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February 2011 Archive

WHY THREE FORUMS? Well, this is YOUR blacksmithing forum to use for whatever you wish within the rules stated above. It is different than the Slack-Tub Pub because the messages are permanently posted and archived.
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J. Dempsey  <webmaster> Rev. 7/98, 3/99, 5/2k, 6/2k, Friday, 04/06/01 16:43:25 GMT

Mechanical Mistakes:
Back when my Dad and I were working on one invention we hashed through dozens of ideas and discounted them as unworkable for various reasons. Often the failure was the same basic principal in a different arrangement but it was the same principle failure.

When I went to the Patent office to research the invention I found ALL our discarded ideas had been patented. None had been commercialized to the best of our knowledge. This was probably due to the reasons WE had discarded the ideas. They didn't work. But they were patented none the less. Many of these went back to the era where every patent had to have a scale model with the application . . .

So, things get made occasionally that don't work well or even at all. You DON'T EVEN want to get me on my soapbox again about imported items from certain countries that didn't work at the factory, much less when they arrive here. . .
- guru - Tuesday, 02/01/11 14:43:42 EST

With the number of commercial aircraft (including cargo planes such as UPS) in the air at the same time I'm amazed there aren't more crashes.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/04/11 09:52:44 EST

Imagine if the early predictions of air commuters and everyone having a small personal plane came true? You think the Interstates are crazy. . .
- guru - Friday, 02/04/11 11:49:59 EST

Actually there are probably onlt 350 to 500 airliner size aircraft in the air over the US at any given time. Consider the surface area and the aircraft density is pretty small except at hubs. I live near the UPS worldport in Louisville, and for a couple of hours in the evening a cargo liner lands every 2 minutes, and then they depart about every 2 minutes in the wee hours. Still not congested.
I learned to fly at what was the 1956 worlds busiest airport in terms of takeoffs and landings. When I learned to fly there it was probably only in the top 10 or so, since the airlines had moved their hub to Cincinati Ohio, and the few airliners still coming to Lousiville landed at Standiford field. Bowman Field in louisville was a very early airport and very very unusual in that it the 1940's it gained 3 parrelel runways in all cases. Concrete center and grass on each side. They wer only about 150' center to center, and as a student pilot in 1972, I was often #3 for the center runway, meaning I was about 1/2 mile out with 2 infront on final and short final, and 3 more on either side. There would be one just rotated from the runway, and one flaring to touch. I have been in the pattern where there were as many as 70 aircraft in the landing and takeoff pattern. NO other airport in the world operated like that. One reason my neck is still oversize was from all the swileling I did in that pattern.
- ptree - Friday, 02/04/11 13:58:27 EST

flying: since mn ain't born with wings and helicopters weren't ment to fly either, i thought it best to stick with them anyway. i always jumped out of the planes BEFORE they landed.
- bam-bam - Friday, 02/04/11 18:34:19 EST

Bam-Bam, While I am a pilot, I have 600 more takeoffs in aircraft than i have landings. I also combined my favorite activities and was a jump plane pilot:)
- ptree - Friday, 02/04/11 18:58:16 EST

Misfired Predictions: My favorite prediction is that we'd all be using hovercraft in the future.

Now, picture a major interstate.

Picture it full of hovercraft.

Then, picture a stiff, gusty cross wind! 8-0
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 02/04/11 20:04:14 EST

ptree: my comment kicked my memory in the... thats when i remembered sliding down a rope connected to a helo....then i remembered that h-model was usually moving and i felt like a yo-yo doing the old "walking the dog" trick
- bam-bam - Friday, 02/04/11 20:24:25 EST

Bam-Bam, down the rope once and only once, toooo scarey. Much rather stroll off the ramp way way high:)
ptree - Friday, 02/04/11 20:47:46 EST

ptree: saw a pic of your power hammer. at least i think it was you. if so, what is the footprint? trying to work out for me a helve type.( need the working space on the hammer side.)but i'm also keeping my options open. care to share?
- bam-bam - Friday, 02/04/11 20:57:36 EST

Bam-Bam I will measure and e-mail you. I have more photos to help as well. I have since converted to a compact spare tire clutch on the hammer and that mADE the hammer.
ptree - Saturday, 02/05/11 09:17:32 EST

Powerhammer: Bam-Bam, don't have your e-mail so here goes on demensions
Foot print is 55" front to back, widest point on mine is 30" most is 14: and the machine is 72" tall.
The 30" is the rear stabilizer legs, and I just chose 30". The overall height could easily come down a few inchs, but the width is mostly a function of the compact spare tire set up.
These leaf spring machines tend to be long and narrow, but have less height than the comparable Little Giant clones such as the tire hammer.

I think having built this one, and studied the set of prints I bought for the tire hammer, that the leaf spring type is easier to build if you have little to no machining capacity past a welder and drill press. The many members of the Indiana Blacksmithing Assoc that have tried my hammer remark about smoothness and ease of control compared to Little Giants. Some of that may be that mine runs slower than most little giants and makes using tooling easy at least for me.
If you would like photos and details about construction, just click on the ptree at the bottom of this post and you will have e-mail to me.
ptree - Saturday, 02/05/11 14:47:54 EST

Hammer info: e mail your way. problem going thru?
- bam-bam - Saturday, 02/05/11 21:59:12 EST

Ebay Fees:
It had been a long time since I looked at ebay fees. They used to be very reasonable. But currently on a $65 item they charged over 10%.

On books (we sell AIA on ebay) they would not let us charge more than $4 shipping! Even media mail (the cheapest slowest postal rate) costs $4.95. . . The system correctly returned priority mail rates BUT changes to the shipping calculator charged double!

While on one hand they are trying to reduce shipping fraud they are suggesting "free shipping" forcing people to raise their prices. . . Nuts.
- guru - Tuesday, 02/08/11 11:36:42 EST

EBAY: E bay fees- still better than the shops that want 35-40 per cent commission and you have to get it to the shop & price it and keep up with it- some items tend to walk out of the shops. Ebay-sell take paypal-box -ship- done. USPS picks up from house- buyer pays shipping- Not a bad system- buyers worldwide.
- Ray Clontz - Tuesday, 02/08/11 12:45:56 EST

last thing I sold on ebay was gift cards lol. I buy off there quite a bit. 2% back
- Ty Murch - Tuesday, 02/08/11 23:28:03 EST

Colonial anvil for sale: Frank Turley in Santa Fe, NM, has an antique, colonial, English anvil for sale, weighing approximately 78 pounds. It has a hardie hole and a slender horn. We think that George Washington used it! $350.00. Pictures can be seen at Go to menu SWAP and scroll down to Frank Turley's offerings. Shipping is an option; we would need to work out details.

This is the kind of anvil that I personally would not advise anyone to make a using anvil. It would be a nice collector's piece. Of course, once it's sold, I have no control of what happens to it.
Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/09/11 09:42:06 EST

Frank, I think that you may find that might get you there better.
- Phil H - Wednesday, 02/09/11 20:07:16 EST

And congratulations Jock and Sheri.
- Phil H - Wednesday, 02/09/11 20:09:09 EST

Thankee: Thanks Phil.
Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/09/11 20:46:21 EST

Last year, between eBay fees and PayPal fees they took about 17% off of payment.
- ken scharabok - Thursday, 02/10/11 13:08:44 EST

We have stuff that our markup is only 30%. Take over half of that and you are left with only 13%. That is often too slim a (gross) profit and you are just spinning your wheels. So, we raised prices on ebay. Going to have to do the same here. Different costs but same disease. Too many little things nibbling away at the margins.
- guru - Thursday, 02/10/11 17:23:46 EST

A few years ago I took a marketing course through the craft council, and something the instructor said was not to consign your stuff anywhere where they take less than 35% or they won't have enough margin to cover their overhead and won't be in business.
JimG - Friday, 02/11/11 08:53:50 EST

Patrick McGhee, Petersburg, VA 1953 - 2011: Our long time friend Pat McGhee passed away the night of Wednesday February 9th. He had been suffering from throat cancer for some time. He will be sadly missed.

Patrick was a blacksmith and musician. In his last years he was playing music for belly dancers, a dream gig for many.

I met Patrick when he was working with Josh Greenwood back in the mid 1970's. The day I met him he was loading a 350 pound Hay-Budden anvil into the back of his Volkswagen Beetle to take to a demonstration. Patrick would drive that VW (or pieces of it) to the end of his days. Patrick was the most honest, selfless, gentle person I have ever known other than my Mother. Patrick was easy going and very rarely showed anger or got upset. Patrick was a hard worker but had little ambition other than to live a quiet non-confrontational life. He nursed his mother at home until she died.

When we were told Patrick had cancer is was no surprise. He spent most of life living on cigarettes and Pepsi. Throat and tongue caner is a terrible thing. My Aunt Barrie, another life long and heavy smoker, died of the same a few months after surgery to remove her tongue which to her was worse than death.

Pat was a good friend who would literally give you the shirt off his back if you asked. He was a private person who lived his entire life in the Petersburg, Virginia home where he was born. I will remember him always.

Patrick McGhee in the anvilfire NEWS

Book Review by Patrick McGhee

Video of Patrick and the Belly Dancing Troupe:
Patrick is to the far left playing a small drum (darbuka)
Patrick McGhee on YouTube
- guru - Friday, 02/11/11 11:30:13 EST

Predictions: The predictions of the climate gurus of the seventies- we would all soon be in an ice age- started to look silly as the dates they had quoted passed with no difference. Those of the global warming fraternity are now looking equally silly. One expert had it that by now UK would be a series of islands with people fighting each other for food. I was there last week and it was not true. Yet amazingly, or perhaps not, the expert will not admit that he was wrong.
- Philip In China - Monday, 02/14/11 21:52:03 EST

When I purchase an item for a sale on eBay my criteria is I have to be relatively confortable I can, at least, double my purchase price.

When making up an item from scratch my criteria is to let the market place set the price. If very few sales or viewers, I'll drop my price some. If they sell 'like hotcakes' then I will raise price a bit. On some items I decided the effort required to produce them simply wasn't supported by the price people were willing to pay and have ended the listing when they sold out.

Sunday a guy brought by a fireplace grate which was fire damaged beyond any hope of repair. I built him one of significatly larger steel. Since he was a close friend, I charged him $20, which cover the cost of the steel and welding rods. If it was just someone off the street, then likely I would have charged them $40.
Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 02/15/11 10:29:03 EST

so your prediction is based on a trip to the UK.. well my hillbilly uncle makes the summation that the United States' economy is in fact booming based on the observation that Wal-Mart has been really busy the last few times he frequented it. Today a report is out finding that UK consumer inflation is double that of the figure projected by the Bank of England so whether it be ecological or economical, who knows, the residents of the UK may end up having to fight for food at some point.
- Ty Murch - Tuesday, 02/15/11 19:27:49 EST

And I can count three islands without even looking at a map. On the other hand, I don't know why we're worried about fossil fuels causing global warming -- in the '70s we only had 20 years of oil reserves remaining, so there must not be any left.

To be serious though, I'm personally convinced that global warming is real, notwithstanding the fact that some of the predictions have proved inaccurate or just plain silly.
Mike BR - Tuesday, 02/15/11 21:06:39 EST

Are a dime a dozen in the popular media, and worth a bit less than that. Unfortunately, the popular media will let anyone with a tiny smattering of information about a given subject expound at great length, lending credence to their views, regardless of the so-called
- Rich - Wednesday, 02/16/11 15:55:46 EST

Experts: Are a dime a dozen in the popular media, and worth a bit less than that. Unfortunately, the popular media will let anyone with a tiny smattering of information about a given subject expound at great length, lending credence to their views, regardless of the so-called "expert's" lack of real credentials.

When it comes to greenhouse gas warming the voice of the real experts, (those actually trained in such matters and actively working in the field), comes down pretty strongly in favor of "global warming." In spite of that you cannot help but read the views of the opposition, just as there are those who deny evolution in spite of overwhelming evidence supporting it.

When people do not have the scientific background to actually understand the science involved it is usually easier for them to subscribe to old wives' tales and pseudo-sciences such as Scientology, intelligent design, creationism, naturopathy, astrology or other illogical belief systems. Unfortunately, when they pass legislation or structure the public education system based on these ideas we all suffer.
- Rich - Wednesday, 02/16/11 15:56:14 EST

The Global Warming Problem:
What those that have not read the science on global warming do not understand is that it does NOT mean it will be hotter everywhere. Global warming puts more energy in the oceans and atmosphere. More energy in the atmosphere means bigger storms, shifts in where its hot AND cold or wet and dry, changes in the jet streams. A little change in the jet stream over the United States is the difference in having snow in Atlanta and DC or not. Its the difference in having regular showers that agriculture may need or a half inch too much at the wrong time and a crop that has been successful for decades becoming moldy just before harvest every year.

Things that may be unoticable to the majority can be devastating to small groups. Consider the tracks of hurricanes and typhoons. If they miss you for a decade people become complacent and build poorly and with higher densities and no backup or escape plan (such as along much of the East Coast of the U.S.). When THE storm comes along it will cost billions in damages. And while it may only effect a few directly it WILL be devastating. However, the economic ripples will spread throughout the economy. Government backed flood insurance will take a big hit, tax basises will wash out to sea, businesses out of the path but that support the beach traffic will fail. . .

It can also mean that places that once could not support agriculture can now do so AND the reverse. Where there is drought in one part of the world there is often more rain in another. However, with bigger more violent storms comes flooding which is also not conducive to agriculture. . You can have the exact same amount of annual rain but have it all in a few large storms rather than many small ones.

While most of the world's population cannot detect the effect of global warming the evidence from the arctic and antarctic is sobering. Arctic ice is clearing and both arctic and antarctic ice is thinning. The thinning in Antarctica is measured by gravity changes at a rate of 24 cubic miles a year.

In the distant past when such changes occurred people just moved on. They abandoned the village where it now flooded every year, they moved away from the drought stricken area to where the moisture now supported agriculture, they left the areas now covered with glaciers. But today our burgeoning populations, that are more mobile than ever before, are locked into political subdivisions of the map. If an entire country or region become unsustainable WHO will take their population? Climatic instability becomes political instability then wars break out. . .

Would the U.S. accept the entire population of Canada if glaciation were to cover the entire country? It has happened in the recent past and only takes a few decades. Or would Mexico accept those displaced from Canada and the Northern U.S. states? Would YOU and everyone you know permanently share your home with a family displaced from another region? OR would the tens of millions without means be shuffled into refugee camps? What happens to the industry and jobs that were there?

These things happen all over the world for various reasons. Add global warming, rapidly increasing populations, political extremism, economic wars. . . Its going to be a real mess any way you look at it.

NASA : Is Antarctica Melting?
- guru - Thursday, 02/17/11 08:38:30 EST

Strange Anvil:
Now here is one for the "experts". . . I don't have a clue.
Mystery Anvil : Flash slide show
- guru - Thursday, 02/17/11 08:55:33 EST

Strange anvil: WAG here, but it looks to me like a very old unfinished anvil. Those steps where the heel and horn should be would make good scarfs for forge-welds that would help resist the shear plane when hammering on same. Factory second? Did they finish the anvil? If it has its hard top et all then I'd look for another answer. I know that such scarfs don't show up in the literature on anvil making but if I wanted to make a tough built up anvil I'd do something similar.
Judson Yaggy - Thursday, 02/17/11 18:43:19 EST

Strange Anvil: My guess is that the grooves were to be used with the anvil rotated up on end, in place of a swage block's edge features.

Only a wild guess, of course.
- Dave Boyer - Thursday, 02/17/11 21:45:44 EST

Post Drills: Anybody want a post drill?

ebay # 400192875978
- Tom H - Thursday, 02/17/11 22:16:39 EST

Post Drills: I've gotten rid of a few my self that needed minor work. I think they are priced about double what they should be. Considering how many may not be repairable or worth repairing (half or more) the cost per would be double the price. . . With $70 each plus labor. . . no money in them.
- guru - Thursday, 02/17/11 23:44:50 EST

Anvil ID: Almost certainly British. Pritchel hole appears to have been drilled in rather than punched, so probably needs to be disregarded as an age identifier. Rather looks like a saw setter anvil. As noted, the bulge at the middle may have have been a forge welding scraf which wasn't finished. Round porter holes? Based on Anvils in America (available through the Anvilfire store) my guess would be earlier than the 1750s.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/18/11 09:09:30 EST

Well, the hardie hole was square. Looks round in some views but you can see some of the squareness in others. Its just very worn. Same with the handling holes. Bottom one is crisp and square, sides are tapered and worn round but square sown deep.

My first impression was that the notch on one end was a repair notch. There are several articles in Practical Blacksmithing about mechanical repairs using dovetails. But on close examination the shape is not right AND its on the hardy hole end. The notches are also not square enough to have supported something wedged in.

Two things the notches do. One, is they provide a ledge on both ends of the anvil which may have had some application, especially since anvils of that era had those thick almost non-existent heels. The other thing is that the one end looks to be a hex shape with part broken, worn or corroded off. If something that large (about 6" across) were being supported on that surface then the opposite notch may be for helping hold the anvil in position. . . maybe.

This is definitely a special purpose anvil but like many special old blacksmithing tools divining its purpose may be impossible.
- guru - Friday, 02/18/11 09:48:43 EST

mysteriy anvil: I'm thinking of a team of men working in the early days when there weren't necessarily standards of exact shape and measurement. If the trapezoidal block has the feet and base finished, and the big handling tongs or bars are inserted, the men could round fuller in above the handling holes to demarcate and thin the heels. I'm thinking, "What if the fullers broke or were deformed. The blokes are looking around and find triangular set tools top and bottom. Why not use these? We can still hang onto the handling holes and thin and draw out the heels a bit.

Only a wild goose.
Frank Turley - Friday, 02/18/11 12:08:19 EST

Mystery anvil: My guess is a gunsmiths anvil. The end details would seem to replace a swage block for welding the tube from flat, making the hex and for detailing the breach end flat and square.
ptree - Friday, 02/18/11 13:04:30 EST

I've found a couple more curiosities in my collection. . . prioritizing is tough. Just posted a "Dentists" anvil that Steve Prillwitz sent me a couple years ago. I set it aside and forgot I had the photos. . . Its listed in his collection and under miniatures.

Dentists Anvil
- guru - Friday, 02/18/11 13:58:53 EST

The Forge at Valley Forge: I came across this while researching something else, but there seem to be at least two candidates- and nobody could decide which was original or whatever.

Anyway, with all of the confusion and ambiguity, no forge was reconstructed. Some interesting insights on history, politics, and the "Colonial Revival" period in the publication, too.
Valley Forge Park Development
Bruce Blackistone - Friday, 02/18/11 20:28:57 EST

valley forge: Thanks, Bruce.
Frank Turley - Saturday, 02/19/11 10:16:46 EST

Valley Forge, Historical sites: I thought the mixture of politics based on misinformation and bad research was interesting. Some things have better, others worse.

In the Virgina State park system we have "Fairy Stone Park". Years ago the state had a tourism film that claimed that this was the only place these rare cross shaped crystals were found. Currently there is a little private museum nearby that has samples from all over the world. . . Gee, its not the "only" place.

Then there are the state historic site signs. . Most of which are accurate but some report historical "myths". Others point to places that no longer exit. . . Too many things change.

In Virgina we are positively tripping over historical sites. Most are taken very seriously some not so much. Gross commercialization is a problem everywhere. When Busch Gardens was built in Williamsburg everyone thought it was a great economic development and were not thinking of the changes it would make. It used to be a school trip to "Williamsburg" meant going to Historic Williamsburg, Jamestown and one or more of the restored plantations. Today it means MAYBE doing a quick walk through at an historic site than off to spend the rest of the weekend at the amusement park. . .

Forty years ago if you asked a child about their trip to Williamsburg they would tell you about the blacksmith, marbled papers being made at the print shop or the sassafras wood tooth brushes from the apothecary. But today its which ride was the best!
- guru - Saturday, 02/19/11 13:19:35 EST

That's a long way from selling hot dogs in the park. . .
- guru - Saturday, 02/19/11 13:21:51 EST

Foot drop hammer: We have an antique foot drop hammer with a 91 pound head for sale it is
driven by manual or 11o motor which is mounted to the hammer by leather belt.
contact us 830-708-7698 this a solid machine stands 9feet 7 inchs tall and
probably around 900 to 1000 pounds. striking surface is 3inches with a 6 by 8
inch anvil surface that is removable email me at for
pictures. It is located in Canyon Lake Texas

- Bob Keilmann - Monday, 02/21/11 22:51:29 EST

Stone Tools: I hope this won't disrupt the "rules" here since we have talked about smoking pipes and cigars once before (off subject from blacksmithing)

With your permission Guru, I would like to ask if you or anyone else knows of any websites or online books that deal with stone tools and their uses on rock and or different species of trees (preferably coniferous?) When the weather clears up I'll be going into the back 40 to look for some good flintknapping rocks to cut some wood and I will be knapping the rocks in the shape of an "adze".

Any help would be great!
Thank you!
- Matt H - Tuesday, 02/22/11 01:08:23 EST

stone tools: I googled 'BOOKS' and typed in "primitive skills flint knapping." There appears to be a good discussion on line in John & Geri McPherson's book, "Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills..."
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/22/11 08:07:19 EST

How primitive?: In 1991, my "primitive skills friend," Scott Kuipers, invited me to go to the Rabbitstick Rendezvous Skills Conference near Rexburg, Idaho. He thought that I could demo blacksmithing. I took a Japanese box bellows, a small anvil, 1 pair of tongs, and a hammer. At that time, the conference consisted of skills experts from many fields, everything from debris huts to flint knapping to boat building to fire starting to cordage making, and more (see youtube; rabbitstick 2010). I think I was breaking new ground, because a blacksmith had not been to Rabbitstick before that time. We were all camped in a nice area adjacent to the Snake River. The morning of the first day, all of the skills instructors gathered in a circle, and we went in a round, introducing ourselves. After the intros, one guy said that he didn't think that blacksmithing could properly be called primitive. Well! Maybe 15% of the "experts" were wearing Sloyd knives on a cord around the neck. I responded by saying that if you want to be purists in that sense, all Sloyd knives should be got rid of and so should the iron rod cooking tripods and crossbars, not to mention pots and pans. So much for that.

On the banks of the Snake, I found some beautiful gray clay, so I fashioned a Japanese styled ground forge. Scott and I drove to town and picked up enough scrap iron in the alleys to start work. All in all, it was a fun experience.

Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/22/11 08:50:27 EST

Max Metzger books: A friend found three smithery books at a New England book store and mailed them to me for a fee, about $100 for all three, as I recall. They are good picture books from the early 1900's showing lots of hot leaf work, done mostly on approximately 1/8" thick stock. Lots of fullering and chasing. They were translated from the German and published by Robert Ruhloff, who unfortunately, passed on in 2008. You can find the titles presently on by typing in keyword "blacksmithing" and Max Metzler as the author. Only one little correction. For some reason, Ruhloff did not translate "kehlhammer" correctly. It is a fuller, and it is a tool of indirect percussion, not direct. When we see the word "hammer," we often think of it as a swung tool. There lies the confusion.

The books are good.
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 02/22/11 11:54:02 EST

primitive OR primitive. . . .: We get that a lot here. "I want to do it the way the did in ancient times . ." OR "using period methods".

How ancient? How primitive? How skilled? What period in what place or civilization?

Our so called "stone age" ancestors were just as intelligent (maybe more so) than we are today and ALWAYS had better hand skills and knew their environment and its resources with great detail. 10,000 years ago flint knapping was a highly developed art. 30,000 years ago it was a developed skill but relatively primitive. Considering it has only stopped being a necessary skill on the last paragraph of the last page of mankind's "history" there is a lot to know.

One of the first things the back to the Earther's want to do is dig up their own (insert mineral, ore, clay or other natural resource here) in their back yard to start their process. The problem, and those very knowledgeable "cavemen" would tell you, is that valuable resources are rare and found only in specific places. They would often travel great distances to find really good flint, or ocher for paint, herbs and seasonal game. Over time trade routes developed and some people made a business out of mining, processing and trading their local resources with others.

While some think it is "cheating" to go on-line and order raw materials for their primitive project it is no different than going to the town where the caravan from far far away passes through and trading the animal hides you've collected over the winter for goods that you can't find locally, fireclay, amber, bronze, ebony. . .

Trade routes started with game trails and hunting parties, then village to village trade or seasonal rendezvous. With the development of pack animals trade became a long distance business thousands of years ago. Then came boats, the wheel, roads. . . credit cards and the internet.

Do what you can on your 40 acres but the probability of finding good flint is low. More places by many thousands to one have stone that edge tools cannot be made from. Those that do also have more very poor stone (such as the common crystalline white quartz in Virginia). These are used in desperation but require more skill to work than good flint.

On that 40 acres you may have clay good for pottery or even more valuable, suitable for refractory brick. Our local pine forests (unless planted) are fairly mixed with other species such as wild cherry, Dogwood, Sassafras, Holly. . . All very useful in small quantities. Dogwood is very strong, wear resistant and takes a very slick finish which is why it was prized for making weaving shuttles. It is also excellent for making wooden spoons, tool handles, splitting wedges and other hardwood products. Pine sap is collected for various purposes and does not require cutting down the tree.

So don't despair if the raw materials you are looking for are not there. Take best advantage of what IS there. OR take advantage of the great trade routes.

In Memorium Bob Harasim Flint Knapper
- guru - Tuesday, 02/22/11 12:36:35 EST

Frank T. - Thanks, I have looked that book up on google books and it is now in my amazon wish list!

Guru - I hope to not offend you or anyone but out here in Wyoming, unlike in the east or anywhere densly poplulated, you can do almost anything you want from the land without abusing it or having the
- Matt H - Tuesday, 02/22/11 15:36:47 EST

RE stone tools...: Oops, my post didn't save, :@
- Matt - Tuesday, 02/22/11 15:38:02 EST

stone tools: To make a long story short, I don't believe there is much flint near my town but I am sure I can find other rocks that are somewhat suitable, like some chalcedony or chert. Who knows?

As for wood, I usually don't cut down live trees or dead trees for the matter because I don't have a chain saw or a good enough axe. When I do, I will get a permit.

Land - as far as the "valuable" land out here, it's mostly high desert sagebrush to the common person driving through, but to me it is a goldmine of activity! I love gathering rocks, minerals, dirt, sand, wood, flowers, cones, seeds etc. becuase I have an interest in just about everything I mentioned. I don't take from the land that wouldn't be missed in future generations. Besides, what I do out in the back 40 is by far better than what a lot of the locals do by shooting fireworks and not picking up the burnt rockets (garbage & fire hazard), broken glass & shell casings (shotgun shells = plastic), plastic bottles, tires, tv's etc. So many people abuse the land out here. I simply take what I need before it get's destroyed.
Matt - Tuesday, 02/22/11 15:46:38 EST

Matt, for the purpose of making stone tools many stones are called "filnt". Agate, Chalcedony, Chert, Jasper, Obsidian. . . You may have them, you may not. The best way to determine the local stone's usefulness is to try it. All these natural materials are infinitely variable. Everything from their color and texture to how they knap.

Its a field of study that you can spend a lifetime on.

Our friend Bob Harasim used a wood or bone tool with a small copper tip for knapping. There is some evidence that using native copper as a knapping tip was a common method for thousands of years.

Lots of things to study.
- guru - Tuesday, 02/22/11 16:50:26 EST

I am quite tired of a certain SCA member I know whinging on about not being able to find any "flint" for the firestrike he has (he didn't buy it from me or I'd give him a bit of rock that throws a good spark)because he lives in the city...
JimG - Tuesday, 02/22/11 17:59:20 EST

Please give me a call or e-mail me at I will be working in Stuart, VA and Boone, NC in the near future.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 02/22/11 22:29:47 EST

Primitive AND Survival: At the Rabbitstick conference that I mentioned earlier, there were not only primitive skills people, but some of the methods were for survival in any age. For example, Mel Deweese was there, and he not only showed fire making, a back and forth Phillipine style with woody material, but he showed how to quickly start a fire with a headlight lens and the sun. If you're lost in the woods, "any port in the storm."

One nice thing about the conference; a guy did not need to dress period, as the mountain men and long hunters are sometimes required to do at rendezvous. You could dress any way you wanted to, so long as you could "deliver."
Frank Turley - Wednesday, 02/23/11 10:20:42 EST

Frank; I've annoyed many a person in the SCA when I've told them that cast iron is NOT medieval for cookware.

Seems as most groups make a big to do about the authenticity of their fabrics and completely ignore their metalwork. When they are carping to me about something I'm not right about I tend to point out that their basic metal work is done using materials that were available only *after* you could buy Levi Jeans in a dry goods store. They then tell me "well that's different" and don't have a good answer when I ask "Why?".

Thomas trying to improve incrementally---didn't bring a london pattern anvil to Estrella this year and did bring a twin single action bellows forge built of adobe on a soapstone slab running off of charcoal.

Thomas P - Wednesday, 02/23/11 14:01:18 EST

Its hard to be a purist and most people don't have the technical acumen to know everything that is "period" and what's not. And as noted they will pick on some esoteric point and miss the big picture.

The first and biggest issue is that we have too much modern knowledge (science) and not just traditional how-to. I remarked recently to some "primitive" smelters that the high yields they have started to get may be better than the old timers even though they had the advantage of centuries of handed down knowledge. At some point the combination of testing plus trial and error combined with the science of KNOWING what is happening in the furnace and why, has to produce better results than the pre-science Ironmasters could produce.

Just my thoughts. But it applies to any "primitive" activity.
- guru - Wednesday, 02/23/11 17:35:44 EST

I get invites to demo at various venues around Indiana and Kentucky. These are often period events and when asked do I demo to a period, I usually respond yeah about "77. Then they ask 1877 or 1777 and I respond, naah, my demo rig is a "77 Datsun pickup bed made into a trailer. I seem to not ever be able to do a period demo:)
ptree - Wednesday, 02/23/11 19:50:52 EST

Period Demos:
Ptree, I'd bet if you showed up with all the period equipment and dress for 1700 Colonial America, shoveled a big pile of bituminous coal into a cast-iron forge and worked with it all weekend forging mild steel, that nobody except a busy body wanna-be smith would even question that you were using the wrong fuel and material. Most of the time you can show up with a 20th Century anvil and forge and nobody will question it as long as you dress funny.

BUT if you showed up wearing tennis shoes and Carharts using a forge with hand cranked blower working rare (expensive) wrought iron in a charcoal fire while demonstrating accurate wrought forging and welding technique that this would NOT be acceptable. . . even though technically much more accurate than just wearing a three corner hat while working with modern materials.

I've seen all kinds of disparities in "historic" and period demos. Generally all the public wants to see is someone forging hot iron on an anvil. Museums and historical sites generally only want the Hollywood version of accuracy. Places that asked me all sorts of questions about my trailer and tools as well as my manner of dress would have a glass blower next to me using a high tech oxy-acetylene torch on pyrex tubing. . .

When Paw-Paw arranged to have an 18th Century period museum purchase my forge trailer they had him replace my welding cylinder space with shelves, put covers over the tires and a plaque next to the hand crank drill press that said "... Circa 1870". The forge made of angle and plate, the frame made of square structural tubing and plywood was not a problem. It had a Great Bellows, leg vise and looked cool. . .

Sadly the bellows gave out and needed replacement. I quoted a new bellows because repairing the old one was more work and would not hold up as long. I think the forge has been used a couple times since Paw-Paw passed but it is very difficult to setup due to modifications he had made and with the bellows shot its not very useful anymore. . . a sad ending.
- guru - Thursday, 02/24/11 10:00:08 EST

Yes I remember how shocked I was going to a new place's "Medieval Period Demo Center" and being asked if I needed electricity...

I like bringing some real wrought iron along just in case I meet someone who *is* interested in the finer details of historical smithing.

I have not had any hassle over putting kids in a modern leather apron and a face shield when I work them through a project though. I stand fast on that one!

Thomas P - Thursday, 02/24/11 12:32:40 EST

Demo Oddities:
I was invited over and over to demo at Wolf Trap Park in Virginia. Its near DC and supposedly a great venue. The problem was that they wanted ME to have a several million dollar fire liability insurance policy. . Then they wanted to know if I could use an "enclosed fire". I said I could use a gas forge BUT the sparks flying off hot steel are the primary fire concern. Then they wanted a fire watch and me to provide it. I repeatedly declined. They kept asking. . .

I wanted to get into the Ferrum Folk Life festival at Ferrum College, VA. Their requirement was that I learned my trade from my father and OR my grandfather. . . A sticky requirement that was soon going to run them out of demonstrators. At that time I did not know I had several generations of Ironmasters as ancestors. If I had known I would have made up some BS about learning from from my father and grandfather even though they were not smiths. I learned a lot of metalworking from my Dad though no welding or smithing. My Grandfather died when I was 12. I had a couple of his tools but that was it.

On the other hand I think the big Smithsonian crafts event held on the Mall in Washington DC only cares about the quality of the work and general recognition of the artist.

Most venues were so happy to get a blacksmith that I could demand the six spaces required for the shop trailer and have fees waived. Most places that Paw-Paw took the trailer paid for the demonstrator. This is how it should be.
- guru - Thursday, 02/24/11 13:23:12 EST

When I do a demo, I do NOT pay fees. Period. I tell organizers that I demo under two methods. One is I demo, sell my stuff and they get to advertise a blacksmith, a good people draw. The other is I demo, I don't sell, They feed me, pay gas money and a fee per day.
Most go for the sales route, but after a couple of demo's, most of the organizers have no quibble and ask what I need to come, because they have seen that I do indeed draw folks. I spend time with every kiddo that comes along, answer questions and don't go ballastic when told for the 4000th time in a day that "Grandpa" was a real blacksmith. Often don't do much other than break even, but I also usually gather at least 4 new recruits to the blacksmithing club per day:)
ptree - Thursday, 02/24/11 14:16:07 EST

The hard one is smiling twenty times a weekend when everyone just HAS to tell you the joke about how long it takes to look at a horseshoe. . .

Considering we all have 2 grandfathers and 4 great grand fathers and 8 great great grandfathers there is a good chance one of them was a farmer that had an anvil and many people thinks this made then a blacksmith. In a married couple you double these numbers and even dropping a generation you have 12 possibilities.

Recently I had a woman send me photos of her father's anvil. Of course he was a "blacksmith". The anvil was an ASO with lots of rust and not a single mark or blemish in the finish on face or horn. There WAS a lot of spider web clinging to it. . . Yep, a blacksmiths anvil.
- guru - Thursday, 02/24/11 17:52:28 EST

My Great Grandfather was a smith but he died whilst I was in diapers.

My Grandfather was a tinkerer and turned his hands to most types of stuff; but I don't remember him smithing.

My Father was an EE and had forging as part of the engineering curriculum back in the late 50's; he mainly taught me that you can do most things if you are willing to *learn* and *practice*.

But I'm pretty much on my own in learning to smith.

I've had the "real blacksmith" conversation and what I generally tell folks was that my Great Grandfather was the smith in a small rural hill town in AR and he could do a LOT of stuff I can't. OTOH I can do a lot of smithing stuff he never could---in particular pattern welded knives and smelting my own metal from ore; so who's the "real" smith?

I think there is plenty of room in the coal smoke for lots of folks personally!

Thomas P - Thursday, 02/24/11 18:07:10 EST

Jock, I was demo'ing a couple of years ago when I got the standard My grandfather was a blacksmith story, I smiled that frozen smile and asked politely where, and the very nice lady told me in the next county and that the shop was still standing and had all this rusty machinery. She went on to describe hearing the engine hitting and missing and the slap of the belts when she was a tike. I very carefully asked if it was indeed still there and she said yes, but all the stuff was sooo rusty. Did I want to buy the entire property she asked, and i said regretfully no, but was the family interested in selling the shop and contents. She said yes probably she would speak to the family. I even got a call back to regretfully tell me that the property had sold shop and all:( I have been ever so carefull to not dismiss those Granpa was a smith stories ever since.

Maybe I should answer Datsun era when asked what period:)
ptree - Thursday, 02/24/11 18:58:35 EST

Inspecting the horseshoe briefly.: Daniel, a man that helps me occasionally, was a striker/smith in Germany for five years. There was a non-incadescent piece of big, hot iron on the floor, and he was told that it was very light. Daniel didn't think that it looked all that light, so he picked it up...very briefly. The other guys in the shop chimed in, "See, we told you it was light!"
Frank Turley - Thursday, 02/24/11 18:59:38 EST

Frank, that is great. A different German twist on the same story. .
- guru - Thursday, 02/24/11 21:54:10 EST

I'm not very good with metrics. Someone in Italy wants me to customize a tool for a 25mm shaft. I make that out to be right a 7/8". Correct?
- Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/25/11 18:00:09 EST

Metric shaft: Ken, 25mm would be just a hair under 1" since there are 25.4 mm per inch. It would actually be .984" or 63/64" fractionally.
- Rich - Friday, 02/25/11 18:03:06 EST

Thank you. Unfortunately I don't have any of that size stock. Will have to use 1" and then grind a bit off each side.
Ken Scharabok - Friday, 02/25/11 20:24:29 EST

Ken S: You only need to take about .008" off each side, so by the time you get the scale ground off you should be almost there.

Here's a simple metric conversion chart you can print out to put in the shop:
Metric conversion chart
- Rich - Friday, 02/25/11 23:56:55 EST

Charts Data and Conversion:
Since about 1980 we had two charts from Morse Tools that were distributor give-aways at the time in our engineering offices and shop. One is a fraction decimal and millimeter table with Letter and Number drill sizes. The other is a thread and tap drill chart with English, pipe and metric threads and drill sizes. These two charts were referred to daily in both office and shop.

In our engineering office Machinery's Handbook was the primary reference but something we probably used more often was the Holo-Krome Socket Scrw Selector slip charts. These have the dimensions of socket head screws, flat head screws, button heads, shoulder bolts and socket set screws. While we used this primarily for dimensions it also included fastener strengths and torques.

All the information above is in Machinery's Handbook but there are difference in the data and the charts are based on the most commonly used standards. For this often referred to data the charts are handier.

The third chart I've used for the past 20 years is the Tempil Basic Guide to Ferrous Metallurgy. The wall chart had been given to me as a gift. A small page size copy is kept in the front of my heat treater's guide.
- guru - Saturday, 02/26/11 01:07:11 EST

You can also type "convert 25 mm to inches" right in the search bar on Google and get your answer. ("convert 25 mph to furlongs per fortnight" works too.)
Mike BR - Saturday, 02/26/11 16:25:05 EST

Yeah, Those Google guys have too much time on their hands. That kind of stuff is going to result in the first true AI being a smart A$$.
- guru - Saturday, 02/26/11 18:39:26 EST

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