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 November 1 - 7, 2011 on the Guru's Den
[ THE - GURUS | ABOUT THIS PAGE | Getting Started in Blacksmithing ]

Schools and crafts :
Most crafts schools are a little like a trade school but much more narrowly focused. For crafts that include a broad range of skills, such as swordsmithing you might want to look into more than one type of school or classes. OR teaching yourself. All require practice.

Jewelery courses including engraving, lost was casting, silver soldering and working non-ferrous metals. Needed for sword furniture, scabbard decoration.

Woodworking/carving. Fine carving and patternmaking. For grip and scabbard making.

Iron/steel making. If you are REALLY interested in traditional Japanese sword making they made and processed their own steel and still do. You can skip this if you just want to make a blade that looks like a Japanese blade (but is not).

Advanced blacksmithing with a focus on forge welding and making laminated steels. Throw in a few machine shop courses as well. . .

Traditional sword making was not a process of sole authorship. Many specialists made each piece and the armourer was often the contractor and assembler. Today many smiths do it all but only after a lifetime of learning all the associated trades.
   - guru - Monday, 10/31/11 18:48:00 EDT

Technically if you forge a Japanese style sword in Texas, you have just made an American sword. Many of my tools are made in Cheena, but EVERYTHING that comes OUT of the shop is American made (man I feel so much pride when I say that!).
   - Nippulini - Tuesday, 11/01/11 08:34:18 EDT

In Europe it was the Cutler that often sub-contracted out the blade forging, blade polishing, the hilting and the scabbard making. Note that any fine engraving, enameling, inlay, etc work done on the hilt or blade might be another shop too!

This is actually very much like how the japanese blades are done traditionally as well where each step is done by a different master craftsman that focuses only on that step and only has to own the tools for that step.

In earlier times the tools could be quite a capital expense and having a bunch of them just sitting around while you are doing something else was a waste!
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/01/11 11:20:58 EDT

It only took me about seven years from the time I started to turn out my first sword, but then again it was a four-foot pattern-welded two-handed kriegsmesser...

I second (or third or fourth) the advice to take a few introductory classes before you commit to the investment required to produce your own sword at home. A good grounding in general smithing will serve you well before you start bladesmithing. That said, the ABS school in Texarkana will serve you very well indeed with all aspects of bladesmithing. They don't do swords as far as I know, but they'll get you started on the basics of high carbon steel, which is significantly different than low carbon.

There are several folks doing European-style swords, as many of us have come to realize the hype around all things Japanese just doesn't do it for us. The trouble is that many of us do not teach formally. I can recommend Ric Furrer of door County forgeworks in Wisconsin as one of the best in this country who does teach, http://doorcountyforgeworks.com/Welcome.html

If travel is truly no object, one of the best European-style swordsmithing teachers I know once you've got the basics in hand is my friend Owen Bush in England. http://owenbush.co.uk/school-of-smithing/ will take you there.

I invite you to come over to the Bladesmith's Forum, http://forums.dfoggknives.com , to get a better idea of what you will need to get into the long and terrible addiction that is swordsmithing...

Again, take a class in the basics first, it will serve you well in all forms of metalwork.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/01/11 11:23:01 EDT

Swords and Suchlike : In the meantime, as your skills grow, you can do a lot with knives, spearheads, and axes. All-in-all, I prefer an axe! (To quote Dik Browne's Hagar the Horrible: "A sword for show, and axe for dough!") Even with a good course under your belt, it's like training for a couple of weeks and then trying to enter the Olympics.

As for me; I aspire to competence. ;-)

A cool and sunny day onthe banks of the Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking: www.longshipco.org
   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/01/11 12:03:37 EDT

History question : I'm writing a novel where my hero is a blacksmith in the British army in the Peninsular war (1807-1814). I'm hoping you might be able to tell me what he would be expected to do, and what equipment he would have to do it with?
   Eileen Gormley - Tuesday, 11/01/11 13:42:41 EDT

I did a 1 week swordsmithing course in the UK with Howard Clark at Owen Bush's School in london.

Very intersting, and about 70% of the guys on the course had a short japanese style sword blade at the end of the 5 days, a wakiashi. (mine, and another one failed in water quench on the last day - lap of the gods kinda thing)

Most of us had spent a bit of time at the anvil, but some only a few hours. Heres the breakdown of the week. Forge sword blank from suitable mono-steel - dead easy, a few hours work. Grind / draw file sword in prep for heat treat 2 long hard days. Heat treat sword 2 days.

Basically what im trying to say is 80% of the work has nothing to do with forging. about 95% of the understanding has nothing to do with forging. What was taken away from the course will have differed for all of us depending on our base levels of metallurgy.

You can of course alter the forging : grinding ratio by smelting your own steel (Owen runs a few Tataras a year, and I have been lucky enough to have a small involvment in one or two of them) This really kicks the skill and understanding up a level though!!
   - John N - Tuesday, 11/01/11 14:31:34 EDT

Forge design help please : I've recently designed and built a prototype of a new forge similar to English side blast forges. I have discovered a problem with it I'm hoping you can help me solve.

This design uses an air feed that comes in from the side rather than the bottom. I am able to blow air on the entire fire and thus heat a much larger amount of steel than I have been able to in the past. The drawback is that the ash builds up after only about three hours of work. After that the efficiency of the forge drops dramatically. The heat is not evenly distributed and since I designed this with bending in mind I need to come up with a way to get rid of the ash without having to snuff the fire and start from scratch.

I've considered a number of mechanical means to remove the ash but I figure I am not the first to come up with this idea so surely someone out there has already dealt with the drawbacks and may offer a solution.

Dimensions of the forge are: 18' front to back, 8" wide, 4" walls on three sides with the air inlet being 3/4" running the full length of the left side at the bottom of the wall. Blower is hand-held travel style hairdryer.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sources to look up would also be welcome.
   Bill - Tuesday, 11/01/11 15:06:22 EDT

Forge Design Issues :
Bill, If I understand your word picture, your forge is far from a British type and has numerous design issues. Your dimensions 18" x 8" do not make sense.

1) a 3/4" (~22mm ID) pipe is an insufficient pipe for a large coal forge.
     Small forge 1.5" (nominal ID)
     Medium forge 2" (nominal ID)
     Large forge 2-1/2" (nominal ID)
     Extra Large 3" (nominal ID)
     Industrial 3 to 5" or more

A hair drier is generally sufficient air for a small forge only. With air from the 2" outlet squeezed into a 3/4" pipe there will be too much resistance for all but a micro (jeweler's) forge.

I do not understand the air inlet running the full length. Is this a pipe with a lot of little holes? A 3/4" slot?

I NEVER recommend pin hole of perforated pipe tuyere/grates. They clog too easily and also burn out. I prefer a big open pipe that some of the fuel falls down rather than ANYTHING that clogs or cannot be maintained with a poker without breaking up the fire.

The amount of ash you generate will depend a lot on the quality of the fuel you burn. Coal can vary from a few percent ash to 90% ash. Pit forges and most side blown forge designs date from the charcoal era. Charcoal ash is very light and either goes up the chimney or blows out of the way.

The "standard" American (not sure where it was invented) bottom blast forge has an upside down funnel or pyramidal fire pot with a combination tuyere and ash dump. The "grate" is a combination clinker breaker and air control on most but varies. For the majority of North American smiths and many others this has proven to be the best for coal and also works for charcoal.

The English side blown forge has had a water cooled tuyere for well over a century. These have a double wall nozzle that attaches to a water tank on the back of the forge. The air pipe passes through the tank and the whole is sealed in the tank at two places. Water circulates via convection. The end of the tuyere protrudes about half the width of the forge from the end and is 3 to 4 " from the bottom.

Managing the ash and clinkers that is created in the fire is part of learning to use these or any forge. This is also true of manually fired coal furnaces.

While more forges are hand built by smiths than made commercially it is best to follow time proven designs. There are a handful of basic arrangements that work well and thousands more that do not.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/01/11 16:09:33 EDT

History Question :
Eileen, There are smiths, then there are smiths. During the horse drawn era the typical "general smith" was a farrier (horse shoer) who also did some wagon repair. In an army cavalry unit the smith would be a farrier and not have time for much else. Occasionally they might make a field repair on a wagon but this was generally left up to a wheel wright at a city, fort or major encampment.

Others, the armourers or artificers worked on guns, swords, cannon. These had the skills of a smith and much more.

All these specialties have been around a long time. In the military specific duties were likely assigned to different groups. You will need a good British military historian for this.

Equipment would have varied somewhat according to where the smith was, in the field or at an encampment. But the general tools would have been forge with bellows, small (portable about 100 pounds or less) anvil with portable stand, anvil tools (hardy, fuller), tongs, hammers. This would apply to light infantry all carried on horseback. A slightly heavier kit would have been carried on a wagon including a little heavier anvil (100 to 150 pounds max) and a vise attached to the wagon, possibly a shear. A wider range of hand tools including a sledge or two and more tongs would have been carried on a wagon. But most of the "extra" capacity would be dedicated to fuel and stock (premade shoes and steel bar).

Besides finding a good British military historian I highly recommend you take some blacksmithing classes and try it out. It is difficult to write about something you do not know intimately. You will also find that most fiction and ALL the movies show such gross ignorance of smithing that we all either cringe and close our eyes OR laugh our tails off. . . These include virtually all Westerns from any decade to modern fantasy films like Conan, Highlander, A Knight's Tale, Pirates of the Carribean. Not a one could get the 10 to 15 seconds of blacksmithing right.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/01/11 17:15:32 EDT

Forge design help : Sorry about the confusion, Guru. When I described it as being similar to a British side blast forge I meant only that the air comes in from the side. I should have described the air inlet more clearly.

Looking at the forge from the front the right wall is 4" tall made of fire bricks. The back wall is also 4" tall but the brick is only six inches wide leaving a slot to extend stock through it. The left wall is 4" tall but running the length of the wall is a slot 3/4" high. The slot is at the same level as the floor of the forge which is made of a ceramic plate taken from a potter's kiln. Outside of the left wall is a 2" wide rectangular tube. In the tube are a series of small fins spaced every few inches to direct the air into the fire. The fins are only 3/4" high by 1" wide to allow the air to flow past the front fins to the ones further back. Originally I omitted the fins and discovered that the fire was unevenly fed, developing a lot of heat at the back of the forge but very low heat at the front. The hairdryer mounts into the front of this tube and the back end is capped.

As I said in my earlier post I designed this for bending. I'm an artist and most of the work I do is simple bends rather than anything like tool making. For bending I prefer to use wood as it is plentiful in the woods surrounding my home and requires little more than for me to go out and pick it up. I know it is not a proper fuel for serious work like making tools or even forging parts garden gates and other ornamental work because it has so many impurities but for simply heating the steel to a temperature for bending I find it is useful enough. From your information this may be the primary problem with my forge. I may need to use charcoal in it instead.

I agree with your statement that there are time tested and time proven forge designs and we should rely on these but I would point out, with all due respect, that if we stop trying to learn and stop experimenting we do not grow. This may be a dead end design and I may frustrate myself with it until I determine it is not worth the effort but it will be a learning experience no matter the outcome.

In all seriousness, I do understand you have a great deal more experience than I do in this field. I am grateful for your advice and your willingness to help me with this project. I hope I will not tax your patience.
   Bill - Tuesday, 11/01/11 17:31:58 EDT

Forge help edit : I just noticed I said the tube was a 2" wide rectangular tube. I should have said it is a 2" X 2" square tube.
   Bill - Tuesday, 11/01/11 17:38:30 EDT

Bill's forge : I still don't quite understand what your tuyere looks like, Bill, Is the 2x2 cut open on one long side?

As for the wood fire, you would be better off if you made the wood into charcoal first, rather than trying to do it in the forge. Working with wood you give up a lot of heat just driving off the water and volatile wood gases before it coals and becomes nicely burnable carbon. BTW, wood has no "impurities" - other than the aforementioned water and wood gases. Once it has become charcoal it is nice pretty much pure carbon and will burn clean and hot. The reason you're having problems with ash buildup is that you don't have near enough blower for the size of our air system. As Jock noted, charcoal forges tend to blow the fly ash away as they burn, resulting in a very clean fire - much cleaner than mineral coal.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/01/11 18:43:54 EDT

Bill, You have a very large outlet for the air. If you are using wood or charcoal your blower be able to blow the coals out of the fire box at full blast, then be throttled back.

The air from the long slot is too diffuse thus not having the velocity to blow out the wood ash. A series of holes about 3" to 6" apart would give you some velocity to the air. The air and fire are going to spread out. You don't need a full length air opening. If you do then it needs to be narrow enough (maybe 1/2" or less) to create a high velocity blast.

The air outlet cannot be directly on the floor. It must be about mid depth for the core of fire (remember the fire spreads in all directions).

Wood does not burn nearly as hot as charcoal. The reason is that much of the heat energy goes into driving off moisture and converting the wood to charcoal. When charcoal is made, extra fuel is used. The resulting product does not waste heat drying itself or driving off volatiles. It just burns making heat.

For long bends I would recommend a long multi-burner propane forge.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/01/11 18:53:41 EDT

Forge Help : Rich,
Yes. The 2X2 tube is made with a 3/4" opening along its length. Again, looking at the forge from the front with the tuyere on the left of the fire pot the tube shares a wall with the fire pot. The floor of the tube and the floor of the fire pot are at the same level. The 3/4" opening runs the length of both. The fins are inside the tube and do not extend into the fire pot.

I don't think it is the power of the blower that is giving me the trouble. I think it is the design of the forge in that the ash has no where to go. The blower brings the fire to a temperature high enough to bring steel to a bright orange but not quite a yellow heat.

I understand about the wood and charcoal issue. I like charcoal for most projects but I have learned by doing and have discovered that by adding a layer of wood on top of the charcoal it is reduced to coals before it reaches the heart of the fire. I'm sure this is wasteful of wood but it takes less time out of my week to simply cut the wood to length and stack it rather than attempt to spend days producing enough charcoal to fuel the forge. Please understand, I am not trying to argue with you. I am simply telling you what I have done and so far it works well enough to get the job done. I would like to build a charcoal retort at some point in the future but money and space issues need to be addressed before I can pursue that course.
   Bill - Tuesday, 11/01/11 19:16:17 EDT

Forge Help : Guru,
Thank you very much! Sincerely. I will start measurements and materials tonight. Maybe by next weekend I will have a new prototype to test.

I was thinking of making a grate in the bottom of the fire pot to allow the ash to fall through to an outlet funnel. Would you recommend this addition to the design?

A propane forge is on my wish list but at the moment it is beyond my budget. I know I could cobble one together but the parts I can not make as well as the cash for the fuel are holding back that project.

Again, thank you.
   Bill - Tuesday, 11/01/11 19:30:30 EDT

History : Eileen, a quick suggestion is to visit Jymm Hoffmans web site - Hoffmansforgedotcom. Jymm specializes in historical work for the French and Indian (Seven Years War) and the American Revolutionary War. He has 2 traveling forges based on British Army designs. His web site details his work well. Many of the designs would have been appropriate for the Peninsular War as well. I suspect that much of the work would have been repairs to equipment. On Jymm's "About Us" page there is a picture of his traveling forge setup.
Good luck with your novel.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 11/02/11 00:39:55 EDT

Ash Grates and Forges :
Bill, blown forges, even burning wood get hot enough to melt and set steel on fire. Grates rapidly burn out unless properly designed. The traditional bottom blown forge blows air around the grate or triangular "ball" cooling it. Air also cools the pan from the back side preventing it from melting.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 01:18:08 EDT

Bill's forge : Bill,

I suppose this is all moot, since you said, "so far it works well enough to get the job done," but you did bring up questions that others may want the answers to so I'm going to address them anyway.

Your blower is not powerful enough for your tuyere. As I said, and Jock noted, the blower for a charcoal forge usually blows the ash out of the firepot. Since you have ash building up, your blower is not adequate for that huge (4-1/2 sq. in.) tuyere opening you have. A side-blast charcoal forge of the European style would typically use a 1-1/2" to 2" diameter tuyere, or about 2 to 3 square inches, and that would be powered by a *pressure* blower of 125 to 200 cfm - far greater volume and pressure than your little hair dryer.

The fact that you can't get the fire to a full heat is proof of what I say. A wood or charcoal fire that is properly blown should burn steel up - a white heat. Your fire is several hundred degrees cooler than that. Try blocking off your tuyere slot, just leaving a half dozen openings 1/2" wide, and you should see a hotter fire as a result. You really should make the trough twice as deep (8") and have the tuyere come in halfway (4") up so you get a nice hot, even fire. Wood and charcoal fires need to be about twice as deep as a coal fire.

   Rich - Wednesday, 11/02/11 03:13:54 EDT

charcoal forge : I would love to see a diagram of a good charcoal forge. Ive tried to modify my coal forge a bit to use charcoal without much success .Too much air i think,or not enough depth of fuel. I wonder if Bill might not find that seeing what a good "conventional" design looks like would be helpfull.
Anyone know where to find a picture of a good design?
   wayne@nb - Wednesday, 11/02/11 17:00:38 EDT

Look for Tim Lively's washtub forge for one slanted toward knifemaking.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/02/11 17:51:45 EDT

Charcoal Forge : Wayne there are a bunch that all work well including standard coal forges. One of the most common still in use is the Oriental Trough Forge. A masonry base and two parallel walls.

Oriental Trough Forge.

These are built a number of ways. Above is shown one with a single air inlet, many have two for longer fires. Trapped between two walls the fire tends to spread sideways and with two air blasts about 6" to 10" on center (depending on the fore size) you can bet a very long fire. This is the traditional forge of the Japanese bladesmith and is used for long heats. A long piece can be moved axially in forge while it heats getting a nice long even heat.

Some loose bricks can be used to control the length and depth of the fire. An elegant design.

All charcoal forges rely on the ash being blown out as the fire burns. Accumulated ash is cleaned out daily. Burning wood rather than charcoal results in more ash (One of Bill's problems).
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 18:02:10 EDT

I'm curious why burning wood makes more ash. Coaling burns off the volatiles, and I can't see why those would turn to ash just because you burned them in the forge instead of the retort. I guess since wood is less efficient you have to burn more of it, but it seems like that might mean that more ash is spread out over a bigger fire.
   Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/02/11 20:47:31 EDT

Coal-Coke : It takes a train load of coal to keep a power plant running for one day.
If the coal was converted to coke, does that mean a train could haul twice as much coke as coal ? Could a power plant run one day on a half a train load of coke ?
   Mike T. - Thursday, 11/03/11 04:05:09 EDT

Charcoal Forge : My charcoal forge is very similar to the Guru's picture with the following exceptions. I built a steel table to hold it. The top of the table is flush with the top of the walls. There is a 2.5" lip around the table to hold tools and stock pile charcoal that will soon go into the fire. NOTE: Charcoal is extremely flammable. One spark and your reserves will start burning. Any charcoal in the fire pot will soon ignite. I have two inlets for air. I can use either one or both. I use fire brick to control my size of fire length wise. I pack damp ash for the bottom of the forge. Once in awhile I will change the shape in the bottom, which effects air flow, some. I also adjust the depth of the fire. I have a standard size super sucker hood on the back side. Even though it is shorter then the fire, or forge, it works very well for me. For those that are members of early iron, I have pictures under Milton. This forge works well for me. I can light a twenty minute fire for a small project, though the fire brick does absorb heat in the beginning. Or I can have a monster fire all day long (i.e. to reheat a fifty pound bloom).

One problem with charcoal that I struggle with, is it is more "fluid" then coal. It is easy to loose a small piece. It will start migrating down, and possibly over heat in the oxidizing zone.

I will be happy to answer more questions.
   Milton R. - Thursday, 11/03/11 07:02:44 EDT

Mike T : No, and no.
   - Rich - Thursday, 11/03/11 10:20:58 EDT

MikeT a powerplant is optimized exactly for it's fuel; trying to burn something else doesn't work---can you burn the proportionate amount of diesel in your car instead of gas? Also pre-coking is an expensive process; you don't save much if your fuel costs are say more than double.

Milton please tell me more about early iron. As I run a bloomery based on early medieval ones and demo with a Y1K forge set up the name sounds *interesting*!
   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/03/11 12:10:19 EDT

height of anvil : Hi, I'm Ron and I've recently started smithing. I'm setting up my workplace now, and my question is; What is the ideal height for my anvil? I'm 1.90 m.

Trembling in anticipation.

   Ronald Bleize - Thursday, 11/03/11 13:27:36 EDT

Ronald the general rule is "knuckle" height. Standing with your arms loose, making a fist the anvil should be about knuckle height. For small detailed work many people prefer a slightly higher anvil by about 2" (5cm).
   - guru - Thursday, 11/03/11 13:32:58 EDT


How can I prevent forged iron from rusting without painting it? I know you can use beeswax but are there other mothods? especially for iron work witch stands outside?

Thanks Filip
   - Filip op De Beeck - Thursday, 11/03/11 14:58:49 EDT

Sorry, but the short answer is, you can't.
   Bajajoaquin - Thursday, 11/03/11 15:49:55 EDT

Rust prevention :
Fillp, All do it yourself finishes are amateur paint. There are shop recipes that start as wax or burnt oil, then a mixture of oil and wax, then oil, wax, solvent and drier, then a pigment such as graphite is added. . . Many of these formulaes are in old blacksmithing books. These are an un-scientific progression toward PAINT.

So, instead of trail and error with a lot of failures, why not use paint formulated by experts using materials and methods that most people do not have access to?

Paint on ironwork does not need to be thick and ugly. A proper paint finish does not hide texture and can in fact enhance it if you want. Multi-step paint jobs protect the best. These start with clean metal, then a zinc powder (cold galvanizing) paint. Next a neutral (isolating) primer that prevents reactions between the base metal or the zinc and the pigments in the top coat. Then the top coat of any hard exterior paint that can either be monochrome or multi-color. Top coats can start with a base then hand rubbed layers or air brushing. Many interesting things can be done with the finish, which is just as important as the metalwork it protects.

Unpainted ironwork is only half the job.
   - guru - Thursday, 11/03/11 16:41:04 EDT

paint discussion : I was glad to see the subject of paint come up.I found this product online http://gmesupply.com/a74100000-sprayon-galvanizing-compound-pure-zinc-quart-p-57251.html its a krylon product that allows one less coat of paint as they seem to be saying you can topcoat right over it. that would be very good as it reduces work and film thickness. Any experience with such a product?
   wayne@nb - Thursday, 11/03/11 17:47:34 EDT

Zinc primer : Wayne,

I use a similar product from Galvacon and I can paint the topcoat directly over it as well. I've done this and have had the work out there in the elements for ten years now and had no problems with it, using alkyd enamels as the top coat. I do not, however, usually do this, nor do I recommend this when others ask, as the safest, surest way is always to use a neutral intercoat primer such as red oxide, between a potentially active primer and topcoat. Doing so has two advantages - it ensures that there will be no reaction between the free zinc and any compounds in the top coat, and the color difference between coats assists the user in seeing that all areas are completely covered. The minimal cost of the neutral primer and the time to spray on a coat or two is good insurance, so that's what I recommend.
   Rich - Friday, 11/04/11 00:14:24 EDT

Early Iron : Thomas P: Early Iron is an experiential group involving people who are interested in processing iron ore, plus other "conversions" It is generally historic methods, mostly European, but a little from the orient. It includes scientists, professors, and us common lay workers :-). It is an invitation only group on Yahoo. Skip Williams is a moderator.

I am sorry for this circular route, but when I logged on I can send a message to Skip, but I do not see his complete email address. I am getting ready for work so I have a limited amount of time. If you want to join send me an email, and I will forward it to him.

Many people have migrated to the Foggs knife forum, but I still like early iron because it is more specific to my interests.
   Milton R. - Friday, 11/04/11 06:47:42 EDT

The only significant problem I have with zinc cold galvanizing is most are identical in color and texture to sand blasted steel which is often what you are painting over. Application requires close attention. On complicated work with hidden places I often work thinned zinc paint into the crevices by hand letting the paint flow into those places. Then I spray the whole. A few brands tint the paint with some green to make it easier to see.

Note that the ONLY way to do a decent job with these products is to spray them. The heavy zinc settles too fast and the paint becomes thick and goopy when applied by brush resulting the worse sort of paint job.

I am not a fan of the low VOC water based paints. While the auto industry is finally getting good results after a decade or more of failures many of these paints are never as hard or strong nor stick as well as the older solvent thinned formulas. Cleanliness and following directions is even more important.

Also note that paints like this that say "epoxy" are made with epoxy solids and are NOT the same strength or hardness as real two part epoxy systems.

Also note that many paint companies advertise fewer steps and easier application but NONE are going to warrant your results. . . A good exterior finish has a 30 life or more. If they did not every modern steel building in the country that was built prior to 1980 would be a rusted hulk. . . Many date to the 1960's and do not need refinishing. Look at the process these folks use. It often includes phosphating as the first step then zinc primers and hard top coats.

Industrial finishing processes are not simple or easy. As a manufacturer of steel items you ARE an industry and should act like it.
   - guru - Friday, 11/04/11 09:55:44 EDT

Phosphating : Jock brings up a very good point. If you prep your steel by acid pickling or sandblasting, the resulting color is very much the same as the cold galvanizing. However, if you then treat the steel with a good coat of Ospho, a proprietary phosphating product, it will then appear much darker, thus allowing you to see how well you're doing on the galvanizing. Getting it into every little nook and cranny is vital, so do like Jock says and use a small brush to work it in there, even dribble it in and wipe off the drools if necessary. Ideally, of course, you make the piece so it has no undercuts or narrow cracks, as these also trap water mercilessly. At least if they're well-coated with the zinc they're not going to rust.

Even on pretty large work it isn't too difficult to acid pickle it or to phosphate it. I build a quick wood frame from 1x6 pine and line it with plastic sheeting to make a temporary etching or phosphating bath. Where the size makes zit possible, I've found that vinyl shower curtains hold up better than polyethylene sheeting, but even the cheap poly works fine for long enough to do the job at hand. When I'm finished, I use a small suction ump to drain the bath and reclaim the acid.

I agree with Jock regarding the low-VOC water-based paints - I haven't yet seen any that I would use, though I have heard from friends that they've tried some that seemed pretty good. For now I'll stick with solvent-based products that are tried and true.
   Rich - Friday, 11/04/11 10:41:20 EDT

Avoiding crevices : This is practically impossible on scroll work with collars and welded joints. These are the places that cannot be avoided in ironwork. Pass throughs where bars pass through holes and riveted joints also have crevices. These are all the kinds of places I like to work thinned zinc primer into. It also helps to turn the work (such as a gate) upside down when using gravity to get fluid paint into crevices.

When rust proofing these areas you want to use very thin paint and not pile it up. Thick paint will create air pockets that can become rust pockets of the worst sort. Thick paint is also likely to shrink and crack. The goal is to get paint into the crevices and form as much of an even coating as possible. In hidden places the zinc and primer should be enough. The top coats do not need to penetrate these hidden places.
   - guru - Friday, 11/04/11 12:34:40 EDT

Phosphate conversion coatings without an oil dip are often reffered to as
   - ptree - Friday, 11/04/11 13:59:57 EDT

.... wait for it....
   Bajajoaquin - Friday, 11/04/11 16:16:57 EDT

Wax substitute : At the Sutter's Mill shop, we use the traditional blacksmiths three part wax coating.

We are getting low and the price of beeswax is outa sight ($6/lb.).

We have access to some cheap(er) paraffin. Will this work as a substitute? Will it work w a different formula?

   Rudy - Friday, 11/04/11 17:51:51 EDT

Rudy, Paraffin acts much different than beeswax and is not a substitute. It has long stretchy molecules that entrap air/moisture and make it white and flakey. $6/lb is pretty good for beeswax. That is what I paid a couple years ago. McMaster-Carr's price's are currently $13.50 and $16.00/pound plus shipping. .
   - guru - Friday, 11/04/11 18:04:41 EDT

Phosphate coatings : Lets try again. Phosphate conversion coatings that are not finished in an oil dip are often called "Bonderized" and are seen on better quality industrial equipment like lockers and workbenches. Makes a great surface treatment if then primered. NOTE: In the phosphate conversion line i worked with, any crevice that did not rinse out after the phosphoric acid bath would grow rust like a fungus!
I like the rust converter coatings like Permatex Rust Treatment or Loctite XTEND (Both same stuff) These convert existing rust to an iron phosphate and leave a seal coat of binder that makes for excellent primer adhesion. These DON"T do much for clean steel, or scale, but on rusty stuff this is the best I have seen period.
I have an example, a mail box double post made from used thin wall boiler pipe. This pipe had heavy loose rust and deep pitting. I wire brushed, coated per the XTEND instructions and then red oxide primered and top coated. This was 1996, and everywhere the coating has NOT been damaged by vehicles, is intact and tight.(2 school buses, a car, a minivan and a full size van plus a pickup have hit the darn thing so far!) I can say that if you have rusty stuff to coat, use this stuff, but follow the instructions to the letter.

Odd that as blacksmiths we choose to make our own coatings and forge lubricants from inferior materials, that yield inferior results when modern, superior performing products are available and cheap in relation to the time.
   ptree - Friday, 11/04/11 19:16:26 EDT

XTEND : Ptree, Sounds like this would be good for my porch railings. Where do you get the red oxide ? Then use a regular spray paint for the top coat ?
   Mike T. - Saturday, 11/05/11 01:55:04 EDT

Mike, the XTEND is available in both aerosol and as a liquid. I get the XTEND in spray from Home Depot. Ace Hardware orders the Permatex Rust Treatment in a 16Oz bottle. The liquid is better in my opinion for things like railings as you don't waste so much. NOTE: the material will convert the rust to a hard black film. This is normal and the black coating is the iron phosphate. On bare clean metal you get a dull grey film, and that too is normal. You pour some of the material out of the bottle into a plastic container and dip your brush into that. If any rust gets in the bottle of raw material it will convert the unused material.
The red oxide I referred to is red oxide primer. Rustoleum works well, I like the "Tough Coat" acrylic enamel from Krylon brands, but it is a little pricey at about 4 a can.
For reference Permatex is a Henkle Loctite brand as is Loctite. The Permatex brand is aimed at DIY markets and Loctite at the industrial.
At any rate just follow the container instructions exactly and you will get good results. As an aside, at the plant, we just redi all the outdoor handrails. Some were truck damaged, some badly rusted at the concrete from salt. We used the Permatex Rust Treatment and then Rustoleum red oxide and Rustoleum yellow top coat. The facilities guys had never heard of the rust treatment but loved it.
   ptree - Saturday, 11/05/11 07:48:52 EDT

Mike T, the XTEND comes in spray cans from Home Depot, The Permatex Rust Treatment I get from ACE Hardware,in liquid. I prefer the liquid. ACE orders it for me, and is something like $6 a 16oz bottle.
The red Oxide is red oxide primer. Rustoleum "Stops Rust" is good in both the spray and brush on. Krylon has a good red oxide in spray cans the Walmart carries. My favorite red oxide primer and also top coats is the acrlic enamel from Krylon Brands called "Tough Coat" They have a black called "Max Flat Black" that is a ever so slightly sheened black that I use on blacksmiths work. Looks very rich and gives good outdoor service. Little pricey at about $5-6 a can, but worth it on good work. I get mine from Hagemeyer
   ptree - Saturday, 11/05/11 07:57:25 EDT

Rudy, what is the "traditional 3 part wax coating" ?
   wayne@nb - Saturday, 11/05/11 08:54:31 EDT

Red-oxide Primer - Painting : The red oxide I prefer is the Dupont Hi-Speed sanding lacquer primer. If you get any rough places, drips or sags it sands easily where the non-lacquer primers cannot be sanded at all. However, this is a pricey product that may only be available in gallons if at all now and not in all in states such as California.

The advantage to lacquer finishes is they dry almost instantly and the thinner will remove almost any paint except 2 part epoxy. It is THE cleaner for spray guns. Of course lacquer thinner is THE volatile (VOC) that everyone wants to get rid of. . But it is THE best and still used in many industries.

The other advantage to lacquer is that it can be used for a base for any other paint. Thus it is an excellent universal primer. The only thing that lacquer will not lift and paint over is silicon wax. But silicon waxes are a problem for ANY paint.

All this aside the most important preparation for painting is absolute cleanliness. "Traditional" blacksmith shop methods using coal and/or boron flues produce the WORST results for painting. Any work preformed with fresh coal in the fire may have coal oi and solid plating that is VERY difficult to remove and will result in corrosive conditions. Boron fluxes in crevices are hygroscopic and will "bloom" through paint causing flaking and corrosion. The flux from arc welding electrodes is similar but the joint types are different and easier to clean. However, power wire brushing should be used at a minimum and grit blasting is best. Many specs allow "tight" scale but any scale that can be power wire brushed off is NOT tight.

Consider this. IF you start a blacksmithing business in your 20's and your finishes are not good for 30 years they will catch up with you in your 30's and 40's. IF you stay in business until the current retirement age of 70 bad finishes will be catching up with you for decades. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 11/05/11 09:48:30 EDT

The acrylic enamel red oxide primers, when dry are indeed sandable. Many of the rattle can primers are available in both regular and sandable versions, usually noted on the label.
   ptree - Saturday, 11/05/11 10:04:04 EDT

forge lining : Hello Guru,I am a hobby/beginner blacksmith-43yrs old.I recently purchased an nc whisper momma.Is the lining safe to use out of the box?I am reading about the dangers of it.Should it be sealed?I want to live!
   Peter - Saturday, 11/05/11 10:07:59 EDT

My "secret" recipe: a bunch of green candles, chunk of beeswax, about a cup of used motor oil/quench oil. Heat it all up, melt and mix. Pour into plastic tube, let cool. Peel open. On black heat iron, rub wax onto entire surface liquified. Cool, then wirebrush. This leaves an awesome soft finish that is really nice on the hands. I use this for the sword handles I make on the stainless swallowing swords.
   - Nippulini - Saturday, 11/05/11 10:11:30 EDT

Painting : If you're going to do commercial blacksmithing, I strongly recommend that you obtain some real spray painting equipment and learn to use it properly. Not only will you save significant money versus buying rattle cans, you will produce much better, longer lasting finishes that will be a credit to the work.

You don't have spend big bucks for the equipment, either. Yes, the Binks and Devilbiss spray guns are the best out there, but the knock-offs sold by Harbor Freight work just fine and dandy and cost 1/10th the price. While I probably would prefer to use a Devilbiss gun for painting my truck, the HF guns are what I use for painting my iron work. I particularly like their little 4-ounce detail guns. They sell for about ten bucks on sale and I have four of them on hand at all times. One is filled with lacquer thinner for cleaning the other guns. Keeping spray guns clean ensures long life and good results.

Rattle can paints are designed to work for average uses, but are not the optimum for blacksmith's work. Better to have a gun where you can adjust the flow and pattern to get into nooks and crannies, reduce overspray when painting pickets, etc. You'll save a lot of paint and mess, both.

There are no doubt several YouTube videos that will show you how to handle a spray gun, but the basic concept is to keep the nozzle perpendicular to the work at all times - don't wave your wrist, that changes the angle of spray a the ends of your strokes. A little practice on some scrap cardboard will show you how to get the best pattern and coverage.

If using automotive paints (the best you can get,but pricey), you definitely wan tot spend a couple bucks to get a viscosimeter. This is just a little cup with a hole in the bottom that you put your paint into and time how long it takes to run out. High end paints are fussy about being shot at the right viscosity to get a smooth flow-out for a shiny smooth finish. General purpose alkyd enamels and acrylic enamels are less fussy, but you still want to have them thinned about right. Again, a bit of practice will make the difference.

I spent decades learning most of the tricks of good painting and it has made a huge difference in the appearance and longevity of my metal work. If there is sufficient interest, I could write a fairly lengthy and detailed article on the subject.
   Rich - Saturday, 11/05/11 11:56:38 EDT

supplier in CA. : RUDY....sounds like you are in Sac. area. I'm looking for info on Farriers' Supply in Sacremento. I can't drive to there right now, but I live in the mountains a couple hours south. Can you advise?
   - keith - Saturday, 11/05/11 15:08:05 EDT

NC-Tool Forge Lining :
These are generally considered safe but a coating of ITC-100 will make it last longer and reduce dust formation. While reline kits are not very expensive the labor to disassemble and rebuild one of these is considerable (an all day job). Failing linings also tend to result in warped and burned shells (moire repairs).

But nothing lasts forever. . .
   - guru - Saturday, 11/05/11 21:54:42 EDT

NC Tool lining : Is the itc-100 something I can paint on without taking the forge apart?During what opperations is this dust more prevalent?
   Peter - Sunday, 11/06/11 00:20:07 EDT

Yes, it is applied to the surfaces with a brush.

At high temperatures many light weight refractories break down and create dust. In a small forge this light dust blows out of the forge into the air. In a well ventilated shop it is probably not a problem and most people do not worry about it.

The primary reason for using the ITC-100 is to protect the lightweight refractory and improve the forge efficiency. The high infrared reflectance of the ITC-100 often increases the operating temperature of a small forge several hundred degrees. In large kilns and furnaces there is a significant fuel savings. But in forges we are generally not looking for fuel savings as much as heat. However, increased heat makes work go faster thus reducing operating time and saving fuel OR producing more work in the same time.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/06/11 08:10:48 EST

NC-Tool Forge Rebuild and Referb

See the above iForge article.

   - guru - Sunday, 11/06/11 08:35:37 EST

ITC-100 : Guru, Are you still selling ITC-100? If so, how much would it cost for the amount to coat a small two burner pipe forge?
   Carver Jake - Sunday, 11/06/11 15:28:55 EST

value of a peter wright anvil : I have a old peter wright anvil with the markings 1 0 18 on it. I weighed it on a scale which read 127.7 pounds. It in good shape flat top with good edges. im wanting to sell it but not sure how much its worth. can you tell me the value of it.
   Earl - Sunday, 11/06/11 17:24:11 EST

ITC Products :
Jake, We sell the complete line of ITC products. Generally a small forge requires 1pt (the smallest container) and there is enough for a later re-coat or touchups. One pint covers 6 to 12 square feet and currently sell for $53.

PW Anvil Value:

Earl, Anvil prices vary with location and how big a hurry you are in. A small anvil such as yous may sell for anywhere from $50 to $400. PW's are generally in demand and fetch good prices. $250 would be a fair price but it might go for more on ebay. In California and some of the other Western states used anvils are less common and go for higher prices. In Ohio and the bordering states there is a glut of old blacksmithing tools and they generally go for less.
   - guru - Sunday, 11/06/11 18:01:01 EST

brooks anvil : id like to buy a smaller brooks (vaughan) anvil do you know if they have dealers in the US they dont respond to my email 56 pounder on ebay has reached 300 dollars it seems a bit much id order a new one but i cant find out from them how much the swim over here would cost
   vern kelderman - Monday, 11/07/11 08:45:24 EST

dog Grate : Can you make a dog grate from mild steel? if so what size bar would you use for the pan
   Ray - Monday, 11/07/11 10:11:20 EST

Vaughan Brooks and International Shipping : Vern, I think Centaur Forge carried them at one time and so did Pieh Tools. Phillip from China has purchased a number of things from them and had them shipped all the way to the far reaches of Southern China. He may have a suggestion about contacts. But you MAY just have to consider the time difference and make a phone call.

For many companies their web presence is just there because everyone else is doing it. . . email often goes to a webmaster who may no longer exist OR not care if he forwards mail or not. In other cases it goes to a sales person's personal e-mail and THAT person may no longer exist. . . AND, Many requests for quote are SPAM which is judged by the use of language, the vagueness of the request or lack of indicating that it is understood that they are requesting overseas shipment. I get a LOT of requests for information from India about a product made in India and sold here. . . I have stopped responding to these because I think they are just doing market research.

Most heavy things that go by ship must have a freight forwarder and customs broker arranged for on YOUR end. Its not hard getting something delivered to the port of your choosing, getting it OUT of the port is the tricky and often expensive part. At a minimum a request for import needs to specify a port of your choice.

Some companies will figure this all out for you IF the purchase is significant enough. But for a $300 or less sale, which means $100 or less profit it may not be worth responding to a mail that is just fishing for prices.

Packages that can be mailed are the easiest to ship Internationally (at least to export from the U.S). The post office has its own internal customs brokers so they are much cheaper than other services. However, customs fees are a crap shoot everywhere in the world. We had hats shipped from New Zealand several times with no customs fees but then one time they went through FedEx and there was $90 duties and fees (mostly fees) due on 100 hats.

It is easy enough to look up postage on the USPS site. To mail a 60 pound anvil in a 10 pound crate FROM the US to great Britain costs $478 excluding duties IF ANY. IF the package is 60 pounds or less the cost is $200. SO you should expect shipping the other direction to be AT LEAST this much ($200 to $500). That is IF British mails will handle that much weight and what their break points are. For single items postal rates are the cheapest in general (Cheaper than UPS International by far).

Often you can find a "freight consolidator". They accept multiple shipments from many people and put them in one cargo container. They have people on both ends to sort out all the pieces, do the mountain of customs paperwork and send out for local delivery or pick up. However, the minimum for a single item is about $200 (plus local delivery on both ends) AND you may have to wait months until they have the container full enough to ship. This kind of freight goes by volume, not weight and the minimum would ship you about a ton of anvils. Good deal for a ton, not so good for 50 pounds. It would be YOUR job to find the consolidator and have the anvil shipped to them.

Occasionally we ship products overseas. Currently shipping of most things costs as much or more than the thing itself (thus OUR exports are down even though the exchange rate is favorable). A copy of AIA to anywhere outside North America costs $50 to ship. We recently priced sending a full carton of Kaowool to Bermuda. . . The PO wanted almost $500. But we found that by putting it in TWO smaller boxes we could mail each for $85 (only about double the price of each half roll). But you can't divide an anvil into two parts for shipping. . .
   - guru - Monday, 11/07/11 11:31:07 EST

Milton; I was a member of a short stack scandanavian smelting crew from around 1990 or 1991 until I moved to NM in 2004 and had to run my own bloomeries. I was able to attend the Ironmasters Conference in Athens OH where the head of our team presented on ten years of experiments with bloomeries.

   Thomas P - Monday, 11/07/11 14:52:07 EST

forge doors : Guru; I'm looking to build a gas forge, & I want to put doors front & rear. Do they to be made out of cast iron as I've heard, & if so where can I find some? Thanks for the help, Bob
   Bob Souza - Monday, 11/07/11 15:06:23 EST

Forge Doors :
Bob, Most forge doors are made of refractory (brick, castable, fibre) in a steel frame or shell, the refractory extending a short distance in front of the steel. Doors may be hinged, roll on slides, operate on parallel arms or counter weights. A steel or cast iron door will warp, burn or melt through. Stainless holds up a little better but will still burn.

The most common forge doors are vertical motion. Either lever action with counter weights or sliding with counter weights (sometimes with roller guides). Both designs assume a heavy door. Using sheet metal or very light angle and Kaowool a door does not need to be very heavy and less counterbalance used. Expanded metal is often used to support kaowool and would make a very good lightweight door cold face.

NC-TOOL uses 2" Kaowool (which we now sell) in a sheet metal door. A dozen sheet metal screws sticking about 1" into the small piece of blanket holds it in place.
   - guru - Monday, 11/07/11 16:28:42 EST

Thermal Light - Got an App for THAT. . . :
Here is one for blacksmiths, founders, potters, glass blowers. . . . Got an iPhone?

Thermal Light

This iPhone App uses the internal camera as a high temperature pyrometer using visible light. It works at any temperature where the metal starts to fluoresce (over ~1,000).

The author, Jonathan Kraidin has built induction heaters up to 10kW and has several Induction Heater videos on YouTube and web site tutorial on building induction heaters. His work with heating metals led him to write this iPhone app.
   - guru - Monday, 11/07/11 21:02:40 EST

Temporary shutoff valve for Oxy-Acetylene : Please: I am trying to find out the name of and where to get a valve mechanism which will turn off the Oxy-Acetyle torch when pausing to work on metal and again re-light from a small flame on the apparatus.
   Otto - Monday, 11/07/11 21:43:16 EST

Otto, They are called an economizer valve. Most major welding suppliers can get them for you. Burner tips are available for acetylene and for propane.
   - guru - Monday, 11/07/11 22:04:24 EST

Otto : http://www.smithequipment.com/

Click on Acessories on the right edge of the page, look at #10.

Smith is good equipment, but not cheap.
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/07/11 22:28:30 EST

Gas Saver / Economizer Valve :
These gang valves that turn off both oxygen and fuel and have a pilot burner for relighting the torch are very handy for a number of purposes. Probably the most important is use with a rose bud torch. These are like holding a small rocket engine by the tail and very difficult to put down and leave lit safely (something you do regularly unless you are the helper and doping nothing BUT holding the torch). With an economizer valve you can set the torch down killing all that noise and heat, and then pick it right back up when needed. The other common use is when doing small fine brazing and soldering where you put the torch down a lot. One "off the reservation" use is a foot operated stationary torch or "forge". If you use a torch a lot they can pay for themselves in a short time. If you use a rosebud a lot the piece of mind and reduced noise are immediately worth the cost.
   - guru - Monday, 11/07/11 23:55:23 EST

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