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

This is an archive of posts from September 22 - 21, 2010 on the Guru's Den
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I've been trying to melt Bullseye frit glass onto my forged pieces, but as the metal cools the molten glass pops off. Any suggestions??
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 09/22/10 12:39:41 EDT


It isn't going to stick to the metal itself. There are a couple of ways you might be able to finesse it, though. You could try something like first coating the metal with ITC-213 and firing that on to create a background that was receptive to the glass. Another way is to first fire vitreous enamel onto the surface - to do that you clean the steel to shiny bare and then coat with a liquid flux made for the purpose and then sift powdered enamel onto the wet flux. Let it dry then fire it until it fuses. After that the glass should adhere to the enamel just fine. You might also just try using the enamel flux t get the glass to adhere directly - I've never tried this but it might work.

Some glass will adhere better than others, depending on the type and what elements are added for colorants.

The usual method is to create a mechanical retention system, either a bezel, an undercut or small tabs that the glass can melt into and thus be retained. There is an art to getting the glass to flow in enough to be retained but not so much it fractures when things cool down. You just have to experiment until you hit on the method that works for you. You're dealing with materials that have different coefficients of thermal expansion so it takes finesse.
   - Rich - Wednesday, 09/22/10 14:20:15 EDT

Thanks Rich, that explanation was worth a million. A friend of mine has been trying to do the same thing as Carver Jake with the same resaults.
I'll pass this on to him.
   - merl - Wednesday, 09/22/10 17:33:05 EDT

Have you ever tried making stained glass windows or lamps ?
If you melt old bottles etc.of different colors,will they retain the color ? Lets say a green 7 UP bottle, after melting will the glass still be green ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 09/23/10 03:47:56 EDT

Mike T,

Yes, I've made a number of stained glass windows and lamps.

Some glass will retain its color during/after slumping, so will not. It also depends on how hot you get it and for how long. Your hypothetical 7-Up bottle can be heated t slumping temperature and will retain its color just fine- in fact, if you use one of the older ones the logo will retain its color as well. If you take it to the melting point where it will fuse with itself and other glass you may lose some color and the logo will be a muddied mess in the lump of glass.
   - Rich - Thursday, 09/23/10 08:18:42 EDT

To the all knowing Guru,

Hey Guru, whats going on. I have a question about how I should go about putting a saw-back on a knife for a client. I was looking at the drawing he gave and noticed that it had a saw-back on it, which is something that I have never attempted, but I never back down from a challenge. I'm using 5160 and just wanted to know how you would put it on, if I should do an edge quench on the saw portion and so on. Please get back to me at you earliest convenience.

J. Kelly Yonko
   J. Kelly Yonko - Thursday, 09/23/10 10:22:29 EDT

Saw Back Knife: Teeth are either hand filed or cut with a grinder. A saw sharpener can properly profile the teeth very accurately and index them equally. This could also be done on a milling machine. After cutting the teeth they will need to be set. I would do some research into saw tooth design before starting this. The hardness of the teeth would depend on what your client is planning to cut. But I would have them harder than the body of the blade (edge quenched as you mentioned).
   - guru - Thursday, 09/23/10 10:49:31 EDT

Would an electric chainsaw sharpener work?
   J. Kelly Yonko - Thursday, 09/23/10 10:58:20 EDT

I doubt it. You are not making a chainsaw blade. Its completely different geometry and cross section than a solid blade. You are making something closer to a milling cutter than a chainsaw. I would look for someone that is in the saw sharpening business and has something like Foley Belsaw equipment. You can often find this home business equipment on the used equipment market.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/23/10 11:49:10 EDT

Saw back knife: With the blade fully annealed it should only take an hour or two to file decent saw teeth. A good sharp triangular cant saw file or better yet a barrette file will do the job nicely. You should study saw tooth profiles first so that you know which profile will be most appropriate for the job envisioned by the customer.

Coat the knife spine with Dykem or Beecham's and then layout the teeth with a needle scribe. File away everything that doesn't look like saw teeth. :-)

On a knife, a saw back is of such limited utility that setting the teeth is a waste of effort and will mostly just result in something that will trash the sheath pretty quickly. If the blade profile is a straight taper from edge to spine you won't need to set the teeth for kerf clearance, anyway.

There's a pretty good tutorial on saw tooth geometries and layout here: http://www.disstonianinstitute.com/sawfiling1.html
   - Rich - Thursday, 09/23/10 12:22:19 EDT


Is it a sawback like a saw or the ripper teeth like is seen on a Rambo knife ? Some guy in a shack made that knife for the movie. He is one of the best knife makers in the world. I read where one of the Saudi prince's made a special trip to see him to commission a knife.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 09/23/10 18:50:41 EDT

The first Rambo knife was made by master bladesmith Jimmy Lile at his shop in Arkansas. A modest frame building, but hardly a shack. :-) Lile did considerable high-end custom commission work, including among his clientele a number of movie stars, rich folks and at least one US President. Jimmy died about 20 years ago, as I recall.

The later Rambo knives were designed by Gil Hibben, the noted fantasy knife maker.
   - Rich - Thursday, 09/23/10 20:55:14 EDT

To my recollection sawbacks were originally put on the bayonets of pioneer troops (engineers, sappers, etc.) to serve as both weapons and tools (for constructing abatis barricades, palings, and other military woodwork) before the First World War. Of course, back then, the bayonets were around 18 inches long, which gave a pretty good saw stroke. Like most combination weapon/tools it was considered something of an ungainly compromise.

Reputedly, because the saw-back was supposed to inflict such ghastly wounds, the Germans in WW-I would immediately execute any British or French troops carrying these weapons.

I don’t really like this form, myself; if it’s sharp enough to really saw it’s also likely to snag my own flesh far more often than to show its utility in the field. A Swedish folding camp saw is both compact and light and performs like a decent saw; there’s very little that an axe or knife can’t do, and when you need a saw, use a saw. As for the weaponry aspect, it does have some intimidation aspects, but when you unintentionally snag it on some clothing and it goes twisting away out of your grasp… Well, that’s another story.

Warm, clear and too darn dry on the banks of the lower Potomac.

We're setting up the Viking forge at Viking Day at Calvert Marine Museum this Saturday, 9/25.


Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 09/23/10 21:58:58 EDT

Rambo Knives and Saw Backs: These are the ultimate red neck knife originating in the original Bowie knife. Big, ugly, impractical, mega machismo (a lot of "mine is bigger than yours" bravado).

Back in 1993 I visited the Knife Museum when it was in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the time they had the wood prototypes for the Rambo knife. They were carved from a good clear piece of pine 2x4. Both were very large taking full advantage of the piece of lumber they were carved from. They were also about as extreme as knife designs can go. Both were rejected by the movie director and a small slightly more practical design was chosen.

Someone told me that the saw teeth were for escaping from a downed aircraft and were designed to rip and cut through the heavier areas of the aircraft. Makes sense but most of the things I've been told about various features of knives over the years were myths. Blade myths probably date to the stone age and easily predate writing. These stories come down to us as Excalibur and other such myths.

   - guru - Friday, 09/24/10 02:35:57 EDT

If you cut the saw teeth in BEFORE you quench the blade, you may want to limit the quench to the bottom half only. The sharp notches at the teeth roots are great stress risers and can result in many cracks.
   quenchcrack - Friday, 09/24/10 09:07:49 EDT

When I am cutting anything with a saw, I like to put even pressure directly ABOVE the cutting area. With a hacksaw this pressure is acheived by the ends of the saw. On a Dumbo style blade you would end up putting the pressure on the blade edge. Hmmmmmmm... well THAT makes all the sense in the world!
   - Nippulini - Friday, 09/24/10 09:12:22 EDT

Good saw teeth have a round gullet and do not create a stress riser. That is why everyone commenting on this project have suggested that a in depth study be made of saw tooth design. It is not just a bunch of V grooves cut into the edge but rounded U's ( U^U^U^U^ ) and the top behind the edge relieved and if not set then reduced in width behind the edge. A close look at a milling slot cutter might be more appropriate than a common saw blade. This is also work that besides using some jigs to get the angles just right may also require working under a magnifier to see all the aspects of each tooth clearly.

Besides deep ground or filed saw teeth another option is chiseled file teeth. . .
   - guru - Friday, 09/24/10 09:17:39 EDT

Nip, There are various saws that are only held with one hand including common carpenters saws and dry wall saws. . .
   - guru - Friday, 09/24/10 09:36:38 EDT

Yup, and I hate working with those. Keyhole saws, that type you mean? I know, good downward pressure and a nice angle makes all the difference...
   - Nippulini - Friday, 09/24/10 16:25:01 EDT

...not to mention those shortcut hacksaws that work on the pull stroke. Gotta' have them to get into those tight spaces.
   Frank Turley - Friday, 09/24/10 19:45:10 EDT

I am seaching for a pair of tinted saftey glasses that have some reading glasses power built in. I am getting tired of stacking various glasses in a row on my head. I could just go to the eye doctor and get a $cript, but I'm cheap. Anyone?
   S K Smith - Friday, 09/24/10 19:55:56 EDT

S K Smith: How about a Steampunk setup with various lenses swiveling on a pair of goggles. Frequently a joke, but this would certainly be a real-world application. Do a search on "Steampunk goggles" and endless variations should pop-up.

Boat and forge packed up and ready for Y1K tomorrow on the banks of the Patuxent hard by the ship.
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 09/24/10 20:38:15 EDT

S K Smith - I use these. You can get them in clear or tinted with the reader bifocal.
   - Bernard Tappel - Friday, 09/24/10 21:16:16 EDT

Re. these big knives:
A knife is a knife, an axe is an axe, a machete is a machete and a saw is a saw. You can double up some uses but by and large the combinations are no good at any of the functions! You can put in a screw using a wood chisel but it isn't a good idea. It doesn't do the job well.
   philip in china - Friday, 09/24/10 21:38:42 EDT

I bought some tinted glasses from Bullseye Glass for about $60, thinking they would be good for forge welding, turns out not so. Went to their manufacturer and got the correct "over glasses" for hot metal and they ran $106. But I saved my eyes. I'm 77. Hope it was worth it.
   Carver Jake - Saturday, 09/25/10 00:00:38 EDT

You ever watch National Treasure 2? Those glasses... but do a steampunk version of them. I know that on various lampworking sites they sell didymium and special IR-block forgeworker's glasses. I should consider one of those even though I plan on using a coke forge, because sometimes when I am looking into the heart of the fire, it is sometimes difficult to see the workpiece. I kinda like the idea of a face shield myself, though, because I wear rx glasses. I was thinking of getting a face shield used for boro glass work, not didymium (the boro glass glows much brighter under heat than soft glass does), but never really got into it because of cost considerations (I was on disability at the time).

   PondRacer - Saturday, 09/25/10 03:22:57 EDT

Setting up forge and anvil today for "Hulmeville Day", a town-wide yard sale/flea market. Selling all the crap in the house to make room for baby. While the wifey does the selling and haggling I'll be doing demos and shooing old men away from trying to buy the anvil and/or forge.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 09/25/10 06:35:22 EDT

Thanks for the input on the saftey glasses. I think there is a market for some powered-up glasses for people with eyes that have seen to much stuff. Just think of the job creation. I have an idea for gloves also... I used to be a driving instructor for various car clubs doing track events and my collection of driving gloves work for me very well at the forge. They cover a lot of forearm and have a good tactil leather grip and are made of fireproof Nomex. The cheaper the better because they have less padding. Sweet!
   - S K Smith - Saturday, 09/25/10 11:44:10 EDT

Tinted Glasses: We sell #2 shade safety glasses and will be carrying #3. I'm testing some safety specs with reading glass windows in them but I'm not crazy about them.
   - guru - Saturday, 09/25/10 12:57:13 EDT

Don't get me wrong, I like my stash of Uncle-Sam Nomex fire-retardent flight-gloves also. Never know when you may want to stick your hand in a retarted-fire.........
But some find it quicker to skin-a-rabbit than what it takes to remove one of these gloves from your hands.

I'm going to wear the "ninja-black" pair for sticking the $19.95 price-tag on Nippulinis anvil and try to buy it at their yard-sale.
   - danial - Saturday, 09/25/10 14:04:56 EDT

Danial makes a VERY good point about gloves. If you're going to use them for hot work, you really need to be able to throw one off your hand with a simple flick of the wrist. Leather gloves in particular can get hot when sweaty or wet and transmit heat to your skin very rapidly. That is why I greatly prefer the cotton/Kevlar hot-mill gloves sold for industrial forge and foundry work. They don't hold heat and are easily flicked off if one gets uncomfortably hot.

When hand forging I use a glove on my tong hand only - trying to hold a hammer handle securely while wearing a glove is impossible and risks developing tennis elbow or carpal tunnel syndrome. When I'm doing larger work at the power hammer, where radiant heat gets to be a problem I'll sometimes use gloves on both hands.
   - Rich - Saturday, 09/25/10 14:21:27 EDT

Saw teeth on knife-like objects: The one time I did this was for a super-robust hori-hori (Japanese gardening knife) forged from 3/4" round 5160. I ground it to a chisel edge where the saw part would be, did the heat treating, tempering back to around Rc 50 or so on the saw part, then filed in the teeth from the flat side of the chisel grind with a 1/8" chainsaw file. Worked a treat. Rambo-type sawteeth are not functional and are just asking for trouble.

On glasses for forging: if you're a glassworker, use glassworking glasses. If you're a blacksmith, shade #2 green saftey glasses are what you want. Hot steel, whether in coke or gas, does not radiate in exactly the same spectra as glass, so protecting yourself from sodium flare in a forge is like protecting yourself from rain when you're indoors. You can do it, but it wastes money and looks a bit silly...

I have a set of Uvex "flippies," which consist of a clear prescription lens ($55) over which there's a flip-down #5 shade. It's a little too dark for forgework, but great for torch brazing. You can see in the fire very well indeed, but then it becomes imperative to flip up the shade while hammering. That's why I suggested the #2 if you simply must have a fixed-shade lens.

Safety glasses are a must, as one can't see out of a glass eye. Just be sure to evaluate the risk at hand before buying something you don't need. IR protection is what you need for hot work, because the eye can't shed heat quickly. Cooking your eyes causes cataracts, among other problems.

Of course, the time-honored methods of blacksmithing suggest that one doesn't just stare into the fire. Take a quick peek from time to time, learn to read temperature visually, and clear IR-protective lenses will do all you could want.

A full face shield is great for grinding, though.

I used to use a kevlar hot mill glove on my tong hand, and still do for some operations, but over the years I've found a loose-fitting thin pigskin glove is all I need for most things. Keeps the hot flux and scale off the skin, can be shaken off fast, and pigskin doesn't stiffen up when it dries out after it gets wet. Like Rich, I don't wear or recommend gloves on your hammer hand unless you REALLY need them. I do it when welding up damascus billets just to keep the hot flux from getting between hammer and hand, but again it's just an ultra-thin pigskin glove. Welding calls for light blows, so a thin glove is okay for that. Regular forging needs no glove.
   Alan-L - Saturday, 09/25/10 15:58:44 EDT

I will stick with my suggestion not to quench the teeth. Even round gullet teeth will cool faster THROUGH the teeth when you remove half of the metal surrounding them. In high carbon steel this can still mean cracks across the teeth. Grind them AFTER hardening and use a round bottom seems best.
   quenchcrack - Saturday, 09/25/10 17:56:06 EDT

Ol' Holford* talks about hardening tools that have fine teeth or projections. He uses a butcher's steel as an example. Holford mixes 1/2 salt with 1/2 wheat flour and adds enough water to make it a muddy consistancy. The parts are coated and then quenched at a red heat (high carbon steel). He claims that there will not be a fully hardened product, as the coating retards the cooling a bit.
* "The 20th Century Toolsmith and Steelworker."
   Frank Turley - Saturday, 09/25/10 18:57:55 EDT

Any hints on making hoof paring knives? I have got some spring steel which should be about the correct size. I was also proposing to put a hoof pick on the end.
   philip in china - Sunday, 09/26/10 00:19:25 EDT

Hoof knife. If you don't have one to copy, I suggest googling IMAGES, "hoof knife." There are some odd ones on the market today, but the traditional style is shown as a Frost brand (Swedish?), the one pictured with the blonde colored handle. They come right and left handed. Most are bevel sharpened on the concave side only. A chain saw file is handy for sharpening the inside of the end "hook." When I was shoeing, I carried a slip stone with radiused edges. The mild curve is so that you can "cup" the sole slightly.The back of the knife should be blunt, as it is pushed with the thumb or the web between thumb base and palm.

I would avoid the hoof pick idea. To borrow an expression from the author, Owen Ulph, "Horses operate on the verge of hysteria." You don't want any projections, if a horse shys or becomes fractious.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/26/10 09:16:45 EDT

P.S. We often used the blunt back of the hoof knife, the hook end, to clean the horse's foot by pushing into the frog's sulci toward the toe. We also used the rein end of the hoof nippers for cleaning. Any hoof pick should have a soft, radiused "point" or at least, soft edges. Farriers don't use hoof picks; it's just an extra tool to lose. Horse owners and grooms use them. I used to make hoof picks out of one half a horseshoe. When finished, you could still see the nail crease and holes. They were giveaways to customers.
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/26/10 09:27:24 EDT

Ref iron: Is a grain a crystal? Is a crystal a grain?
   Frank Turley - Sunday, 09/26/10 14:49:55 EDT

Frank, one grain will have millions of crystals. Each crystal will have only 4-8 atoms, depending on the crystal shape.
   quenchcrack - Sunday, 09/26/10 15:45:11 EDT

Hi Guru,
I have read How to Get Started. I am in a local welding class. However, not sure of who/how to learn next steps. I want to learn metal art, sculpting, bending/heating rods etc. I don't have correct terminology yet. Looking a 3-4 day workshop in VA. With 3 boys at home, hate to travel, not having any luck locally finding anyone who does metal art. I live in Lafayette, IN. Do you have any suggestions, Indianapolis maybe? I would like to begin assembling a workshop in our pole barn. Where do suggest I begin looking for equipment and what can I get by with basically to get started? You recommended taking the the next welding class "Arc welding". I do not have a welder yet, am waiting to see exactly which kind would be best for my type of work etc. Would be great if I have someone locally to tag along with to learn?
   Joanna - Sunday, 09/26/10 16:11:02 EDT

Joanna, There are blacksmiths everywhere. It may take a little digging to find them but they are there.

I would start with www.indianablacksmithing.org they have 10 satellite groups in the state so one or more is likely to be close to you.

Generally the "best" tool is the one you can afford. Common transformer type AC arec welders called "buzz boxes" due to the humming of the transformer are simple and the least expensive of welding equipment. While a good one may retail for $600 new the same one may sell used for much much less. The advantage of a buzz box is the simplicity, there is almost nothing to go wrong and supplies are inexpensive. They are also very flexible and will weld all ferrous alloys including stainless with the right electrodes.

Other welders will allow you to weld aluminum and do more delicate work than a buzz box but they are expensive and costly to maintain. Lots to go wrong with high-tech.

In any professional shop you need some type of electric welder and an oxy-acetylene set. Size varies with the type of work you do but unless your work is miniature or jewelery then a full size set is best. For general heating and cutting you can use oxy-fuel (propane, butane, NG) but for welding you need acetylene.

Oxy-acetylene is flexible enough that many use it exclusively and do not have electric welding equipment.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/26/10 17:39:24 EDT

what is the best flux to forge weld.why is flux importon
   - clayton - Sunday, 09/26/10 18:26:59 EDT

Hi Guru, I am new and looking for a good anvil. I know you said the Peter Wright was a good one. What are some of the other names are good ones?
   Harold - Sunday, 09/26/10 20:11:07 EDT

Flux is not necessary for most low alloy steels if the metal is clean and the fire has the right atmosphere. Some smiths rarely use flux, others always do.

The most common flux for steel is borax. Second and most common in commercial fluxes is boric acid (with a little borax). Proprietary fluxes start with boric acid, add varying proportions of borax, sometimes ammonium chloride and then iron powder. Fluxes with iron powder are often used on decorative work with mild steel but should not be used in making laminated steels as it is a contaminate and will muddle the pattern.

Boron fluxes will protect the steel from oxidation and dissolve a small amount of existing oxidation. But if applied after the steel is heavily oxidized (scaled) then the flux does no good. Flux or no flux, technique is important in welding.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/26/10 21:55:56 EDT

What is sal ammoniac flux? The borax with a bit of ammonium chloride?

I use this in brick form to help keep a soldering iron for stained glass work clean... or rather, did, when I was doing stained glass in the past.

   PondRacer - Sunday, 09/26/10 22:39:25 EDT

Anvil Brands: Harold, There are dozens of good anvil brands. Peter Wright was a popular brand in the U.S. but only a few of the many British anvil brands were sold in the U.S. and even fewer European anvils. Peter Wright advertised that they used only NEW wrought iron "no scrap" in their anvils. While they were trying to make the best possible anvil the result was an anvil that was more ductile and ended up become more swayed than those anvils made from scrap, which often contained steel and made a stronger anvil. . . They were a popular and well made anvil but they were not the best.

Many of the best anvils are old and had no markings or were made to be private branded and had no markings even though made by recognized makers. Looking for a "brand name" can be a waste of time and cost you a lot of money.

I personally like very old anvils that have enough wear and tear that it indicates they can stand up to heavy use. Shiny new anvils are also nice but good quality ones are very expensive.
   - guru - Sunday, 09/26/10 22:42:26 EDT


Sal ammoniac is a block of ammonium chloride, nothing more. It is good for dissolving oxides of non-ferrous metals and moderate oxides of iron. Chemically, sal ammoniac is NH4Cl, and when heated it breaks down to NH3 (ammonia) and HCl (hydrochloric acid). Some people just use diluted HCl as a flux for soldering steel, which is easy to understand when you know what sal ammoniac is.

As noted, sal ammoniac can be added to borax-based fluxes for forge welding.
   - Rich - Monday, 09/27/10 00:31:29 EDT

Thank you for the heads op on Finkle FX, as it turns out the blocks I have are too thin by 1/4 inch.
I do have some larger draw die blocks from a old die these are H13 but are heat treated. So my Question.

Can I use 4140 or the FX without heat treat. I wonder how well it would last on the 50 lb Hammer.

   Dirty Dan - Monday, 09/27/10 08:54:13 EDT

More Flux: The active ingredient in the majority of welding rods is borax and boric acid. Those for stainless steel also contain a small amount of fluorite (CaF2) powder the same as used to forge weld chrome and nickle alloys. The fluorine in the mineral is much more aggressive than boron at dissolving oxides but is also very toxic. Welding rod coating also contain cellulose (wood flour) to make smokey gases for atmospheric protection and arc stabilization, iron powder (in some) to add to the bead plus alloying ingredients for different strength rods (the wire is the same in all steel welding rods). The manganese that makes high alloy rods strong and helps hard facing rods be harder is in the coating. Some specialty rods use different wire (thus the cost) but common E series rods are all the same. So other than the cellulose for smoke arc welding flux is very similar to forge welding flux.

The bulk (in pounds) of forge welding is making laminated steel AKA "Damascus" and a great number of bladesmiths are doing this without flux. They use sealed containers or stainless foil to protect the mechanically cleaned metal while in the forge and then press the layers together while still in the sacrificial protection. This is also done at much lower temperatures than "normal" forge welding is done.

Some smiths and some traditional techniques use clay as "flux". This is not a true flux (no active ingredients) but a protective coating to reduce oxidation in the forge. The type of clay can be important. The Japanese use high temperature (high aluminia) clays that are also used in porceline ceramics and others use red clays as used in stone ware. Some white clays such as used in common clay slip will boil off at welding heats.

Fluxes for other metals do the same things as borax flux but at lower temperatures (protect and deoxidize). Some soldering fluxes have powdered metal (tin) in them to make them self tinning. This is the only type flux I have used when I was successful at soldering copper pipe. Sal amoniac blocks are abrasive and help mechanically clean welding tips (coppers).

Making lead solder with those little flux bearing holes in them (one brand had five holes) and flux core welding rod is very interesting. To make filled hollow wire they start with a big block of solder metal with holes drilled or cast into it. This may be a piece several inches in diameter and as long as is reasonably possible to make the holes. The ends are sealed (welded) and then the billet is pushed through drawing dies then pulled through wire reducing dies from that short several inch diameter billet into long wire. Thus the magic holes. . .
   - guru - Monday, 09/27/10 09:26:19 EDT

Hammer Die Heat Treat: Dan, It depends on the shape of the die and the expected life. Dies like the Big BLU crown dies and narrow combo dies as well as specialty texturing dies should be heat treated to the best possible condition in order to stand up to their expected use. Flat dies and low production special impression dies can be used soft as long as you are careful to work only good hot steel. You can not finish the forging at low heat on soft dies.

Note that you can purchase pre-hardened 4140 and H13 that can be machined in the hardened condition. It is not easy to machine but they ARE machinable. The advantage of these materials is they do not require further heat treatment. Just machine and use.

Many short use and even some production dies are made of mild steel. As long as there are no sharp edges or high definition the soft material works very well. I've known smiths to make thousands of parts or hundreds of feet of rail in mild steel dies.

A warning on power hammer dies. Virtually all hammers have a definite lower travel beyond which parts crash into each other. Often the difference between the right die height and crashing the machine is only 1/4". Never try to get more die clearance by shortening the dies. Never run the machine without the dies OR anvil in position. All it takes is less than a second to do thousands of dollars of damage to the machine.

There are also work height limitations on power hammers. Just because the work can be gotten in the hammer doesn't mean the machine will operate properly.

I reviewed a blacksmithing video once where the smith was choking his Little giant with tall work and did not adjust the ram height. The work was within the hammer's capacity but only if the ram height was adjusted UP. The hammer had to struggle to make a revolution each time it struck the work. Besides the near stalling of the hammer it was closing the spring to shut height which then bends the toggle arms. . . (thus the stalling). I could not publish the review because every time I thought of that scene all I could think of was screaming "YOU STUPID IDIOT!"

While too tall of work does not hurt an air hammer as it does a mechanical hammer the lack of travel reduces the forging effectiveness greatly. Over traveling an air hammer downward can crash the piston in the cylinder ripping the bottom off the cylinder or wrecking it in some other manner. I heard of some fellows that just HAD to test their newly delivered Nazel 3B before it was setup and ran it without the anvil (just a test). It ripped broke the lower seal flange and ripped the studs out of the casting. . . They tried to blame the seller!
   - guru - Monday, 09/27/10 10:58:22 EDT

Former Microsofty is doing something about old iron. See http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sundaybuzz/2012981363_sundaybuzz26.html
   Bob Johnson - Monday, 09/27/10 11:44:51 EDT

Interesting article. But he will find that the big old machinery is CHEAP compared to the all the bits and pieces to make it work. Cutter bits, a tool grinder to resharpen them, the guy that knows how. . . Racks and racks of tool holders and attachments.

One reason for this resurgence is that Ariva, AKA Framatome (The French government nuclear company who bought B&W/McDermot), formerly Babcox and Wilcox, is spending a ton on ramping up to make a new generation of nuclear plants. Folks in the know are trying to pick up the peripheral work, which there is tons of IF (really, really BIG IF) it all happens.

It is also a good time to pickup big old iron as it is going to go for scrap if folks don't put it to use. .

The push for nuclear is because the oil is and WILL run out. Nothing is infinite (as the Saudis have insisted their oil reserves are). Demand is skyrocketing and the END is coming. It takes 20 years to get a modern nuclear plant on-line and more when you have to build the industrial base to make it first. Ariva is currently building the world's largest stainless foundry in Norfolk VA and is also building a plant in the Northwest among other places.

The problem, that makes it all a big IF. . . Nuclear waste. Nothing has changed in the past 30 years. ALL the high level waste in the form of used fuel assemblies is still sitting in the plants that created it with one exception, Three Mile Island. The melted down core could not be left as-is and was all disposed of very quietly. . . Until there is a solution to moving nuclear waste there will be no new nuclear plants. So all the scurrying around at this point is a HUGE gamble. . . But I suspect that what is about to happen is that it will be declared a national security issue and the states, courts and public will have no say in the matter.

Hopefully alternatives to nuclear will dominate and the nuclear question will go away. My Dad, who helped build a lot of the existing nuclear plants became anti-nuclear late in life when he saw how the paper pushers running the plants treated maintenance. If you could solve the problem on paper (a leak is not a leak if you measure it and account for it), then the problem was "fixed". We made our living for many years actually FIXING problems. Then management and attitudes changed. The paper fix. Its like taking nail clippers away from grandmothers making air travel more secure. . .

By the way, the worlds largest boring mill, purchased by Babcox and Wilcox from a Japanese company, and taking over two years to setup, never made ONE chip before it was disassembled and sold (to South Korea I think). This was less than a year after the event at Three Mile Island. Since that time not a SINGLE new nuclear plant has gone on-line in the U.S. One reason is still the Nuclear waste issue.

If we all don't support other energy sources the government is going to take things into their hands thus taking away more of our freedoms.
   - guru - Monday, 09/27/10 12:35:46 EDT

I am designing a new gas forge and I am wondering about venting it by connecting it with stove pipe to an 6 inch insulated chimney I have in my shop. My shop is small and not particularly well ventilated, and when I run my current forge the air gets bad even when I leave the door and windows open. I believe that my new forge will have two of Larry Zoeller's Z burners, or something similar. Do you have any thoughts about externally venting a gas forge? I was thinking that I'd install a damper so I could adjust the draft. Any ideas would be really appreciated.
   Tom - Monday, 09/27/10 15:31:02 EDT

Tom, A 6" vent is probably not large enough for any kind of forge. While it will help if you have a fairly small inlet (not a large hood) the exhaust from a forge is a significant volume of hot gases. They also blow a considerable distance out of the forge in the front and back (up to a foot in some cases).

While you may not think much air goes in through a burner it is flowing pretty fast THEN it expands from the break down of the fuel and the heat.

No point in a damper in an exhaust system that you want as much as possible to move through. The only reason for it would be when the forge is not in use to keep the indoor air indoors.

I'd recommend a 10" vent for a gas forge, 12" (just like a coal forge) if its a large forge and the hood must extract a lot of cold air along with the hot.

Be sure that vent is not a drier or modern gas furnace vent. These are often designed for low temperatures and are made of aluminum.
   - guru - Monday, 09/27/10 16:07:21 EDT

Venting forges:

Keep in mind that when you extract a significant volume of air out of a shop you have to have air come in to replace it. This is called "make-up air" in the HVAC trade and is essential to the proper operation of any fume extraction system. Many people just leave a window or door open to provide the make up air, but this still decreases the efficiency of the extraction system some - better if the make up air is under some pressure.

In commercial kitchens with large exhaust hoods that move significant volumes of air, they have a separate blower supplying outside air into the kitchen to keep the pressure in the room positive \so the hood is more effective. Something to think about when putting a hood in a shop.
   - Rich - Monday, 09/27/10 17:37:15 EDT


I hear what you are saying but I want to be sure I've told you clearly what I had in mind. I am thinking of having a 6 inch exhaust port right on the forge and attaching the stove pipe directly to the forge -- I'm not thinking about a hood. I happen to have a 6 inch metal chimney in my shop that I was going to use for a wood stove, so I was hoping that 6 inch pipe might be big enough to take most of the exhaust. I was wondering if anyone had tried this and had any ideas.
   Tom - Monday, 09/27/10 20:05:11 EDT


You'll need an opening through which to insert your stock, so there will be no easy way to vent the forge into the stove pipe. And you won't want to vent the forge through the top, because that would let the hotest air escape. Also, a gas forge exhaust it pretty hot, and a direct vent like that might well destroy the stove pipe.
   Mike BR - Monday, 09/27/10 20:51:44 EDT

Thanks guru, does the anvil have to ring to be a good one?

   Harold - Monday, 09/27/10 22:37:21 EDT


In the article above you mentioned the worlds limited oil reserves running out some day. I have a book by Matthew Simmons called Twilight in the Desert. Americas oil reserves peaked in the 70's and is on the way down. The Saudi's have claimed for years that their oil reserves were still abundant, but Simmons says they are juggling the data and questions their actual oil reserves. What most people don't know is that there is NO oil in most of Saudi Arabia, and only three long term producing wells in northern part of the country that have been pumping oil since the 1940's. Salt water has to be pumped in these wells to reach enough pressure to extract the oil.
   Mike T. - Monday, 09/27/10 23:23:29 EDT

The problem with the limited oil is the burgeoning Chinese economy is creating a gigantic demand for oil that will make our needs pale in comparison. With a finite resource and such explosive demand something is going to break. The big problem is BIG wars are fought over these things. Our government's pro-nuke stance will become a national security issue and anyone that gets in the way will be accused of being a traitor or terrorist. . . Thank you "Patriot" act.

The article I read said the "number" the Saudis were using was infinity. Not a finite number. Our state department and energy planners took their word for it.

The stupid thing is the billions we are squandering on blowing things up in the Middle East when we SHOULD be building things here. A number of different groups have looked at the costs of current technologies that merely need to be applied large scale and CLAIM that we have wasted more money than necessary to implement these technologies chasing ghosts in the sand.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/28/10 00:15:34 EDT

Ringing Anvils: The purpose of testing an anvil's ring is to determine if there are separated welds or cracks in the anvils. A clear ring indicates a sound anvil, a dull ring or buzzing indicates something wrong. This applies only to wrought and cast steel anvils. Steel faced cast iron anvils do not ring. . or at least not a high pitch ring. Striking one should make a clear "clack" noise with no buzz. A buzz indicates a failing weld.

In solid steel anvils the higher the pitch of the ring the harder the anvil (in general). But shape also affects the ring. The narrow waisted American pattern anvils ring louder and longer than others due to the two masses connected in the middle at a narrow point acting like a tuning fork.

How you tap the anvil and how it is supported makes a big difference as well. You tap the face of the anvil looking for buzzes dues to face seperation and cracks but if you want loud noise you tap the side of the horn or heal.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/28/10 00:27:08 EDT

You may or may not remember my posts regarding Lafitte Welding Plate in 2009? I had contact with Cecil Swann here in the UK and sent him a copy of the spec you kindly supplied and, asked if he would consider making it. After looking into the matter he decided that it would not do anything his own product would not. Do you think there anyone in the USA who might consider manufacturing it? I still think that there could be a demand, particularly with the worldwide resurgence of the smiths craft in recent years.
Tony C
   Tony C - Tuesday, 09/28/10 10:18:26 EDT

Hi - question about anvils - been looking for one - and on craigslist I found one, but looks a bit small - no weight listed - http://slo.craigslist.org/tls/1976368574.html
And I can't find out anything about a Milne Anvil
Any thoughts about suitability for knifemaking and or pricing would be greatly appreciated.

   David Knapp - Tuesday, 09/28/10 14:26:08 EDT

Tony, I think the Laffite welding plate is more for industrial size welds than what the typical blacksmith does today. It was a product of marginal success back when blacksmiths did a lot of heavy wagon and machinery repair. All this has been replaced by modern welding methods and those that do a lot of forge welding are making small welds or using the new billet welding processes. Great advances have been made in fluxless welding of billets.

I was promissed photos and more literature but they have not arrived. I HAVE found some advertisements for the product that I will add to the article someday. . . But it is not a hot topic.

   - guru - Tuesday, 09/28/10 14:33:13 EDT

I did try several times to send the information. None of the attempts to transmit scanned documents was successful. I will dig the details out again and try photographing them this time and see if I can get them to you by e-mail that way.
   - Chris - Tuesday, 09/28/10 15:36:45 EDT

Chris, I got soe kind of information because I extracted it for the tables in the article. But I think the quality of the images was lacking. . . Sometimes these things work, sometimes not. I'll go look for the advertising literature. But as I remember, it was just "Buy this". . kind of thing.
   - guru - Tuesday, 09/28/10 15:56:29 EDT

Yes indeed it was the sales literature that was enclosed in the box.If I remember correctly it did give some instructions and methods of application plus details on some of their other products. If the original is not sufficiently legible or you are unable to find it let me know and I will duplicate it and send it again.
   - Chris - Wednesday, 09/29/10 08:09:46 EDT

What about "Bead Bed" reactors (a reactor core with the fuel "pellets" encased in graphite shells)
I hear they are suposed to be very safe to operate and safer waste storage ??
   - merl - Wednesday, 09/29/10 09:48:25 EDT

There are all kinds of high tech reactor designs floating around including those using helium or sodium for coolant. And THIS just shows how bizarre the nuclear business it. . . The sodium metal coolant was supposed to produce a very high rate of heat transfer. The helium is the opposite. . but was supposed to transfer less contamination than water. Which is the best?

The problem no mater what the reactor design is that they all produce very toxic waste that we have no current acceptable plan to address. It is as much as a political problem as it is a technical one. And even if the political problems were swept aside the current multi- billion dollar storage facility would immediately be filled and we would be looking for another.

The right thing to do is to put money into safer energy programs that do not create more problems than they solve.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/29/10 11:22:38 EDT

Well I certainly agree with that.
I'm waiting for a 10-12Kwt PEM type fuel cell that runs on LP to hit the market.
Even at $20-30k to purchase it would be MUCH less than my projected yearly electrical expense for my fish farm operation.
I already have a plan drawn up for 100% reuse of the waste heat and water by-product from the PEM electrical production process. Now I just wait...
I saw one advertised on some web site a few years ago but, of course it disappeared (I'll bet "THEY" got it!) and I have not seen any information on a unit that size that runs on LP since.
I've been tempted to buy one of the 1K methanol units and keep adding another one as I can afford it until I have enough to cover my needs but, I'll bet 10 or 12 of them working in parallel wouldn't be as efficient as on big unit.
Still, maybe it would be easier to regulate the amount of electricity produced according to what you need, with several smaller units rather than one big one.
   - merl - Wednesday, 09/29/10 12:19:40 EDT

I am looking for someone who can help with some repairs on iron and brass beds in PA or southern New England. I have not had much luck searching online. Can you suggest some way to find these people? I know these skilled craftsmen (craftswomen?) are out there!
   Bobbie - Wednesday, 09/29/10 19:03:33 EDT

I've recently advertised a Peter Wright anvil of approx. 450 lbs. mass. on kijiji Toronto. I would dearly like to see this in the "wright" hands. (sorry). It came from a railroad smiths shop. If anyone has an interest or info I would welcome same.
   - Dave Brummell - Wednesday, 09/29/10 19:14:38 EDT

You guys are worried about oil running out, but I think a bigger problem is the possibility of copper running out. There are always substitutes for energy, but only a finite amount of the sweet shiny stuff that we take for granted.
   Nabiul Haque - Wednesday, 09/29/10 19:18:22 EDT

Bonjour, i am a millwright getting close to retirement,and I plan to set up a small forge as a retirement project.
I am presently repairing a small post vise:the mounting bracket and spring is missing. Problem: when the jaws are closed, the distance between the legs is 5/8 of a inch. Not much space for the bracket and spring. Looking at my 2
biggers other vises,I realized that lhe legs on my small vise are bent outwards from above the screw openings.
Have you ever seen that? Can I take the risk to straighten
them cold on a hydrolique press? Presently,with the bracket in place,the jaws are just making contact.
I hope my text is ok: I am a francophone doing my best.
Thank you,Donald
   donald - Wednesday, 09/29/10 20:36:37 EDT

Running Out of Metal: Trust me, within a generation we will be mining our landfills for the resources that we so carelessly squandered. Sort of retro-recycle, when we should have been doing it all along. I recycle whenever possible, and I can't believe what just gets tossed by others when I go to the dump or transfer station.

(Atli gets off his soapbox and yields to the assemblage.)
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 09/29/10 21:23:44 EDT

Donald, Your English is better than most "native" speakers.

Yes, leg vises get bent from being overloaded by a shop gorilla. The legs should be parallel or slightly farther apart at the top than the bottom. Normally there is about a 2 to 3" (50 to 75 mm) space.

Yes, they can be straightened with a press. Be careful how you support the parts so that they bend in the same place. The body of most of these vises are wrought iron or mild steel and the jaws are faced with hardened steel forge welded to the jaws.

When everything is aligned properly the top edge of the jaws touch and there is a small gap at the bottom. When open to about 1/2 to 5/8" (13 to 16 mm) the jaws should be parallel. This is a compromise where the jaws fit the most common size work best.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/29/10 21:31:11 EDT

Smiths to do Restoration: Bobby, Try ABANA-Chapter.com. There are listings for several blacksmiths organizations in the Pennsylvania area. They should be able to hook you up.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/29/10 21:34:01 EDT

Big PW in Canada: Dave, it helps to leave a way to contact you other than an on-line service most people are not familiar with.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/29/10 21:35:43 EDT

Guru, I value your opinion. They say France uses a lot of energy from nuclear energy. Being such a small country, where do they get rid of the waste? Tahiti? {seriously}

Nabiul Haque, I'm on the Left Coast of the USA, California to be exact. Our legislators have been imposing stricter and stricter regulations on our waste water. Now they say our community is putting out to much copper in our waste water effluent and want to fine us. Seems like there should be some way to recover it.
   Carver Jake - Wednesday, 09/29/10 21:36:19 EDT

Europe's Nuclear Waste: Jake, I'm not sure where it all goes. For a long time it was just dumped in the Atlantic Ocean. And yes, the containers ARE leaking.

In the late 1980's Japan started hauling away Europe's nuclear waste and putting it into storage. . . (no details). But I know they built several specialized ships for the purpose. WHY you might ask are they doing that? Simple, waste commercial fuel can be recycled into more fuel, particularly into plutonium using a breeder reactor. But much "waste" nuclear fuel still has good uranium in it that can also be reclaimed by reprocessing. The breader reactors are a case where you make more fuel than you use. Sounds like you are breaking the laws of physics but its not.

The problems are both technical and political. Japan, being the only country that has been bombed with nuclear weapons is anti-nuclear - today. But as a few generations pass those that remember WWII and their children will all have passed. Japan currently has a number of nuclear reactors making power and their neighbor, South Korea, has more nuclear power per capita than any country in the world. The other political problem is that plutonium is THE nuclear bomb builder's material of choice. The only places it is made is for nuclear weapons. But it CAN be used as fuel in a reactor. It is also one of the most toxic substances known to man - even when you ignore the radioactive component.

SO, Japan is being PAID to haul away Europe's nuclear waste which originally cost billions of dollars to produce AND if reprocessed is worth many more billions of dollars. At this time no one is recycling fuel but the Japanese believe they can build an automated plant to do so.

SO, while the whole world is squabbling about what to do with it the Japanese have a long term plan. FREE fuel for generations to come. . . courtesy of others without a plan.

Why don't WE give our waste to Japan? The same reason we can't put it into a safe place today, hauling waste off-site, crossing state lines. . . political reasons.
   - guru - Wednesday, 09/29/10 22:39:29 EDT

How would you rate C6 steel for making punches? Shaped ones for maing hearts, stars etc. A bit like touchmarks.
   philip in china - Thursday, 09/30/10 00:07:41 EDT

Phillip, My metals books don't list any of the Chinese steel designations. I know they use C45 for almost everything on the Chinese power hammers. IF (Big IF) the C6 is 60 point carbon steel it will harden nicely but will be brittle if you don't take care to temper.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/30/10 00:41:41 EDT

Thank you. I will try to get an accurate spec on C6.

Re. Plutonium, I have a pal in Iran and another in Pakistan. Either will take as much as you want.
   philip in china - Thursday, 09/30/10 02:02:54 EDT

I read where radioactive waste has been put in stainless steel drums and placed on the ocean floor. I think that was how Godzilla got created.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 09/30/10 02:28:01 EDT

Godzilla was the result of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. . . Don't get me started on the human guinea pig test subjects the U.S. military made of service personell after the war. . .
   - guru - Thursday, 09/30/10 08:50:51 EDT

My opinion at the moment on this nuke topic is that (if) we can still show world leadership in R&D then we should be building them right now. Every plant built always evolved more efficient then the previous. Reducing human input into its operation other then the guy who can turn it OFF a large safety factor. GE's Japan Atomic 1 & 2 went out the door with many hand soldered circuit boards for thier EHC units. The handheld calculator at the time was well over a $100.00, today they give them away. The door is open and whether we build them or not someone else will and are and at what standards??
The fire bombing of Japan also left many scars. I was in design at the time on the two Japanese units and one of my tasks was to redesign the brackets for rather large capacitors in the EHC (electro hydraulic control) cabinets. The stock unit at the time was cooled and insulated with pyronal (probably still are) . Anyways this chemical at the time late 70's was still ilegal to be imported because of the fact it was used in our fire bombs on thier cities. The sustitute capacitor was much larger and heavier so we needed and more robust bracket. Being a blacksmith at heart...you could have parked a car on my brackets. They aren't going anywhere soon! Maybe it's my age... "brave new world" seems more like "scary new world".
   S K Smith - Thursday, 09/30/10 14:01:35 EDT

The Japanese have a ceremony at Hiroshima every year and we have U.S. dignitaries that help them grieve over this. Now they are sensitive about the fire bombing of cities ? I wonder how much the Japanese grieve over the thousands of boys killed at Pearl Harbor ? I heard that the lead pilot of that attack later became the president of Mitsubishi motors. Then there is the Bataan death march where prisoners who were too weak to continue were shot. American prisioners were fed very little, they had to scavenge insects,worms and rats to live.
   Mike T. - Thursday, 09/30/10 14:42:44 EDT

Is the anyone in Wisconsin that makes straight razors?
   steve - Thursday, 09/30/10 15:01:16 EDT

Milne Anvil---sure looks like a cast iron one to me. Will have to check Anvils in America to verify.

Price looks way out of line!

As to Nukes: I have stood at ground zero of the *first* atom bomb blast. No biggie I get more radiation from the igneous rocks and altitude around here than at the Trinity Site. Blowing stuff way out of proportion has caused more danger than the stuff has IMNSHO!

Should this topic not be in the Hammer-In forum?

Thomas who lives in an area where it's common to check scrap for radioactivity
   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/30/10 15:45:18 EDT

Hmm. . . Where did you see a Milne Anvil?
   - guru - Thursday, 09/30/10 16:02:28 EDT

The air-conditioning units for the tourists on the USS Intrepid parked on the Hudson were made by Mitsubishi. Kind of an ironic morbid thing and your right...wrong forum.
   S K Smith - Thursday, 09/30/10 16:17:34 EDT

Steve, you can try Ric Furrer at DoorCountyForgeworks.com. I don't know if he does make them, but I do know he CAN make them, or at the least can point you to someone who will.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 09/30/10 16:51:16 EDT


The above post was with reference to straight razor makers in Wisconsin.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 09/30/10 16:51:53 EDT

David Knapp - Tuesday, 09/28/10 14:26:08 EDT---seemed to get lost in the other discussions.

   Thomas P - Thursday, 09/30/10 17:58:48 EDT

Should have done a FIND. . .

Milne Anvil: Hard to tell much from the little photos. In AIA Richard Postman says its made in Finland and is Cast Steel. His photos are not much better.

Its a little small but the price is right, especially in California. If you want a small very hard anvil its a deal.
   - guru - Thursday, 09/30/10 18:37:54 EDT

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