Some tools to drool over.  Image (c) 1998 Jock Dempsey.  Click for enlargement. WELCOME to the anvilfire!
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March 2010 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.
This page is NOT a chat - it is a "message board"

Our chat, the (Slack-Tub Pub), is immediate but the record of it is temporary. DO NOT post permanent messages there. We refresh the "log" every 24 hours now and your message will be lost.

The Guru's Den is where I and several others try to answer ALL your blacksmithing and metalworking questions to us.

Please note that this forum uses an e-mail encryption system that prevents spam harvesters from collecting your e-mail address.

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

Hi Nippulini
"You've Got To Keep It Real, Feel The Steel"...LOL...I can't help myself...I love it!!

Nip...I designed a small 7 lb swage block to slide in your pocket and bring to those hammerin's and suchlike. Centaur Forge owns and sells them now. Check em out. You need one.

My Sis works in Philly. I keep forgetting your pierce shop is there. Tell Molly I want a ride on the Harley. I want to feel the steel!! LOL
- Burnt Forge - Saturday, 02/27/10 18:40:00 EST

Cartoon: Nip

Great Cartoon!!
- Burnt Forge - Sunday, 02/28/10 13:07:10 EST

Heh heh.. Burnt Forge, I rue the day my father wrote and sang that tune. I think that clip was the ONLY time Molly ever rode. You can feel the steel, just place your hand on the anvil and wait.

The cartoon.. there's more!
- Nippulini - Monday, 03/01/10 08:17:21 EST

Hi Sage
You are a talented cartoonist. I love em all so far!
You're parents seem really great. I got my hand on an anvil feeling the steel while I pick at the keyboard...grin.
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/01/10 22:47:19 EST

Lifting super heavy objects: Hey guys I figured you would know more about my question than yahoo answers.

What would be the best way (if you don't have the money or mechanical skills) to lift a 14" x 14" piece of cylindrical steel? There is a 1.5" diameter hole going through the block so I can put my crowbar inside this hole to roll it but I need to figure out a way to lift this thing. I've tried all sorts of methods but nothing seems to work.

I thought about trying to make some sort of crude seesaw so I can use physics to lift this sucker. I don't have a wench, or any chains, just plain gung ho and my back...

Any suggestions? Thanks everyone!
Matt Hunter - Tuesday, 03/02/10 16:35:13 EST

Rolling it up an incline? Get a wrecker to lift it for you? 6 body builders to lift it with a bar through the middle? Stick a bar in the middle and lever it over and have someone stick a board under it and then lever it over onto that and place a larger board on the other side? Borrow an engine hoist? Make a tripd and use a come-along?

Too few details.

Thomas who has loaded several powerhammers all by himself before
Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/02/10 17:03:07 EST

Moving a 580 pound cylinder:
The weight is a guess, but that it not super heavy. Cylinders are easy, they roll.

Tools are always the issue but a long ramp is the best way to move a heavy cylinder. However, the ram must be able to support more than 600 pounds. Then all you need is you and a wedge to act as a brake if you need to stop part way up.

If you have a short ramp then you need something to pull with. Cable type come-a-longs are cheap but a bit of a pain to use. PRACTICE the switching and moving then do so with deliberate steps.

Stick a bar through the axle hole and rig rope or chain to each side to pull with the come-a-long. This is not pretty but it will work.

Using a large stack of 1-1/2" and a couple 3/4" boards about a foot square. . . roll the block onto one 3/4" board. Then put a 1.5" board next to it and hump the load over the 3/4" step. The a board on the other and hump over the step. IF you chamfer the corners and round that the cylinder will roll over 3/4" easily. The down side to this system is if you get very high you need stakes in the ground or guides to keep the boards from shifting. You also need to be careful about losing that 600 pounds.

Those of use that move heavy things all the time have good heavy 6 foot pry bars as well as shorter wrecking bars. Then rollers, chain rigging, nylon slings, come-a-longs, load binders. . . . OH! and my favorite NEW (relatively) toy, a fork lift. These go with the F600 10,000# cap flat bed truck. . .

But I've had to (recently) move things heavier than I will try to lift into the van using a pry bar and a ramp.
- guru - Tuesday, 03/02/10 20:07:10 EST

Matt Hunter, that 14" round 14" long would weigh about 609# if solid, take a bit out for the hole. You did not say how high you need to lift or it it then needs to swing into something like a truck. If you get it into a truck, you will sure need chains to secure it because something like that will go straight through a pickup cab in a wreck.

There are many rental places that rent engine hoists, some that can be towed behind a truck on a ball hitch. Most would not be challanged by this weight.
If transporting this on the road, chain down like your life depends on it, because it does.
ptree - Tuesday, 03/02/10 20:10:25 EST

Flood the area with mercury and float it into place? (grin)
Mike BR - Tuesday, 03/02/10 21:14:38 EST

Moving heavy loads: My Dad had a theory that was possible for moving heavy objects (stone, monoliths) that ancients could have used but there was no proof that it was ever used. Flumes and Locks.

To move heavy loads a wooden flume could be built, filled with water and a "boat" used to float the loads. To raise and lower the loads up and down mountainsides a series of locks could be used. All it takes is a high supply of water. Locks are filled to raise loads, locks are drained to lower loads. Nothing that can't be done with wood and caulking.

Then there is Wallace Wallington's "Forgotten Technology", another series of hinted at but unproven methods that work and with less infrastructure.
- guru - Tuesday, 03/02/10 23:29:23 EST

I had an error in the schedule data so we had jumped back a few comics. . . don't know what we missed (too confusing even to me). But they are on track now. Will have to change my scheduling math for next year so a Monday really IS a Monday. . .

I'll be on-the road the next few days. . I think. Snowing AGAIN. . .
- guru - Wednesday, 03/03/10 01:46:17 EST

Thanks guys for all the help!

A guy up in Billings used a forklift to put it in the back of my tahoe and I had to roll it out of my truck (THUMP) made an impression in the ground and it's been on the ground ever since (3 or 4 years ago). The hole isn't in the middle but right on the end, almost cut open from the edge (if that made sense)

I could never guess on the actual weight of the thing. I've been told no more than 400lbs but the 600lb mark sounds more correct. Here are the dimensions - 10" x 14" x 14".

I was going to use it as my crude anvil but I think I might just sell it now since it's too awkward and heavy haha. You guys are all great! Again, thanks!! :D
Matt Hunter - Wednesday, 03/03/10 12:47:02 EST

reminder to me: 14237028

Those are dimensions for a rectangle. I thought it was round?
guru - Wednesday, 03/03/10 13:58:48 EST

For a rectangular solid 10x14x14 that would be about 555 pounds in steel

Sounds like someone could mill a sow block out of that one!

Thomas P - Wednesday, 03/03/10 17:57:13 EST

On the road: Well, after 6 hours on the road we are in Petersburg and the crane is unloaded from my truck. Its been sitting on it for over a year. . . Now I can use the truck.

This afternoon we are hauling a set of heavy gates to somewhere near Annapolis, MD. . Another 4 hour drive. Then install tomorrow and the back to Pburg. . . Then home. A long tiring trip.
- guru - Thursday, 03/04/10 12:19:38 EST

On The Road: Guru

Enjoy your trip and don't work to hard. Swing your truck out my way and you can fill it up with some rusty stuff...grin.

- Burnt Forge - Thursday, 03/04/10 15:06:26 EST

Work safely: I always wear steel toecap boots when working and won't let people work in the shop unless they do. Rushing to get the pig onto the roaster this morning I wore training shoes and dropped a kerbstone on my toes!

BTW I have discovered that it is so easy to get a pig on and off the uprights using a fork lift. Nowe that really is lazy.
- PHILIP IN CHINA - Thursday, 03/04/10 21:54:58 EST

So I guess you've completely given up attempting to keep Kosher in China, huh?

Signed, another Jew blacksmith who eats ham, shellfish, and combines meat and cheese.
- Nippulini - Friday, 03/05/10 12:17:12 EST

steel...: sorry, I'm not good at math ;)

14" diameter round (hence why i got 14 x 14) x 10" high and it is a cylinder...

i hate math...

Matt Hunter - Friday, 03/05/10 23:59:57 EST

Moving Heavy Stuff: One method I like for barrels or cylinders is to use pairs of beams as an incline plane, then rig a parbuckle, a rope or chain from the delivery point down around the cylindrical object, and back up to me. It gives a two-to-one advantage. You then pull it up to you. Sometimes if it takes more than one person, or if it’s not symmetrical, you can use multiple straps and/or people pulling. That requires some coordination, but still practical. The really nice thing about a parbuckle, is that if you screw up, it doesn’t run you over!

My favorite method is a large labor pool of young, strong and smart crew. If they can't do it by brute force, they can usually think of a clever alternative. (Very useful when we raise or lower the mast.)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Saturday, 03/06/10 11:59:21 EST

re Atli: Hey thanks for the help! I think I am going to use the parbuckle method. I've seen that method used before but I didn't know the name of it.
- Matt Hunter - Sunday, 03/07/10 23:39:48 EST

Arrested Blacksmith comic: Forgot to add, most competent smiths would be able to get out of those cuffs pretty well.
- Nippulini - Monday, 03/08/10 09:03:29 EST

Moving Heavy Things: is the title of a great little book by Jan Adkins.
It is almost a kids book- mostly drawings, very few words, and it describes pre-forklift, pre-crane technology, mostly in 18th century new england.
Its a cool book, and actually has a fair amount of info in it, although not technical details, just very artistic sketches. It includes digging trenches and filling em with water, so they freeze in winter and become dragging routes, using ice cubes to fine position big machinery (when you get it where you want it, you wait til the ice melts, and you have a precisely located machine) but also pulleys and ropes and ramps and levers.
- ries - Monday, 03/08/10 18:51:48 EST

Cartoon: Nipp

Awesome cartoon!! "The Shop Gorilla". Another one that is going up on the wall. You really outdid yourself.
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/08/10 21:29:26 EST

Not blacksmithing but....: .... somebody on here will know. I want to make some low density concrete blocks. I have been told that I can do this by mixing in some styrofoam granules. I have 2 questions:
How much styrofoam should I use?
Do I add it to a standard 3:2:1 mix or does it substitute for some of the aggregate?
- philip in china - Tuesday, 03/09/10 22:52:59 EST

Are you using China made styrofoam or American? This will make a large difference in the density.
- Bubba J - Wednesday, 03/10/10 00:57:17 EST

Not Chinese seismic grade concrete block?

Lightweight block is made by adding coal cinders (clinker) or specially processed minerals to concrete or by aerating the concrete. Aeration is done most commonly done chemically.

Aerocrete is made by adding aluminum powder to the mix. The aluminum reacts with the lime and produces hydrogen bubbles lightening the concrete. Other formulas include gypsum and can produce concrete 30% the density of standard concrete.

There are numerous types of plastic foams. Styrofoam is expanded polystyrene and has closed cells in a plastic matrix. It is no longer very common. The common beaded foam is made from solvent filled plastic beads that are heated with steam, evaporating the solvent making the beads expand and glue together. The foam can be broken up or ground into expanded beads of about 1/8" or 2-3mm. These could be added to the concrete as lightweight aggregate filler. These beads are very weak compared to solid mineral lighteners. However, they are no less weak than gas pockets formed by hydrogen.

Yes, substitute it for some of the aggregate. Adding it to a lean mix will make the mix much weaker. I prefer rich mixes which are much stronger than the typical or "bag" mixes. I generally add a shovel full of Portland cement to a bag of pre-mix.

My materials books have nothing on this method so you might want to experiment.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/10/10 01:12:59 EST

There are some guys who do my act (pierced weightlifting) using gaffed props. I have never done that. The most easiset common item to gaff is the cinder block. Bake a cinder block and it drives off all the moisture. Now you have a relatively lightweight object that appears really heavy. Now take the same block outside and try to pick it up after a nice rain. See? You can only gaff an anvil by casting aluminum or hollowing out an ASO. I never did that.
Nippulini picking up 55 pound ASO
- Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/10/10 08:40:37 EST

Ooops! Wrong link.

Here it is:
Nippulini REALLY picking up a 55 pound ASO (not a 15 pound anchor)
- Nippulini - Wednesday, 03/10/10 08:44:30 EST

Nip, The anchor photo looks like someone has prepared to "Sleep with the fishes". . . as they say in New Jersey ;)

Prepared props are used in many fields. Sometimes it is just a matter of how the material is applied. When marshal artists break boards it is always with them supported across the grain the weak direction. Turn the board 90 degrees and someone will end up with a broken hand.

On the other hand. . . I once told a newby that the iron used by demonstrators is special "magic" iron that holds its heat much longer and stays soft longer. . . She believed me for about 2 minutes. . . But it DOES seem that way when you watch an experianced smith. The iron seems to stay hot forever. The "magic" is the expert knows to get a good soaking (not a surface) heat, and then they work very fast compared to the inexperienced. It is mostly the speed at which they work, but it is also knowing how to make the steel behave the way you want it, the power applied by those fast blows PLUS that good heat. Skill often LOOKs like magic.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/10/10 12:16:29 EST

playing with tool steels: does anyone have any tips on using m2 for hot tools? i am thinking of getting 1/4 in drill bit blanks to make small hot tools. my plan is to forge them then let them cool in my gas forge over night. will this work? or will it make them too hard? i am just going to air cool my s7 punches and re heat them to a red and air cool again. does this sound workable or am i being crazy for trying these steels?
bigfoot - Wednesday, 03/10/10 18:10:16 EST

Gaffed Props: Nipp, have a look on this site for gaffed props on hats at Quad State. I have made several anvils that from about 10' look real. I had a exact full scale copy of a 70# Vanadium Steel anvil that I was able to wear on a hard hat.
I have since done a swage block and others. Look at the news for Quad State last year.

Also Bad Roger is known for his perfect full scale copies of a Peter Wright he calls a Peter Wrong.
His is sheet metal, maine composite.
ptree - Wednesday, 03/10/10 18:44:23 EST

Bigfoot - M2: M2 is is not an easy alloy to heat treat properly, You would probably have better luck with S7.

I think You will need to temper the S7 so it isnt too brittle, perhaps 750 f.
- Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 03/10/10 20:35:16 EST

that sounds like what i knew and thanks for the help. i am not really planning on heat treating the m2 anyway, just keeping it from being too hard to use as a punch. my gas forge cools slow enough to aneal leaf springs 1095 and 52100, so i think i can get the m2 in the high 40s/low 50s HRC. either way, i am still getting the m2, as i have a couple drill bits that need making and they were $4 for a 1/4in by 4in drill bit blank from mcmaster carr. i may end up with expensive metalic mush trying to forge it though! with my high alloyed stuff (i used s2 once) i just air cooled it from a high red and saw if it hardend. if the file cut easily i didn't temper it. it worked, but i lost it :( it worked great for a small punch though.
bigfoot - Wednesday, 03/10/10 20:40:42 EST

er well, that sounded rude. sorry dave! thanks a ton for teh help on this. i don't know much about the high tech steels. usually i think they are the devils steels but i changed my mind recently after using some high tech h13 punches.
bigfoot - Wednesday, 03/10/10 20:54:46 EST

I found a very old vise made by the Champion Blower & Forge Co. It very large weighs about 55lbs. It is a vise, anvil & pipe bender combo. The anvil top is made to come off. It has an approx. 4
- Mike - Thursday, 03/11/10 12:10:42 EST

Combination Machine: MIke, the 1920 Champion catalog only lists one combination machine with vise and anvil. It attached to a stand with a small side blown forge, had a drill press mechanism and a 1" by 6" diameter grinder. The blower gear box was detachable and used to power the grinder. The anvil face plate tilts up to become the drill press table. The entire outfit weighed 100 pounds.

This type of combination machine was popular among hobbyists at the turn of the century. These machines came in many designs all with a "design patent" which doesn't mean much except for covering the exact pattern. Complete machines are rare, the stripped down anvil the most commonly found part.
- guru - Thursday, 03/11/10 15:00:36 EST

My soft blocks: I wanted the soft porous blocks for a wall next to my power hammer at the new place. The wall is purely to deflect sound away and I thought that if the deflector also absorbed some sound it would be even better. Years ago in my NRA magazine I read an article about a range building which was built out of blocks. It was noisy as one would expect but they then painted it inside and the noise became intolerable. This was due to the small pits and craters all being sealed.

BTW that is the UK NRA.
philip in china - Thursday, 03/11/10 19:30:05 EST

Sound Proofing:
This is a complicated subject and not everything that you would think works would do so. In studio soundproofing they use plastic sheeting with lead in it. The high density soft material absorbs sound rather than reflecting it.

In the shop it helps to have noisy machines on their own foundations so the vibration is not transmitted through the solid floor. Transmitted vibration is fatiguing (ask about driving my old truck. . .)

Hard reflective surfaces can be softened with ceiling tiles (made for the purpose) OR wall hangings. Those tapestries in castles did more to reduce sound reflection than to make the place warmer as many suggest. Heavy carpet of any kind will work but most is not very fire resistant except wool.

In theaters I have seen perforated sheet metal bent into a wave pattern of about 6" depth used for noise reduction. The shape disperses sound and the holes lets sound in so that it is broken up. I suspect one part reduces sound of one frequency range and the other a different range giving it a wide range of attenuation.

Most thermal insulation is also sound deadening. AND as Phillip noted the exposed surface makes a big difference. His foam filled blocks would probably do well but the surface may need good texture.
- guru - Friday, 03/12/10 08:54:23 EST

In machine vibration using more rigid surfaces is also a valid method. Got a chute that parts fall on? make the chute as thick as possible and the mass of the thick metal does not vibrate. Using a multiple layer of materials also works. I have lined chutes used to feed forgings to machines with a layer of UHMWPE, mounted on a 1/8" thick red rubber gasket material, and reduced the noise generated from bleding ears to just need earplugs:). These chutes were usually 1/4" plate, and the forgings were dumped from a tub dumper onto the chute. We had maybe 75 of these at the valve shop.

In another case, we were dumping forgings and parts into tumblers to go in the parkerize line, and the noise was off the scale. We installed a factory made enclosure around the dumper station. The enclosure had a perforated liner, fiberglass insulation and a sheet metal outer skin. If you closed the doors to the enclosure the noise was about 85Db.

If I were to want to build a anti-noise wall in a forge shop, I would use corrogated roofing on the inner, wood studs and fiberglass in the cavity. The outer would be gypsum board, probably 2 layers thick.
ptree - Friday, 03/12/10 09:18:01 EST

Failed Sound Proofing:
Back in the 80's we had a rotary phase converter (RotoPhase). Anyone that tells you these are not deafening have lost their hearing long ago. The problem is exasperated by mounting the capacitor box on the side of the unit. The box flexes against the side of the motor housing and the capacitors bump up and down in the box.

We mounted ours over and between the shop's main electrical panels for wiring convenience. This was right next to our machine shop area and before we knew about the noise problem.

Two different enclosures were made to reduce the noise. One was a double way wood box with insulation and the other a louvered affair made of foam insulation board. Neither did nay good. We finally paid the power company the big bucks (about $15,000) to run 1/4 mile of three phase line.

I have that phase converter. My plan was to put it in a shed outside my building and insulate that shed. It would also be the air compressor shed. Everything possible would be done to keep the noise IN.

Another machine that is terribly noise is a vibratory finisher. By their nature they are a noise generating machine. I know people that have them outside the shop and they are still noisy. . .

One area of a vibratory finisher that could be addressed is the tank. It has large flat surfaces that transmit noise. A lot of material cannot be added due to it being part of a dynamic mechanism. But a textured surface would help. Like the RotoPhase they need to be in a seperate shed on a seperate foundation.
- guru - Friday, 03/12/10 12:07:56 EST

Look up Rastra block.

Thomas P - Friday, 03/12/10 15:55:27 EST

A "rastra" block? Sounds like something a reggae blacksmith from Jamaica would use.
- Nippulini - Friday, 03/12/10 16:18:54 EST

Burning Houses for Nails:

There was some discussion in the last year or so on about the story of nails being so valuable that people in early Colonial Virginia would burn down old houses for the nails. As I was browsing through my library while my dial-up connection slowly downloaded (a small price to pay while living in the country) I came across the following in “The Blacksmith in 18th-Century Williamsburg; An account of his Life & Times and of his Craft”, Published by Colonial Williamsburg (with no attribution of author) in 1978 (or MCMLXXVIII on the booklet):

“Nails. In the early years of the Jamestown colony land was plentiful and nails were scarce. They, like every other object of iron… had to be brought over from England. When the soil of their tobacco field was worn out, planters simply took up, cleared, and planted new land farther west. Sometimes they set fire to buildings on the abandoned land in order to salvage the nails for re-use, a practice that was forbidden by law in 1644.”

This booklet is presently out of print (the last I checked), but given the paucity of blacksmithing literature in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was quite popular in both original and “midnight Xerox” editions. The first edition of Bealer’s “The Art of Blacksmithing” was published in 1969, and Donna Z. Meilach’s reprint of M.T. Richardson’s “Practical Blacksmithing” was in 1978. So, lots of people were reading anything they could get their hands on, and this item was passed along, not only by the booklet but by “renewed oral history” until (I suspect) everybody here knows the story that nails were so valuable that colonial settlers: “Burned their old houses just for the nails.”

This would explain the widespread currency of the tale; but what is the truth behind it? The primary proof of the story is that they passed a law, early on, forbidding the practice. But laws are funny things; sometimes based upon obvious necessity, and sometimes based upon public opinion and indignation. So, the law might have been passed because this was a common practice and deprived other, incoming settlers of shelter in what may not have been prime lands, but may have been still somewhat productive farmland. Or, alternatively, it could all be based upon a single incident or two of profligate waste that so incensed and irritated the House of Burgesses that they felt a law must be passed to keep some other wasteful idiots from following a bad example and having it become a fashion.

Of course, the exact wording of the law ( for example a statement such as: “Due to the prevalence of…” or “After the egregious example of…”) could shed some light on the exact nature of the cause.

We have a year, and we have a state. I’ll check with my favorite Federal Law Librarian next week and see if she can track it down.
Bruce Blackistone - Saturday, 03/13/10 21:58:59 EST

Early Virginia Agriculture, Property:
I made a very in depth study of a number of families on the "Northern Neck" (the pensula between the Rapahanoc (sp)and Potomac Rivers and Chesapeake bay) of Virginia. These were distant relatives that settled there as early as 1700 and included the Waghington and Lee families as well as my Attwells.

Every generation of planters (tobacco plantation owners) moved up the neck to new land. In most cases this was the oldest son since, like English law they inherited all or most of the estate. Even though Colonial law did not follow the English practice but most wills did the same.

Anyway, in most cases, the farm was worn out, the patriarch dead, the oldest son's inheritance was in NEW land and cash and whatever he could get for the old farm if siblings didn't inherit. Surviving mothers often stayed on the home place until the end IF they had the means.

The plantations were generally large enough that as land was worn out the cash crops were just moved. As each generation grew wealthier the land needs increased.

I do not know what they did upon moving but I suspect that siblings were left with bits and pieces of the land. The parts sold to others would include the farm buildings houses and such as is recorded in virtually every deed.

While I've heard this story I have never seen a reference to the specific law or a copy of the same. I DID here the story in school (in Virginia) long before the publications mentioned. I believed it as a child but as an adult who has studied hundreds of deeds and wills do not believe the practice was EVER common. If there was a law it was probably as Bruce noted, a reactionary one to some grievous incident (as many laws are even today).

While iron may have been in short supply buildings have always been improvements on property that had value just as they do today.

It would be nice to put this story to bed (one way or the other).
- guru - Sunday, 03/14/10 00:08:07 EST

This isn't really related, but I remember reading about a WW I American pilot training school that used aircraft too obsolete to have ailerons. Like the original Wright Flyer, they were controlled by distorting the shape of the wing itself. Apparently this method of control was difficult to master.

One day a general showed up to ask why the accident rate was so high. The answer was "Wing warping, Sir." He promptly issued an order forbidding on pain of court martial that any aircraft be left in the sun!
Mike BR - Sunday, 03/14/10 07:58:41 EDT

burning for nails, continued...: Bruce, I'd love for you to find the true origin of this story, as it has bedevilled me in my capacity of historical archaeologist west of the Appalachians for years!

Any time I'm on a site, someone will offer me that tidbit as received wisdom, and so far all I can do to try and squelch it is to point out that in my 20 years of doing historic archaeology of the late 18th century frontier of eastern TN I have yet to see a burned structure location that did not have all its nails in situ. Interestingly enough, if the wrought nails used were forged from Swedish nail rod, they preserve better AFTER burning than before! They form a coat of scale that Viking-period archaeologists refer to as "Gloedeskall" that prevents further oxidation in the ground, which is why we have so many Viking swords from cremations.

I've seen many wrought nails that looked slightly red but otherwise good as new after 200 years in the ground.
Alan-L - Sunday, 03/14/10 11:41:25 EDT

Myths: I've had TWO VERY reliable sources (including Richard Postman) try to tell me the one about Yankee sappers breaking horns off anvils. Both times I've had to explain to them that I KNOW the fellow (Bobby Dobson of Virginia Beach, VA) that made up the story as a THEORY that he was looking for evidence to fit. That was in 1987 and nobody (including Bobby) has found a shred of evidence to support it.

The problem IS its a GOOD story to tell. Our dear departed Paw-Paw would tell it at every reenactment he went to including those at many historical sites in the South. I feel bad about this because *I* told the story to Paw-Paw - but I also told him it was a theory that was looking for evidence. . . But he never mentioned that the hundreds of times he told the story over 7 year. . .

IT A MODERN MYTH that even the supposed world authority on anvils believed and was going to publish in his next book. . .

Its not just a myth, its a story made up by a first class teller of some real whoppers (lies). . .

So imaging anyone telling the nails story anytime in the first half of the twentieth century. "Experts" hear it most of their life and publish it in a tourist hand out. . .

Heck, Plato did it with Atlantis. . . A good story is always easier to tell than real history.
- guru - Sunday, 03/14/10 13:16:19 EDT

Nippulini in the news...: Hey Nip, I tried to find you on the web link you gave over in the Guru's den but so far no joy.
Maybe you could post it as an actual link for us?

Guru, that's interesting what you say about the noise level from your Roto-Phase.
I was going to buy one of these for my shop several years ago but, ended up building my own rotory converter instead. The only noise it makes is from the spinning idler motor wich is pretty quiet.
- merl - Sunday, 03/14/10 22:09:06 EDT

VIDEO: NIp in the News:
Well. . . we have been working hard for a couple months setting up an anvilfire streaming video page. It is nearly ready but not quite ready for prime time. We have 13 short clips and 14 links to YouTube videos (sort of a legal cheat). Some of the videos are still being edited and the information that goes with them setup, proofed, permissions gotten. Most will include text or full articles, links, photos.

Our plan is to produce a series of original short short how-to demos. We will also be hosting community videos and have a back log of video tape taken by Paw-Paw on our many travels over 7 years to be converted to digital and edited.

All this is a huge amount of work and a learning curve as well. Dave Baker has slightly better equipment than I do and has been doing the digitizing and editing when he has time. I've been doing the conversions to the web and setup. We really need a new dedicated system for all this. . .

The current system is rather bare bones and this is NOT an official release. At some point a comment system will be setup for some videos (and much tighter reign kept on than other video sites).

We are looking for all kinds of video to host, preferably original video that does not have ownership or copyright issues. Short videos can be e-mailed to me, longer ones should be sent on disk or thumb drives. We can convert VHS to digital but would rather not as we have a backlog. We can also provide an FTP login to folks we know for medium length video. We can accept all formats (AVI, MPG. . .) but prefer to do the FLV (Flash Video) conversion ourselves.

So here is Nip in the News on our new streaming video page.

AnvilCAM-II Nip in the News
- guru - Monday, 03/15/10 01:43:45 EDT

Cool Nip!!
- Burnt - Monday, 03/15/10 01:53:06 EDT

News Interviews: I've had far more than my 15 minutes of fame over the years. I was on our local television morning show when I was 13-14 having to do with the Soap Box Derby. When it was over I couldn't remember a thing. . . When in High School I was in the local news due to my art work. When I started blacksmithing our local TV folks did a few minutes about our old mill and me blacksmithing. Later I was interviewed by the same crew while doing a demo for a local elementary school. Somewhere I have a screen capture of that one (maybe a copy of the tape. . ). After that the local newspaper did a two page spread on me with photos. I spent half a day with the reporter. THAT was when I learned that if you want accuracy you should provide a written statement along with the interview. . .

A couple years later I was selected as one of three craftsfolk to represent a regional arts and crafts fair on the morning television show. And at another I was filmed by a documentary crew. I don't think anything came of that. Then there was an article in one of the D.C. papers having to do with a crafts show there.

Since launching anvilfire I've had numerous phone interviews by various national magazines.

However, all these bits and pieces of fame never resulted in any riches. . .
- guru - Monday, 03/15/10 22:20:07 EDT

15 minuets of fame: This past summer while I was doing the three day show at the antique power club I belong to, a guy was there to take pictures of the blacksmith shop and some of the other historic working displays.
I thought he was just a local news paper reporter but, it turns out he was wrighting a book of some kind and was collecting photos for it. Again, I don't know what kind of book it was but, he took quite alot of pictures of me while I was makeing a leaf or something. He asked me to sighn a "model release" form but, didn't need my name or ask me any questions about what I was making or how long I had been at it.
Apparently he is a friend of the guy in charge of the club blacksmith shop but I later thought(too late) I should have at least insisted on a free copy of the book for the use of my imige.
So if anyone is ever perusing through a "coffe table book" on the subject of archaic industries or something like that and you think "that guy looks familier", you may be right.
There is probably a much better chance that it never makes it to print, would be my guess...
- merl - Monday, 03/15/10 22:54:43 EDT

A copy of the article:
I always ask for a copy of the published article when I am interviewed. Out of dozens of requests I've only received copies of two published items. Both were items I produced. One was for an image I created for an odd little British publication and the other was one where I was dealing with the publication editor (the Fabricator). He put me on the "comp" list for a year (nice deal).

Of all the rest of article copies I've received were from friends that saw the articles and sent me clippings.
- guru - Tuesday, 03/16/10 01:44:09 EDT

Very Cool: The Nip Clip is great. Keep up the good work master guru.
- Wallace - Tuesday, 03/16/10 08:18:14 EDT

Video Clip: I finally had a chance to look at the video clip. Very nice; and Nip was dead-on about the stuff you can move, and the stuff you can't move in a flood.

At Monocacy National Battlefield, in the Old Mill building, all of our displays, including an electronic map of the battle (about the size of a pinball machine), are designed to hustle up the stairs to the second story when the Monocacy goes into flood.

However, hustling anvils and forges and lots of stolid, heavy stuff upstairs ahead of the floodwaters must fill one with at least a little trepidation. ;-)

It's also nice to see an actual video clip, since we have dial-up at home and the Depsrtmental "net nanny" bans all YouTube (which is just as well, I suppose).
Monocacy National Battlefield
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 03/17/10 15:16:44 EDT

Ah. . . . .: So we are now the subversive non-filtered video provider. . . :)
- guru - Wednesday, 03/17/10 16:30:48 EDT

anvil advice: i am looking to purchase an anvil in the next couple of months and have narrowed it down to two.
460lb fontanini or the 342lb rhino anvil.
they are about the same price, but the fontanini is bigger, but the rhino has a better( in my opinion) hardy hole placement. i like the rhino a ton but an extra 100lbs can't hurt....
i am totally stuck here! i wish i could just buy both LOL
bigfoot - Wednesday, 03/17/10 21:08:04 EDT

i see you've worked yourself up to the 460 pound anvil after all...

With the hardy hole on the horn side, assuming you work with the horn to the left, and are right handed, you can leave a hardy in the hole and still hammer on the face more safely.

The question you have to ask yourself is, is 120 pounds lighter, not as nicely designed, not as nicely finished, and made in China anvil worth it for the hardy hole placement?
- Tyler Murch - Wednesday, 03/17/10 22:34:55 EDT

first video: Well, today I actualy made a blacksmithing demonstration video.
My 7 year old son's teacher "somehow" heard of my blacksmithing efforts and asked if I could do a presentation for the class as part of the "states of matter" study they are doing in science class.(Geez! this is only 1st grade, "states of matter"?)
I told her there was no way I could do a live demo but, I would try to make a video of me makeing something that would show the befor and after effect of appliying high heat and kinetic force to an object in the 4th state (plastic)
I thought about bringing in a block of clay and a wooden mallet but, "the boy" insisted on the roaring fire, hot steel and real hammers so I made a video.
It aint easy! I tried four takes and the one that I liked the best got cut off at a minuet and ten seconds cause the batteries in the camera died. I went on for another six or seven minuets and made a nice leaf only to find I didn't get it on camera.
The one my kid likes the best is with the fire and bothe anvils in the shot but, it has too much of my backside to the camera for little kids not to notice and end up in hysterical laghter by the end of the five minuet clip.
I guess I'll do one more in the morning "sans postierior" and hope it will earn the boy bragging rights.
Fortunately the camera came with some handy editing software so I can do a little polishing on the video befor the presentation tomorrow.
- merl - Wednesday, 03/17/10 22:44:11 EDT

Video Demos: It is tough, especially filming yourself.

A good plastic state demo it to go from cylinder to flat cookie.

Another is bare handed twisting. Bend two handles on a piece of 1/4 to 3/8" square bar. heat the middle and twist. Kids love twists and the finished piece is a good hand out to try to straighten cold. . .

Both are simple and direct.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/17/10 23:03:34 EDT

Anvils: Bigfoot, First, I would NEVER purchase any product that the primary or only images available are cheap 3D CAD renderings. Second the Rhino pattern has some severe design defects. I've seen photos of the actual product prototypes in China but not from the (is there one?) production foundry and machine shop. I will not list the defects because I refuse to educate the Chinese about anvil design. I have written about it all before and its here to look up.

The Fontanni I had to research. If you had said Rat-Hole anvil I would have immediately known what you are talking about.

So, you have a choice between a cartoonishly shaped Chinese made anvil and a classic design made by a true student of proven Western anvil design MADE IN THE USA and hand finished by the maker . . . What is to decide?

I will tell you this. The 100 pound difference is more than made up for by the more solid design of the Rat-Hole. It will feel more solid under the hammer than the other anvil. While bigger is usually better, shape makes a big difference.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/17/10 23:05:59 EDT

Rhino Anvils: Jock,
Methinks you go a bit overboard in dissing the Rhino. You've never seen one, never swung a hammer at one, and haven't even looked at the posted photo of one at Though it's made in China (like various other well-respected anvils), I personally ensure the quality of manufacture, materials, and finish. I designed the Rhinos myself and I'm an American artist-blacksmith of Scots-Irish descent.
Steve McGrew - Thursday, 03/18/10 09:59:31 EDT

Bigfoot, I didn't think I'd like the forward placement of the hardy hole on my Refflinghaus before I started working with it, but now that I've gotten used to it it makes so much more sense (and is backed up by so much more mass) than the heel-placed hardy hole I can't imagine who though of putting the hole in the heel in the first place.

Alan-L - Thursday, 03/18/10 12:50:35 EDT

Rhino anvils: Steve, I see by the picture in your link that the Rhino anvil is supported by its four feet and not the entire bottom surface of the anvil.
I had a similer problem with one of my anvils and had to grind and dress the bottom so it was flat and made full and even contact with the base.
Befor dressing, the anvil would kick the hammer back in an un-predictable mannor and "buzz" constantly on its base that it is VERY firmly bolted down to.
How do you contend with this situation in the Rhino?
Perhaps your base takes up the "bounce"?...
- merl - Thursday, 03/18/10 13:47:34 EDT

Steve, You have had CAD images of anvils and tool on your web site for years and STILL have CAD images for several sizes of your anvils. If you have them in inventory then why not photograph them? The one photographed is NOT the size being discussed.

After having used hundreds of anvils and owning a few dozen types over some 43 years and working with professionals that have owned and used thousands of anvils . . . with endless discussions on why one anvil had a better feel than another. As well as being a tool and machine designer that has studied anvils for that long (as well as designing and making swage block patterns). I don't need to use your anvil to know it is springy compared to many other designs.

Bigfoot was concerned about hardy hole placement. He has the misguided perception that it should be out on the heal like many English anvils were. He is used to looking at a common but not structurally well designed historical anvil shape. Their hardy holes are there to make it easier to hand punch and drift.

The ideal location for hardy holes is immediately adjacent to the body where the horn or heal is strongest and the support for the tooling used is the most solid (well over the foot). This can be the front or the back of the anvil. The Austrian style anvils had them at the back and most popular Euro style anvils have them at the front.

Hardy holes out on the heal weaken it and commonly result in anvils breaking at the hole (I've got photos of old wrought and modern cast steel anvils both broken at the hardy hole). Using bottom tooling, set tools or swages with the hole beyond the foot results in tipping as well as being springy. For bending tools it also increases the leverage to rotate the anvil and/or stand.

Yep, you can bolt the anvil down but I don't see bolt holes to make it easier. . . (Fisher did it 100 years ago).

The right thing about the Rhino anvil is that it takes advantage of the casting process. Many modern makers have good designs but poorly made patterns resulting in artless anvils. But you have to start with good design.

- guru - Thursday, 03/18/10 16:08:00 EDT

And I thought the 4th state was Georgia. . .

Mike BR - Thursday, 03/18/10 18:03:50 EDT

- Tyler Murch - Thursday, 03/18/10 18:08:26 EDT

Bigfoot: Unless You are really flush with cash, why not find a good used anvil?
- Dave Boyer - Thursday, 03/18/10 19:55:21 EDT

Rhino Anvils: Hi Steve McGrew

Back when I use to design and produce Blacksmith tools I would give finished samples away to people and ask for them to use the heck out of them and give me straight critisim. I took it in stride in any form it came. Then I thought about everything from the functional, safety and beauty aspect. Part of designing something is having tough skin. I don't think Guru stated anything that was not true about your anvil. I personally thought the very same things the first time I looked at your website many months back. It is your obligation to put out real close up photos if you want buyers confidence. I realize you can't just ship out free anvils to people. You certainly can add positive testimony from satisfied buyers to your site. Your site really brought the critism the anvil deserved. We really don't care that you are of English descent. This does not have a bearing on a good designed anvil. Saying all of this is not anything negative about your anvil. I have not used one and I may like it if I had. It isn't eye pleasing to me, so it has to win people in it's performance. You need to do a better job in marketing your anvil. I do not have issue with it being made in China as I know they can produce quality items per the owners specs.
- Burnt Forge - Thursday, 03/18/10 20:38:55 EDT

i am going to get the rhino to be honest as i LIKE the shape better. i make ugly tools, so i do not care if i have ugly tools. LOL. guru, i learned on the english anvils and like the english anvils.i work horn to the RIGHT and am not in the mood to change my whole style. today i worked on a german anvil and to be honest, i missed the simple shape and i hated the side shelf, i think it got in the way. p i really like the simple shape of london patterns as it is easier to move around them and work how i work. i looked at the hardy and pritchel hole size on the fontanini and that helped me make my decision. i feel they are too big and will not be as usfeul as they could be due to the larger size.

i honestly do not use that many bottom tools on my anvil. i just made a sqaure hole in a stump to hold bottom tools (hey it works!). to strap down anvils, i just use copper strips and nail that down (it looks stupid, but holds down my anvil).

i have searched aroung for about a year before deciding to get a new anvil. i can't find any anvils in my area bigger then 100lbs that aren't owned by other blacksmiths! the only anvil bigger then 100lbs i foudn i own right now.

just beacause you do not like Mr. McGrews anvil there is no reason to insult it or my opinions on tools. i am not as experianced as you, but what works for me, works for me you may not like it but i have talked to several people who love them. there is also the cost of shipping. it costs me $150 LESS to ship the rhino and i prefer the shape to the rat hole as it is more in the style of what i use now. i see no problem with CAD images. guru, you yourself use them on your swage block website.

it seems i should not have even brought this up. :(
bigfoot - Thursday, 03/18/10 20:46:40 EDT

burnt forge, i do the same thing at times. when i get a bubba i would certainly post a review of my experiances. tools are tools. what they look like should not have an effect on wheter or not you use them who can honestly say they have a good looking forge?
bigfoot - Thursday, 03/18/10 21:24:04 EDT

CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) Images: Bigfoot, If you had already made up your mind, why did you ask?

There is not a single CAD drawing or rendering on the site.

There is one line tracing of a very bad photo that could not be repaired.

Then there are the pattern photos of a John Newman block that could be mistaken for a rendering but they are of an actual lacquered pattern (John does beautiful work). When they were sent to me I would not let the Kaynes put them on their web site because they would not represent the actual blocks. However, on *I* am not selling blocks. The pattern photos are shown with actual castings which are also very good.

Then there is a photo of a CNC block by Yesteryear Forge that might be mistaken for a rendering. That is an actual photo I took at the Dan Boone party pasture a couple years ago. It is much better than the photos on the maker's site. - I do a LOT of product photography and prepare a LOT of catalog images.

The only drawings on the site are old catalog engravings and my #2 pencil sketches on the block uses page. The worst photos on the site, my square block and pattern.

If I was selling tools of any kind you would KNOW them and there would be honest photos of production product. No wishful pie in the sky CAD renderings of a product yet to be made.
- guru - Thursday, 03/18/10 23:32:02 EDT

You had your mind made up before you asked any questions about anvils. I think the Rhino will suit you just fine. I believe it will be a good fit with your forging style.

Today's Things To Remember:
It is always best to be forth coming when asking for others opinions when they invest time in you.
- Burnt Forge - Friday, 03/19/10 00:27:53 EDT

Computer Graphics:
Really good computer renderings cannot be distinguished from reality other than they are sometimes a bit TOO perfect. I've got primitive CAD tools that will do 3D renderings such as the Rhino anvil images. The only skill necessary is to click a menu item. The last 3D rendering I did was the Mass3j logo. It was not intended to look absolutely real.

Most of my digital work is fixing and repairing images that have part of the subject cut off. Stretching or cloning the background, using bits of the existing image to paint the missing areas. . .

On the other hand, my brother Paul creates absolute realism from lines and bits of data in the ether. He was doing big name catalog work in the 70's when only big corporations could afford the computing power for graphics. He produced photo-real images of virtually every consumer product imaginable. When he worked for Coors he changed the world of beverage illustration. You know all those images of colder than cold, wetter than wet and absolutely perfect beers? Paul set the standard for those images. He created the ZIMA bottle and before the first hot glass hit a mold or the first liquid entered a bottle the international ad campaign was under way. Billboards, magazines, television. . . all based on digital renderings of product that did not yet exist.

About this same time I called a company about a computer I had seen advertised. It was very small for the time (like modern laptops) and I was looking for something portable (not a "lugable"). In the ads it showed people using the machine, fingers on the keys of the unitized keyboard, data on the compact screen. NONE of it was real. The folks I talked to said they had some "technical" difficulties. . . Yeah, they were describing technology that would take another 10 years to become practical. The images? Completely phoney.

Big corps do this all the time. Next year's cars? You see them in the commercials rolling down the road, sky and clouds reflecting of the windshield, dust being stirred up, leaves blowing. . . All fake.

Where things get tweeky is when products are sold based on those images of something that does not yet exist. While actual product is usually not sold to consumers these images DO affect stock prices and may be something regulators should look into, especially since retirement plans go into such things today. . .

When you see an obviously rendered image representing a product you need to ask some serious questions. The first is if there is inventory of the product and how long it will take to deliver. The second is, why are there no photos of the product? And to provide such. In this digital era where practically every cell phone has still and video capability there is no excuse for lack of product photos unless the product does not exist. Every ebayer selling junk has photos. . . You should expect more from an established business.
- guru - Friday, 03/19/10 02:24:52 EDT

i was actually on the fence. i had decided before i posted my response to my questions. before i had used a german anvil i had LOVED the rat hole forge anvil. i had a lean face which i liked a ton, as it would be handy for the archtectural stuff i do. i decided when i found out the rat hole had a 1 1/4in hardy hole, simply beacause it would be so hard to make tooling for it. the hardy hole placement i can adjust too beacause i liked the face so darn much. on an anvil that big i could move around the side shelf and what not. also, mr. mcgrew has been very helpful and patient with my inqiuries about his anvil. i do belive if the rat hole had a smaller hardy hole i would have gotten it. i am cheap, and with the amount of tooling i make it would get expensive fast. thank you all very much for the help and happy hamering.
i mistook this block for CAD. it looks like the CAD models some of my friends do for fun (in the coloring and line work at least).
bigfoot - Friday, 03/19/10 12:07:19 EDT

I completely understand the issue of the oversized hardy hole and all the variables it creates. Can be more trouble than worth making modifications to existing tooling. I think you made a fine choice with the Rhino. I still stand behind everything else I stated before concerning design, images and marketing. As a tool I am sure they are fine for the money.
- Burnt - Friday, 03/19/10 12:21:10 EDT

Say what? How expensive is it to take a piece of sq tubing and cut it down the sides slightly on the diagonals, bend the flaps out and drop it in the hardy?

I have several old anvils with 1.5" hardies that I have done this to, to be able to use smaller tooling I have already to hand.

My main shop anvil has 2 hardy holes, 1 near the heel and one near the horn and one of these has nested inserts in it standard to take it down smaller.

Hardy size did not play a part in getting those anvils Mass and quality of face was what I based the buy decision on---as well as cheap; but y'all know that about me already!
Thomas P - Friday, 03/19/10 12:54:32 EDT

CAD like image:
That is a tracing done in a paint program of a photo that as I had noted was too rough to repair. It could have been done in CAD but would have cost a GREAT deal more in time. The method used is described in the article below.

- guru - Friday, 03/19/10 13:27:00 EDT

thomas, you are probably right on that one. i prefer to make tight fitting and precise hardy tooling though. using pipe didn't occur to me though. i just make all my hardy tools out of truck axles or old crow bars (if they are big enough). or i just forge the edge and drop them in the stump i mentioned earlier. 1.5in is a MASSIVE hardy hole though! that is the same size as the faces on some of my smaller hammers. how big is that anvil?
ps. guru, it looked like CAD to me. i guess i was wrong and you were right!
bigfoot - Friday, 03/19/10 13:38:20 EDT

Hardy holes and tooling: I have hardy tools with 5/8" shanks through 2". My two large anvils have bastard size hardy holes over 1" but the majority of tooling I have is 7/8". With the exception of a hardy which fits I use the rest of the tooling as is. Most of it is bottom swages which are real handy for shaping things on the anvil rather than going to the swage block which is usually on the floor somewhere. . . The tools bouncing a little do not bother me.

IF I want a better fit I have an big industrial swage block that many of the tools fit more or less.

While much of the anvil industry has standardized on 1" square your tooling will only be interchangeable on broached holes not CAST holes. Cast holes will either be too small or too loose (if you are picky about the fit). Folks that fit tools tightly to hardy hole have tools that only fit ONE-WAY due to irregularities in cast holes and they only fit ONE ANVIL even though the hole may be the same "nominal" size.

SO, if you have a bunch of existing tools you may be disappointed in how they fit a different anvil.
- guru - Friday, 03/19/10 14:23:27 EDT

amen to that. i have a bunch that have 5/8 shanks just for certain swages, but they are too small for most.
bigfoot - Friday, 03/19/10 15:48:56 EDT

Well my main shop anvil used to be the anvil for a Blacker Powerhammer and is a 515# Fisher (that I got in Columbus OH in *MINT* condition for $350 a dozen or so years ago now came from a RR shop I was told)

Then there is a 410# Trenton(?) that came from a mine in AZ that I traded a smaller anvil (125# PW), a postvise screw & screwbox and US$100 for (so about $200 in it)

The last of the 1.5"'rs is a bridge anvil I picked up in OK 30 years ago for about $1/#.

Now I do keep my little travel anvil close to the Fisher since I like the thin heel on it for some jobs

With the shop extension going in I'll be moving the Fisher out to the new part and mount the bridge anvil on the baulk with the trenton(?) for use in the armoury/cold work section.

Thomas P - Friday, 03/19/10 16:27:31 EDT


I don't usually do this, but I'm going to weigh in and say this is one decision where you really should listen closely to the advice of some of the experienced smiths here. I'm not one who believes that age, or even experience, necessarily brings wisdom. And you've clearly got a good head on your shoulders. Moreover, what's right for someone with a few decades of smithing experience may not be right for *you*.

But you're buying an anvil that should last you a lifetime. You may know what you want now, but others can give you a better idea of what you will want in 20 or 30 years. And personally, even though I can think back to the decisions I made in high school and decide that most of them were good, the fact is that 25 years later my perspectives and needs have changed.

It will take you a week or so to get used to a new anvil. But you'll use it for decades.
Mike BR - Friday, 03/19/10 18:35:29 EDT

mike, i would call the head on my shoulders 'good' maybe workable. i leaned towards the rhino beacuase of the hardy hole. i may change. today i realized that i cannot adaquatley use the step the way i stand in relation to my anvil (noted my step is so old and rounded of it is bareley noticable). i do belive that every one on here is probably better at forging then i, but i do belive that i know my needs and taste better. had i never used a german anvil i would probably have gotten one due to the face and heel. i hope this anvil outlasts me and my kids, or else i will have not invested my money as well as i hope i have!
bigfoot - Friday, 03/19/10 19:20:13 EDT

Tom P.
The makeshift method of shimming a hardie tool with hollow tube is more troublesome to me for many reasons. If it works for an amateur or hobby Smith I am sure it is a fine method where efficiency is not the most important thing.
- Burnt - Friday, 03/19/10 20:19:21 EDT

The advantage to a very large hardy hole is that bushings for smaller size shanks can have heavy walls and attach to a large flange.

But if efficiency is important you should have a made to fit set of tools for each anvil.
- guru - Friday, 03/19/10 22:54:39 EDT

illustrations : Great artical Guru, I have a photo projector I use when I want to make a line drawing from a picture.
I also use a pantograph but, the one I have needs some work to tighten it up a bit.
- merl - Saturday, 03/20/10 00:43:38 EDT

There are a number of modern published books that have all the errors mentioned as well as anvils that look like they were drawn by someone from another planet. There is no excuse in printed hardcopy books.
- guru - Saturday, 03/20/10 06:28:00 EDT

Big BLU NC-ABANA Hammer-In:
We are off to Morganton! If everything goes right we will have video to post ASAP.
- guru - Saturday, 03/20/10 06:29:25 EDT

hardie holes: An angle iron of an appropriate thickness allows a hardie hole to become smaller. Thin the top edge of it and bend outward. I often use the leg vise to hold various sized bottom tool shanks. If you know how to strike with a sledge Continental style, you can get a vertical blow, even though the hot work may be higher than the anvil face.

I have a 250# Rathole anvil with a 1 1/8" hardie hole. My 250# Trenton has a 1 1/8" hardie hole.I've custom-forged a few bottom tools that have a 1 1/8" shank.
Frank Turley - Saturday, 03/20/10 22:33:35 EDT

Big BLU NC-ABANA Hammer-In: : We got a bunch of good video of Doug Merkle and Anderson Phillips at the Hammer-In and will be posting it tonight on our Video page which will officially launch tomorrow!

If you have video you would like to see hosted on anvilfire please contact us. Note that we need original video VOB, MPG, AVI. . . so that we can edit it and convert to the proper format for streaming from our server. Some of these files can be emailed but high resolution files are best snail-mailed on DVD or thumb drive (which we would return).
- guru - Sunday, 03/21/10 11:35:44 EDT

Strikeing with the sledge "Continental" style : Frank, can you elaborate on this one?
- merl - Sunday, 03/21/10 23:04:28 EDT

snail-mail data: Guru, how much memory space would the typical 3-5 minuet video with sound need?
I hate to admit it but, snail-mailing a thumb drive to you sounds much easier than what we went through with the FPT. What does it cost to mail a thumb drive, 4 stamps?
- merl - Sunday, 03/21/10 23:11:41 EDT

Rhino anvils: Hi--
Some folks on the forum have asked for photos of the Rhino anvils. Photos are posted on,,, and

There have also been questions about my reasons for placing the hardie hole near the heel and the pritchel hole near an edge of the heel, and questions about the base. Lots of classic anvils have the hardy hole near the heel. I like it there because it seems that most hammering is done nearer the horn than the heel. It's handy to be able to have an anvil stake in the hardy hole and still have clear access to the "sweet spot" on the anvil face.

The pritchel hole is near the edge because many blacksmiths use the pritchel hole as a bolster for punching and drifting, and it's pretty common to have a workpiece with a shape that just doesn't work with a bolster in the middle of a wide anvil face. The base of a Rhino is elevated slightly above the bottoms of its feet. This makes it easier to set it firmly on a hard flat base and does not negatively affect the performance of the anvil in any way.

If you compare the Rhino shape to classic anvils like the Hay Budden or Peter Wright, you'll see that the Rhino has some extra mass under the heel. That's to to minimize the "springboard effect" while keeping the heel thin. The conical horn is relatively short for the same reason.

The conical horn is specifically designed for drawing out and freehand scrolling, and in my opinion is superior to the classic farrier's anvil horn shape that tends to have a flat top.

Finally, the step and the various shapes near the step have a lot of uses. For example, if you want to center punch a round bar, the step is a natural place to hold the bar..

I wish I could attend the ABANA conference and show these anvils-- but that's a long drive from Spokane! I do show Rhinos at the NWBA conferences, and encourage people to try them out.

So far, all the owners of Rhinos are very happy with them.
Steve McGrew - Monday, 03/22/10 02:00:22 EDT

Question probably more for Frank Turley. I though the 'London' pattern anvil was developed as a compromise between a blacksmithing anvil and a farrier anvil. The hardy hole in the heel allow for the precise shaping of shoes.

Modern U.S. anvils seem to have gone back to the extremes.
- Ken Scharabok - Monday, 03/22/10 03:54:42 EDT

New AnvilCAM: I'm still populating menus after being up all night. . . so here it is!
AnvilCAM - II
- guru - Monday, 03/22/10 07:24:16 EDT

Striking and anvil shape: It seems that in the U.S. over the years, we had forgotten how to strike, and I'm not talking about the full around swing, but the use of the sledge not too unlike a hand hammer. I've had many right handed students who automatically pick up a sledge with their left hand closer to the head; therefore, left handed...and they kind of swipe at the work and/or swing sideways before hitting downward. When I tell them to change, they whine, "But it feels better my way." Of course it does, because the guy is using his self-taught way. If right handed, I tell them to hold the sledge with that hand only and swing it as they would a hand hammer. After they do that, I tell them to add their left hand a little distance from the right, so now everything is on the right side of their body. The right leg is back; left leg forward. It takes getting used to. Today, I think Jock is going to add some videos of BigBlu workshops, etc. He will also show me in Costa Rica giving double-striking lessons (trading blows, in a hopefully metronomic fashion). The hammer goes up and down in an arc, but there is no sideways swinging. The iron is hot; you don't have time for sideways swinging. I had a logger as a student. He was good with an axe. His saying was, "You don't want to look like an old lady trying to kill a snake with a hoe."

On the downswing, the left hand is relaxed, then tightens a bit. If striking higher than anvil height as in a vise, the haft rises, the left hand following, moving toward the right elbow/armpit. The left hand is under the right arm as the haft becomes horizontal. Hard to describe with words.

Ken, If you're talking about extending and thinning the heel, so the farrier can hook the shoe through the hardie hole, "kicking" the heel back, using the anvil as a turning cam, NO! A competent hot-shoeing farrier will use the horn for bending, not the hardie hole. My old farrier mentor, Al Kremen, found a nick on the inside of a shoe that I mistakenly shaped over the heel, and he said, "Frank, this is totally f****** unacceptable!" and he threw it into an adjacent field. I went to retrieve it, and he said, "No, leave it where it is!" It's probably still there. [bol]
Frank Turley - Monday, 03/22/10 09:11:01 EDT

We have several videos of folks striking. One of a team striking on a ball making die at last years Big BLU NC-ABANA hammer-in. Another of Sandy Wilson striking for Josh Greenwood at the last CSI hammer-in (2007). This was the first time she had ever handled a sledge. AND the one of Frank below.

We also have a link to the Chain and Anchor video on YouTube. I had a copy of this video and it got away from me. . . The most impressive striking in the film is near the end where there are fourteen strikers working on ONE large rivet and a fifteenth works his way into the circle. When the major striking is done the sledges are dropped and hand hammers picked up to continue dressing the head.

These were men that did this day after day and knew their jobs. It is interesting to compare this to the anvil repair video from SOFA last year. When the team of out of shape modern smiths where done sticking the weld they dropped their hammers and quit. In a real anvil shop this is where the flatters and hand held dressing hammers came out and the finishing work continued as long as there was heat in anvil. The striking was not the end of the job. Tough work.
Frank Striking
- guru - Monday, 03/22/10 11:58:17 EDT

Efficiency: time spent tool making is unpaid time for a professional. Some tools will re-pay that time in increased efficiency. A lot of tools will not.

I also like how the soft tubing steel protects the area around the hardy from the pounding the base of the tooling gives to the anvil face.

Yes I am a hobbyist, only been smithing since around 1981, though the year I spent apprenticed to a sword maker might be considered "pro time".

I have also made some 1.5" tooling for things I do a lot of. Started with some top swages, removed the handle and forged them to fit the hardy hole using the screw press for nice clean sides. Other tools I just use in one of the other anvils in the shop or in the other 1.5" hardy hole with tube spacers that pretty much stay in that one, no down time reproducing them!

Thomas P - Monday, 03/22/10 13:20:01 EDT

Aprons: (or lack of them)
Just a question I've been wondering about, but why do so few blacksmiths seem to wear aprons anymore?
JimG - Monday, 03/22/10 14:03:37 EDT

Frank The Human Power Hammer! Keep up the good videos buddy. :)
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/22/10 15:20:30 EDT

Tom P. No have good points. Don't be afraid to leave a mark in your anvil it is going to out live you. Let the next person no you where there and wonder. :)
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/22/10 15:23:25 EDT

Now I want a rolling mill. Cool video.

Tom P. I meant know not no.
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/22/10 15:31:38 EDT

good lord! 1.5 in hardy holes!!! that is the same size as the face on almost all of my hammers.
bigfoot - Monday, 03/22/10 18:53:07 EDT

some large anvils I owned had a 2 1/2" hardie hole. I am sure there were larger yet.
- Burnt Forge - Monday, 03/22/10 22:07:41 EDT

Aprons: My theory: We have abundant and cheap clothing available in this time and place. For much of history, and in a lot of places (to this day) "the clothes on your back" was not a cliché, it was your wardrobe. Your "Sunday-go-to-Meeting" clothes were really that; and good for weddings and funerals, too. For the working class, you were lucky to have a spare change of clothes, and maybe a couple of changes of underwear (in the early 20th century). A simple, durable item like an apron protected your clothes as much as it protected you.

In the U.S., in the early 20th century, I have "the suit from Washington" suits, office clothes, sports clothes, casual (couch potato) clothes, old dungarees for yard work, old slightly ripped jeans for painting, really crappy stuff that we're ready to toss for painting the bottom of the boat (with the vile, slightly toxic anti-fouling paint), sweaters and sweatshirts from High School and College (they still fit), loafers from my late dad (hey, they fit too!) and lots of choices, reinforced every Christmas and Birthday. I admit that I'm frugal, but I'll bet that everybody here has at least a half-dozen full changes of clothing for various activities and occasions.

I like to wear my leather apron, even for cold work. It provides an extra layer of protection for me, and helps keep my clothing intact. I don't mind the extra weight and warmth. But then, I also like to dress in a mail byrnie, put on my helm, and go beat on my friends with blunted axes, too. I am happy to pay the price in weight and warmth (in the summer) for the protection. Armor and leather or canvas aprons for protection are GOOD. Burns and lacerations are BAD.

I also think that the modern shop and industrial situations are a lot "neater" than the traditional shops; operations are more discrete, equipment is more carefully arranged, if you need protective clothing, it will be issued to you. A gas forge is a lot less messy than a coal forge. Of course, in any operation, you can still get dirt and oil on you, but you have to work at it harder. Auto mechanics aren't seen with aprons, they're seen in overalls, or some form of jumpsuit, or just the washable uniform of the business.

The apron is part of the smith’s traditional uniform, and is still seen, in its split form, in farrier work. But note that the farrier is in close contact with large, not-to-clean equines, pulling the hoof up on his or her knee when required. For the rest of us, it seems to be optional.

Just my tuppence; reality may vary.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 03/23/10 08:57:40 EDT

I have lost count of how many t-shirts I have speckled with tiny holes from arc welding. I even have pajamas with weld holes (yes, I know not recommended, but neither is welding naked). I have two aprons (one denim, the other fire resistant canvas), a set of greenie jackets as well as a few dozen various work gloves. Back in the day they didn't have steel toed boots. I wonder how many guys either lost toes or learned how to move their feet REAL fast... maybe some worker slipped his foot accidentally under a beam or something and realized that would work as protective footwear?
- Nippulini - Tuesday, 03/23/10 09:22:48 EDT

Aprons: I wore an apron for much of my work, especially welding. You still get holes in shirts and pants. . .

I am more apt to wear an apron while power wire brushing or buffing. Parts and wires fly off those wheels quite often and a thin layer of leather can save a lot of my more delicate hide.

In the early 1970's before I went into blacksmithing I had a service station. As manager my uniform was classic grey work pants and a white shirt with red pin strips. I often wore a tie and had a big bright red one hand made by my wife for the holidays.

I did oil changes and lube jobs in that white shirt and never stained it. Its just a matter of doing the correct dance and not being a slob. I had employees that you could not let drive the car off the lift if they even looked under a car. . . Welding is different, you can't dodge all those sparks.

I told this oil change story to Sherie's grandaughter who is studying to be a mechanic. A few weeks later she proudly called and said "I did it!". She had done an oil change and lube job without getting any on her clothes. Its a practical skill. Motor oil stains do not wash out. Grease tracks onto carpets and upholstery. With practice it does not reduce your efficiency either, it INCREASES your efficiency.

We have different sensibilities about work place injuries than in the past. It used to be that almost any machine shop or work site you went onto there were a couple guys missing fingers or toes, at least one with an eye patch.
- guru - Tuesday, 03/23/10 10:13:06 EDT

Aprons: Good quality leather aprons are getting hard to find.
I only look in the usual places for a leather welding apron such as a welding supply store or the local farm supply, even the big catalog companies like MSC seem to carry only the thin aprons made up of four pieces of leather and cloth straps and, they all seam to be too short and thin.
My apron is made of two full length pieces, goes from my neck to below my knee and, is about .130" thick on average.
I got it off the Interstate Valweld truck back in 1994 when I was doing production welding.
I never allow it to get greasy or oily from work and I always make sure when useing a right angle grinder that I never let the stream of sparks build up on it as this will quickly ruin a good leather.
Never let your leather apron or gloves get wet and then "cooked" dry or they will get hard. Instead just let them air dry out of the sun, hung up on a peg or something. They may be a little stiff when first put on but it will work right out unlike the "cooked" leather that will allways be hard.
Never oil your weding/smithing leathers. I notice that if I have a big, very hot coal fire going and I'm standing too close, sometimes my apron will still smoke. I would think any oil on the leather will cause much more smoke or may even burst into flames.
Either way a leather with any oil or other liquid on it is going to feel much hotter on your skin and will hold the heat longer.
Having said all that, even the cotton welding "greens", while not very traditional looking, (what ever that means to the individual) are far better than nothing.
I have found that if I feel hot in my protective clothing it probably means I'm not sweating enough.
I need to get a good driping sweat going befor I will feel any cooler.
During a summer demo I always tell people when they ask "How can you stand to wear a long sleave shirt and heavy leather apron by the fire?" to wich I demonstrate and say "This close to the fire is about 130-140 degrees. All I have to do is step back a little and it's only about 100. That's a 30-40 degree differance, it's like walking into a refridgerator..."
- merl - Tuesday, 03/23/10 10:59:13 EDT

Merl---we call that "Blacksmith's Air Conditioning"---you step away from the fire.

Aprons: not only do we have a lot more clothing we *wash* it a lot more often with a lot less hassle---when doing the wash was all day heavy labour not having to wash all your clothing each time was a big positive.

Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/23/10 13:07:18 EDT

Washing clothing in the old days was especially an all day heavy labour when your cloths were made by Omar the tent maker.
- Burnt Forge - Tuesday, 03/23/10 13:34:47 EDT

like mine
- Burnt Forge - Tuesday, 03/23/10 13:36:45 EDT

Well Thomas, I have to do something.
We can't ALL be comfortable in a leather mini skirt while at the forge...!
- merl - Tuesday, 03/23/10 17:01:54 EDT

Do you think I should get a ruffled white apron to wear with the miniskirt? Or is that skirting the WMD rules?

Thomas P - Tuesday, 03/23/10 17:48:20 EDT


I wonder what life will be like when the twenty *first* century rolls around. (grin)
Mike BR - Tuesday, 03/23/10 18:18:53 EDT

Class: People use to have some class with position. Biden and his filthy mouth proves once again the state of our Union.
- Burnt Forge - Tuesday, 03/23/10 19:54:44 EDT

20th vs. 21st Centuries: Oog; that's the second time I've made that mistake recently, the previous one got published. 8~0

Oh well...

"I warned people about the 21st century, but nobody would listen to me!"
Bruce Blackistone - Tuesday, 03/23/10 20:21:45 EDT

No but, perhaps one of those shirts with the big billowing sleavs...
- merl - Wednesday, 03/24/10 00:00:24 EDT

Thanks for letting us know about the machinist site. Looks interesting.
- Burnt Forge - Wednesday, 03/24/10 00:10:34 EDT

Whoops. . .: I had the alias of the infringer as forge-n-machine when it was actually machine-n-forge. The typo is fixed.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 10:37:27 EDT

I don't think it is right when people infringe on a copyright. I understand your frustration, but I don't think it will ever be stopped.
- Burnt Forge - Wednesday, 03/24/10 13:15:42 EDT

There are issues and there are issues. . The Internet is rife with copyright issues but you have to stand firm on trademark infringement. Imagine if if every flyby night backyard builder could put a Ford logo on their creations, or Honda or Craftsman, OR their insignia. Two things happen. The trademark becomes worthless AND the consumer can't tell if they are getting the genuine article. Its theft and deceit.

Without common copyright there would be no financial incentive for anyone to publish anything, for any movie to be made or art to be created. While many writers, authors and artists would do the work for nothing their is a COST to creating these works and disseminating them. At a minimum the authors must be able to live and feed their families.

Copyright is limited and eventually these creations become public domain. But during the author's lifetime he or whoever he has given the rights to have exclusive legal use of their work product.

Without copyright only the rich could afford to publish and the results would slim and probably not very good. Most authors only make a few dollars per book they sell and must sell thousands to break even and thousands more to make a slight profit.

When one of the most popular blacksmithing authors decided to reprint their book or not it was based on the investment making a little more than common bank interest. . . Can you live on the interest from $30 to $40,000 in the bank?

Another blacksmithing author's work was hijacked by a Russian web site and the entire book made available on PDF. While the book still sold the lost sales per year was the difference between a profit and a loss. The author will probably not reprint. . . OR write again. Those "free" books on-line have cost us future books.

AND, While video rentals saved Hollywood, they destroy the incentive of small instructional video makers.

And YES, We DO provide free books on-line. But we are VERY careful about the expiration of copyright. The authors and their heirs had their time.

We also provide parts of books and videos as reviews. This comes under what is know as "fair use" in copyright law and when done properly is good advertisement for the author and publisher. In fact, most publishers love my longer reviews with samples.

I usually handle these things quietly. But when people do not do the right thing, then you are forced go public and make noise.
- guru - Wednesday, 03/24/10 15:09:55 EDT

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

-- Samuel Johnson
Mike BR - Wednesday, 03/24/10 21:51:40 EDT

Art and Money:
There is a movie running on Hulu titled, Rock Fresh, about graffiti artists. Some, that have gone on to legitimate art are fantastic artists. Their problem is making a living. Most just barely make enough to survive. If they are LUCKY they might have a work worth copyrighting and selling many copies . . . Struggle for a lifetime then have pirates take the profits.
- guru - Thursday, 03/25/10 00:16:04 EDT

I've been following the current graffiti scene for a few years. It's fascinating. They're some of the most talented artists, and yet there's never a pay day. Of course some of them have landed a few contracts with companies like Nike and Scion to name a few, but that's few and far between.
- Tyler Murch - Thursday, 03/25/10 08:59:24 EDT

Burning Houses for Nails (Cont'd): Continuing from my posting of Saturday, March 13th:

(Please note that this is a "cut-and-paste" job with multiple fonts and formats; Jock and I may have to work out a few glitches in the original posting.)

My friend, Billie J. Grey, sent a request out to her fellow Law Liberians, and received a couple of helpful answers:

"The text can be found in Hening's Statutes at Large. An online version is available at

" And it is further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, That it shall not be lawfull for any person so deserting his plantation as afore said to burne any necessary houseing that are scituated therevpon, but shall receive so many nailes as may be computed by 2 indifferent men were expended bout the building thereof for full satisfaction, reservinge to the King all such rent as did accrew by vertue of the former grants or planting of the same from the expiration of the first seaven years."

Greg Stoner

And an even more extensive response which provides at least some further context in the prelude:

"The Governor, counsell and Burgesses of this present Grand Assembly haveing maturely weighed and considered the extreame prejudice which will necessarily ensue to the collony by deserting of plantations which are now seated, or since the 20th of November last have been seated, have enacted, And by the authoritye of the same be it enacted, that it shall not be lawfull for any person holding land by patent or who soe hat held land since the 20th of November last, voluntarily to leave the same vpon penaltie of fforfeiture thereof, so as it may be lawfull for any person whatsoever to take vp the same by patent as land deserted, And if any lessee shall in like sorte voluntarily relinquish land leased to him, it shall be lawfull for any person to enter vpon the same and have the benefitt thereof vnles the patentee will seate or cause the same to be seated, provided that he that hath the patent of the land so deserted by the proprietor, or enters vpon any leased lands, do forthwith seat the same with a competent number of men, arms and amunition."

"(Prohibition against deserting plantations that have been seated.)"

{The following is as above from Greg Stoner:}

"And it is further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, That it shall not be lawfull for any person so deserting his plantation as afore said to burne any necessary houseing that are scituated therevpon, but shall receive so many nailes as may be computed by 2 indifferent men were expended bout the building thereof for full satisfaction, reservinge to the King all such rent as did accrew by vertue of the former grants or planting of the same from the expiration of the first seaven years." ("Persons deserting their plantations not to burn the houses, & to receive as many nails as were expended in building it.")

Kent Olson

So, there is the act upon which the story is based.

The following comments from Lydia (Camp Fenby and the Longship Company, not to mention an editor at the GAO)and Billie help to illuminate some of the context of the act in light of the English laws and taxes:

"Thanks, Billie.
Since burning the house is illegal, just how does the deserting owner "receive so many nailes as may be computed" and from whom? I certainly understand why the King would want his share from an improved property rather than a ransacked or plundered or destroyed one.

"Dear Lydia,
What I liked was the "indifferent men." Indifferent meant disinterested. The person estimating the number of nails was not the cousin of the person who has to pay.

My guess would be the nails are provided by the person who takes over the property. Possibly out of tax revenues. I guess the tax revenue is more likely because you probably won't know who the new tenant is going to be when you abandon the property. But getting nails from the civil authority could be tricky.

Now, what goes unanswered is whether the practice was notorious but rare, or whether it was common. Possibly a search of case law (self-inflicted arson?) for the period may reveal either a commonality or notoriety.

Meanwhile, as a sidelight, Billie pointed out an NPS archeological report (available on the internet) from some of the original Jamestown excavations. It goives me the impression that burning houses for nails may have been a short-lived and near-frontier phenomenon. After the capitol moved to Williamsburg there seemed to be plenty of iron hardware left behind (a lot more than I would leave behind, anyway) in the slow* collapse and crumbling of the first settlement. Alan may have some further insights on this from his own experience as to what gets taken and what gets left behind for the archeologists to find.

"New Discoveries at

Site of the First Successful
English Settlement in America




"While some of the handwrought hardware found at Jamestown was made in the colony, most of it was imported from England. Types of building hardware unearthed include an excellent assortment of nails, spikes, staples, locks, keys, hinges, pintles, shutter fasteners, bolts, hasps, latches, door knockers, door pulls, footscrapers, gutter supports, wall anchors, and ornamental hardware. In many instances each type is represented by several varieties. Citing 2 examples, there are more
than 20 kinds of nails and at least 15 different kinds of hinges in the collection."


So, I hope that this provides a least a little illumination on the practice. As usual, you ask a simple question or make a simple statement, and the reality gets far more complex and interesting.

* Slow, of course, is very relative. Out in the arid Southwest and the cold and arid portions of Alaska, you get nicely preserved ghost towns. In the moist and humid Mid-Atlantic vines and overgrowth and termites and dry rot can reduce a wooden structure to uninhabitability in less that 10 years; far faster with the original (and English traditional) wattle and thatch structures of the early settlers; but that’s another story for another day. Just ask me about the Camp Fenby Hovel some time. :-)

Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 03/26/10 09:08:42 EDT

Burning for Nails: So, the laws are true. The reasons for them still questionable as far as how common a practice it was. It could have political as well. . . Protesting the tax on nails from England.

However, even today the reasons for laws are not put into the laws (I think they should). Laws are often reactionary and passed in a panic over a momentary crisis. This results in a lot of bad law.

I think all new laws should have the reason for their existence written into them AND a review date. If the reasons a law was passed were momentary panic about something that will likely never happen again then the law should die unless renewed.

Conditions change, society changes and technology changes often making old laws outdated.
- guru - Friday, 03/26/10 12:57:25 EDT

Nails: I can think of a mansion that should be burned down and the hand wrought nails returned to the people.
- Burnt Forge - Saturday, 03/27/10 00:22:50 EDT

Aside from the cost of the raw materials, I suppose making a house's worth of nails would represent a fair amount of (someone's) labor that you'd otherwise give up when you abandoned the property.

Doesn't seem that much different than ripping the copper pipes out of a house before the bank takes it back. And I *know* that happens -- I saw it on TV (grin).
Mike BR - Saturday, 03/27/10 09:52:48 EDT

Just another thought that popped into my head on this: The fact that a house was subjected to "demolition by neglect" doesn't necessarily mean it was deliberately abandoned. The owners could have headed West but planned to come back if things didn't work out. Or maybe they died of disease and the house got caught up in probate. Or it was left to heirs who were still in England. Or heirs just down the road who kept meaning to do something with it but never quite did. Or . . . .

So the fact that some houses were allowed to decay with the hardware in place doesn't prove that others weren't burned for the nails. Needless to say, it doesn't prove the opposite either.
Mike BR - Saturday, 03/27/10 10:12:11 EDT

nails, again: Thanks, Bruce.

Here in east Tennessee we run into the problem that most of the early (1760-1790-ish) were log structures that only used nails in things like doors and window shutters. Even then, many of said doors and shutters used wooden or leather hinges.

Then there were the log houses that were panelled inside with sawn lumber, attached with nails.

THEN then, we see wrought nails in the form of big mushroom-heads persisting as door hardware into the 1830s, well after cut nails had taken over the market for regular building hardware. This seems to be because the early nail-cutting machines (ca. 1790-1815) snipped the wrought iron sheet across the grain, which means they could not be clinched over without a good chance of snapping them off. We find lots of those...

The difference between 16th century tidewater VA and late 18th century interior upland south architecture is astonishing, which no doubt also accounts for a lot.

May I commend to your attention the MA thesis "Nailing Down the Pattern" by Amy Lambeck Young from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1991. Among the many things she studied was what happens when you burn a building for the nails.

One of the professors had an old chicken coop he was willing to sacrifice to science, so Amy and her crew of volunteers counted the nails before and after burning to see how many could be recovered without using a magnet or sifting screens. The results were interesting, in that they only managed to recover about 3/4 of the nails. The others didn't melt or anything, but they were impossible to find just by raking and picking for a few hours.
Alan-L - Saturday, 03/27/10 15:30:45 EDT

Recycling nails. . .: As a born in the tree, tree house builder with zero budget, I've straightened a LOT of nails. When looking for nails we were often given buckets of old bent nails . . . Straightening old nails is almost as difficult as making NEW nails. So the labor in recycling old nails maybe significant. Nails from a burnt building may be straighter than pulled or rejected nails but many would still need straightening.

So we have 25% loss in the ashes and then maybe a 20-30% loss in other labor costs. A very inefficient system. But then labor costs were very low and iron very expensive.

I still think there is a political background to this story that is still hiding out there. The governorship and much of the House of Burgeses in early Virginia was appointed by or had proven loyalties to the King. Over time there was a shift but there was always friction between the colonials and the British Government. It was a constant chess match ending in the Revolution (no draws allowed and cheating was claimed by both sides). The law on nails hints at the burning of buildings devaluing the Kings property. While the destruction of man's works devalues all of society, this specifically referred to the Kings property. . . a tax protest was definitely involved somewhere. .
- guru - Saturday, 03/27/10 19:40:45 EDT

Nails: Alan L brings up a good point, that without sawn lumber, not so many nails are used in construction.

It is My guess that pit sawn planks were probably a more expensive commodity than a few nails.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/28/10 00:04:32 EDT

Early Lumber:
Pit sawn lumber was not the only source of boards. Many boards were splil and hand planed as heavy lumber was split and/or hewn. However, the most common nailed item was shingles which were used as split, or split and dressed. Both roof shingles and end gable boards were split and used lots of nails.

In log cabins dirt floors were common but there was often wood floors in later seasons and these may have been split OR sawn. However, small wood pegs were used when nails were not available. Labor wise this was not very economical as wood pegs take as long to make a nails and require drilled holes. But if you didn't have the iron, you didn't have the iron.

If you have never worked wood by splitting with wedges or froe you would be amazed at how much can be done with very low tech tools and how fast it can be done. This was especially true in the era of huge strait trees.

I have seen floor joists made from debarked logs with one flat side in houses build as late as the early 1900's in areas that had plenty of saw mills.

There is also the art of making green wood furniture. This is fast and efficient and done with the simplest of tools. green wood is easy to work and can be bent with little effort. When the joints shrink and dry they become much tighter.

However, many of these wood working skills were developed (or re-developed) in the NEW world, the European settlers having grown accustomed to sawn lumber and construction methods of a civilized world not a wild frontier. While they were used to timber frame construction they also used mud and wattle with plaster which was not always available in the Americas. They were also used to nails being available.

While I've never built anything substantial using these methods I have split out boards and hand planed them, split out handle blanks and used an axe for rough shaping and a draw knife for finishing. And I've done enough conventional wood working to know that the primitive ways worked quite well and were not that much more labor intensive (yes, buying a sawn and planed board is easy but how much labor was required to earn the CASH to buy that board?).

If you are interested in studying these techniques see the Eric Sloane series including A Reverence For Wood and Museum of Early American Tools, then the series of books by Roy Underhill of The Woodwrights Workshop fame.
- guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 01:36:53 EDT

My Grandfather built an entire village in the Eastern Kentucky Mountains in the late 1920's by hand, using no sawn boards. He hewed the logs, rived the shingles, hewed and draw knifed logs on one side for floor boards.(Puncheroen ?sp) style. He split out clapboards for the gables etc. I will have to ask my mother about the use of nails.
He was cutting Chestnut trees dead since the depression and hand hewing RR ties, mine timbers and roof props until the very day he died in 1955.
Imagine cutting 30 year old, dead and dry chestnuts and then hewing them with hand tools.
He owned a mountainside that had been a chestnut timberstand until the blight.
- ptree - Sunday, 03/28/10 08:47:02 EDT

Further notes and discussion on the wood shop at Oakley Forge: (Continuing from a few months back, as I mentioned before, a separate building keeps me from overcrowding the forge building and keeps the wood turning from the lathe away from the sparks of the hot-work area, a prudent arrangement.) At this point my good wif has segregated about ½ of what I need to purchase a readymade workshop from the local Amish builders, and I’ve nearly saved the rest, so I need to start the preparations.

My "Plan A" is eight pilings, with about 18" clearance above ground, in a 12' X 12' square, with corners and midpoints; and maybe one more in the middle ("Plan A-1"). The sheds have 4" X 4" runners, usually about five, running the length of the building.

Topping the pilings in Plan A would be 12' long 4" X 6" pressure treated sills, lap-jointed so that there is a smooth 12' run parallel with the runners on the shed, so that the truck can just slide the shed onto the foundation. While pricing the sills, I pulled the following local prices on the pressure treated lumber:

4" X 6" X 12': $21.97

4" X 4" X 12': $14.97

2" X 8" X 12': $9.45

Given the price differential, the question is whether to stick to the original plan, go with the 4 X 4s (which would require more precision in both the construction and in the installation of the shed) or to go with doubled-up 2 X 8s, which would provide a wider foundation for the installation and cost (marginally) less.

Anyway, that's the possibilities; I would appreciate any input or experience that my friends can bring to bear on the project.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Sunday, 03/28/10 20:48:19 EDT

While I'm sure it did happen, I find it hard to believe nails recoverd from a burned building would be so cost effective verses new ones or pulled and straightend nails.
I would think that any sawn lumber would be too valuable to just burn as well.
I have an old machine shed here that I have been dismanteling and saveing for the last two summers now as it slowly makes its way closer to the ground.
A couple thousand board feet that I can't afford to throw away or burn because I couldn't buy them new.
What a waste it would be anyway. My stingy Czechoslovakian roots wouldn't let me do it...
I would also be concerned that nails recoverd from a fire would rust faster and be week.
- merl - Sunday, 03/28/10 21:35:26 EDT

Early Construction: Here in South Eastern Pa. the earliest settlers used hand hewn wood construction, but stone is plentyfull, in fact it had to be removed from the land to farm it. It was soon used greatly in construction. Here is a few lines written about the oldest standing structure in My neck of the woods, built 1716.

The current house itself stands at the south end of what was the original 498 acre tract acquired by Mounce Jones in 1701. It is a two and a half story sandstone structure. Stone construction was adopted by the Swedes only after the mass immigration of English and Welsh Quakers to Pennsylvania in the 1680s. Prior to this period, the Swedes were known for their log structures. Clearly, this house reflects the fact that the Swedes were quickly becoming acculturated into Anglo-American society.

This building is stone right up to the roofline.

At the time [1700] Pa. was populated mostly by Quakers, Sweeds & Pa.Dutch [and American Indians]. This area, about 40 miles upstream on the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia was the frontier. The Pensylvania iron industry started here shortly at Colebrookdale & Coventry.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 03/28/10 22:08:28 EDT

Those Pennsylvania stone structures which included barns, houses and bridges extend down into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia but are not seen very much farther South than Staunton, VA. The style is not seen to any degree anywhere else in Virginia. In the rest of the state most old 18th Century homes were all wood frame and siding. The common style is two story with one room on each side of a central hall way. Occasionally the style was translated into brick. Prior to these Virginia and Kentucky style homes old English "Tudor" style with mud and wattle fill had been common for early farm houses but they had very short lives due to termites and the style was abandoned.
- guru - Sunday, 03/28/10 23:37:34 EDT

My 250+ y.o. colonial house was built with less nails than you would think. The only place where there is a significant amount of nails is the cedar shake roof. You can see sunlight peeking through the shingles on a dry day. The joists meet the roof and are pinned with a wooden pegs. The rest of the house (balloon style construction) probably was built using the same methods. No worries about termites, I was told by an inspector that the wood used in the day was treated with cyanide and other poisons that aren't allowed to be used in modern materials. I was told that if even a small fire starts the smoke will kill you. Burning my house won't net anyone copious amounts of nails.
- Nippulini - Monday, 03/29/10 08:22:55 EDT

Bruce's shop plans: Geez Bruce, with those prices it's no wonder I'm recycling my building!
I will take absolutly every stick of lumber that has some useable footage in it, saw off the bad part and sticker it away against future need.
Last fall I rebuilt the entire Eastern wall of another building, that was originally made to house chickens and horses, from recycled 4x4 pallet stringers and siding planks from the machine shed mentioned above.
Total cost so far for a 8'x 35' wall about $12.00 for a box of nails and some diesle fuel for the flatbed to go and get the pallets.
I wish that for a few hundred dollars I could have saved the other building but, it was not built to house todays larger tractors so the previouse owner just went in and cut out the rafters and put a bigger door in the end. I could have probably corrected that but, then when he set up the place to dry and store grain he anchored one of the guy wires for the grain elevator to the roof of the same shed he had cut rafters out of... He ended up destroying a building in three years of abuse, that had only been built in the late 40's and would have probably stood for 100.
It did take another 7 years for it to finely give up. When we moved here I began shoring it up with the intent to save it but, it was too far gone already by that time so I started dismanteling it a few years ago for reuse.
Don't forget to take some pictures or video to post to AnvilCAM for all to see!
- merl - Monday, 03/29/10 11:17:58 EDT

Another aspect while sawn or hand worked lumber was of great worth; you couldn't transport those pieces to the frontier which by definition was a place of few and bad roads. Toss 20 pounds of nails into a pack for a horse compared with the same amount of wood those nails would represent!

My shop extension: I am becoming quite surprised at the amount of money used up by buying fasteners even buying in bulk It will be about 1000 self drilling self tapping screws; but I'm not stinting as we go into the windy season! (wind speed was 37 on Saturday with gusts of 47...)

Thomas P - Monday, 03/29/10 14:34:50 EDT

Building my big shop in Virginia I estimate I used 500 pounds of fasteners. Started with 30 or 40 pounds of anchor bolts, another 40 pounds of 1/2" x 7" bolts, then nails of every size. More lag bolts and threaded rod. We used lots of big nails, no flimsy nail gun staples. . . Then sheet rock screws. . . seemed like every week we were picking up another 40 pounds of nails.
- guru - Monday, 03/29/10 16:42:42 EDT


It sounds like you'd be stacking the 2X8s on the flats? If so, I don't think they'd be as strong as a 4X6, or probably even a 4X4. But I guess it depends on how well you tie the 2X8s together. (And I don't know how much the shed would rely on the sills for rigidity.)
Mike BR - Monday, 03/29/10 18:02:22 EDT

lumber strength, old wood: A very rough rule of thumb for lumber is that the "strength" (horizontal deflection under load) increases as a square function of it's depth. In other words you can make a floor joist wider and get a little more carrying capacity, or make it deeper and get a whole lot more.

The town I live in once had 9 saw mills on a 3 mile stretch of river. LOTS of sawn and hewn local timber and planks around here!

Nip- I was a timber framer for about 12 years, we did traditional mortice and tennon, pegged joinery new frames and restoration of 100-200 year old post and beam frames and the only historical treatments of structural members I ever saw was some good old borax sprinkled on some sills that were installed in the 1930's. Things may have been different up here in the frozen north but I'd be interested in hearing more about where your inspector got his info.
Judson Yaggy - Monday, 03/29/10 20:35:53 EDT

hauling nails vs. hauling wood...: That is a VERY valid point Thomas.
I wonder at what point of desperation to lighten the load a keg of hard won nails would have been thrown overboard.
Makes me think of Guru's anvil story.
- merl - Monday, 03/29/10 22:16:20 EDT

Copyright Issues on Practical Machinist: (Sticky Post)

Sometimes you try to be polite and people don't respond. So here goes. I was informed that someone using the Alias


on the Practical Machinist website was using our anvilfire flaming anvil logo for their avatar on those forums. They do not have permission to do this. It is theft under copyright law. I do not give permission to ANYONE to use our logo to represent themselves.
I politely asked the webmaster "Don T" at Practical Machinist to remove the avatar or ask the member to remove the avatar. His response was that he was too busy to be bothered. Since I cannot directly contact members of that forum and the webmaster refused to do the right thing, I am forced to do so publicly. I am sorry if this causes any embarrassment but I tried to play nice. Complain to "Don T".

I'm sure machine-n-forge uses our forums and may be one of our regulars, otherwise he would not have our flaming anvil logo. So this is a public "Cease and Desist" notice from the legal copyright holder to stop using our artwork and trademark logo.
- guru - Tuesday, 03/23/10 20:32:53 EDT

lol: All the visitors on machine-n-forge's profile are anvilfire members
- Tyler Murch - Tuesday, 03/30/10 00:00:09 EDT

Yeah Tyler, you'll notice he hasn't been around since the 17th either...
- merl - Tuesday, 03/30/10 09:56:42 EDT

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