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 July 22 - 31, 2010 on the Guru's Den
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Guru, I have never moved a LG. I have moved hundreds of machines and usually on wood block floors that were pretty rough. The rollers we used were made from Timken heavy wall screw machine stock, so they did not flex. They were usually 4" to 8" od to carry the load of a 41 ton machine. We usually moved the little 1000# stuff with a forklift as it would not overload the floors in that 7 story machine shop.( We never had a forklift fall all the way through the floor) With wood block, you HAVE to have lots of rollers or you just sink the rollers. Same on clay floors like mine in the blocksmith shop. I moved my JYH on rollers on that clay. We moved a 1000# antique Cinc. Mill a few months ago, used concrete stakes and we used 4 under the machine. Moved it 32', turned it 90 degrees and had it placed in about 20 minutes witha 3 man crew.

With the big machines, a couple of small rollers will just spall the concrete if you have nice floors. That is one of the problems of those nice crawler track skate wheel systems for moving machines. Too much stress on those little 3/4" rollers.
   ptree - Wednesday, 07/21/10 22:08:40 EDT

The crawler roller people tell you to run them on steel track in most cases. I've seen large ones used on smooth hard concrete but with only moderate loads of a few tons. They move ships in dry dock on them with a piece of channel for track.

We always used the 3/4" pipe rollers for everything. I have a couple dozen of them 3 foot long, most hiding under machines that are still sitting on them. Also some shorter ones for tight places. On wood, dirt and gravel I've always laid tracks.

We had a power plant that wanted an easy way to move a heavy load so they bought a fancy air flotation pad. . Put a couple ton machine on it, inflated it and then had to chase it across the turbine deck they THOUGHT was level. The thing almost out ran the crew chasing it. The only way I could figure that it took off that fast was the air was propelling it as well as going down hill. Since then I have always preferred some friction when moving things.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/21/10 22:45:44 EDT

Mike BR,

Are the girls in Sweden pretty ? I think of blond, blue eyed girls. I have heard they have trial marriages there, is that true ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/22/10 09:23:14 EDT

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. A horseshoer friend was rolling his 50# Little Giant across his shop floor. The floor had about a 2" step/drop from one wall to the other. Friend misjudged the step, and the hammer landed on top of him. He was by himself and concious and he hollered for this wife who was in the house about 60 yards away. She finally heard him and got help. He recovered but could not shoe horses after that incident.
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 07/22/10 10:30:29 EDT

I had a feller from the city stop by my shop where I used to live. He arrived while I was loading my champion hammer into my pickup and could not understand that I could not leave it jacked up in the air on cribs and go off and talk to him about why my front porch was a safety hazard as it had been restored to it's original configuration---single rail with a gap underneath.

This was an ongoing issue as they told me that the drop was high enough that there had to be infill under the bar; *but* could never tell me what the allowable drop without infill was.

As I needed to regrade the front yard anyway I would have just graded it so that it could meet code as the porch originally was built 100 years ago.

This went on for several years with me asking them to cite the specifics and the enforcement folks not being able to give them to me.

Finally I moved and the next owner tore out the restoration and went to vinyl everywhere, sigh.

I just found it funny that the guy wanted to create a severe active hazard to discuss a possible passive hazard.

Also that he could not look at a heavy weight up on cribs and recognize it as something that could not be abandoned!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/22/10 12:45:09 EDT

Moving Heavy Machinery:

This is something that should not be done by everyone. Doing so safely is a combination of art, science, skill and experience. Is the lift point strong enough, is it above the center of gravity (can you "see" or guess at the CG), what does the item weigh? Every situation is different. Every job is different in that the tools to make the move may be more than sufficient or NOT and the location conditions may vary (door and cieling heights, floor types).

For a couple decades we built heavy machinery (up to 25 tons) and had to move it in our small shop with good but limited tools. We also had to move it in the field. It did not matter where we were, what we were moving, who's equipment we were moving or what crew it seemed like I always ended up in charge with the moves. This included on local union crews with numerous folks having crane operator certs and so on. Why? Because I was the guy that could look at something and guess its weight within 10% most of the time and say where the CG was no matter how odd the shape of the equipment.

My point is that in dozens of crews, even with local experts and folks with lots of experience moving heavy items they preferred to defer to someone else that was comfortable moving heavy things, even if they were not a company employee or had a union card.

If moving something heavy scares you or makes you nervous then you might want to defer to someone with more experience. If you can't figure out a good safe way to move something then you probably need to get help.

Having just a few of the right tools make a big difference when moving heavy stuff. Some of the simple items you should have (in order of importance) include:

One or more wrecking bars (long and short).
Rollers (3/4" pipe 30-36" long).
A heavy duty pinch bar (5 to 5.5 foot)
Cable type come-a-long.

Load chains with chain and grab hooks (5,000 lb.)
Shackles (1/2" through 1")
Load Binders to fit chain and truck

Chain come-a-long, or quality chain hoist (not one of the over rated import minis). Note that the small mini hoists with capacities up to 2 tons are quite dangerous. Their undersized clutches overheat and will release the load rapidly. Avoid them.

Woven nylon load slings. These are gentler on the equipment and easy to handle compared to chain and cable. They are also much stronger for their weight.

Safety equipment, gloves, steel toed shoes and hard hats.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/22/10 14:58:51 EDT

Another aspect of moving heavy stuff is *slowness*; if the system can never have enough energy in it to go haywire then if something wrong happens all you generally need to do is to stop and back off.

Being in a hurry gets people killed and machines damaged!

   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/22/10 16:50:39 EDT

I am attempting to put a 5/8 inch press in bronze bearing in 1/2 inch steel plate and having a small problem. I bought a high quality 5/8 inch drill, but the hole I get is too loose. Is there a slightly smaller drill bit available, or is there some other trick I am ignorant of? Hope someone here can help or point me in the right direction.
   Chuck S. - Thursday, 07/22/10 16:53:14 EDT

Chuck S,

You need to drill a 19/32" hole and then use a 5/8" straight reamer to ream it to size. Fractional drills generally size the hole for a "slip" fit for the same size rod. For an interference fit you need to drill under-size and ream to size. Reamers are available in both straight and tapered in increments of thousandths of an inch and even tenths of thousandths of inches for some sizes. Try McMaster-Carr for the reamers and drills.
   - Buford Heliotrope - Thursday, 07/22/10 18:35:32 EDT

More on (or should that be moron?) shop safety.
Always wear your bib apron. I was drilling a 3/16 pilot hole in a piece of antler, with a non varible spead 3/8s drill. Drill in one hand, the antler in the other, like I have a hundred times or more, when I got the drill to close to my body, my tee shirt got caught in the chuck. No major harm done, but I'm missing a large patch of hair, and I know I will never be able to beat TGN's claim to fame...
   JimG - Thursday, 07/22/10 18:42:08 EDT

Thank you all for your advice in helping me get my Little giant transported. the "25' is now safely in my garage. Used three pipes to roll and it was easy!

It's sitting on concrete temporarily. I was going to use tar paper but the sound worries me. Our houses are built really close to eachother. I stood at one of my neighbors window and the machine puts out about 80db at that distance. I know it's transmitting more noise than it needs to through my garage floor so...the question. At risk of sacrificing some efficiency in order to remain a "good neighbor" is there an advantage to using a base of plywood and perhaps a layer of horse trailer rubber matting? In other words , do you think this might drop the noise level some?
   - deloid - Thursday, 07/22/10 19:38:55 EDT

Aluminum bearing bronze. This stuff is machined and cast all the time, but can I forge it? I know most aluminum forges around 600 F, and copper is forged up to about twice that maybe. Is the aluminum going to limit how hot I can forge it, or is this stuff forgeable at all?
   - Tyler Murch - Thursday, 07/22/10 21:21:43 EDT

I'll second Master Thomas' "slow and steady" observation.

Because the longship is "slow" (in comparison to modern craft) we will frequently see trouble well ahead of time, and can even afford to debate various solutions. We joke that even if we screw-up, the slower speed enables us to "savor the calamity" as we gracefully run over/into something. ;-)

But seriously, I've always found things work better "a little at a time" than to force it along. Impatience is your enemy.

Warm and humid on the banks of the lower Potomac. The woodshop was delivered yesterday, so I'll be moving Paw Paw's lathe in Sunday, when the temperature drops back out of the 100s.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 07/22/10 21:46:38 EDT

Press Fits: For small bushings you need a precision reamer. It wants to be a half thousandth under (.6245). As Rich noted you can get them from McMaster or various places. You will also need the nearest fractional drill under the hole size (-1/64" is best for reaming) and everything will need to be used with a drill press or lathe.

Plain reamers are relatively inexpensive compared to other methods of making a precision hole.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/22/10 22:33:49 EDT

Tyler, I would have to look it up but I think it is very forgeable.

The danger of moving heavy things is that mass and gravity have no moral compunctions and even slow moging heavy items can do a lot of damage.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/22/10 22:35:13 EDT

Slow moving heavy things indeed can do a lot of damage. Witness the glacier:)
   ptree - Friday, 07/23/10 07:13:06 EDT

Or just look at the recent debaucle in Philly regarding the "Ride the Ducks" tours. Based in GA, Ride the Ducks is a tour company that operates in 5 cities in America. They use decommissioned military amphibious vehicles to tour the cities, then drop into the river for a boat tour. Two weeks ago a fire broke out on a Duck boat while in the Delaware. The boat was a sitting duck (sorry, I had to). Unable to move or change lanes the boat was in the way of a barge being pushed by a tug. The tug capt. couldn't see the tiny duck boat and the barge struck it (very SLOWLY). Two Hungarian tourists were killed. People were astonished that a boat can't "hit the brakes" and stop like a car... the duck tours are suspended in Philly for the time being (thank God).
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/23/10 08:25:03 EDT

Question: In order to be classified as stainless steel, the steel must have at least 14% chromium. Take another steel such as W1, that has some chromium, are these steels hard to weld ie.-making damascus with W1, 1084, 15N20 ?
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/23/10 08:26:59 EDT

Near the top post, Mike T. asked about charcoal making. When I was demoing in Australia, Alan Ball showed his simple method which is described in http://www.villagesmith.com.au/html/muster2005.htm
Scroll down to the 10th paragraph from the top.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 07/23/10 08:32:30 EDT

Mr. Turley,

Thank you for the information, I will copy the link and save it.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/23/10 08:36:03 EDT

Mr. Turley,

It seems the Australians were impressed with your skills and techniques. One thing I was curious about, is the fact that you are an expert in forging-shaping horse shoes. Do any of them have these skills ? I looked at their work in scroll and leaf making, very beautiful work.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/23/10 09:03:17 EDT

Mike, Stainless is fairly difficult to weld and must be both mechanically cleaned and fluxed to weld. The new container (in a tube) or protected dry welding (stainless wrap) methods work well with stainless.
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 09:47:33 EDT

Good to hear things worked out Deloid.

The guys will have many good ideas on how to stop the noise from going through the floor but, keep in mind you may need to build a sound barrier around the machine if you are getting 80db at the neighbors house.
   - merl - Friday, 07/23/10 10:22:09 EDT

I live in Harrisburg, NC (near Charlotte) and I am helping to organize and build a historic blacksmith shop. It will be located at the town's historical preservation site so I want it to be as accurate as possible. The cabin adjacent to the blacksmith shop was built around 1850.
What I need to know is would a hand cranked blower be period correct or should I try to build a bellows. What might the coal forge and chimney look like? Do you happen to have any photos of a farm's blacksmith shop from that time period? Sorry about all the questions. Any help would greatly appreciated.
   randy - Friday, 07/23/10 10:32:18 EDT

Thanks for the info. McMaster-Carr wants $67 for the reamer I would need. Since I only need to do a couple of holes, I think I might be better off finding a machine shop. Am I correct that this should be a fairly simple job for a well equiped shop? Even with a shop rate of $100 per hour it shouldn't be too bad. (or are shop rates much higher than that now? My brain does not deal well with the realities of inflation - my first job was $1.35/hr
   Chuck S. - Friday, 07/23/10 11:47:18 EDT

Reproduction Shops: Randy, 1850 is early for hand crank blowers in the U.S. Tradition had its grasp on some technology as well. So a bellows would be correct.

What I have found is that most farm shops were miserable little places. While your cabin may SEEM large enough it would have been 3/4 full of junk, lumber, feed and who knows what (just like a modern farm shed except fot the period junk. . ). The typical farm bellows was half as big as used in a general shop (thus about 1/4 the capacity) and poorly set up.

That said, the purpose of the farm shop was shoeing and emergency repairs that could not wait to go to the local blacksmith who had more room and better equipment.

If the shop was a professional city or town shop then you need to know if they specialized in anything in particular. However, since this was the horse drawn era the shops were big enough to get one to a half dozen horse in for shoeing. Like an auto garage they often were built so that a wagon could pull through (no backing up).

Depending on the business and real estate cost these shops varied from little 20x20 foot buildings to 40x80 foot. Chimneys varied from mud and wattle in frontier areas to brick in developed areas. Brick forges were built using the least bricks possible with single walled flues. One shop I saw in Allentown PA had a long double forge with two flues that snaked to the middle and became one. Many were hybrid combinations of stone, brick and sheet metal.

Since many smiths build their own forges much like today there was no "standard" forge. Every one I have seen was different.

One important consideration is if this is going to be a demonstration shop OR a museum. There is a huge difference in the needs of a shop for doing public demonstrations and a shop to just look at. And even then, if the public is going to tour the shop then room must be provided in each case. The difference being that in a demo shop the public MUST be restrained at a proper distance AND be able to stay put for 10 minutes to half an hour (in any weather). That truly "authentic" shop will often be too cramped and crowded, poorly lit, dirty and possibly dangerous. Having the public stand outdoors at your drip line doesn't work in wet weather and having people stand in the sun doesn't work in hot weather.

For photos of old shops see the calendars and postcards sold by Gill Fahrenwald. Here is a sample

Old Blacksmith Shop Photo circa 1900

For plans of forges and shops from the mid to late 1800's see Practical Blacksmithing by M.T. Richardson.

For antique bellows contact Steve Prillwitz (matchelessantiques on ebay - also see our Anvil Gallery). He just got in a load of stuff that included old bellows.
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 12:05:46 EDT

Chuck, Job shops are like blacksmiths, many undercharge for their work. Rates vary from $25 to $200/hr depending on the shop, size of equipment and so on. Yes, its a fairly simple job IF you have the drill and reamer AND you are using standard sized press in bushings.
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 12:08:49 EDT

Randy, you'll need a bellows. Blowers didn't come in until much later.

Mike T., there's not enough chrome in the steels you mention to make much difference. 1084 with 15n20 is probably the easiest and best-contrast pattern welding combo out there.
   Alan-L - Friday, 07/23/10 12:16:00 EDT

Chuck S. wholesale tool has a 5/8 reamer for less than $10.00 #1150-0165 their number in NC is 1-800-438-3580
7 outlets covering the US
   - Ray Clontz - Friday, 07/23/10 13:32:18 EDT

Mike T. In Australia, we had one horseshoer in our group, but all were more interested in ornamental work and toolsmithing. Alan and Helen Ball took care of me while I was there, and Helen was enamoured with horses, although they didn't own any horses at that time. I made a horseshoe for her as a going away present.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 07/23/10 14:31:32 EDT

Frank; will you be at the SWABA meeting in August in Santa Fe?
I want to show you the shoe I found in Chile and get your opinion on it.

   Thomas P - Friday, 07/23/10 15:37:54 EDT

Chuck S
5/8 reamer about 16 bucks
   - arthur - Friday, 07/23/10 18:01:26 EDT

McMaster-Carr. These folks are great for one-stop shopping of odd things and things you need in a hurry. But their service and convenience comes with a price. You can get most of what they carry at considerably cheaper prices. But I often need a dozen things that would require finding a dozen vendors to obtain them from. Going to McMaster-Carr and getting the whole order at one place is often worth a LOT.
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 18:16:14 EDT

Grainger is good too. When you send an e-mail order to them, they send the order to the nearest store to you that has that particular item. This results in fast delivery.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/23/10 18:40:16 EDT

I am interested of attending beginner classes for blacksmithing but I cannot find anywhere in michigan that offers this service. I have looked online and haven't came up with anything. I was wondering if you have any affiliates near my neck of the woods.
   Frank Hawks - Friday, 07/23/10 20:48:24 EDT

Frank, There are local smiths and the Michigan Artists Blacksmiths Association. www.miblacksmith.org

Prior to the last few decades smiths would travel all the way across the country just to meet another smith and see their shop. Its way too easy today. . .
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 22:35:43 EDT

flat tire hammer

While working on our hammer project today we had to set the hammer on its side to do some welding. . . Its not your typical tire hammer.
   - guru - Friday, 07/23/10 22:39:31 EDT

Thomas P. No, I'll be selling stuff at the Old West Show, Albuquerque Fairgrounds.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 07/23/10 23:36:03 EDT

Hello, I just have a few questions to ask. I've recently become interested in bladesmithing as a career. Don't worry I'm not a disillusioned teen wanting to make swords, although I would eventually like to. I would like to know if taking ROTC Metals as a high school class is a step in the right direction in becoming a bladesmith. I would also like to know if any of you would know the plans for decent and small sized charcoal/coal forge that 16 year could put together by himself. Now I have one last question. Would placing a small sized charcoal/coal forge between two houses about 40 feet apart be advisable? Since I live in a suburb in California there isn't that much open space.
   Richard - Saturday, 07/24/10 00:31:41 EDT

Richard, if you intend to work in the open air between these two houses, I would not recommend it unless you go with a gas fired forge (no sparks or smoke)
However, I'm sure your neighbors will have much to say (all bad) about your activities and the fire department will have much worse to say.
If that is the only working space you have, even in a small purpose built building, you will have trouble with smoke and noise.
Coal smoke will give off an oder that no one but you will enjoy and, a soot that gets on every thing.
Some people find the sound of a ringing anvil pleasant and nostalgic, for a short while, then they want you to stop making that "racket" and they definitely don't want to hear it at 10:00PM when you are on a roll and don't want to stop what you're working on.
You may not be able to pursue your interests in your current situation and, surely not with out your parent help and their blessing.
I'm not saying you should forget about becoming a blacksmith but, rather that you have a steep hill to climb before you even get to the "hammering hot iron" part.
BTW, any kind of class work that deals with metal work or drafting, engineering, mechanics, wood working and graphic design would be a benefit to you.
We used to call these the "Industrial Arts", I don't know what they call them these days.
   - merl - Saturday, 07/24/10 01:17:27 EDT

California Forges: As Merl pointed out there are numerous problems with your plan. Most of California is too fire conscious for an open forge in a yard. Charcoal in a forge does not burn like charcoal briquettes in a barbecue. For one thing briquettes are not charcoal, they are sawdust, glue, a little bituminous coal to help keep them burning and just enough charcoal dust for color. Real charcoal is 100% charred wood and when the fire is blown makes considerable fire fleas. Charcoal of either type smells about the same. Mineral coal has sulfur and a very distinctive and to some a "strange" smell.

We have a plan for a brake drum forge that gives the forge basics and can be built very inexpensively. See our plans page. It will burn coal or charcoal.

As Merl pointed out you might have a better chance with a gas forge but it is still a problem in a yard with grass. Hot pieces of scale (the oxide that flakes of hot iron) flack off and can set grass of dried foliage on fire. Even if the grass is a lush green the spot you work in will become dead from standing on it and become a fire hazard. Many folks that have back yard blacksmithing setups do so on a stone or concrete patio.

While it is not as convenient you may want to find a friend or relative that has a better location for you to setup shop. Someone in a more rural area with a barn or equipment shed that they might be more suitable.

OR if you have friends interested in the same thing you could rent an industrial or commercial location . . but that is a stretch in this economy.

Then there is the CBA (California Blacksmiths Association). They have meeting in various places and in shops where they have demos, lessons are given and so on. At least you can get a taste of it. You will also meet people that may be in the same situation that you are. Check them out. See ABANA-Chapter.com
   - guru - Saturday, 07/24/10 12:54:57 EDT

Richard, there are a lot of bladesmiths in California, but it's a big place. Where are you, generally speaking? There may be someone close who'd show you the ropes.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 07/24/10 14:37:05 EDT

ANY class you can take that makes things from metal will be a good thing even if it is not actual blacksmith work. Machine shop, sheet metal, welding. Any would be better than nothing.

Whatever it is, the key is to try to understand just what it takes to get good at it even if you don't get enough hands-on time to actually get good. You will be surprised how often these related fields will come up.

Most of the good blacksmiths you find here are very well rounded (you know that's right!!) in their metalworking knowledge and experience and they are glad of it.
   - Tom H - Sunday, 07/25/10 11:15:43 EDT

If you are in the upper penninsula of Michigan Northern Michigan University has a beginner blacksmith class in the art department and it is pretty good. Also if you are a senior it's free.
   Tinkerr - Sunday, 07/25/10 11:25:26 EDT

I have a small hatchet that measures seven inches long. All metal. Slightly curved blade.Looks like the blade was inserted into the metal handle. Inscribed on the hatchet is CLICKING HATCHET and CWT. I have searched the web for this item with no success. When I search for clicking hatchet/cwt it sends me to blacksmithing items. I have had no success in finding this hatchet and wondered if you could help me. I would love to know what it is used for.
   JoyR - Sunday, 07/25/10 13:28:53 EDT

Manufacturer: United Shoe Machinery Co./Made in USA

This vintage cast iron hatchet is marked: USMC (United Shoe Machinery Co., Beverly, Mass. 1899-1972) Clicking Hatchet.
The United Shoe Machinery Company was formed by the merger of three competing shoe machinery firms in 1899. In 1903, it began construction of a new factory in Beverly, Mass, about 35 miles from Boston. At its peak, this company employed 9,000 workers and produced 85% of all shoemaking machines in the United States.
Used to cut leather it is quite heavy and it measures 7 1/4 inches long, 3 3/8 inches wide and 1/2 inch deep.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/25/10 14:44:47 EDT

Amazing. . . !
   - guru - Sunday, 07/25/10 15:00:06 EDT

Hey there fellow smiths! I actually am still a wanna be. I should be recieving a brandnew forge from diamond back in a week or so and I was wondering what size propane tank to purchase... I am a complete newbe and Its gonna take me a while to learn how to forge well. I will be using my forge and anvil to make scrolls and other wrought iron ornaments. thats it. I can afford a BBQ tank right away but how long would that last me? should I just wait and save my money until I can afford something bigger?

Thank you!
   Mario - Sunday, 07/25/10 15:33:24 EDT

mario, keep your eye out for some of the old style tanks, Many people throw them away- you can switch them out for a full tank at walmart- runs less than $20.00 for a new tank_ full of propane. I have switched out 10 old tanks that guys left at my shop when I let them do forging. I have a diamond back forge- really like it- I would just use the 20 lb tank. I have a 100 # but it is really a lot of trouble lugging it to and from to get it filled unless you pan on doing a lot of forging.
   - ptpiddler - Sunday, 07/25/10 15:45:10 EDT

To Whom It May Concern,
I have a casting machine that I would like to somehow donate to a metal smirching class there at ARC! IF Ya'all want it, please get in touch with me fairly soon, I have the tub, cylinder part as well as the spring loaded mechanism needed for the Lost Wax technique! Please reply to bmfdmd@pacbell.net Thanks!
   Brad Fralick - Sunday, 07/25/10 16:28:20 EDT

Tank Size, The little exchange tanks are great IF your forge works on them without the fuel freezing up. This one probably will.

Bigger tanks have the advantage of being able to run a large forge AND all day long. But they must be hauled in a truck to a filling station. We recently traveled 40 miles to get a tank filled on a weekend. . .

You can get 30 and 40 pound bottles but the exchange places do not take them. They are small enough to be convenient to handle BUT must also be filled at a filling station. In many places filling stations are close and convenient (long hours and weekends). But if one is not convenient then that reduces the convenience of the larger bottles.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/25/10 16:30:11 EDT

Propane Tank Size II: If your forge is too large for the tank then it will draw fuel faster than it can evaporate from the tank. Remember that liquid propane is a cryogenic substance. As fuel is drawn of the tank as vapor more must evaporate. Evaporation requires energy (the heat in the tank and fuel). As the fuel evaporates it cools until it can no longer evaporate. As it approached this temperature the tank and regulator ice up externally as moisture in the air condenses and freezes on the tank. When this occurs it is close to the time when fuel will stop flowing.

SO. . tank size is critical in many cases. However, IF you need just a bit more than the tank can provide you can place the tank in a tub of water. The water acts as a heat (or cold) sink and keeps the fuel above the the evaporation point. The tank needs to be clamped or strapped down in the water as it will float even when the tank is full and REALLY float as it nears empty.

Since the heat is being taken out of the water it gets very cold. This makes it an ideal place to cool some drinks of various types.

It also helps to have multiple bottles so you have a spare to switch out when the other gets low or freezes up. Note that full bottles have more heat energy to give to the process than partially full. Half full bottles seem to freeze up in one forth the time.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/25/10 20:44:00 EDT

I found a 50lb tank to be perfect. I can run my forge for about 25hrs on one tank (8hrs at a stretch with no freezing durung the summer months 5 or 6 during the winter). Though I use the 3/4in Z burner from Larry Zoeller, so your mileage may vary. A 50lb tank is big enough to last me a while, but it is still small enough for me to carry on my own (just under 100lbs full).

The drink cooling tip that the guru pointed out is GENIUS! It is awesome during the summer. LOL Hot water (just short of boiling) poured around the bottom of the tank works well for me if my tank freezes, but it probably isn't very safe
   bigfoot - Sunday, 07/25/10 21:37:24 EDT

Hello, Mr. Guru. I recently received a sword for my birthday. The blade is made of 420J2 Stainless Steel. Is it usable?

Thanks for your help,

Jake S.
   Jake - Monday, 07/26/10 00:41:48 EDT

Swords: Usable for what?

I do not have a clue as to the quality of manufacturing and cannot say more about use. Nor would I put my neck on the line for someone else's product. This is a question for the manufacturer.

If the use is what swords were invented for (to maim and murder), even a wooden stick will do that and any metal bar will suffice. If it is to be used in fencing or mock combat then the quality must be much higher than a wall hanger in order to prevent injury to anyone nearby due to flying parts or shattering steel. If it is to be used in cutting contests then it must be the highest quality of blade, of the best materials for the purpose and sharpened by an expert.

Many cheap import swords have a very weak tang welded on in very dubious ways that make them unsafe for anything other than hanging on the wall. This cannot be determined without disassembly of the sword. This alloy is also difficult to heat treat and the blade could range from too soft to too hard at the same time and thus be susceptible to both denting and bending as well as chipping or breaking (very dangerous).

There is no easy answer to this question. But I can positively assert it is suitable home decorating item (a wall hanger).
   - guru - Monday, 07/26/10 09:16:15 EDT

Guru, if the sword is as bad as the Pakastani import sword my brother-in-law got to use at SCA, it may not even make a good wall hanger:)
   ptree - Monday, 07/26/10 10:23:48 EDT


I have been reading about on this website and interested in learning to eventually (emphasis on eventually, I expect a 3-7 year learning curve.) make Damascus style cooking equipment.
I have read here that it is imperative to take a welding class or three to avoid metal poisoning. My question is what kind of modern welding is most similar to forge welding, or which welding class would be most beneficial to take? There are several different options and I don't know how to make an informed choice.
I am looking to jump start my education before I ever touch a hammer or a forge and would like to start with a class or two at the local CC.
Your help is greatly appreciated.
   Mark - Monday, 07/26/10 12:32:18 EDT

Propane and Heat Sinks: Bigfoot mentioned using hot water to get the last propane out of the tank. This will work but NEVER EVER do this with a full tank. Heat (even sitting out in the sun) can over pressurize a fuel cylinder and the built in safety valve will open and dump fuel. While this DOES prevent the cylinder from rupturing it is also unexpectedly dumping a LOT of fuel in an uncontrolled manner which could catch fire and be a disaster.

In the winter in some cold locations they use warming blankets to heat the bottles up a bit so that they can draw fuel. However, this one of those things that is not recommended and you do at your own risk.

When large volumes of propane are needed the cryogenic liquid is drawn from the tanks and vaporized in a coil or special device. Hot air balloons operate on this principal because they cannot efficiently lift a large tank so they use a smaller special liquid draw tank. The burner has a large coil of tubing around it to vaporize the fuel. Rocket engines operate on the same principal. This does two things, it vaporizes the fuel and it cools the rocket nozzle preventing from melting. These are technologies the backyard DIY'er should not play with.
   - guru - Monday, 07/26/10 12:59:33 EDT

Welding Courses: Mark, If you pickup some of the books or videos on Damascus making you will find that while the forge welding is the key technical task that goes into the metal, everything else is general metal shop technology. Damascus blade makers (that make the material AND the finished product) use rows of grinders (you cannot have enough grinders in a knife shop), band saws, drill presses, milling machines, multiple forges and furnaces and all modern welding processes.

When making billets most makers weld the stack together with a bead of arc weld (either stick or MIG) and sometimes add a handle as well. When preparing stock they may use an oxyacetylene cutting torch to cut up plate, big saw blades or other material in the search for specific alloys. The oxyacetylene may also be used to silver solder knife pieces together. It is common for modern makers to silver solder on the guard for strength AND the best sanitary conditions.

As mentioned, stock preparation may start with a torch. But in most shops a majority of stock is sawed on a cut-off bandsaw. Hard difficult to cut materials may be cut with an abrasive chop saw. Stock prep may also include grinding with a hand held grinder or belt sander. Laminated billet welding works best with freshly cleaned flat material.

The combination of oxyacetylene equipment and an arc welder is the ultimate modern combination for building equipment. You can cut up plate or scrap that cannot be handled any other way and efficiently assemble the pieces with the two. While building machinery may not be your goal it is often necessary in achieving your goal.

Pattern development ca be done with hand methods but much of the technical stuff is done with machine tools like drill presses and milling machines. An Engine Lathe is almost an absolute necessity in a small shop when building machinery. Shafts, hubs, pulleys, bushings, washers, crank pins, tool holders . . . And in blacksmithing they can be used to turn tenons, make dies, do decorative turning, make patterns.

While you do not need all this equipment to get started in the bladesmithing process you will eventually want it. An education in all welding processes is not only helpful in your shop but when you visit and help others. It doesn't matter what type of metal working shop you are in oxyacetylene torches are universal and so is the need for someone that can hold one, direct it properly AND its a fantastic plus if they know how to light and adjust it.

So, take ALL the welding classes and introductory metal working related classes your local schools have to offer. It will all be of benefit and is still relatively inexpensive considering you are learning how to do REAL things.
   - guru - Monday, 07/26/10 14:12:20 EDT

Thanks a bunch Guru!
   Mark - Monday, 07/26/10 14:44:59 EDT

Also trying to figure which machinery handbook to buy... 18th edition?
   Mark - Monday, 07/26/10 15:22:25 EDT

The older and the cheaper the better for most blacksmiths. But the 18th looks to be the most recent edition that contained the most blacksmithing content.

Note that in your course work you MAY BE required to take a course in using Machinery's Handbook. This is common in many engineering and metalwork curricula. These usually require purchasing the most recent edition. It is also why there is often a glut of fairly new copies of Machinery's on the market.
   - guru - Monday, 07/26/10 15:56:11 EDT

"Damascus style cooking equipment"??...I'm trying to imagine what you plan on making...Are you talking knives or frying pans?
   - arthur - Monday, 07/26/10 17:37:27 EDT

Heat sinks,

I've found that it isn't necessary to submerge a propane tank in water to "unfreeze" it. Just having the bottom of the tank in water seems to be enough (granted, I don't live in a particularly cold climate). If you think about it, the heat transfer rate through the bottom of the tank is pretty high as long there's liquid on both sides.

I've had good luck filling a joint compound bucket to the top with water and resting a 20# tank on top (so the bottom extends slightly into the bucket). A better plan would probably be to use a bigger water tank and place a grill a couple of inches below the surface to support the propane tank. Of course, strapping the tank down works as well, but it's more convenient not to have to mess with that every time you change the tank.
   Mike BR - Monday, 07/26/10 18:28:01 EDT

The amount of water needed depends on the rate of over draw on the bottle. The problem with small propane bottles in water is they start to float as they empty. Tipping and damaging the regulator then becomes a problem.

It is easy to make a tie down to hold the bottle from floating. You just have to think to do it first before the bottle is bobbing around like a top heavy cork.
   - guru - Monday, 07/26/10 22:57:19 EDT

My brother-in-law wants a foot-operated grinder/sharpener for his blacksmith shop. I found one in a pawn shop, but the owner would not sell. Do you know of a source?
   gena - Tuesday, 07/27/10 11:54:38 EDT

Gena; are you willing to pay for shipping from the far corners of the world or do you want to put a general location in your request? *world* *wide* *web*!

Thomas in central NM, USA
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/27/10 12:10:18 EDT

Foot Powered Grinding Wheel Got the best Google results. However, everything I found was either antiques (Barnes seems to have made a lot of machines) or articles about "green" power without sources. There IS a place in England that makes a new foot powered grinder but I lost the reference. .

Foot Treadle Grinder I built in 1970 This used an old grind stone and shaft that I found at a road side antique shop. The bearings are blocks of walnut and the crank is one of the first parts I forged. This wheel had been run loose on the shaft sitting at about a 15° angle and badly worn that way. I've ground POUNDS of stone off it and its still an inch or so out of round. As grinding tools go it is pretty poor.

One image I found on a bladesmith forum was an exercise bike with a small (about 10") Japanese water stone mounted on it. The fine Japanese grinders used to be available from Garrett Wade but I found new grinders and wheels at www.fine-tools.com/Tormek.html

I have a friend that has one of the steel frame types with a steel seat, dual bicycle type peddles and large (24-30") stone. Its old, not perfect, price is $300, located in Virginia.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/27/10 12:46:10 EDT

After an unfortunate incident of tipping both a propane cylinder over, and having the forge follow after, I've taken to keeping them in milk crates for stability. This would certainly add extra attachment points and stability if you were to put the cylinder into a washtub of water or similar situations. It also symplifies transport in the back of the pickup truck.

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 07/27/10 12:52:30 EDT

gena, if you look on craigs list under "sit down wet stone pedal grinder" you may find one for $300.
Too much for me and it doesn't have a water pan wich is the central part of the "wet stone"
I don't know why these are going for so much except that the wheels are hard to find in usable shape.
Always remember to drain the water from the tank after use or the part of the wheel that sits in the water will get water logged and soft.
If you use it this way the soft side of the wheel will wear away faster and then the whole wheel will become lopp sided and unbalanced. By the time you get the wheel re-shaped (dressed round ) you will have wasted alot of very expensive antique grinding wheel doing it.
   - merl - Tuesday, 07/27/10 15:23:01 EDT

Guy on one forum hooked up a belt drive from a motor to a pedal grinder. Don't think he had a very good understanding of drive ratios. He showed pictures of where one piece went through the ceiling! I think 20 - 30 rpm is about max for one of these big sandstone wheels.
   - Grant - Tuesday, 07/27/10 23:53:30 EDT

The natural sandstone wheels are very soft and fragile. They are nothing like the high strength man made material wheels.

But even small wheels have RPM ratings. Air grinders will go 40 to 80,000 RPM and out speed many wheels.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 00:48:44 EDT

On moving machinery it might be interesting to note Anyang's warranty. They deliver their hammers with a lifting eye in the top. If you move them any way other than by an overhead sling and you damage the hammer as a result you are NOT covered by their otherwise comprehensive warranty.
   philip in china - Wednesday, 07/28/10 10:38:25 EDT

Max RPM on pedal grinder:
The best way I have found to judge your speed on a pedal grinder is to watch the water that is trying to stay adhered to the surface of the wheel.
If the water is flying off then you are going too fast.
These grinders are for SHARPENING ,not heavy stock removal.
Over the course of a demo weekend I'll spend probably two hours on the pedal grinder we have at the club shop.
If I remember correctly, grinding wheels are rated for Surface Feet per Minuet (SFM) and this is when a hobbyist can get into trouble when they put an 8" wheel on a 3450 rpm motor thinking "It's rated for 8000". That's 8000 SFM not RPM, huge difference there.
I believe that most belt grinders use a 3450 rpm motor while the typical pedestal grinder is a 1725 rpm motor.
I may be off on the belt grinder but I know I have used them with a 3450 rpm motor and they were store bought like a Kalamazoo or Dake ect...
I have had two grinding wheels blow up on me over the nearly 30 years I have been a machinist.
One was when I was using a tool post grinder on an engine lathe to grind a bearing journal. As I brought the wheel into position I ran it into the flange of the roll face from the side and it blew up on me. Fortunately the grinder had a heavy guard on it and I wasn't hurt but, I shouldn't have had the wheel running while trying to jog into position.
The second time I was just an innocent by-stander.
One shop I was at had a large CNC cylindrical grinder that had a 24" wheel on it at the time.
These wheels look like a big doughnut as they fit over 12" drive hub. This was a wheel that had been in use for a couple of weeks and one day it just let go and the machine I was on was in the line of fire. I was not standing there when it happened but a chunk of the wheel did hit and destroy the digital read out on my mill.
When the new wheel blew up on the guy fore days later, we conducted an investigation and found that a new coolant fluid we were using was not compatible with the vitrious bond of the grinding wheel (even though it was guaranteed to be so) and caused it to break down rapidly which in turn caused the wheel failure.
I still have the chunk of wheel that hit my machine. It weighs about 10 lbs.
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/28/10 10:59:04 EDT

About propane freezing...Does propane have a propensity to freeze when flowing at a right angle, would be better to have lines, valves etc. flowing straight ?
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 07/28/10 11:40:09 EDT

Mike, The propane does not matter how it is flowing. The problem is it must fully evaporate in the tank. When it does not have enough heat sink (energy from itself or the tank) it will be VERY cold as it flows through the line and you will often see frost on the bottle outlet and regulator as well as the bottom of the bottle. This is water condensed and from the air and frozen and has nothing to do with the propane itself other than it is too cold.

However, when you are getting ice on the lines it is a warning that you need a larger tank or a heat sink (water tank). Shortly after that ice appears the propane in the tank will be too cold to evaporate, the pressure drops and flow stops. The ice on the surface of the parts is not stopping the flow. The flow has stopped because the fuel is too cold.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 12:20:44 EDT

Moving Damage: As I've told folks for decades. . the vast majority of damage to machinery is moving damage. Moving on fork lifts is probably the greatest cause of machine damage.

The 250 pound Little Giant I had was PERFECT until they tried to move it with undersized fork lifts. They could not handle it with one so they used TWO and tried to keep them in scync as they lifted. . . It slipped off, caught the treadle, bend the treadle AND the connecting rod which was INSIDE the hollow frame on this model. You have to remove the crank wheel and shaft to repair it AND have the hammer on blocks such that you can get under it as well. An expensive repair.

One of the very first machines our family company, MEC, sold was delivered to a nuclear power plant where they swore that they had plenty heavy enough hoisting equipment. . . The crane could lift it but when extended to move the load the crane tipped and dropped the load onto the pavement. Rather than regroup and hire a bigger portable crane they humped the machine a few inches at a time into the bay door. Thump, thump, thump. . . The result of all those hard bumps was a wrecked 5 foot diameter bearing race. We had to redesign the bearing system and have that huge part remachined to make the repairs. . .

The first brand NEW machine we purchased for MEC was a clone Bridgeport type mill with a 42" table. Because it came in on a closed truck we could not unload it at our shop (we had 10/20 ton overhead capacity but no forklifts). So, one of our shop clowns took his TOYota truck down the street to where it had been unloaded and had it put in his undersized truck without tie downs. . . They had called us and I was on the way with MY 3/4 ton Heavy Duty Dodge pickup. . . (a 10 to 15 minute drive) When we got there our NEW mill was laying in the road having nearly tipped over the TOYota truck and nearly killing my brother who was in the back of the truck steadying the machine. It took less than five minutes to get the now broken mill into my truck, chained down and delivered to our shop. . .

Because the machine had been safely unloaded where we had requested it was NOT the trucking company's or seller's responsibility. Because it was more that 50 feet from the end of our driveway it was not our insurance companies responsibility. Because the small pickup was not insured as a commercial carrier that insurance company was not responsible. We were screwed. We SHOULD have fired the guy with the pickup OR made him pay the damages but my Dad was too soft hearted.

My old Southbend lathe was in nearly perfect condition when I bought it EXCEPT at some point in life it had been tipped over breaking one shift handle and the reversing mechanism. The repairs had been poorly made and that wore out the reversing mechanism gears. Moving damage. . .

My old Porter lathe was undamaged other than lots of wear when I bought it but when delivered the carriage handwheel was bent at about a 30° angle. . . Some kind of moving damage.

I've seen moving damage on hundreds of machines and as described above seen it in action. It is almost always the result of someone in a hurry or using the wrong equipment.

   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 12:22:35 EDT

Equipment moving accident - almost
Almost and Accident - Moving Damage in the Making

The above is one of those many close calls in moving. The load needed to be tied to the mast better than it was. The top heavy machine which only weighs about 800 pounds nearly tipped over. Uneven and soft ground is also a factor. The move was going fine until the forklift started to dig a hole with the down hill side tire. We had to winch the load back onto the forks, tie it down better, then back out of the hole and try again.

Occasionally you will see collections of photos and videos of cranes and fork lifts tipping over, losing their loads. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 12:39:58 EDT

As I said before, Check out the Harbor Freight 2 ton folding shop crane..it is not a toy..Everyone who has seen mine in action has gone out and bought one...The boom raises to about 16 feet...and with web slings [also sold by HF] one person can safely move almost anything found in a small shop..A worthwhile investment for under $200..
   - arthur - Wednesday, 07/28/10 13:26:24 EDT

I have one of those HF 2-tone foldable shop cranes and it truly has been a life saver on more than one occasion. I've used it for positioning my flypress, lathe, anvils, power hammer and welding table as well as using it as a hoist when splitting my tractor. Definitely worth the $175 I paid for it.

I should note that the height Arthur mentioned above is more than just a bit optimistic. With the boom fully extended it will attain a maximum lifting height of right at 9-1/2 feet. Of course, you lose some of that to your attachment hook and any other hardware, bu tit will aloow you to do a lot of things you simply couldn't do safely otherwise. NOTE: With the boom fully extended the safe lifting capacity of the crane is reduced to 1000# (1/2 ton). The hydraulic ram is fully capable of lifting more, but the boom will collapse if you try something foolish. I suggest under-rating any lifting equipment by a factor 1/2 to be safe. But then, I KNOW how slowly I heal.
   - Buford Heliotrope - Wednesday, 07/28/10 13:54:31 EDT

Shop Floor Cranes: Arthur, They are handy in some instances but are VERY limited. I had one for a couple years and sold it at a give away price. It is the only tool I every sold that I did not miss. My Dad bought one later and it will go away as well. It would not work for the primary purpose he bought it for, to put heavy work onto a lathe. It might work on an old open frame lathe but not on any of the closed base models. It DID work on the milling machine but we had a monorail hoist over it to start. .

That portable crane would not lift high enough to get the machine in the photo above off the truck it was on with a standard truck deck height of about 4 feet. It would also not operate on the gravel outside the shop. It would also not move the three other machines we unloaded that day from the same truck even if on smooth pavement.

I used mine once to lower a transmission out of my pickup truck but I had to remove the door. The crane legs under the truck made it very difficult to use.

They also take a lot of space to park. As much room as a 4000 pound forklift and the front legs are a much greater trip hazard than forks (if properly set flat on the floor).

The hydraulic lift on them can be tricky to control and very easy to drop the load.

A good chain hoist and a stationary hook to hang it from is much safer and will lift loads off higher trucks IF you have the ceiling height. The next step up is either a monorail crane OR a jib crane. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. But a monorail is fairly cheap to setup. However, a trolley costs more than the HF shop crane. . . There are also wheeled gantry cranes but they take a lot of space. We had two 10 ton track mounted gantry cranes in our family shop and their ONLY advantages are that they do not attach to the building and are fairly quick to install. The 4 foot wide open isle down each side of the shop is a big draw back. The last and best type shop crane is an overhead rectilinear type. They cover 100% of the space under them and do not use up a lot of floor space. They also usually require engineering into the facility.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 14:20:04 EDT

NOTE: ANY lifting means is better than NO liftng means. Just like any power hammer is better than none.

I've had chain hoists a LONG time an know they are much safer to use than any other lifting means. I've hung them from trees, from joists. beams and from from cranes and monorails.

Sadly, the new shop I am forced into will not support even a thousand pound lift from the structure. I will probably put in a fixed gantry to supplement the high maintenance fork lift that is not always ready to use. Anyone know anything about rebuilding mast cylinders?
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 14:28:59 EDT

Lifting. I too like bridge cranes best, monorails and jib cranes next. But then coming from a heavy manufacturing where a light bridge crane is the 15 ton that is used to set tooling and move the lifting fixtures for the 150 ton crane to use you can understand that.
I don't like the engine hoists as they have all the bad features the Guru mentions. Add in that I had a good US made version to hydraulically fail and lower the load to the floor without command and I really don't like them.

I am a fan of jib cranes, and have installed perhaps 100 in factories to move work onto/off machines. I used a bunch of 250# rated jibs, with the correct size hoist and they were near effortless to swing as they had almost no inertia. In production work an oversized jib leads to over fatique from moving the inertia all day.
   ptree - Wednesday, 07/28/10 15:28:12 EDT

I'm spoiled right along with ptree and the Guru. I like a bridge crane the best and then a jib crane after that.
I have also loaded many parts onto machines with forklifts and forklift booms with basket slings.
I used to run a large cnc engine lathe in a shop that made precision rollers. That machine was brought in as a somewhat temporary solution to the need for a bigger cnc lathe for a big roll job and it ended up staying after the job was done.
Because it was supposed to be temporary it was set up in the shipping and receiving area and had no crane service over it.
We loaded and unloaded parts from that machine with a fork lift mounted boom that could be extended or shortened up as needed and was good for 3T minimum extension.
I don't know how the boss could quote a job knowing it was going to take at least three people every time something had to be moved around on that machine but, he must have been making plenty from it to keep doing it. I ran that machine for three years, one year with the fork lift and two with a jib crane that was finely put in just for that machine.
That's when we found out the cement wasn't more than 6"thick, when I drilled the holes in it for the lag bolts for the pedestal.
No wonder I had to re-level the machine every spring and winter...
   - merl - Wednesday, 07/28/10 16:50:46 EDT

No doubt about it, nothing (except maybe psychokinesis) beats a full-pattern overhead crane with electric trolleys. And yes, the little HF shop crane is definitely a marginal solution - but it beats nothing at all. If I had the headroom I'd at least install a monorail down the main aisle of the forging shop, but it just wouldn't be that satisfactory with only 8' ceiling height. I do have several of the roof rafters beefed up and use a pair of chain hoists to hand off loads when I can. It's awkward and slow that way, but safe.

I have a small jib crane that reaches over the welding table and across to the big anvil/power hammer so I can work heavier stock without killing myself. The jib crane is fairly lightweight and will only safely handle a 400# load but that's plenty sufficient. I'm planing to make a second jib crane that will be dedicated to holding the little 175 Millermatic glue gun up out of the way, but that one will have no lifting function - set it and forget it.

It would be nicer to have all the right tools for lifting, moving, holding, etc - but then I'd have to work a lot harder just to support them. I've reached the point of diminishing returns already.
   - b - Wednesday, 07/28/10 17:54:04 EDT

Jib cranes are great but require the most sophisticated engineering of all the cranes. Light jibs can be attached to buildings and machines, medium duty to flanges on good floors, but heavy ones need a serious foundation to act as a counter balance.

Light jibs to support welders are great. Even getting a buzz box off the floor to reduce cable clutter is handy.

Some machine tools came with small jib on them or as attachments for handling chucks, vises and various attachments.

In my old shop I had a high mono-rail with its typical limited coverage. I had a plan to put in a rotating rail supported by a pivot near one end and a double trolley under the monorail. This would cover a large area with the full capacity of the mono-rail on one side and a reduced capacity past the monorail when in the perpendicular position. At a very low cost it would have given over 50% coverage to the entire shop.

crane diagram

The pivot point was to be in a doorway that was reinforced during construction with heavy framing, plate steel and plywood. The 1" eye bolt anchor passed through three feet of the framing and had nuts at two levels. . . It would pull the building down before failing. But that was my old, once in a lifetime shop. . .
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 18:28:19 EDT

At the valve, boiler and Ice machine factory, the boiler shop mounted near all the migs on booms. They would put the feeder near the pivot, and hang a tourch with decent long cable at the end. The power supplys went on the column either over or under the boom depending. Some had 25'+ boom arms and so could cover a huge area.
I have my little mig on a about 4' boom, that swings thru about 260 degrees. The power supply hangs at the end of the boom, and with the standard tourch I can cover a lot of area. The boom arm is handy for hanging grinders etc from as well. I have the gas bottle on the column under the arm.
   ptree - Wednesday, 07/28/10 18:33:20 EDT

I've had hoisting equipment since I was and auto mechanic many many years ago. Then I had a rope hoist and a differential chain hoist I had bought at Sears. A differential hoist works by having different sized chain wheels on a one shaft and an endless loop of chain. They are light and efficient designed for portable use.

I traded the 1000 pound differential hoist for a 2-ton Yale aluminium hoist. What a DEAL! The Yale is heavy but manhandleable and is industrial duty.

When I needed some portable lifting power I bought a cable come-along. These are a pain to use but are cheap and work. I think I have three or four now. These are great for getting that 2 ton hoist hung. . .

I bought an overhead crane at an auction for the steel. It had two hoists and trolleys on it, an old manual 2 ton "Tri-plex" and a little 1 ton electric. The electric is three phase and I have never set it up. It has a short travel but could be very handy.

On my last big job we hit a panic moment where we HAD to have an adjustable leg on a very heavy lift. I sent out my assistant to buy a 3 ton chain type come-along. Cost me $700 that day. And that was the last it was used. But I have it if needed. It is too heavy and I would gladly trade it for a couple one ton aluminium models.

Then there is the collection of eye bolts, shackles, chain. . .

Now I have a 4000 pound soft tired fork lift out of necessity.

Like all tools, hoists and rigging are collected over time by opportunity OR necessity. Also like many tools you will find them IF you are looking for them. AND like other tools if you are opportunistic about purchasing you can often amass thousands of dollars worth for a few hundred.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/28/10 19:01:11 EDT

What blacksmith companies are in the Leighton Buzzard area
Need a quote for some work to be done
   Frederick Stuart - Thursday, 07/29/10 05:41:41 EDT

Frederick, Try this link

Google question = Leighton Buzzard Blacksmith

Often the common term "blacksmith" returns illogical results but in this case it worked perfectly. I do not know any of these businesses so I cannot personally vouch for them.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 07:19:14 EDT

I am planning on building a blacksmith shop and I wanted to know what is the best type of floor. Concrete or wood? If concrete, what thickness and concrete PSI? Thank you.
   Jon - Thursday, 07/29/10 08:45:12 EDT

Tipping machinery pics:

It's good to know that during an emergency situation someone had the superior intelligence to grab a camera and start taking pictures rather than actually helping out.
   - Nippulini - Thursday, 07/29/10 09:08:16 EDT

HEY! I took that photo! I was getting the rigging to tie the load on the lift and had the camera right there. . . AND the photo is a bit posed. The machine did not need to be held up.

The key word in photo opportunity is opportunity! I've missed way too many over the years when I didn't have the camera OR didn't think fast enough. I knew I'd use that photo for a safety article sometime in the future.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 10:30:23 EDT

Jon, Often these are personal preferences.

The late great Francis Whitaker insisted in dirt/clay floors in blacksmith shops. Clay is easy on the feet, fire proof and economical. You can also sink posts in the floor for vises and anvil stands. However, many of the shops that had these floors at his insistence have since put down other materials such as brick or concrete.

Dirt floors have several problems. One is that small tools including punches, chisels and tongs that get dropped often end up buried and lost forever. A friend of mine that had a dirt/gravel floor in his shop mined a full pickup truck load of tools from his floor when he moved out after only 6 years occupation. The other problem is difficulty moving machinery.

I recommend concrete floor for blacksmith shops because they are reasonably durable, easy to keep clean and the best for moving and setting up machinery. Modern blacksmith shops are more like modern machine shops than the romantic quaint village blacksmith shop of yor. Many shops keep forges on wheeled carts as well as having equipment on wheels such as welding equipment. Unlike moving in machinery once in a while these things are moved daily and work best on a smooth hard floor.

Concrete floors should be smooth finished by experts. The floor of the shop I am currently in was was poured and finished by people who THOUGHT they were experts and the result is a floor that you can sweep in the morning and have several pounds of dust and grit to sweep off it in the afternoon. This was concrete delivered by a commercial truck and finished with too much water. It cannot be repaired for less than what it cost initially. I prefer a smooth finish because it can be degreased. Some people worry about them being slippery but I prefer to be able to clean and mop the floor.

The down side of concrete in a forge or welding shop is that hot metal and fire can make it spall (surface explosively break down). Small pieces if hot steel are not too much of a problem but large ones are. So is swarf from a cutting torch. However, this is a minor concern as long as you are away of it. Most smiths keep a piece of steel plate on the floor to drop hot pieces on and to cover the floor where they use a cutting torch.

Concrete for a blacksmith shop should be as thick as you can afford and steel reinforced. OR it should be a standard 4 tp 6" and have provisions for machine foundations (such as a power hammer). Separate hammer foundations are not absolutely necessary but do reduce noise and transmitted vibration.

Brick floors have been recommended for forge floors due to the spalling issues of concrete. However, the common method of setting bricks in sand ends up with a dangerous uneven floor (trip hazards) and it can be the worst surface for moving equipment.

Wood floors are another preferred floor for your feet but they have problems. A good wood shop floor is heavy thick wood and thus expensive. When setting machines you often need to put supports under the floor OR cut holes in the floor and pour concrete foundations. Wood floors are one of the easier floors to repair but they can catch fire and tend to soak up oil (making them even more flammable). They should be a good distance off the ground thus are part of the architectural decisions. (grade level or off the ground.

Note that it is handy to anchor an eye bolt or two in the floor at the back of a shop to act as a "dead man" for a rigging anchor. This will let you pull something into the shop or take part of the lifting load.

Another important consideration for a blacksmith shop is ceiling height. The higher the ceiling the better the ventilation. High ceilings are also better for hanging lifting devices and jib cranes.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 10:42:24 EDT

Blacksmith shop floors. In my shop I have a clay under a 1/2" to 1" of finely crushed limestone. The lime stone packs nicely, can be raked smooth, and seems to tolerate hot iron well.
I advocate that a blacksmith shop should indeed be a blacksmith shop and a machine shop just that. The dust, ash, and scale of a blacksmith shop plays hard on fine machinery. I have two seperate rooms in my shop. One has the machine tools on a concrete floor and the forge shop is a forge shop.
Not all can do this but it will pay good dividends over time if possible.
In a machine shop, my favorite flooring to work on is wood block over concrete, Get the advantages of both, strenght and ease of setting machines, and comfort. You just chop out sections for leveling pads or bases. Disavantage is that water will cause them to heave.
   ptree - Thursday, 07/29/10 14:00:46 EDT

Separate rooms are great when you can afford them. I planned my old shop with a long narrow "machine shop" and the forge shop with a dropped area to fill with sand and gravel over concrete that slopped to a drain. I put in two power hammer foundations that went down several feet and had isolation padding around the sides. . . sadly all lost to divorce.

In the new shop. condensation and dripping from the roof is the biggest problem. I plan a "back room" for the machine tools. The second problem is the extremely dusty concrete floor. The grit from it gets everywhere. . .

Another "zone" or seperate room that is important is a grinding room. This is especially important for any manufacturer or bladesmith. Grinding grit travels and is hard enough to be destructive to everything. If you must mix grinding with something set aside a welding shop and do the grinding in there. Welding shops get a lot of grinding done in them and the sputter balls from welding are almost as destructive as grinding grit.

And then there is the paint booth. At a minimum an unsanctioned paint booth needs filtered air to keep insects and dust out of the fresh paint. It also needs a good exhaust system even if the worker uses a good filter mask. Some over spray such as slow drying enamels can settle on everything in the shop giving them a haze of whatever color you are painting with. . . I've picked up things in the shop and said, "Remember when we painted that Volkswagon maroon 10 years ago?" as I noticed the haze of over spray.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 14:41:25 EDT

I have made a metal probe with a wooden handle and an electrical cord running through the handle which is connected to the metal probe. My question is do I only attached one of the wires in the electrical cord or both? I want to use the probe to shock nightcrawlers out of the ground to use for fishing?
   Rodney - Thursday, 07/29/10 16:20:23 EDT

Night Crawlers: Rodney, I suggest you get a low voltage power supply (something below 30 volts AC such as a multi-voltage door bell transformer) before you hurt yourself. You don't want to cook the worms OR yourself. You should to ask the help of an electrician or or other qualified technician about your wiring and insulation. The transformer will need to be put into a box or casing to protect you and the outside world from the exposed connections.

Every electrical current has two paths. One from the source and one returning. Even static electricity and lightening follow this rule even though it is hard to visualize. Wires are much simpler. It takes two. So you will need TWO insulated probes. Note that the wood, if wet will no longer insulate and you may get shocked.

   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 16:40:12 EDT


I know nothing about electricity, but have seen my brother in law wire up a steel rod to bring worms up out of the ground, however, he keeps a worm bed going now. I will ask him how he wired it up and will send you an e-mail.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/29/10 20:42:19 EDT

Floors and Rooms; Jon:

My wif actually came up with the solution for my floor in the new floor. In the "cold work" half of the building I have 12" X 12" masonry pavers over a sand bed. In the "hot work" half I have a sand floor over gravel. We refer to it as the "self-fluxing floor" since, if I drop something during a weld, it just lands in clean sand, some of which may melt to it and add to the flux. Another good point with the sand floor is that things don't bounce. A bad point, as the Guru mentioned, is that you can loose stuff in it. I had a 1/4" X 3" letter punch fly off when I was marking a project, and didn't find it for about three years when I finally moved to the new forge building. It had flown about 12' to the far wall of the old shop and then bounced back off the wall and clean past the anvil, burying itself in the sand floor. I spent a lot of spare moments looking for it at the far wall where I heard the "ping."

The floor in the cold work end is pretty much level, but it took too attempts to get it right when I installed it. If it's a little cold in the winter, I use a heated rubber foot pad at the bench or the vise while assembling or filing (another good idea/gift from the wif).

There's another room that people sometimes don't think about, and that's all the room outdoors. I have the outlet for the arc welder by the 40" front door and in any sort of decent weather I do a lot of work out in the "front yard" where I have excellent lighting, lots of fresh air, and a totally replaceable floor surface (needs occasional mowing). The mulberry, black walnut, black locust and hackberry trees provide adequate shade to keep things cool. On the new woodshop, to one side of the forge, I'm planning some exterior pull-down workbenches, and the outdoor outlets at the forge help with power tools and late evening lighting.

I hope this helps, or at least provides further possibilities for contemplation.

Warm and wet tonight on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 07/29/10 21:42:27 EDT

Losing Things in Gravel: Before being a mechanic most of us were "shade tree mechanics" and did a lot of work in graveled or partially graveled driveways and parking lots. If you dropped any kind of nut, bolt or screw less than 1/2" (13mm) size it was sure to be lost forever. You learned to HATE gravel. The worst were 5/16" and 3/8" zinc plated fasteners because they were close to the gravel color and a little smaller in size. Drop one of those and it might be a hour looking for it OR a trip to the hardware store which was probably closed when you needed it. Tools were not quite so bad due to the bright plating. I've spent far too many hours searching the ground for a single hex nut.

The story about the gravel shop floor and the truck load of tools is the absolute truth. I saw the rusty collection of tools in the truck. I suspect a significant number did not get found.

When doing small foundry work it had been suggested to use a sand bed or sand covered table to set molds, hot tools and crucibles. . . The problem is that sand will melt and stick to the crucible when casting brass. The result is that the glassy melted sand is sticky like glue and will stick to the furnace floor or crucible block. I had this happen to my good silicon carbide crucible. I finally ground off the as much of the glassy sand and coated it with ITC-213. But the small amount of remaining glass works its way through the coating now and then and the crucible sticks to the block. Live and learn.

A sand bed may be good for the casting but the crucible lay down area wants to be good clean brick or kiln shelf. A refractory mix replacing the sand might work if it did not get contaminated with sand.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/10 22:40:44 EDT

Losing stuff in the gravel/sand:

Uhhhhhh...you guys ever use a magnet? I set up a "missing items" rake for the area where I work on the tractors and vehicles.

It's nothing more than a strip of 3/16"x1" flat bar with a dozen 3/4"diameter neodymium magnets bolted to it and a nice long handle so I don't have to stoop and can reach under things with it. Took ten minutes and cost ten bucks to make and has probably saved me a couple *thousand* dollars worth of lost time over the past ten years.

Yeah, when I drop a stainless nut or washer I just go to the stock drawer and get another - dratted stuff just isn't magnetic enough to get picked up. :-)
   - Buford Heliotrope - Thursday, 07/29/10 23:55:10 EDT

Way back when I was mechanicing neodymium magnets hadn't been invented or if they had were very rare and expensive. There were big powerful Alnico magnets but they were very rare and pricey back then as well. They would have been a serious expense for a kid making $1/hr. The loss of some of those fasteners could be a significant setback as many were British Standard, Whitworth and early metric (before anyone carried metric fasteners in the U.S.).

Besides stainless, brass, copper and anything non-metallic is also lost to picking up with a magnet. Many things also get buried deep enough with shuffling feet that even very powerful magnets may not find them.

In the shop with the "tool mine" much of the stuff was under an 8,000 pound weld platen with bracing between the legs that prevented getting under it. It was also a very crowded shop that would be tricky not to find everything was magnetic. . . Even if you could get that fancy magnet under the platen you might have a hard time getting it loose.

Even with a hard floor, things escape and fly off into oblivion hiding under benches, shelves and machinery. But gravel was the worst.

Hmmm. . . somewhere I have a 1,500 pound electro magnet. .
   - guru - Friday, 07/30/10 00:54:31 EDT

Don't know if this would work, but I think it might.
I'm planing on making a 3" deep tin tank about 3'x4' to hold 1" of water, then putting a metal grid work over the top. This will be a cutting table for my plasma cutter, to contain the sparks from cutting. Any suggestions?
   Carver Jake - Friday, 07/30/10 01:56:12 EDT

Jake, The first problem is that the volume of water will be insufficient to absorb the heat from several feet of cut in say 1/4" tp 1/2" plate. The second is that I think (not sure since U do not have a plasma torch) is that the gas jet will be sufficient to splash the water back onto the work. Third, the steam from either of these will fog your helmet pretty bad.

I think the idea is sound but that the tank needs to be deeper (say a couple feet) and the water needs to be about a foot deep. Steam may still be a problem. In that case you may need an exhaust pipe and fan off the side of the tank to carry away the steam.

You will also need a convenient way to clean out the swarf which will rust together and form a solid hard to remove mass. An anti-rust agent like the water soluble oil used in machine cooling systems may reduce the rusting (which by the way would also destroy your tank as well).

ON THE ROAD for the next few days.
   - guru - Friday, 07/30/10 05:15:18 EDT

I own a hot rolling mill based in the UK producing special sections in pure iron and mild steel.We need an American distributor to get our products to market.Can any one recommend a suitable company ?.
   john wraith - Friday, 07/30/10 15:53:26 EDT

Water tanks for plasma- I have been running my motorized plasma cutter over a water tank for almost 20 years now. It works great- it does, indeed, cut down on sparks, smoke, and fumes.
1" will be way too shallow- mainly because it will splash out on the floor, and also because it will evaporate dry way to quickly.
Splashing back on the work is no problem at all, nor is steam- both are pretty par for the course, and not detrimental in the quantities that will occur. I do the occasional hand cutting on the same table, and, wearing gloves, the amount of steam produced is so small as to be not even noticeable- usually its when a cutout drops in the drink.
My tank is about a foot deep, and it still evaporates down several inches in just a month sometimes, depending on weather.
You want the water level to be as high as possible, and as close to the underside of the steel being cut as possible.
You want to add a hose bib (faucet) in the bottom of the tank, so you can hook up a hose to drain it outside. The tank will get full of little cutouts, and a horrible black muck, and will need to be cleaned yearly or more often, and you will want to drain it first, let it dry for a few hours, then shovel out the muck and scrap.
The scrap in my tank has never rusted together.
You do get a fair amount of swarf on the slats, which should be made to be removable and replaceable. I use 1/4" x 3" flat bar, on edge, on about 3" centers.
I dont wear a helmet when plasma cutting, usually, instead, a full face shield with a dark tint. This has never fogged up from steam.

I do have a smog hog, which is an electrostatic air cleaner, set up with an 8" hose over the table, to suck up smoke- plasma cutting makes a lot of dirty brown smoke, which then settles on every surface of your shop- even upside down on the ceiling, as a reddish brown powdery coating.
So fume extraction is a really good idea, unless you are working outside.
   - Ries - Friday, 07/30/10 17:36:02 EDT

Shop Floors.
I am a modern metalworker.
That means I have a forge, and a few anvils, and a power hammer, but also a lot of other tools.
The idea of NOT having a concrete floor would be crazy to me.
Many things in my shop are on wheels, for one thing- all the welders, carts, and several other big tools.
And the things not on wheels still need to be moved around from time to time, and its so much easier to slide em on a concrete floor than any other.

Plus, I often build big things- just installed, today, a 14' tall archway. Without a flat concrete floor to work from, I could not make large things flat, square, and true.
I also often drill holes in my concrete floor, to anchor tools permanently, or to temporarily anchor pieces I am working on. Last month, I built an 8 foot diameter circular bench. I anchored down the base, first, then welded the uprights to it- this meant minimal warpage, that the parts stayed put where I wanted em, and the whole piece came out much more accurately than if I had just made it sitting on gravel or dirt.
When done, I grind the bolts off flush with the floor. No big deal.

Which leads me to the crane issue.
I have had monorails with chainfalls, jib cranes, and fixed chainfalls as well.
I have found that two other techniques are far better than any of those three- and both require a nice smooth concrete floor.

First, I have a rolling A frame. This is adjustable in height, based on a Wallace Gantry (google em) and it is mounted on 8" locking soft casters. It has a 1 ton chainfall on a trolley on it. It is currently about 14' long, but I can swap out the I beam at the top for shorter or longer applications. The great advantage of this over an engine hoist or a monorail is that it can roll anywhere in the shop, even over big tools and pick things up. Then it can roll outside, or have a pickup backed under it for loading or unloading. When not in use, it stores outside, or can even be knocked down. I also have sockets welded on the ends, to use it as a giant welding fixture- by using pipe at each end for a bearing, I can build an 8' x 13' gate, for instance, and spin it 360 degrees in space inside the A frame. Its great for fabbing up big stuff you need to work on all sides of- kind of like a giant rotisserie.

The other thing I use almost daily in my shop is my forklift. I have a 4500lb mitsubishi, and it is indispensable. small enough to maneuver in the shop, big enough to lift most things. I use it often as an adjustable height work platform, as well. You can lift really heavy stuff to just the right height for working on.
Used forklifts are an incredible deal- often available for as little as $500 or $1000 for small ones. When working alone, a forklift is a great help. Mine cost a bit more, as it has a pretty tall mast, but I have gotten my money back a hundred times over, in its use.

So my two favorite material moving techniques both require a nice smooth concrete floor.
   - Ries - Friday, 07/30/10 17:48:30 EDT

I need to spread, and not draw out, the end of a thick piece of mild steel. The side I must hammer on to get the spread where I need it is the thinner side; it is 1"x2" rectangular and I am hammering on the 1" side. My problem is the hourglass shape resulting. If I re-square the sides I will draw it out which I would like to keep minimal.

I have thought about several things to try, but the piece is requiring so many hammer blows that I do not want to waste them.
   Ben Whitaker - Friday, 07/30/10 19:00:11 EDT

Ben Whitaker,

When I was in shoeing school long ago, our instructor, Charles "Dick" Dickenson, hollered at us, "BOYS!! All you can do when you're forging hot metal is draw and upset." Whether you agree or not, this is food for thought.

I don't fully understand your query, but it seems to me that if you upset the end first, you can draw everything away from the upset to give you what you need. If the 1" x 2" is a handling length, you can put the hot end on the anvil or on a block of steel on the floor. The upsetting heat should not be longer than 2½ times the stock thickness.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 07/30/10 19:40:40 EDT

Ben- What's the final shape you are after? Are you trying to make a fish tail or a T shape in the end of your bar? If you are getting hour-glassing then you need a heavier blow or a heavier hammer or both. Any chance of getting someone to strike for you?
   Judson Yaggy - Friday, 07/30/10 20:15:04 EDT

John Wraith,

Try Admiral Steel
tel 708-388-9600
fax 708-388-9317
   Mike T. - Saturday, 07/31/10 02:49:02 EDT

It seems to me that a forge shop with a gravel floor will end up having largely a scale floor. Try to use a neodymium magnet there and you'll have an instant Chia pet.

My forge shop (one end of a one car garage) is far from neat and well kept. If I lose a piece of steel I cut off, I'd better find it before it reaches a black heat, or it disappears amount the scale and odds and ends on the floor. (And that assumes I'm hot cutting).

If they weren't so expensive, I'd be tempted to buy one of those "FLIR" infrared imaging devices. I figure even a piece I'd just cut with a hack saw would be warm enough to stand out pretty well on the image. Of course, cleaning my shop would be a lot cheaper. . .
   Mike BR - Saturday, 07/31/10 12:20:55 EDT

interesting a great help for those like myself trying to start
   - Gerhardt - Saturday, 07/31/10 13:34:40 EDT

interesting and a great help to starters like myself
   - Gerhardt - Saturday, 07/31/10 13:35:55 EDT

Mke T ,thanks for your help.john
   john wraith - Saturday, 07/31/10 16:37:53 EDT

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