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 August 8 - 15, 2012 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Good thing that argon works just fine to tig weld aluminum, then. I am not planning on commercial travel by blimp any time soon, either.
   - Ries - Thursday, 08/09/12 00:51:09 EDT

Heavy inert gases as well as other common atmospheric gases are not a problem. Argon, xenon, krypton and neon along with other gases are extracted from air. Hydrogen can be produced by a number of methods so its lightness is irrelevant. As Ries noted, we have other inert gases to use in the place of helium. And since these come from the air, releasing them back into it is not a problem.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/09/12 01:44:50 EDT

metal working : i have seen some knives made out of files i thought i would take a shot at it i was wondering how do you stop rust after shaping and edging the blade part and what is the best way to go on setting a birch handle useing screws or useing flaired pins
   phillip - Thursday, 08/09/12 02:01:35 EDT

Knives, Rust, Handles :
Phillip, Many bladesmiths started this way. As you go along you will have many more questions.

First, rust is a fact of life. Most carbon steel steel (not stainless steel) knives are simply polished and oiled. A finely polished surface with a small amount of oil that is properly stored does not rust too much. When polished, most bugging compound contains wax that prevents rust at first then this is replaced with oil.

Carbon steel kitchen knives may get a fine blush of rust that if you clean off with some fine steel wool or an abrasive like powdered kitchen cleaner (the new stuff that is "safe" for most appliances) the rust haze will be gone and the knife good for another couple years if oiled. Kitchen knives can be oiled with mineral oil or cooking oil. Knives used for other purposes such as folding knives and hunting knives should be oiled with a little WD-40 or fine machine oil.

"Flaired pins" are called rivets. There are many ways of attaching knife handles including hollow brake lining rivets that tighten inside each other, plain brass or copper rivets that are lightly upset with a hammer into a chamfered or countersunk hole then finished flush OR rivets that a head is spun onto them in a drill press (most pocket knives are done this way.

Knife handles are also simply driven onto tapered tangs or driven on and the tang upset (riveted) at the pommel or butt guard end. Many modern knife handles are bedded into epoxy and riveted.

When screws are used on knife handles they are usually part of a pair of fasteners called "sex bolts". These are a pair of screws, one a hollow female and the other a solid threaded male (thus the sex). Most commonly these are made with low round heads and are used in leather work but I have seen them in primitive knives.

Making knives from files is usually done by "stock removal". Simply grinding them to shape. This is done carefully as to not overheat the steel and lose the hardness. The tang is soft and preserved for attaching a handle. The problem is that files are too hard and can break from brittleness. They need to be tempered (made softer) using a controlled heat. A spring temper is about right.

Blades forged from files will need to go through a complete heat treating process. Annealing (so the tang can be drilled), the blade hardened and then tempered. There is a lot to study an know about this.

I highly recommend that you start with ANY book on knife making and preferably several OR all that you can find. Relying on Internet resources alone can result in learning every possible misconception, old wives tale, and myth about metalworking. See our book review page for a few.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/09/12 10:39:40 EDT

Helium : Helium is also critical for some analytical instruments used while producing steel - individually, not a huge use, but it adds up. Leco units measuring nitrogen and oxygen require helium for the analysis, at low production levels, a full size cylinder lasts about 1 month. In a shop producing 20 heats a day usage would be up considerably. Helium is also the basis for P10 gas - which is helium with a hydocarbon mixed in - it's used for all brands of x-ray fluorescence spectrometers I'm familiar with.
   - Gavainh - Thursday, 08/09/12 11:41:28 EDT

Have you read "Step by Step Knifemaking" David Boye, it will cover a lot of just getting started questions.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 08/09/12 11:59:48 EDT

Step by Step Knifemaking David Boye

This is a very good book that covers a wide range of topics from belt grinder details to heat treating furnaces and engraving. If you were to purchase one book on knifemaking this would be it. My copy was purchased for $6 at a used book store. The list price of $22 is still cheap considering the educational value.
   - guru - Thursday, 08/09/12 14:44:14 EDT

Once they get commercial nuclear fusion going, we should have plenty of helium. If they ever do.
   Mike BR - Thursday, 08/09/12 19:03:43 EDT

FirePot : Hello GURU How Would I go about Making a Firepot out of a stainless steel sink and what would I need Thanks in advance
   Dillon - Friday, 08/10/12 07:09:18 EDT

"Fire Pot" :
Dillon, a fire pot is the center of a forge. It is typically about 8 x 8" (200 x 200 mm) to 12 x 12" (305 x 305 mm) and 4" (100 mm) to 8" (200mm) deep and made from heavy cast iron or steel 1/4" min. to 3/4" max. (8 to 20 mm) thickness. The shape is roughly a truncated upside down pyramid with room for a 1.5" to 2.5" (40 to 60 mm) diameter air hole (tuyere). The sides slope roughly 45 degrees but are sometimes curved and more bowl shaped.

Surrounding the fire pot is the forge pan, a large level place for extra coal and the work to rest on. This measures as little as 2 by 2 feet up to dinner table size. Most are about 30 by 40" (750 x 1000 mm).

Forge height is anywhere from in the ground to work bench height.

Typical sinks are the wrong shape for a forge or fire pot. To convert to a forge they need to be filled with clay soil or dirt covered with clay. This method has been used for millenia to build forges in the ground, in wooden boxes and in metal pans. Generally you want a clay soil that will pack to shape and then a dense or pottery clay that makes a fairly durable surface.
   - guru - Friday, 08/10/12 10:19:32 EDT


My name is Rowan Silverhorse i am 16 living in Calgary Alberta, I am looking to learn hands on how to blacksmith and was wondering if there is anyone in the area of Calgary who may be looking for a helper or apprentice

if there is anyone who can help pleas contact me at Rowan.drake@hotmail.com

thank you for taking the time to read this and if you can help that would be much appreciated

   - Rowan Silverhorse - Friday, 08/10/12 12:38:39 EDT

Motor Troubles :
A couple years ago I bought two WEG 2HP 1PH Farm Duty motors for our power hammers. Life was good. . .

So far there is only a few hours (less than 10 tops) on the motor on my hammer. Then I went to show it off the other day and all it did was hum and growl, but not start. . . since the purchase was made so long ago there is no warranty even though the motor is new with little use.

After it set for a week I tried it again. . . still growled but slowly started up. I know it could be one of several things. Loose wires (my connections are good), the centrifugal start switch, OR the start capacitor . . or something else. . .

Any ideas, suggestions? Before I take it apart and start poking. . .
   - guru - Monday, 08/13/12 22:41:13 EDT

motor troubles : Jock, I have some open frame motors in use in a shop with sawdust, bugs etc. Sometimes, about once a year. the motors just hum and growl as you mentioned when I start them. My solution is to remove the V belt and hook another motor with a V belt drive to the broken motor, making sure the rotation is the same and start the new drive motor and bring the broken motor up to speed,opening the start switch. I then
stick an air nozzle ( 100 + Psi) in every ventilation hole and blow out all trash- this usually cleans out any trash in the centrifugal start switch contacts.

   - Ray Clontz - Tuesday, 08/14/12 13:55:00 EDT

motor troubles : Jock- hook up another motor to the broken motor and bring the broken one up to speed to open the centrifugal start switch and use the highest pressure air you have to blow out he inside of the motor which might remove any trash keeping the contacts from touching. This usually works on the motor on my table saw- Hope this helps
   - Ray Clontz - Tuesday, 08/14/12 14:01:11 EDT

motor troubles : Jock, use another motor to bring the broken motor up to speed and high pressure air to blow out the inside and you may remove any trash that is causing the centrifugal switch to malfunction- this usually works on motors in my wood shop
   - Ray Clontz - Tuesday, 08/14/12 14:18:40 EDT

Motor Troubles : Ray, These are virtually new TEFC (Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled) motors. No dirt, grime or rust. But good tip on blowing them out. The trick is to do so while they still run.

I only have a few open frame motors in the shop. Replacements are almost always TEFC. I've had long spiral lathe and drill chips wiggle their way into open motors and boy does is get exciting then. . .

MOTOR TIP: When a single phase motor starts there is a centrifugal switch that is closed at first. This connects the capacitor to a special set of startup windings. If the switch sticks closed there is a puff of smoke and in a few seconds the motor is fried. IF you pay attention and hit the switch at the first sign of smoke the motor can be saved - requires a new switch. If not, then its really fried. Those start windings are intermingled with the other windings and they all become shorted. Most small motors are not worth rewinding (costs more than a replacement). Note that TOO MUCH air pressure blowing out a motor can bend or miss align that switch.

Motors with failed start circuits can often be spun by hand and then the switch turned on. . tweeky but it works. On three phase motors, one way around a phase converter is a pilot motor OR pull start. Some folks that use large 3PH motors on 1PH as converters for other motors put a pull start pulley on them. Wrap the cord, give a long hard pull then hit the switch!

I have a clue what's wrong but was hoping for more knowledge than I have. Maybe a sure fire test. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/14/12 15:11:37 EDT

Capacitors are known to go bad in storage if they are not cycled ever so often; that's where I would start.
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/14/12 16:31:59 EDT

Motor ailments : I'd start with the capacitor,myself. Easy enough to pull it off and test it with a multimeter - just check for continuity in both directions. One direction it should start to read and then drop back if it is okay. This is a bit easier to see on an old analog meter rather than the new digital ones, but it works with either one. Or just swap it out with a known good capacitor if you have one on hand. Caps have been known to test good with the meter and still not work in service starting a motor.
   Rich Waugh - Tuesday, 08/14/12 17:51:39 EDT

Start Capacitors : That's where I am thinking about starting. I don't have to remove the motor to pull and replace the capacitor.

Years ago I had a power capacitor blow up in an old computer. I plugged it in, hit the switch and POW!! Sounded like a rifle shot. I opened up the box and it was a little 3/8" yellow hard plastic capacitor had blown half its cover off. . . A short or moisture. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/14/12 19:11:42 EDT

When I was taking electronics classes one thing our instructor did was to zap each type of discrete component and have us smell it so we could troubleshoot with our nose. An electrolytic capacitor smells quite different from a resistor for instance.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 08/14/12 20:21:27 EDT

Jock, Make sure you are wearing safety glasses anytime you check a capacitor by any method. Anyone who has ever seen the results of an exploding capacitor will tell you why. Though I suspect you already know to do so, some reading may not. Steve G.
   - SGensh - Tuesday, 08/14/12 20:59:16 EDT

Electronics class : In the electronics shop at the vo-tec I went to a common prank was to charge a capacitor and then shout someone's name across the room, When they look, the charged cap was thrown to them, and as a reflex, most would catch it before thinking, at least the first few times.
   - Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 08/15/12 00:47:13 EDT

Capacitors : Dave Boyer's prank of tossing the cap. In ARMY electronics class, we were specifically told not to do it. And of course that gave us the idea. One drawback in the ARMY is that everybody looks alike from behind, and so the instructor looks just like the guys,and boy when you toss that cap to him, it ends badly:)
   ptree - Wednesday, 08/15/12 07:13:34 EDT

West Nile Virus : Odd topic for a blacksmithing forum, I know. But what with what's going on in Texas (14 deaths reported so far by the Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm ) and a couple of human and anumal cases reported in my state it got me thinking - My slack tub sits outside my shop. Does anybody have any ideas for keping it mosquito-free? Keeping it covered doesn't seem efficient (it's a leaky old half barrel) and I'm hesitant to put any additives in there and booger up my iron. Any suggestions?
   - Chris C. - Wednesday, 08/15/12 12:14:11 EDT

Well doing away with it works! Most A36 shouldn't be quenched anyway but normalized when done. I only use water for cooling tooling and so bring it out with me when I go to forge and pour it on the tree shading the shop when I'm done.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 08/15/12 12:39:28 EDT

Slack tub : Living in the tropics, mosquitoes are a constant issue, what with dengue fever and all. I simply keep a cover on my slack tub when not in use and I have no mosquito problems at all.
   Rich Waugh - Wednesday, 08/15/12 12:41:42 EDT

Slack Tub Bugs - Mosquitoes :
Chris, Yes, this is a serious problem with slack tubs.

The best least toxic method is to use Clorox bleach OR several tabs of pool chemical. You have to play with the amount until it kills the little wigglers AND refresh the chemicals at least every couple weeks (or as often as needed). The Chlorine or Bromine gases off or reacts chemically with the tub and contents and become ineffective. Do not use these in a steel tub and do not leave cut off in the tub (kills the chemicals).

Covering the tub/tank does no good unless it is a tight fit. If there is a hole for the insects to fly through they will.

The chemicals will increase rusting a bit but do not hurt the metal otherwise. Just don't leave iron things in the tub. This is bad for the item AND the chemicals. To use these chemicals the tub needs to be wood, stainless, ceramic or plastic coated. However, coatings chip and you will rapidly have a hole.

Besides slack tubs look for ANYTHING that can trap rainwater. A cup sized container can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.

One issue many communities have is related to the many home foreclosures in the U.S.(Our National SHAME). These homes often have unmaintained pools, gutters, bird feeders or water gardens that are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. It only takes a couple weeks for pool chemicals to go flat and the wildlife move in (I've seen frogs and turtles in pools). In many places officials are putting fish into pools to control the mosquito population.

Like controlling flies by covering garbage, controlling mosquitoes is something that everyone in the community needs to take part in.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/15/12 13:00:09 EDT

Mosquitos : Mosquitos can reproduce in a bottle cap of water.

We tried a mixture of clorox and borax in our slack tub (1/2 wine barrel) and it didn't work. Probably not enough chemical.

There are other ways. The most common is to put oil on the water (ANY kind of oil). Whatever kind doesn't smell bad or interfer w your work. A tiny bit that completely covers the water surface w a molecule of oil will do the job. I understand it keeps the wrigglers from getting air and they suffocate.
   - Rudy - Wednesday, 08/15/12 13:55:27 EDT

Mosquitoes in the slack tub : Hmm...local mosquito control recommends a capful of vegetable oil every week. Any reason I should worry about this? I'd think the layer would be so thin that I wouldn't have to worry much about smoking or residual on my work.
   - Chris C. - Wednesday, 08/15/12 17:01:46 EDT

education degree : What, if any, college degrees are helpful for a blacksmith?
   marzipan - Wednesday, 08/15/12 18:53:57 EDT

Most folks who didn't know this already have probably worked it out from the above posts, but make sure the capacitor is discharged before connecting a continuity tester (ohmmeter)!
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 08/15/12 20:44:44 EDT

Slack-Tub and Oil : You have to be very careful about putting oil in the slack-tub. The oil can catch fire on the iron if a very hot piece is quenched. The iron also picks up the oil very quickly so a small amount can be used up in a short time. Dust and dirt also causes the oil to collect on the sides of the container - using up the oil and making a mess.

I've had oil in the slack-tub and did not like it. Occasionally you have to fish something out with your hands and end up with oil up to your elbow. If you are using coal it is common practice to use water from the slack tub to control the fire and the oil sizzles and makes smoke.

That said, we had wigglers in the slack tub last weekend and used a little WD-40 on the surface to kill them. . . If you are mostly quenching tongs the oil lubricates them until they heat up again. . . Most of the WD-40 is kerosene so it will evaporate fairly quickly and stop working.

If bleach doesn't work for you try pool chemicals. They work, otherwise every outdoor swimming pool in the country would be filled with mosquitoes. In many parts of the South there are so many pools that from the air vast areas look like blue water marshes.
   - guru - Wednesday, 08/15/12 21:38:49 EDT

Blacksmiths and Education :
Blacksmithing is a broad area with a lot of specialties. There are architectural smiths, sculptors (artist blacksmiths), craftworkers, bladesmiths, tool smiths. . . Most smiths are self employed entrtapaneures

First, I doubt than ANY North American school covers all the right things. Trade schools are more likely to have the needed courses but not in one curricula.

The three things most smiths need are business acumen, artistic skills and mechanical skills.

Business courses may or may not teach you how to run a small business. And when we are talking small here we are talking ONE person, possibly one or two employees. You need to know how to price your work, keep books, advertise, maintain capital. Do EVERYTHING.

When most people get into blacksmithing they are talking about artistic smithing but do not consider that they may need artistic skills. This means everything from mechanical drafting to drawing of all types and understanding design - things like the balance between negative space and filled space, using texture and color. NO, not all ironwork is black.

Most colleges and universities have a variety of art courses. I would suggest every form of drawing available from as many instructors as possible. One smith told me that a life drawing course (nudes) greatly improved his work - he learned about the character and emotion a simple line can convey.

Mechanical skills include basic engineering math to wrench turning to rigging and moving loads. A modern blacksmith shop looks like a machine shop more than ye olde fashioned smithy. Along with forge and anvil there are drill presses, power hammers, hydraulic benders and presses, power saws, ironworkers, grinders of all sorts. You don't just need to know how to use the machinery in your shop, you need to know how to set it up and maintain it.

Machinist courses usually start with basic metalworking and then move past a lot of the basics into modern machine shop practices. If you take one of these courses try to complete the basics. Welding is also taught in various schools.

Jewelery classes often teach more metalworking techniques than any others. They immediately get into welding, brazing and silver soldering, rolling stock, drawing wire, casting processes.

   - guru - Wednesday, 08/15/12 23:49:26 EDT

[ Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]
Counter    Copyright © 2012 Jock Dempsey, www.anvilfire.com Cummulative_Arc GSC

Get anvilfire.com GEAR.

International Ceramics Products