrol : Sandlapper, I've had several of these but never took one apart. They are pretty ruggedly built and may be repairable. However, there are no parts or specialty materials available for these devices.
   - guru - Monday, 06/11/12 22:12:14 EDT

Mouse Hole Anvil age : My father-in-law has a Mouse Hole anvil that we are trying to date. The imprint is unlike any I can find a picture of. One side reads:
The other side is not as clear. There are two clear, large numbers...a 1 at the beginning and a 2 at the end. It is apparent that there was another number in the middle, but we cannot make it out. He weighed it and it is around 113 lbs.

Thank you for any information.
   Monica - Tuesday, 06/12/12 02:20:32 EDT

Mouse Hole Anvil age : Monica, Nothing in Richard Postman's book Mousehole Forge matches that. On one hand research like this is never perfect but on the other hand we've found that misreading the faint lettering on stamped anvils is almost always the problem. The eye tries to make letters out of what they see that is not there.

Example, Many of the Moushole anvils marked C&A have been read CSA (thought to be Confederate States of America). . .

The big numbers are the weight in English hundredweight. The first digit is 112 pounds. The middle is a multiple of 28 pounds so it must be zero for the weight given. Thus the anvil was marked 112+0+2 for 114 pounds. If it was weighed on a bathroom scale I would trust the anvil markings to be more accurate.

From the time that they started marking their anvils warranted there was a serial number on the foot under the horn. That might help date the anvil better IF its legible.

Finding the logo on the opposite of the weight is unusual but not completely unknown.

Last, the rarest markings are non-factory. Over the years people have marked their names on anvils and branding for both honest and dishonest reasons. There have been cases of dealers stamping brands that have cache' on unmarked tools to increase their value. . . I once had an M&H Armitage Mousehole anvil that was a factory second. It had the logo obliterated with vertical chisel marks. The only way you could tell what was under the marks is to have an identical anvil next to it (which I did, including the exact weight). I could imagine a dealer trying to repair the marked out letters OR to mark it on the opposite side. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/12/12 08:08:36 EDT

Belt grinders : Baders are good, as are the KMG from Beaumont Metal Works (my own model), Wilton Square Wheel, and a few others in 2x72" size. 2x72 is pretty much industry standard, but I know one firm of swordsmiths who use Bader Space Savers, which can take up to a 3x132" belt and are VERY nice, but somewhat pricier. Check the knife forums for some excellent plans for KMG clones if you're handy.

The belts are actually more important than the grinders. Avoid aluminum oxide for anything but wood, stick with zirconium oxide or ceramic structured abrasives. http://www.trugrit.com has every belt you can imagine in every size and grit known to humanity. Belt brands do vary somewhat in quality, I prefer Klingspor, Norton, and 3m. Hermes just don't last long for the way I use them.

You can buy belts in grits from 16 (looks like aquarium gravel glued to a heavy cloth belt) all the way up to 1 micron or smaller (looks and feels like a mylar tape). The best advice on using these belts was given to me years ago, and is "use them like they were free." In other words, when they are dull, toss 'em and use new ones. Dull belts don't cut, they just create heat and ruin your parts. Yes, it hurts to toss a $10 belt after less than an hour of hard use, but you have to pay to play.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 06/12/12 12:36:35 EDT

"Use them like they are free" :
This applies to many consumables. You should not mistreat them many tools cost you more to use worn out than to replace them. These include

Small drill bits. Up to about 3/8" they are difficult to resharpen for efficient use. Dull or poorly sharpened bits can cause steel, especially any hardenable steels and stainless to work harden or heat harden from rubbing and then be impossible to finish drilling. A bit that breaks in use can cost MUCH more than its replacement cost to dig out of a part OR to scrap and remake the part.

Note that most modern "split point" bits are not resharpenable unless the split point is put back on. This is because they do not have a tapered or reduced web leaving too thick a dead center (the chisel point).

Taps are worse about breaking than drill bits. Unless you use a professional service they are generally not resharpenable. Use should be limited to a certain number of holes or until they are the slightest bit dull and take more force to use. Then toss them. I save old taps for making bits in boring tools and fly cutters. Their round shank it much easier to mount in a shop made tool than square shank lathe bits.

Files also have a limited life. No matter how careful you are with them they reach a point where they no longer cut well and become inefficient. I've known many people to keep files way beyond their useful life. Some even give their employees old dull files. It doesn't take much time with a dull file for an employee's wages to cost much more than a replacement file. Old files are recyclable or trade items in the blacksmith shop.

Sand paper and belts should always be purchased in the best high grade grit no matter what the application. With the exception of wet-or-dry for fine work the best sand "paper" is cloth backed belt material.

When purchasing belts the grit produces a much finer finish than you would expect. Using too fine a grit wastes time and does not flatten, instead smoothing the high places and leaving a wavy surface. This is similar to buffing where you want to remove all the scratches before putting on a fine finish or you end up with polished scratches.

   - guru - Tuesday, 06/12/12 14:27:05 EDT

i have and use a Drill Doctor on the smaller bits including the split points and have easily saved the cost back in a couple of years. And the bits cut great.
1/4" and up I simply step to the fine grit bench grinder and in about 20 seconds have a good as new bit.

Taps are useful to make bits as jock states, and make fair center punches for grade 8 bolts that have broken off and need to be center popped before drilling out.
Dull taps are sometimes useful for chasing bunged up threads back to useful or for cleaning out rust and gundge.
   ptree - Tuesday, 06/12/12 15:22:56 EDT

Taps,, : And as we all know Ptree, The best way to make dull taps out of fresh new taps is to use them to clean out rust and gundge !
   - Sven - Tuesday, 06/12/12 17:40:56 EDT

Setting up shop : Hello, i am setting up shop and my question is should i set up in my barn that has a gravel floor? I dont want a fire risk, if thatd be safe useing a coal forge and reasonable precautions then ill do that. If not i have land, timber and a sawmill and can build a blacksmith shop easily enough! Any suggestions?
   - Lee S - Tuesday, 06/12/12 21:59:29 EDT

Shop Construction and Safety :
Lee, There is always a possibility of fire, even in a 100% masonry building. Paint, fuel, wood shelves, boxes and other contents are all inflammable. In my shop fuzzy seeds and small leaves blow in and collect under benches and shelves. We had a pile of such debris catch fire from grinding sparks recently. It was not an issue on the concrete floor after sweeping it out from under a tool chest. . .

In a barn the previous contents, hay, feed, debris from any organic matter (insect and rodent nests), stored fuel, oil and so on are the fire issues followed by the exposed wood construction. A concrete floor may be easier to keep clean of debris but otherwise is no safer than a gravel floor.

The major problem with a gravel floor is losing small tools and fasteners in the gravel. If it is deep gravel then larger tools, hammers, tongs, punches and chisels can easily get shuffled over and lost. Smiths without a more permanent floor prefer smooth clay.

In a wood frame building it helps to sheath over the wood with sheet rock or concrete board. These cover the wood and reduce the number of debris collection corners.

A concrete floor has the advantage of being able to be kept clean and is easy to move and setup machinery. Keeping it clean reduces fire hazards. Spilled oil and solvents do not soak in creating a permanent fire hazard as they can on gravel and soil floors. Its disadvantage is it is hard on the feet. But this can be addresses with localized padded mats.

For the best fire resistance build with masonry, use steel frame windows, steel doors, steel trusses, a tin roof and DO NOT paint the masonry. It can be parged with light colored concrete which is non combustible (paints are).

Baring such expensive new construction work on fire proofing your wood frame building. Be sure the walls nearest the forge are sheathed. A layer of sheet metal can increase the fire resistance by spreading out the heat. Vents should have code rated insulating thimbles.

Note that sparks from grinders and cutting torches are far more of a fire issue than the heat from a forge. Those sparks can fly 20 to 30 feet including UPWARD and can land in unexpected places.
   - guru - Tuesday, 06/12/12 23:11:35 EDT

Concrete floors also harbour a potential hazard most miss.... fine metal particles from grinding, spatterballs and other such dust can act like microscopic bearing balls. Under the right circumstances, metal filings and the like can make the most sure footed smith feel like he's working on banana peels. Old barns also have hidden stockpiles of manure, which we all know is a source of fuel.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 06/13/12 08:42:06 EDT

One more safety hazard of concrete floors in the forge shop. A forging or cut off that is good yellow hot will cause explosive spalling under the forging. On bigger forgings the spalling makes a pretty big crater and the flting hot concrete chips are somewhat hazardous to the eyes etc. Now most of my experience with this is in industrial forges where the forgings oftem are 100#+, but I have seen this occur with some fairly small forgins as well.
At VOGT the steam drp hammers were surrounded with a clay and cinder compacted floor.
   ptree - Wednesday, 06/13/12 10:12:52 EDT

I prefer a smooth finished concrete floor because it is easier to clean. However, Nip is right about slipperyness. MIG sputter balls are the worst and can be like skating on ice. But sand is also slippery on concrete.

One advantage of a smooth finished concrete floor is that due to the working of the surface they rarely break down. I currently have a concrete floor that someone added water to make a brushed surface and ruined the concrete. It breaks down constantly producing gritty white dust that cannot be gotten rid of. The only ways to fix it are VERY expensive so I am stuck with it for the time being. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/13/12 10:14:14 EDT

Depending where you are you can put in an all steel building that is pretty fireproof and a lot cheaper than masonry.

My original shop space has a concrete floor, steel walls, supports, trusses and roofing. My home built extension---same size 1/10th the cost---has a dirt floor, four telephone pole uprights, steel walls, trusses, roof, doors all scrounged or bought at scrap rates...

I spent 15 years working out of a 1920's garage behind our OH house. It was in poor condition and I always was sloshing water around where steel would do a 9.9 olympic flip and try to hid in the leaves under the workbench. Moving into a fire resistant shop was a great thing!

Note if you use sheetrock think about covering it with steel. A red hot piece going *through* the sheet rock can then drop inside the wall making for lots of fun!
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/13/12 13:07:40 EDT

Steel Buildings :
Normal commercial steel buildings are insulated with plastic covered insulation. The plastic will burn spectacularly. It is supposed to be covered for most occupations.

My "steel" building that Paw-Paw built was covered with translucent plastic skylight material on the sides. I suspect it will burn. . . AND while it lets in a lot of light, there seems to be a lot of UV damage to plastic items (fading of colors).

We once had a basement shop in an old building. Walls were stone, floor and ceiling were concrete, doors were steel. I commented about how harsh the fire inspector was being on a shop that could not burn and he pointed out the thick flaking layers of white paint on the walls and ceiling. . . We got the old fire doors back in working order as he insisted. . .

Heavy wood floors have been used in industrial blacksmith shops with success. The biggest problem in shops is debris. Blacksmith shops tend to be open or have large open doors. Leaves blow in, trash collects where is shouldn't. . . I'll be glad to get mine totally closed up so wind blow seeds, leaves and debris does not collect in corners and under things. Its not just dirty, its a fire hazard.
   - guru - Wednesday, 06/13/12 15:32:17 EDT

My shop doesn't have insulation. Local conditions make a *big* difference! If I were to put in insulation it would be against heat and would probably be a stack of adobe blocks along the outside of the west wall.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 06/13/12 16:48:47 EDT

Setting up shop : I have a coal forge, anvil, vises, welder and weld bench and torches and thatll probably be all ill ever have so whatd be a good size? 16x20?
Also ive read that 20 team borax is good for forge welds and ive also read that it is not..... Any suggestions, good or bad?
   - Lee S - Wednesday, 06/13/12 20:35:32 EDT

Consumables & Floors : Jock; I think you've written yourself another "Tip of the Day."

Lee; I have a sand over gravel floor at the hot-work end, and a paver over sand floor at the cold-work (nuts and bolts) end. I regularly rake the one and sweep the other. Also, hot chunks of steel don't bounce randomly on a sand floor, they tend to just hit and flop over. When doing a weld, if I fumble one piece, I have a "self-fluxing" floor from the sand.

(Ask a dozen blacksmiths, get 18 answers! :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 06/13/12 21:12:05 EDT

Lee S : Any shop becomes too small over time.

20 Mule Team Borax works well for flux right out of the box.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 06/13/12 22:35:07 EDT

Polish JYH : Thank You Judson. I would like make separate semi-circular dies.
Good idea, the brake may be larger. Now, can I use the tools, but it is more difficult.
Watch my channel on YouTube, will be new movies.
Greetings from Polish
   Szymek ┼╗arnowski - Thursday, 06/14/12 09:36:41 EDT

Lee, not knowing *WHAT* *YOU* will be doing makes it hard to say if a 15' x 15' area will suit you fine or if you need a minimum of 40' x 40' with a 50' wall height.

My forging area for knives was about 10' x 10' for my "general work" it's 20' x 30' that's a factor of 6 right there and I don't even do "large" stuff.

It also makes a difference if you can move/stick it outside without much weather difficulties. I live in a desert, so all I have to do is roll up the door and shove long stuff out it---and wear gloves as we joke that you put steel in the forge to cool it off if it's been in the sun out here.

We really need details to give a good answer but the traditional one is "You will always need at least twice as much room as you have!"
   Thomas P - Thursday, 06/14/12 13:22:00 EDT

Square Footage (or meters) :
We store a lot of steel outdoors but it rusts. . . I need indoor racks. Minimum should be 12 feet long. Sawing room? Handling room? 20 foot sticks???

TRY to turn around with a 10 foot steel bar in your shop. Now put a drill press and a power hammer in your shop plus a work bench in the middle and try to turn around with that bar. Can you go over one machine, the bench AND under the other? What are you going to make - hardware or architectural work? If architectural work then you need an assembly area larger than the work.

These factors apply to large, small, indoor or outdoor storage unless you do very small work and buy all your stock in expensive 3 foot sticks.

Need for storage space can easily reach criticality. When I started moving into my latest shop I bought four, four shelf high six foot long 24" deep shelving units. That takes up 48 square feet plus access space. On them I have my electrical and welding tool chests, welding rods, nuts and bolts, motors, small stock (brass and aluminum), large drill bits up to 2", and all kinds of miscellany. I just built 24 more feet of shelving on the opposite side of the shop. . . and it will be full as soon as I do the organization. Then there are the tool chests . . . which also take space.

Its not just the basic work space, its everything else.
   - guru - Thursday, 06/14/12 19:23:56 EDT

Swages : Thought I might pass this along. Seems a good price...

Never mind their description, Its common for surplus companies not fully understanding their product.

And sorry a couple months past I did not pass along from this same outfit a killer deal on tongs... They called them fireplace tools or something like that.
   - Sven - Friday, 06/15/12 05:28:56 EDT

That's funny. "British army issue"! Most places call everything they can't identify a "blacksmiths" tool. . .
   - guru - Friday, 06/15/12 12:09:46 EDT

They may be British Army Issue; I've bought sledge hammers and Boiler maker's ball peen hammers that were marked with the broad arrow indicating they were British Military issue.

Today I Almost bought a 12 pound crosspeen sledge with the US stamp that the army used. Looked unused though aged handle $1 a pound...yeh I'm cheap.
   Thomas P - Friday, 06/15/12 12:43:06 EDT

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