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January 2009 Archive

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J. Dempsey  <webmaster> Rev. 7/98, 3/99, 5/2k, 6/2k, Friday, 04/06/01 16:43:25 GMT

Pile of anvils moved: It was a heavy chore, but I moved the pile from Guru's Den to Hammer-in. I contacted Gil Fahrenwald of Olympia, Washington, about such a photo, because he has an archive of anvil pictures. He could only think of one that Richard Postman might have from the old Columbus Forge and Iron Works, but he will keep looking.

Gil produces calendars, CD's, and postcards with blacksmith and anvil scenes.
Frank Turley - Wednesday, 12/31/08 08:20:55 EST

Scrapping Anvils: I took advantage of the New Year's dawn to search the National Archives and the Library of Congress sites for the elusive "Scrap Drive Anvils." The Library of Congress has a very good and extensive photo section, with a lot of photographs under "anvils" and "scrap drive" but, alas, no piles of anvils at a scrap drive.

I was struck by the many photographs of little piles of junk by people's houses (after the depression folks were probably reluctant to scrap anything useful), and the large piles that never-the-less accumulated. Also, lots of scrap drives for rubber, aluminum, and even scrap wood (!?) An anthracite mine is shown scrapping obsolete machinery for the war effort, and I'm sure there were many parallels.

It did occur to me (spotting a number of newsreel entries at LoC and NARA) that maybe the image burned into everybody's brains may have been from a newsreel, which would be repeated in any number of later documentaries on the home-front. It is the sort of image that would stay with you, for the same reason Coyote attempts to inflict anvils on Roadrunner.
Library of Congress Digital Resources
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 01/01/09 10:03:41 EST

Call me cynical, but the idea that thousands of anvils were scrapped for the war effort is beginning to take on the earmarks of an urban myth. Even if this elusive image does turn up, the fact that there is no documentation on the web (as it would appear: try googling "anvil scrap iron war")of the phenomenon suggests to me that it was rare or non-existent. I know, I know, "the absence evidence" etc. But when the absence of evidence is also supported by logic, the burden shifts to the one asserting a propostition (in this case that thousands of anvils were scrapped). Consider this: these were "scrap" drives, not "used tool" drives. Why would the anvil, of all tools, be singled out for wholesale scrapping? For every anvil in the country there was a forge, a blower, probably a post drill, probably more than one leg vise, several hammers and other forging tools, etc. Where are the piles of these things being scrapped? Is there evidence of any other tool being scrapped in large quantities? Is the idea that all these other things were still useful tools, but anvils were old fashioned, obsolete relics? The post drills and leg vises would still be useful when Johhny came marching home? Back to his farm shop that was still fully equipped except for that silly old anvil we got rid of?

Aside from this elusive photo, what exactly is the evidence that anvils were scrapped in quantity?

And if the anvil photo turns up what are we to make of it? That of all the undifferentiated scrap being collected, anvils were somehow segregated or collected separately to begin with? Isn't it just as likely that these anvils were being culled from scrap and saved? Or that the anvils were manufacturers stock, rather than collected at large?

Peter Hirst - Thursday, 01/01/09 10:58:20 EST

The Anvil Pile Photo:
Peter, it DOES exist. I am one of many that remember seeing it. There was a caption but I do not remember specifics.

That the anvils were in a scrap yard was evident. Exactly why the were segregated and where they were going may never be known. Even if TOLD they were going to scrap they may have been segregated to resell.

There are good practical reasons for segregating anvils from forges and other cast tools. It is still done in scrap yards today. Steel parts are separated from cast iron because they sell at different prices and go to different markets. Clean cast iron scrap is reused the easiest by foundries to make more castings. Scrap steel to be remelted goes to raw iron making and to steel mills. Other metals are likewise separated.

On the other hand. Until VERY recently old anvils of all types and conditions were not highly regarded. Many setting in metal working shops were used for cutting and welding stands resulting in many notches, cuts and arc spatter. Until after fairly wide discrimination of Anvils in America and the popularity of ebay (1999 up) you could not give away an old Colonial hornless anvil. I have blacksmith friends that turned down more than they could haul away from rural Pennsylvania at $5 apiece in the 1980's even when anvil demand was high among new smiths. Now on this very log we have people arguing over the history of PARTS of a broken down worn out piece of anvil that really should have gone to scrap years ago.

The big scrap drives were also at the crux of the change from the horse drawn era to the machine era and the final domination of machine made goods over hand made. Anvils by the millions were no longer essential tools and any in not perfect condition or being actively used would have been a target to be scraped. While it seems stupid and ignorant we have been doing the same with perfectly good manual machine tools over the past 20 to 30 years and in the past decade hundreds of "small" steam/air hammers in the 300-500 pound range have gone to scrap.

Just prior to this era you see ads for anvil repair with dozens of anvils in terrible condition lined up to photograph. Industry had rows of forges were tools and parts were made by hand AT anvils.

With an abrupt end to the horse drawn era, hard times and war time scrap drives where patriotism was displayed in every way to the extreme I see no logical reason there was NOT a least one if not more piles of anvils in scrap yards.

The only question is what happened to the photograph that so many of us have seen. The rest cannot be answered.
- guru - Thursday, 01/01/09 15:23:46 EST

There is a picture in the front of some blacksmithing book or other that I have here somewhere of anvils stacked up in a factory waiting to be shipped out and used/abused. Could that be what is tormenting youse guys?
Miles Undercut - Thursday, 01/01/09 17:25:57 EST

I guess if you quit blacksmithing and went into auto repair full time, you'd want to get the forge and blower out of the way as soon as possible. The anvil, though, would be just the thing to slide under a bench in case you needed it for something. If you were feeling particularly patriotic, you might remember it when a scrap drive was announced.

I'm still not sure why a scrap yard would separate anvils from other heavy steel scrap. But I suppose they could have been "posed" to make an impressive picture. If so, it seems to have it been successful. According to Frank, though, moving a pile of anvils is a lot of work (grin).
Mike BR - Thursday, 01/01/09 17:46:14 EST

Guru: I am assuming that the picture does exist. I just don't believe it supports the story that millions of anvils were scrapped for the war, so I am asking where the story comes from. I'm not arguing with the premise that somewhere there is a picture of a big pile of anvils in a scrap yard. I am just asking -- not rhetorically BTW -- whether there is anything to this this story of millions of anvils being scrapped for the war. So far there doesn't appear to be.

As for the picture, if separating by iron content explains it, why just anvils? There is of course a very fundamental reason to separate cast from steel, but separating anvils from everything else doesn't accomplish that, does it? In yards I have seen, there would be a pile of cast, and a pile of steel, maybe piles of different types and maybe in the 40's there would also have been a pile of wrought. SO where do anvils fit? In The Picture, the anvils were separated by the kind of tool they were -- anvils -- not by the kind of material the were. In fact they couldn't have been, could the? Unless they were also separated by maker, the picture is a very mixed pile of cast iron, wrought iron and steel. And if they were separated just because the WERE mixed materials, where are all the other mixed material objects: such as cast forges with steel legs,steel pipe with cast fittings, post drills with cast frames and tables, and steel shafts, cast blowers with steel stands and gears, cast engine blocks with steel cranks and pistons? Nope, these were segregated only by the fact that the were anvils -- material type doesn't explain it.

If they were scrapped because they were no longer essential tools, where are all the other non-essential tools? Did a zillion forges and post drills and leg vises get scrapped too? This is the 1940's, not the 1980's. Agribusiness had not yet taken over agriculture: the family farm was still the essential economic unit of a big portion of the country. Show me a farmer from 1940 who would have saidsure, go ahead, take the anvil. Just leave the forge, I still need that. Sure, we saw a lot of anvils used for benches and doorstops and such in the 80's. That tells us nothing about how they were valued 40 years earlier. Nor does scrapping of air hammers in the past 20 years tell us anything about the 40's, other than that these things things weren't scrapped back then. If they were scrapped for the war, how could there be more than you could haul away for 5 bucks in Pennsylvania in the 80's?

Nope, I ain't buyin. The logical reason for not seeing piles of anvils in scrap yards is that there is no logical reason to create a pile just of anvils if they went for scrap. Why wouldn't there would been millions of individual anvils randomly distributed in the all the piles of engine blocks, anchors, pipe tees, railings and bed frames, not neatly segregated in a pile all their own.

The question is not what happened to the photo. The question is what does it mean? Wihout more, it just as likely means that someone did recognize their value and salvaged them from the scrap heap as that they were no longer essential tools. And yes, the rest certainly can be answered. The story that all these anvils went to scrap during the war can be chased to ground. If its just a story that has been told secons and third hand, based on things like The Picture, then its just that, a story. If some foundry has a record of receiving a zillion Fisher anvils for recasting, that's something else. So what is there along these lines?

ANybody have an original source for the story of wholesale scrapping of anvils during the war?
Peter Hirst - Thursday, 01/01/09 17:48:39 EST

Speaking of anvil mysteries, I have a squib from an old Anvil's Ring that says there are/were massive anvils all over a beach on the island of Truk. Figure that one out after you unravel the riddle of the pile.
Miles Undercut - Thursday, 01/01/09 21:39:18 EST

Scrap Yards: Peter, I've been to a LOT of scrap yards, some with hundreds of piles of segregated stuff, often by item type. Automobile engines used to be mostly cast iron but they are full off steel parts and aluminium pistons. They are segregated in stages of separation. Other auto parts such as transmissions and rear axels also used to be separated. Wheels with tires go in one pile and wheels without in another. Old radiators are often in seperate piles because they are fairly clean cast iron and local foundries will buy them on the spot for premium prices. Sinks and tubs are ceramic coated and often seperated. Straight clean structurals get set aside while bent, riveted and welded on structurals all go in a seperate pile. Most yards I've been to had line shafting in a seperate pile until the cast iron pulleys could be removed from the steel shafting. The pulleys are in yet a seperate pile IF not broken because the often garner much more than scrap value and are worth the labor to remove then in one piece. They are also clean cast iron when the time comes to moving them as scrap.

Then there are always mountains of too hard to classify junk or just received scrap including everything from old bicycles and house gutters to machine tools and machining chips. . . Some modern scrap yards are not so discriminating but those that specialize in autos use automated and manual sorting lines to remove aluminium, copper, plastic, glass as well as seperate cast from wrought. Modern metal recyclers that put containers out for scrap are also very picky about what goes into each container thus segregating at the source.

In general the majority of anvils are steel and wrought iron but some are also steel and cast iron. They may have tested them with a heavy sledge and set all the Fishers and other cast body anvils that easily broke in yet ANOTHER pile. I wasn't there.

But to say that yards did not (or do not) seperate scrap by general item type is just not true and it was much more common when labor was cheaper than it is today.

AND I know a few smiths and anvil dealers that could easily amass a pile of anvils sufficient to look like a mountain of anvils when viewed at the right angle. . . They were and still sometimes do sell for scrap prices.
- guru - Thursday, 01/01/09 22:03:26 EST

What does 1 picture mean?: Since there was perhaps only 1 picture of a pile of anviles some place, My guess is that there were probably not "millions" of anviles scrapped for the war effort. I guess even a hundred would make a picture worthy pile, and there may not have been too many of those piles.

I know from what My Dad told of the scrap drive that they [including Him] did scrap an older used but working piano for the chunk of cast iron in it. My Dad purchased a Model A Ford from a junk yard and put a rebuilt engine in it during the war [His first car], but many obsolete autos and farm implements as well as anything You could imagine did get scrapped.

In the '70s one of My uncles worked in a steel mill, and amongst the scrap they took in to melt were brand new wrenches with the manufacturers name defaced. These were seconds that were not going to be sold, but not something the manufacturer could recycle in house.
- Dave Boyer - Thursday, 01/01/09 22:34:16 EST

The Story Grows as it Goes:
Scrap Anvils:

Actually, I don't think that there was a whole-scale scrapping of anvils; but one picture is sometimes enough to precipitate a mindset in the general public.

It sort of reminds me of the medieval legend of St. Ursala and her virgin companions (after whom the Virgin Islands are named). The legend said that she and her pious companions were martyred by the Huns; which would have put it in the 5th century. In the earliest legends it's St. Ursala and her 11 virgin companions; a little later it was St. Ursala and her 1100 virgin companions; and in the late medieval legends it was St. Ursala and her 11,000 virgin companions (a number that would have given even a Hun some room for thought).

Different stuff has different values according to context; and we regret the loss more so as the supply diminishes. How many '57 Chevys are left? How many '57 Chevys were crushed, melted down and recycled? This thread has had a lot of examples of what would be greatly treasured now that was wasted in the past; but we can't keep it all. War is ultimately extraordinarily wasteful, and people will do extraordinary things for the sake of survival. Then once the war is over, economic necessity makes short work of redundant equipment that doesn't have an immediate civilian use. Peacetime economics can be just as wasteful, if not as violent, until rarity or new-found popularity once again increases the value of furniture or tools or artwork or clothing. Specific groups are sensitized to specific forms of waste; and as I've said before, anvils make a powerful visual statement.

...and at Oakley Forge:

Meanwhile, at the new forge, I seem to spend about 1/3rd of my time looking for tools or supplies from the move. There's a cruel balance in time between trying to finish projects and organizing the equipment and stock so that I can finish the project more quickly. I ran into the new owner of the old stripping house last night at the New Years Eve party and officially turned over the key in front of witnesses. The page turns with the year.

The Old Stripping House; Home of Oakley Forge for Over 20 Years
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 01/01/09 22:37:17 EST

Scrap Yards: For us users of scrap, we'd sooner know what it is before we remelt it in an EAF. (Or in an induction furnace for an iron foundry). We really don't like nasty little surprises found only after we melt the material. We'll pay more for segregated scrap of known chemistry and type - heavy melting versus shredded, slitter's usually top grade and dollar as well, etc.

We also check incoming scrap - every load, and I do mean every load is run through radiation detection, and all loads are spot checked for chemistry as well.
- Gavainh - Friday, 01/02/09 00:39:16 EST

where i live : hey so im new to blacksmithing but a friend and i are starting to get into it :). im not sure if this would be the right place to ask but all over this site you guys mention an organization called ABANNA and i was wondering if this group would extend into canada and if not would there be a group in canada that i could contact ? thanks alot
- shaun morrow - Friday, 01/02/09 02:22:38 EST

ABANA Canada:
Shaun, Depending where you are in Canada there are local Canadian chapters of ABANA (see We have a site with group listings in Canada on

However, many of the Canadian groups do not have or their web sites come and go. Look for them on the ABANA site and call the contacts. Note that many of the affiliate sites are intermittently volunteer maned and are often not up to date.

Most ABANA affiliates have monthly meetings at different or sometimes the same shop. Depending on the schedule there will be demonstrations and or lessons. You will find that these are generally the best folks in the world to ask for information, help or buy tools from.

While there SHOULD be a group in your province it may be a considerable distance away. Normally it is worth the travel and a camp out if necessary. Do be sure about the schedule.
- guru - Friday, 01/02/09 09:18:41 EST

Scrap: Having managed the sale of scrap for about 10 years I can testify that scrap is still segerated. The price differential between mixed scrap to the ultimate "heavy melt" is tremendous. If you are a large producer of scrap, say an industrial forge, that may scrap 5 to 7 million pounds a year, the pricing makes it a survival issue to segreate the shavings from the flashings from the bar ends and to not mix.
When scrap jumped up about 4 years ago, I got a directive to sell a 40 year accumulation of dies, tools, odd forgings,machines and what all from a 6.5 acre "warehouse' That warehouse was an old city trolly shed, unheated, leaky roof and there was metal of every description in there. I started with the die blocks. They were too large, at 5000 to 10.000# each to get into the heavy melt but were all alloy tool steel. The die inserts were in the heavy melt. After several months of 2 to 6 trailer loads a day, it was discovered that a set of tool holders had been mismarked and scrapped. I went to the yard, and sure enough they were able to find those blocks in the pile of tool holders. The dies were in another mountain by themselves, the inserts were in their own oile as were the forgings. The misc were no where to be seen as they went intothe shredder and were GONE. This is a state of the art yard.
They break rail cars in that yard, and the wheels and axles were in one pile, the couplers in another, and the the car sides, intact were in yet another. It seems the sides have resale value to other yards as fences!
I saw a huge pile of cast sheaves and line shaft wheels, as well as cast implement wheels. They do not sell anything except to steel mills and brokers from that yard due to libiality. The rail car sides go to other yards in the corporation.
ptree - Friday, 01/02/09 09:36:10 EST

Scrap anvils and forges: The grand old man of scrap in Louisville has bought scrap from the companies I have worked from since I started. He is now 83 years young and still at it. The first yard I dealt with when I worked at the valve shop sold to a now defunct company he was the main buyer/seller. The held things like motors and machines to resell at both wholesale and retail.
After WWII, He told me that they had warehouses of new, unrun aircraft radials engines, and when he found out I was a blacksmith he related how he had bought thousands of US ARMY surplus forges. all in nice little OD green boxes, unused. He said he only had gotten about 500 anvils in that auction. He said the anvils resold much quicker than the forges. He said that some of the forges were still in the warehouse 20 years later. Of course all gone by the time he spoke to me. I asked him to watch for powerhammers and so forth, but he was buying for the no resale company by then:(
ptree - Friday, 01/02/09 09:43:04 EST

Scrap or not to Scrap : True Stories: A number of years ago I traded for a 350 Niles Bement hammer from a friend in Oklahoma who had bought two hammers from a forge shop that had taken them out of service and put them in the yard.

When he showed up to take delivery the yard had been cleaned out the previous week except for the two hammers. However, the anvils, 5,000 and 10,000 pounds worth had gone with the scrap which had been loaded directly onto rail cars and was LONG GONE.

Luckily a friend had a scrap 750 Chambersburg which had the same size anvil as the larger Niles. In exchange for the hammer without anvil he found me a piece of steel for the anvil to go under my hammer. I still need to assemble the anvil and make a die holder. . .

In the 1980's we built machinery for Nuclear Power plants. It was very heavy machinery as it all had integral radiation shielding (steel 4" to 6" thick). One set went to a plant in California that was taken out of operation due to one of those famous California voter "propositions". A local nuclear services company bought our machinery and parked it on their back lot to rust. It was VERY sad to see machinery we had put so much care in designing and building just setting rusting. . .

A few years later some idiot broke one of the most expensive parts on one of our machines that was still in use. It was a 12" thick 12" diameter multi-layer lead glass tooling window with a center bushing for holding tooling. It was one of those little $80k parts that takes a year to make as the special optical grade high density (5.2 lead glass was a LONG lead item. Of course they needed the replacement yesterday!

"So" I asked, "What happened to the California machine?" Oh, we SCRAPPED all that. . . I said, "Well, it may have been for a different set of plant equipment but many of the parts were the same, including the window they needed."

They managed to obtain the window and made the scrap man very happy. He was taking better care of the machinery than the service company had. . . There was 4 more plain windows (only $40k each) and all sorts of common parts that fit our other equipment.

We had discussed buying the remaining equipment but the scrap dealer had a contract that the stuff could only be resold to be scrap, not working parts. It has all gone to scrap now and there is talk of restarting the plant that the machinery was built for. . . I may spend my retirement years building that machinery again at 10x the original cost. . .
- guru - Friday, 01/02/09 10:28:09 EST

Scrap-- all us dedicated junk scroungers have stories of serendipitous finds. Mine include a working Square Wheel belt grinder, an oldie, pre-Wilton, in perfect working condition, that I found in a trash bin in Albquerque, a 1972 250-amp Miller Dialarc setting forlornly at the local scrap boutique that I got for a hundred bucks that simply needed a new part, and the piece de resiatance, a $10,000 Rotex 18 punch press that some fool junked up in Los Alamos. It is missing the carousel of punches, alas. Rotex, out of the goodness of their heart, will sell me a new carousel mit der punches for a trifling couple of grand plus. Some day....
Miles Undercut - Friday, 01/02/09 12:19:56 EST

SO ptree, you sound like the resident expert: what would a pile of only anvils have been destined for in 1942?
Peter Hirst - Friday, 01/02/09 18:58:56 EST

If I had to guess, that pile of anvils in the photo that I also recall seeing, would not have been terribly usefull for scrap. If cast they would have simply been good as more cast, but if wrought or mixed wrought and cast not very good feed stock for a mill. They would however been VERY useful to resell for all those who in the fast paced war economy needed an anvil. With so many shops gearing up I would think anvils in 1940's America would have been in great demand.
Our Valve, Boiler, and Ice Machine factory grew from about 1000 to 4300 employees working 24/7. They would have expanded the blacksmith shop probably by 4 times, so would have needed another 12 anvils. Where to have found same in the superheated war economy would have been the question.
I would not guess that that pile of anvils went to melt, but went to work. Don't forget that scrap went into the yards and was segerated. The first segeration was resellable as is, and "to melt"
ptree - Friday, 01/02/09 19:53:23 EST

great scrap finds: I found my 2X3' RR style forge in the woods at my inlaws farm and was given it.
I retreived my table saw and three air compressors from the town dump. The table saw and one of the compressors only needed to have the thermal overload reset button pushed in to get them working! The other biggier compressor had been backed into by a car and the motor was dented to the point that it would not turn. No problem, I took the guts out of the motor and very carefully pushed and tapped from the inside untill it was back to shape. (It's a Speed Air cast iron made in USA and VERY nice)
My two best salvage yard finds are the very nice 12hp IH Cub Cadet garden tractor I paid $40. for and only needed a new spark plug to get it going and the entire front clip, hood, wind sheild halves, entire dash panel, and all the external engine parts from a 1951 Chevy truck identical to mine all for $200.
- merl - Saturday, 01/03/09 00:21:00 EST

Scrap find: Best scrap find I have had is my wife:) the USAF scrapped her as disabled, she came back to KY where I had met her to go to law school. :)

I have lugged home the following scrap free, Acorn platens, bandsaws belt grinders, a 14.5" x 56" tool makers lathe,metal sideing to build my shop and huge amounts of pipe.
I paid $0.06/# for the unused 4" x0.95" wall 24' long boiler tube that became the rafters for my shop, as well as Starret/Brown &Sharpe etc measuring tools in good condition.
The world we live in is very wastefull

I would not that that first find free at first has cost me more in the long run than fixing up all the rest:) More fun though!:)
ptree - Saturday, 01/03/09 09:42:01 EST

scrap finds: I'd give my eye teeth to find some Acorn platens at the scrapyard. I just got a book that illustrates an entire factory floor made out of platens for doing really big bends and fabrications.

Best I've done is bring home 2 OBI presses, a 55 ton and a 15, and a PierceAll 35 ton Perfamator that was plug and run ready save for a missing side gage. All for $500 and the guys at the yard were so glad to see them not going to China that they now call me whenever they see something similar.
- Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 01/03/09 17:50:16 EST

Acorn platens: Judson, the acorns i harvested were in the floor as well. They were between railroad rails so had been cut to narrow in one demension. We had to use a backhoe to get them out and one broke. The platens that PaPaw got came from me and A local smith got a narrow slice, about 2.5' by 5' I left 4 more in the floor as I left that job.
ptree - Saturday, 01/03/09 20:05:54 EST

Buzz Box maintenace: I have a Lincoln buzz box that has served me well and faithfully for over 30 years, but has developed one mechanical problem. The dial amperage selector is suddenly really sticky, so much so that I have to crank it so hard to move it that it is almost impossible to stop it on the correct stop. I assume its rust in the stops, but am not sure how to get at it or what to lube it with, if anything. Is there a way to free the thing up without opening it up? Anything else I need to know before venturing into the buzz box? Besides unplugging it???!!!!
Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/03/09 22:20:35 EST

Buzz Boxes. . .: Peter, Be sure the capacitors are discharged before touching any of the electrics. Shorting the supply and the welding leads should discharge them. But a jumper to ground does not hurt.

In most of the crank adjustable types they had plain plastic bearings that either held up or not. If the shaft has rusted you will need to polish it up and possibly replace the bushing. These little pain in the neck parts are often no longer available and are what a lathe is for if maintaining old equipment.

CLEAN the inside. Dust and dirt do more damage than anything and REALLY collect in these little fan ventilated boxes. Check the fan condition, they often need to be replaced. Insects and mice do a lot of damage as well.

Check the wiring. Bare wires are normal inside these units except for the high voltage (input) stuff. Supply cords should be replaced while the thing is open if it has started cracking and failing.

In these slide adjustable types if the adjustment rails are still tight the lubricant may have gotten gummy or full of dirt. In my old Miller they are worn so not too tight but need to be adjusted to reduce noise. The Miller manual said to ONLY use their special grease. . . which I never obtained but would ask about before lubricating these parts.

If you lube and adjust the guides be sure they are not too tight and they parts travel their full range. If it gets too tight in spots then loosen the guides.

Ken had a welder similar to mine and something got too tight with age, the handle snapped and the shaft eventually failed at the top of the housing. Stiffness of the slide guides was probably the problem. I think he finally got it fixed.

The mechanics are pretty simple but typically cheap. The electrics are the same. AND I don't think I've seen two alike even thought they had similar model numbers. You just have to study what you have and go from there. IF the maker still provides manuals GET ONE.
- guru - Sunday, 01/04/09 00:19:42 EST

T.P.: Was out of town today I saw a fella driving a truck and I thought it was Tom Powers. I had to look at the plates. Determined it wasn't him. We do grow them rough up here in the mountains...GRIN. It lead into a conversation with the person I was with about T.P.'s & Ptree's fun goofy hats. :)
- Rustystuff - Sunday, 01/04/09 00:52:31 EST

Buzz Box Repair: I salvaged an old Miller Thunderbolt buzz box from the dumpster a couple years ago. It was rusty and dirty and the crank to adjust the amperage was broken, obviously due to having frozen up and then having been forced. I had to order a piece of brass threaded rod and do a fussy little job of fitting it into the broken piece in the choke. A bit kludgy (okay, more than a bit), but it did work fine afterwards and I gave it to a friend who could use it.

I have an old Century AC/DC box that is still serving me well after almost forty years, due mostly to periodic cleanings and the occasional replacement of DIN sockets. It uses a slider-type choke rather than a crank.
vicopper - Sunday, 01/04/09 01:04:47 EST

Buzz Box Blues: The repair and maintenance went beautifully, thanks to the help here. The rotary contact was sticking on the bakelite lugs between contacts. A little toothbruching with WD-40 freed it right up. Turns out both the knob and shaft are nylon, so there's plenty of flex in it which makes it feel sloppy even when its not. Plenty of dust and peeled paint inside, a little surface rust on the transformer core and sheet metal. Wirebrushing and rusty metal primer took care of that. A little oil and WD-40 on the fan, replaced the wood base no kidding, not just feet, the actual base the frame is mounted on is 1x6 oak. Gotta love a welder with wooden parts. Amazing what a simple machine the buss box is: big iron core, couple of windings, 6 or 8 taps on the electrode lead, on-off switch, a 120 tap for the fan and the rotary amperage/voltage selector. The whole thing could be packed into a box half or a third the size of the tombstone case: its mostly empty space inside. Didn't see a capacitor, rectifier or any such electric gimcracks anywhere. Nothing but a transformer. No wonder thay last so long: the only moving parts are the switch, fan shaft and rotor shaft, most of the exposed metal is copper or brass. Fired it up and did a couple of modificatons to the welding table. Works like new. BTW, the instant darkening mask is the greatest thing since sliced bread. SO smooth I can't even perceive the phase shift. Point-8 millisecond response. Unbelievable difference in startng a spark precisely positioned, especially for fine work at low amps.
Peter Hirst - Sunday, 01/04/09 17:20:38 EST

Nylon Parts old welders:
The problem with nylon is that it often needs lubrication BUT it swells when wet or oiled. So common lubes are a gamble. Silicon grease (the 100% stuff) and some sliding part white grease is compatible. The wrong stuff can cause swelling and seizure.

The type of welder you are working on does not have the moving core of many later adjustable welders. Multi tap types are dead simple. Unless they are DC they have no need for diodes but some do have capacitors to stabilize the arc and make starting the arc easier.

I have an old motor-generator welder that needs a new switch from too many years setting outdoors. Even though it is no more than a multi-tap welder the switch is a big rotary thing that very complicated and difficult to replicate. Worse, it was privately branded as an Atlanta Cryogenics machine, a company that I can find no trace of. . . and Marquette was bought out by Lincoln long ago.

I had a guy interested in it a few years ago and I should have let him have it for ANY offer.
- guru - Sunday, 01/04/09 18:05:56 EST

Peter Hirst: Check this out:

This is the manual for the Idealarc 250. If You have a different machine, look up the manual on the Lincoln website under " Obsolete Manuals".
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 01/04/09 21:45:33 EST

Peter Hirst:

This is the one for Your machine.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 01/04/09 21:58:02 EST

DAve: Thanks for the reference225 S is correct. Talk about simplicity. The following is the entire maintenance section from the manual:
Routine preventative maintenance is not required. See your local Lincoln Electric Authorized Field Service Shop for necessary repairs"
Peter Hirst - Sunday, 01/04/09 22:59:25 EST

Well I don't know how far some of you are from WWII; but I remember my Father telling us about scrap drives that were focused on particular items. Also a "logical" explination for a picture of a big stack of stuff---Morale! Have you not seen any of the newsreels that glorify how much stuff they were saving/making/contributing to the war effort?

Of course almost all my shop anvils were purchased from "illogical" sources---way to get then cheap!

I never had thought that a hospital was a logical place to find a forge and anvil till I met a retired WWII orthopedic blacksmith and one of a squad of them attached to a local hospital.

And of course I did buy the massive postvise from a car repair place---they anvil and forge went too high for me---they had been in the same building since 1919 and of course had a forge set up for car repair; shoot they had a complete set of 1920's wood working machinery for car repair.

Logic is a frail reed sometimes and the net is not always a good source of information---I really must put up that web site claiming that Jock is actually the love child of Andrew Carnegie and an alian from Acturus 6...

Thomas P - Monday, 01/05/09 13:27:46 EST

Scrap pile finds: One of my smithing students came in yesterday; he had been going through his grandmother's scrap pile that his uncle had wanted to sell off when scrap was high. He had found a non-working rused up blower previously that his uncle had latched onto. Now when he dug deeper he found 2 working blowers that his grandmother gave to him! This scrap pile is in town too!

Thomas P - Monday, 01/05/09 13:30:33 EST

P-tree: If you get that mill, I have a BUNCH of cutters for sale, cheap.
John Christiansen - Monday, 01/05/09 14:13:53 EST

"Orthopedic blacksmith" sounds like something you'd find on the resume of an ex-IRA type. (Grin, and no offense to anyone, I hope).
Mike BR - Monday, 01/05/09 18:06:04 EST

John Christiansen, once I look over the machine, and if I do buy, you will hear from me as I will probably need to add to the tooling that is included.
ptree - Monday, 01/05/09 18:19:23 EST

Illogical Places:
I bought a nearly complete blacksmith shop from a Cellophane factory! It was a 1930's factory and had a complete machine shop with huge machinery for making much of the factory equipment in-house. The factory also had its own coal fired power plant, a sheet metal shop and wood working shop.

The blacksmith shop had a 50 pound LG, big RR forge, swage, cone mandrel, SS quench tub, a big hand built foreman's desk cabinet, an out of place bar fold (edge brake) and hiding in the back of some big wooden cabinets about 100 top and bottom tools. I purchased the lot for $1800.

I also bought a perfect 21" Excelsior drill press and Brown and Sharp surface grinder at the same auction.

At a Cellophane factory!
- guru - Monday, 01/05/09 23:30:34 EST

windfalls: I haven't had fantastic luck at junk yards or auctions, but when I was still shoeing about half the time, a customer asked me if I did blacksmithing. I replied that I did, and he went to a shed and brought out 7 pairs of tongs, all Athas, mint condition, and gave them to me. He bought them in the 1940's and had never got around to setting up a farm forge. They were graduated in size, 4 flat jawed, and 3 bolt. I still have them.
- Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/06/09 07:50:26 EST

Junk Finds: Saddest part about a disposable society is that all the good junk finds will eventually disappear as they just won't exist anymore. Of course I did get a Starret crystal pink two ledge 36"X48" laboratory grade surface plate for $500.00 along with some $50.00 each, 6 foot maple top workbenches when the company I worked for started closing factories and downsizing. The bosses got the real good deals, they just took what they wanted when our shop got closed. So much stuff goes missing when you close that many buildings it just isn't funny. Had friend that was a manager for the catalog sales warehouse in Chicago when it got closed. His stories of what went in the dump are enough to make you cry. Apparently anything that didn't get sold before a line was discontinued just got piled up at the back of the warehouse and forgotten because sears wouldn't sell it to discounters because of their return policy or something like that.
- Robert Cutting - Tuesday, 01/06/09 08:55:15 EST

Factories: I know of complete blacksmith shops in a sugar refining mill in Kansas and a glass manufacturer in AR. Pretty much any "old time" factory had a smithy set up as an adjunct to the maintenance shop and tool room.

Unfortunately scrappers often get such equipment as the auctions are not advertised to the public and they generally want a fast sale. When my last job sold off the factory they went through thousands of "lots" in a single day many with almost no bids---you had to be fast on your feet and pay attention---how I got a massive screw press for $50.

Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/06/09 11:30:33 EST

Virtually every big industrial forge shop has/had a blacksmith shop to make tongs, racks tools and linkages etc. Some of the best maintained and least abused powerhammers we prize come from these shops.
ptree - Tuesday, 01/06/09 18:26:27 EST

Rustystuff; there was no copyright law in England until fairly recently (Charles Dickens had a dickens of a problem with folks pirating his works). Recent laws do not cover works written in the 17th century. Even if they do there is a limited time that copyright extends after the death of the holder. I believe that Sir Francis Bacon's claim has past that...

Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/06/09 19:31:26 EST

Also while the Bible does not touch on copyright it does put theft in a rather short list of commandments...

Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/06/09 19:32:51 EST


I think you've got the Dickens story a little wrong. At least according to the biography I read a year or two ago. The problem was a lack of international copyright.

His works were protected in England, but the English copyright wasn't recognized in the U.S. As soon as a copy make it across the pond, a publisher here could print and sell as many as he wanted. In one case Dickens had his publisher hold release of a novel until the day afer the fast ship left for the U.S. (I think this was mostly out of spite, since he still wouldn't get any royalties from U.S. sales.)
Mike BR - Tuesday, 01/06/09 19:39:47 EST

Thomas & Mike
Very interesting.
Tom: I like what you said about stealing and theft. Good perspective.
- Rustystuff - Wednesday, 01/07/09 00:19:17 EST

Hey guys there is a 496 lb. Peter Wright for sale on Cleveland craigslist. Wish I lived close enough...
- vorpal - Wednesday, 01/07/09 04:41:13 EST

Oxy petrol cutter: I have just been watching a video on you tube. That thing is amazing! So fast, much faster than OA, cheaper, safer and leaves a cleaner cut as well. So why had I never heard of it? What is the drawback?
- philip in china - Thursday, 01/08/09 01:25:02 EST

Gasoline Cutting Torch- Petro-Gen:
Petro-Gen gasoline cutting torch has been around for a long time. It not about how low cost they work, seems there is still a lot of fear in having Gasoline near a flame. And yes they cut cleaner than anything else, and use a lot less Ox to do that. They will also cut through a multiple stack of dirty plate where Acet or Propane will only burn the first plate. The lowest priced unit is about $1200!
- tmac - Thursday, 01/08/09 01:52:16 EST

Looks lik an "anvil collector" has hit the ropes in Pageland SC; wonder how much the on-up goes...

bunch of anvils
Thomas P - Thursday, 01/08/09 18:09:26 EST

Anvils: Hope he's not trying to get $150.00 out of those broken ones. Pretty sweet find if his prices aren't ridiculous.
Robert Cutting - Thursday, 01/08/09 18:15:11 EST

bunch of anvils: Looks like he has that table set up on folding saw horses. Don't put your toes under that table, most folding horses are not worth the metal they are made out of.
Judson Yaggy - Friday, 01/09/09 09:59:13 EST

Hospital orthopaedic shops: Dad was an orthotist for 50 years. When he started, the shop was renting space in one of the local hospitals in Lexington. The first job they taught you was forging 5/8" bars into knee & ankle joints for leg braces. Now those parts are prefab stuff.
- Brian C. - Friday, 01/09/09 14:38:24 EST

Alternative to Microsoft: Has anyone tried the FREE alternative to MS OFFICE called "Open Office"? It is really free, can be downloaded at www.openoffice.ORG and is fully compatible with all MS Office applications. MS OFFICE is selling for about $400 at Office Depot and I refuse to buy it. I downloade Open Office and it works just fine and at a price I can afford!!!!
quenchcrack - Friday, 01/09/09 18:53:15 EST

MS Software: QC, I avoid as much of it as possible except for Windirt. Office applications starting with OE are the real security and virus spreaders on the internet. If it were not for the ease of launching viruses and spreading them with a mail client and browser that are integrated into the OS we would not have NEARLY the trouble with viruses AND spam as we have today.

The problem with applications that try to be too much like Microsnot's is that they end up with many of the same security issues.

There are options to ALL of the MS Office applications. Corel's Wordperfect suite is good and WP is far superior to Word as you can really tell what you are doing in a document. There are many mail clients that do not integrate into the OS such as Eudora.

Having all your programs talk to each other sounds like a good idea until a Word macro launched from OE takes over IE installing multiple instances of its installer hidden in the registry and downloads more trojans and viruses which then use your system to mail more of the same to everyone you ever contacted AND mails your Excel spread sheets with all your financial data to the world at large as a dummy attachment. . .

While it sounds like cheap unimaginative science fiction you KNOW it is actual reality all due to Bill Gates and his monopoly that the government SHOULD have broken up. MS is the REAL terrorist among us all.

Compatibility? Microsnots stuff is not even compatible with itself from one version to the other. Outsiders stuff might work better with MS files than MS but it is a constantly moving target. If you want compatibility stick to ASCII text and HTML for formatting. A 20 year old Lotus 123 spread sheet had 8126 rows and 26x26 columns and performed ALL the math functions that the newest spread sheets do. You could build the biggest building, design the largest power plan and navigate to the stars with Lotus 123 1a and its clones. So why change? The only reason I do not use my old DOS spread sheet is that it will no longer install on a Windirt OS and I no longer have a DOS machine.

If you really want to get away from MS then Linux is getting to be a more and more viable option.
- guru - Saturday, 01/10/09 00:18:27 EST

Computer Security: Guru, I use PC-Cillin, Spy-bot, and Glary Utilities to keep my computer clean. I do regular deep scans and delete anything I don't recognize in my email. I have had this computer for three years and so far, not one virus. Unfortunately, nothing out there will completely prevent problems, especially if it starts with "MS".
quenchcrack - Saturday, 01/10/09 08:00:29 EST

Computer Security: No software is completely safe. Your best defense is as Quenchcrack noted above. Even with all of the virus scans and botblockers your better off using this rule:

If you do not know who the email came from DON'T OPEN THE ATTACHMENT and DON'T CLICK THE LINKS! Actually, even you do know, if it looks suspicious don't delete the email.

That is in addition to robust virus protection. It takes both to be the safest. (Though still not 100%)
Rob Dobbs - Saturday, 01/10/09 13:41:17 EST

Computer Security: Correction:
If it looks suspicious DO delete the email. Don't open it, don't look at it, just delete.

Rob Dobbs - Saturday, 01/10/09 13:43:01 EST

Rust: The problem: Tools rusting
The real problem: It's just not that simple

Here in Coloma we have several "stations" for the tourists to see. One is the blacksmith shop with no trouble w rust. Another is "Sutter's Mill". Today one of the Mill docents and I opened the box that stores the tools for the mill and they were DRIPPING w condensation. Some of the modern tools were just starting to rust, but some of the "made in the Coloma BS shop" had completely turned black even though I KNOW one was oiled before being delivered.

The situation is: The tools are stored outdoors in a big plywood box about 4X4X6 feet. The box is tight w an overhanging lid and a rubber gasket, but not airtight. Moist air can get in, but rain will not.

The weather: In the winter (now) the temperature gets down to below freezing at night but ALWAYS goes up to above freezing during the day - ie cold and wet, but never cold and dry for long. At 750 feet above sea level we are technically about 1,000 feet below the snow line, but it has snowed. About 1/2 inch along the tops of fence rails, never covering the ground, but it occasionally stays cold enough for a trace of the snow to remain throughout the next day.

OK, The obvious solution is to oil the tools. The problem is even if the "mill" docents were religious about oiling each tool as it is put back into the box, sometimes the box is not opened for weeks (especially in winter).

Do we need: 1) A tighter box (airtight)? 2) A more open box (drill a lot of holes) because the tools in the blacksmith shop (which has a LOT of cross ventilation) never seem to accumulate condensation? 3) Store the tools in a cabin (bigger than the box, not quite as tight, but tighter than the BS shop? Find an oil that will survivefor months (WD40 has been suggested, but no one is sure how long it will last under the conditions)? 4) Oiled leather or cloth sleeves for each tool?

I think you see the problem.

Any solutions?

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


- Rudy - Saturday, 01/10/09 22:36:06 EST

Rust : Rudy,

What I've consistently found to be the best preventative for rust here in my marine environment is Vaseline. Basically the same thing as the old military Cosmoline, just a bit cleaner and more expensive. Good for months and months if properly applied to clean steel.

Another good product is Bullfrog Rust Blocker. Available from

WD40 is definitely not the right thing to use. It displaces water but is not a durable-film vapor blocker or reducing agent.

Old machinists swore by keeping their tools in a wooden tool chest treated with camphor. WIpe the tools with camphor oil and put a block of camphor in the chest, too.

vicopper - Sunday, 01/11/09 00:47:13 EST

I have found that wipeing or spraying on a coat of hydraulic oil or automatic trans fluid works very well.
For some reason waste oil or motor oil does not work very well.
My smithy is unheated and in the spring when things start to thaw I have alot of condensation problems.
Hydraulic oil won't prevent rust on things that get dripped on but, usualy only a very heavy grease will do that.
I also find that I have more rust problems in the garage than in the smithy. Probably because the smithy is more open with better ventilation and more rapid temp changes than in the garage. It seems that the conditions that cause condensation move through the smithy more rapidly and therefore have less time to cause problems.
- merl - Sunday, 01/11/09 01:14:14 EST

condensation: I too have bad condensation issues in a dirt floor metal sideing shop with out insulation. I read somewhare that a small oscilating fan, aimed at the ceiling and run 24/7 would reduce the dripping. I tried this and indeed saw a dramatic reduction in the ceiling dripping and a reduction in the general condensation on everything. I was using a 18" table top fan. The fan gave it up after a couple of years of running and I have seen a big increase in condensation. Now is a hard time o find a fan, but as I wrote this I remembered that we have a 10" fan in the camper:) The Rock won't notice till spring.
ptree - Sunday, 01/11/09 07:30:32 EST

condensation: Sure enough found a little cheap fan in the camper, but it was a 12"! running now:)
The old fan had siezed. I can not believe the low quality of the junky old fan, it was only 21 years old, and had only run 24/7 for a few years:)
- ptree - Sunday, 01/11/09 11:03:24 EST

Rudy"s Rust: If You can make the tool storage box as close to air tight as possible and not in direct ground contact it should cut way down on the problems, as long as it is kept closed.

If the box is opened while the tools are cold and the air is warm and humid they will condense water. Closing the nearly airtight box while everything is wet will make the rust problems worse.

Can You store the tools in a tight box inside the cabin? If the cabin air is less humid than the outside air the problems from opening the box should be less, and You could let the box open untill the condensation dissapates and still have some protection.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 01/11/09 21:32:43 EST

We get a lot of problems here with condensation. Books and clothes get mildewed and steel rusts at an alarming rate. I paint tools a as far as possible. So, for example my anvils are both painted except for the face. The face is greased with normal grease- I am sure vaseline would work just fine. I try to apply the coating whilst the tool is still hot. It has helped a tremendous amount. Even tools like hammers and chisels can have significant areas painted and then the bit that actually works can be greased. One other good product whichj is available in UK is Waxoil. It is a waxy product dissolved in paint thinners. It is wonderful stuff and has the advantage that if the film is scratched through to the metal it will actually heal over again! Don't ask how but believe me it works. It can also be used on leather.
- philip in china - Monday, 01/12/09 00:15:41 EST

Condensation and Rust:
I've lived with this for years and there are few really good solutions. I went from having a shop next to a small river in a valley where day and night temperature changes often made it look like it rained IN THE SHOP, to a shop with no back wall and no insulation that literally DOES rain in the shop from condensation on the inside of the roof. . .

Spring and fall are the worst due to cold nights often near freezing then 70 degree F days with moisture laden air.

NEVER use leather to protect tools. Most leather contains salts, acids. . all kinds of substances that create electrolytes and accelerate rust.

A thin wooden tool shed is definitely not water tight. The plywood is only a little more water tight than a screen door (even when painted).

The best way to prevent condensation on tools that are not packed in oil is a stable temperature environment. Water in 50 degree air does not condense on 50 degree tools but races to 40 degree tools. The bigger the difference the more condensation. Keep the tools warmer than the air, no condensation and very little rust. The problems are obvious, mainly cost.

The next thing is a dehumidifier in your tool shed. However, these cost about the same as running a small window air conditioner (costs again). You also need to provide a drain. The air from a dehumidifier is warm so you would also be heating your shed. This is good for the tools as condensation is less likely.

Big walk in size tool chests are very expensive. However, if you can find large scrap electrical enclosures they are great. Most have gasketed doors and if you weld up all the conduit holes they are air and water tight. You can also buy these new. . ouch. Not only do they come with gasketed doors but also latches, handles and various locking arrangements.

THEN there is the red-neck way. . . Many of us keep old refrigerators with a light running in them to keep welding rod dry. Again, you have the combination of warmth and a sealed door. Refrigerators are also insulated. This makes a LITTLE heated room that is near air tight. Could hide it in your tool shed.

You can scale this up. Your tool shed with steel tools in it has uninsulated thermal mass. That is why water is attracted to the surface of the plywood, penetrates and continues to the tools. . . (the tools keep the plywood cool). If you insulate the tool shed there will be less temperature variation AND thus less condensation.

Ideally you want a sealed, insulated box with an active dehumidification system. NOTE: You DO NOT want a dehumidifier with belts. They fail and you don't know it. . .

AND as Phillip noted any bare surface is waiting for rust. Paint every surface, let it wear off working surfaces. Repaint and oil as necessary, keep in a warm dry environment.

Why no rust in the blacksmith shop? It is probably a foot or two above the fog/condensation level in the valley where the Mill is. Look where the morning fogs hang. I've seen them in the Sacramento area. You can draw a line above which the fog never condenses. I'll guarantee there is 80% less rust by going above that line. Then again, most blacksmith tools have a fairly permanent patina of rust that resists more or hides it.
- guru - Monday, 01/12/09 02:42:45 EST

Dry Storage Boxes:
One of our nuclear customers wanted to store several tons of of our very expensive equipment outdoors. SO they bought special sea-land containers with removable lids. They had to have removable tops to load the machinery. . They outfitted each one with a very expensive high efficiency dehumidifier.

The problems:

Someone did not understand why the sealed containers had power going to them and unplugged them.

When this was discovered they put security tags on the connectors. But the rust had started.

Then the belts that rotated the condensation wheels of the dehumidifiers failed. . (in less than a year). There was no inspection schedule and since the boxes had contaminated equipment in them they had to be moved into a secure area just to peak inside. . .

The tops on the (old used) containers did not fit well and had to be sealed with cases of silicon sealant. It wasn't applied well or inspected so water ran in. . not just a condensation problem. AND there was no internal inspection (as above).

The equipment was also wrapped in nuclear yellow containment plastic sheeting held on by (imported) duct tape. . that failed in the summer sun.

Imagine what was found after 5 years of the machinery setting in "damp boxes" rather then "dry storage". Ah, did I mention that these things have wooden floors?

AND so much for best laid plans. . .
- guru - Monday, 01/12/09 03:04:18 EST

Micro$oft: I've been running Linux for years and have been completely M$-free for the entire time, at least at home. OpenOffice is a great alternative to MSOffal. There are a few compatibility issues with Office documents, but mostly it reads and edits them just fine. But if you stay in their ODT format, or use RTF, you're fine forever.

Some nice things about OpenOffice are the "fringe" software. Their Draw program is light-years ahead of MS, and integrates perfectly with Write (their WP). MS bought out Visio, and promptly dragged it down. Not to mention it's extra $$ to get it. Word's draw function is pathetic.

Also, if you use databases, their included Base (I think that's what it's called) works more predictably than MS Access (yet another added $$). I admit that Access is easier for a non-databaser to play with, but it's very limited if you're expanding things. Base has its own basic database engine, but easily works with MySQL, which is an industry standard and very powerful.

There are also lighter, and free, office applications which, while not as powerful as OpenOffice, can handle most of what people do. AbiWord for WP and Gnumeric are a couple of those. Very quick to start up and run.

All in all, the latest Ubuntu offerings have been as complete as I need. Very easy to find and install packages which don't come with the standard Ubuntu distribution. Incredibly easy to install Ubuntu itself, also. Burn a CD, boot from it, and let it do its thing. Laptops, especially brand new ones, might have some pieces, like wireless, missing, though, and that takes some time to sort out. You'll get there, and there are good forums with people who don't mind "dumbing down" to help. But it's not like buying a machine off the shelf with Winblows installed.

- Marc - Monday, 01/12/09 08:27:59 EST

avert tragedy: Be SURE old refrigerators and freezers are totally childproof, especially the ones from the pre-magnetic closer era that could not be pushed open from the inside-- but even with those, keep doors chained or locked shut always.
Miles Undercut - Monday, 01/12/09 11:46:10 EST

Linux: When I do it I'll have to have an alternate machine. I've been running some of my editing programs for over a decade now (a couple with NO upgrades) and I am VERY efficient with them. With no identical versions for Linux I would lose those decades of practice AND predictability (I know their faults). AND while I rarely upgrade software unless I am forced to I DO have a lot invested in licenses that would be no good on Linux.

SO, while you CAN do everything on it, for those entrenched in Windirt it is a very costly change.
- guru - Monday, 01/12/09 13:31:44 EST

corrosion inhibitor: Do a search for vapor corrosion inhibitor. There are several companies that make it, one of which is Corr-Tec. They make a paper that is impregnated with a vapor corrosion inhibitor and you simply wrap the parts in it. I put a piece of oilfield casing with fresh machined thread (degreased) outside in East Texas for the summer with the threads wrapped in this paper and covered with a plastic thread protector. After 3 months, we took them inside and the the threads were perfectly clean. Unprotected threads were all rusted.
quenchcrack - Monday, 01/12/09 20:24:26 EST

I second the vapor phase inhibitor. Corr-Tec makes paper, plastic and neat litte boxes that all emit the vapor.

Another possibility is a spray on vapor inhibitor. At the axle shop we shipped to a warehouse in N. Carolina, that was not air conditioned. The axles were machined and had to have a years rust protection, could not be in any way sticky or have a coating that would hold dirt and grit, as they inserted these axles into fresh differentials and did not allow any dirt to be inserted with the axle. We used a J & M Labs product. It was a liquid concentrate that was sprayed on the axles in a flood type spray. Washed all the machineing swarf and oils off, and dried to a non-sticky finish. It gave that year of rust protection inside in a un temp controlled warehouse. I can find the exact Pn if desired. It would not be suffiecient for outdoors.
- ptree - Monday, 01/12/09 20:31:36 EST

Chained refrigerators: Good point, Miles. If the door isn't chained shut the little buggers might escape.
- Dave Boyer - Monday, 01/12/09 21:17:52 EST

how droll. try telling that to the parents, and the judge.
Miles Undercut - Monday, 01/12/09 22:33:16 EST

Funk & Wagnalls: Are you sure you don't mean "boogers?"
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/13/09 12:52:44 EST

Just to elaborate a little on what Mr in China said,... Waxoil is indeed one of the best anti rust products on the market, its primary use is sealing the underbody / inside the sills etc of automobiles so have a look in auto-factors etc for an equiv product.

I go through a fair bit of it as it is the only product I have found that protects my stash of power hammers in the storage bay,. the company in the adjoining bay pickles stainless steel on a large scale (with poor environmental controls), combined with the damp I doubt you could have much more of an agressive rust environment, Waxoil or Tetroseal all the way!
- John N - Wednesday, 01/14/09 17:43:58 EST

It looks like the "official" spelling is Waxoyl. I found their U.S. distributors, but apparently they only sell to auto repair places. Eastwood has a "Heavy Duty Anti Rust" that may be similiar.
Mike BR - Wednesday, 01/14/09 19:16:20 EST

Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In: Please consider joining us for the 2009 Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In and Smelt on March 21st.-22nd. 2009 in Historic Marriottsville, Maryland

Jesus Hernandez and Walter Sorrells will once again be our featured demostrators. Additional demonstrators and lectures will be happening all weekend. We will have forging on our power hammers as well as metal casting. Event will be at our forge (Baltimore Knife and Sword Co.) and the Church/Studio next door (Fire and Brimstone Studio)

Additional confirmed demonstrators we will be working into the schedule include Jeff Pringle, Kerry and Matt Stagmer, Deker, Larry Nowicki. If you are a demonstrator or are planning to come and have something to share, please touch base as we would like to pack in as much information as possible for attendees.

We will be limiting attendance to 50. Registration will be $65 for the entire weekend to offset our costs. Vendors and tailgating is encouraged at no additional fee and will have separate parking, trailers allowed.

Please visit our site

The site includes accommodations, Schedule, and Artists/Demonstrators.

We will be updating the site often as we confirm additions to the event
- kerry stagmer - Wednesday, 01/14/09 20:58:18 EST

Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In 2009: Please consider joining us for the 2009 Fire and Brimstone Hammer-In and Smelt on March 21st.-22nd. 2009 in Historic Marriottsville, Maryland

Jesus Hernandez and Walter Sorrells will once again be our featured demostrators. Additional demonstrators and lectures will be happening all weekend. We will have forging on our power hammers as well as metal casting. Event will be at our forge (Baltimore Knife and Sword Co.) and the Church/Studio next door (Fire and Brimstone Studio)

Additional confirmed demonstrators we will be working into the schedule include Jeff Pringle, Kerry and Matt Stagmer, Deker, Larry Nowicki. If you are a demonstrator or are planning to come and have something to share, please touch base as we would like to pack in as much information as possible for attendees.

We will be limiting attendance to 50. Registration will be $65 for the entire weekend to offset our costs. Vendors and tailgating is encouraged at no additional fee and will have separate parking, trailers allowed.

Please visit our site

The site includes accommodations, Schedule, and Artists/Demonstrators.

We will be updating the site often as we confirm additions to the event
kerry stagmer - Wednesday, 01/14/09 20:59:30 EST

NOTICE! webmasters with anvilfire server accounts:
We are moving to a new server in the next few days/week. I've tried to contact everyone directly but several contact emails have failed.

Updates made in the next few days or week may be lost and need to be reloaded. Be sure you have a full backup of your web site.
- guru - Thursday, 01/15/09 14:21:01 EST

Off to MarsCon: Leaving tomorrow after noon for my annual gig at the MarsCon Science Fiction and Gaming convention down in Williamsburg. More ironwork to set up at the art show, but not as much as I had hoped. (...something about building and moving a forge until the week before Christmas, I suppose; just finished the last of my Xmas gifts this week!)

In addition to the art show I'll be helping a friend, Drey, present a lecture for authors on "The Early Middle Ages; Not as They Should Have Been but As They Were." Drey does the horses, I do the ships.

This year's theme is Steampunk; so I really wish I'd had more time for some of my proposed projects (I may do the "repeating steam pistol" just for the fun of it.)

I hope the server move goes well while I'm away. :-)

Really cold (by Mid Atlantic standards) on the banks of the lower Potomac.
MarsCon, Williamsburg, Virginia
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 01/15/09 22:55:08 EST

Frearson / Reed & Prince: ANybody use Reed & Prince aka Frearson fasteners regularly? I am sick to death of wrestling with Phillips fasteners and drivers, but its not easy to find R&P drivers or fasteners (except for drive bits and silicon bronze wood screws). Any body have a source for R&P drivers and or fasteners?

BTW, I am also sick to death of slotted screewdrivers with tapered sides, but its easy to reforge or grind the tips to parallel, which I now do with every slotted screwdriver I acquire, but the corresponding process doesn't work with a Phillips. ANyone have a sourse for R&P/Frearson stuff?
Peter Hirst - Friday, 01/16/09 10:28:27 EST

Peter Hirst, Never heard of those fastners. I have heard of a gritty goo you put a drop of on your phillips and it helps prevent cam-out.
- ptree - Friday, 01/16/09 17:26:09 EST

Screws & drivers: You might find a better selection of square drive screws & drivers than Reed & Prince. You are the only person I have heard mention R&P in the last 20 years.
- Dave Boyer - Friday, 01/16/09 21:27:52 EST

Reed and Prince: I haven't heard of those things for twenty or thirty years, myself. I thought they were only used for boat building or something equally esoteric. :-)

I prefer the Torx drive over square drive, but I agree that Phillips is an abomination. I also detest tapered screwdriver bits, but they were designed that way to slip out before torquing off the screw shaft, something pretty easy to do with that much contact patch. I use the parallel insert bits since I'm too busy to waste time grinding screwdrivers when I can pop in a new one for a quarter.
vicopper - Friday, 01/16/09 23:28:56 EST

Screws: McFeeley's ( sent me a catalog one time. It doesn't look like they have R&P fastners, but they do have a pretty good assortment of other drive types. You've probably been there already, but figured I'd post just in case.
Mike BR - Saturday, 01/17/09 09:26:49 EST

Ptree: invented by Frearson, made by R&P, hence known by both names. One size driver fits all heads, parallel sides NO cam-out. Used commonly now only in wood boat building, whee craftsmen realize reasonable skill or torque release power drivers obviate the need for built-in cam-out. Why in god's name Indutry thinks you need built in cam out in a hand tool is beyond me.

Vicop: thanks for the suggestion on torx & square, but they don't fit the aesthetic of my products. Weird isn't it? Industry apparently thinks there's a market enough to retool for Torx, sq. drive, posi-drive, seli-drive, etc etc, but the simple, elegant R&P is almost completely abandoned. Guys who are driving deck screws, for example with several different size bits for each of several different drives don't now what they're missing.

I am not a machnist: I wonder what it takes to make a R&P/Frearson bit from round stock ?
Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/17/09 12:01:46 EST

Peter Hirst, I found a fairly extensive supply of R&P hardware and driving tools at
They sell the #2 R&P insert bits for less than $1.50ea.
I could make ONE of these at home on my tool and cutter grinder for about $10. plus the cost of material.
Obviously, if someone wanted a continuous supply of these, the price can go down around to the relm of possibility.
- merl - Saturday, 01/17/09 16:27:37 EST

Fasteners: I am sort of partial to button head hex fasteners.

Years ago there were a great many beautiful fasteners on the market. However, some of the best, the classiest were those round headed hex head bolts made on screw machines by machinery manufacturers for their own machines.

I also like the bolts with built in washer flanges.

Prior to the custom made screw machine made screw one of the classiest manufacturers of steam locomotives, Baldwin, made brass screws with decorative acorns adorning the heads.
- guru - Saturday, 01/17/09 16:40:21 EST

fasteners: MikeBR's McFeeley's is the fastener bible amongst the carpenters at the building company I do most of my work for, but they are amazed when I find something unusual for them in McMaster or something similar.

One of my good friends is a wooden boat builder and he swears by the folks at Jamestown Distributors. Don't know if they have R&P stuff but they are in Rhode Island so shipping to Cape Cod should be more than reasonable. Hope this helps.
Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 01/17/09 18:57:11 EST

Judson: Yep Jamestown is great but limited to very expensive silicon bronze wood screws and R&P insert bits. I suppose the kicker to all this is that the reconstituted Reed & Prince Company is still in Massachusetts, still a fastener specialist and does not make a R&P/Frearson fastener.
Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/17/09 23:18:38 EST

MarsCon After Action Report: I'm back from the howling wilderness/tourist trap of Williamsburg. Weather was bitter cold (by Mid Atlantic standards) but dry. The art room at the con had fewer exhibitors and business was s-l-o-w. We made enough to cover my half of the room rent, and brought in about $50 for the charity auction. Folks were very careful with their money this year.

On the other claw, the firearms exhibit of the inventiveness of the Victorian age that my friend, Drey, hosted, was enthusiastically received; and our lecture on the infrastructure of mounted warfare (no horse, no knight) and going viking (no ship, no Viking) was fully attended. Actually, we were so successful at presenting the difficulties and muck that supported the romantic image that one of our friends had to speak-up and tell folks: "Honestly, it's really fun to do this!"

Now, with a pause between projects, I can get back to finishing the details on the new forge building: additional door hardware, mounting the other two post vises and the post drill, a Uri Hofi pattern smoke stack for the coal forge, exterior woodwork trim, glazed windows, interior shelving, exterior stock and scrap storage.

Resting up on Dr. MLK Jr. Day on the banks of the lower Potomac. Between unpacking and chores, my public service will be working my way through a ~200 page lease document for our facility in "Frostbite Falls, Minnesota". ;-)
Voyageurs National Park
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 01/19/09 10:27:07 EST

Mars Con: Bruce: In the event you have met him. Is John Ringo as warped as certain parts of his books? Wish I could have been there. They finally have one nearby and then I have to move before it happens. Figures.
Robert Cutting - Monday, 01/19/09 17:16:49 EST

Altruism: Miles

I am taking this discussion on altruism over to the hammerin, so as not to distract from the technical forum. I don't have all the answers. Let's hear what folks have to say.

Altruism focuses on a motivation to help others or a want to do good without reward, while duty focuses on a moral obligation towards a specific individual (for example, God, a king), a specific organization (for example, a government), or an abstract concept (for example, patriotism etc). Some individuals may feel both altruism and duty, while others may not. Pure altruism is giving without regard to reward or the benefits of recognition and need.
- Rustystuff - Tuesday, 01/20/09 03:19:50 EST

Altruism is selfless concern for the welfare of others
- Rustystuff - Tuesday, 01/20/09 03:21:09 EST

Attention All Altruists: Check out Ayn Rand's book, "The Virtue of Selfishness."
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 01/20/09 08:10:38 EST

Altruism: If you feel good about doing it, then it isn't really selfless, is it? Altruism is an abstract concept that cannot exist in realtime. Humans require motivation to anything. Therefor, an act of goodness must be motivated by something, such as to feel good, go to heaven, make cash...

Just my humble opinion. :)
Rob Dobbs - Tuesday, 01/20/09 10:59:48 EST

I like the ambience a lot better over in the Den, if you don't mind. More comfortable chairs, better coffee, a higher-fi sound system, more soothing lighting, just a better venue. Could somebody tilt those shades, please?
Miles Undercut - Tuesday, 01/20/09 11:21:20 EST

But Miles over here you can call me a vermicious knid or a rasptlesnake rustling rapscallion or ascribe blacker smithing sins to my character---in a totally altruistic manner or course and as it's the "discussion forum" all the rest of them can do is stand up and say AMEN!

And Miles, remember that it's not slander or libel if it's *TRUE*!

Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/20/09 19:00:08 EST

Rob Dobbs
You're humble opinion is a good thinker.

will give it a look

I too like the ambience in the Den. didn't want to upset the technical apple cart.

Tommy P.
You're den post has some credence. I guess I give a Hoot.
- Rustystuff - Tuesday, 01/20/09 21:39:37 EST

Robert Cutting: Well, we had the compliment of John Ringo saying that he'd wished he'd attended our "medieval reality" lecture, and he has our contact information for an "Authurian" that he's planning to do. On the other claw, he told folks that he doesn't do much research; and in one of his books that I'm reading, I can hear the political axes grinding away in the background. I suspect we're dealing with adventure, rather than art.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 01/21/09 14:37:25 EST

John Ringo: While I enjoyed his first few books, the Posleen invasion series, I was very quickly turned off when all his subsequent heroes like to beat up women. In fact, he kind of intimates that to be a superiour warrior, you MUST enjoy a bit of sadism. Even more preposterous, every smart beautiful woman in his books realizes that she was waiting all her life to find someone to hit her- and she just had no idea how much she would love it!

His modern infantry weapons are accurately discussed, but it is obvious that he doesnt do much research on much of anything else, either- most of his technical stuff beyond weapons and 1980's era pcs gets pretty sketchy.

Still, he somehow has gotten me to buy a good half dozen of his books- he must be doing something right.
- Ries - Wednesday, 01/21/09 18:58:15 EST

things for sale: hi all, this is what i'm down to

infamous broken anvil

ladles large

tongs large

anvil ~50~
ladle ~85~
tong ~85~

i'm in macon,ga, will ship
478 731 3263
tymurch at aol
- Ty Murch - Wednesday, 01/21/09 22:41:53 EST

John Ringo: Ries That is almost the same view I had of his work except his first book or two on the Posleen were really good and the rest were kind of rushed and lost the original line a bit. He apologized in one of them and blamed 9/11 for it. He seems to be getting back on track with some of his other work and just needs to dump the kink. I don't think he'll ever surpass David Drake however. I just miss Hammers Slammers.
Robert Cutting - Thursday, 01/22/09 12:37:14 EST

I'm rather new here and reaping the extensive knowledge. I firmly believe in "pay to play" but have not figured out how to contribute $. I know a site like this will not run on air so if someone can point me in the right direction I will be grateful.
- Willy Cunningham - Thursday, 01/22/09 17:27:58 EST

Willy Cunningham: Click on the "Store" link at the top of the page and looki for CSI Memberships. You can join CSI which supports Anvilfire.
vicopper - Thursday, 01/22/09 23:42:45 EST

Vorpal: Miles Undercut, did you say you found a pre - wilton square wheel grinder? I found one too. I have not been able to find a reference to these "olympic square wheel" belt grinders anywhere. This one has a 4" wide serrated 8" contact wheel, and a 4" wide platen. The tooling arm has a male expanding piece on it that the attachment fit onto with a socket. Wierd. And what was that about the island of anvils? Truk, was it? I think I heard about that before. Is that guy T - Gold still posting around here? I think he lived in Kaneohe, HI and that is where I live right now.
- Vorpal - Saturday, 01/24/09 05:18:32 EST

Vorpal: Olympic Square Wheel Grinders:
What is it you want to know about the "Olympic" Sq Wheel Grinder. They were made in Seattle Wa by the Olympic Foundry. Mostly they were just sold by Olympic Foundry, The first of there kind S Wheel was sort of cobled together by one of the employees on the job for their shop use. Who eventually ended up building them at his home machine shop for Olympic. I made parts for Olympic foundry for many different things, but mostly large valves. But also included some parts for the Sq WG when they were behind in supplying parts. Olympic went under in 87 leaving me holding the bag for a $60,000 order and supply of materials I had on hand mostly for the valves. When the Olympic foundry sold the Sq Wheel to Wilton the guy that made them at his home shop made parts for a while. But as with all of us he was aging and called it quits. I bought his Dean Smith & Grace lathe and was one of my favorite machines.

- Tmac - Saturday, 01/24/09 23:43:15 EST

Sweet, Tmac. That's exactly the kind of thing I wanted to know anout it. Some good history. I wonder how many of these are still being used by shops or lie forgotten in a corner. A super solid machine, and really the predecessor to most modern knife machines. I read somewhere that the early Bob Loveless knife shop used one. I also got an enormous (3 hp, 3ph, 3"x180ish" belt) old two wheel belt grinder from a Maui pineapple cannery shop. The brand name was TORO and I salvaged a good 12" serrated chicago rubber contact wheel off of it that I used to build my 12" hollow grinder. Never found any reference to that brand, either.
- Vorpal - Sunday, 01/25/09 03:50:53 EST

Olympic Square Wheel Grinders: There are a LOT of these SWG,s in the PNW.
Boeing has 100' and 100's of them, more than likely most are the Olympics. Boeing's old headquarters was a mere 5 minute drive to OlyF's main factory. Other BIG users that are within a handshake distance are Kenworth Trucks plant, Peterbuilt Truck plant, and 100's of Boeing sub-contractors and vendors. Then there are the plants that are in Portland/Vancouver area such as Hyster, Caterpillar/Towmotor, Freightliner Trucks, Pettybone, Hewlett Pakard and Techtronics plant. Now that is just the major users of them. That doesn't include the 100's of machine shops that existed at one time there. One of the largest machine tool dealers on the west coast that sold the SWG was only about 4 blocks from OlyF. I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that these SWG's for the
most part built in a 4 car garage in the back of a guys house by one old man and a couple of employees.
The scale of sizes of these ranged form a 1/2HP tinkerbell to a 5HP 3ph maneater. So are there any of these stuck in a corner forgotten maybe, but unlikely. Most Oly SWG's I have seen are still in use if they are still in one piece.

- Tmac - Sunday, 01/25/09 14:46:05 EST

Server Reliability:
We have been working for over a week to properly configure and move sites to our new server. It took me two days just to copy all the anvilfire pages to it. It is difficult testing by IP number as many things will not resolve. Until we know the server is sound we will not make the switch.

The new server has the space necessary to host galleries and some other space intensive stuff. It is also faster so it should be less load sensitive.

I still need to backup and move over 20 chapter sites that we have hosted for over 8 years for free. This is the second time I have done this and it is not an easy job. We also host some business sites that we also must move. . . All a lot of work.

Our friend Kiwi AKA Andrew Hooper who helped us setup the pub and CSI datbase many years ago is helping configure the new server to meet new security demands. This has greatly complicated the whole job. I will not bore you with details but much has been one step forward and two back.

Weeks of work, months of manhours, just to keep us and others smoothly on-line. But this is our business, not a hobby.
- guru - Sunday, 01/25/09 23:34:01 EST

So merl, it would be annoying of me to mention I was out in the shop Saturday and Sunday with no coat, jacket or sweater and it was a tad warm Sunday where the long sleve shirt could have been changed for a T shirt...

I love it out here!

Thomas sone to be grandpaw Thomas
Thomas P - Monday, 01/26/09 11:49:41 EST

Hi Folks! I am in the market for a fly press, ideally about a #5. If anyone knows of one for sale, I would appreciate the info. I live in Michigan. Thanks!
Dave Francis - Monday, 01/26/09 17:16:03 EST

Fly Presses:
The Kaynes have stopped selling them due to import price increases. They MIGHT have one left. Give them a call.

The only other importer in the U.S. was Old World Anvils. I would try them as well.
- guru - Monday, 01/26/09 19:54:57 EST

Handle Day!:
Have you set a "Handle Day" for your shop? This is a good time. I mentioned this a few years ago. Many of my hammers had gotten into bad shape from misuse (by others) and handles had age from time. So we set aside a day to do nothing but rehandle, repair and dress hammers and other handled tools.

This past Saturday we were doing spring cleaning in the shop and I noticed all the hammers I had moved and stored on the floor (new shop) that gotten quite rusty and the handles were looking rough (the last handle day was 5 years ago(_April 12, 2003)). So I had the girls sand all the handles, paint the heads with flat black and re-varnish the lot. Next I'll go through and dress faces on a belt sander and we will put a light dusting of clear finish on the faces.

I do not normally paint all my hammers but rust was getting the upper hand. Weather, even indoors in a forge shop, can age and crack handles making them splintery. So we did the lot.

Last spring we did garden tools. There were many duplicates which went into the auction as well. Shovels, racks, picks. . . All suffer from rust and weathering handles.

Every year, in the spring before the serious shop season for most of us starts is a good time to have a handle day. While most will go for years many will age depending on how they are stored and others get abused or broken.

To prepare for handle day you need to make note of those that need handles or to be re-handled. A list with eye shape and size is good. Then buy or order handles. It doesn't hurt to have some spare wedges on hand as well. You will also need sand paper, electrical tape, wood glue, varnish and some paint if you want to paint the steel.

I always buy top quality handles. There are reasons cheap flea market handles are cheap. They are lower grade woods and lower quality cuts (grain direction). When ordering handles I try to keep a few in stock for my critical everyday use hammers. I cut my own wooden wedges from scraps of hardwood (occasionally scrapped handles). Metal wedges are easy to forge as well and probably better than commercial ones.

Handles with cracks in the shank above the grip (common in slender ball peen hammer handles) can be glued with carpenter's wood glue then wrapped with string to clamp while drying. After the glue is dry I sand the handles and check for more cracks and dings. After varnishing these I usually tape the shank to reinforce and to prevent injury to the user if the handle breaks again. Most are broken from abuse or missed blows and unlikely to break again under normal use so I consider this a good economical repair.

Hammers with miss-strike dings and cuts in the shank area can be sanded and re-varnished as above. Often the dings are splintery and I tape these.

Both the above assume good tight handles in good condition other than some stupidity. I've bought flea market ball peens that were virtually new except some idiot had snapped the handle. As long as the break is not in the grip area I've found a good glue job and tape to be a reliable repair and much easier than finding odd sized hard to fit handles.

I've had shop helpers ding my best forging handle hammers trying to pound nails. . . One of those things that raises blood pressure. . Some can be fixed, some must be replaced.

In any event, it is good to take a day of the year and work on all your handles. They will last longer and be more useful when you need them. Take the time to dress all those dinged faces and un-dressed peens and you are set for another year or more!

SO. . To make it official, I'm going to put "Hammer Handle Day" on the anvilfire calendar as the First weekend of February or January/February as it falls this year.

- guru - Monday, 01/26/09 20:21:46 EST

Were you indeed, Thomas P? I'm supprised you hadn't also put on your leather mini skirt shop appron and leader hosen.
My only solice from your "crowing" is that weather like this tends to dive out (or kill off) the "riff-raff" Usualy they end up in N.M. as I understand...
Make sure you lock the doors at nite Thomas...
Congradulations and best wishes to your loved ones "Grandpaw"!
- merl - Monday, 01/26/09 21:48:14 EST

Un-solicited endorsement: My new eyeglasses arrived today. My ophthalmologist had suggested that I could save money by ordering them from a place online, since the local eyeglass joint wants around four hundred bucks for one pair of bifocals. I had some misgivings, but I went through with it and placed the order.

I was hesitant because my prescription is somewhat outside the norm and I also wanted my computer and shop glasses to have the upper part of the bifocals made in a mid-range prescription and the bottoms as close-up reading glasses. The local joint said that wouldn't work well and basically refused to do it. The online place actually had the information on how to adjust my prescription to get those results. So I ordered a regular pair, a pair of sunglasses, a pair for the shop and a pair for the computer, all with the premium titanium, memory-metal frames, anti-glare coating, anti-scratch coating, and clip-on polarized sunglasses for the three clear pairs. The total price for all four pairs was a hair over two hundred bucks, with shipping. Roughly one eighth of what the same thing would cost me at the Pearle Vision place here. What a deal!

I'm very pleased to report that the glasses are everything they were advertised to be and indistinguishable from what I would have gotten here by paying eight times as much. It did take about a month to get them, instead of ten days, but I can afford to wait if it saves me twelve hundred bucks or more.

Any of you guys who hate getting gouged on your glasses should check out for your next set. I'm happy, anyway.

Zenni Optical
vicopper - Monday, 01/26/09 21:50:26 EST

handles: Good idea Guru, I think I'll join you on "Handle Holiday". There should probably be some kind of appropriate music and a parade for this as well huh?As we're talking about handles, I was curious, do you varnish the grip area of your hammer handles as well? I find that if there is any kind of finish on the grip of my hammers I will get a terrible blister on the bottom edge of my hand that will quickly turn to a thick callous that itches like crazy! Now I have a scar there from repeted callousing but, the skin will still split sometimes after an all weekend session.
I have kind of thick hands and find also that I have to "adjust" the factory handles and replacement handles on my hammers.
The first thing a smithing mentor of mine told me was that when I hold a hammer in my hand the two middle fingers should comfortably come around the grip area and touch the base of the thumb when the handle fits right. So when ever I get a new hammer or handle the first thing I do is take it to the belt sander to fit it to my hand. I always take the majority of material off the thickness (side to side) rather than the front and back, although if the grip has any swell in the back it has to go first or it agrivates my carpel tunnel. When I'm left with the bare wood grip I just rub in some coal dust, or fine gravel dust if it's around, on it as I'm working.
I tried a hammer with some deep hand carved checkering on the grip but, I found it really tore at the skin after a short time.
I was also going to mention I made a special "ergonomic" replacement handle for my freind who is a silver smith.
It seems he likes to sit at his bigger anvil somtimes for close up work that is just about high chest level for him.
If he uses a standard handle he finds he must hold his arm up at a 90deg angle for a long period of time, usualy untill it is almost falling asleep.
To alow him to keep his arm at a lower angle and tucked into his side as he wants, I forged a piece of bar stock to fit the eye of the hammer and then single pointed threads on either side to allow a "clinching washer" and 3/4-16 nuts on top and bottom to hold the head in place.
then I bored the handle out hollow and turned a 4 pitch right and left thread at the grip to act as a knurrel. Then we heat and bend at the upper 1/3, were the shaft is still solid, to about a 30deg. angle.
To finish it off he dipped the grip in viynal tool dip untill it was thick enough for his likeing and called it done.
He says it works good except he's going to try putting some wooden slab grips on it as the "tool grip" feels like it is starting to slip.
As you have said many times befor, the only thing traditional about a smith is the constant innovation used to get the job done.
- merl - Monday, 01/26/09 23:10:30 EST


Thank You for the glasses info. I will gather the info I need and order my new glasses. That is really awesome. Thanks
- Rustymetal - Tuesday, 01/27/09 00:01:26 EST

Merl, I too reshape all my hammer handles. I also use beeswax to increase the stickness of the handles as this reduces grip requirements. Reduced my tennis elbow issues, and allows me to grip with the thumb and little and ring finger as the first two finger are damaged.
ptree - Tuesday, 01/27/09 07:36:05 EST

fly presses: Hi guys, Kayne's have a shipment of P6 presses due here in a few weeks, if anyone else is interested. Guru, thanks for the direction!
Dave Francis - Tuesday, 01/27/09 11:03:04 EST

Handles: Merl, Even though I have small hands I have never had trouble with commercial oval handles or varnish finishes. But I've been wielding hammers and handled tool that were often the wrong tool and definitely the wrong size since I was about 9 years old.

The only hammer handle that absolutely does not work for me is the rectangular Hofi hammer handle. I have to reduce them in size and remove the corners.

Your comments will be added to the Hammer Handle article I wrote last night to go in the FAQs.
- guru - Tuesday, 01/27/09 11:04:33 EST

Upping the Ante: I just got a catalog in the mail today, from Jansen, which is a southern california ornamental iron supply house, a west coast version of King- and it is amazing how much hand forged parts and pieces you can now buy for almost nothing.
Used to be, real blacksmiths had a corner on the market for hand forged work- but now, any cut and paste shop with a mig welder, and a credit card, can get pretty respectable parts and pieces, and put em together.
Most of it is coming from Europe, or european owned and managed factories in Mexico. And some of it is being made in the USA using Euro equipment.

But a lot of it is actually well made, nicely designed, and hand forged with quite a bit of skill, using big hammers, custom tooling, and so on.

What this does is raise the bar for all of us. To keep getting jobs doing fences, railings, and furniture, we, as artist blacksmiths doing our own forging, have to offer MORE- more than just nicely formed scrolls, or twists, or belly bars with tapers. Because nowadays, anybody can get that stuff, cheap.

Now, longterm, I think this is a good thing- it will stimulate better design work, innovation with tools, techniques, and materials, and better looking ironwork.
Its no longer enough to say "its handforged" and for that to be your sole selling point- because everybody is offering that these days.
You have to be a better artist, do more custom work that fits the location better, that responds to the building, the client, and the site.

Hopefully, this will make the general quality and skill level of artist blacksmiths in the USA rise- cause if it dont, we are doomed.
- ries - Tuesday, 01/27/09 12:09:24 EST

Well replacing handles is a job I do when the weather is too bad to have the doors open for forging or I don't have enough time to really get into a project because of scheduling issues.

I buy all my handles at the fleamarket. I can judge grain run out with no problem and there are a lot of handles that get there for cosmetic reasons not for structural---why pay $4 extra for a handle that doesn't have a minor flaw right where you're going to rasp the handle down to fit your hand anyway?

As you can never be sure of being able to get a good cheap handle when you need it I make a habit of picking up any good handles at a cheap price when I run across them and then store them---I like to put in a fence staple in the end and hang them so that they get air all around them and stay straight!

So like always I trade time and space for money

Currently I have an odd lynch collection hammer I need to handle---looks like a roman carenter's hammer with a round tapered eye---I may have to turn that one myself.

Thomas P - Tuesday, 01/27/09 13:29:19 EST

FOR SALE:Little Giant 50LB::
Little giant blacksmith hammer - $3300 (Bayview Idaho)
Little Giant fifty pound model for sale.
Contact: Rolf Cervin
mswllo (at)

Note: This is not mine or do I have any connection to this item I found it on Craigs list

CL Posting ID: 1007846150
- Tmac - Tuesday, 01/27/09 15:00:18 EST

Hammer handles, etc.: I make a fair number of my own hammers, as I do a good bit of repousse' work and non-ferrous smithing as well. These are generally smaller hammers, on the order of a pound or so, maybe up to a pound and a half for a really big one, so the eyes are fairly small also. Hard for me to find replacement handles locally that are anything close to the right size or shape, so I remodel whatever I can find. My bigt 2x72 belt grinder is a wonderful tool for rough shaping, followed up by scraping to final using a piece of broken beer bottle. You can get a wide variety of nice curved scrapers from a couple of Heinekin bottles scrounged from the trash. I usually wrap a couple layers of friction tape around the area I'll be holding, so I don't have to grip so hard and minimize the chance of cutting myself. I haven't found anything better than glass for scraping in a hammer handle.

I wedge my handles using two wooden wedges usually made from the drop I saw off the stock handle. I put the two wooden wedges across the long axis and then use a homemade thin steel wedge centered on the midline cut for the final securing. I tyr to remember to make a few wedges up ahead of time and let them get a slight coating of rust so they hold more snugly and don't tend to creep back - easier than putting barbs on them and less likely to cut additional grain fibers.

When handling top tools, I never wedge the handles. I simply fit them sufficiently tight to stay in place long enough to hit them a few times. That way, a mis-hit doesn't shatter a handle or wrench a wrist, but instead allows the head to turn on the haft a bit. I make most of my top tools with round eyes, rather than oval, for just this reason.

I like my repousse hammer handles to have a tapered, rounded butt similar to what was stock on the old Dixon silversmithing hammers years ago. That and a pretty darn thin shank makes for a responsive, comfortable hammer that can be wielded in all the awkward positions that are inevitable when doing repousse'. A squared-off or, worse, flared butt is a surefire blister on the heel of my hand in no time flat, but the rounded butt doesn't do that. Because of a pecularity in my right wrist, I find that I have better control for precise work if the hammer handle is rotated slightly "off axis" from the head. It's only a matter of about one or two degrees, but it makes a big difference on planishing comfortably and accurately for hours at a stretch.

Interestingly, while I favor the slim, rounded, tapered-butt handles for my silversmithing and repousse' hammers, for my forging hammers I greatly prefer a slightly modified Hofi-style handle on what is variously called a Czech/Habermann/Hofi hammer head. I modify the basic handle by reconfiguring it form a true rectangle to a skewed parallelogram that matches the angles in my grip. Better control, at least for me. The credit for that tip goes to Mark Aspery, one of the better teachers of smithing I've ever encountered.

As for finishing my hammer heads, I stay true to form and polish and blue them, followed by a couple coats of Renaissance Wax. I find this keeps them shiny and rust-free as well as anything else and looks nicer, too. The repousse' and silversmith's hammers all have mirror polished faces, so keepin gthem pristine is important. My smithing hammers have an as-ground finish from the 220 grit belt, as I found that a polished face slipped more and soon was scoured by scale anyway. I did have to try it, though. (grin)

vicopper - Tuesday, 01/27/09 20:21:00 EST

I'm sure you woodworkers out there will cringe, but I've found that a fine surface conditioning (scotch brite) disk will put a beautiful smooth finish on a hammer handle in no time.
Mike BR - Tuesday, 01/27/09 20:46:39 EST

Beautiful smooth finish is the last thing I want on a hammer handle. First thing I do with a new handle is shape it, second is to drag a coarse hacksaw blade sideways over it at alternating 45 degree angles, gives it a knurled texture. Seal it with a couple coats of Watco.
Peter Hirst - Tuesday, 01/27/09 23:20:41 EST

Hammer grip: Ptree

Have you tried rosin on your handles? I was wondering if it would work as well or worse than bees wax. Of course the wax is probably good for the wood too isn't it?
- Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 01/28/09 06:45:16 EST

Rich makes an important point that we seem to fight for a *lot*: things should be customized for the person using them! We have the skills to do so and do not have to fall for "the factory must make things the *best* way" cannard.

It drives me crazy, (ok so it's a gimmie putt not a drive), when people want us to tell them what is the *one* *right* way to set up things. When I teach I bring a lot of hammers to class and suggest that everyone experiment with them until they find the ones that work best for them and NOT to expect that the ones *I* like will be the ones they will like!

Thomas P - Wednesday, 01/28/09 11:38:04 EST

Hammers and Handles:
While I like the weight smithing hammer I have gotten used to I also like different types of hammers in different weights and with different handles. There is a reason why some hammers have slender whippy handles and others stiff handles. While I prefer oval section handles I also like octagon handles on some light hammers.

I've made many of my own hammer handles but have found I prefer the commercial shapes. These have been around for well over a century and had to be based on a handle someone liked or was fairly well accepted.

What I do not like is that we have less and less choice in hammer sizes. It used to be that you could get ball peens in one or two ounce increments and smithing hammers in 1/4 pound (4 ounce) increments. Along with these were handles scaled for every size. Factories that make odd size hammers still have matching handles but it is difficult to find replacements. That is why I now repair, even gluing cracks in some handles.
- guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 12:51:16 EST

Handle Fixative: Can someone please list the epoxies and other glues that were being used to fill the gaps between the handles and heads that you discussed a while back. I lost my list when I moved.

Thank you.
Robert Cutting - Wednesday, 01/28/09 15:05:35 EST

Hammer Handles: Some long time ago, I read here that someone liked octagon cross section handles. I tried taking a HF 3# sledge handle to the belt grinder and sure enough liked the way it felt after. With a 24 grit belt, I laid 8 flats into the handle and it felt great. I left the surface rough and let oily hands "seal" the wood. Now this probably pine handle looks like black walnut. :) I did the same to all my hammers, even th couple craftsman ones, leaving the name and enough stain on the side so that when they break I can return them. The local Sears seems to have no problem with me redressing the faces of a ball peen to be unrecognisable as long as it still has the craftsman name on the side... when a handle splits, I get a new hammer.

I too round the handle ends into a half sphere, that swell irritates me.
- Mike/Marco - Wednesday, 01/28/09 16:22:47 EST

Handle Joint Compound:
Robert, Sorry I have not post the archives for a while. Too many things going on. Looked for it but could not find it. . .

For fitting regular (non-shock mount) wood hammer handles I just use some carpenters wood glue. Normally glue is not needed but this just fills a few pores and helps keep the wedge in. Fiberglass handles need a good first class epoxy.

One note about the compound that Hofi uses. It has a VERY short shelf life and when you find it you will want to know the expiration date before you purchase.

If you need a hammer made by BigBLU rehandled they do it very economically. Shipping costs more than the materials and job.
- guru - Wednesday, 01/28/09 18:34:54 EST

Handle Joint Compound: A material similar to what Hofi uses is 3M 5200. This is a moisture cured pollyurethane. If the tube is still soft it is OK. This material cures rather slowly, but there is a fast cure formula available. When You open it the clock starts ticking faster. I have cut many tubes open and used it as "knife grade" when it was too thick to come out the end.
- Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 01/28/09 20:49:13 EST

Request for Custom Poker: I received a request for a custom poker I'm not set up to make. 48" overall out of 3/4" round (but I suspect 5/8" would work better). Welded on hook at end. Handle is to be square with 3" inside by 5" inside. If you are interested in giving them a quote contact me and I'll forward their e-mail to you. It includes a sketch with their specifications.
Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 04:00:29 EST

Custom Poker Added: They want the handle to be square, not oval.
Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 01/29/09 04:02:04 EST

Robert Cutting, I use the bees wax because it is already in the shop, it is nice on the hands and washes off reasonably. Never tried rosin, but then I don't have any.
Folks, i am writing from the library as I am ice storm slammed and no power.
- ptree - Thursday, 01/29/09 16:14:30 EST

Gas forge: I know it must be there somewhere. I am considering making a gas forge to run on natural gas. Can I do it? Is it worthwhile? Where do I get instructions? What is the Chinese symbol for Kaowool?
- philip in china - Friday, 01/30/09 07:29:04 EST

Robert & Ries; Final Note on John Ringo (MarsCon thread): I've given up on the book. The politics were so cartoonish that they made the rest of the story unreadable, even by my low standards. Inhuman alien villains are believable (by definition), but his human villains were just so... (I know we humans are somewhat bad, but he just kept piling on...).

Back to Pratchett for entertainment; Bujold, Drake and Moon for "Space Opera"; and books on nautical runic inscriptions of the Viking Age and Islam & Christianity in the Mediterranean world for my current non-fiction.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 01/30/09 08:08:46 EST

Sci-Fi: Gotta agree with you Bruce.
My favorites in sci-fi are a bit more complex. I enjoyed Heinlein and similar stuff (and I think Ringo conciously imitates Heinlein) when I was a teen.
But now that I am a bit more aware of the compromises and ambiguities of real life, I prefer stuff like William Gibson, or Neal Stephenson, or Iain Banks, all of whom have written much more challenging stuff than Ringo ever will.

The one exception is Ringo's "March to the Sea" trilogy, which he co-wrote with David Weber. Although it shares his usual black and white moral viewpoint, at least its not kinky or as dated in right wing politics.
- Ries - Friday, 01/30/09 10:28:18 EST

Cow Bells / Goat Bells:
Ok? Here is what I need to make. I need Bells for my Goats. Anyone make any of these bells? Have any tips on Shape? How about a pattern for them? The best thickness for a good loud ring? I need 11 of them. Any good tips would help. These are small goats so cant be to heavy either. Also needs to be somewhat easy to make.

- Tmac - Friday, 01/30/09 13:48:12 EST

Goat bells: I saw a bunch made out of folded copper sheet with a stainless nut on copper wire for a clanker. Looked like small cow bells. Just a tapered rectangle.
- Robert Cutting - Friday, 01/30/09 15:47:49 EST

Sci-Fi: One of my favorites was always the first series that Tad Williams did. From the sound of it though Bruce and I have very similar libraries.

Ries: I'll have to check out those authors you listed. I haven't read any of theirs yet or if I did I don't remember. It's been alot of books over alot of years.
Robert Cutting - Friday, 01/30/09 15:54:22 EST

fiction books: If N. Stephenson ever figures out how to end a novel gracefully people will start ranking him amongst the greats. Regardless he is one of my favorites, esp. the Quicksilver Trilogy.

If someone were holding a gun to my head demanding I burn my fiction books the last to go on the fire would be the Pratchett books. If anyone has a better body of funny, oblique, insightfully satirical stories please let me know. My son and I read his young adult books together. Perhaps the saddest day I have had in quite a while was when I learned that he had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's.

Non-fiction is a whole other story.
Judson Yaggy - Friday, 01/30/09 20:24:48 EST

Chinese Symbol for Kaowool: A spiral with a flame in the center. . .

See the FAQ's and Planfile.
- guru - Friday, 01/30/09 20:27:59 EST

Goat Bells:
Simple. . The larger the louder so you will need to make them the size you think works.

Folded from saw cut 16ga (.050 to .070") steel works. Cut to make two sides with bends and edges that meet on the center line. From the top a V point can overlap. About a 15 degree taper works. I start with an 8" long sheet for a small cow bell, 6 to 8" should work for goats.

Fold and weld. Drill two holes in the top for a loop of 1/8" to 3/16" round to make a half ring inside and out. Weld or braze in place.

The clapper should strike about 1/4 way up the bell. I forge them from 3/8" round making a ball that size and a tapered stem. Create a hook on the end that you can close on the ring inside.

You can change the length of the bell to change its pitch OR add weight along the rim (a second layer welded on).

You can do the same with pipe, conduit, structural tubing. With these you heat the end to close and slowly work them in until you have a small round hole for the clapper ring. Form a ring with a stem, push it through and bend a ring and weld.

There are a million variations on bells. You can make them plain, you can decorate, you can raise them. . .

While writing this I thought of our old friend Peter Fels who used to make Finger Cymbals. A pair of these properly hung would possibly work and be a little different.

One thing to remember is that animals a rough on these things and some will want them OFF. That is why I use heavy welded loops.
- guru - Friday, 01/30/09 20:57:25 EST

Oddly enough I just saw 6 goat bells at a jumble sale this morning for next to nothing. Unfortunately the postage from England would have made it rather costly to get them to you. Rather odd coincidence. They made their clapper out of a horseshoe nail and had them shaped a bit like a toadstool.
- Robert Cutting - Saturday, 01/31/09 07:05:38 EST

sci fi: drake rules my scifi universe....
- pete - Saturday, 01/31/09 07:51:31 EST

Repent.: Giving away my age, but a title like "'Repent Harlequin' cried the Tick Tock Man" still blows my hat in the crick. What a hook! It's a good story too, by Ellison.

About clappers, a wooden ball on the end of the wire makes an interesting sound.
Frank Turley - Saturday, 01/31/09 11:28:55 EST

Bells, Bell Drawing:
The link is to a drawing of the cow bell I described. It was drawn for PPW's Revolutionary Blacksmith and is based on a description in the Art of Blacksmithing or One of the Foxfire books (by brazing). I've made several of these and torch welded them rather than braze. The drawing is based on my samples.

Using a torch to braze (brassing the bell) or adding mass by welding near the rim will change the sound of the bell. Brassing (described in Paw Paw's book and taken from Eric Sloane's "The Sound of Bells") is the addition of weight to the rim of a cast iron bell to tune it.
- guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 16:05:52 EST

Bell: Nice drawing. Don't happen to have a measured pattern for that bell, do you, Guru? SO happens i am demonstrating at a sheep fest again this year and could really use one.
- Peter Hirst - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:13:09 EST

Repent Harlequin' Cried the Tick Tock Man: Ah yes, Dangerous Visions. Back when we were young and he was daring! I remember one story about, um, line breeding humans; but the author didn't know, or pursue, the genetics very well. He had no method to cull-out the squibs and unfortunates who would receive various bad recessives. I imagined a concentration camp on the far side of the planet that the protagonist knew nothing about.

Alexander Pope was right, and Sci-Fi authors should remember how dangerous a "little learning" can be. I always think that the best Historical and Science Fiction is when you trust the author enough, and he or she writes well enough, that you actually learn something. (I have noticed some of the details from SISS show up in other books, and not just the one by that plagiarizing English reenactor!)

Research of the actual physical world and the bones of civilization and human society is good, even in light fantasy fiction. A lot of authors have lurked here from time to time; so that's a good thing.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 01/31/09 18:22:46 EST

Gas forge: Yes, you can build a forge to run on natural gas. The only difference is the size of the orifice, it must be larger than for propane.
John Christiansen - Saturday, 01/31/09 20:56:35 EST

Bells: Peter, I'm sorry, I don't use patterns. . . I just draw them directly on the plate and saw them out. This one was made from a piece of 16ga steel plate I had for making shovel pans, 6" x 8". The method was as described in the text above. I don't think I used the entire width but did use most or all the length.

The original instructions called for forge brazing or a "penny weld". Make the joints tight, flux, heat to melt flux, sprinkle with the spelter (powdered brass or bronze (pre 1983 copper penny alloy)) and heat until the brazing flows or flashes on the surface. Add spelter as needed.

Tons of sheet metal bells are still made by forge brazing all over the world. Shops that carry crafts from the world often have Indian of Chinese bells or gongs made in primitive charcoal forges using scrap steel (auto body sheet metal) and the local coinage.
- guru - Saturday, 01/31/09 23:14:41 EST

Repent: Not giving away my age, just the fact that I'm a sucker for a querky title, I thought "Repent ..." was great.
Anybody here like Joe Haldeman? I like "Forever War" the best and "All My Sins Rememberd" is a close second along with every thing elese he has writen.
- merl - Saturday, 01/31/09 23:35:57 EST

Nice Bell: :
When I was a little kid, my Dad had 2 large cow bell
shaped like that. But were made from heavy brass.
His were riveted on the side instead of welded. He told me his Dad made them. I dont know what ever happened to them. He had them on our cows and
on a good day you could hear them from a 1/4 mile.

I think Ill try the squished pipe end first. My neighbors out here got a wind chime made from
pipes and I can hear that sometimes, they are a 1/2 mile away too!

- Tmac - Sunday, 02/01/09 01:06:17 EST

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