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THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you.

This is an archive of posts from July 15 - 21, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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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

25ยข : Ptree's story reminds me of an old blacksmith I met in Clayton, NM, years ago. He said that when he and his brother were young, they would get theise broncos to shoe. They had to pen the horse, rope and throw it, then hog tie it. The horses were so wild that the shoes had to be nailed on while they were hog tied. They said that the horses wiggled and fought so much that they could move from one side of the corral to the other, while tied up! He told me that they got a quarter a foot!
   frank turley - Saturday, 07/16/11 00:35:03 EDT

ptree : You are absolutely right ! My grandpaw, as well,cut trees and hand hewed them by hand with a broadax to make cross ties. He also got .25 cents apiece for them and I'm thinking during the depression, as low as .10-15 cents apiece for them, I believe he said he could hew 2 per day. If the economy keeps going like it is, we may return to those days. Most of the people on Anvilfire.com could handle it if things got that bad, but I'm afraid it would be a shock to the younger generation. They stay on the computer, play electronic games, text on cell phones etc. and have everything handed to them. I may be wrong, but a depression may be what it will take to get people's priorities back in proper perspective. Think about World War Two, boys were already tough before they went into the military, half or more were already experienced marksmen, even in Vietnam a lot of that could be said. No wonder we are shifting into high tech military type wars.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 07/16/11 00:40:13 EDT

I remember hearing about a deal the US made with the RR magnates that included exclusive rights, including right-of-way clearing people from their homes, etc. Part of the deal was making sure logging industry would stay alive by ONLY using wood for ties. I think someone here told me that.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/16/11 10:34:28 EDT

Oh, and I have a Nintendo 3DS, a dumb phone (flip) and am tech savvy.... although when the boom-boom hits the fan my skills will keep us afloat.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/16/11 10:35:35 EDT

Work time : I am a historian of 15thC Greece. Venice had colonies in Greece & shipped out loads of standardized cuts of lumber, various pieces of ironwork, and nails. Nails are ordered in 1000s. I was curious as to how long it would take a smith to make 1000 4" nails, say, for construction. Would one man be likely to do the whole nail, or would this be a workshop thing with 2-3 people doing different parts of the process?
   Diana Wright - Saturday, 07/16/11 17:34:27 EDT

forced oxidation : Looking for process to force rust on mild steel plate. Architectural effect for project requires rusted steel panels as tops for cabinets.
Any hints for getting this to happen faster than nature can provide?
Thanks to all, Jeff in PA
   blk - Saturday, 07/16/11 19:07:06 EDT

Forced Rust : Fastest way I know is to sandblast or pickle it in muriatic acid first, then spray a bit of Clorox or hydrogen peroxide on it and put it someplace where it will stay damp for several hours. A plastic tent will do.

When it is rusted ( a couple three hours), take it out and let it dry, then scrub it with some Scotchbrite and rust it again. The more times you repeat the process, the deeper and more durable the rust will be. When it is where you want it, seal it with something like Permalac - test on a scrap piece first to see how the Permalac alters the appearance.

Keep n mind that rust never sleeps. Once it is started it will continue to progress even if it looks stable. My personal preference for interior rusted look is to fake it with paint - done properly no one can tell the difference but the paint will be stable for decades to come and the rust finish won't, no matter how you try to seal it.
   - Rich - Saturday, 07/16/11 19:23:27 EDT

Nail making : Diana, It depends somewhat on the size and type of nail but a nailmaker working a long (10 hour) day was said to be able to make 1,000 nails in a day. In modern nail making competitions it is not unusual for a smith to make 25 nails in 15 minutes. This adds up to 100 per hour or 1,000 in a 10 hour day.

Such work was often done by young apprentices, women or slaves. Making your daily quota probably determined whether on not you got fed. The reason I say this is because doing such boring work is is easy to let your mind wander and your production rate to fall. So maybe it was a 12 hour day. . . Quotas may have varied according to type of nail.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/16/11 19:27:22 EDT

Rust Finish :
As Rich noted, rust never sleeps. It also stains surrounding concrete or other masonry. I always recommend paint. You can create the texture by forced rusting then cleaning a preparing to paint. Paint can be applied in slightly different colors or hand applied to enhance the texture. Another option is to use texture paint and tints as above.

The advantage to using paint is that the finish will last decades without change. A rust finish will continue rusting and eventually destroy the work. It may hold up well indoors but be a dirty with sealing. Sealing a rusted surface with clear coat (lacquer) makes it much darker and changes the surface texture. Adding flattener to the lacquer tends to make it milky and further change the color.

You may also create your own texture in the paint using sand or sawdust. However, this creates a raised texture rather than a pitted one.

Something to thing about.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/16/11 19:57:57 EDT

Nail making : Thanks so much. It sounds stupifying.
   Diana Wright - Saturday, 07/16/11 20:22:57 EDT

Nail making : While the book is in process, I added you to my most recent blog:

   Diana Wright - Saturday, 07/16/11 20:27:53 EDT

Nail making is right up there with chain link making... historically these were cottage industries. Back in the day, and
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/16/11 21:24:19 EDT

Heh heh, sorry, had to poke fun. Diana, for the sideshow community who does the "blockhead" act I make custom nails from 316L stainless steel. Of course I use special collars in a vise and an oxy/acetylene torch. Using these modern devices I can hammer out quite a good amount of nails in a day, never really tested my limits though.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/16/11 21:26:42 EDT

Cottage Industries : Also, I read where years ago, the poor people would make extra money by making files. They got the blanks from the forge, company etc. and took them home and cut the teeth into the files. Very labor intensive.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 07/16/11 21:49:12 EDT

Actually file cutting goes fairly fast. It just takes a good while to learn. English companies who distributed the steel had many farmers who needed winter work make the files. Many of the unusual patterns are the result of families who cut particular files for generations. Some files were still hand cut until fairly recently (from an historical standpoint).
   - guru - Sunday, 07/17/11 00:26:00 EDT

Nail Making : I watched a program on the History channel where they were renovating an old Civil War building, had some significance to Abraham Lincoln ( I think ) they used the original metal crimping process for joining the metal sheets together for the roof and then used nails that were specific for that time period.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/17/11 03:32:49 EDT

Mike/Anthony : You guys think that is something, just this morning I
   - Tom H - Sunday, 07/17/11 10:12:44 EDT

New Orleans "Antique" Rust : Year ago I was in New Orleans on NPS business, and after hours went on one of my customary antique shop crawls. There is a wide variety of antiques in the shops, with items of variable quality and provenance, sprinkled through the French Quarter and beyond.

At the back of one shop, I spotted a candelabrum of modern spot-welded construction and some sort of light-brown sealed rust finish at a very hefty price. Bumping into the proprietor on my way out, I mentioned that I did some blacksmithing and, in my opinion, it was not an antique and probably of very recent origin.

"D@mn!" exclaimed the proprietor, "The guy a brought it from said it was bronze!" 8-0

Sunny and warm on the banks of the lower Potomac. Visit your National Parks; Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve is sort of cool: www.nps.gov/jela/ (Despite the name, it has almost nothing to do with pirates!)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 07/17/11 14:09:29 EDT

Surprised by Time : Wow, that goes into my "History" bookmarks file!

Where else can one read up on "leopard wranglers?"
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 07/17/11 14:17:01 EDT

Leopard Wranglers : I couldn't find anything on leopard wranglers other than what I wrote, beyond vague remarks that European courts had animals & people who looked after them. Seems like a great job.
   Diana Wright - Sunday, 07/17/11 14:22:59 EDT

Diana : The Vikings and their connection to Byzantium were long-gone by your period, but please feel free to check out our website at http://longshipco.org/

Meanwhile, I will forward your blog's url to my friend who delights in the Eastern Empire and its legacy.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 07/17/11 18:00:48 EDT

Years ago we took a tour of the House of 7 Gables in Salem MA. The woman leading the tour explained to the group that nails were very expensive in the colonial times, one door she showed us was batten style (covered in nails). She said that it was a style that some people used to show off how rich they were. Then I blew her mind when I pointed out the notche-and peg construction of the beams in the roof. Only because my 300 y.o. home has the same roof. There was about a dozen other things I pointed out to her about colonial building material and techniques, eventually she offered that I conduct the tour!
   - Nippulini - Monday, 07/18/11 08:27:19 EDT

Longships : http://longshipco.org/

What fabulous fun! I am on the wrong side of the country.
   Diana Wright - Monday, 07/18/11 16:21:57 EDT

Diana; Thomas Jefferson wrote out a complete business plan for a nailery at Monticello going into detail how many nails of what type each slave would be expected to be able to produce.

As the technology was essentially equivalent save that they could buy nail rod produced by rolling/slitting rather than forging, it would make a good basis to work your problem on.

This can be found in the complete works of Thomas Jefferson as published.

   Thomas P - Monday, 07/18/11 16:29:08 EDT

Soderfors Sweden Anvil : I was wanderin around an old barn earlier, and discovered an old anvil that said "Soderfors England", is this a good brand of anvil? I can't really find anything about grade on em' online
   Hayden - Monday, 07/18/11 19:13:59 EDT

Hayden, All the imported Swedish anvils are good quality cast steel. Many years ago they made forged anvils but none are known to have been imported to the U.S. Good anvil. $1/lb. would be a bargain. $3/lb or more would be what it would sell for in a competitive market.
   - guru - Monday, 07/18/11 20:17:33 EDT

So $2.25 a pound be a good price? It's in immaculate condition. I honestly don't think it's ever been touched by a hammer.
   Hayden - Monday, 07/18/11 20:29:21 EDT

$50 or $0.50/lb would be a "good" price. $225 for a 100 pound anvil is a fair price. . .
   - guru - Monday, 07/18/11 22:25:37 EDT

post vice : took possesion of one. does not appear to have any "jaws". you know, the obvious "hard things" that grips what your project. was told it is wroght iron. i read (somewhere) that wroght vises did not have the "jaws" that a normal vise does. true or not? can't find what i read. there are no i.d. marks that i can find. ANYONE?
   - keith - Monday, 07/18/11 23:08:56 EDT

Leg Vise Jaws : Keith, Blacksmith leg vises do indeed have hard steel jaws. But they are seamlessly forge welded into the wrought iron body. Sometimes you can see the joints underneath or on the edges but I've never seen them on the top.

Modern bench and machine vises have jaws with those grotesque diamond point teeth that destroy work. When new a leg vise has very shallow almost faint cross hatching that rapidly wears off. I have a number of big old chipping and machine vises and the teeth are worn off all the jaws. If they were not I would grind them off. Even on milling machine, shaper vises and lathe chucks the jaws are better if flat and smooth.

The reason I harp on this a bit is that I once had a beautiful big 250 pound leg vise in good condition except for ONE thing. Some idiot had torched off the original jaws and done a half assed attempt at welding in replacement jaws for a modern bench vise. . . It made me sick every time I looked at it and I finally traded it back to the guy I had gotten it from. I could have repaired it but did not.
   - guru - Monday, 07/18/11 23:37:29 EDT

thanks Jock, will look alot closer (glasses) to see what i can. do see some hammer marks from making it. the body below the vise itself, where the screw is is not a "hole", it is actually a "slit", like when you splir wrought iron. wish it had some i.d. on it. no spring or mount plate came with it.
   - keith - Tuesday, 07/19/11 00:43:43 EDT

Vise Jaw "Teeth" : At the plant there was a huge bench vise [8" maybe 9] in perfect condition. The jaw teeth were like pyramids 1/4" at the base. It bitched up everything so badly nobody used it, so it stayed in perfect condition. I guess if You had to grab a rough casting, it would be the one to use. I have a nice 6" Parker that came with smooth jaws, seems You could get them both ways.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 07/19/11 01:04:59 EDT

Vise Jaw teeth : In my lab I had about 20 vises of many sizes from new little 4" to massive chipping vises from the very old days. All had nicely worn jaws that did not mar the work, except one 8" Wilton machinist vise bought new in 1983 or so. It had special jaws made by the tool and die shop and had 1/4" or so sharp diamond teeth, in hard tool steel. BUT, that vise was used to do things like hold a used 4" union bonnet valve while we remove the union nut. Usually we did not exceed the torque we could get using a 60" Rigid pipe wrench with a 13' cheater, and myself and not more than 2 college co-op's. I did however choose my co-ops both for brains and handy large size:) That vise would hold almost anything, but the anything was usually already scrap when it went in.
   ptree - Tuesday, 07/19/11 07:00:24 EDT

Vise Jaw Teeth : Back when big vises were used for chipping (hand carving finished surfaces) on castings the teeth MIGHT have had some purpose. I was at a sale in an old plant and next to one of the big vises with sharp teeth were a stack of used commercial soft vise jaw liners. They all had holes poked through them like a screen. . .

Using jaw covers is an option but if they need to be used all the time then why fight the teeth? I have one old vise that someone had drilled and tapped holes to hold jaw covers. . The jaws are now well worn and do not mar work. . so what was the point?

As for blacksmith vises you never want any teeth when doing hot work and soft covers made of aluminum, copper or lead would melt. In the modern machine shop or job shop most work is finished all over. Vise or chuck marks on finished work can be a reason to reject work.

On lathes you often machine the a part on the end of a bar then cut it off. In this case jaw marks would not be too much of a problem. However, most of this type work is done with collets which do not mark the work. . If you are only making a couple parts from a long bar then teeth marks may be ruining the bar for the next job. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/19/11 08:09:40 EDT

Missing Vise Parts : The spring and bracket being missing is very common. I think the reason is that the brackets were very securely bolted to a bench and the bolts possibly peened to keep the nuts from coming off. Then when sold at a sale where it had to be removed quickly TODAY the easy thing to do was tap out the wedges and abandon the bench bracket. If the spring was taken it would get lost. . .

There are two types of mount. A tenon type where a rectangular hole is punched through the back of the vise and the wrap around type. I believe the tenon type was weak and abandoned for the wrap around type.

The spring is fairly easy to make. See the discussion on July 7th. An authentic wrap around type is quite a job to make and must be fairly precise. But many leg vises including old European vises had a U-bolt type bracket. The back part looks like a piece of angle iron and a square cornered U bolt is made to fit. Optionally a cross plate and two seperate bolts can be used. It is best not to weld to old leg vises. They are wonderful tools but also antique tools of a style that will never be made again. In the near future they will be much more highly prized than they are now and welding would ruin their value.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/19/11 08:23:51 EDT

My vises have mild steel collars made from scraps of angle iron. Some collars have holes drilled in for holding round stock. After a while the iron gets pretty warped from all the beatings. Holds up under intense heat though, no worry about melting like you would with copper or aluminum.
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 07/19/11 08:27:22 EDT

Specialty jaws or work holding attachments are great things. Carving blocks to keep the work from rotating are a wonderful invention that I wish I had thought of.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/19/11 09:00:38 EDT

The Vices of Vises : I will note that the jaws of the post vise at Blacksmith Depot (and other vendors) seem to be especially toothy!


They also sell jaw pads. :-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 07/19/11 11:22:10 EDT

Vise Jaw Covers : Let's think about this a moment. You want a material that is soft enough to deform sufficiently to hold steel without marring it, but that has a high enough melting point that hot steel won't collapse it. Hmmmm...platinum would fit the bill just perfectly! (grin)
   - Rich - Tuesday, 07/19/11 11:27:48 EDT

rust patina : I have used Birchwood brand "plumb brown". heat the metal to 200+F and dab it on with a sponge or rag to get a dappled appearance. Buff with steel wool and seal with wax.
I use bees wax because I have 50000 girls making it behind the shop.
   Willy Cunningham - Tuesday, 07/19/11 15:20:56 EDT

Boy Rich; know I know how you got your name! Of course that would fit into my shop as the forge chimney and slack tub are Platinum---no corrosion issues! (or was that plutonium?---just some scrap from down around the Trinity Site...)

Anvil Price: Is based on make, model, condition and SIZE! I don't see where that Sodefors had a weight mentioned and so any absolute value is WRONG!

Vise; who cares the make of it as long as it's good for the purpose! I'll buy a Columbian with a good screw/screwbox over a Peter Wright with a bad one! Somehow "pretty" doesn't bear as much weight as "sturdy" does when you're pounding on it with a 8# sledge!

I'm cheap I typically get my vises without the mounting bracket and spring as they are cheaper that way and it's a pleasant morning in the forge to make up a set.

I do have one 4" postvise with very aggressive teeth on the jaw; angle iron covers seem to work quite well on it for steel, but for rough working of wood with a drawknife it's quite handy!

I've never seen a postvise without jaws so far and I've seen some pretty mangled ones including one that looked to have been driven over by a bulldozer.

Willy you have 50K *queens*? Wow!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/19/11 16:53:28 EDT

More on Vises : Missing parts are always a good negotiating points, especially at antique stores and flea markets.

"Oh mannn; it doesn't have the vise spring! It doesn't even have the MOUNTING hardware! Getting this thing into working order is going to be a pa!n in the @$$! How about $XX? (Where XX = a considerably smaller number than the original price.)

And thus the 100# 6" Columbian, dated 1917, found a good home. :-)

Please note that this tactic doesn't carry much water at a blacksmithing tailgate sale. ;-)

Getting hotter and more humid on the banks of the Potomac; all that good, warm Middle-American weather coming our way.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 07/19/11 17:28:24 EDT

Earliest use of hardie hole on English anvils: I bought an old anvil from the scrap yard today. It's an old English Colonial, fifth foot style with a horn on one end and a sloping anvil. It has the rectangular holes on each end and a round hole on the very bottom.The casting is rough but the top is smooth but worn in the middle.It doesn't have any holes on the top. When were the hardie holes first introduced? Just trying to date this. Based on the pictures in the gallery, it is pre-1800s but could it be pre-1700's ? Thanks.
   Jack Smith - Tuesday, 07/19/11 22:44:29 EDT

Jack, Punching holes of various sizes and shapes date back to the early Bronze age. These were easy in cast bronze but more difficult in forged iron. Due to lack of publications and industrial history it is impossible to set a date on such a development. These things were also a matter of style or variations between makers. Anvils were often made in various styles at the same time.

Lack of any hole probably dates it as pre 18th century but that is just a guess.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/20/11 00:08:58 EDT

Old English Anvil : Where can I post some pictures?
   Jack Smith - Wednesday, 07/20/11 01:12:16 EDT

Early Anvil : Jack,

That anvil, if truly English iron, was forged, not cast. Cast steel and iron anvils are a much later development than Colonial period.
   - Rich - Wednesday, 07/20/11 02:02:31 EDT

Jack you may e-mail them to me.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/20/11 08:09:46 EDT

Jack Smiths Old English Anvil :
Two views of Old English Anvils

Indeed Jack's old anvil is English of a style similar to those in our article on The 5th Foot. It also includes the distinctive rectangular handling hole of the "S" anvils.

The broken face is not unusual as these old anvils had pieced together steel faces and the welds occasionally failed OR the steel cracked. In this case lack of the face steel has let the horn bend downward (OR load on the horn seperated the weld under the face letting it break). Either way the two or related failures common on old anvils.

Dating these anvils better than +/- 100 years is difficult unless the maker or maker's family is known. In the case of the "S" anvils with the rectangular handling hole it is believed this is one maker or maker's family. As small family businesses some lasted only a generation, others a lifetime and some longer. But without specific knowledge it is impossible to know. The precedence of an item is often more telling than the item itself. The problem with old anvils is that they are purchased, traded, handed down and the family of the owner only knows it was "grandpa's anvil". We have seen many cases "grandpa's old anvil" or the anvil handed down for generations being of relatively modern origin. The fact that there was no good anvil reference until the recently published "Anvils in America" meant there was very little knowledge about old anvils until the last decade. So if it was old and rusty it was "ancient" and grandpa's anvil mad in 1920 came over on the Mayflower. . .

The best we can say about this old anvil is that it is pre-revolutionary.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/20/11 13:14:18 EDT

Old English Anvil : Guru,
Thanks for helping me to date it.
I've never used an anvil before so I was surprised by the 50% + bounce with the hammer test. It has a good ring except for near the damaged area.
I couldn't see any "S" or other mark above the fifth foot but there is a red paint on the anvil and it may have filled-in some fine traces.
If I find any identifying marks with further clean-up, I'll post a picture.
   Jack Smith - Wednesday, 07/20/11 13:56:47 EDT

History of Swage Blocks : I am doing a project on the history of Blacksmithing with a view to writing a book and am trying to find out who come up with the idea of the swage block and when. Any ideas where I might locate this information.
   Shirley Xanthos - Wednesday, 07/20/11 21:30:59 EDT

Industrial History : Shirley, You are going to have a very difficult time writing on this subject. Most books on blacksmithing have no more than a sentence or two about them and technical histories ZERO.

See my other web site SwageBlocks.com I've probably written more about swage blocks than anyone else. I've studied them, designed them, made them and written about them. Note that except for one tool block instruction manual 100% of the writing on SwageBlocks.com is mine and entirely original.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/20/11 22:19:30 EDT

ptree; : off the record.... took possesion of a 7x57 (7mm mauser) and did some stat-type shooting today. came up with some numbers at 500 meters that blew me away. since you did time in Europe, what do you recall about 7mm?
now, to keep it honest. JOCK, that vise i talked about a few days ago....no apperant jaws on it. buffed and cleaned, confirmed wrought iron. possible made last 100 yrs.? jaws match GOOD. 'sides, it was free.
shop work starting to roll good, keep up with 6 hr. days. (lots of preformed material)
   - keith - Wednesday, 07/20/11 22:53:16 EDT

Importance of smoke shelf : Lately I've been fabricating a side draft hood. The frame is made of angle iron and the sides are going to be sheet metal. Currently, the side draft hood has no smoke shelf. I did a trial run with the hood; substituting cardboard for the sheet metal to see if the hood would function properly, and it did. So how critical is a smoke shelf? Is the hood likely to release smoke into the shop if some wind or high pressure comes along? Part of the reason I don't just add the smoke shelf is because I am afraid the performance will drop. The hood design has been tested to work well without the smoke shelf. Could adding one possibly mess things up? Note: I am at the fabrication stage now that if I am going to add one, it would be the next step.
   RM Howell - Wednesday, 07/20/11 23:47:56 EDT

Despite the popular belief that a smoke shelf is necessary they are not. Industrial stacks do not have them for good reason.

In a home fireplace the shelf does two things. One, it stops debris and water from falling into the fire, two it provides a place for a damper to close off the chimney. If properly made, and few are, it also acts as an expansion chamber and funnel to guide the smoke up the stack. Many old stone chimneys I've examined had no shelf and worked fine.

In a side draft "hood" the box is the expansion chamber and a place to make the necessary right angle turn upward. The turn is not necessary if you do not need access directly over the fire, which of course you do. The design such as the "Super Sucker" hood we have on our plans page is the same as many old brick forge stacks.

   - guru - Thursday, 07/21/11 00:22:29 EDT

Side Draft : At the steam & gas club there is a side draft forge with a 12" masonry flue that does not [in My opinion] work as well as it should. It seems to Me that the side draft opening is too far from the the firepot, and too much "shop air" gets sucked in from the space between the opening and the fire pot. If You are following a proven design, Yours should work. In My opinion the side draft opening should be right against the side of the firepot [This firepot is farly typical, about 9-10" wide].
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 07/21/11 01:04:38 EDT

Shoeing Wild Horses : Hey Frank, I just read your posting about shoeing wild horses. Many many years ago, I went with a rancher friend to shoe some horses. I was just beginning to learn about horse shoeing. I found out that they were untouched by humans, and the owner wanted their feet trimmed. One of the ranch hands, corralled them, roped one for me, and raped him with the rope around his neck, his feet, etc. He did not like that at all and was fighting the entire time. My buddy said to me " your going to learn a lot about trimming feet today. He was right.
   Dave - Thursday, 07/21/11 02:00:43 EDT

Keith, I had no experience with the 7 x 57. Some with the 8mm Kar 98, but not much.

On side drafts, I have mede several, none with a smoke shelf. All of mine have accumulated ash/cinders in the back corners that I notice does streamline the turning flow a bit and probably add perhaps 10% to the flow rate. The best sidedraft would be a long radius ell to the stack, necked down at the entry if I had to guess.
   ptree - Thursday, 07/21/11 10:16:29 EDT

Side Drafts and Draw :
Stack height makes a difference in the amount of draft (generally more height is better). Where the stack is located can make a difference. If there is a sloped roof, a nearby building or even trees that would cause a high pressure area around the stack it will not work efficiently. In fact when the wind blows toward these surfaces it can actually cause a down draft in the stack! I have had this problem with a wood stove chimney that met all the general rules. When the wind blew toward the house smoke would stream out of any opening of the stove. . . The chimney had a very good draft otherwise.

The opening of a side draft "hood" should only be about a foot from the center of the fire pot. The opening also needs to be smaller than stack in order to create a high velocity flow over the fire. The bottom of the opening can be a little above the fuel bed surface as the smoke and hot air wants to rise, not go horizontal. The gases will go horizontal when the fire is hot but not so well with a lazy fire.

If the opening is too large or too far away then too much cold air is sucked in with the hot resulting in a poor draft. Both of these issues are relatively easy to cure with an attachment to the opening. Covering part of the opening (usually the top) or extending it out toward the firepot may cure the problem. A small flap extending from the top of the opening is common to help direct lazy smoke into the stack. This also reduces the amount of cold air sucked in.

On the very old masonry forges the air blast and the draft were both from the side of the stack. Thus the fire was built right against the masonry wall and the draft opening was directly above it. I do not know where this design evolved. It was different than the huge European masonry hood design that covered the entire forge area. These worked but the stack and top opening were also huge, several feet or more in each direction. No worry for Santa!

If you have a smokey forge problem it usually can be fixed. You just have to study it, and take action.

Another thing that can effect the efficiency of any hood (side draft OR overhead) is air movement in the shop. A forge next to a window or door may have a significant cross draft that will pick up smoke rather than it going up the stack. I am a big believer in good ventilation in the shop but sometimes the ventilation can make things worse. . .

Early in my blacksmithing career I responded to a letter to the editor in our local paper about smokey fireplaces and for a short time had a brisk business in cures. The complaint was that a family could not enjoy the fireplace in their new home that had been built for others a few years earlier and the contractor was nowhere to be found. . . They had been to building inspections about it and were told "tough luck". . . I responded that reducing the opening a bit could probably cure the problem and that it could be done without rebuilding the fireplace.

The fellow contacted me and asked if I would come look at the fireplace to see what could be done. I did so and the fireplace looked very ordinary until I looked up inside. The front of the opening was almost level to the smoke shelf. I suggested that a steel plate that lowered the front of the opening about 8" would do the job. I made an angle iron framework to fit the fireplace opening and put the plate inside with a slope. Short set screws in the angle iron held the frame and plate in place. We built a fire and it worked perfectly. . . I fixed several others in the same area. Apparently the same mason had built a number of fireplaces with this faulty design.

It may have been coincidence but I suspected the same mason in another case. A friend had a chimney fire which the fire department came and put out quickly and there was very little damage. But later that night the fire started again in the wall of the house. The idiot mason had built the chimney around a piece of the house framing and left it extending into the chimney! 20 years of use had not set this piece of wood on fire. . . until that night.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/21/11 10:27:30 EDT

Smooth Flow Hoods : Curves in the stack. Ptree makes a good point. Those old stone chimneys I mentioned earlier had long flowing lines inside with no corners or abrupt turns even when they went around another fireplace above them. In fact they looked like the shape of a wisp of smoke gently spiraling upward.

I need to replace our side draft hood drawings which were based on designs I had seen over a decade ago and drawings supplied by Centaur Forge. They both work but are not optimal designs and one has an unneeded smoke shelf.

Ideally the back of the expansion chamber would curve up and around and blend in with the stack. The front would curve outward like a pair of lips or horn of a trumpet. Everything would flow smoothly reducing turbulence and eddies.

This would be technically difficult and expensive to build in a three dimensional shape. However, flow works quite well in rectangular sections so there is no need to make hemispherical and oblate shapes.

Smooth flow side draft hood.
Smooth Flow Side Draft Hood

The design above has relatively smooth flow and the bottom slopes toward the opening so that ash is easily swept out. The proportions may not be the optimum economically. It is a little tall and the drawing is not perfectly proportional. But it demonstrates the idea that the flow can be made to be relatively smooth without formed compound curves.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/21/11 11:58:25 EDT

Side Draft hood : Thanks for the help guys. It sounds like it will be safe enough to skip out on the smoke shelf and instead just add a lip on the top of the hood opening. For paint I'm using 1200 degree rated high heat spray paint. The project looks good so far; hopfully it will turn out nice.
   RM Howell - Thursday, 07/21/11 12:39:08 EDT

Documentation on historical smithing can be quite difficult as for many centuries nobody wrote about this sort of thing.

Here are a few sources I would expect you to have gone through *looking* for items that might be considered a "swage block".

Stepping backwards I'd start with Richardson's Practical Blacksmithing from 1889-1891, then perhaps Diderot's Encyclopedia 1751 through 1772 get the full edition not the subset and you will need to scan through it all looking for what might qualify as a swageblock even in areas not identified as "blacksmithing" (like locksmithing, gun work, etc)

Then Moxon's Mechanics Exercises, 1703 but much written in the last half of the 1600's (beware of editions that only cover the printing section!)

Agricola's De Re Metallica from the 1556's (and perhaps Biringuccio's Pirotechnia 1540)

Also look through as many paintings of smithies as possible. There are a number of Renaissance ones titled something like "Venus at the forge of Vulcan" that often have quiet detailed shop backgrounds, Actually I'd hunt down all art that had "Vulcan" in the title...

Getting earlier than Renaissance would be quite difficult as cast iron is pretty much a renaissance item and wrought iron would have been used for individual swages for the most part.

And finally don't forget the Patent Office to see if anyone patented their "improved" swage blocks...

Note that many of the sources may not have swageblocks in them; but you won't know until you do the research!

Question would you consider armour making items as swages? The Royal Armoury in Leeds has several examples.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/21/11 12:51:34 EDT

Rust Finish : I have had a great deal of success in dissolving Rock Salt in water, as much as will dissolve and then spraying on the metal. Then use burlap sacks soaked in the brine solution and wrap on for as many days as it takes to accomplish the desired rust effect. Once this is accomplished you can allow to dry. The oxidation will continue however if you apply a clear coat of POR15 over it, this will stop the oxidation and encapsulate the metal to prevent further oxidation allowing the natural metal with rust to show through. This material is available at their website or through automotive paint shops. Good stuff, but not inexpensive. Have fun!
   ESierra62 - Thursday, 07/21/11 13:11:38 EDT

Stack flow : In sub-sonic gas flow, the following apply:
A sudden increase in flowpath cross section will decrease velocity and increase pressure.
A sudden decrease in cross section will increase velocity and decrease pressure.
To get good suction the sudden decrease at the entry of the stack will make for a increase in the velocity and a pressure decrease, providing the suction. If you then have a big increase in the stack section the pressure increase and make the stack not draw correctly.

Go for small, smooth transitions in cross section and smooth direction changes as sharp edges and sharp turns will cause turbulence that will also restrict flow.

Having some background in flow measurement and an interest, I will probably do some R&D and try to find an optimal stack design using off the shelf items.
   ptree - Thursday, 07/21/11 15:14:16 EDT

Industrial History : The hard part of researching tools is the multiple names used for the same tool. Consider

Armourer's maid
dapping block
hollow anvil
gun anvil
swage block
swedge block (misspelling, mispronunciation)

All are terms for swage block. Then you have translations into other languages. . which may or may not have a specific word for any given tool. Most technical terms are not found in translation dictionaries. You would need a native speaker that was also an expert in the technical field. To make things worse people commonly misspell words (in all languages) and mispronounce terms. Example, "cold shut" and "cold shunt". The first is correct, the second is a common meaningless pronunciation used by many blacksmiths. Multiply this by translation issues and you have a huge problem. . .

The world's oldest known swage block is the Bronze Age Cape Gelidonya "anvil" currently located at Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology in Turkey. It is labeled an anvil an may or may not be according to the the language of 1200 BC. Anvil is probably correct as it is doubtful there was a special term for this tool in the languages of the time - but there MAY have been. Or it could have been a "goldsmiths block", "button maker's form" or other craftspersons special tool. It is the same size and similar material to a modern jeweler's brass dapping block which in turn is a small version of a blacksmith's swage block (dapping blocks are made in both brass and steel).

You could spend years traveling to museums and libraries world wide to do justice to many "simple" questions. One thing I ask many researchers is their "history of" is a global history? Western histories tend to be very Eurocentric and ignore the great technological advances of the Eastern cultures. Something to think about. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 07/21/11 17:30:16 EDT

Eurocentrism : Indeed, reared its head in Thomas' previous post - he mentioned that "...cast iron is pretty much a renaissance item..." which overlooks the Chinese, who were making cast iron long before the Renaissance in Europe. Unfortunately, not many of us in the US and Europe speak/read Chinese now do we have Chinese reference works that we could research for Chinese swage blocks. My guess is that the Chinese were well ahead of Europe in making swage blocks by several hundred years.
   - Rich - Thursday, 07/21/11 18:31:42 EDT

Cast iron in China : The Chinese and other eastern civilizations MASTERED cast iron very early and bronze and wrought iron only later. In the series "Out of the Firey Furnace" a great video series, it is postulated that the very early mastery of cast iron retarded the advance of their industry since no wrought materials were available to much later than in Europe.
In that series they show multi-thousand pound iron castings from very early BC times.
   ptree - Thursday, 07/21/11 18:45:23 EDT

Good point I should have said "in western Europe"; just like the melting of steel was known pre 1000 C.E. in Central Asia; but wasn't done in the West until the 1700's with Huntsman.

Both India and China had discovered methods of decarburizing cast iron objects to get a tougher steel layer on their surfaces making them much better for many uses.

OTOH I don't hold that *all* subsequent examples of a technology derive from the first examples known. Huntsman for an example didn't know about Merv.

(I have a book on Medieval Indian Metals Technologies that is quite interesting in some ways---especially the way they figured out how to refine zinc as the smelting temp is above the vaporization temp.)
   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/21/11 20:07:25 EDT

Simple Side Draft Hood : I built an extremely simple side draft hood by cutting the ends off a 30# propane cylinder to give a 12" tube. I cut a 10"x10" round topped hole in the side of it and mounted it next to the firepot, and closed in the portion of the bottom that overhung the forge. The crimped end of 12" stove pipe fits right in it. It draws OK with 6' [3 sections] of stove pipe, obviously more would be better. This has not been used much, but seemed to work pretty well when I did use it.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 07/21/11 20:33:04 EDT

My demo trailer has a hood/stack. made from 7" spiral wrapped duct, and made per Dave's description except for size. Mine is about 9' tall and pulls most all of the smoke away once a hot fire is running.
   ptree - Thursday, 07/21/11 20:48:12 EDT

Art Searches : In additional to galleries and museum websites, one of my favorite sites is the Web Gallery of Art at: http://www.wga.hu/ It has a pretty good search and an excellent inventory for European paintings.

In addition to Vulcan, don't forget Hephaestus. Give the Greeks their due. ;-)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 07/21/11 21:07:10 EDT

This was a case where a technological advance in one area retarded other technology permanently. While the Chinese made excellent bronze castings the jump to cast iron gave them cheap and easy but low quality tools. Plows, hoes, agricultural tools of all sorts were made of cast iron. Even anvils. . . It is my belief that the rounded bread loaf shape Chinese anvil is the result of using cast iron which cannot maintain corners. A square cornered CI anvil will wear to a rounded shape then slow or stop wearing. After a while you stop making square cornered anvils and make then the shape that you have learned will hold up.

Skipping the development of wrought iron and steel Chinese industrial development stagnated and gave the West time to rise industrially.

There were also early advances in technology in India, Cambodia and other places that were lost. Even in the America's the Aztecs, Mayans and others had mathematics, engineering and agricultural knowledge that was lost and that we are still rediscovering.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/21/11 21:15:54 EDT

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