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 8 - 15, 2011 on the Guru's Den
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Ancient Metal Work : Have you seen the History channel where a guy in England was prospecting with his metal detector and discovered an ancient Saxon treasure hoard ? The government valued the treasure at 5.2 million and it was split between the guy who found it and the farmer who owned the land. The swords and knives were made of damascus steel and the hilts and hardware were made of intricate gold and silver filigree work. Now the part that really interested me was this...they said the gold and jeweled metal work was so detailed and intricate, it would be almost impossible to duplicate it today. I looked at the patterns and was amazed at how complex the metal work was. I think perhaps the techniques were handed down by craftsmen, generation to generation. Why were these techniques not handed down to todays generation ? People think ancient people were not as bright as we are today, but in my opinion, just the opposite is true. A British swordsmith demonstrated some of the techniques the Saxon smiths used to make blades. He got a long billet, cut saw teeth into it, got another billet and cut saw teeth into it, then fitted the saw teeth billets together so they mated. Then he welded them together using this pattern for the lower half and edge of the sword-knife. He also twisted the billets, leaving a chevron type design in the top of the blade. Saxons were master craftsmen, as a matter of fact the word Saxon is derived from the word (sea-axe sp.) which means ( those with knives ).
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 11/08/11 01:09:01 EST

Saxon photo : This is just one link to see Saxon metal work.

   Mike T. - Tuesday, 11/08/11 02:04:44 EST

Early Iron : Thomas P.

I am sure the group would enjoy your presence/experience. I think I found Skip's email. ferrognome(at)yahoo.com If you want to join send him an email. I am in upstate NY, kind of far for you to travel for a smelt in a few weeks :-(.
   Milton R. - Tuesday, 11/08/11 06:54:50 EST

I would offer that if a craft was done then, it can be done now. Because a hand craft took a huge amount of time, practice and care, folks like to say that something can't be done today. I say with the same effort, the same practice and care it can be done today.
The cost to do it today with no slave labor, no cheap hand labor may make the work too costly, but if it was done it can be done again.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/08/11 07:16:30 EST

Staffordshire Hord :
There is an article in the current (November 2011) National Geographic. It is indeed beautiful work but none of the techniques are lost. Granulation, the technique of welding small gold beads to the surface of gold objects was a technique known to many early gold working cultures including the Pre-Columbian natives of Central and South America. The rest may have been lost wax or made by other welding methods.

One reason gold is so valuable is its ease of being worked. Between that and its almost absolute corrosion resistance many ancient gold pieces from many cultures survive when almost nothing else did. This in spite of the fact that its monetary value has often out weighed the great artistic value of many things made from gold.

What impresses me is the stone (and glass) work in these pieces. The hundreds of carefully cut and polished pieces. From my viewpoint this is far more difficult than the metal work. Today we have reasonably economical grinders and cutters that use diamond dust impregnated wheels that do such jobs relatively fast and efficiently.

The other thing that impresses me about such carefully designed work is that this was an era when the only drawing materials were expensive parchment and ink or charcoal on wood and cloth. Today an artist would draw such work over and over again with pencil on cheap (disposable) paper to work out the many details.

Only people ignorant of both modern and ancient arts (or those who can make NOTHING themselves) make comments about how it could not be done today. Modern jewelers and bladesmiths do work of much higher technical difficulty than ever before and sometimes much higher artistic standards.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 08:29:40 EST

Saxon stuff : The smith in that television program is my friend Owen Bush, who I mentioned above somewhere as a swordsmith who teaches in England. He does indeed do some spiffy pattern-welding.

There is a gentleman in the Czech Republic named Patrick Barta who has recreated the gold and garnet hilts of those Saxon (and other Migration-era "barbarians") swords. http://templ.net/english/making-decoration.php will take you to a page showing how he does some of it. The site in general is well worth spending some time on, the man is a true master metalsmith who accurately recreates ancient metalwork. Not cheap, and for very good reason.

I myself once did a pun in steel using those "Saxon" patternwelding techniques. Copy and paste the following if you want to see a Merovingian seax blade with a ca. 1830s American Bowie knife hilt...

Steel is easy. I'm with the Guru on the garnet inlay, that's darned hard!
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/08/11 09:20:17 EST

Some early techniques are surprising. Patrick Barta in the article above uses a small hand crank rolling machine to make the silver plate. These have been around a long time and are still common in jeweler's shops. However, in the Williamsburg Gunsmith they make brass plate by casting then hand forging thinner using a flatter and a sledge. This is a MUCH lower tech method that was available to very ancient metalworkers and easier to do in gold or silver than in brass.

Even at a MUCH lower level of art and technology these are the kinds of things the "I wanna make a sword" guys overlook. The sharp pointy part is EASY compared to the furniture which in the very least needs careful fitting.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 10:08:16 EST

In the times of antiquity, soap stone and chalk were both known and used, so drawing on slate or a flat board was not unknown then. Not every artist draws work before making. The drawing before making is definetly taught now in art schools and regular schools. When I was apprenticing as a goldsmith inGermany in the late 70's, the school trained folks often gave me "you must learn to draw the item before you make it or it is not art". I however can see the item and make it just as I see it in my head. Perhaps being dyslexic and thinking in pictures helps. I have learned to sketch mechanically since and a sketch is usually needed to quote work.
I have several customers who say don't bother with the sketch, just make what I describe:)
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/08/11 10:21:39 EST

Lost Techniques : What the others have said is quite true. The techniques of granulation, filigree, cloissonne', champleve', etc, are all still done today in one place or another. As a metalsmithing student in the 60's and 70's I recreated most of these old techniques by the original methods and while it was not easy it was definitely possible. In today's market there is a shortage of people who are willing to pay the money that such work costs, as the work is very labor intensive and does not lend itself to mass production methods.

When the industrial revolution came around, the emphasis was all on mass production and labor intensive work, one-offs and such, became very scarce. They never completely disappeared, as there are always a few people who are either obsessed or who have the money to commission such work, but you won't see that work on display at the local mall.

With any detailed hand work, there is a popular predilection to say it has disappeared over the years. I think this is a myth fostered by both those who buy the work and those who do the work - saying it is arcane and unavailable adds to the cachet for those who do or have it. And it makes for better sound bites on television shows. Most people who do a bit of metalsmithing are a product of modern times and want to see fairly fast results for their labors. They're simply not willing to sit for dozens of hours meticulously placing microscopic bits of gold on a background and firing it repeatedly to get a good granulation - they want instant results. Ditto with filigree work, ornate piercings (not Nippulini's kind), or other laborious work. They've been spoiled by casting machines, CNC mills, and now 3-D printers. I won't even get started on all the ersatz work that is being done these days as it disgusts me too much to even think about. But I think you get my point.

Don't believe the television hype. Do some real research and you'll find that there are craftsmen out there today that can do anything the ancients ever did. Usually better, too.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/08/11 10:34:57 EST

Sketching : Is worthwhile, and I do it. But my best work usually comes as a result of doing what Francis Whitaker advocated - sketching in steel. I do it on paper first, then sometimes in clay, then sketch it in steel to see how well it really works in the real world.

I've seen smiths in rural Mexico sketch with a stick in the dirt. I think that could have been done in any time or place and one can always break a complex piece down into smaller components to sketch it with rough materials. Nowadays I use a CAD program and draw things in it where I can isolate elements, move them at will , duplicate, resize, distort, etc, all with a click of a mouse. Usually though, none of that happens until I've first done a bit of "graphite CAD" on a scrap of paper to clarify my thoughts. Sketching is a skill that is well worth spending some effort to learn.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/08/11 10:41:32 EST

Saxon swords : On the television program, they did mention that these beautiful knives and swords were not carried by the average soldier, but were made for men of prominence such as generals or other officers, and it took the smith a long period of time to produce them. Perhaps I am wrong about the fact that such elaborate metal work could not be done today, but I wonder how many modern craftsmen could do it with the tools the ancient Saxon smiths had to work with.
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 11/08/11 11:22:30 EST

Changes in tools and work. . . the stuff I REALLY hate is the typical plaama table work (silhouette and cutouts in plate). The vast majority is not even made from the art of the metalworker. While this method can be put to good use most of it is pretty kitschy.

The sad thing about this is that I have seen a beautiful screen made in the Yellin shops that was pierced plate. At the time it was difficult time consuming work. Today its load the plate, turn on the machine. . .
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 12:20:19 EST

Mike T., I made that knife using only tools a Saxon smith would have had available to him, with two exceptions: I used a coal forge rather than charcoal, and my anvil is much larger than most Saxon anvils would have been. I don't count the power hammer since that only takes the place of a team of strikers. Owen can and has done it the same way, but a gas forge and hydraulic press do make it a bit faster. In fact, that kind of pattern welding pretty much limits one to using traditional techniques and tooling.

Oh, and here's a link to a beautiful granulated and filigree'd pendant made by another friend of mine, a very talented Czech named Petr Florianek:

The skills and ability are still around, it's just a matter of finding someone to pay for it.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/08/11 12:33:50 EST

One more thing: Owen has also made those using homemade bloomery steel, shear steel, and wrought iron he made himself in a little charcoal furnace, so nobody go thinking he's cheating using using modern homogenous steels. ;-) Again, that's just faster and easier.

Just try getting someone to pay for a piece of steel that took nigh on 24 hours of hand work just to produce a single knife-sized bar, much less a pattern-welded blade from several different bars of similar stuff...Tends to increase the price by an order of magnitude.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/08/11 12:50:05 EST

Historically it seems to have been VERY RARE INDEED! for the smith to smelt his own metal. A common find of the early iron age is currency bars, bars of wrought iron traded over long distances. (of course there is always an exception: some remote Norse farms show evidence of smelting metal for use there.)

I've forge welded stuff using a small two bellows forge burning charcoal, it points out a MAJOR difference in historical and modern smithing: help! A typical smithy would generally have at least 3-5 helpers in it to work the bellows, strike, fetch charcoal, file, do all the grunt labour jobs. Much of America's view of smithing is from the "twilight" of the craft when lone smiths were riding it down eking out a living until they died. (also the prevalence of small powerhammers or as I like to call them "smart apprentices" as they do exactly what you tell them to do...)

Historically a lot of swordmaking in Europe was done in a similar method to that in Japan---a smith would forge the blade which would then be ground by another person in another shop, the hilting would take place in a third shop and the scabbard would be made by yet another shop. The idea of single authorship wasn't present even in early years. What the factory did was to put all these tasks under a single (well generally multiple) roofs.

I have a friend who can do Sutton Hoo level gold work for you either by hand using all the old techniques or by laser engraving and enameling. All you need to do is to shell out cash by the pitchfork loads. (Learning the old ways was a requirement when he went to England to become a member in the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths)

There are certain "lost" techniques; some of which are being re-found---look at the research on Wootz. We now know that the secret is certain elements found only in trace amounts---what would once have been ignored as "tramp" ones.

   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/08/11 13:37:38 EST

Yes, it was very rare indeed historically for the swordsmith to smelt his or her own iron and steel, but you just try to go find an ironmaster these days who is willing to sell you an ancony or currency bar. (grin!) Skip Williams and Lee Sauder will do so, but that's about it. On the plus side, they do have some high phosphorus blooms! That is only a plus if you're into a certain era of northern European bladesmithing, but still, it's there.

There is another gentleman of my acquaintance who has been working on smelting titaniferous magnetite with Skip and Lee as well as on his own, but since my own magnetite is lacking both titanium and chromium (both of which end up in the slag to the detriment of the iron recovered, so don't get excited) I haven't taken the time yet to hook up with them for a smelt.
   Alan-L - Tuesday, 11/08/11 18:52:29 EST

I'd have to guess that a lot of techniques more closely tied to raw materials have been forgotten, either because the material are no longer available, or because modern commercial products are just too convenient. There are probably a lot of techniques that use, say, mercury, arsenic, or whale oil that just can't be duplicated today (or not without some pretty serious safety precautions).

That iPhone app is pretty neat. I just hope it doesn't become too popular with the public at demos . . .

I know the app uses visible light, but I've noticed that you can test a TV remote by pointing it a digital camera and pushing the buttons. The sensors are sensitive enough to IR in that range (whatever the range is) that flashes show up on the screen.
   - Mike BR - Tuesday, 11/08/11 21:11:50 EST

Smelts :
Peter Buchannan (Black Lion Forge) has been having a Winter Solstice event the past few years. Last year they had a smelt or two. This year he is thinking about iron casting but may be doing smelting as well or smelting to cast iron. . . Bedford county, a bit closer than Staunton.

I've thought about it but you need lots of minions. . . .
   - - guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 21:19:21 EST

Alan L Knife : Alan, I followed the link you gave, that is a beautiful knife you made, you are very talented !!
   Mike T. - Tuesday, 11/08/11 22:44:14 EST

Ancient techniques and tools : Mike T,

I learned my metalsmithing skills through studying and replicating the techniques of metalsmiths from the Renaissance and before, and I taught my students through the same process. I would be happy to demonstrate for you any of the ancient metalsmithing techniques you'd care to see, using only the tools and materials of the particular period. My contact information and per diem rates are available on the ABANA demonstrators listing if you're interested.

For most processes, the tools we use today are actually very little different from those of five centuries or more ago. A hammer is still a hammer, a graver is still a graver, a file is still a file. I have, (and occasionally still do), made my own hammers, gravers, files, etc. Whenever I can simply buy the tool I need, I do that, because my time is better put to making money, though I greatly prefer making tools. Yes, I generally use an oxy/acetylene torch for my heat source these days, but I can and have done it with nothing more than an oil or alcohol lamp and a blowpipe. Sure, I have a Foredom flexible shaft machine, but I can do all the same work with nothing more sophisticated than a linen trumming cord and abrasive. Likewise with all the other "modern" tools and techniques - there are precedents for all of them and mostly I use the more modern stuff because it makes me more efficient - they don't, however, make me any more capable a metalsmith. On the contrary, dependence on modern tooling can make a craftsman less capable because it too often relieves him of the necessity of actually learning why a certain process does what it does. Some of the intimacy of the process is lost when technology enters the mix.

While good tools won't make a bad craftsman into a good one, bad (or outdated) tools don't greatly handicap the good craftsman. The artistry is in the artist, not in the materials. However, those concepts don't make for dramatic television shows - on the contrary, they make the work more time-consuming and tedious, but not more difficult. If the principles of the process are truly understood, then the mode one uses to achieve the result doesn't matter a lot. But a TV show with a craftsman patiently explaining the intricacies of the physics, chemistry and mechanics underlying a certain technique would have the viewers asleep in minutes. TV viewers would much rather hear that the technique is a mysterious process only understood by an old man living in a cave in France during the Dark Ages and then see someone blow an anvil in the air. Smoke and mirrors sell more beer than physics and metallurgy ever will, I'm afraid.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/08/11 23:43:58 EST

Not so Ancient Techniques :
In the late 1700's and early 1800's there was a surprising amount of machinery available for delicate work. The precursor to die grinders, Dremel and Foredom flexible shaft tools was the foot treadle powered tool the same as the early dental drills. These belt driven machines were used in numerous trades including the mass production ivory and wood carving trades. I suspect they were probably used in other trades as well.

While these were not necessary to do the job they save time and greatly increased production.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 01:01:06 EST

Old Techniques : Rich, do you offer any on line classes and demonstrations ? I found one of ( Jim Hrisoulus sp. ) web sites a while back and he has frame by frame demonstrations of forging pattern welds. Very informative. I live in NE Arkansas and would not be able to make a long trip for clsses. One day I will spend a few days taking the blade classes in Texarkana, Ar.
   Mike T. - Wednesday, 11/09/11 04:33:01 EST

Classes : Sorry Mike, I simply do not believe I could do a creditable job of teaching without the direct feedback of a live setting. I am continually reminded of the nuances that are conveyed well in person but lost totally when done second-hand. Theoretical stuff can be taught satisfactorily through the 'net or books or videos, but the actual physical manipulation of the tools and materials requires hands-on by both the instructor and the student. If I did anything less I would feel I was shortchanging the client(s).

You can get a lot of information on some of this by reading Bienvenutto Cellini's "Treatises on Goldsmithing and Sculpture" and also his autobiography, and there are other books as well, though none so entertaining as Cellini. As a goldsmith and sculptor he was good, and as a raconteur he was terrific.
   Rich - Wednesday, 11/09/11 06:37:57 EST

I agree 100% with Rich. This is true for a LOT of trades and skill sets, you simply cannot learn properly from reading a book, watching a video or chatting online with a master. There are dozens of sideshow skills (sometimes referred to as 'torture acts'), these skills can be read up on, but without the guidance of a mentor who is PHYSICALLY THERE TO GUIDE YOU, I guarantee you will end up hurting yourself, or even getting yourself killed. I can't tell you how many times I have seen some young kid ask (on another forum) someone to tell him in an e-mail "how to swallow a sword" or "how do I walk on broken glass". These are examples of acts that can truly be learned by in person.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/09/11 08:20:53 EST

By the way, Rich... I never bought beer with smoke and mirrors. I prefer to use cash.
   - Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/09/11 08:21:30 EST

hands-on versus reading : I served a full time apprenticeship under a russian master tool forger. The first two days, working in his shop, taught me more than reading fifteen books on the subject. Five years later, I knew more than someone who may have read five hundred books on blacksmithing
   stewartthesmith - Wednesday, 11/09/11 08:25:23 EST

Did I pay too much for my anvil? : Hi, I recently bought a Henry Wright Anvil Solid 80, I paid $205 for it. it is in very nice shape. but did I overpay for it?
I live in Ocala fl.
   Jennifer - Wednesday, 11/09/11 09:25:29 EST

Jennifer : That's a decent price for an 80# Henry Wright in good condition. Your area is not loaded with anvils looking for homes so I'd say you did quite well. It's a very good anvil.
   Rich - Wednesday, 11/09/11 11:23:52 EST

Traditional 3 part : Wayne,

The traditional 3 part blacksmith's coating (also used by carpenters and gun finishers) is: Beeswax, turpentine, BOILED linseed oil in equal parts. Mix hot and VERY carefully and slowl (it ignites w ridiculous ease) let cool. Apply to metal that is just hot enough to make it smoke. Rub down while still warm, and wait about 3 days for it to develop full strength.
   Rudy - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:12:13 EST

File steel : I never make knives and rarely use high carbon steel. So, this may be a dumb question.

Another smith in the shop is making a draw knife. Using and old file. We got careless and forged it a bit at only an adequate red. Got back to a good yellow, and a couple inches fell off the end when removed from the fire.

We probably stess cracked it internally w our carelessness, but is there any other explanation? Old files not to reliable? etc.?
   Rudy - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:15:49 EST

Rudy, Sounds like you worked it too cold. But on the other hand high carbon and alloy steels will fall apart if overheated as well.

To borrow a phrase from Frank Turley. Tool Steel will laugh at you.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:28:56 EST

Yellow may have been too hot, did it "cottage cheese" at the end that fell off or is it a crack?

I have a friend who has actually done fire gilding---using a mercury scavenging hood rather than an expendable apprentice! We have a lot more stuff written down than many people would suggest. I always liked Theophilus' Divers Arts, written in 1120 A.D. and is a detailed description of a lot of the "state of the art" studio crafts of the era. Not only that---they work! (With the caveat that like medieval food recipes, some things often get left out as "everyone knows to add that!") There is one wild process supposed to soften rock crystal for carving that seems to be a copy from another source that he included without checking it out.
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:33:24 EST

anvil height : Is there a correct anvil height in relation to your body I bought a nice brooks and want to make a usefull stand
   vern kelderman - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:39:29 EST

File steel : Guru,

It fell off w a crack w a visible (and not too fine) grain.

PS I've heard of alloy steels failing at too high a working temperature, but I have never heard it of high carbon (below super high, approaching cast).
   Rudy - Wednesday, 11/09/11 13:00:16 EST

Rudy, You are working JunkYard Steel. So what IS the spec on that file you are working???

Besides cold working cracks in used steel may have been there when you started OR may be from quenching including working thin stock on a cold anvil.

Vern, repeating the Thursday post
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 - Wednesday, 11/09/11 14:49:29 EST

Farrier supplies : Keith,

I know nothing about farrier work. I know several farriers and there are several horseshoe supply outlets in the two county area I inhabit. The only one I have ever been to is the "Horseshoe Barn" in the Arden area of Sacramento. The only reason I go there is to buy horseshoe nails to make rings for the children.
   Rudy - Wednesday, 11/09/11 15:03:38 EST

grasshopper treadle : I would like to build a grasshopper style treadle hammer. I know Bruce Freeman has plans out there for sale but his design looks too complex.

I'm looking for plans for a Ray Maiara style with the 3/4" Steel frame. i can't get enough detail from the photos on his website. Do you know of plans for this style of grasshopper, or do you know anyone who has built one who can give advice? Thanks!
   Stuart - Wednesday, 11/09/11 15:28:08 EST

Grasshopper Treadle : This is Bruce's original design AND name. I did not know anyone else was using his design and tradename. The point of the design is to create straight line motion without guides. A complicated engineering problem with no simple answer.

I've always thought it was VERY complicated for the very very small amount of improvement over a parallelogram arm type machine. If your arms are perpendicular to or close to perpendicular to the ram the motion is also perpendicular at the time of contact. Plus or minus an inch from that is so true to square that you cannot tell the difference. In an unguided ram machine there is so much springiness and deflection that these causes of misalignment are much greater than the little arc displacement of parallel arms.

The smoothest truest running treadle hammers are those with the roller blade wheel guided ram. A lot less complexity for true in-line motion.

The cleanest best working treadle hammer I've seen was one of these built by Tom Boone. It had a large piece of rectangular tubing for an anvil and the tool shank hole opened into it for punching and drifting. At the bottom was a hole on one side and a sloped plate so that cookies, drifts and such could escape the bottom of the anvil column. The only failing of this machine was that like many others the tubular anvil was very low on mass therefore the machine was relatively inefficient. Otherwise it was a very professional.

Tom Boone at Treadle Hammer

Tom Boone at Treadle Hammer 2003

Tom Boone work details

Now, if you want a sophisticated challenge, try to build a treadle hammer without springs and without dead weight counter balance. I've made sketches and done the math so I know it can be done.
   - guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 18:03:31 EST

Vern; let me give you a differnt take on anvil height. The correct height is one that is correct for YOU, what YOU plan to do on it and the types of tools YOU will be using. (I see a problem asking ME about it)

If you use heavy tooling and a lot of top tools and a striker you will want it lower than if you do small precise work like knives.

One way to tell is to take your most used hammer and see what height it needs to be for the face to hit flat with your forearm arm straight factoring in the thickness of stock you will be working.

I have anvils at several different heights. I can tell if I'm using one that is two low because I catch myself leaning over---results in back aches.

May I suggest you cobble together a stand that can be modified to get you where it's best for you and then make up a good one based on that height?
   Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/09/11 18:10:59 EST

grasshoppertreadle : Thanks for the great feedback on the grasshopper treadle. My understanding is thst the grasshopper moniker is a reference to the grasshopper linkages used on locamotive engines. Ray Maiara saw Bruce Freeman's treadle as a prototype built in wood and went on to build one using 3/4plate for the frame. If you check the photos at auroraforge.com it does appear to be less complex. I'd like to know more about it, but if the info isn't out there than maybe the Boone style is the way to go.
I gotta say from a production perspective, the variable work heights offered by the in line ram/anvil orientation w/o the hassle of stopping to add or remove shims is appealing. Ray's treadle weighs 120#.
   Stuart - Wednesday, 11/09/11 19:05:17 EST

grasshopper treadle : I meant to say the ram on ray's treadle weighs 120# with the linkages he thinks maybe 130#.
   Stuart - Wednesday, 11/09/11 19:47:21 EST

Farriers Supply : I ain't no shoer, but Mr. "Biscuit" at Sutters Fort gets his stuff there. Just thought you may have some insight about the inventory.
Thanks anyway
   - Keith - Wednesday, 11/09/11 21:29:48 EST

grasshopper : I don't know if it's a "grasshopper" linkage or not, but there is a fairly simple straight line motion linkage (with no guides) shown in the "Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors" book series. Volume 3 IIRC. Lots of other related and interesting variable stroke/timing/force mechanisms as well.
   Judson Yaggy - Wednesday, 11/09/11 21:30:49 EST

If you note the ram on Tom's machine above, it is solid. Probably over 150 pounds.

The failing of the Schmirler hammer is the arms need to be flat on the horizontal axis so that the ram does not shake back and forth.

Most up to date treadles have a "receiver" atop the anvil to accept 1" or 1-1/4" square shanked tooling. I would put a 1" diameter hole in the ram to hold round shanked dies and reducer tool holders.

Before he got into Tire Hammers Clay Spencer was THE Eastern U.S. treadle hammer guru. However, I am not keen on his use of hollow rams filled with lead. Solid steel is not that hard to find and besides avoiding the toxicity questions of lead has many other advantages.

Out West, Jere Kirkpatrick is the go-to guy for treadle hammer plans and kits. He has some very good information on-line.

   - guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 21:34:53 EST

Rudy's File : Rudy, large grain size on the cracked end suggests overheating. My WAG without seeing it would be an initial crack from working too cold, going to final failure with the reheat to high temp when it had softened from the temp.
   - Gavainh - Wednesday, 11/09/11 22:59:20 EST

Bladesmithing Contact : guru,
I was wondering if you knew any bladesmiths located in New Hampshire that you think would be open to teaching someone. Don't worry, this isn't the Conan Barbarian situation, I have been studying the ancient craft since age 8 and I am currently in an apprenticeship with Garry Kalajian, traditional ornamental blacksmith. Let me know who you may find a good resource. Thanks!
   Tony D. - Wednesday, 11/09/11 23:02:44 EST

In-line Treadles : After looking at Clay Spencer's In-Line Treadle, I think its the one for me. It is very similar the Boone hammer pictured above with rollers to guide the ram. Which leads me to the questions: Has anyone used the Spencer plans to build a hammer? If so, any comments, criticisms or feedback that might be helpful?
   Stuart - Thursday, 11/10/11 09:45:27 EST

"dog Grate" Earlier Question :
I do not understand the question. Please be more specific. Describe what you intend to do. Are we muzzling or caging a dog, OR something else?
   - guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 10:38:10 EST

My guess is "Dog Gate" fairly common in some english houses of a certain age (what's a century or two between friends) to keep the large number of dogs out of the "living quarters".

As such it's like a modern baby gate only more rugged in construction. I have a couple of books on "Great Homes (rooms, etc) of England that show them occasionally.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 12:51:09 EST

OR it could be a "fire grate" to go with "fire dogs" (not related to sun dogs and technically different than andirons).
   - guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 13:44:10 EST

Dog Grate : Or it could be for preparing a dog salad: "Take one dog and smite it to pieces. Grate upon a bed of lettuce with parsley and chives, and season rashly with pepper and ginger. Serve cold."

   Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 11/10/11 14:37:09 EST

Tony D., I know there are several around, google
   - Alan-L - Thursday, 11/10/11 15:19:18 EST

Bladesmithing in New England : Tony D., I know there are bunch around. Google "New England bladesmith's guild" for contacts, or get yourself down to the New England School of Metalwork in Auburn, Maine. World class bladesmiths teach there several times a year.
   Alan-L - Thursday, 11/10/11 15:21:16 EST

Ah those frisky Vikings and their culinary oddities!---Bork Bork Bork

I'm going to work on closing in the end of my shop this weekend and if I succeed move a coal stove into it as well.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 17:16:42 EST

Weill GRATE DOG! (Whoops! Shouldn't take the dyslexic lord Dog's name in vain.)

Great Dog, definition - A very large "log dog" (steel tool with two right angle bends with points used to hold a log in position while hewing or sawing). Often used in conjunction with a "Commander" (a very large two handed wooden mallet).

Where is Miles Undercut when you need him?
   - guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 18:01:23 EST

Ahhh--- often with chisel edged points oriented at 90 degrees to each other so they get installed parallel to the grain of the wood both on the one being hewed and on the ones supporting it.
   Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 18:29:20 EST

Chisel points, also at right angles to each other. . . .
   - guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 19:26:26 EST

Stewart - Treadle Hammer : This is not an in-line hammer, but could be built as one if You guided the ram.


This is a logical design, Grant is known for that sort of stuff.
   - Dave Boyer - Thursday, 11/10/11 21:31:42 EST

In-Line Treadle : Thanks Dave,
There are certain aspects of Grant's Hammer that intuitively look to be superior to the prevalant designs out there. The anvil looks really solid yet with quick easy die/tool changes. I started my search for a good design with the premise that the heavier the ram the better. Yet as I think about the most basic forge senario, hammer in hand and anvil, I have to wonder...heavy hammer = more work per blow yet fewer blows per heat....light hammer=less work per blow yet more blows per heat. In any senario the heavier the anvil the less energy lost. So perhaps a really heavy anvil with a moderate to slightly heavy ram is the best ratio given that it allows for a quick rebound into the next blow. In line ram to anvil orientation is preferred for the accuracy of the blow and the variability of the work heights. OK I think I'm ready to Frankestein the best features out there. I'd like to look at any ideas that seem to fit. Thanks
   Stuart - Friday, 11/11/11 00:12:08 EST

Treadle Hammers. : Anvil mass is often overlooked in treadle hammers and many have none, the floor doing the job. . NOT good. Hand hammer and anvil combinations have ratios of 50:1 or more. A VERY heavy duty power hammer 20: 1 with the average being 10:1, some as low as 6:1. A treadle hammer should be somewhere between these two or power hammer ratio at a minimum.

Grant's hammer has good long arms producing a deep throat and less arc to the movement of the ram. But long arms tend to let the ram wobble unless they are very heavy. One way to get longer arms without the hammer getting too long is to put the pivots on the front of the ram and back of the frame. This can add up to a foot in length. This is only more important in a non-guided ram machine. Unless you KNOW sheet metal work is going to be a lot of your work a deep throat machine only takes up more room and needs heavier components.

Most current treadle hammers use greater mass rather than more velocity. Heavy rams have a heavy well controlled blow.

A really classy bit on Grants machine was the enclosed spring. On many treadles they have long springs and often run safety cables through them. . . The toggle linkage with variable leverage is also a slick detail.

Note that the reason guided treadles use in-line skate wheels is the compression of the rubber creates a snug guide without precision surfaces or complicate adjustments. I do not know who's idea it was but it works very well.
   - guru - Friday, 11/11/11 08:41:37 EST

ThermalLight More about the iPhone app.
   - guru - Friday, 11/11/11 10:11:05 EST

Then there are shutter dogs, I have made quite a few for some historical homes here in Bucks Co. (my own being the first!). Hey, Dave Boyer, you're in PA. Stewart is putting together an event in NE Philly. You might want to join in the festivities.
   - Nippulini - Friday, 11/11/11 11:24:30 EST

chisel marks : the 56lb brooks i bought is mint unless you turn it upside down has about a hundred deep chisel marks under the base do you think someone used it turned over for cut off work or were they trying to keep it from sliding either way better there than on the face
   vern kelderman - Friday, 11/11/11 12:02:14 EST

I suspect reasonable use for cut off work. I've seen anvil faces completely covered with chisel and chain marks from cutting chain.
   - guru - Friday, 11/11/11 12:11:38 EST

Vern : Most probably those are cutting marks - on an anvil that is easily turned over, that makes complete sense, much more so than using the step. I've seen a number of anvils badly messed up by cutting on the face and a number with step chewed up so badly is wasn't even useful for creasing anymore. Using the bottom is far better. Not as good as using a sacrificial cutting plate on the anvil face, but certainly the second best place to do it.
   - Rich - Friday, 11/11/11 14:43:59 EST

yessiree : I have already contacted dave boyer, he is on board!
   stewartthesmith - Friday, 11/11/11 15:22:51 EST

part 2 : WE are up to six people and counting!
   stewartthesmith - Friday, 11/11/11 15:24:24 EST

Treadle hammers : The one thing about treadle hammers is to think about what you are going to use them for. I built mine and I hear many people talking about using them for drawing out. The roller wheels adjustable heads etc. are so they can be used with matching fullers. A treadle hammer is the wrong tool to build for drawing out. Yes they can be used to draw using fuller dies, but you can draw out just as fast or faster using the corner of the anvil as a fuller with a hand hammer.

What I found a treadle hammer useful for was using top tools. They are really useful for chisel work and repousse where anvil mass is not that important, as the power of the blow and efficiency is not as important as control. Swaging, punching and driving drifts are the other things I used my treadle hammer for before I had a power hammer. These are things where the extra mass of a heavier anvil would be useful. The anvil on my treadle was a piece of 1/4" wall tube and while it worked well I am sure it would have been more efficient for the heavy work with a heavier anvil. For use with top tools the stroke does not need to be straight up and down the swing is fine. I did sell my treadle hammer because I did not have space for it and I do still miss it occasionally as it was good for single hard blows for things like stamping a large touchmark.

The best treadle hammer anvil design I have seen is two heavy bars side by side with a gap running down between them. While not as heavy as a solid anvil it is heavier than a tubular anvil and it allows you to drive long drifts through a bar or upset the ends of long bars. Grant's design gives you the same thing and is more efficient but 2 bars of say 2"x5" are probably easier to get and easier to handle for the person building the hammer in their garage.
   - JNewman - Friday, 11/11/11 15:29:29 EST

Nip : I will try to get to Stewart's event, but it looks like it will fall on the Saturday following chemo. That makes it a crap shoot. I will see You there if I can make it.
   - Dave Boyer - Friday, 11/11/11 21:13:10 EST

Actually, I've never run into a problem with throat dimension on any hammer, it's just the nature of the work I do I guess. I made the arms 36" for their period of oscillation and for the more vertical motion within the range it's running.
   - grant - Saturday, 11/12/11 22:45:49 EST


Yesterday I dug out the Cellini autobiography I've been meaning to read for years. I'm now through the first 25 chapters (okay, they're *very* short).

Today I decided to descale a small piece with vinegar. I couldn't find a dish the right shape, so I cut the top out of a little cardboard box and lined it with a plastic bag.

Just wanted you to know someone was reading your posts . . .
   Mike BR - Sunday, 11/13/11 21:01:40 EST

Mike BR : Ol' Bienvenutto is a wild man isn't he, Mike? No shortage of self-esteem where he's concerned, but he's a pretty good raconteur if you take things with about a keg of salt. I'm glad you get some use from my ramblings; they're based on a lot of years of learning stuff the hard way most of the time. (grin)
   Rich - Sunday, 11/13/11 22:20:12 EST

I always liked Cellini's account of living in the Coliseum during an outbreak of plague, surviving by eating pigeons he shot with the wheellock rifle he just happened to have taken with him.
   Alan-L - Monday, 11/14/11 12:52:54 EST

Alan; *you* didn't take your wheellock when visiting the Coliseum? How very odd! I must remember to pack mine next time I visit Italy. (and yes I own a wheellock)

JNewman: AMEN! I see a lot of people who built treadle hammers without factoring in what *THEY* wanted them to do and so we have people needing fast strikes make slow hammers and others needing single heavy strikes making light fast hammers and then the treadle hammers get shoved into the corner of the shop and piled with junk.

I'm slowly moving towards a treadle hammer build---already have the 1" thick baseplate and the 5.75" dia. solid anvil too tall though. I was thinking of using new rail---nicely crowned for drawing dies.
   Thomas P - Monday, 11/14/11 15:21:41 EST

Thomas P : If You don't want the treadle hammer to be portable, You could just let the extra length of the anvil stick through the baseplate into a hole in the floor. Might be easier than cutting it off if You don't have a big enough saw, and the hammer wouldn't walk around during use...
   - Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/14/11 20:51:02 EST

I read the Colosseum bit yesterday. As I read it, he was more hanging out at the Colosseum than living there, and had the fowling piece because he "put it on my boy Pagolino's shoulder" so he could shoot pigeons. My translation doesn't actually say its a wheel lock, but maybe it would have been. I'm lucky if I can tell a .38 from a .380. Still a great story, though -- and I guess he's lucky he decided to hunt pigeons and not rats. . .

Cellini's style reminds me of the Captain Alatriste books by Perez-Reverte. But I'm guessing there was a lot of similar literature in Italy and Spain in the 16th Century, and that's what inspired Perez-Reverte.
   Mike BR - Monday, 11/14/11 20:52:58 EST

New Anvil : I am planning on buying a new anvil. Without mentioning names I would like opinions based on the material each is cast from. One is cast from 8640 steel and the other is cast from H-13. They are in the 450 and 460 lb. weight range. Based only on the information about the material used which anvil would you prefer and why?
   Harley - Tuesday, 11/15/11 04:06:24 EST

New Anvil : I have a cast anvil made from the 8000-series steel (Nimba) and it is fine. Possibly a bit soft, since it is a big anvil designed for heavy work where yo definitely do not want chipping, but a great anvil.

Unless you plan on putting your anvil in the forge, I don't see the need for H-13.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/15/11 08:45:29 EST

I would offer that bigger choice between those two anvils is the quality of the foundry practice, the design and the finishing.
Bad foundry practice can make any alloy not work well. Can also destroy the alloy.
   ptree - Tuesday, 11/15/11 09:09:26 EST

New Anvil: Without heat treat details either one could be useless or perfect---flip a coin.
   Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/15/11 13:27:31 EST

The finest anvils ever made were just plain carbon steel. . . Some of the older anvils had really terrible mystery metal faces but were made by people that knew anvils.

Foundry practice, machining, heat treat. . quality of workmanship are all more important than material. Then who the maker is and what kind of warranty they provide AND back up. . .

I've had wrought (not cast) H13 that was factory heat treated to 44HRc by Timken Latrobe Steel chip badly on edges. I don't think it's suitable anvil material.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/15/11 15:40:15 EST

H-13 Anvils : Jymm Hoffman is selling some very nice reproduction Colonial-style anvils and he's having them cast from H-13, if I'm not mistaken. I doubt very much Jymm would elect to use a steel alloy that didn't work out, as I know he's been through a couple of foundries in order to get the high quality he demands. I think his anvils are in the 100# range.
   Rich - Tuesday, 11/15/11 17:34:43 EST

Thanks for the input on the New Anvil Q. It will be a few months away yet before I make a purchase but now I am inclined to take a longer look at Nimba.
   Harley - Tuesday, 11/15/11 17:46:55 EST

Harley's anvil : A 460 pound is sold by www.fontaninianvilandforge.com Steve Fontanini was having them cast at one Western foundry, but there were delivery delays. He told me that he located another foundry in Arizona that is working out for him. His recent website states that the material is H13 and the Rockwell is 52...shooting for 55. I'm using his 250# anvil at present, and it is hard, tough and gives good rebound.
   Frank Turley - Tuesday, 11/15/11 19:57:14 EST

Chipped 44RC H13 : That is an unusual combination, as at 44RC it SHOULD still have some ductility. I wonder if there was some problem with that heat of material, or with the factory heat treat.

Heat treated H13 is known for being tough & strong, even in the low 50s RC. While it is a hot work steel, it is used in cold work aplications requiring extreme toughness.

The castable high alloy steels have pretty fine grain as cast, less difference between rwought and cast when compared to plain carbon steels.

As to the OP's question either one will make a good anvil if everything else is done right, or a POS could be made from either alloy as well.
   - Dave Boyer - Tuesday, 11/15/11 21:08:49 EST

OR, Any shop Gorilla could use a sledge on sharp edges, use a tapered shank in the hardie hole, make torch cuts in the face and break the horn. . . Doing a good job of rounding and finishing all the edges will go a long way to preventing chipped edges. Surfaces don't need to be polished but being very smooth removes places for cracks to propagate.

Kohlswa used to provide instructions to peen the entire anvil face starting at the center and working outward in tight concentric circles. . . A LOT of work. Seems to me if it was needed the factory should have shot peened the working areas.
   - guru - Tuesday, 11/15/11 22:29:36 EST

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