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 8 - 15, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Forges :   Galen, If you are going to be blacksmithing you will need at least rudimentary tools.

Cement or concrete is not suitable for building a forge. Heat causes steam to form in it and the cement explodes or "spalls". To make a poured refractory forge you would need refractory cement or castable refractory. You have to purchase this from a foundry or ceramics supplier. Cement block also breaks down with heat.

Forges can be a pit in the ground, or a clay lined wooden box. Almost anything to hold the fuel in a concentrated pile that can have a forced draft applied to increase the heat. The most convenient forge is a steel pan or box. See our plans page for a brake drum forge on our plans page. Be sure to look at all the links.

The basic tools you will need besides a proper hammer and anvil are:
  • Hacksaw and a dozen coarse blades.
  • Cold chisel
  • Vise Grips (can double as tongs temporarily)
  • Files (8", 10" and 12" Mill Bastard Half round)
Other tools you should have that are not expensive in this age:
  • 1/4" Electric Drill
  • Sabre or reciprocal saw
  • Vise (of any type).
  • Plain punches (1/4", 3/8" 1/2")
   - guru - Thursday, 07/07/11 21:17:36 EDT

vise spring : Thank you for the quick answers. I am happy to learn that mild steel can do the job.Concerning thickness, the arm moves freely, so I suppose it will works. On the other hand, the wedge locking system for the mouting bracket does not work with 1/8 material.I will have to fold it back at the top to get 1/4......or use 1/4 mild steel,now that I know better!
   donald - Friday, 07/08/11 09:45:28 EDT

Basic Tool List (Forge building) - Acquisition :
The tool list in the post above is not all inclusive or absolute. Its just the common tools that most people should have besides "common household tools" if they are going to build anything. If you have a cell phone, Game Station, Wii or other popular electronic devices OR are accessing this web site from a non-public computer then economically you can afford all the tools above and more easily.

Common household tools are the same in Toronto Canada, Buenos Aires Argentina, South Bend Indiana USA or a small village in China. They are the same anywhere people are living in an industrial or modern agricultural society. These are:
  • Claw hammer (carpenter's hammer)
  • Pair of common pliers (Channel locks or Vise grips are better)
  • Straight blade screw driver AKA "(-)" screw driver.
  • Phillips screw driver AKA "(+)" screw driver.
With these you can hang a picture, install drapes, put together a bicycle and make some minor plumbing repairs (at least you could decades ago - most modern plumbing requires special tools for the simplest task).

These were the basics in the early 1900's and are now the minimum world wide. It is the same for a young woman living in a college dormitory, a family in an apartment or a suburban home owner. If you have a lawn to maintain then you also have a shed or bodega with a few garden tools such as shovel, rake, hatchet or axe, mower. . . It is almost impossible to live in modern society without a few tools.

Today most people have a few more than the basics above. They will have a set of screw drivers, a small wrench set, an electric drill and perhaps a wood chisel. Some products and kits come with Allen (Hex key) wrenches and these days it pays to have both metric and English sets.

Automobiles, motorcycles and bicycles used to come with tool kits. They were often not great tools but they were sufficient for simple emergency repairs. Today you are lucky if an automobile has the right lug wrench. But the old tool kits included adjustable wrenches, screw drivers and specialty wrenches. I have an OEM wrench kit from a Triumph/BSA motorcycle that is all Whitworth and British Standard. A German motorcycle I had many years ago came with a metric wrench set. I also have a set of stamped steel bicycle wrenches from the 1930's that my father gave me when I was 5 years old. . . Being thin makes them handy in tight places.

Some OEM tool kit items are valuable collector's items. The British cars used to come with an adjustable spanner called a "King Dick". It was a beautifully manufactured tool. I think it had wood slabs on the handle. Some American makers used to provide nice forged tools with their logo on them. I've seen some very classy Ford wrenches.

Tools do not just magically appear. If you are going to build things or get into blacksmithing you need to be aware of tools and take advantages of acquisition opportunities. Used tools can often be found for free but are most often bought for much less than half of new. New tools vary greatly in quality and price. Good quality usually pays IF you are going to make use of the tools frequently or over a long time.

Large sets of tools are expensive to obtain all at once. Most of us spend a lifetime collecting tools. When I was young I was given a few tools which I hung onto. When I had my own money I would occasionally buy tools new and used. I started collecting blacksmithing tools in my teens. When I worked as a mechanic I put a portion of my pay check into tools every week. Later I purchased tools on an as-needed basis. After a few years I had a massive double tool chest set full of tools. Over the years I bought more tools and machinery as the opportunity presented itself. Opportunistic acquisition can produce amazing results but you need to constantly be aware AND know the art of the deal OR always have a little cash reserve for these opportunities.

As a blacksmith you will be able to make many of your own tools. But you need the basics first. Its difficult to start with absolutely nothing. It can be done and is a great exercise in self reliance, but it takes a lot of time and ingenuity.
   - guru - Friday, 07/08/11 12:31:20 EDT

When I went to college I brought along my toolkit and received a lot of razzing about it in the dorm--ivy league school. By the end of my first year *everyone* in the dorm had been by one time or another to borrow something out of it.

Starting in High school I was given tools every Christmas and Birthday until my set was equivalent to my Fathers---minus the power tools except for a 3/8" VSR drill. I still have many of those tools 35+ years later and did the same thing for my daughters! As I recall it started with one of those multi piece Craftsman screwdriver sets and then went into sockets and drivers for english and metric...

And today at the fleamarket I bought a 9/16" craftsman socket for a quarter as my daughter borrow the lawn mower and may need to tighten the blade on it. (they persist in watering the stuff and then complain that they have to mow it!)

   Thomas P - Friday, 07/08/11 13:27:14 EDT

My Father gave me some odd tools and a little vise when I was 5. When I was around 10 I started asking for tools for Christmas. This brought me a good hammer, a hand saw, a 1/4" electric drill, a Dremel set and few other odd pieces. More tools would have to wait until I could buy my own. But you start with a couple pieces and eventually you have a large shop full of tools and machines.

When my kids were growing up I gave them tools but most were not appreciated until they moved away from home. Over the years I gave them each an electric drill, a Dremel sets. . My daughter had a fair collection of tools by the time she graduated from college. She asked for a Kennedy 12 draw tool chest for a graduation gift. A different kind of "dowry".

One of my favorite starter kits is the Craftsman 13 piece screw driver set that is often on sale. The sale price has not changed much since the 1970's. The good ones are the red, blue and clear ones with the ball ends. The set has just about every size and type screw driver one will ever need and they are good quality.

Most recently we've outfitted Paw-Paw's granddaughter with 250-300 piece mechanics tool set to go into a previously gifted tool chest. She was studying auto mechanics. . . but I think she has changed her major to psychology. I've told her she should plan on a career in robo-psychology (a la Asimov - mechanics and psychology). The future of AI needing shrinks is approaching rapidly.
   - guru - Friday, 07/08/11 15:08:11 EDT

copper high lites : Besides hot brushing and paint is there a good way to add copper high lites to finished steel objects?
   - Gene - Friday, 07/08/11 17:05:40 EDT

Jock says "Tools do not just magically appear..."

I disagree. I am forever perplexed upon entering my workshop to see brand new shiny tools placed on the tables, seemingly cleaned and free of debris. On occasion I find tiny little elven footprints around my newly acquired tools. I was saddened so, when I checked the mousetrap later that day...
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/08/11 17:13:52 EDT

forging arc welds : I am having problems with arc welds cracking when forging them. Mostly when I have arc welded reins on to a tong boss and try to blend them in or when drawing the end of a basket twist. I know the simple answer is to forge weld it. But a little tough in gas since I'm in the middle of rebuilding the coke forge. The question: Is there a good rod for this application? Have been using 7014 and 7018
   Boalforge - Friday, 07/08/11 17:18:24 EDT

Dr. Jim : Bernard, I am sorry but I did not see any episode name associated with the program where Dr. Jim appeared.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 07/08/11 18:06:35 EDT

Magical Tools : Nip! Dude! What you been smokin'? New tools come from the Tool Fairy, man!
   quenchcrack - Friday, 07/08/11 18:09:00 EDT

Arc Welded Tongs :
Tong joint drawing by Jock Dempsey
This is the way I make arc welded tong joints.

The jaw is prepped then welded on all around as shown. I find it works best to weld the ends then the sides. Power wire brush off all the flux. It will forge into the joint and look like metal but then fail later. Cleaning also lets you inspect the weld closely. Any holes should be ground out and re-welded. I use E6013 rods.

After welding, forge at a high heat. Be careful not to reduce the diameter of the rein stock at the joint. I work the steps down first then draw out the whole.

Note that the weld should not be too close to the tong pivot where all the stress is. About 4" to 6" (100 to 150mm) back is good. More if you are making very large tongs.

I've never had any trouble with the weld material not forging and it should be better material after. The long joint after drawing out distributes any gaps or inclusions lessening the likelihood of failure.
   - guru - Friday, 07/08/11 18:32:38 EDT

Copper high lights :
Gene, get a Have-a-hart trap and go to Nippulini's. . Seems he has magical Elves that might help you.

I have brass plated steel pieces using brazing rod and a torch. That is a lot heavier than brushing.

I've also seen copper sheathed steel ground rods forged. . . Color of copper, strength of steel. Takes some practice and is copper all over. But it will be dark. You could paint it then polish off the high lights and finish with clear coat to reduce oxidation.

Note however that while copper stays bright for a good while it has a high affinity for oxygen and may still tarnish under clear coat.
   - guru - Friday, 07/08/11 18:58:47 EDT

Arc Welded Tongs : If you want an easy way to make good, strong tongs, have a look at my method; No 129 of 20th March 2002 in Anvilfire's i-forge How to. The arc weld is simple, forges well, provides extra material for the joint area and has no weld in the reins.
Hugh McDonald
   Hugh McDonald - Friday, 07/08/11 22:39:47 EDT

Forging welds : I've noticed that when forging under higher heats there is a lower risk of breaking the weld. I've had GREAT success with forging out TIG welds in stainless steel. I have had less success doing the same with mild steel.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 07/10/11 14:53:08 EDT

stuff from space : has anybody done anything with a piece of meteorite, other than a paperweight? yes, i've heard old stories about fantastic things, but never gave any thought to them. was wondering about a slab piece, appx. 3"x5" as a backing for straightening blades cold. had a friend tell me about this.
   - keith - Sunday, 07/10/11 17:58:27 EDT

My nickels worth. Forging electric welds ( in this specific case I mean MIG )I just get the 2 pieces lined up and weld. I would leave a bit proud of the surface. I have a gas saver and torch. Just light the torch and heat at least an inch on either side of the wire weld and of course the entire area until it almost puddles ( in fact puddle is ok if you have too much wire). 3 steps to the anvil and forge the joint. These are not tong reigns I am speaking of, just day to day issues that I may have. Welds normally disappear. I am speaking of 3/8 rod or square or smaller in normal applications for me but I have also done it with 1/2 and 5/8 stock ( which holds heat longer of course ). No experience with stick on this issue but if it was chipped, heated HOT and forged I see no reason for it to fail. I have also wire welded joints and heated and hotfiled them smooth with good success. These are not stress critical industry welds but I will add that I am not now nor have I ever been scared of the welds integrity. All mild ( manurealloy ) steel. Gas welds can easily be forged as well.
   - Ten Hammers - Sunday, 07/10/11 18:01:43 EDT

LOL! Manurealloy... love it!

Keith, My dad has a few pieces of meteoric iron.... TIGS nicely. I used a very small amount to play with, forged pretty well. There really is no way of knowing anything about what you're doing when using this material. A friend of mine has offered to use a mass spectrometer to find the exact content.. haven't taken him up on that yet.
   - Nippulini - Sunday, 07/10/11 18:23:44 EDT

junk from ????? : read so much that i got lost in all the techno-ingrediants and just had to ask the question. to me, so many of you are walking encyclopedias and i look up info on my own protty much, till i get lost or overwelmed.
   - keith - Sunday, 07/10/11 18:31:56 EDT

Rivets : I have an old tool box that I want to refinish. I will drill out the rivets and take the hardware off, sand the old paint off etc. Instead of putting new rivets in, I was thinking of small bolts that look like a rivet on one end, but has a nut on the other end. As most hardware that has been chromed, the chrome has flaked off on most of it, what do you do ? Where do you send parts to be rechromed ? Do machine shops do that ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/10/11 19:02:05 EDT

Meteroite Metal :
Keith, like any other natural/mineral product meteorite is infinitely variable and can be full of flaws. Some is metallic enough to be welded and many bladesmiths weld slabs into blades for the "exotic" factor. Some can be highly magnetic but more rock than iron. Even the "all metal" types can vary a lot. Sometimes the alloy balance make it very difficult to work or weld.

Depending on what you want it for there are sources listed in some bladesmithing publications that will sell you meteorite suitable for the purpose.

Many sources mine the material from large meteoric cores in the earth. I don't have a clue how they do it.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/10/11 19:10:30 EDT

Plating :
Mike, Getting small lots plated is very difficult. Replating is worse. It would be easier to do it yourself.

For replacing plated rivets I use stainless button head cap screws. They come in may sizes including very small ones.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/10/11 19:19:53 EDT

electrolysis cleaning : I want to clean an intricate forging of firescale before I paint it. I have heard of el. cleaning with: a plastic bucket , a battery charger, a copper plate attached to the RED wire, the work attached to the black wire , and a WASHING SODA - water solution. My question is how strong a solution do I need to make? my bucket is big enough to immerse the whole piece 5 gallon. Will this work? how long does it take? and what hazards do I have to worry about?
   - danny arnold - Sunday, 07/10/11 19:41:17 EDT

Litlle Giant 50lb Parts : I'm looking for the left and right toggle arms for a 50lb Little Giant. The hammer was used by an old smith to sharpen plow points,(the current arms have been broken, and are brazed back together.) It appears to have been used some time as it sets. I'm 15, and working on a 1,500lb hammers gonna be hard, but that will make it that much more of my own.
   Hayden - Sunday, 07/10/11 20:11:25 EDT

Plating : Mike, many of the older tool boxes, particularly the old Gerstner oak machinist's chests used nickel plated hardware, not chrome. You can do nickel plating yourself with a battery or battery charger with good results, given that all plating is only as good as the surface prep done before it. Google it.
   - Rich - Sunday, 07/10/11 22:36:55 EDT

Electrolytic cleaning : Danny, I just use a 20% solution of muriatic acid and let the stuff sit for a few hours and all the scale is gone and the surface is ready for paint after neutralizing and rinsing. Much less trouble than the electrolysis and I like the results much better. Electrolysis s good for rust removal, but not as good at removing scale in my experience.
   - Rich - Sunday, 07/10/11 22:39:50 EDT

Hayden, See our Power Hammer Page, Sid Suedemier is listed there. If parts are available he will have them. But more likely they will need to be made. Have the serial number of the hammer ready. There are a lot of different models with slight variations of parts.

A 50# LG is a comparatively small machine. Weight is more like 1800 pounds. But you will need to rig a small hoist or come-a-long over the machine for heavy parts. But to remove the arms you just need to block up ram and start backing off the adjustment screws.

There are arms, and toggles. The small horizontal parts are toggles. If they have been broken it is from improper setup. If the wrong dies are used the ram can travel too far down and the toggles strike the guides. If the hammer is choked (adjusted for short work and too high of work put between the dies) the spring can bottom out (go solid) and extreme load be applied to the arms, possibly breaking them. In either case it is usually some sort of abuse that broke the parts.

But there is also moving damage. This is rough treatment while moving the machine. It can be tipped over, dropped, rigged improperly. . .
   - guru - Sunday, 07/10/11 22:43:32 EDT

LG toggle arms : Hayden, contact Sid Suidemeir at http://www.littlegianthammer.com for the parts. He'll need to know which style you have, the old style, the transitional style or the new style. I think they're a couple hundred bucks apiece or thereabouts.

Alternately, you could check with Abana chapters near you - someone may have a set they don't need and will part with them reasonably.

Of course, lots of LG's have been running for years on brazed arms. And all sorts of other repairs, too. These were farmers' hammers and subjected to much abuse and rough field repairs many times.
   - Rich - Sunday, 07/10/11 22:47:33 EDT

Storage of Muratic Acid : Paw-Paw had an unopened container of Muratic Acid stored in his shop. I had not paid any attention to it and had tools piles around it and on a shelf above it. Within a year everything within a few feet of the container was severely corroded. Bare surfaces needed to be heavily ground to restore them. A new pair of tongs looked like they were 100 years old from that year of storage in the vapor zone. . .

Just having it well sealed is not good enough. Store it away from anything important, even raw stock!

Electrolysis is better for rust. Acid for scale.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/10/11 22:57:38 EDT

Care of wax and oil finsh : In chapter 13 it says "Whenever wax or oil finishes are used a responsible smith will explain to the customer how to care for and maintain the finish" I would like to be a responsible smith but I don't know what to do to care for and maintain those finishes. could anyone fill me in?
   Aaron - Monday, 07/11/11 01:36:58 EDT

Meteorite Metals : Bear in mind that if you forge metoritic metals, you will completely destroy the fantastic crystal structure and it will look like plain old terrestrial metal when polished and etched. I have heard people say they just want a knife made of something from outer space; well, near as I can figure, this entire planet is made from stuff from outer space! All the iron in our planet's core came from exploding stars (Super Novae). How much more exotic do you want?
   quenchcrack - Monday, 07/11/11 08:58:59 EDT

electrolysis solution : I am glad to find out about acid for fire scale i will soak these steel magnolia bits in lemon juice for as long as it takes to remove the fire scale. I dont want MURATIC acid within two blocks of my shop, as everything already is old n rusty and i cannot do anything with a pile of red dust. I plan to make a strong solution of WASHING SODA for rust removal by electrolysis in a 5 gallon bucket of water how much soda is reccomended can it be too strong? a battery charger is ok? The miller 400 amp welder is too much? any replies will be appreciated , great site Guru , thanks
   - danny arnold - Monday, 07/11/11 11:57:45 EDT

Electrolysis : Danny, you want a low amp low voltage DC current. A trickle type battery charger will do IF you can find one that will turn on without being hooked to an actual battery. . . these things have gotten to be a pain these days. I'd probably build my own power supply with a door bell transformer (12VAC) and a bridge rectifier from Radio Shack.

I'm not sure what would happen if you hooked the welder to it. With sufficient voltage and amperage you can bring a piece of metal to a red heat in a "water pail forge". But the normal welder voltage may be too low for this.

Lemon juice and vinegar will work but are very weak and expensive for what you get. You can purchase citric acid powder from various sources including McMaster-Carr.
   - guru - Monday, 07/11/11 13:35:16 EDT

Care of wax and oil finsh : Aaron, The point that needs to be made about these is that they are high maintenance finishes. The wax needs to be renewed occasionally as do oil finishes.

The problem is that a schedule and methods are difficult to specify. I had a business contact me about a railing in a public entry way that had a fresh oil mixture religiously applied once a year for over a decade. . the result was a thick gooey covering like tar. . . This was a result of the blacksmith's instructions. However, he expected someone to carefully wipe on a thin coating of oil that would take odd as much as it put on. Instead, maintenance personell brushed on a coating as painters do. . . Something impossible to control.

My recommendation to them was to strip it and paint it. Indoors all but the top surface of the rail would not need refinishing for decades. Because of where it was located over an indoor fountain with fish both the stripping and painting were going to be difficult. Grit blasting with dry ice was used to reduce the mess. However, the oil coating was so thick and goopy that it had to be scraped off by hand. . . before the grit blasting. In all a very expensive process on top of the annual maintenance. The smith, now long gone, had done the customer a disservice.

I say to be a responsible smith that you should avoid oil and wax finishes on anything of significance. Your modern clients do not want to do scheduled maintenance and will not do scheduled maintenance even if they say so. A good paint job will hold up for decades outdoors and longer indoors. It is expensive up front but saves money AND your reputation over the long run.

Think of it this way. Would you purchase a shiny new $20,000 automobile with a wax finish over bare metal that had to be rewaxed weekly and completely refinished annually? Remember the DeLorean automobile with unpainted brushed stainless steel body? They had one of the most expensive auto bodies to maintain. Sure, they didn't rust but you had to great care in washing them. Scratches were impossible tp fix requiring a NEW body panel. Dents could be very carefully worked out but then took special skills to recreate the directional brushed surface to match the rest of the parts. . . Very high maintenance.

Oil finishes made from linseed oil, wax, solvent and driers are low grade home made varnish or paint. Look up the ingredients in varnish. You can economically buy much better varnish than you can make and all paint is best purchased.

For insignificant items with wax finishes you should tell the customer it is a wax finish and that it may need to be renewed occasionally to prevent rust. However, rust WILL creep in. Repeated waxing darkens the rust and eventually the finish becomes a combination of waxed rust and scale or mostly waxed rust (changing from a dark gray to a dark brown).

Many old white-smithed items had light oil or wax finishes to prevent rust and keep them bright. These would also rust and require refinishing with steel wool or an abrasive. Today the same items should be made of stainless steel. These can be left unfinished and are very low maintenance. The SS is expensive to start but you avoid the cost of finishing or clear coat. Did you know stainless jewelery is more expensive than silver? It is because it is safe for most people with metal allergies and is more difficult to work. Knowing this makes it easier to sell.
   - guru - Monday, 07/11/11 14:39:14 EDT

space junk : i agree, the best to use is from earth. i did not want to forge with it. a piece was offered to use as a blade straightening anvil for cold work. soggestion based on it got here thru the hottest forge i know of.
   - keith - Monday, 07/11/11 14:54:11 EDT

Kieth meteorites sell by the *gram*. If it is indeed a meteorite you may be able to buy a fully equipped smithy for what it sells for (including multiple powerhammers, machine tools etc!)

If you want to learn about forging them then James Hrisoulas covers it in "The Pattern Welded Blade" IIRC and gives suggestions on good types to work and ones to avoid.

However you may want to google "meteor wrongs" as there are a lot of things that are mistaken for meteorites either by mistake or sometimes by malice.

   Thomas P - Monday, 07/11/11 16:37:30 EDT

Thomas P. : trust me, my sometimes working mind is already on that. i think my friend is trying to help me or trying to get something. i know he has some meteorite pieces, i helped him find some "chips" long time ago. never knew he had larger. i have enough proplems working the metal i do as it is. although,,,,,if the right oppertunity offered up....
who knows, wishful thinking (GRIN)
   - keith - Monday, 07/11/11 17:00:04 EDT

Meteor or Not :
As exotic materials go I think many of the Damascus steels, especially the mosaic varieties are the most beautiful and exotic materials you will find anywhere. Many are works of art that are produced in limited amounts by artists with limited lives. Talk about rare material.
   - guru - Monday, 07/11/11 17:42:57 EDT

Finishes : Thank You very much guru, what do you use for a finish on indoor pieces?
   Aaron - Monday, 07/11/11 19:22:13 EDT

meteorites : Since the local satilitte group (Nice pun) is The Southern Indiana Meteorite Mashers" I can offer that Billy Merrit will be doing a meteorite forging demo Saturday July 16th in Paoli, Indiana at the July IBA hammer-in, amongst other demo's. Billy has been forging meteorites for a number of years to make among other things Viking style swords.
Billy is know to weld all most anything to anything to get pattern welded blades. He also often demonstrates welding using a hammer handle as the forging tool, just a handle.
Look on the IBA webstite for directions.
   ptree - Monday, 07/11/11 19:30:12 EDT

forging groups : the ones i know of out west meet where i can't really attend.(distance,time, etc.)BUT... am diccovering a fairly decent market coming to me. ALTHOUGH, i have a couple things i would like evaluated, they are small, if anyone is is willing. also got asked to make another wall hanger sword. but it needs to look old, but not too rotted from age. i can make it look used, but cared for, ain't figgered old and deliver in this decade.
   - keith - Monday, 07/11/11 22:55:43 EDT

Indoor finishes :
Aaron, I would use a similar finish for indoor work as for outdoor if its significant work. The difference is that the finish can be thinner and can have thin glazes to create color and shading effects that would not hold up to outdoor conditions of weather and UV exposure. For small inexpensive items (hooks, fireplace accessories. . ) I would use a scale and wax finish if appropriate.
   - guru - Monday, 07/11/11 23:00:08 EDT

Aging and Old Sword (or other items) :
To make good old looking antiques you start with a high quality piece to start. Good flat lines and polish. Then start aging from there. Appropriate distressing or wear. A few nicks in the guard, maybe a few deep scratches and chips out of the blade, some light abrasive wear (coarse sand paper in a swath) - also tone down the polish with steel wool. Then a few spots of concentrated rust to mar the chips and along the edges. Acid sprinkled on in a few spots does this well. Leave sitting as long as you can stand it to get good deep pitting and edge corrosion. A good ding on a corner of the guard and pommel. . .

Varnish tinted with a little burnt-umber artists oil color makes a good dirt/aging compound. Rub on with a rag then wipe off the high places. It can be applied in corners with a very fine brush to darken the places that dirt would build up in.

A little work and imagination and you would swear it was hundreds of years old. . . but well preserved.
   - guru - Monday, 07/11/11 23:52:32 EDT

ageing : thanks guru....guess i did not think it through. acid wash, muritatic, citric, or other. got the nicks, dents, dings covered. actually easier to make that way.
   - keith - Tuesday, 07/12/11 00:08:19 EDT

Nickle Plating : Guru and Rich,
Thanks for your input on my question. I found a good site for ordering a nickle plating kit, 1.5 Gal kit $139.00 ( not bad )
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 07/12/11 02:44:34 EDT

My point was to make it without the nicks dents and dings as if you were making it for a customer that wanted NEW. Then age it. The result of there being a high quality work with some preserved shiny area compared to the distressed areas will be more realistic than rough work. That assumes you are going for authentic old as apposed to fantasy old. Both are OK. It just depends on what you are looking for.

I forgot to mention aging brass parts (if you have them). They are more difficult to do and take stronger chemicals in some cases. Mostly they take some time. Heat helps accelerate the process but it can be difficult to do gracefully. You may need to age them off the sword so the heat does not burn grip material. I had to age some brass escutcheon plates for an antique chest but the dealer wanted them ASAP. I used a variety of things that I had on hand but they only slightly dulled the brass. They were thin parts and I was scared to use heat. Polish, heat to create a flat finish, etch with a corrosive possibly in the presence of iron which will stain, then hand polish some of the corners and wear areas - then possibly age a little more.

Some folks have suggested aging process such as burial in a manure pile. I've also heard of distressing via shotgun. . . lots of creative methods. But I like more controlled. One oxidation accelerator that is fairly gently (in the publicly available dilutions) is hydrogen peroxide.

If you have time it would be best to test all aging process and chemicals on sample pieces of the materials you want to age.

PLEASE. No fakes. If someone wants a decorator item or something to impress friends that is fine. But fakes to fool collectors are bad business. Mark the item somewhere unobtrusive with the year using modern stamps. The machine cut stamps are a give away in themselves making the combination of date using modern stamps fairly foolproof.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/12/11 08:53:37 EDT

Aging: I had one order I considered a bit "iffy" so I inlaid the date in solder on the back of one of the grip slabs. If it ever gets x-rayed it will shine out like a spotlight.

The neo-tribal metalsmiths have done some neat patination on blades using *mustard* applying it in scattered globs multiple times to give the surface some character. (It's most likely just a holder for the vinegar...)

Wetting coarse saw dust with your patination material and loosely strewing it on the surface can help make it less even and more "natural"

And let us not forget *tea* for staining handles and blades.

Aging can be fun! Just don't overdo it---ie a blade half corroded through is quite suspicious if the grip is still in usable condition...
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/12/11 11:42:32 EDT

Tea is a popular colorant for aging but it does not work on all surfaces. The varnish oil paint I mention above was a mix my Dad made to give ceramic chess pieces that were painted white an antique ivory look. I believe he also used some gold paint over the varnish and this was also wiped off to leave very little.

The sawdust idea is a great hint. It would make the few random corroded spots better than just sprinkling on the corrosive. Polished surfaces tend not to rust but where it starts it ends up in deep pits. I think a lot of this starts on fly specs.

Fakes: Many years ago a friend was making early American reproductions for an antique dealer and aging them for him with Clorox bleach (a trick learned from the dealer). But when the dealer asked to have the reproductions made of wrought iron my friend quit the deal. He knew that items made with old wrought and corroded well could not be distinguished from the real things. . Shortly after this the dealers started bringing in container loads of antique iron and furniture form England to sell as "Early American". It is still done today. Old flea market furniture from England being rare antiques here. . .

A book I recently read on forging coins claimed that a very large number of old coins on the market are fakes. Anywhere from 10 to 30%! These are made by two types of forger, the large and the small. They are made by small time forgers who sell small quantities of coins that are not worth having professionally appraised at a few small coin shops then move on. But these guys make a good living at it so they are making a LOT of coins. The big forgers are criminal organizations and governments making "old" bullion coins for laundrying money. These forgers have large investments in equipment and technology producing millions of dollars in phony coins. To them it is just a way to move gold but these coins end up circulating in collections

When I was researching coin making I came across offers for ancient Roman coins. Bags of 100 or so small bronze coins. They were supposedly from a newly discovered "cache" of coins. Prices were only about double what the brass would cost. . . Most likely fakes. The problem is that they greatly increase the quantity of such coins in collections and reduce the value of real old coins. The cost of evaluating such coins can be very high as the forgers are very good. Metallurgical testing is the best indicator but is not always proof positive as many forgers make their own alloys to match the antiques.

What this means to the collector is that its more and more expensive to have antiques appraised. Besides the expertise of the appraiser (who may not be as good as the forgers) the laboratory testing which becomes a necessity is very expensive. X-rays, metallurgical and chemical testing. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/12/11 13:39:55 EDT

More fakes. . I've been watching a show called Sons of Guns. Lots of fun if you have it on cable - Discovery Channel. Its hard to find on the net.

One episode (Season 1 Episode 5) was evaluating a Civil War era gun that had a coffee grinder made into the stock. Apparently only 50 were made and very few survive. The gun looked like the Real McCoy to me. . . but there were a bunch of small details that proved it a fake. A $50,000 collector's item was a $1200 "reproduction" using an old gun as the base.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/12/11 15:06:13 EDT

I heard from one of my professors about someone in the Mediterranean (Cyprus maybe?) who was faking Ancient Greek Amphorae. After he shook hands on a sale, he'd casually point out that it was illegal to export antiquities. If the customer would just initial this form to acknowledge he was buying a modern reproduction (wink, wink). . .
   Mike BR - Tuesday, 07/12/11 18:58:42 EDT

Ageing : Some makers of "antiques" put their work outside in the weather and the family pees on it each morning for a while. Light relief I guess!
   Hugh McDonald - Tuesday, 07/12/11 21:45:13 EDT

Pee : Mr. McDonald,
I have heard the same thing !
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 07/13/11 02:48:55 EDT

Generally I consider *anything* being offered for sale to a tourist to be a fake no matter how good it looks! As such, if the price is decent and the look is good buy it as a reproduction and be happy!

I get an Archeology magazine and they had an article in it on how really good fakes were driving down profits for antiquities theft as it was often cheaper to get into faking and risking much lower penalties if caught.

On the sad side though it means that bullion items are more likely to just be melted down and thus never recoverable.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 07/13/11 13:22:20 EDT

Power hammer repairs : For what it is worth, my Kerrihard hammer was repaired some time in it's life. The right arm apparently broke and a new one was (likely) flame cut from some plate. Original pieces ( toggle connections and spring cup) were brazed on to the repair part. I bought the hammer at Gilmour's sale after his death. This sale was in 1997 I believe. I do know from a lifetime of visiting his shop that he bought the hammer sometime after the War ( of course this would have been WW2). The original cast left arm survives. This hammer will be placed in the new north shop at Threshers when the time comes. There would be some that would tell me to make some interchangable dies but I will just use the hammer for it's original purpose, drawing. It is a treat to use. I will bring the BOSS hammer to the home shop when I move the Kerrihard.
   - Ten Hammers - Wednesday, 07/13/11 13:23:45 EDT

Little Giant 50 : How big of a base do I need to pour? Depth, thicknrss, etc.
   Hayden - Thursday, 07/14/11 00:04:19 EDT

Foundation - 50 pound Little Giant :
Hayden, A 50 pound LG can be run directly on a good concrete floor.

However the factory recommended foundation is: 33" x 49" x 26" deep. The concrete to have reinforcing steel on 6" centers on three axiis. Anchor bolts (5/8" dia. x 23" long) attached to the bottom re-bar at 20" depth with 1-1/4" x 6" long tubes surrounding them at the top so they can be deflected if necessary to fit the holes in the hammer. A cork or rubber cushion 1/4" to 3/8" thick between the hammer and concrete. Dimensions are given on the plan for the holes in the base (18.5" front, 9.13" back, 17.75" between - starting at 16.25 from the front of the foundation.

One flaw in this design is that the hammer is centered nicely on the concrete block. However, this puts the anvil where the force is transmitted to the block well forward of center. It would be better to move the hammer back so that the rear of the hammer is just on the block and the anvil is located more directly over the center of mass. Visual and engineering symmetry are two different things.

While the mass of this foundation block is great and adds some efficiency to the hammer most folks consider it overkill. Same for the bolts reaching nearly through the concrete block. These also require lifting the hammer over them to install it. The foundation above is designed for general (IE unknown) soil conditions and to prevent transmission of vibration to the surrounding floor. It is also designed for use in locations with a dirt or gravel floor. IT is VERY permanent. Today hammers as heavy as 150 pounds are often operated on normal concrete shop floors.

On the permanency issue, you may want to move the location or upgrade hammers at a latter date. While the foundation is large enough for a heavier hammer the bolts will only line up to a 50 pound LG. I put in two heavy foundations in my last shop. One for a 50 pound LG and the other for a 100. Then I upgraded to a 250 LG for the larger hammer. It would not fit the larger foundation and the 100 would not fit the smaller. . . . Then I traded the 250 for a large hammer that needed a below floor level foundation. . . I have had to move from that shop and lost all that effort. . life happens.

The padding between hammer and floor is to avoid high spots in the concrete or hammer base from creating undue stress. Used conveyor belting or plywood can be used.

Many tall folks like to raise their hammer a bit and set them on a heavy wooden pad on top of the floor. The same can also be buried but neither add foundation mass. Added width is critical as 50 pound LG's tend to rock sided to side. They will tip over on soft ground and walk off a foundation pad if not bolted down.

Another option is bolting to a very heavy steel plate (3/4" or more). If a sufficiently large and heavy plate can be found this provides a portable recyclable foundation.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/14/11 10:48:32 EDT

More Hammer Foundations :
Some folks transfer the bolt holes which may not be very accurate using a sheet of plywood. This can be used as a jig to hold the bolts while welding to the rebar mat and then used as the padding under the hammer.

My bolt down preference is heavy nuts welded to a piece of pipe which is in turn welded to the rebar. The nuts set flush to the top of the concrete and the pipe provides room for the bolt to extend past the nut and to reach the rebar which should be 4 to 6" below the concrete surface.

The flush nuts have have the advantage that you can skid the hammer into position rather than lifting over studs and when the machine is removed at a later date there are no studs to cut off. An option to this is a couple heavy steel bars with drilled and taped holes setup in a similar fashion.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/14/11 10:58:47 EDT

So I need a pretty substantial base? At the current moment I don't have a true shop, so I want the base to be pretty easily disposed of.
   - Hayden - Thursday, 07/14/11 20:52:59 EDT

You need something at least 3 or 4 feet wide to prevent tipping unless it is a very heavy base such as a concrete pad or foundation. If you are working under the local shade tree a heavy pad made of doubled construction grade lumber (opposite directions) is about the minimum you can get away with. Often a platform like this can be made big enough so that it is convenient to stand on with the hammer. The hard part is getting the ground under a thin platform flat enough.

There are many of ways to go. A lot depends on location and budget as well as the permanence factors mentioned above.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/14/11 23:14:33 EDT

So long railroad ties would work as a base? If I criss-cross a pad 2-3 layers thick, and use re-bar, or sucker rod to nail em' together, it oughta work.
   Hayden - Thursday, 07/14/11 23:54:47 EDT

Cross Ties : Hayden just had a thought. Mark each tie precisely, drill several holes in each one, get threaded rods and run through all of them, put large washers on ends of rods, lock washers, nuts and tighten as much as you can. If you criss cross stack them, run the rods from top to bottom too, making them solid each way......just a thought. :)
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/15/11 00:06:23 EDT

Cross Ties :
Old used ones are a pain to work with. They are split, splintery, warped, full of holes and heavy. The cracks are often filled with sand or gravel making them rough on saws.
   - guru - Friday, 07/15/11 00:26:58 EDT

You also forgot about the immense amount of nasty chemicals they put in those things to prevent rot. Strange how in every country I've visited in the world that America is the ONLY one that uses wood ties. Concrete is the global norm from what I've seen.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/15/11 08:45:44 EDT

All the old ties were creosoted. The oils and creosote are now listed as carcinogens. There used to be a creosote plant near our small town and on the days they operated you could smell the stuff miles away. Many of the new tires are salt treated. This contains arsenic salts among other things. The local plant switched from creosote to salt treating. But many new ties are still creosoted because the salt treating does not do well with hard woods. I am not sure of how it effects the wood structurally but I know it greatly weakens the soft woods its used on.

I inherited a truck load of ties and started to use them for landscaping. We needed to terrace a space near the house to control run off and plant a flower garden. We did a lot of work preparing to use them but they were not suitable for the job which required various curves in the walls. Cutting and fitting them was going to be a LOT of labor. We bought interlocking landscaping blocks which made beautiful sinuous walls that conformed to the site as well as letting us be creative with the lines. While these are not cheap the labor requirements are a lot less than other methods and the results were very nice. We alternated red bricks turned on end with the tan landscaping blocks for a textural effect. I gave away the ties. . .

For many years I had thought about using ties for various projects because we we close to were they made them. But handling them new or used is messy, heavy (150 to 200 pounds) hard on tools and a general pain.
   - guru - Friday, 07/15/11 09:57:20 EDT

Cross Ties : Nip,
I am a retired railroader myself. I can tell you the U.S. still uses wood for cross ties. There have been ties that have been in place and used for a hundred years. Of course back then the ties were boiled in creosote. When a train goes over them, they give a little, are flexible, concrete would never last that long. When I was railroading, only hardwood was used for cross ties such as oak and hickory, of course when the hardwoods become more scarce, I don't know what they will use, maybe more concrete.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/15/11 18:15:58 EDT

RR ties : In Europe, when I was there in the mid 70's, the sleepers as they call them were mostly steel, not concrete.
Living in an area that is hugely rich in hardwood forests', I see RR ties everywhere moving from the mills to the chem-treater's to the point of use.
An aside, My Grandfather owned a mountainside in SE KY, and it was a Chestnut forest. After the blight, he cut mine props and ties till the day he died in 1954. Imagine splitting out and hewing 20+ year dead on the stump chestnuts to make ties. All with hand tools and he got the princely sum of $0.25 for each and every tie!
   ptree - Friday, 07/15/11 20:22:39 EDT

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