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September 2009 Archive

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

tyler: great work man.... miss you over don's way....yes i know ss is a pain but we still miss you....
- pete - Tuesday, 09/01/09 06:24:08 EDT

Who wants a hammer in in CT?
I am thinking of trying to find a hammer in in ct. to me the closest one is about 2.5 hours away. anybody want to start our own? i can bring a 140(Ish)lb anvil, a couple of hammers (2 to be precise), lots of wood and some harden-able steel (leafspings an axle some u bolts that are great for tools and such). but not too much as somebody stole half my scrap pile :(
bigfoot - Tuesday, 09/01/09 13:36:59 EDT

Ken,: Not a lister, which has a central point and turns two furrows, one to either side.

I dressed two plow shares years ago, and they weren't brought back to me, so I must've done something right. I tried to make tham look like a finished one that I had in my possession. I saw a plow point welded on in Chihuahua, Mexico. There was a great deal of wear on the point area, and with ground to metal wear, it becomes quite rounding instead of having sharp angles. It also loses most or all of its top convexity. The journeyman picked a piece of what I supposed was high carbon steel, and folded it in half, covering the point. It was then forge welded using a striker. It was hot cut to shape and hand hammered a bit. We had to leave at that juncture, so I did not get to see the hardening nor the grinding/sanding.
Frank Turley - Tuesday, 09/01/09 20:59:10 EDT

plow points: Yeah, Ken we used to see that kind/style of moldboard 30 years ago on bigger plows(4-8 bottom)when farmers were still doing the majoity of their field work with moldboard plows now its' mostly chisele plows and one pass tilage tools.
That style was popular with farms that had "sticky" soil and some farmers that were trying to do more work with less horsepower.
Those finger moldboards work the same way those fancy cheese slicing knives do with the big cut outs in them. Less surface area, less drag, less power required.
One of the guys in my blacksmith club sells plow points for the walking plows but they are all ment to be arc welded on. He says it's near impossible to find the forge welded replacment points any more. Even the Amish have had to resort to the arc weld type as I understand. May be different in your locale but,...
- merl - Wednesday, 09/02/09 21:19:22 EDT

Short blacksmith clip from Kenya: A smith and striker at work using two cement bags for bellows...this info sent to me by a former student/friend.
Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/03/09 08:49:25 EDT

Cool, Frank. I would like to have seen more of those two together as a working team and not just doing a demo like one too often sees.
- merl - Thursday, 09/03/09 22:28:16 EDT

Plows: Ken,

Bob Bergman (proprieter of Old World Anvils/Postville Blackmsith Shop) will be demoing at Quad State. I know he has done re-pointing of plows. So has Phil Cox who demoed at QS last year. You could probably get advice from either of them.
- Patrick Nowak - Friday, 09/04/09 18:21:38 EDT

Plows: Ken- Talk to Ed Rhodes at SOFA. I bet he's done a bunch of plows in his life.
Patrick Nowak - Tuesday, 09/08/09 08:38:48 EDT

Ed demonstrated re-pointing a plow at a SOFA meeting once as it was a standard job when he was working as a smith.

Thomas P - Wednesday, 09/09/09 12:53:07 EDT

Small Engine Question: The wif has a new roto-tiller and she's put barely 10 hours on the 4-cycle engine. The air filter is not even dirty! We push the priming bulb, as directed, set the throttle, pull the cord; it starts for about a second or two and conks out. I step in, go over everything, inspect the tank, oil, etc. try different settings on the throttle as a good husband should and... BrOOOWF,sputter,clunk... full stop. Continue until arm gets tired with variations on the theme.

I'm not sure I want to dismantle the whole thing, it being so shiney and new, and the wif never confident in my abilities with any of "her" gardening equipment. (...not honored in my own land, etc. ;-)

I'm open to insights and suggestions.
The Equipment in Question
Bruce Blackistone - Monday, 09/14/09 08:15:46 EDT

small engine: Bruce,
How fresh is the fuel in the tank? It seems as if gasoline doesn't keep it's oomf like it used to when we were young.
Try a new plug. An engine needs three things to run, fuel, compression, spark. Figure out which one isn't there and your half way to fixing it.
Good luck.
JimG - Monday, 09/14/09 09:39:59 EDT

fussy small engine: Bruce, if you can get the engine to run breifly with the normal starting methodes, try pushing onthe priming bulb vigorously while it's sputtering to keep it going untill it's running on its own.
My wife has a push mower with a small "easy start" 4 cycle engine on it and, it seems that when it is first started cold it has little compression and needs the extra fuel until it warms up a little.
I find it most irritating that the one push mower I paid money for runs so poorly and the three others that I have recoverd from the town dump start on the first or second pull and cut grass all day on very little fuel!
I have wonderd if I were to throw her mower out and then recover it from the dump if it would run any better?...
- merl - Monday, 09/14/09 10:36:01 EDT

more lawn mower ranting: We have a few acers here and as such I have acquired a few garden tractors to help with the various gardening and maintainence chores that go with it.
Last week I was cutting and hauling brush with one of my IH Cub Cadets. It is an older modle 127 that I got, from one of the ownwers of a salvage yard that I frequent, for $40. He said it always did run good but suddenly quit one day so he put it on the back row for disperal or disposal. I jumpt on it for forty dollers figuring the coil had gone out and I already had a new one at home.
replacing the coil didn't help so I checked the wiring for a short but, found none. Hoping to avoid spending a lot of money for electronic parts for a 40+ year old garden tractor I called an older freind who suggested I try replacing the spark plug.
I did and, for another $6., I have one of the easiest starting engines I have ever owned and, agreat working chore tractor to boot.
The three Cub Cadets and the Boleans tractor I have all have Kohler engines in them that I swear by.
It is unfortunate that Briggs and Stratten and Techumcea have cheapend themselves right out of the market.
- merl - Monday, 09/14/09 11:12:12 EDT

Fussy Small Engines:
There is a good reason that you can pick up dozens of year old lawn mowers on almost any spring clean-up day. Many are a work-once and throw away device UNLESS you are a small engine mechanic or masochist.

Over the years we have had dozens of various small engined machines and I have learned to speak the names of most of the common small engine makers as an evil curse.

The only machine I have had that was dependable was a Lawn Boy. It would start every time and was trouble free unless you left the gas/oil mix in the carb over the winter. If you ran the thing out of fuel as the instructions called for at the end of the year AND put a couple ounces of straight gas in the tank priming the carb with it then it would start the first time in the spring. However, we usually just put the thing away as-is and I had to pull the carb and clean it out each spring.

How many lawn mowers have you worn the wheels off of? Our Lawn Boy went through half a dozen sets in 30 years.

The only major repair I made in 30 years was replacing the coil. The mower got hard to start when it was about 20 years old, then almost impossible. On close inspection it had a crack in the coil's insulation. $12 and it was off and away again.

Sadly, now that the mower is almost 40 years old it needs a bunch of new parts and may be at the end of its life.

The mower I had PRIOR to that was an original 1950's Lawn Boy with magnesium deck. I bought it for $2 in 1967 and had to make a part for the governor to get it running. I used it for a decade when it finally had a bearing failure (probably due to hitting rocks). Sadly I did not know you could get a replacement engine at that time for $100. That old magnesium deck made it the lightest most durable mower on the market. . .

The other machine we had that was "OK" was a Troy Built Roto-Tiller. This was back in the day when you had to search for them and the big box stores had not ruined their quality. It had a Techumsa Engine that started quite well for many years without particularly good care.

SO. . I have given up on small engines and no longer have to say Briggs and Stratton as a curse.

We now pay others mow our grass a couple times a year and have an electric weed-wacker for when we need to do some trimming. If I needed a chain-saw again it would be electric as well.

The cost of having others cut the lawn has been relatively low compared to mowers and repairs much LESS the frustration. In my old age the lack of frustration is highly valued.
- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 12:01:30 EDT

plows: Ken S.- email coming your way.
Judson Yaggy - Monday, 09/14/09 12:11:07 EDT

10 hrs. . .: Sounds like a warranty issue to me. .

On the other hand. . . my brother bought a riding mower from Lowes. He used it for less than an hour and the main shaft become bent, not by hitting rocks or stumps but by lightly scalping a high spot. He returned it for a new one. An hour later he was loading the replacement mower BACK in the car to replace the second one. . . When the third failed in high grass (not scalping) he returned it and just left it.

The problem was NOT abuse. My brother had been cutting the same lawn for a decade with the same brand and model mower. It had finally worn out and was retired. The new model was just JUNK, plain and simple. Someone had gotten just ONE step too cheep. 1/16" less on the shaft diameter was the difference between being a durable product and not.

This is a common problem with big box store tools and equipment. Even many brands that were once the gold standard of quality have been ruined by their mass purchasing and demanding lower prices. Lesser brands. . . forget it.
- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 12:19:01 EDT

Dear Friends of Tom Clark,:
As anyone who knew Tom Clark would know, Tom used the forging of a nail as the root of his blacksmith teaching. If you ever watched Tom demonstrate he most often started his demonstration by forging a nail. Tom had made several large nails throughout his career.

With that in mind four Georgia Blacksmiths, Ben Bradshaw, Michael Dillon, Kris Graper and Mark Hopper, collaborated together on a memorial project for Tom Clark. They FORGED A 7 FOOT TALL NAIL in Tom’s memory and want you to have an opportunity to participate.

The nail was first presented at Madison and we have made arrangements to have it at "Quadstate 09"

Everyone who knew Tom is welcome to bring your touch mark and you can mark the side of the "BIG NAIL" ith it.

Thank you,
Steve Roth

- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 12:21:29 EDT

Small Engine, Helpful Advise:
As noted old fuel can be a problem. Also the wrong fuel. If you have ANY 2 cycle fuel around it can find its way into the wrong device. Same with Diesel. Fuel bought in the winter may not work well in the summer. Fuel with alcohol will absorb a LOT of water from the air and can be a problem. . I got the very best service out of mowers back when you could buy Amoco "white" high octane gas. . . Try to find some without alcohol. Old gas cans and those with missing caps are a problem. .

I know you are in high insect country as am I. Those little critters will plug vent holes down to wire sizes with their nests. Mud daubers are just the big obvious ones. There are also small wasps and spiders that like to build in small holes. Check the crank case vent, vents in the gas cap, vents on the carb. . .

The fact that it runs SOME means a fuel/air issue. This can include throttle, governor, vents as noted, choke/primer. . . The pumping the primer a little as it sputters will tell you it it is getting too little fuel or too much. If adding kills it then too much. . .

Some of these system use springs to pull things one way and the control cable the other. Occasionally things get gummed up and need oil. Cables (the wire push/pull type) are particularly bad. I work WD-40 into the ends, followed by light lubricating oil, followed by a little Never Sieze.

IF the engine sat long enough that the fuel dried out then you can have clogged internal carb vents. This is common on small engines and a pain to fix on most. On some you can get away with removing the float bowl, cleaning it AND the carb body in place with some carburetor cleaner. This was EASY on the Lawn Boy as it had two screw holding the carb on, no control cables, and two push on fuel lines. It was a plastic carb that was best cleaned in the sink with some liquid dish washing liquid after rinsing with fresh fuel. THIS is a good reason for a utility sink in the shop. . .

So, fuel, bugs, fuel controls, fuel system.

And NEVER overlook the obvious like that 2 cycle oil. . .

That Lawn Boy I used for 30 plus years. . . When it was two weeks old the twins who had just learned to walk "helped" daddy by filling the tank to the top with sand. . . It was not noticed until the mower stopped due to lack of fuel. . . I have been listening for that engine to start knocking ever since.

LAST. . . after ALL that it will start running for no specific reason other than you HAD to pay your dues to the great lawn equipment frustration gods. They WILL ask for homage again and again.
- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 13:04:13 EDT

I have a Graverly 16Hp rear engine rider, that my Dad bought new in 1984. He and I have used/abused the thing ever since. I have replaced one clutch, the ingition switch, and the belt on the deck. I did have to weld up the holes worn through the deck last year, but it still runs strong. Now he did pay $4800 in 1984, but I think that has been pretty good. Had to replace the worn out tires once and the battery twice.
- ptree - Monday, 09/14/09 13:18:10 EDT

Gravely is (was) similar to Troy built in that they built what they thought was the best equipment they could possibly make at the time. I am very sad that Troy Built has been ruined by being in the big box stores. . . The Troy Built tiller we bought back in the 1970's was a great machine that we used for many years.

Paw-Paw purchased a big brand new Troy built riding mower and had loaned it to a neighbor a couple times. It was never operated here and we had to sell/traded off as junk. At two years old with only a few hours use, and indoor storage it would not start. The battery still held a charge but the carb and oil vent system was completely screwed up. It would start and run momentarily, blow clouds of white oil smoke then die. . . We has it worked on and the result was the same after it sat for a couple days. Other problems included brake failure due to a design that let anything that you might run over to hang on the brake rod and disconnect it.

This was one of those new pretty stream lined things with blended in head light covers. All looks and NO guts. It cost way too much to be a throw away one-season tool.
- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 16:22:30 EDT

Guru, I think that Troy-built you describe is actually a rebranded MTD, who makes all the big box brand riders and transmissions for many of the rest.
I agree about the Graverly. Mine, a 16Hp rider, has front wheels that run on tapered roller bearings, a Group 24 car sized battery, all gear drive tranaxle, shuttle clutches and a pto drive to the mower deck with its own clutch. Also hyd lift on the deck. Only belt is a long serpentine on the deck to drive the two outer blades. Replaced this spring after 25 years, and has stretched so bad I have had to readjust the tension twice this year, which is once more then the OEM.
With some care, my great grandkids will inherit it.
ptree - Monday, 09/14/09 19:24:30 EDT

It doesn't matter who made something. When you put your name on it then its YOURS. If Troy Built is using a bad sub contractor supplier then its their problem.

Manufacturers outsourcing their manufacturing are no longer manufactures. They are middlemen.

I know this is common practice throughout industry but it is not a good practice. The real manufacturer likes it because they do not have to advertise and the seller likes it because they do not have to manufacture. But hiding who made what behind branding deals and sales contracts just gives more lawyers more to do. . .
- guru - Monday, 09/14/09 20:25:14 EDT

Brand names & the Big Box stores: I service mowers & practically anything else mechanical for a few people in the area. I was working on a fairly recent John Deer mower and noticed that it is a real crapper compaired to Our early '80s model. When I went to the JD dealer for parts I commented about the quality difference.

He pointed out that they had 2 rows of mowers in the show room, the better ones in one row, and the junkers made for the Big Box stores in the other. He said they HAD to carry both lines to be price competetive with the big box stores.
- Dave Boyer - Monday, 09/14/09 21:08:27 EDT

throw away lawn mowers: Guru, I should point out that the lawn mowers I reclaim from the dump ARE the 20+ year old machines.
The newer single season machines are not repairable as far as I'm concerned and don't even get a look from me.
My prize pick has been an older John Deere 16" push mower. I found it up side down it the scrap metal dumpster and could smell gass coming from it. I pulled it out, set it on the gound and looked to see there was in fact still gass in it so I gave it a few pulls and when it sputterd I quickly shut it off and threw it in the back of the truck for home.
I have been using it for three years now with nothing more than an oil change and a scavenged throttle cable.
The nicest thing about getting mowers from the dump is if they don't work or they quit and I don't feel like fixing them, they go right back to the dump the next week.
I'm glad you like Techumsa engines, that would make one person...for some reason I have never had any like for them even though they were made in Wisconsin untill recently. I was always a B&S man untill I got a hold of a Kohler and never looked back.
I have to agree with you about the Troy-Built tiller though. They were like the Cadilac of tillers back when you could only find them in magazines like Popular Mechanics and Mother Earth News. Now I wouldn't give a bent nickle for one.
My main ground working tool is a 1930 something Pioneer "Red E" walking tractor with the hardest working old Wisconsin AB engine on it then, a Gilson roto-tiller that is maybe ten years younger than me.
I think that (hope that...) U.S. manufacturers have reached the point of zero return on tring to maximize profits from out sorceing and getting a product so poorly made that it no longer a saleable item. Their reputation precedes them and even the most dim-whitted consumer must finally make a better choice.
- merl - Monday, 09/14/09 22:12:17 EDT

iForge Demo 39 horse bit by Bill Epps: Some time ago I asked if someone could explain what the "U" shaped squiggle in the middle of the cross bar of the bit was for, what purpose does it actualy serve?
I would like to add this item to my show demo line up (with proper acknowlagement to anvilfire of course) if nobody minds.
I know someone is going to ask why I put that hump in there and if I don't know I'll probably be bad mouthed by the horse people that come through.
The local farm supply store carries an extensive line of equine supplies but none of the bits are made like this and no one has been able to tell me the reason for the described hump.
I'm thinking that if Mr. Turley couldn't shed some lite on this then probably no one can...?
- merl - Monday, 09/14/09 22:34:31 EDT

Curb bit: Bill Epps, being a horseman, used all the correct terminology in his iForge demo. A bit with leverage shanks is a "curb bit." The curve on the mouthpiece is the port. Some bits have a low port as does Bill's. There are also medium and high port curb mouthpieces. Horse people talk about "tongue relief" when mentioning the port's function. The tongue is underneath the mouthpiece when the bridle and bit are on the horse. Wikipedia sometimes misses the mark, but they have a pretty good article describing the action of a bit when it's placed on the horse.
- Frank Turley - Tuesday, 09/15/09 08:30:42 EDT

curb bit: Thanks for the prompt reply Frank. I'll go and check out the Wikipedia artical as well.
Thanks again
- merl - Tuesday, 09/15/09 09:29:42 EDT

mowers: we had some lawnmower trouble today. its a craftsman and my mother had just brought it back from service at sears. it was cranking and would run for several seconds, then cut out. i dont know anything about small engines but i fixed it somehow. all i did was open the air filter cover and look around, it was clean. the sparkplug had not been replaced at sears and we had one so i figured i would change it and viola it works. i always thought the spark plug was just for starting, maybe i knocked something loose when i opened the air filter? anyways, problem sounds somewhat the same as the one bruce was having and this is what fixed it, so..
- T Murch - Tuesday, 09/15/09 17:58:06 EDT


A spark plug is *not* just for starting. If it doesn't fire, the cylinder doesn't fire. It's as simple as that (well, almost). A glow plug on a diesel is used just for starting, but a gas engine won't run without spark.
Mike BR - Tuesday, 09/15/09 20:07:52 EDT

small engine: Bruce, Well?
JimG - Wednesday, 09/16/09 11:54:00 EDT

A"tiller" and the Hun: Jim. my wif read all of the comments, and confessed that the fuel was last spring's; but she has decided to wait until the clear weather this weekend before we run through the mr=ethods everybody has so generously provided here. We'll keep all posted.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 09/17/09 10:20:53 EDT

A "tiller" and the Hun: It took me a few mins on that one... Now that was funny!
- merl - Thursday, 09/17/09 13:31:57 EDT

Bruce's tiller: Bruce, when using older fuel, I've often been able to get through the tank by adding dry gas to it. Sometimes coaxed along with ether for starting. New spark plugs help as well.
- Gavainh - Thursday, 09/17/09 18:15:52 EDT

Gavainh,: What is "dry gas"? is it what I know as "white gas" or "hightest"? (like coleman lamp fuel)
JimG - Friday, 09/18/09 19:54:59 EDT

Dry Gas: As far as I know, it is alchoal. alchoal will absorb a little bit of water and allow it to mix with the gas and burn. There may be some other chemicals in it too. Most gas has 10% alchoal in it now right from the pump, at least where I live.
- Dave Boyer - Friday, 09/18/09 22:11:55 EDT

White Gas:
Gasoline used for cook stoves is a high purity fuel with no additives. The "white gas" sold by Ammoco years ago was a natural or unleaded high octane gasoline. It is NOT the same as Coleman Stove fuel. While I have seen many warnings not to use it in stoves and lanterns I know many people have done so without serious problems.

"Dry Gas" as noted is alcohol. It occasionally has other things in it. It will help take a LITTLE water out of a fuel system but only a very small proportion per volume. It will help prevent water from freezing in fuel lines and force the water through the system in small amounts. IF you have significant water in your fuel it will not help. The only solution then is to drain the system.
- guru - Saturday, 09/19/09 03:27:29 EDT

I'm pretty sure "Dry Gas" is actually a brand name for a particular product, but it tends to get used to refer to any gas line drier.
Mike BR - Saturday, 09/19/09 07:46:04 EDT

small engines: One of the lessons I had to learn is tht on older small engines made before gasahol, used rubber in the gaskets etc that break down when exposed to the alcohol in modern gas.
I had a Stihl chainsaw that I bought to clear the property that my house sits on. Great saw, very powerful and smooth. As the years went by it lost a little power, and then became hard to start and run a little rougher etc. I put it down to hundreds of hoursof use.
It finally would not stay running and had little power. I took it to a Stihl dealer and explained, expecting him to sell me a new saw as the old one was worn out. He looked at it, asked when I had bought it and exclaimed, it needs a rubber kit, all the pre alcohol in gas saws do this as the rubber gets "eat up".
He put a $90 kit with labor in it and the darn thing runs like new.
I really kinda wanted a newer smaller saw:)
Two years later I did buy a Stihl saw that weighed 6.5# VS the old big one at 14.7# But the big old saw is still used when I need a big bar.
ptree - Saturday, 09/19/09 11:42:14 EDT

Alcohol and rubber: Back in the 1980's GM had a carburetor float made of a sealed plastic foam. Worked great until you put alcohol in the system. . The float absorbed the alcohol, then sank like a rock.

We had a paint spray gun that took a rubber gasket. The gasket failed and we could not get another. My Dad found some neoprene quad-rings to fit. They would go in fine but if using lacquer they came out about double size! If you left them to air out they shrunk back to normal in about half an hour and you could reuse them. We had 3 of them, two of which hung on a nail. When you opened the can to put in more paint you changed gaskets. . . This was the "norm" for many years.

Some "rubber" materials are resistant to one solvent but not others. Some to more than one. If you do not know which, then changing materials can be a disaster.
- guru - Saturday, 09/19/09 13:22:25 EDT

Once in the previous century, whilst working at Westinghouse Air Brake Co Fluid power div, I tested O-ring elastomers for compatability with common lube oils. It was amazing what some of the standard tool kit patent medicine oils like Marvel Mystry Oil would do to most seals. In the oil patch, where crude gets in and on most everything, and turns to hard tar like coke, Marvel is the solvent of choice. It would swell Nitrile O-rings 300% overnight. Nitrile(Buna-N) is the industry standard for pnuematic valves. Viton, was somewhat better, neoprene turned into 400% bigger overcooked pasta consistancy etc.
We were trying to find the Golden Grail, an elastomer that would work with everything. Did not find one. And boy did I get tired of measuring O-rings:)
ptree - Saturday, 09/19/09 14:16:00 EDT

forge welding: I am a reenactor blacksmith traditional in style but I just can't seem to get consistant welds what are some good tips that I could possibly put to use
- dh7925 - Saturday, 09/19/09 14:20:55 EDT

Forge Welding:
dh, Generally if you can forge weld, you can forge weld. Fuel is usually the big variable but forge type can also make a difference. Having an AUDIENCE is another variable. . .

Forge welding works best with clean fuel that produces low ash. You might try some first class coal such as sold by our advertisers.

Some folks can weld without flux, others need borax, some use commercial fluxes. Those with iron powder seem to make small difficult welds more reliable.

There is more information in our iForge demo on welding.
- guru - Sunday, 09/20/09 00:37:52 EDT

What time period do you reenact? Anything ACW and before you will be trying to recreate items made with Wrought Iron using mild steel. Wrought Iron welds easier and so tricky welds with it can be quite hard to reproduce in mild steel.

ThomasP - Sunday, 09/20/09 22:06:01 EDT

Forge welding: thank you for the info I do ACW reenacting so alot of that will help.
- dh7925 - Monday, 09/21/09 12:04:17 EDT

Blacksmithing Demo at St. Mary's Co. Fair: I will be doing a blacksmithing demonstration at the St. Mary's County Fair in Southern Maryland on Saturday and Sunday, September 26 & 27. My friend, Drey, will be assisting me both days. This is actually a paid gig! I asked $250 a day and the fellow at the farm museum insisted on $300! I'll be splitting it with Drey, whose truck died in the line of duty (Longship Company) and will be doing a lot of heavy lifting due to my non-blacksmith-related tendonitus.

If any of y'all are in the area (or have a hankering for going to a county fair) stop on by; I'm at the farm museum.

We'll have the medieval forge on display, and use the coal farm forge and (primarily) the gas forge for demonstrations. We'll have 11" X 17" posters
explaining the evolution of the forges and FAQs.

Demonstrations will be nothing fancy; mostly tent stakes (on a commission), tripod (on commission), trammel chain (likewise) small knife blades, trivets (church raffle) &c.

I may not be a great blacksmith, but I've got good patter, and that's what they want. ;-)

Thanks to all who advised me on this subject; I'll let youy know how things turned out.
St. Mary's County Fair
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 09/23/09 08:26:07 EDT

Iron City Post Vice: I suddenly realized I own a lot of Iron City post vises. Problem is I really like them and unfortunately need a new screw and box for one that I really like and use a lot. It is an 80# vise with 5+ inch jaws. It has already had the screw and box replaced with a Columbian type, but it's REAL worn. Anybody got a spare laying around for sale or trade? While I'm asking, anyone have any literature on Iron City Tool Works?
- Alan Lewis - Wednesday, 09/23/09 21:49:34 EDT

Iron City info: The company was in Pittsburgh beginning in 1854 and was acquired by the Warren Tool Corporation in Ohio in 1958. Warren continued to use their interesting "Star of David" logo. Iron City was known for manufacturing blacksmith tools, hammers, hoes, picks, railroad tools, and vises.

I have two Iron City leg vises. One, 7 1/4", my largest vise, has the traditional look with the chamfered legs and the "ears" to keep filings out of the works.

The other is lacking those features. It is a good vise, but aesthetically it leaves something to be desired. I have a hunch that this vise was made by the Warren group and that they cut a few corners.

Reference: "Directory of American Toolmakers" edited by Robert E. Nelson. Early American Industries Association, 1999.
Frank Turley - Thursday, 09/24/09 07:09:03 EDT

Leg Vise Repair: Alan, Leg Vises were made by many companies. Size varied from 30 to 250 pounds in 5 and 10 pound increments. Component sizes such as screws only fitted two of each of these sizes. So there are many incremental sizes.

At one time a few common replacement parts were available. Most substitutes have been made from later vises and vise kits and are not really satisfactory.

To make first class repairs on these great old vises you need to make replacement parts yourself. Ideally the screw would be forged then turned. But it is possible to buy acme threaded rod and nuts then replace the worn sections by cutting and welding. This way you can use the original handle and screw end.

While repairs can be expensive, new forged vises are also expensive. AND, while old used vises are currently cheap they may not stay that way a lot longer. In recent decades the majority of heavy vise makers have dwindled and most are now made overseas as cheaply as possible. The few forged vices now made are also not nearly as nice as the old ones.

You CAN collect old vises and combine the parts to make good ones. However, they all tend to have worn out screws if they are worn at all. But once in a while you find an abused vice with something broken and a good screw.

Good luck
- guru - Thursday, 09/24/09 12:58:54 EDT

Iron City Leg Vise: Gentlemen, thanks for your info. Whereas I have the skill, tools and the knowledge to rebuild or repair this screw, it's a columbian style and I would really like to find the original style with the covered screw at the rear, and the threaded box is actually longer over the screw under the vise proper. Frank, all my Iron City vises have the ears over the threads, but I do have a late model Columbian vise marked Columbian Vise Mfg. Co. and it's as you say, lacks aesthetics with the whole style changed. Thanks for the reference, I am hoping to find actual literature on these and other tools I have from the Iron City Tool Works, and old tool catalog or company flyer. Guru, I agree, prices are going up on these tools, and as for finding a good screw, I don't think they exhist anymore. Of all the broken vises I've found the one weak part seems to be the screws. never found a good one unless it was still in the vise and it never got used. Hey. I'll keep looking and as you say, I might get lucky! Stranger things have happened...
- Alan Lewis - Friday, 09/25/09 00:03:52 EDT

Leg Vise redone.: My big Iron City vise had been rebuilt by the old blacksmith, "Rusty", of Cimarron, NM, before I purchased it. The threads are square but closer together than an original, thus requiring more turns for closing or opening. It appears to have the original screw head and handle. It is a mystery how Rusty might have got this new screw to the old screw head. He might have been one hell of a welder, but I can't discern a join. In any event, he brazed a new internally threaded tube onto the original box after cutting off the old threaded tube.

The overall appearance is like an original. To tell the difference, you would need to look at the thread count and the line of braze.
Frank Turley - Friday, 09/25/09 07:42:54 EDT

Vise Repair: One method not discussed that I was going to mention is welding up the old screw and remachining it. This is a common repair in many fields and MAY be how Frank's vise was repaired. It requires good welding skills and I would recommend heat treating the weld buildup area, possibly forging it some to condition the steel.
- guru - Friday, 09/25/09 08:56:28 EDT

vise: Alan, i may be able to help you out with the screw repair. do you have pictures of it?
T Murch - Friday, 09/25/09 11:47:56 EDT

Screws. . .: Tyler, How about a 11/16" 8TPI LH Square Thread Nut? My old Porter needs a nut for a new tailstock ram. I can ship the screw to you. OD 1-3/16" by 1-1/8" deep. Probably should be made of 4140.

I can make this little bugger but my eyes are getting so its hard to grind the tools and I don't want to deal with change gears on the little Craftsman. . .

Then there are gears to make for the cross feed when I get apron apart. . . I finally got the Chuck the freed up. So I am making progress. I HATE using force on important parts. I oil and wait. But the apron screws have buggered up slots. I'll have to use an impact wrench to break them free.
- guru - Friday, 09/25/09 16:21:17 EDT

I can do that guru. be glad to. Also send along a simple drawing. i may be able to do those gears as well on the hobber whether they are spur or helical.
T Murch - Friday, 09/25/09 17:27:26 EDT

more screws: Ty- If you are taking on side jobs I need a check nut for my old flypress, thread type unknown but looks like an acme, I can send you a pattern/measurements, a blank of steel if needed. Looks like I'm 3rd in line thou, and for my karma's sake I must insist that the Guru gets his before me.

I can do OD threads ok on my set up, but the ID tooling is a step (or three) beyond my basic stuff. Feel free to email.
Judson Yaggy - Friday, 09/25/09 18:32:53 EDT

Old Machinists Trick: Judson, The fine thread on the flypress screw is some kind of series thread, maybe English, maybe not.

In order to measure threads or make a test plug machinists would melt sulfur and pour it into a nut. Sulfur does not shrink when it solidifies so the part is the EXACT size as the place it was cast.

SO, you can make a mold from sheet metal and damming compound, pour melted sulfur around the screw (I would warm it a bit) and viola' you have a perfect model "nut".

This process is better if you have a nut, then make a plug to measure and make another.

- guru - Friday, 09/25/09 19:07:38 EDT

Modern Version:
Kneadable epoxy putty is avaialble that can be mixed by hand. This can be pushed onto parts and an impression made that will harden in a few minutes. If this is done well a threaded sleeve could be made. This in turn could have a positive made from it.

Between a few measurements, and a cast or two a proper fit should be able to be made.
- guru - Friday, 09/25/09 19:29:13 EDT

Tyler, I'll send the screw and drawing next week. The drawing will be pretty simple. Its a cylindrical part that gets pined into a matching hole in the cylindrical slide.

The tailstock on this machine had a lot of abuse. Tools had been spun in the taper and it has been reamed out too far so that standard tapers no longer work. The handwheel was broken and replaced with a bad fit that chewed up the end of the screw. THEN the key either broke or backed out and someone tried to remove the slide PAST part of the key out the back of the tailstock instead of the front. . . I had not realized there was so much wrong with this machine when I started to set it up. . .

Some of the gears in the apron work and some don't. It's the cross feed that is broken. It could be a clutch part OR a stripped gear. I don't know yet. I'll have to get it apart.

- guru - Friday, 09/25/09 20:09:57 EDT

Press screw: This one was replaced sometime in the deep dark past and has no section of fine threads like you see on a lot of presses. Coarse, 3 start, 2 3/8 major diameter all the way to the top.
Judson Yaggy - Saturday, 09/26/09 07:56:56 EDT

Stop Nut: Judson, I do not think a power screw nut will hold. The normal stop nuts work without tightening the clamp. The split and clamp is to make sure they stay put (as well as provide 0 clearance). The clamping on the "fast" high helix threads may also damage the threads because it cannot pull all the way around and clamping will be localized. . .

You could try it but I think it would be an expensive experiment.
- guru - Saturday, 09/26/09 09:55:27 EDT

Just a note of caution, for what it's worth. I read somewhere that using a flypress stop without tightening the clamp is a good way to strip the threads in the first place. Seemed to make sense to me -- the unclamped split nut may have excessive clearance on the threads, and the pressure when the press bottoms on the nut could force it open further.
Mike BR - Saturday, 09/26/09 11:09:52 EDT

Flypress Stop Nut Rules:
Mike, You are probably right that it is more likely.

In general the stop nut should not be used as a work stop but a rest to prevent the screw moving when there is no work under the ram. The is to keep the ram at a convenient height between operations.

When there is no need of a work stop it is best to back it off and lock it out of the way.

Some users put a U shaped wood block under the stop nut to prevent damage or wear and tear to the machine. Soft plastic or hard rubber could also be used. However, wood is inexpensive and is not effected by oil or grease.

Work stops should be built into dies so that they are solid pieces of steel in compression the same way as on a power hammer. These can be replaceable to vary the height or permanent parts of the dies. For heavy work they may want to be hardened and tempered steel.
- guru - Sunday, 09/27/09 11:24:19 EDT

Flypress stop nuts: As usual you guys are probably correct. And because of the lack of check nut on my press I've already been building my tooling with positve stops, so for once I'm ahead of the game. Thanks for the advice!
Judson Yaggy - Sunday, 09/27/09 19:08:36 EDT

Leg vise screw repair: Well, just when you think nothing good can happen to you... I just looked at Ebay and actually found what appears to be a good box and screw. I can fix the whole thing for 40 bucks +/-, and although I enjoy working on my equipment, I now don't have to expend the time right now. Gives me time to spend making money. I will send pic's and enjoy your assistance and opinion on repair of the one I have. Maybe someone with a wornout Columbian would need it...
- Alan Lewis - Sunday, 09/27/09 19:30:45 EDT

Fly Press Stop Nut: I'm going to disagree with you on this one, Jock. The nut is there to act as a stop when working the tool, not as a rest for the ram. This is why stop nuts on fly presses are fitted with clamping bolts to provide completely positive engagement to prevent thread damage during impact.

While positive stops are perfectly permissible (and quite often a good idea) on fly press tooling, they are, by their nature, fixed stops. The stop nut, on the other hand, can be adjusted in tiny little amounts to fine tune the work done by the tool in the press. Tools vary widely in their fit into the ram, so an easily adjustable stop nut is very desirable feature.

Terry Suthers of Old World Anvils/Postville Blacksmith Shop had some very cogent points to make along these lines during his demonstrations at QuadStates yesterday and today. Tutorials on fly press work and the uses of the various features of the fly press are available from Terry and Bob at and also from John Crouchet at

vicopper - Monday, 09/28/09 00:02:51 EDT

shop layout: Hi all... Just wanted to know if their is a spot on anvilfire where we can post pics of our shops. To compare layouts.. See what works for others?
Thanks in advance..
- kainaan - Monday, 09/28/09 15:20:08 EDT

Photos: Kainaan, currently we do not have user photo galleries. Its coming. . .

Shop layouts really need drawings. . .
- guru - Monday, 09/28/09 16:17:21 EDT

Photos: Thanks Guru. I am looking forward to the user photo gallery!!!This is a great site!!!!!!!!Happy hammering!
kainaan - Monday, 09/28/09 16:50:57 EDT

Shop Layouts:
Shop layouts are complicated things. Everyone does different work and has different equipment. You can optimize small work zones around specific equipment such as forges, power hammers, benches, but beyond that it is hard to find a common frame of reference.

EXAMPLE: 19th century shops either had machinery or did not. But in either case the majority of "blacksmith" shops shod horses and did wagon repair. They all needed a large central isle for the horses and wagons. Forges were to the sides. Shops with machinery had it lined up under the line shaft on the sides of the shop. There was usually quite a bit of excess space. Shops had dirt floors or wood isles for the horses. There was no or few electric outlets and a few lights.

EXAMPLE: Modern architectural shops will have one or more large weld platens or heavy steel benches. These need access space all the way around them as well as being near a forge, OA equipment or electric welding equipment. These shops are of two basic types, fabricators who need no power hammer but do need warehouse space for components and blacksmiths who need space for power hammers, anvils and forges. All modern shops need LOTS of electrical outlets and should have a compressed air distribution system.

Large shops with employees should have a fork lift. When you have a fork lift then isles become important for the lift and load. Shops with portable equipment on wheels also need isles to move welders, saws and other pieces. These same isles are often used for parts carts loaded with stock going to machines and parts going away from the same machines. The higher the production, the more important the isle space.

EXAMPLE: Micro one man shops often have a forge, a work bench, vise on stand, anvil and little else. Space is almost always limited and storage is often outside. Machinery if it exists is small and tucked into corners. Small drill presses, bench grinders and so on. Some of these shops have a large forge and then anchor the leg vise to one corner of the forge. Thus the forge is also a bench and small tools get tossed about in the forge coals along with tongs, pokers and small pieces of steel. It is semi efficient use of space and very convenient for hot work.

EXAMPLE: Large one man hobby shops are often well equipped, sometimes better than some professional shops and COULD employ a handful of workers with ease. However, what these shops usually lack is hoisting equipment or forklifts. These are needed to move the volume material necessary to keep multiple workers busy. Sometimes these shops are large and roomy but in most cases they are filled to capacity. As long as only one man works there and commercial efficiency is not expected then crowding is not necessarily a problem.

All these shops require different organization, or lack of it. Every addition of a new piece of equipment changes the organization of the rest. How much space that equipment needs depends on how it will used and whether it needs hoist or floor access for loading. The higher the production the better the access needed. This does not require a lot of organization just a lot of space. The small micro shop needs careful planning to get the optimum use of space because it is usually lacking. But every machine, every work station, changes the logic of the organization.

SO, you start with the forge triangle, forge, anvil vise, and add a power hammer, then you have a square or a double triangle (rhombus). Add a treadle hammer and. . . well, it gets complicated. You need a second forge station. Lots of small shops put a gas forge on wheels so they can put it whereever its needed.

In my original forge triangle I hung my OA torch and arc welding stinger on the corner of the sliding stock support. Everything was in one 5 foot triangle.

Some smiths have a gas economizer (automatic valve stand) for their torch near the forge. Forges are great but many times you need spot heat or a localized reheat. Some are hung on the cylinder cart and the whole can be located anywhere it is needed. In welding work stations they are often on a stand or column on the bench corner with the cylinders some distance away.

Machinery needs space and organized tooling. I like to organize machines by tooling size. A lathe and drill press will often take common tooling in the form of taper shank chucks and bits. They can also use some common furniture (drill press tables and face plates are similar). A rack or stand between these machines with the common tooling is convenient. Milling machines use more specialized tooling and need their own tool storage.

. . . . as you can see from the above every shop situation is different. Any arrangement you think is perfect rarely holds up to the first new tool. Replace your 120 anvil with a 250 and your forge triangle may be too crowded for it AND you. Add a real machine and you may wish you hadn't bolted things down so permanently.
- guru - Monday, 09/28/09 22:19:59 EDT

Shop Organization, Storage:
The thing most of us leave out of our shop equipment plans and budget is organizational storage. Shelves, tool chests, tool racks, stock racks. Storage is required to prevent clutter, keep tools off the floor and off bench tops.

These things are the boring end of setting up a shop. Machines DO things and are sexy. Shelves are expensive and just sit there. .

My collection of anvil forge tools and tongs is pretty small. Yet they don't all fit on a 3 foot square blacksmiths tool rack. Now my hammer collection IS significant and needs racks. . . But as it is. . they are in a pile on the floor. The forge tools. . . are on the rack but needs two. Steel for the racks that I need to build will run a couple hundred dollars. . . plus the time to make them.

Last year I bought 20 feet of 2 foot deep shelving plus extra shelves (Gorilla Rack). It filled up as fast it was assembled and I could use another 20 feet. A word of warning. DON"T buy the cheap stuff with chipboard shelves. They can't take 10% of the shelves design load. . . replacements cost more than the original shelving units.

Besides shelves most shops end up needing bins or bin boxes for all the small bits of hardware. Rivets, nuts, bolts, screws, nails. . .

So, when planning your shop, think about storage, both where it goes and what it will cost. It is not inexpensive even if you build it yourself.
- guru - Monday, 09/28/09 23:19:46 EDT

Shop layout: I'm old fashioned, so I always think of a triangle, as viewed in plan, of forge, anvil, and leg vise for starters. Then I think of floor clutter. I found early on that the square tool table/rack was in the way. I think that whenever possible, all tool racks and shelving should go on the walls. I placed my drill press on the wall. The power hammer is near the forge but by the front door so that long pieces can be put outside, if need be. About the only thing that might take up mid-floor space is a layout table.

My stock rack, scroll forms, and bending devices, are outside (New Mexico). Some of my small storage items are outside in weather resistant metal cabinets.

Nevertheless, junk accumulates.
- Frank Turley - Tuesday, 09/29/09 10:26:22 EDT

Shop Variables:
Frank's situation is another variable. Climate. Many in arid locations store equipment and materials outdoors. Often low use bending and assembly benches are kept and used outdoors.

Another variable is fuel. Many shops use only gas, or only charcoal in portable forges. These shops are often well ventilated and do not need permanent chimneys. Forges can be centered in the shop or moved according to the job.

In cold and damp climates it is different and shops need to be organized differently.

Security is another concern. In some rural areas you can get away with unsecured outdoor storage. In other places you need fences for the yard and good locks on the doors, a junk yard dog or two. . .

Cords and hoses can be trip hazards. In the well organized shop these can be nearly eliminated by a good distribution system and overhead drops with or without cord reels.

In a recent discussion we talked about hanging MIG and arc welders on jib cranes. This gets them off the floor out of the way by putting them overhead and also gives them much more range.

- guru - Tuesday, 09/29/09 12:10:58 EDT

Welders on jibs: I would offer a second benefit of mounting the welder on a jib. It tends to get the electricals up out of the line of direct spray of grinding swarf from those grinders.
- ptree - Tuesday, 09/29/09 13:05:23 EDT

FAQ from County Fair Demo: I had this posted around the perimeter of my work area on 11" X 17" paper, and only two people asked me "...where are the horses?"

Oakley Forge
Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the horses?

These days horseshoeing is usually handled by a farrier, a blacksmith that specializes in the care and handling of horses and their special needs. I have no talent with large animals.

Is the fire hot?

Most work is done between 1,000 and 1,800 degrees F. Metal can reach 900 degrees and still be at “black heat” which will burn you just as badly as when the metal is “red hot”. The temperature can reach over 2000 degrees (yellow to white hot), at which point the metal will burn.

Aren’t you hot?

Yes. (You get used to it.)

Was your grandfather a blacksmith?

No. But lots of folks have blacksmiths for ancestors, along with millers, farmers, and other folks who helped keep civilization together.

Can you make me a sword?

Yes; but you really want a swordsmith. (Trust me on this!)

Do you ever burn yourself?

Yes, but I try not to, and most of my burns and other injuries have been minor. I wear a lot of protection, too.

Where can I learn blacksmithing?

There are a number of good books, web sites, organizations, and schools available. The website,, has an excellent guide to resources and links; and the local library has (or can borrow) a number of informative books.

Is this your full-time job?

I blacksmith part-time, mostly to create equipment for our medieval reenactment group and our Viking ship; and as an ongoing research project in early medieval technology. I have a daytime desk job with the National Park Service.

I do occasional artwork, barter some of my work, and take occasional commissions (“Good, fast, and cheap; pick two.”)

More details later; I'm a little busy catching up on the work of the republic. ;-)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 09/29/09 13:22:02 EDT

County Fair Demo: The first and best thing I did was to get a friend to assist me; and a most fortunate choice that was. When Drey isn’t crewing the longship or riding his haflingers or making horse tack at Camp Fenby, he's an elementary school teacher. He was really good with the children! (...and adults.)

We had three forges set up with explanatory posters:

Early Medieval Forge
(Portable "dirt" forge used in the field.)

Fuel: Charcoal

Air Supply: Twin bellows

Personnel: Three; one smith, one journeyman to help tend the fire and swing heavier hammers, one apprentice to pump the bellows.

Anvil: Large stone anvil, small metal anvil for fine work.

Other Equipment: Tongs, chisels, punches, files, bow-drill, stakes

Advantages: Cheap, plentiful fuel combined with cheap plentiful labor.

Disadvantages: Metal is hard won, expensive, and hard to come by. Everything takes a long time (but you've got all the time in the world). No vise or other mechanical helpers.

Twentieth Century Forge
(Portable "farm forge" used for light work.)

Fuel: Bituminous coal

Air Supply: Hand-cranked blower

Personnel: One, sometimes with an assistant

Anvil: 70-pound farrier's anvil

Other Equipment: Blacksmith's leg vise, wrenches, mechanical drills

Advantages: One person can operate, cheap fuel, plentiful tools, good for custom work, restorations, and repairs. Handy for horse-shoeing and farm chores and repairs. Convenient for traveling farriers.

Disadvantages: Smoky, dirty; not for production work (you can't compete with the Industrial Revolution).

Twenty First Century Forge
(Small, portable "art" forge)

Fuel: Propane gas

Air Supply: Aspirated (Venturi effect)

Personnel: One

Other Equipment: Internet access for information and inspiration, good books from library, tools from flea markets, family farm, and some that I make myself.

Advantages: clean, plentiful fuel; cheap to run on small-job basis, no smoke to scare neighbors. You learn to do a lot with a little.

Disadvantages: Expensive to purchase new equipment; much time spent hunting bargains and improvising solutions; limited by size of forge, larger forges use more fuel and cost more to build or purchase. You must learn to be very patient and to know your limitations.

Once again these posters saved a lot of questions, and people could ask us about specifics. We could also concentrate on the projects. I did a camping tripod and endless tent stakes for commissions, and Drey did two medieval knife blades. One of us could chat with the crowd while the other worked, and we were both available when a project needed an extra hand.

What Worked:

Drey; since I had him do the heavy lifting due to my tendonitis.

The combination of the coal forge and the gas forge running simultaneously simplified a number of operations, and were good talking points about technology. Also, the museum folks really liked the coal forge for the ambience of a touch of coal smoke.

The site with a split-rail & post fence between us and the crowd near the entrance to the museum, tobacco sticks and rope between the entrance and the fence, and our screen house tent and such to the back. We were accessible, yet properly segregated from the crowd for safety purposes.

Display table set up along the fence with books, flyers, and samples.

A tent fly for rain and sun and shade; even if we had to stoop a little at times. (The forges were outside the fly.)

Cutting off the forges two hours before end time on Sunday. Not as much fun, but we were able to load the truck without risk. As an extra precaution (based upon horror stories we all have read here) I unloaded the coal forge fuel bare-handed into a bucket to make sure that there were NO lingering embers.

Old wrought iron "planter holders" from Oakley; perfect for tong and hammer racks.

What Didn't Work:

The Viking forge, since there was no one to man it; it was more of a footnote than anything else.

Having only one primary anvil; I would sometimes have to use the Viking stump anvil and we spent a lot of time dancing around each other.

Planning a leisurely day with frequent breaks- Time just flew; people were always interested, and we barely had time to stuff-down lunch or run to buy a funnel cake.

So went my first foray into a "modern" blacksmithing demonstration. I've done a lot of medieval demos, and this was not too different; but I did enjoy the extra efficiencies, and the chance to actually catch-up on some of my commission work while demonstrating.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 10/01/09 08:49:38 EDT

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