WELCOME to the anvilfire Guru's Den - V. 3.3

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

This is an archive of posts from July 22 - 31, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Swages : I don't recall the reference but I know I have seen woodcuts of a blacksmith shop in medieval/renaissance Europe where the anvils lacked hardy holes but did sweep away from the base in what I would call the precursor to horns. The swage in use had "ears" or hooks forged on each side into which a metal strap was fit than then wrapped under the "horn" and was held in place with a wedge. I believe this was printed in one of the earlier Anvils Ring magazines and I think it was taken from Diederot's Encyclopedia, but I don't recall for sure. This method would allow for the use of swage tools without having to make a full swage block and it also aviods the problem of having to punch or cast a square hole in a fairly large piece of iron. I have seen the wedge technique used by a modern smith to keep a tanged hardy tool tight in the hardy hole. It was quite effective.
   Patrick Nowak - Friday, 07/22/11 00:13:38 EDT

Swage Blocks vs. Anvil Swages :
I think you have to differentiate between a swage block, a stand alone multifuntion tool, and bottom swages used on the anvil, either alone or with a matching top swage.

There are three types of anvil swage:

1) Those that affix to the top of an ordinary anvil without benefit of a hardy hole.
2) Those that are held into a slot in the anvil with wedges such as on a cutler anvil and the special anvils made for some early power hammers.
3) The modern tanged type "quick change" swage that fits the hardy hole.

The last modern type had to wait until the hardy hole became of sufficient size to be useful with a tang. Early hardy hole were often 1/2" more or less and only useful for supporting a very small hardy. This last type is used primarily without wedges but some smiths have added a slot for wedging under the anvil. I have also made tools with a threaded end for a nut to hold the tool tight.

This last type also relied on tool steel becoming more available and less expensive and machines to work it for the tool to become popular. Typical swages are 3 x 3 inches (75 x75 mm) with a 1 inch (25mm) tang or larger. These used to all be forged requiring a heavy upset or drawing the tang (or a combination of both). Most of those available today that are one piece are cast (usually ductile iron).

Swageblocks as a multifunction tool replaced bottom swages for occasional work and had the benefit of many large through holes of different shapes that were outside the range of an anvil.
   - guru - Friday, 07/22/11 09:04:39 EDT

Swage Blocks : One thing that I think limits the use of swage blocks today is the modern trend toward one-man shops. In a shop with more than one smith or helpers, moving an industrial swage block is no big deal, but for one man it can be anywhere from difficult and dangerous to impossible, depending on the shop layout and size of the block. I have a rather small industrial-type swage block (the kind with the through holes) that is only 11"x11"x4" and it is still too heavy for me to manage easily. Anything larger would be impossible, and a smaller one wouldn't be all that useful as it would lack mass and have a limited variety of holes. Thus, that swage block gets used pretty much only for operations that can be done with it in the flat position on the stand. My smaller Mengel & Green swage block gets much more use because it only weighs 70# and I can handle it myself easily and safely.

One solution to the unmanageably big swage block problem is the trunnion-mount type, but those are very expensive and none that I've seen have through holes.

For me, a one-man operation, bolster plates and individual swages are much more practical 99% of the time. More affordable, too - I can make them and I can't make a big swage block. Even if you only have a small anvil with a 1/2" or 5/8" hardy hole it isn't that difficult to make a bolster plate that will also act as a holder for shanked swages. With the proliferation of shops that have CNC plasma or oxy-fuel cutters it wouldn't be difficult or even all that expensive to have a bolster plate made from 1" to 2" steel plate with a wide range of holes, both round and square. If you split the holes up between two or more smaller plates each one would be very manageable. A pair of good solid stands, one nearer the floor and one at anvil height, would enable one to do a wide range of tasks easily and efficiently.

   Rich - Friday, 07/22/11 13:21:59 EDT

Usefulness :
The usefulness of any given tool is another question all together. While bigger is better in anvils there is also a "portability range" of 90 to 130 pounds that is very handy and that almost everyone ignores today. I did not realize just how handy that size is until I sold all my smaller anvils and was left with a 200 and 300 pound anvil which were NOT portable.

STANDS In swage blocks bigger is better for some purposes but not others. For the most common uses in a modern shop where one is unlikely to be making large hex head bolts or forging axels the holes in an industrial block are the most useful feature thus setting flat on a table type stand is where one of these blocks may set forever.

Small artist blacksmith blocks with bowl and spoon features are also most often used on the flat but since most do not have holes through then they do not need an open bottomed stand. They work best on a heavy wood stand like an anvil stump but taller. Then the block is easily rolled on edge without lifting it. Either a groove in the block or two raised blocks can be used to make the swage more stable on edge and to adjust the height. I prefer this to a metal stand because of the lack of sharp edges and pinch points. The typical angle iron stand being one of the most dangerous tools in the shop. One slip while repositioning a 50 to 100 pound block in one and you can lose a finger or more. . .

Heavy blocks need to be handled with a hoist (as are heavy anvils). Many tools in the blacksmith shop come in the too heavy to move by hand category. If you are going to have them then you should have some method of lifting them safely. A light (even wooden) jib crane could handle a heavy block as well as anvils.

What IF: A swage block is largely a "what if" tool in the blacksmith shop. You buy it and wait for a use and hope one of the shapes fit the job. It is similar to a set of number or letter size drill bits. There are many sizes that even in a machine shop environment may never get used but they are their just in case. . . A swage block is the same. You may use only one or two of the shapes in your life time but none of the others. However, when you need those shapes you need them.

Some shapes are difficult to make as stand alone tools and may be worth the cost of a swage block on their own if you have a use for them. Other shapes, such as shovels (which should be your design, not a block designers) and other very specialized shapes may be useless and a waste of block material and space.

In the end it is a matter of economics and is one of those decisions you have to make on your own.

Many of us collect blocks. I have five, two of which are my patterns and one is a large industrial block. All have uses but most sit in a corner on the floor. . .
   - guru - Friday, 07/22/11 19:31:00 EDT

Molding Bronze : I was watching how It's Made on TV. They showed how to mold bronze. You take the original ie. statue and dip it in wax, then dip it in plaster,
then heat the bottom part of the plaster with hot air to melt all of the wax out, cut and remove the plaster casting, coat the inside of the casting with wax and when the wax hardens, chip off the plaster, then you have a wax reproduction of the statue, use hot wax to place a sprue on the end of the wax statue, then coat this wax statue with a ceramic coating, then sprinkle a ceramic powder on it, place in a kiln at 1000 deg for a couple of hours, remove from the kiln, let cool and the mold is ready to be poured with molten bronze. Did I follow the procedure correctly ? I think maybe other metals could be used as well.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/22/11 18:58:24 EDT

Casting : Mike,

It would make more sense to me to just make a multi-part latex mold of the original and pour your waxes directly into that - no loss of detail that way. The method you describe will inevitably result in a wax model that is not an exact replica of the surface features of the original (the wax you coated it with will "muddy" the fine details and slightly change the dimensions of the reproduction), plus you can only make ONE replica that way since yo have destroyed the plaster mold. A latex mold backed up with reinforced plaster can be used to make wax models dozens or even hundreds of times. You just have to learn how to locate the parting lines so there are no undercuts.

The casting method you describe is ceramic shell casting. It is a good system, though somewhat complex and more expensive than regular investment casting. There is an iForge tutorial on investment casting you may want to look at.

The 1000°F for a "couple of hours" may or may not be sufficient, depending on the size and thickness of the ceramic shell. It is necessary to get the "interior" of the mold up to that temp or a bit more in order to totally vaporize all wax residues. Rule of thumb for investment casting is one hour of heating for each inch of radius of the mold.

Ceramic shell casting can be used with many different metals with suitable adjustments. Copper alloys, aluminum, zinc, silver, gold, platinum are just a few. The method can also be used for casting steel, though the requirements for melting steel successfully are much more complex than for the non-ferrous metals.

There are several good books on casting available form used book stores or Amazon and the like. Some notable authors are Roy Chastain, Sharr Choate, Tim McCreight and Oppi Untracht, and there are scores more. If you have any desire to try casting, read all you can find before trying anything - castig can be fun and a useful technique to know, but it is also fraught with danger if you don't know what you're doing.
   Rich - Friday, 07/22/11 19:28:23 EDT

A swage block is like buying a complete set of number drills. 80% of your use will probably be done with only a half dozen bits---but that last 20% may cover a wide range of the other ones!

I have a swage block but tend to like anvil swages for things I do a lot of and so have made/converted individual swages for use in my anvils.
   Thomas P - Friday, 07/22/11 19:39:32 EDT

Casting : Mike, I think you have some of the steps out of order. The "How Its Made" episode is on YouTube if you want to watch it again.

The method they used was as follows.

1) Coat the original with parting agent (they called it lubricant)
2) Cover the part with silicon molding compound and let set.
3) Slit the mold and peal it off.
4) Make a hollow wax or "slush" casting (pour wax in, extra out).
5) Remove wax from rubber mold.
6) Add sprues, risers, repair flaws in wax.
7) Dip in clay or plaster, then coat with silica sand to make mold.
8) De-wax and calcine or fire the mold (the 1050 given was Celcius (1922&176;F) to fire the clay - plaster requires about 1300&176;F).
9) Pour bronze while mold is hot.
10) Remove ceramic or clay (glass beading was used).
11) Finish

A hot mold assures better flow and a more sound casting. The glass beading used produces a fine nearly polished surface compared to sand blasting (as was stated).

Ceramic shell casting is a bit more technical than plaster investment casting. The ceramic is a special mix and needs to be fired at just the right temperature. Plaster is easier to handle but must still be calcined properly (I've screwed this up more than once). Calcining must be hot enough to drive out all the free water plus some of the chemically bound water but not so much as to return the plaster to its unbound state. Plaster is usually done in a heavier mold but can also be made into a shell. Plaster shells must be heavier and sometimes they are supported in sand to prevent mold collapse.

There are lots of little details and much to learn, but casting has been done for thousands of years with relatively primitive tools and materials.
   - guru - Friday, 07/22/11 20:46:17 EDT

past postings : ptree... when i started posting here, there was a person that responded like you did. you knew them. he worked on single shot rifles back in the day. remember who it was? got a question or two for him. i just inherited(?) some items of interest and proof fired. amazing resultes.
i favor thomas p. about swage blocks. them mounted on an anvil work great. but ain't figgered quite how to set up for consistant bends and not have major set up time from one day to next. got to keep away from a wooden base to set pins in. looking at metal jigs for the three consistant curves on my ornamental stuff. (have worked myself out of preformed stock) would like to be able to do different curves from same jig. is this advisable? i know, it's a rookie question. anyone?
   - keith - Friday, 07/22/11 22:51:17 EDT

beveling round stock : Hey, I'm fabricating a large steel sculpture out of 3/4" round stock, and I need to bevel the rod ends for butt welds. They are bent at weird angles and are already fixed in place, so it needs to be something hand-held, that could fit in a drill or grinder. right now I'm using a cone stone on a grinder, and its taking forever, and I have hundreds of them to do. Anyone have any products they know of?
   ge - Friday, 07/22/11 23:00:08 EDT

slack-tub pub : GURU... Any problems with my submission? have sent mail twice, but no response.
   - keith - Friday, 07/22/11 23:12:26 EDT

ge -weld preps : Get what You can get to with a 4" angle grinder. When using an electric or air powered die grinder, use as large a wheel as possible. A carbide burr in a die grinder works well too, but the chips are nasty sharp. Wear a face shield and safety glasses under it with the power tools. Don't underestimate what can be done with a sharp bastard file, but be sure You get a good one. Next time do the weld preps first.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 07/22/11 23:35:43 EDT

weld preps : Thanks, but there is no way of doing the preps first. The rods are assembled into woven patches which have to be fit to adjacent patches. The rods are left long and then trimmed back durring the fitting process. I'm using a 6" angle grinder. I use a disc to rough out the bevel and then smooth it out with a cone stone. I'm not really looking for advice on welding safety or how to use tools, I'm looking for a piece of equipment that can quickly grind a bevel onto round stock. Thanks anyways
   ge - Saturday, 07/23/11 00:12:15 EDT

Casting : Guru and Rich,
Thank you for the information and corrections as to what I remembered about the program.
   Mike T. - Saturday, 07/23/11 01:16:12 EDT

GE, Hard cup wheels and cones are rather worthless for aggressive cutting. While I prefer a larger grinder for this size work you want to use a 4-1/2" grinder and the most aggressive wheels you can buy. Soft coarse wheels are the most aggressive. They do not last as long as hard wheels. You do not want "long life" wheels. While the edges is not perfect for getting into a previously fitted and tacked joint standard fibre glass reinforced wheel cut much faster tan other types. The lighter grinder is easier to hold at precarious angles.

On a job like this I would have machined chamfers on all the bars using a lathe before bending them. If I knew the lengths I would have done both ends. Even if you are fitting angles after bending the chamfers will be right in over half the cases or over half way around the bar and save a lot of work. Where fitting cuts them off you regrind them.

There have been cup (internal cone) milling cutters for such jobs that would work in an electric drill. They are expensive and will only work prior to assembling the work.

Most of the time weld preps need to be completed prior to tacking together. When fitting multiple pieces LOTS of clamps are needed. With round to round joints it is going to require a particular or special clamp with V's. I've usually purchased a dozen of the Vise-grip style clamps for this type job.

The safety suggestion was in the event that you had never used a carbide burr in a die grinder. Their chips are unlike anything else and get into you clothes, in your ears. . . they are little and sharp and burrow into flesh. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 01:30:44 EDT

Pub Registrations : Keith, we do these in batches and often get behind. . . We had an automated system but it would get hammered by spammers and people setting up multiple accounts. Sorry. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 01:42:57 EDT

Casting :
This is lots of fun but I have some recommendations.

You should use commercial crucibles and proper handling tools. If you have any blacksmithing and welding skills at all you can probably make as good of shanks and crucible tongs as you can buy.

I've found the easiest casting method is using petro-bond sand and making simple two piece cope and drag molds. Jewelery suppliers sell small cast iron casks that are very easy to use. See Camp Fenby News, 2001

Start small and work up. Be safe!
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 02:07:33 EDT

Just put your stock outside, in a few minutes you'll get a nice forging heat.

Ok, stupid joke... weather is what it is. Last week I was gifted a nice old Pexto hammer. Now, I used to think a hammer is a hammer, just need a big heavy head of steel harder than what your forging. I am simply amazed when I use this Pexto. Really, that's all.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 07/23/11 08:19:28 EDT

Keith, the fellow you remember is up in Wisconsin, and has not posted here in quite some time.
   ptree - Saturday, 07/23/11 08:21:33 EDT

Keith, the single shot guy was in Wisconsin. I have not seen him to post here in a long time. When his name pops up in my brain I will post it.
   ptree - Saturday, 07/23/11 08:24:49 EDT

Weld Prep : ge-

The cone stone is going to be punishingly slow because the diameter is too small. Grinding media work as a function of surface speed, (surface feet per minute - sfpm) and a small radius tool has small circumference and therefore a relatively small number of sfpm unless the rotational speed is hellaciously high. Each type of grinding medium has a speed at which it works best - this is why 4-1/2" angle grinders generally run at 11,000 rpm, 7" at 8,000 rpm and 9" at 6,000 rpm. In each case, if you do the math you'll see that the sfpm is in the range of 13-14K sfpm. A 1" diameter cone stone in a die grinder, on the other hand, is barely eking out 5K sfpm - at the big end. At the point, the sfpm is 0. An exercise in frustration.

If there is sufficient access, one very effective tool for profiling small weld preps is a band file, also known as a "Dynafile." Basically, it's a hand-held belt grinder. They're available using belts from 1/2" wide to 2" wide and the range of available grits is good. You're not fighting a gyroscope when using one, either.

Generally, I just use the 4-1/2" angle grinder like Jock suggested. Working with a MIGH welder the prep chamfers don't have to be too meticulous since I can easily adjust the amount of fill on the fly.
   - Rich - Saturday, 07/23/11 08:37:12 EDT

Casting : I would like to very strongly second what Jock said about using commercial crucibles instead of DIY ones. There are a few websites on the 'net that advocate the use of welded steel crucibles for melting non-ferrous metals but this is a really bad idea. Good crucibles are not that expensive in the overall scheme of things and they are engineered and manufactured to exacting specifications to do the job properly and SAFELY. When you're handling any amount of molten metal at a temperature of around 2000°F (bronze) there is NO "margin of error." Molten metal will strip the flesh from your bones in a split second, leaving nothing for the plastic surgeons to work with.

For the same reason, properly made and fitted handling tools are mandatory. Lifting tongs, pouring shanks, skimmers, etc, are the tools that give you the necessary control when handling the melt. Either buy good ones or take the time to make them properly - no shortcuts or shoddy work, please!

The single most critical tool necessary for successful and safe casting is KNOWLEDGE. Get the books, study (not just "read") them, and take baby steps at first. Casting is not a place for "Hey Vern, watch this!" - Keep in mind that your first mistake could very likely be your last/only one.
   Rich - Saturday, 07/23/11 08:53:25 EDT

Crucibles and Alloys : We once had a small zinc foundry operation and used steel Pipe crucibles for a short while. The problem was that the molten zinc would eat the steel and create pin holes in the crucibles. After only three or four melts there would be one or more small holes in the steel and you would pull the crucible out of the furnace with it pissing hot metal on you. . . Aluminium will do the same but is not so aggressive.

Besides the inherent danger of this the iron dissolved into the zinc alloy is an undesirable contaminant in the alloy.

Pewter, almost pure zinc, is a very easy to cast low temperature alloy. The next easiest to melt alloy is zinc aluminium alloys (Zamak), followed by brass then bronze. Lead can also be cast at relatively low temperature but should generally be avoided.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 10:22:25 EDT

Guru : no apologies needed. just had the thought maybe something got lost in the electronic translation.
Casting....what ever you do, be careful, use the proper equipment, DO NOT shortcut. i have done a little brass and ALOT of nickle babbit for bearings. not attempted at my forge, and saw someone at work take a shortcut with nickle, and take the skin off the back of his hand and top of instep as it went into his boot. NOT PRETTY!!!!!!
   - keith - Saturday, 07/23/11 11:23:14 EDT

Casting : I'm about to travel into uncharted territory....casting steel. I recently purchased an antique revolver with missing parts. I have one in good working order so copying the parts will be easy. The hard part for me is how figure out how much shrinkage should I allow for? And, is there anyway to coat the original parts (without damaging them), to add size to them so that I can take a mold right off of them instead of carving new ones out of wax?
   Thumper - Saturday, 07/23/11 11:26:38 EDT

Metal Shrinkage and Compensation in patterns :

Metal Solidification Shrinkage
Britannia1/32" per foot.0026" per inch
Tin1/12" per foot .00694 per inch
Iron 1/8" per foot .0104 per inch
Bismuth 5/32" per foot .0130 per inch
Brass 3/16" per foot (1/64) .01563 per inch
Aluminum 3/16" per foot (1/64) .01563 per inch
Copper3/16" per foot (1/64) .01563 per inch
Steel 1/4" per foot .02083 per inch
Lead 5/16" per foot .0260 per inch
Zinc 5/16" per foot .0260 per inch

1/4" per foot, 0.02083" per inch.

Many ways are used to compensate for shrinkage. One used by founders was to rap the pattern heavier than necessary to remove from the sand. Another for small parts is to heavily plate a part with nickle. This makes a slightly rounded corner but that is true of any addition.

Another possibility is one of the Cerro Metal Products Co. alloys. They make (made) low temperature melting alloys that expand when they solidify. I do not know if they expand enough but they might. A little research would be in order.

You can always hand carve your own new pattern. Machinable wax is an excellent route to go. Remember that if you have a several step casting process between pattern to part that you may need multiple shrinkage allowances. This is common when making a wood pattern to make an aluminum pattern to make a final casting. You need to allow for the shrinkage of the aluminium AND the final metal (brass, iron, steel).
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 12:51:17 EDT

Shoeing wild horses- Dave : "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."

Who can blame him for not liking it?
   Philip in China - Saturday, 07/23/11 13:48:48 EDT

Casting : Thank's guru, after speaking to another, and professional gunsmith, he's pretty well convinced me to hand make the part(s) instead of casting so I think I'll go that route instead. I used to deal w/ double shrinkage between making casting and molding precious metal's...even on a good day it was a hassle.
   Thumper - Saturday, 07/23/11 13:58:38 EDT

Good decision. Casting steel directly to make finished parts is a bit high tech and beyond the DIY shop. Carving small parts from solid steel is not as difficult as it may seem. A lot depends on the accuracy needed. As in many jobs you start with planning. Blocking out with the most efficient and controllable stock removal method is the first step after layout. Sawing blocks and bits off makes the least chips and requires the least effort. The difficult part to make are those that have cavities. These can require drilling or milling. A small milling machine can do amazing things. So can a lathe.

Even parts that are carved by chiseling and filing can benefit from roughing out with a saw, mill or lathe. Forging can also be used depending on the shape.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/23/11 15:08:03 EDT

Nip : Was any of your work used in the making of the documentary movie "MODIFY' ???
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 07/23/11 23:22:29 EDT

Revolver : Thumper,
I would take the good pistol and the pistol with missing parts to a machine shop. Ask them to give you an estimate for making the parts. I go to Alexanders Machine Shop in Jonesboro, Ark. I show him drawings of what I want and then he figures up the time and gives me an estimate. Very reasonable.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/24/11 08:00:22 EDT

Crucible on a track : On the Bronze casting program, it looked like the crucible was hanging from a track. The crucible is then rolled down the track to the mold. It looked easy and safe the way they did it. Could a DIY make a device similar to that ?
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/24/11 08:18:53 EDT

Foundry Cranes : Mike handling a large crucible from a jib crane or mono-rail has been common practice for hundreds of years. Early cranes were wood and iron. Most early types were jib cranes so that they could cover a larger area than a monorail. Modern cranes are rectilinear (a bridge on tracks to cover a rectangular area). But a simple monorail will work if everything can be arranged in a straight line.

When crucible melting the crucible itself is not part of the handling system. It is heated in the furnace then lifted by special crucible tongs attached to the crane. These hang on pivots so that pouring is possible. The tongs are self closing, the weight holding them closed around the crucible. In the "How Its Made" video there are two foundrymen handling the crucible and a third unseen worker operating the electric hoist that is lifting the crucible. It is being manually rolled along the rail.

Another arrangement is the "bull ladle" for handling amounts of metal that two men cannot. This is a special refractory lined container that hangs permanently from the crane. Molten metal is taped from the furnace (or copula) into the large ladle and then moved to the molds for pouring. In the mid 1800's James Nasmyth invented the "safety ladle" for large pours. It was tipped using a worn gear set. This did two things. The workers did not have to be so close to the pour and the gearing provided smooth control over the pour so that is was more steady and continuous.

For a one-man operation to use such a device would be very tricky. Once the crucible or ladle is on the crane (hanging from a chain on a trolley) it is easy and one man could do the pouring (but is not recommended). The hard part is the lift and transfer to the crane. At a minimum I would think you would need an electric hoist but chain hoists have been used. However, due to the slow operation they are only suitable for large amounts of metal that hold the heat long enough that you can afford minor delays.

So, I would say you could build one yourself but that its operation may require one or more helpers. But two men can easily handle up to 50 pounds (maybe a bit more) in a proper two man pouring shank.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/24/11 10:04:33 EDT

Cranes for casting : I would commend to your attention the fine book "De Re Metallica" by Tomas Agricola for drawings of cranes and hoists used in the metal production industry around the time of the Renaissance (c. 1550). Large wooden gantry and jib cranes, hoists, elevators, etc. You might get some ideas for straightforwardly simple construction techniques fr making your own.

As Jock noted, casting depends on molten metal and it won't stay hot forever - you need to keep things moving right along or you lose your heat. This definitely does not mean you should be rushing - quite the contrary; you must have every step planned out and practiced so you can make every move without thinking and without fumbles. It becomes important to have your casting setup arranged properly for safe and efficient work flow and to practice every motion to perfection.

If your lifting tongs are attached to a hoist you can lift a crucible with 100# of bronze from the foundry furnace to the pouring apparatus easily enough, and the pouring shank can be made so it is suspended by a pivot hoist and counter-balanced well enough that one man can safely control the pour. The key word being "control." However, unless every aspect of the job is engineered correctly, things won't go smoothly and then it immediately becomes unsafe.

While it is possible to arrange things so that one man can accomplish a 100# (or heavier) bronze pour, it is unwise to do this single-handed. Much better to have another person on hand for unseen contingencies or to pull you to safety if you or your equipment screws up. On the other hand, you don't want a crowd of people around or they get in each others' way and raise the danger level rather than lowering it. Casting is like performing a fiery ballet - too many or too few performers, or performers who don't know their moves, will spoil the show! Practice, practice, practice.

This is probably a good place to reiterate my recommendation that every blacksmith or caster keep on hand a jar or tube of Silvadene™ (1% silver sulfadiazine) antibiotic burn cream. It used to require a prescription from your doctor, but now seems to be available OTC. The stuff is pure magic for treating burns. Keep it in the fridge if you can, and if you get a burn, slather the stuff on like it was free. Promotes healing, relieves pain and kills germs. May cause a reaction in people who have allergies to sulfa drugs. I found it available online at http://www.mountainside-medical.com/products/1-%25-Silver-Sulfadiazine-Cream-400-gram.html
   - Rich - Sunday, 07/24/11 15:23:08 EDT

The Liquid Metal Dance :
One thing I always recommend to metal casters is to walk through every step of the dance. Open the furnace, remove the crucible, move to the molds, replace the crucible. . . If using a large crucible fill it with dry sand to practice the pour with a little weight. Heavy crucibles are held just above the center of gravity so that they pour easily. If you have made your own shank you need to test it to be sure the arms are not too low or the crucible will flip over when pouring. . . very bad.

When you do a walk through don't skip any steps. Putting tools down and picking them up, pay attention to where these hot items are going to be put. If you need to transfer to a shank you need a good surface made of fire bricks to rest it on. Sand is not a good idea as it becomes welded to the crucible and the sand/glass acts like glue sticking to furnace floors, crucible blocks and elsewhere.

The walk through should be like a ballet, everything going smoothly and without interruption from beginning to end. If the job is a two man then both should take part in the walk through. Besides making the job go better this also greatly increases safety.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/24/11 17:01:35 EDT

Good Info : Guru and Rich,

Thanks for your input, very helpful.
   Mike T. - Sunday, 07/24/11 18:56:06 EDT

Casting Choreography : Yes! A casting team MUST practice together until each person knows intimately what his moves are and what the other person's moves are as well. It helps to establish some agreed-upon hand signals in advance, too - the noise of a large foundry running can preclude normal conversation. With some metals like brass, zinc and zamak, you should be wearing a proper respirator and those things make normal speech unintelligible.

I was almost seriously injured once in a college sculpture class when one of the students doing a pour did not follow his "script" and crossed in front of me when I was moving the crucible from the foundry to the pouring shank, leaving me nowhere to go with 50# or molten bronze in the lifting tongs. I nearly dropped the thing waiting for her to get out of my way. The problem arose because the instructor allowed too many students to be present in the foundry studio during the pour - very bad practice!

When practicing, you should also practice what you will do in the event of a disaster. When the 2000° liquid is running on the floor and someone is already injured is NOT the time to discover that no one knows first aid or that the required first aid supplies or fire extinguisher aren't on hand. Only if you practice will you be able to respond in a useful manner.

Nearly everything we do in metalsmithing is, or can be, very dangerous, even deadly. It is, therefore, absolutely essential that everyone in the shop/studio knows first aid, emergency rigging, fire suppression and evacuation procedures - and that the necessary paraphernalia are readily at hand. Anything less is just courting disaster. Don't bait Fate!

Please note that I said a knowledge of *emergency rigging* is a necessary job skill for metalsmiths. Many people overlook this, much to their detriment. If a load shifts and pins someone, or a machine becomes dangerously unstable, or someone falls, knowing how to quickly move or secure/stabilize the thing or person can literally be a life-saver. In these situations time is of the essence and any delays only increase the severity of injuries or damages. Emergency help may be only a phone call away in urban situations, but even those few minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Be prepared. Have the appropriate emergency supplies on hand and KNOW how to use them. Insist that any others working in your shop or studio have the same preparation. Knowledge is an asset - lack of it is a liability.
   Rich - Sunday, 07/24/11 19:42:19 EDT

Casting : Hummmmm, Guru, your advice about the "casting dance", seem's to be the same one given on the "blacksmithing dance". Could it be that forethought and care are the common denominator? I once told a "student" that quenching gold in denatured alcohol would give the best results for annealing. I said, let the gold cool to grey and to use a stainless container with a lid available incase of flareup (a cheap diner tea pot works well). She looked into my eye's like I was a God, swore to do as I said, then proceeded to pour the alcohol into a styrofoam cup....obviously the word, "flareup", didn't strike a chord nor did the thought of safety. The results were predictable (melted styrofoam and 2nd degree burns), and a hard lesson was learned. Think, Think and Think then maybe, just maybe things will turn out as expected...as long as "Murphy" is asleep.
   Thumper - Sunday, 07/24/11 23:12:10 EDT

The Hot Metal Dances : While both serve similar purposes one is a matter of forge station efficiency and the other primarily safety. In forging you repeat the same moves over and over. If you save one step per heat you may save hundreds of steps in a day. In the small foundry you make a lot less pours in a day and safety is critical compared to forging. Walk thoroughs in casting are to prevent you from tripping over your own feet and getting seriously injured.
   - guru - Sunday, 07/24/11 23:48:59 EDT

Casting : The thing I've seen that seems to surprise people new to casting is that liquid metal weighs exactly the same as solid metal...Some folks seem to expect it to be light as water when molten.

I've done the casting dance when a mold broke and liquid pewter descended quickly towards my boots...
   Alan-L - Monday, 07/25/11 14:06:34 EDT

A lot of people don't realize that when you cast steel you may not get the same alloy out of the crucible as you put in and that "as cast" a piece may have quite different mechanical properties than one that is made from rolled iron stock.

Now modern high tech methods can help a lot; but they tend to be quite expensive negating the advantage of less machining.

Safety: it's more than knowing where stuff is; it's knowing *HOW* *TO* *USE* *IT*! Had an incident at our local University where some students wanted to do a stunt with fire and had a fellow on hand with the fire extinguisher. The stunt went awry and it turned out the fellow with the fire extinguisher didn't know you had to pull the pin out *before* trying to squeeze the handle. OUCH! Smart people can be so stupid at times.

   Thomas P - Monday, 07/25/11 15:34:22 EDT

striker hammer : I have a striker power hammer. I am looking for parts to keep the die in place while I hammer. Can anyone direct me?
I have looked all weekend for information and I am going krazy> Please help me. Thanks Richard. you can also reach me at kandkenterprises@netzero.net

   richard klatt - Monday, 07/25/11 15:42:34 EDT

Striker Power Hammer : Richard, While these were slightly different than the other Chinese power hammmers of their type, all the Chinese self contained hammers were supposed to be basically the same design. You should be able to purchase parts from an Anyang dealer. If not then you will need to go directly to the factory OR make the parts yourself. I've got manuals with the factory address somewhere in my moving boxes. . . sorry.

The only part that holds the dovetailed dies in place is a wedge. Smiths often make their own by forging and hand fitting. Mild steel is sufficient material.
   - guru - Monday, 07/25/11 16:47:03 EDT

Fire Extinguisher Know How. :
One should carefully read the instructions on a fire extinguisher in advance of needing it. A good friend severely burned the entire palm of his hand and several fingers holding the nozzle of a CO2 fire extinguisher. These were frost burns from the vaporization of the CO2 at the nozzle.

I've also seen people panic who did not know to pull the pin. One squeezed hard enough that the bent the pin and made the extinguisher unusable.

Extinguishers should also be inspected as often as weekly if you have a mud dauber or other hole filling insect problem. Their glue is sufficiently strong to plug the hole in the nozzle so that nothing can come out. If you have a regular problem with this you should cover the openings with one lightly applied piece of paper tape (such as masking tape or cheep packing tape) leaving ends so that it is easy to pull off. In most cases the pressure will blow it off but do not count on it.
   - guru - Monday, 07/25/11 17:31:13 EDT

Fire extinguishers : A few things I have experienced with extinguishers. I had a guy so excited he grabbed the extinguisher, but forgot to lift it off the hook. Pulled, no go so he pulled hard enough to straighten the stamped steel hanger!
Most folks think an extinguisher shots a white cloud just like in the movies. That is true for CO2 and clean agent and Halon. Dry powder shoots and flows much like water and goes EVERYWHERE!!! and many get a little squirt and stop in surprise.
Most folks don't realize that a nice big industrial size extinguisher is good for something like 9 to 15 seconds of total time till expended.

Dry powder extinguishers need to be upended every year at minimum to prevent the powder from packing solid.

I teah, and most companies now require that if more than 2 extinguishers are needed, so is the real fire dept.

Last but not least, in any real fire occurrence, if you pass an extinguisher on the way to escape, grab it. They make a handy way to open a short route thru a fiery space, but are much better as a battering ram than your bare hands. You can bash open doors and windows that are painted shut, and in many cases bash thru many walls to escape.
   ptree - Monday, 07/25/11 18:32:38 EDT

Making a wok : I wanna make a wok, but what should I make it out of?
   Hayden - Monday, 07/25/11 20:56:02 EDT

Fire Safety/Woks : At AK Steel, fire safety was an annual training requirement - 1 year a review/movie the next year hands on with most forms of extinguishers - water, CO2, & dry powder. I haven't had hands-on since I left them in 2000, and we're a metal powder manufacturer. I'm not even certain where I'd find sand in the buildings. (Usually the recommended extinguishing media for metal powder fires.) Some of the metal powders the only way is back off and let them burn out. CO2 and water are both useless - depends on the metal.

Wok - make it out of sheet steel (low carbon) - 12 gauge or thicker. Can be made by raising or sinking the metal - sinking will stretch and thin the metal. Most of the smiths making colonial cookware make legged vessels that look a lot like woks with added legs. Some of the woks on sale are just carbon steel - often spun - you can see the spiral marks.
   - Gavainh - Monday, 07/25/11 23:12:01 EDT

Fire Safety/Woks :
Woks are also spun and pressed. The bowl or dishing dies that Big BLU sells can crank out a wok cold in a few minutes. A smith can add a nice fire ring to set it on as well as nice handles.

I usually recommend a sand filled fire bucket in the blacksmith shop. It has the advantage that nothing ages or goes wrong with the sand and the bucket can then be used to cover the fire OR get water. . . Sand works well on oil fires and general small debris fires. It is not as messy as other fire fighting substances but it is hard on machinery.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 01:00:35 EDT

Fire Extinguishers : At the plant, among other types, We had hand pumped water fire extinguishers. These are good for type A fires and even better for horse play. I don't recall who had the responsibility to keep them filled, but I think someone did, not as they were "used", but on a schedule.

It takes a really stupid man to squirt someone using a water hose with a water fire extinguisher, and Our janitor was just that guy. He had a section 8 discharge from WW 2 era military service. Another of His favorite pranks was hosing down the restroom walls, starting from the top, when several stalls were ocupied.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 07/26/11 01:29:56 EDT

Casting and Liquid Metal :
Hyrdostatic Pressure
Water 0.04 PSI
Aluminium 0.10 PSI
Tin .26 PSI
Steel .284 PSI
Brass .303 PSI
Lead .410 PSI
Besides liquid metal being heavy the hydrostatic pressure is much higher than water at similar depth. This pressure makes leaks more severe, metal penetrates mold materials and the lift trying to seperate horizontally closed molds is surprisingly high. While this does not seem like much it becomes considerable in large crucibles, deep molds and such.

EXAMPLE: A 4" tall riser in brass creates a pressure of 1.2 PSI. On a 4" square part you have 16 square inches and 19.2 pounds of lift trying to open or seperate the mold. In most green sand molds gravity is relied upon to hold the mold closed. 20 pounds of sand is 350 cubic inches. On a mold with a 4" part the sand would probably equal that much. However, if the part is cramped in too small a cask or the riser is much taller the sand could be lifted due to the pressure. This happened on the last swage blocks I had cast. To prevent this weights are put on top of the mold OR a deeper cask is used.

Lots of details to understand in foundry work.

   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 03:34:12 EDT

Whoops. . . I left off Per inch of depth in the above. Per inch the pressure is the same as the density in pounds per cubic inch. The head is measured from the top of the part to the top of the sprue and risers. In shell molding this does not apply. In shell molding the pressure is from the top of the sprue to the bottom of the casting.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 09:16:53 EDT

Mold Float or Lift : The above is a simplified look at the problem of mold float or lift. The strength of the and bond or mold material comes into play. If the sand has a weak bond then the sand directly over the part must resist the pressure of the molten metal. In the example above the sand would have to be almost 22" deep if you ignored the sand to the sides of the part. So the strength of the sand mold comes into play. Thus it is safer to weight the mold or have parts in the cask that help hold the sand down. In resin bond sand the strength of the bond allows a much smaller mold without weighting. However, in resin bond molds the top and bottom of the mold is usually clamped together.

If a mold fails a small amount and metal forces its way out into the parting the area creating the lifting force can double in an instant and there is a complete failure of the mold.

In the swage blocks that the foundry failed to cast properly for me the top of the block had a 1/2" rise in the middle (curved). The parting also opened about 1/8". The foundry had the audacity to try to charge me for two blocks that failed this way! I refused to pay for them and asked them to try again. They second castings were better but not right. The real disappointment was that this foundry was just a few miles from my home and I was really looking forward to having someone local to work with. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 09:59:09 EDT

Cast iron woks : In "China at Work," there's an interesting description of the old timey method of making woks by pouring into matching clay molds leaving a gap for the thickness of the finished piece. The author Rudolf Hommel, says that the cast woks ranged from about one foot in diameter to about five feet. He claims that the large sizes were used in monesteries.

When I was in Calgary, Alberta, I visited their museum, and saw an exhibited wok that was about 3 feet in diameter. I couldn't imagine its use until I read the label. It was used by a cook in a logging camp.

Publisher: John Day, New York. 1937.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 07/26/11 11:12:19 EDT

Ah. . . I'd forgotten about cast woks. . . While they sound clumsy they are no different than a cast iron pot which the Chinese also used. They had also developed repair methods for these carried out by itinerant smiths.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 12:52:54 EDT

"that nothing ages or goes wrong with the sand"

I guess you don't have shop cats? I also have seen where a bucket of sand got wet and froze into a solid chunk in an unheated shop.

I buy old CO2 extinguishers to make things out of the shell and use the discharging of them to "practice". (I avoid powder containing ones as they are quite messy to deactivate!)
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/26/11 13:17:39 EDT

Fire Bucket Sand :
A "proper" sand bucket like a fire extinguisher should be painted red, labeled "For Fire Only" and hang from a hook on the wall at a convenient height. A good location is next to the fire extinguisher with that big red OSHA required FIRE EXTINGUISHER arrow sign.

That said, we often do not do things "proper" in our shops. Kept indoors the sand should stay dry. Cats and cigarette butts are a different thing. That is why having it off the ground and marked "for fire only". I generally don't have trouble with cigarette butts but

I'd like to shoot the neighbor's "wild" cats. They are in the shop all the time pissing on everything and they didn't keep mice from ruining about 75 square feet of kaowool in the scrap box. . .

We often have damaged or dirty kaowool or pieces a little less than a foot that we cannot sell. So I keep the scraps for my own projects or to give away. I went to give some to an acquaintance the other day and found that mice had been nesting in the kaowool box and ruined half or more. . . About $50 worth retail.
Back to the sand bucket. Unlike a fire extinguisher the sand doesn't loose pressure and shouldn't compact. It shouldn't freeze unless it gets wet. It is also user refillable and non-hazardous. Inspection takes a glance from 20 feet away. . .

The big advantage to alternate fire extinguisher media (sand, water) is that they are very economical. If you use a fire extinguisher to put out a small "common" shop fire the extinguisher will have to be completely drained and recharged (if rechargeable) at considerable expense.

Never make the decision not to use all fire extinguishing equipment available on an economic basis. Do what you have to do calmly and quickly. Most small fires can be put out by simply covering them or tossing a little sand, water or baking soda on them. I've seen people panic over a kitchen grease fire that can be put out in seconds by covering. Using water or a fire extinguisher is likely to blast flaming hot oil all over and turn a small fire into an uncontrollable one. Same with small shop fires. Oil fires are particularly problematic and usually not the time to get out the fire extinguisher. Covering is the first best option, followed by sand, followed a dry chemical extinguisher, followed by calling 911 and running as fast as possible (or vice versa).
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 15:37:48 EDT

Striker : Striker power hammers are not "slightly different"- they are just made by a different manufacturer. There are at least 3 major power hammer factories in China- Anyang, which is the biggest, in fact the largest hammer and press manufacturer in the world, Shanxi, which is what most, but not all, Striker's are, and one more, whose name I cant recall. There are models of all three in the USA, mostly in the west. The third brand was sold here under the name Wolf, and, as far as I know, there is no parts availability at this time. Since Striker went out of business, nobody is importing the Shanxi hammers either. So the only chinese power hammers that are supported in the USA are the Anyangs.
All 3 makers build what is called a C-41 style hammer, in various sizes. C-41 is the international designation for a two cylinder, self contained air hammer loosely based on the Chambersburg designs. C-41 has been in common international usage for decades to describe this style of hammer.

Some, but far from all, Striker hammers are actually Anyangs. When James Cosgrove was first starting out with Striker, he imported some Anyang hammers, and labelled them as Strikers. I happen to own one of these, purchased new from Striker, so I know this is true. However, for his own reasons, he became dissatisfied with Anyang, and switched to Shanxi as a supplier. As I said, there is nobody importing Shanxi into the USA now, and so any parts will need to be either made from scratch, adapted from other machines, or imported direct from China.
The Shanxi company full name is Shanxi No. 2 Forging Press and Machine Tool Company, and they do have a website-
address info-
101, Xin Jian Nan Road, Qixian County,Shanxi, P. R. China
Tel:86-354-5222741 5222767 Email:sxqd@sxqd.cn

Some chinese companies are relatively easy to do business with directly, others practically impossible. Fed-EX is present in China, and some Chinese companies will actually fed-ex you parts, while others are just too busy to be bothered.
So, you can try, and see what happens.

However, if all you need is a taper wedge pin to hold the die in place, you can make one yourself. Or have one made, locally.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 07/26/11 15:52:27 EDT

Question about Sword Steel : Hello, I am considering buying a sword from a vendor, but I have some metallurgical questions and was hoping I may find some answers here. The vendor offers custom, built-to-order swords. The steel used for the blades is: "differentially hardened and traditionally clayed high speed tungsten based T-10 Tool Steel blades".

I did a bit of googling, and the general consensus is that blades made from this type of steel are pretty durable and can hold their edge relatively well. Is that an accurate description assuming the forge uses good practices?

I am also wondering about an additional option offered by the vendor, in which the forge will fold the blade. The cost is an additional $60(added to the $330 base price) and all that is said is that they will "fold the blade". I emailed the proprietor and asked what this process entails as the description was rather vague, and am awaiting a response. I have read that traditional Japanese swords were folded steel, and sometimes folded an incredible number of times. Truthfully I am ignorant on the matter, and know not how much of the information I have read is an exaggeration. I would like to know what to expect from a modern forge for $60 in regards to having a blade folded. I understand there are many things to consider, however a rough guess from someone who knows about such things would be greatly appreciated.

I apologize for my ignorance in this matter. My own research lead to a wealth of information that I am simply unable to breakdown and understand to an extent that I feel confident in my purchase. I am hoping that the people here will be able to assist me, and I am very grateful to any who take the time to do so.
   - Jonathan - Tuesday, 07/26/11 17:14:04 EDT

Reis, have you seen the 2 Anyangs on the Surplus record in California?
Look to be 2004 models. 55Kg and 75Kg by memory.
   ptree - Tuesday, 07/26/11 18:53:40 EDT

The two Anyangs in the Surplus Record are for sale at Sterling Machinery in South El Monte. Very nice guys, I am sure, but their prices are always the highest of anybody on the west coast. For instance, they are asking $6500 for the 88lb machine- similar machines have sold in the last six months on the west coast for between $3250 and $5000. Similarly, there is a hammer just like the bigger one, for sale right now on the NWBA site with an asking price a grand cheaper than Sterling.
I like to window shop at Sterling, and am amused by the Rolls Royce they used to have in the management parking space in back, but have never found a deal there. Still, their high prices seem to guarantee that they always have extensive stock, so, for people who need it now and are willing to pay for the privilege, they are the place. Most blacksmiths I know do not fit in that category, however.
   - Ries - Tuesday, 07/26/11 19:16:04 EDT

Sword Steel : Jonathan, "Folding" is a bad term loosely used in the blacksmithing and bladesmithing community. The definitions given for number of layers is also very poorly defined. Neither process is advisable or beneficial on modern steels. They are both processes used in making steel from scratch or making laminated steels.

Only in the absolute worst practice is steel just "folded". In fact it is cut nearly through and the remained used as a thin hinge to hold the pieces together. The goal is to either create layers of alternating steels OR to homogenize a crude hand made steel. In most production operations the cuts are made all the way through and the layers tack welded together at the ends. If the steel is simply folded the grain in the ends is perpendicular to the axis of the blade and other laminates. This can be cut off but is very wasteful in a very labor intensive process. So bladesmiths are careful to keep the ends of the cut pieces clean and in accurate alignment.

In the final product the number of "folds" is irrelevant. The only honest accurate definition is layers per unit thickness. Layers per inch, layers per centimeter or some such dimensional based description. Why? Say you have 300 layers in 10 inches (a gigantic billet) or 300 layers in a 1 inch thick billet OR the same 300 layers in a 1/8" thick blade. How thick are the layers in each? That is an 80 to one difference. So just "layers" is a bull hockey definition. Do not accept it.

"Folds" are not layers and the total folds are meaningless. You can start folding (more accurately laminating) with two layers or with 64. It is common in the most advanced practice to start with many layers to reduce the total "folding" welded. Then the layers are simple mathematical progressions.

Depending on the blade smith the starting billet of X layers is cut into 3 or 4 pieces then welded, drawn out and cut again.

Using two cuts to make 3 pieces with the first number the starting layers.

2, 6, 18, 54, 162, 496 (5 "folds")
5, 15, 45, 135, 405 (4 folds)
12, 36, 108, 324, (3 folds)
12, 36, 108, 324, 972 (4 folds)
12, 36, 108, 324, 648 (4 folds - last cut 2 pieces)
32, 96, 288, 576 (3 folds - last cut 2 pieces)
64, 192, 576 (1 billet weld, 2 "folds")

By adjusting the number of cuts (2,3 or 4 pieces) the final number of layers can be almost anything you want.

It is obvious from the above progressions that if the "Folded the steel 300 times" as stated in the Highlander movie the result would have passed 100% molecular homogeneity and decarburised the steel to the point of worthless dross. In fact, due to scale losses there would be nothing left. A lot of bladesmiths use this line of BS in their sales pitch.

So "folds" is a BS term. You want to know layers per inch (or cm) if you want an honest specification.

There are other "folding" methods depending on the type and era of sword. Old European great swords were made with a soft core, fine hard laminated edges and decorative side slabs. Some Japanese blades were made with a hard steel core and a U shaped piece wrapped around the sides and back. In this case both the hard and soft steels were previously produced by "folding".

Modern laminated steel using two or more modern steels is used primarily to produce pattern welded steel. This is the high art of bladesmithing along with mosaic and inlay methods that could be used to write your name or the name of your blade or cause in different metals that will etch so that they can be read.

If you are seriously in this market there is a lot to know.
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 19:43:49 EDT

RE: Sword Steel : Okay this is very insightful, thank you. So I gather that if the bladesmith starts with a billet of the proper steel, then "folding" it is entirely unnecessary?

I will be interested how the vendor answers my question now. However after looking at the images on the site, I think that by "fold" he means produce pattern welded steel. As the blades that have been "folded" have a noticeable swirl pattern to them.
   - Jonathan - Tuesday, 07/26/11 22:03:23 EDT

Jonathan - T-10 steel : This thread should be of interest to You:


I was a tool and die maker In the US, and never ran into T type tool steels, seems thay are made & used mostly in Asia, and acording to the link, T-10 has no tungsten, not that You would really need or want high speed steel for a sword. What do You intend to use the sword for?
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 07/26/11 22:37:57 EDT

Jonathan : It is one hell of a lot of work to make laminated steel, I doubt that $60 extra is getting You a pattern welded sword, more likely an acid etched pattern on a non-laminated blade.
"You get what You pay foron ocasion, and often less"
Be sure You know what You will be getting before You part with Your money.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 07/26/11 22:44:09 EDT

Faux Swords. . . I've seen a lot of Japanese style blades where the hammon was created by using a power wire wheel along the edge . . . A complete fraud unless its a $50 wall hanger. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 07/26/11 23:42:01 EDT

My father handed me an ad for jewelry yesterday. It shows pattern laminated stainless steel listed as "Damascus". He still won't listen to me about proper terminology. He wants me to make him one, which is no problem except for materials. My question is how can stainless to stainless patterns be made? After an etch, wouldn't both steels not etch? So what other steel should be used? I don't want a rust issue. What stainless steels would etch at different levels/colors?
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 07/27/11 10:27:02 EDT

Nip, This is a question for the experts on one of the blade forums. Since you are not making a blade that needs to harden I would try 410 and 304L SS. Getting the stainless to weld is the trick. Start with it very clean with the cleaning done just prior to welding. Fluxless welding is done with the billet wrapped in stainless foil and I believe the reason the foil does not weld to the billet is the oxide coating on the foil. However I may be wrong. To use flux you need flourite added to it (CaF2). The general recommendation is 10% with borax but boric acid may be better in this case.

Most laminated jewelery that I know of is nickle and iron/steel. Often wrought iron is used for the darkest black but I would think nearly pure iron transformer plates would do the job. A good etch and blacking helps resist rust.

There is always the Japanese alternative to laminated steel, Mokume' Gane'. A simple silver copper or silver bronze laminate has great contrast when etched and colored. The silver is highly resistant to etching and coloring and the copper colors well.

I believe Mokume' Gane' was invented for sword furniture but I may be wrong. It is used for everything from jewelery to sculptural vessels.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/27/11 13:11:44 EDT

Dave- that is an interesting read, thank you for the link. I intended to use the sword for recreational cutting of tatami mats and bamboo. When not doing that it will be displayed on my wall. I once trained in haidong gumdo and have some experience using Japanese/Korean styled blades. I have always had interests in techniques using swords, but I know little about how they are made. This is why I am here asking questions.

I am surprised by the amount of wrong information being portrayed as truths. However, after visiting the site again there are many testimonials and even a video of the sword in action which seems to demonstrate durability more than adequate for my purposes. I just don't want to get taken.

Here is the website I was considering ordering from:


The price seems reasonable IF the blade is of decent quality. I am not looking for a top of the line custom, I cannot afford to pay a master bladesmith a fair price for his work. I just want something that will hold up to hobby cutting, and be comfortable to wield.

This is the review of the sword:


They are reviewed by the person selling them however, and so that too makes me skeptical. There are some close up pictures of the hammon though, maybe the guru could distinguish whether they are legitimate or simply the result of a wire wheel?

Sorry for asking all of the questions, it's just that $330 is a big purchase when you are on a college kid's budget. Thanks a ton to all who have helped so far.

   - Jonathan - Wednesday, 07/27/11 13:20:23 EDT

Jonathan, may I heartily suggest you take this query over to swordforum.com and to the beginner's forum over there. A large number of professional swordmakers and skilled sword *users* and *collectors* hang over at SFI (Sword Forum International) and bad info gets trounced fast if it's posted.

Note that you can't traditionally clay harden high alloy tool steels. it works best on low alloy shallow hardening steels.

And as previously mentioned: patternwelding is generally a way to put flaws into nice homogeneous modern steels. If I was going to buy a cutter I'd go with a monosteel blade.

Dave; pattern welding is expensive to us but there are *literally* *tons* of poorly made pattern welded fake japanese blades coming out of China these days. You can even buy them for under US$60!

Hope to see you over at SFI
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 07/27/11 16:02:44 EDT

Reveiws by Sellers. . . . :
Testimonial and review sites owned by the seller are common on the Internet. The worst cases are the get rich quick, diet and "performance" pharmaceutical sites. The same folks that spam you mercilessly (not including porn which needs no testimonials. . ).

Even when you find what seems to be legitimate reviews such as on YouTube or a blog site they can be the equivalent to an infomercial without credit or disclaimer.

The Internet is a wonderful tool but finding truth in it is often difficult.
   - guru - Wednesday, 07/27/11 16:10:37 EDT

Now to release my new website theTruthaboutanvilfire.com where I release the long hidden information that Jock is really the love child of Margret Thatcher and Elvis Presley!

My usual comment when someone talks about how good the info on the WWW is.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 07/27/11 19:24:12 EDT

CAST STEEL : Can I date an American or European tool that is marked "CAST STEEL, even to an approximate period?

This is usually found on items that suggest a high carbon steel application, such as dividers, wood chisels, plane irons, threading dies, etc.,.
Can I assume this was to distinguish from wrought/'steeled' items?

I assume after about 1750 or so with the advent of crucible type steel. I don't recall seeing any Starrett tools marked that way beginning around 1880.

Did this practice die out with Bessemer and other processes making commercial steel more available?

Can anyone shed any light on the practice of marking tools as made from "CAST STEEL"?
   - Tom H - Wednesday, 07/27/11 21:50:58 EDT

Further Sword Notes : Jonathan: Please check out the Anvilfire Armoury on the pull-down menu for a look at historic sword making techniques that the company purportedly duplicates (Swords of Iron, Swords of Steel). Also, if you really want to dig deeper, check out the bibliography. Many of these processes made good sense in their time and place; but these days there is a high "sizzle to steak" ratio among some commercial sword and knife makers. A little knowledge is a good start. :-)

A lovely day on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www,nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 07/27/11 22:19:12 EDT

Jonathan & Thomas P : " there are *literally* *tons* of poorly made pattern welded fake japanese blades coming out of China these days. You can even buy them for under US$60!"

This may be so. Let Me re phrase My comment: I think the upcharge to a properly made pattern welded blade would be more than $60. But then I am not a sword guy and have no experience in buying presumably forign made swords.

The T-10 may be a good alloy for the purpose, I would be more concerned over misleading advertising than the lack of tungsten. There are many alloys that would work well if everything else is done properly, My point being that good workmanship and proper heat treating are more important than "the best" alloy

   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 07/27/11 23:00:57 EDT

Nip : Did any your work appear in the documentary movie "Modify"?? Very interesting.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 07/27/11 23:24:29 EDT

Bessemer Process : I think I read where the Bessemer process used air jets at the bottom of the crucible. Air was injected through the molten steel in order to burn the impurities out of it.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/28/11 00:30:05 EDT

Stainless Steel patternwelding.

Nip, ive welded 304 & 316 together and got nice contrast in a warm hydrochloric acid etch (brick cleaner). I chose these materials as you can buy offcuts of thin sheet on ebay for small money.

Its getting it to weld that is the (very) tricky bit :D
   - John N - Thursday, 07/28/11 11:11:20 EDT

Some of the high tech welding works best in some kind of press or even a vise. High uniform force works best.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/28/11 12:02:08 EDT

The bessemer process used air through *cast* *iron* to make it into molten steel.

Tools marked "cast steel" I generally think of as latter half of the 19th century with some carryover into the 20th as I haven't hand much exposure to tools earlier in the 19th century I don't know when it became common to mark them as such.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/28/11 12:27:47 EDT

Cast Steel : I have seen the term used on an 1840s knife blade. Since Huntsman patented the process in 1790 or 91 I'd think you wouldn't find it used on other people's stuff until the patent ran out or was so hopelessly infringed-upon it was no longer worth defending. Nevermind that crucible steels had been around over a millenium in central Asia by that time...
   Alan-L - Thursday, 07/28/11 12:46:55 EDT

Ries, I did all of my used machinery buying from the rustbelt, so having lots of east coast and Ohio/Michigan/Indiana dealers I would not have bought from the left coast. Too much shipping cost.
We do have our fair share of very proud of thier wares dealers on this side as well. Being in the rust belt we have lots of forge equipment rich dealers. I have never seen an Anyang except for a 33# at Quad State one year. No Strikers seen. lots of nice old Eries, CLECO, Chambersburgs, and the mechanicals
   ptree - Thursday, 07/28/11 15:13:24 EDT

Rust Belt : Is the Rust Belt the Southeast part of the U.S.?
   Hayden - Thursday, 07/28/11 15:55:44 EDT

CAST STEEL : Thanks for the comments.
It looks to me like the marking is limited from around 1800 or slightly prior, to, roughly, somewhat after the Civil War, with the exception of wood cutting tools, (plane irons, chisels, etc.,.) using the mark possibly as late as WWI, and dying out in America slightly before Europe.
How does that sound?
Can anyone offer any examples outside of that range?
   - Tom H - Thursday, 07/28/11 16:18:48 EDT

Hayden, No, Its the old Northern industrial belt extending from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to Michigan and Illinois with Ohio at the center.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/28/11 16:20:13 EDT

Cast Steel : My Beverly Shear has a cast frame marked Cast Steel in raised letters. I suspect it was made in the 1930's. When I bought it the blades had been worn and reground until they no longer worked.
   - guru - Thursday, 07/28/11 16:35:23 EDT

Types of Iron : What is the difference in pig iron, wrought iron, and cast iron ? Start out when the iron ore is first heated and the bloom is then recovered and worked ( go through each step ). From what Thomas said above, it is cast iron that is turned into steel.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/28/11 17:57:26 EDT

Cast steel : Were the steel plates on the Titanic cast steel ? I watched a program that showed some of the steel plates being analyzed under a microscope. They said one reason for the Titanic's sinking was the fact that there were impurities in the steel. I believe they said there were inclusions of manganese in it plus the cold water made it more brittle. They did pressure tests on the plates and rivets and it clearly showed them to be of inferior quality.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/28/11 18:48:30 EDT

MikeT I'm sorry but I don't have a couple of hours to type in the information you have requested.

May I suggest you visit a library!

I will say that only one involving a bloom is making wrought iron.

And no the Titanic did not have cast steel plates.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/28/11 19:43:48 EDT

"CAST STEEL" : I have seen the stamp on a few tools, some woodworking and some blacksmithing. I have a set hammer marked CAST STEEL, and on the other side a capital A within a horseshoe. The A indicates the Newark, NJ, Atha Company, incorporated in 1891, but they may have been organized as early as 1875. Atha was acquired by Stanley Rule and Level in 1913; they kept the capital A trademark for a while. The stamp letters are not serifed, so I guess 20th Century. Most such stamped tools were British, I believe. In the U.S., the term CRUCIBLE STEEL, was used for the process, but I never saw a CRUCIBLE STEEL stamp on a tool.

I agree with ThomasP about the dating and use of the stamp. I suspect that its use was sporadic and varied depending on the manufacturer. I would be surprised if they were stamping as early as 1800.

In the 20th century where wrought iron was still available, wrought iron bars were placed in a crucible with additions of charcoal and ferromanganese. The crucibles or pots were heated to obtain a melt, and one man pulled the crucible and poured it into ingot molds for later reheating and rolling into bars and other forms. In our use of the term, cast steel or crucible steel is a forged product, and even though the tool may be stamped CAST STEEL, it is not cast, but forged.

In the 20th century, the crucible process permitted a good degree of control and reduced the sulphur and phosphous contents. Therefore, it had a good reputation among buyers. Perhaps the CAST STEEL stamping would indicate that the tool was not made of open hearth or electric furnace methods.

An exception is such as Guru mentioned above. It can mean any object that is a direct casting of steel.

"Iron and Steel" Hugh Tiemann
"Materials Handbook" Brady & Clauser
"Directory of American Toolmakers" Robert Nelson, Editor
   Frank Turley - Thursday, 07/28/11 20:40:16 EDT

Thomas : I was not expecting a thesis on the subject, and as far as going to the library, it's been fifty years or more since I have been in one.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 07/28/11 22:13:58 EDT

Mike T - Iron in a nut shell : Iron: When ore is smelted in a blast furnace, if it is melted and becomes liquid, it absorbs a lot of carbon, and becomes high carbon iron. This, when poured into a mold is cast iron.

If the mold makes a big rectangular "pig", You have pig iron. This can be remelted and recast into usefull items, or further processed to make wrought iron [indirect process] or steel.

If You get the smelted iron out of the blast furnace before it becomes liquid, it is low carbon iron, and after it is beat on, is wrought iron. This is called the direct process.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 07/29/11 00:34:49 EDT

Then there is the direct steel making process where instead of wrought you get high carbon steel. The difference between making the wrought and steel is the height of the tuyers and how the furnace is operated.

AND there is the Wootz method where cast iron is decarburized in a crucible then slowly crystallized in a controlled cooling process to produce a very difficult steel to work with.
   - guru - Friday, 07/29/11 01:40:34 EDT

The movie "Modify" : Carver Jake, no I don't think my work is in that movie. I was contacted by the producers of the movie but nothing really came of it.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 07/29/11 08:02:28 EDT

nails : I read in the Pennsylvania Gazette, about 1810 or so, they write of a man that stopped in a small cabin in a hamlet where the cottage industry made nails. Inside, were women of various ages making nails from wire over a froge. He writes, "the women wore nothing above the waist, and little below". I imagine in the summer in a small cabin over a forge, it was miserabally hot.
   mouseHole - Friday, 07/29/11 08:35:51 EDT

Guru and Mr. Boyer,

Thank you for the explanantion.
   Mike T. - Friday, 07/29/11 11:31:12 EDT

"Steel Making Before Bessemer, Vol 1 Blister Steel, Vol 2 Crucible Steel"; "Wrought Iron : It's Manufacture, Characteristics and Applications"... Any of the ASM books published for kids back in the 50's and 60's will have descriptions too. (Though there has been a new method or two added since then.)

Note that besides the bessemer method there was also the open hearth method (and a bunch of methods of making WI starting with the bloomery methods and then the indirect methods of which puddling is the best know but not the first and the byer's process probably the last one.)

To do it justice is is a long description. I've made wrought iron from ore and just the fast overview of it took a lot of typing. I've made blister steel too.

To me saying that you haven't been in a public library in 50 years is sort of like saying that you've been throwing money away for 50 years and don't plan to stop! I generally have a library card in a new place before I have a drivers license there and use ILL to preview books before I buy them!
   Thomas P - Friday, 07/29/11 14:01:09 EDT

Naked Nail Making :
As modest as people were at this time as well as social morays I have some doubts about this story. There are numerous photos of female English chain makers working in close quarters and the women were wearing typical ladies work clothes of the time, long skirts and aprons. Nothing deferring to the heat in the shop. In the U.S. well into the 20th Century men AND women stayed pretty well covered even at the beach.

I wonder if its a tall story told by a traveler to obtain some notoriety? An 1810 Modern Myth? Goddesses at the forge? Amazonian Armourers?

   - guru - Friday, 07/29/11 15:17:04 EDT

19th Century "Nothing" : This could have referred to customary over clothes; a woman in a corset or shift would have been considered "undressed" just as you would be if you answered to door in your underwear (which would probably be considered "overdressed" at the beach). The English language can be somewhat imprecise. I like Jock's suggestion of enhanced storytelling.

Hot, hot, hot on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks (Alaska sounds nice & cool...): http://www.nps.gov/state/ak/index.htm?program=parks

Go viking (it should be better out on the water): www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 07/29/11 16:33:13 EDT

Polishing perforated Stainless : While I know this is not strictly a smithing related question I am hoping that some here may be able to help.
Background: I am an Assistant Cotton Ginner in Australia working on getting an old Gin working for the next season.
Part of this work means the replacement of several perforated, rolled stainless screens. The screens (when in operation have a mirror finish) unfortunately the new ones were punched from the inside out that has resulted in a very rough surface that will destroy the flashing that removed the cotton fiber as well as snagging the cotton and cause what is known as a "choke".

What I would like to know is; other than using an electric pipe sander and buffing wheels is there any other accepted method for polishing and grinding a curved perforated sheet?
   Aussie Ginner - Friday, 07/29/11 19:05:02 EDT

working on old cars : Some of us are the other generation. We got to stand in the cold and hold a flashlight while Dad workrd on the car. You can only hold so still with cold feet and you still got hollered at for not keeping the light in the right spot. That'll make you swear off working on cars... until of course your son buys a ten year old Camaro and pleads for help. Late learning curve I guess.

   - Tinkert - Friday, 07/29/11 20:57:07 EDT

Polishing perforated Stainless : It might be worthwhile to countersink the holes slightly before You start the grinding/polishing operation. What finish is on the working side now? Cold finished is smooth, but not shiney. If that is the case, the first step should be with a really fine abrasive, or You will only make more work for Yourself. Power tools, starting with an angle grinder are the way to go, but the disk diameter has to be small enough to conform to the curvature when inclined slightly. Fine abrasive grit products followed by Scotchbrite/Beartex type products, finished with felt or cloth buffing discs or wheels.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 07/29/11 21:08:17 EDT

Late Bloomer : When I finally learned to change points and gap them, they were becoming obsolete.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 07/29/11 21:09:22 EDT

Polishing perforated Stainless : I misread Your post, and thought You were working on the inside of the curve. As You are working on the outside, use as large a disks as You can. A DA type orbital sander like used in auto body work is a good start, then the Scotchbrite/Beartex & buffing products. A felt disk on a lower speed angle grinder works well. Walter Quick Step www.walter.com products work well but are expensive, You might not be able to get them.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 07/29/11 21:26:28 EDT

Polishing stainless : Thankyou for your responses.

I understand the polishing process and the materials required, I was more concerned about the rate at which the belts and buffing wheels will be destroyed due to the extremely rough oputer surface.
   Aussie Ginner - Friday, 07/29/11 22:14:26 EDT

SS polishing : If you start with a 240-grit aluminum oxide sanding disc in an angle grinder and use a light touch you should be able to knock the ridges off the holes without imparting too much sand scratch marking to the surrounding sheet. Use as large a diameter disc as you can and the merest of contact pressure to keep the tangent contact minimal. The next step would be to use a de-burring/contouring pad like a Scotchbrite that will conform to the contour of the hoes and ease the edges a bit more - again, a light touch and fine grit. Follow that up with normal polishing and it should go well. As Dave noted, a fairly hard felt wheel will yield the best final polish wit the least surface contour change.
   - Rich - Friday, 07/29/11 23:08:56 EDT

Polishing perforated rolls :
You guys are all going to make a mess of this job. Rotate the drum and sand with a piece of belt wrapped around it. CUT the belt. Start with a very coarse maybe 50 or 80 grit to cut the raised edges first. Do not change to a finer grit until the all the raised edges are gone. Then change to about 180 and remove all the coarser marks and then 240. If you need a very fine finish 320
"wet or dry" in sheets is about as fine as you can get on stainless.

You didn't say how big the parts are so no clue on grinding media life. If you use a hand held sander you are going to end up with thin edges and nasty dips.
   - guru - Friday, 07/29/11 23:46:55 EDT

Polishing Stainless : I'm sorry I didnt mention this earlier but the sheets are 1030mm x 1360mm and the perforations are approximately 3mm in size with about the same seperation.

Thanks to all for the useful information.
   Aussie Ginner - Friday, 07/29/11 23:47:25 EDT

Polishing Stainless : Edit: 6 sheets to cover the outside of a drum that is 80" in diameter and 52" wide
   Aussie Ginner - Friday, 07/29/11 23:49:16 EDT

Mess of the Job??? : Jock, have You lost Your mind? Unless this is made from hot rolled product, there is NO WAY IN HELL You want to use 50-80 grit on these parts. The finish on cold finished stainless is pretty good to start with, no reason to scratch it all up.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 07/30/11 00:50:05 EDT

Polishing Stainless : For all the grief of working on the burr side of these parts, You might consider having them re-rolled to put the burr on the inside, where You wanted it.

If You end up finishing it like they are, use light contact pressure to get the burr worked off without ripping up the abrasives too badly. A hand held belt sander with as fine a Zircona [the blue ones] belt as You can get might be a good start. Give the DA type random orbital autobody sander a try, that is what a friend used to start off with polishing stainless expanded metal You can get pretty fine discs for these. The non woven abrasives [Scotchbrite/Beartex/Blendex] come in several grades of coarseness, use them all in sucession. This is a lot of area to work up to a "mirror" finish, it will take a lot of time, and a lot of materials. Once again, if You can't get the Walter products, get something like them. You want discs, not wheels.
   - Dave Boyer - Saturday, 07/30/11 01:07:14 EDT

That is a big drum! To cut down and polish the entire surface is going to be a big job. There will be different methods to polish the surface depending if the sheets are on or off the drum.

Off the drum I would use a belt sander. Its going to eat up dozens of belts. On the drum I would use as wide of belting as I could find up to about 12" wide tacked on a large block of wood also about 12" long cut to match the curve of the drum. I would put handles on the back of the wood block. Those sharp holes will cut flesh far too fast!

Cloth backed belt sanding material comes in widths up to several feet in width and is very durable. To cut down those sharp edges will be the hard part.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/30/11 01:12:12 EDT

Dave, I may have suggested too coarse a grit but it depends on how bad the holes are burred. Getting those sharp work hardened burrs off without thinning the material too much requires an aggressive grit. Especially on this much surface area.
   - guru - Saturday, 07/30/11 01:20:53 EDT

I would consider electropolishing those perforated sheets as the electropolish will be more aggressive at the corners and eat them off first.
   ptree - Saturday, 07/30/11 07:43:10 EDT

Aussie Ginner : I keep thinking Scotch-Brite. Google 3M Finishing Systems; Scotch-Brite.
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 07/30/11 16:15:39 EDT

Removing SS Burrs : ptree may be on to something.
The problems sounds like it is not the main surface finish, but the burrs from the punching operation. The question is really not "polishing" but "de-burring".

Are you sure you can't get them re-rolled?
   - Tom H - Saturday, 07/30/11 19:13:19 EDT

Career Direction Help : Hello everyone. I was hoping to get some direction/advice reguarding careers in the metalworking field. I am trying to get started on my career path and was hoping you guys have some insight; or know of some top of the line metalworking school. First off, when it comes to blacksmithing, metalworking and metallurgy I am very ambitious. Part of the reason I'm having issues choosing a school or a vocation is because I'm being idealistic. I don't want a career where it's all books and computers and no hands on and I don't want to be someone who does no-brainer type metalwork either. Tool and Die making seems to fit what I want pretty well, although how to get started in a serious way or what shool to go to isn't an easy choice. Does anyone know who to talk to for certified appreticeship programs or schools that spealalize in Tool and die making? By the way I live in Utah.
thanks for all the help in advance.
P.S. It seems like being a self employed blacksmith would be my dream job, but we all know there are some realities that have to be taken into consideration.
   RM Howell - Sunday, 07/31/11 23:19:34 EDT

anvil color : i have a 11.4 pound anvil with a letter c in an equilateral triangle the triangle says columbian hardware cleveland it seems to be steel i dont know how old it is or the original color it is currently wire brush buffed there are hints of black and red
   vern kelderman - Sunday, 07/31/11 23:19:48 EDT

ps : the base looks like two small pillars with a web in between
   vern kelderman - Sunday, 07/31/11 23:24:58 EDT

Vern, Does it look sort of like this Columbian Anvil?

Paint colors mean little on anvils. It does not hold up well and those that are painted are often repainted numerous times.
   - guru - Monday, 08/01/11 01:14:33 EDT

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