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November 2011 Archive

Part-Time Blacksmithing (Humor): Due to my health, and after consulting with the wif, I have taken the decision to retire from Federal service at the end of this year. I'll be just short of 38 years of service and past my 62nd birthday.
I do plan to spend several hours a day, as health and energy levels allow, working on art and craft projects at the forge. Had I retired earlier, I was planning to go into education, and had discussed this with my friends. So, one of them asked me if I was going to teach any blacksmithing courses.

"Of course;" says I, "I could give an 'accelerated' three-day course; and teach you everything I know!" ;-)

If I get sufficiently bored, or broke, I think I will stick to History and English as a substitute at the local High Schools, or at the local community college.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/01/11 12:21:56 EDT

Atli's Retirement: Bruce,

Based n my experience retiring from government service, your target date of 12/31/11 is maybe a bit too soon. That's only 60days away and that probably isn't enough time to get into shape for retirement. (grin)

After I retired, I discovered that I was working far harder, both physically and mentally, than I had when I went to the cop shop every day. The seven thousand previously deferred honey-do projects, plus trying to make money blacksmithing and maintaining the museum grounds left me NO time for relaxation!

It's been three years now since I cut the "imbecile cord" and there's no end in sight yet. I have more blacksmithing work than I can handle, even though I've raised my rates to a level I consider rapacious, and Sally can think of new projects faster than I can get the deferred ones done. My hopes of building us a house when I retired are still in abeyance, of course - no time or energy.

I say all this not so much to discourage you as to goad and prod you to develop a sound plan for your retirement - so you don't get caught up in stuff like I have. I should have been much more ruthless about refusing work and insisting on scheduling regular times to work on the property/house. I'm trying to work back to that now, but I've unfortunately already raised people's expectations to a level I no longer really wish to meet and it is damn tough to back away from it. Learn from my errors!
- Rich - Tuesday, 11/01/11 14:15:07 EDT

The Park Service (and US government) has just lost one of their best assets.

Teaching? And you want less pressure. . . :)

I think you will enjoy life much more without the commute and constant work pressure. The commute alone was bound to catch up with sooner than later, one way or the other.

Maybe its time to write that book?
- guru - Tuesday, 11/01/11 16:19:14 EDT

Wait Wait !!!:
Atil, You could be a PROFESSIONAL Viking! No more weekend warrior. Pillage and burn FULL TIME! Look out Potomac sheep farmers!

OR you could do what most ex-gov types do, go to work for the opposition. I'm sure many of those land lords could use a negotiator that has the inside scoop. Ahhhh. .. . a leased property managment company. . . Just another type of plundering and pillaging. :)
- guru - Tuesday, 11/01/11 17:27:24 EDT

Have you thought of running a summer camp for aspiring vikings? "First you learn to row; then you learn how to smelt and forge iron for your boats and weapons,...Finally you learn how to crack crabs and present them to me on a platter!"

Hope all goes well and I'm sure your local Church can find something for you to do if you run out of honey-do's...
Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/01/11 18:05:45 EDT

Mystery tool steel test?: Buddy offered me a slab of "mystery tool steel" to use as an anvil. It's approximately 3"x6"x31" and marked "special tool steel" as it was from the scrapyard where he got it from. He says he can mark it with a file and thought it must be in an annealed state (if it is tool steel at all).
Question is, other than a "spark test" (which might only tell us a relative carbon content), how do we find out what it is? Flame spectoscropy? Quench a few shaved off slivers in different quenchants until they crack?
It's a nice hunk of steel for free, but I wouldn't want to move it and try to harden it, just to have it shatter (or not harden!)
M.e.r.r.r.I.c.k - Tuesday, 11/01/11 22:29:53 EDT

Merrrlck: Some scrap yards have a portable "gun" that identifies materials. Moses Glick in Pensylvania is one.

You could saw off a small piece and see how it responds to heat treat if You hope to harden it. Follow the "junk yard steel rules" that are posted someplace on this website.

Stand that chunk up on end, and work on the 3x6 area. That will make a really effective anvil even if it is soft.

If You figure out how to harden it, heat just the (1) end [only the working surface, for as short a length along the bar as possible] and quench in whatever quenchant works for it.
- Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/02/11 00:21:39 EDT

Mystery Steel: Merrrlck, Many junkyards have hand held laser spectrometers. But for their size they are very pricey little tools.

I found one outfit on-line that would do testing with one of these or a similar device for $69 per test. . . on large pieces of tool steel this is a minor cost.

Spark testing with appropriate comparison samples and a sharp eye you can tell more about a steel than just carbon content. You can also identify some alloy content.

Trial and error performance testing can tell you roughly how a steel should be heat treated but is not a positive ID method. Samples need to be more than slivers and fairly uniform.

The marking "special" makes me wonder if its not something very odd. Most shops marking steel would mark it with the alloy.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 00:59:50 EDT

i want to be a sword smith: i want to find a swordsmith apprentice ship in the uk pls email me if u have any contacts i can make basic swords and knives i am willing to learn pls email me at this acount
- josh - Wednesday, 11/02/11 06:29:00 EDT

or a blacksmith apprenticeship
josh - Wednesday, 11/02/11 06:33:40 EDT

Josh, See our Getting Started Page (links at the top of most of our pages) and our Apprenticeship and Sword Making articles (FAQ page OR linked from the Getting Started article).
- guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 09:13:24 EDT

Projects Hanging Fire: Thomas: Good ideas. Maybe this year I will finish the long-delayed thorn-twist Lenten candlesticks by Lent, and the tire-iron menorah for my Jewish biker friends by next Hanukah.

Jock: Waterfront real estate practices frequently border on piracy; so it would not be out of my ken. ;-)

Rich: I'm thinking of a M,W,F at the shops and Tu & Th for "around the house and farm" schedule. I do plan to take the bus up to DC about once a month to hit the museums, art galleries, libraries, and to hang-out with friends. Alas, now that our USVI unit has some work for me on a possible antenna lease, I will have to turn it over to GSA. :-(

Another bright, sunny day on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Virgin Islands National Park
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/02/11 11:53:04 EDT

Staffordshire Hord:
Great article in the November National Geographic. Beautiful metalwork. Fancy armor (parts). And a mystery. Lots of design ideas for Viking era reenactors.

Updated the spammer filtering and reporting. Wrote another trap for spambots. System has been working but one got through the other night.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 15:24:07 EDT

So you want to visit the US VI? You've got a ship tied up out back....rowing is probably excellent cardiovascular rehabilitation...(not to mention that down there is where the rum is at...)
Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/02/11 17:49:39 EDT

Time to visit the local pubs matey and collect a new crew. . arrhg!

I understand they have opened up Cuba to U.S. tourism (I don't know about Viking raids yet) so the island hoping distance is a bit shorter!

Hmmmmm Vikings with passports. . . Camp Fenby South!
- guru - Wednesday, 11/02/11 18:06:48 EDT

"they": Jock, Who is the "they" ? Cubans have welcomed Americans for about the last 20 years, but I just checked a US Govt. website, and the restrictions imposed by the US don't look any different than they have been.
- Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/02/11 21:43:46 EDT

Mystery steel continued..: Thanks for the suggestions!

When I get stuff set up again after moving I'll delve into a more extensive and controlled spark test.

Forgot to mention I'm a rank beginner. IF I am able to make a suitable determination on hardening method, tempers and quenchant, what method should I use to heat the "business end" of it? Bonfire? Coal fire? Propane weed burner? Rosebud on an O/A torch? I realize there are a lot of variables other than my lack of knowledge, but this wont is what could use the most help (and assure my highest chances of success)!
M.e.r.r.r.I.c.k - Wednesday, 11/02/11 21:53:37 EDT

Mystery Steel: To heat the working end, I think a coal forge would be the best.

Larger rosebuds on acetylene take several huge [12" diameter] cylinders manifolded together to run long enough to heat something this big.

If You use a rosebud, propane would work better and fuel cost would be less. Still takes a larger rosebud, several hundred thousand BTUs I would think.

This chunk is about 158#, so You need to rig a way to handle it.

To get heat treat test pieces, I would cut asross the corners on 1 end [to give triangular sections about 1/4 x 1/4 x 1"] with a hacksaw or portaband if I didn't have a way to cut a short slice off the end with a bandsaw.

If You determine what it takes to harden it, it really doesn't matter what alloy it is.
- Dave Boyer - Wednesday, 11/02/11 23:36:48 EDT

Bruce: No good reason to let the GSA foul up that antenna site lease, is there - you could handle the project as a consultant, couldn't you? (grin)
- Rich - Thursday, 11/03/11 00:03:08 EDT

Cooba: I've read that it's pretty common practice for American yacht owners to take their boats down there to have their diesel engines worked on. (Prob'ly pick up a few ceegars whilst they wait, too.)
- 3dogs - Thursday, 11/03/11 05:51:31 EDT

I thought I had seen a news item where travel to Cuba had become more common for U.S. citizens but it could be they are all using the method of going to Mexico or Jamaica then a hop over to Cuba. Apparently the Cuban customs officials known not to stamp U.S. passports. . . .

According to a couple websites there are regular flight from Miami to Cuba but they are designated "charters".

If Dave Manzer was still around we could ask him. He used to take his sailboat to the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico every year. He became too ill to continue on his last trip and was hospitalized in Central America just before his death.

The time past decades ago when we should have normalized relations with Cuba.
- guru - Thursday, 11/03/11 12:12:25 EDT

- guru - Thursday, 11/03/11 13:25:41 EDT

Negotiator in Cuba: Bill Richardson, formerly governor of New Mexico, is a negotiator of international status. He recently went to Cuba to gain the release of an imprisoned U.S. contractor. He was told to stay in his hotel; he was told nothing and was denied admission to see the contractor or to do any negotiations. ¡Adios! Be careful in Cuba.
- Frank Turley - Thursday, 11/03/11 16:44:03 EDT

I've read, at least at one time, people who had direct relatives in Cuba could go from Miama to Havana, but only for one day or one overnight. Prohibited luggage so US family would layer on clothing (e.g., panty hose, panties, bras and such).

If trade opens up with Cuba look for a lot of old autos and parts coming to the US.

Sugar prices might drop.
- Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 11/03/11 17:59:56 EDT

Cuba: I lived on My boat in Key West for about 20 months in '94-'96. I knew several who were frequently going to Cuba. All together I have met about 20-25 people who went to Cuba, mostly by boat, some flying by way of other countries. About half of these were Americans, who were breaking US law.

I know one American who's boat was siezed when He returned, don't know if they ever got it back.

The son of close friends has been in jail in Cuba for about 10 years now, not a good place to be in jail.

2 others who went by boat but were flying home by way of Nassau, Bahamas were interigated in Nassau by US officials who seemed to know pretty much about them and their trip.

Until about '96 You could get boat work done cheaply in Cuba, then the Cuban Govt. got in on the action and the rate went up. Work done on the sly was still cheap. Skilled work varied a good bit in quality. Parts were generally unavailable there for anything at that time.

Some went for cheap medical & dental work. The knew to bring novacane from the states.

Many things were smuggled into and out of Cuba. This led to several people I knew being told to never come back, or face charges.

ANYTHING You take in and hand out or barter with is considered smuggling. There is no personal property in Cuba, everything belongs to the Cuban Govt. and in theory the people as a whole. Anything taken out of the country is technicly stollen.

Those visiting often were always taking bike tires & tubes, window fans, and gobs of clothing, cosmetics & personal hygene items for their girlfriends. When the girlfriend wanted too much stuff, the dumped Her and got a new one. There are a lot of available gals in Cuba, middle age & old men can get young ones.

Many common food items including simple stuff like cooking oil and mayonase were generally unavailable.

US dollars went pretty far on the black market for the few things You could buy.

I did not go, too much at stake.

- Dave Boyer - Thursday, 11/03/11 22:57:25 EDT

cuba: In 2003 my wife and I cruised south and went to Cuba. We spent 4 months cruising around the western end of the island.As Canadians we could have stayed at least a couple of months longer.We loved it.Total socialism is not a system Id like to live under but its not doing to bad for the Cuban people.A lot (not all) of their problems are due to living next to a large hostile neighbour who they are too proud to knuckle under to.Seems like the best thing is for them to very slowly open the economy to free enterprise(as they are) and try and end the blackmarket and the sort of sick codependency that Cubans have with american cubans.Looking at Europe right now how can they want to be totally capitalistic?
wayne@nb - Friday, 11/04/11 08:42:54 EDT

Jailed Out Of Country:
The laws in many other countries are much different than ours and the jails about as bad as you can get. Other legal systems often consider you guilty until proven otherwise. Many also penalize "rich Gringos" much more than the locals OR may seem to. You don't EVEN want to owe child support in Costa Rica. You go to jail and STAY there. The U.S. being on the wrong side in many Central American revolutions and the historical bully going back to the 1800's when the fruit companies and U.S. adventurers assisted by the U.S. government tried to take in a number of places does not help. Our supporting the Contras still has most of the population in Nicaragua ready to lynch ANY Gringo that they can find an excuse to lynch. Much of the country still has hidden mine fields with "Made in USA" on them. . . Mines do not win wars. They are a weapon of terror as they kill and maim more civilians (farmers and children) than soldiers and they do not go away when the fighting is over.

The fact that we have normalized relations with Russian, the former Soviet states and China but still treat Cuba as a pariah should be considered a national embarrassment. Trade with Cuba would be good for both countries.
- guru - Friday, 11/04/11 09:31:28 EDT

I can just envision cigars and rum..... yum
- Nippulini - Friday, 11/04/11 10:16:59 EDT

Sugar Cane, Pineapples, Bananas and other agricultural products. Cuba exports much of this to Europe but our market is much closer and more profitable. Cuban agriculture also needs modernization. . .

It is doubtful that sugar would be cheaper. Unlike the flood of imported Chinese goods we have price supports and import duties on sugar. . . on TOP of banning imports of sugar from Cuba. . .
- guru - Friday, 11/04/11 12:00:54 EDT

Raul Castro has turned a lot of agricultural land over to be available to people who want to operate outside of the central government. It will be very interesting to see what comes of that experiment. And yes the rum is excellent cant speak for the tobacco as it's one of the few vices I dont have.
wayne@nb - Friday, 11/04/11 16:07:46 EDT

Cuba continued: This particular guy was always far fron wealthy by ANYBODY's standards, but He inherited a bad trate from His Mom, running His mouth when He should have kept it shut.

I don't know exactly what He was doing in Cuba, He CLAIMED to be exporting cigars to Nassau with a small power boat, making frequent trips [that is what His Mom claims]. This is a BS story. Aparently there was some political rabbel rousing started by some Miami Cubans, and he got jailed with the lot of them.

The problem with US/Cuba relations is the group of Cubans, now Americans, who lost property to the "state" folowing the revolution. They hope to regain this property. AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN. They are the driving political force that keeps the relationship hostile. When that generation is gone, perhaps normal relations can start.

By 2003 things had probably improved considerably. In the early-mid '90s all the items that they formerly traded with the USSR for at favorable rates were in short suply due to the fal of the Soviet Union. New supply sources had not been established for many things, and what they were getting cost a lot more.
- Dave Boyer - Friday, 11/04/11 21:21:45 EDT

Wayne, by FAR the cigars are the best I have ever tasted. You can actually get a nice buzz from a good Cuban cigar, something rarely seen in cigars from other parts of the world.
- Nippulini - Monday, 11/07/11 08:42:18 EST

Talking Too Much:
This can get you into more than a little trouble when talking to authorities, especially in totalitarian states. . . Simple things than get you in trouble. Being a smart mouth can make you one of the disappeared in some places.

Years ago my Dad had a manufacturing project that the family had invested well over $100,000 in go South. . . It was one of those ideas that was 40 years too late. So the project was abandoned and the investment written off. However, they were audited by the IRS on a different issue (the Lawn Service was not paying THEIR taxes). . Anyway, the IRS guy asked what did you do with the inventory, Dad says, "We scraped it". . . fine . . but then Mom chimes in and says, "Yes, we packed them all up and put them in the attic of the garage. . ." TOO Much information! The product had not actually been "scrapped" so the value of the inventory had to be declared as a capital gain and back taxes and fines paid. . . The truth is the items are STILL sitting in those boxes collecting dust 30 years later.

Depending on the mood of the day customs agents will chat you up. Make simple conversation. The last time we came in through Miami they were either on some kind of alert OR is was a work slow down. The agents at all six or eight lines (there are a BUNCH at Miami International) where making conversation with everyone including children. The agent glanced at my passport and then asks "How are things in Richmond?" Not knowing what he was talking about I was a little taken aback and stuttered that "Things were fine, I still have a few friends there." What had me flustered was that I thought he was talking about Richmond, VA (350 miles from home) and information that had NOTHING to do with my passport. At the time my mind did not connect the fact that I was BORN in Richmond, KY (a place I have only visited ONCE since 1952) and THAT was the Richmond on my passport. This simple misdirected question had me nervous and on the defense. Most of the people I knew in Richmond, VA were friends from the hippie era of the 1970's who all smoked wacky weed (also dealt some of it) and probably still were. . .

I had no reason to be nervous. Just coming home from a trip to Costa Rica and nothing in our luggage other than tourist trinkets for our friends. I was more concerned about being late for our connecting flight (which we missed) than having a conversation with the customs agent.
- guru - Monday, 11/07/11 09:54:05 EST

yea Nip.,I know that buzz, like the one I got from the pipe tobacco I stole from my Dad! Way to much stomach and not enough head for me.
- wayne @ nb - Monday, 11/07/11 11:05:03 EST

Try to find a cigar source directly from Ybor (spelling?) city in Tampa. May be changing, but at one time entire workforce had made cigars in Cuba.

I went to Croatia in early September. Really no problems going. Since I have a replacement knee I had to have the hand pat done. Coming back I was OK through the airport at Split, Croatia. However, during a layover in Zurich I was called aside as they wanted to double check my passport. Agent asked if I had anything unusual in my checked through baggage. I said I had a small pen knife and small sizzors in my toilet kit. Said, no, something electrical. Ahhhh, I have a very old camera with a large battery and it was my battery charger they saw. They didn't know what it was. Somewhere, going through the process, I had a red little security sticker placed on the back of my passport. Hit JFK at height of 9/11 scare. They gave me the most thorough pat down I have ever had. Hands, wand, soles of feet. TSA agent apoligized about it, but I told him every time I fly and land where the airplane was originally intended, I thank the TSA.
- Ken Scharabok - Monday, 11/07/11 13:22:50 EST

This is a story I've told before. . .

Once when traveling with family my sister-in-law handed me her bag as we went through security so she could wrangle some toddlers. As her bag goes through the x-ray machine there appears a bunch of long cylinders with coiled wires going into the ends. The perfect cartoon dynamite bomb. . . .

All of the sudden I am surrounded by security guards and one is pointing at the x-ray monitor asking "WHAT IS THAT?" And I've only got the WRONG ANSWER, "I don't know."

After a tense moment my sister in law shows up and says, "Oh, those are just my curling irons!". . .
- guru - Monday, 11/07/11 16:57:13 EST

My wife once bought a small oil paint kit with a long row of small tin tubes of colours in it---looked just like a row of bullets on the X-Ray
Thomas P - Monday, 11/07/11 19:36:34 EST

My mom was coming home from Vegas after an accessories show where she bought some jewelry. One of the bracelets she got was a belt of fake bullets. Do I have to go on about the hell she went through because she put it in her carry-on luggage?
- Nippulini - Tuesday, 11/08/11 09:24:06 EST

Analytical Research Paper:: I am writing a research paper on why the trade of blacksmithing almost died out in america in the middle of the 1960's and why it is haveing a strong reamergence now.

I would appriciate any help with information on blacksmithingin the 1960's and if you are a blacksmith, if you could leave me information on when you started the trade,if it is a job or just a hobby, and short reason on what got you started or interested in blacksmithing. also if any one knows any blacksmiths makeing a liveing in the 1960' if you could ask them to chech this out i would appriciate it.

Background on why i am doing this is for a college class and in about 2004 while in the navy i started getting into blacksmithing and later from my grandfather i found out that his father was a blacksmith barely makeing it in the 60's and because of this takeing any job he could to provide died from galvanised steel poisoning in 66 after battling from it several times. I heard that there were only a few blacksmiths doing it as a trade at this time and it interest me how such an awesome trade and art form can almost die. i think it would have been a huge lose.
- brandin - Tuesday, 11/08/11 09:31:26 EST

Changes in Smithing:
Brandin, The fading of blacksmithing in the U.S was a combination of change in technology, changes in values and other factors. The history was different in Europe was different due to the artistic values there. Your dates are off a bit. General blacksmithing was dead in the US by the 1950's.

First you have to start with "what is a blacksmith OR blacksmith shop". In North America we developed as a frontier nation and the "typical" blacksmith familiar to the public was a generalist. They shod horses, fixed wagons, made locks, fixed machinery and did every short of ironwork. However, the focus of this trade was horse drawn transportation. The "bread and butter" work was the constant need to re-shoe horses.

In Europe the trades were more specialized so when horse drawn transportation faded out the smiths that did architectural work were not effected. Every part of the world has its own economic history in this regard.

The general blacksmith shop was in constant technological change from the late 1800's on. First they adapted to working with and on steam engines then gasoline engines and electric motors replaced steam and focus changed again. When the automobile started replacing the horse smiths adapted to working on early automobiles. Catalogs for blacksmiths from the early 1900's include as many machine tools as "traditional" smithing tools. Handmade horse shoes were replaced by factory made shoes which reduced the amount of forging done in "blacksmith" shops. Eventually the places where you would find the neighborhood blacksmith or farrier shop was replaced by auto garages and service stations. By the late 1940's the general blacksmith who shod horses and repaired wagons was no longer needed except in the most rural areas. By the 1950's this change was almost universal.

In the 1970's I was one of those service station operators (a Phillips 66). These have also gone by the wayside for the most part. Just TRY to find a place that for the cost of putting a few gallons of gas in your car will wash the windshield, check the oil, tires, water AND vacuum the floors of your car. Government regulations dictating the profit margin on gasoline (is is the same in cents (not per cent) as it was in the 1970's when gasoline was 34 cents a gallon - meaning there is no money in it at this point) now force fuel distributors to make money on junk food and overpriced "convenience" items in order to provide a necessity we all need. . . A VERY peculiar system.

In "The Art of Blacksmithing" Alex Bealer blamed the demise of the blacksmith on factory made goods and the belief at one point that "factory made" was better than hand made. However, the economic forces were much more powerful. Population growth was too fast for hand made products to keep up with demand.

There were also architectural shops that did everything from high class railings to fire escapes and security grates. These faded away with rising labor costs and changing styles. Their peak was during the depression when government work programs built court houses, schools and other public building all over the U.S. Hand forged work was largely replaced by arc welded work in the 40's and 50's. "Fabricators" who build such railings still produce most of what the general public considers "wrought iron".

So, by the 1950's that leaves us with no need for neighborhood farrier shops even though there are MORE horses in the U.S. today than during the height of the horse drawn era, (farriers now go to the horse rather than the horse coming to the farrier). Repair shops (for things like automobiles) no longer made replacement parts by hand. And modern technology (arc welding) combined with bad taste had put most architectural blacksmith shops out of business OR replaced the need for a smith, anvil and forge in such shops.

However, while the familiar general blacksmith shop had disappeared and been replaced gaudy neon and fluorescent tube outlined auto service station, there were still hundreds, if not thousands of small blacksmith shops making tools and other specialty products. Many still exist doing the same thing. There were also industrial blacksmiths that made tools in large industry. The romantic "Village Blacksmith" may have been gone but blacksmithing was still alive.

The Renaissance in blacksmithing as an art form started in the 50's and became enough of an interest in the 1960's for Alex Bealer to write The Art of Blacksmithing", published in 1969. Frank Turley opened his blacksmithing school in 1970. This combined with the back to the land movement and interest in historical arts resulted in several more books in the 1970's and explosive growth in blacksmihing at that time. In 1973 ABANA (The Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America) was established. The demand for reproduction colonial ironwork during the American Bicentennial created more interest and put many blacksmiths into business.

Growth continued steadily through the 1980's and then had another burst of growth with the popularity of the Internet. In the late 1990's blacksmiths found the Internet and many who were interested in the field found there were others of like mind all over the planet.

Blacksmithing continues to grow as a hobby and as a business.

The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer
- guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 11:36:24 EST

Changes in Smithing II: So here are the things that apply to research.

Replacement of horse drawn transportation.

Arc welding and the resulting change in architectural design.

Cast iron in decorative ironwork. Much architectural ironwork of the early 1900's was cast, not forged. Had the same appeal to the consumer and cost much less than hand work.

Popularization of Direct Metal Sculpture (a subject and title of a book by the late Dona Z. Meilach). Did you know that two of the great artists of the 20th century, Picasso and Alexander Calder had forges to make some of their steel sculptures?
- guru - Tuesday, 11/08/11 12:09:54 EST

While channel surfing I came across the 2011 National Anvil Shoot in Farmington, MO. Showed Tim Ryan's charge going off prematurely and injuring one hand. Anyone have any idea how he is doing?
Ken Scharabok - Tuesday, 11/08/11 20:18:47 EST

Remember the parallel scene in 'Easy Rider'? When Peter Fonda had a flat tire and was replacing it as the farrier repaired the horses shoe? I remember thinking how small that little anvil was, but the message still came through.
- Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/09/11 08:29:44 EST

Changes in Smithing; Revival: To the above I would also contend that the reenactment community, starting with the Civil War Centennial, has also provided an interest, and (more importantly) a market, for "traditional" blacksmiths and their work. Of course, when on display you can use only the tools of the period, but back at the shop, you don't need to use a bow-drill for drilling, and you can use a Whitney punch for punching your holes in cold work. However, the reenactment community values items made the traditional way, with the traditional materials; and they know the difference between wrought iron and mild steel. Most modern householders don't know and don't care, but a reenactor will frequently pay a premium for the extra work and the difficulty of obtaining and/or working the material, just so he or she can be as historically accurate as possible.

On the other claw, the community is relatively small, with a lot of niches and "standards," and rivalries, and some small degree of snobbery; so navigation can be chancy if you actually intend to make any money at it. I have known a few folks who do, and a few others where it "pays for the hobby."

Still, it exposes the general public to the traditions, history, and methods of the blacksmith; and that's never a bad thing.

Go viking!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/09/11 09:49:28 EST

Easy Rider:
Wow, forgot that. . . I've only seen the movie 2 or three times. The first time was in the theater in 1970 when it was first released. Being one of those long haired "hippies" at the time the movie made quite an impression. I knew from personal experience the hatred and bigotry of the time against anyone that even appeared to be anti-war or a long hair. . . You could no longer go into a barbershop and get a haircut if you had hair over an inch long and didn't want a crew cut. This was also the year of the May 4 Kent State "massacre" where the Ohio National Guard fired on demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine students. I also had a motorcycle at the time. The last (death) scene of the movie was shocking and disturbing in the fact that it was the reality of the United States during the Vietnam era. Maybe this is why the brief forging/flat fixing scene did not make an impression at the time.

The U.S. Flag Desecration act of 1968 made the use of the flag on Peter Fonda's riding leathers, helmet and motorcycle paint job (his "captain America" theme) illegal and subject to arrest. People wearing the flag as patch or parts of clothing were being arrested on a regular basis in 1970. Remember those famous photos of Willie Nelson wearing a U.S. Flag T-shirt and bandanna? When he started doing that it was still illegal. The law was overturned in 1989 as a free speech issue. But it is something to think about in the context of the movie.

The other times I've seen the movie were many years later and fractured. A part in a motel while channel surfing and perhaps on Hulu when I wasn't paying close attention. The entire movie is currently on Youtube (search for Easy Rider (1969) Full Movie).

The shoeing and tire fixing scene is about 12 minutes into the movie. Indeed the anvil is very small, about 50 pounds maybe less. Has a nice ring and seemed to be fairly old, maybe an English anvil.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:20:23 EST

About a decade+ ago I used to catch a lot of crap for pointing out to medieval recreationists that their armour wasn't the same as the originals. Now others mention it to folks on the websites...

Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/09/11 12:21:50 EST

Brandin's Analytical Research Paper: So, Brandin; do we get a copy of the paper to post here once you have finished and submitted it?
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/09/11 14:51:26 EST

Reenactments and Recreationists:
Whatever happened to to folks doing these things for FUN? The name of SCA, Society of Creative Anachronisms says "creative" implying "make believe" and fantasy. Now folks take it WAY to seriously.

On the other hand, if you are a reenactor or interpreter at an historical site the goal is generally to be as accurate as possible. But should the interpreter give up his BVD's or her bra (a relatively modern invention) to be perfectly historically accurate? Do we demand that every piece of clothing be hand stitched? Do we demand that reenactors give up safety glasses or other modern safety measures? In all cases most would say no. So its the "appearance" of accuracy we are concerned about, not the actual accuracy.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/09/11 15:08:21 EST

Jock you do know how the SCA got that name right? Someone (MZB IIRC) had to fill out a form to reserve a space at a park for their second? event and there was a block for "organization name" and they made up SCA on the spot and we've been stuck with it ever since.

Thomas, been a member since the fall of 1978.
Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/09/11 18:03:20 EST

Sounds like they thought it was supposed to be fun. . .
- guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 08:26:47 EST

I'd add three things onto Guru's post: the growth of ABANA chapters and affiliates; regional conferences (some of which are quite large) and the number of craft schools and other (such as Frank Turley's)longer courses.
Ken Scharabok - Thursday, 11/10/11 08:52:11 EST

Semper Fi: A HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all current and former Marines. Also a big thank you to all veterans for their service to this country. Without them we would not have the greatest country in the world.

- Loren T - Thursday, 11/10/11 10:44:25 EST

Fun and Organizations: A lot of things start out as fun; and then you start to organize them. An initial impetus of the SCA was to recreate the middle ages (as was said of T.H. White’s book: The Once and Future King) “…not as they were, but as they should have been.” Chivalry, faerie, dashing knights, glorious damsels; all of the wonderful, cool things. Besides, it was the ‘60s; you had to be there. (Oh; that’s right, we were there! I forget. ;-)

However, the romantic elements tend to run into the historic elements; in Scadia there is no plague, there are not peasants, there is no organized religion, and the majority of people do not spend regular sessions scratching, and picking nits; at least not physically. Historically, we know different, and there are many folks of the “life was unpleasant, brutish, and short” view which is more faithfully reflected in the reenactment community. (It should be noted that the “warts and all” school of reenactment still can only be an approximation, given modern health care and legal aversions to homicide.)

So, the Scadians mostly enjoy a fun version of history, steeped in 19th century romanticism, and their own fantasy and self image; but with a number of members doing many amazing and solid research projects and arts and crafts work of an amazing degree of beauty and sophistication. It’s the big tent of hobby medievalism. The reenactor community (including Markland, which is my fault) tend towards the “not as it should have been, but as it was.” And, of course, some groups have higher standards, and some lower, and some groups “don’t know how to have fun,” and some are “a bunch of farbs” all depending upon your viewpoint. One group’s “necessary compromises” becomes another group’s “glaring historical inaccuracy.”

So, when you get the diverse population of medieval hobbyists together, and when you organize them into various groups and camps and kingdoms and such, the debates take on a very different tone. We tend to define ourselves not only by what we are, but also by what we are not; and we use other groups as examples, both positive and negative.

As the say in academia, the fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small!

Meanwhile, I'm still having fun and learning something new just about every day after over 40 years. :-)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 11/10/11 11:34:38 EST

USMC: Here's to Tuns Tavern; a good place to start!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 11/10/11 11:46:03 EST

One error, we do have peasants in the SCA, just no one is forced to be a peasant. The assumption is that everyone is "gentry" level.

As a smith I was not a serf but definitely not a nobleman---till I got award a high level award for studying and teaching medieval ferrous metals technologies. Now I have to consider myself more of a Guildmaster of a large town to fit my persona to the award.

In my early years I was a beggar!
Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 12:44:13 EST

Social status of the SMITH: This varies with the part of the world you are in. In India the dirt burning (charcoal and dried dung), working at a pit forge smith is nearly one of the lowest of the low. . . A case where religious classism probably hurt technological advancement.

Compare this to the Western civilizations where numerous gods were smiths OR in the case of Thor a wielder of a powerful hammer.

Today the smith is somewhere in between, most likely being a starving artist!
- guru - Thursday, 11/10/11 13:20:53 EST

Social status of smiths: ...Then there was the professor from Nigeria who stopped talking to me when he found out I was a blacksmith as well as an archaeologist...Caste strikes across cultural boundaries!
Alan-L - Thursday, 11/10/11 15:26:01 EST

In Europe that status of the smith generally declines over time from a worker of magic who might very well sit at the King's table in early Ireland---or invite a king to his house for dinner; to that of a solid craftsman as in Longfellow's blacksmith.
Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 17:14:18 EST

Captn' Atli Have you thought of getting a summer house?

comes with cannons!
Thomas P - Thursday, 11/10/11 18:23:10 EST

"Summer Houses" and Blacksmiths Status: Even as a school kid, when reading Dickens’s Great Expectations, I was appalled at Pip's later attitude towards his blacksmith brother-in-law, Joe Gargary. The snobbery of the newly educated Pip towards the hard-working blacksmith, who helped raise him as an orphan, was quite striking to me. (But, it’s Dickens, right?)

As for the “summer house” I think I would feel better with her pulled up on land. Hiring a competent marine architect, when dealing with historic-themed vessels, is usually a very good thing. Given her freeboard, I could get airsick just boarding her at the pier. I prefer a much lower and lissome hull. On the other claw, the cannons are lovely, and the big diesel tucked under the stern quarters is probably much needed for both propulsion and ballast.
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Thursday, 11/10/11 21:19:05 EST

Summer House. . .: Yep, Atli got the same feeling I did that it may not be too seaworthy. Just something about it does not look right. I wouldn't want to be on her in a squall. I hear the theme of Gilligan's Island. . . "and soon all would be lost. . ."

Years ago I had this idea of living on a catamaran. Nice stable boat with a huge capacity. But also expensive (as ALL boats are). No matter what type of hull you have they all need significant maintenance. Scraping, cleaning and painting on a regular basis. Let a few years go by and you will be carrying as more weight in barnacles and moss than boat. . .

If you are going to dream, might as well dream crazy.

- guru - Friday, 11/11/11 00:05:36 EST

11-11-11: Lest We Forget
- JimG - Friday, 11/11/11 08:49:11 EST

Summer House: That boat doesn't look seaworthy to Me either. It would need really deep draft with incredible ballast. The windage would present it's own set of handling problems. I am sure the 671 would get much more use than the sails. Even boats that sail well get plenty of engine time unless going off the wind in the trades, and with a design like this, You would need to be WAY off the wind. A design like this will not get 1 MPG, and with only 200 gallons of fuel is really limited.
- Dave Boyer - Friday, 11/11/11 21:25:07 EST

If you are any sort of engineer and have a feel for CG's and the like you don't need to be a marine architect to have a gut feel about seaworthiness.

After my comment on catamarans I went looking for the America's cup catamaran that I THOUGHT had a Venetian Blind type sail that could be automated. . . Maybe it was an idea that did not fly. . . or something I saw in another venue. However, I found a BUNCH of America's cup videos of the Wing Sail catamarans. . . Talk about not seaworthy! Zero keel, all hydrafoil that once they start to pull out of the water its all over! But racing always pushes everything to the limit of safety and way beyond common sense.
- guru - Friday, 11/11/11 22:45:27 EST

High Performance Catamarans: These are not the sort of thing You cruise or live on, they are purpose built for racing. Multihull sailboats never have ballast, they rely strictly on form stability. Cruising cats & trimarans purposly don't have enough sail area to flip over in normal winds, but large seas can flip them, and then they tend to stay upside down. Wide, flat racing monohull sailboats can get stuck inverted too. If the rig remains intact, it causes enough drag in the water to hinder righting.

When I was learning to sail My Hobie 18, We fliped it every time We sailed. No big deal with a beach cat on a lake, as long as You have enough crew weight to right it.

Taking a knockdown on My 43' monohull cruising boat in a microburst was a different experience, but was over before I realised just what had happened. I think that boat has about 120 degrees of positive stability, probably layed it down 75 degrees in the knockdown. Water DID come over the cockpit coming.
- Dave Boyer - Saturday, 11/12/11 01:26:54 EST

Cruising Catamarans: These have gaines a lot of popularity in the last 25 years. They do have a lot of space, but they don't do well if heavily loaded.

With regard to stability and comfort, the have the advantage over a monohull in a rolly anchorage and in following seas, which cause uncontrollable rolling in a monohull.

With seas on the beam or foreward, the ride is not so nice, as the roll period is short as each hull reacts to the wave & trough. Waves slam into the bridgedeck [the part between the individual hulls]causing an uncomfortable shock and noise that gets old really fast.

Some designs are so low in bridgedeck clearance that waves hit in a rough anchorage, making sleep impossible.

Cats sail well and quickly off the wind, but many make poor progress upwind.

One guy I met commented that He had the wrong boat for each part of His trip. He crossed from South Africa to South America on a monohull and rolled His guts out sailing down wind. Then He got a nice big cat while in the Eastern Caribean, but there and in the Bahamas cruising involves a fair bit of upwind sailing.
- Dave Boyer - Saturday, 11/12/11 14:24:19 EST

The High Seas: When I was much younger I had a lot of interest in boats and undersea living ala Jacque Cousteau (back when it was cutting edge stuff).

One big bucks idea I had was for a shallow water submarine work platform to launch submersibles from. The reasoning is that in many locations the seas are so rough there is a very short working season OR none at all. But a few feet below the waves the only consideration is current. Planning on it being a shallow dive sub avoids the need for expensive high pressure design AND would allow a full time (flexible) snorkel for fresh air, engine exhaust and communications. In fact you could stay at station keeping depth and be refueled or even possibly take on cargo and passengers (weather permitting).

This gives you the advantages of a surface ship and the advantages of a submarine at reasonable cost. Such a boat could stay on station for months at a time and be rock steady compared to a surface ship. One significant advantage to this is that cables and tethers would not constantly be being jerked up and down by wave action.

There are a couple known but yet unfound undersea treasures that could probably payback the cost of such a vessel.
- guru - Sunday, 11/13/11 16:44:19 EST

Jock: There are some dive boats operating that have living quarters elevated with the [catamaran] hulls mostly submerged. This gives some of the benifits You were looking for more simply, with enough amenities for vacation divers.

I am not sure how deep You would need to go to get below the effect of large waves. The snorkel has a theoretical maximum depth of 33', much less in practice. If You floated a compressor at the surface, You could overcome this limitation
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/13/11 18:37:10 EST

Floating a few compressors isn't a bad idea... it's not like this is a fighting vehicle, and store some liquid o2 for just in case and all should be fine. Redundancy keeps you from getting dead
- crackedhammer - Sunday, 11/13/11 20:33:05 EST


I think you're confusing lifting water with sinking air. The length of the snorkel shouldn't matter. If you wanted to equalize pressure so you could launch divers or submersibles without an airlock, you'd need a compressor. But it wouldn't have to go at the top of the snorkel.

Come to think of it there is a limit on snorkel length when skin diving. But that's because you're fighting the water pressure on your diaphragm when you try to inhale. Even then, you could use a compressor that submerged with you, if you really wanted.
Mike BR - Sunday, 11/13/11 20:42:50 EST

Mike BR: When You try to suck air down a snorkel, even using a vacuum pump, You will never excede 33 feet. The force of atmosphereic pressure is all that is forcing the air down, and 33 feet is all it will go.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/13/11 21:55:23 EST

Mike BR: Maybee You have a point, need to think on it more.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/13/11 22:01:48 EST

Mike: Guess You are right, using a compressor at depth, the DISCHARGE SIDE pressure would incerase by 1 atmosphere every 33 feet, while the intake should remain at close to atmospheric pressure.
- Dave Boyer - Sunday, 11/13/11 22:09:33 EST

Shallow Depth Sub Dive platform: My flexible snorkel would be connected to an air compressor to keep the sub pressurized at the operating depth. Sucking air down is no problem. It would also be needed to operate diesel generators - the BIG air user. AND you always keep enough compressed air to blow ballast. . .

The snorkle also would act as a "dive buoy" and warning beacon to keep other ships from hitting you. As a communications tower it would provide GPS capability to aid station keeping.

Pressurization is not necessary (or usual in a sub) EXCEPT that the submersible dive and winch room would be open to seawater. It would be more convenient to keep the entire vessel at that modest pressure. This also reduces taking on leaking water.

Surface effect of waves is supposed to be undetectable at 12 feet from mean sea level if my memory is right. The larger part of a wave rises above sea level and the trough is more or less at sea level. The top of the vessel would want to be below wave motion. The bottom would be 15 to 20 feet or more deeper. Normal operation would probably want to be a bit deeper.

We are not talking about a small vessel. It would need to carry a lot of fuel for station keeping where there was significant currents. The cable winches for deep water work are huge. The dive room also needs an overhead crane, equipment storage for mini-subs and submersibles. . .

As cracked hammer noted this is not a fighting vehicle. We are not looking for stealth. While batteries would be good redundancy this thing would never be expected to cruse on battery power. The snorkel would need to be able to be swamped on a regular basis but for the most part the engines would depend on it. For back up redundancy I planned on having a second retracted snorkel that would be deployed if something happened to the first. And a third alternative for running surfaced.
- guru - Sunday, 11/13/11 22:48:07 EST

Waves & Swells: Large waves and swells become affected by the sea bottom in fairly deep water, 30-50 feet for sure. The effect at the surface is that the swells become waves as they get higher and closer together from the interaction with the sea bottom. This is what makes Cape Hattaras and similar places dangerous in bad weather.

At sea, the swell may come from a weather system many hundereds of miles away, while the wind waves are caused by the wind closer to where You are. These may be at any angle to each other, makes for some interesting motion in a smaller surface vessel. You rise and fall with the swell, and roll,pitch, yaw, surf or stop progress from the wave, depending on size & direction.

I was talking with a guy who captains a 900' tanker transatlantic. He mentioned that in bad weather the hull DEFLECTS 10 FEET over it's length. Cracks develope on ocasion and are repaired when in port. He also mentioned that an older ship He had run, built by Bethlehm Steel at Sparrows Point, did not have these problems.

I can understand the benifit of getting below the wave action.

The dive boat I mentioned was not built for service in really rough conditions, just more comfort in the normal conditions around small islands in the open ocean. I don't know it's specs, perhaps 100' LOA.
- Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/14/11 00:48:22 EST

I was able to learn Tim Ryan, at a minimum, had a thumb blown off. It landed among spectators about 150' away. He was standing about 3' away when the charge went off prematurely. Wonder if he has any hearing left. Program noted when Tim lit the fuze, a spark landed on spilled gunpowder, setting off the main charge. Happen right when commentator noted Tim had shot off 23 anvils previously. I strongly suspect next year everyone will be required to use electric fuzes.
Ken Scharabok - Monday, 11/14/11 12:21:43 EST

Mike; if you are talking about a rigid enclosure connected to the surface then you are in error, the pressure of the water has no effect, and the height of an air column weighing 14.7 psi is close to 100 miles...

As a gedanken experiment: think of an evacuated steel sphere of quite large volume immersed at a suitable depth. Now connect it to the surface with a small steel pipe (strong enough not to be crushed of course) with a valve sut off. now open the valve.

Your comment that you couldn't draw air more than 32 feet would mean that the tank would still be substantially depressurized where in reality it would fill to the normal pressure of where the pipe is above the surface of the water (plus a tiny bit for gravitational effects)

Or think of mines, we have them going over a mile deep yet they seem to be able to have air in them even when not pumped down.
Thomas P - Monday, 11/14/11 15:06:39 EST


I get about a 3.5 miles for a column of air with the top at sea level and a pressure of two atmospheres at the bottom (remembering, of course, that the density will be twice as high at the bottom of the column as at the top). Still a lot more that 33'. And even 3.5 miles deep, the pressure in the intake and exhaust tubes would be the same, so a ventilation system would only need to overcome the friction in the tubes (and I guess some adiabatic losses, if I even know what that is).
Mike BR - Monday, 11/14/11 20:36:22 EST

Thomas P: It was Me who mistakenly applied the atmospheric pressure limiting the length of the theoretical snorkel.

I know what Mike was describing trying to breath through a deep snorkel, learned that first hand as a kid in the pool.

You are right about the pressure being equal if there was an exhaust snorkel, but nobody had mentioned that.

Water pressure increases 1 atmosphere per 33 feet as per dive instruction, not sure if that is based on fresh or sea water, probably sea water.
- Dave Boyer - Monday, 11/14/11 21:00:49 EST

Digits: When folks ask me how I'm doing; I will sometimes (due to my hobbies and work) reply: "Still got all of my fingers and toes." One day I responded that way to an aquaintence over at the Department, and he said: "Well done." and waved back with 8 1/2!

Y'all be careful out there!

(No injuries at Camp Fenby this year; so far so good.)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/15/11 08:54:10 EST

analytical research paper: thanks everyone for the information and help for the research paper. and yes i can try and post it on line when i finish it sorry i dont reply back more. i only am able to get online ussually at college. wont promise how good the paper will be though.
- brandin lemons - Tuesday, 11/15/11 09:56:16 EST

Back to Catamarans:: In white water river rafting we have a catamaran-type raft. When they first came out we called them Spider Boats (from their obvious spidery construction), now most call them Catarafts. They were very agile on the water, but they don't carry cargo worth a damn, and tend to flip from their high center of gravity. On my second Grand Canyon trip, the lead boat, a cataraft, flipped on the fifth wave in Hermit: I was the last boat on this run, I got blown to the right by a cross current, and had the same run as the first boat. Took some major high-siding, and the boat went through the fifth wave in Hermit without a boatman (I was in the river, hanging on the end of the boat), but the boat stayed upright.

David Hughes, aka RiverRat or Squeek
- David Hughes - Tuesday, 11/15/11 13:17:31 EST

Mike I was just equating the pressure at sea level to the thickness of the atmosphere, (most of which is below 60 miles; but I've always considered 100 miles to be the edge of space...) Of course gravity is a square law function that effects the column of air as you go up.

Did my open water dives for certification in lake Cayuga in the spring---water temps between 37 and 41 degF back in the mid 70's...
Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/15/11 13:24:19 EST


I have several friends who did the exact same thing 10 years later. (Or I should say *had* -- unfortunately I haven't kept up with them.)

I do think it's interesting how quickly atmospheric pressure increases as you go below sea level (in a dry hole). I think that's the idea behind underground disposal of CO2 -- go deep enough and the pressure keeps it liquid forever, they hope.

Changing the subject, ran into an interesting patent decision today:
Mike BR - Tuesday, 11/15/11 18:19:10 EST

Rubber Band Guns (patent case above):
We used to make these when I was 12 or 13. . . I can't believe someone had the money to put into such a patent. . . We had pistols, rifles, double barrels, band, rock and arrow throwers as well as stingers. . . Trigger parts made from hardwood the rest from whatever we could find including sticks. . . but usually 1' nominal (3/4") pine lumber.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/16/11 00:54:48 EST

Patent: Who would have thought you had to research prior art to know that you can't patent a rubber band gun? I would have seemed obvious to me, like trying to patent the wheelbarrow.

That just points out how damn old a few of us are getting to be. Evidently the petitioner never had to make his own n toys when growing up and thinks a rubber band gun is something new. Next he'll try to patent toy soldiers made from old clothes pins or tractors made from a spool and, toothpick and rubber band, I suppose. Or any number of the other gimmickry we cobbled together in the days before fun became something you got from a box or off a screen. Face it gents; we've become dinosaurs!

Rich - Wednesday, 11/16/11 08:08:44 EST

While the hula hoop likely goes back over 2,000 years, it wasn't patented until 1963.
Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 11/16/11 10:07:04 EST

Rubber Band Guns: There was an arms race in my neighborhood back in the late '50s, early '60s. The common release mechanism was a wooden clothes-pin carefully nailed to the back of the grip and reassembled. The pistols weren't too bad, but the rifles, using slices of bicycle tire inner tube, packed a wallop!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/16/11 10:40:15 EST

Rubber band arms races: We had one of those in the archaeology lab when I was in grad school... This was in the days before acid-free storage became required, so we packed everything in paper bags with all the information them, sealed with a nice #6 band. Those are the ones about 1/4" wide and 3" long as an unstretched loop. We had normal rubber band fights on a regular basis, but then one of the guys found some three foot long 1/2" hardwood dowels in a closet. Put a notch across one end, duct-tape a clothespin to the other, and tie two rubber bands together, and you had a highly accurate rubber band rifle with a range of around 60 feet total, capable of raising welts within 20 feet.

I taped an early laser pointer to mine, the ones about the size of a mini maglite. Surprisingly accurate predictor of impact point within about 15 feet!

Never underestimate what a bunch of 20-something nerds will do to relieve boredom when packed underground with tools, no supervision, and thousands of tiny rocks to sort.
Alan-L - Wednesday, 11/16/11 11:11:14 EST

Arms races can be very specific to the available items. In the ARMY in the 70's, we tended to have arms races amongst the guys on second shift in the missile shops. I won't go into detail, but the projectiles tended to have large capacitors on the ends!
ptree - Wednesday, 11/16/11 11:20:02 EST

Arms Races: Well, you start with a pebble, then a rock, and a bigger rock, then a pointed rock on a spear. . . and the next thing you know you have a nuclear bomb.

We built a lot of our own toys and weapons. One year it was egg carton marble mazes. At the time egg cartons were rectangular with various slots and tabbed inserts. Marbles went in the top, rattled around in the various passages we fashioned with egg carton cardboard and Scotch tape, then exited from one of several possibilities. . . Or put one in and three came out.

Another summer it was rubber band sling shots made from coat hangers. The doubled coat hanger wire was limiting but the frames were thin and would fit in a pocket or hide under a jacket. B-B's were the best projectiles for these little weapons.

The next summer it was bows and arrows. . . I think the one year we were into BOUGHT toys was the mid '60's top craze. Everyone had tops. My special trick was I could land one on your shoe and have it dance around on your toe. . . They had replaceable nylon tips that wore out so you kept some spares in your pocket. My prize top was one that had holes and whistled.

We also spent a lot of time making match head cannons with electric fuses. Connect a wire from a distance and FOOM! I got a lot of blisters cutting off match heads. Then we figured out how to make a smoke bomb with stick matches. . .

I could write a book on being a juvenile delinquent. . . On the other hand, we never broke windows, stole anything of value or hurt anyone.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/16/11 12:00:49 EST

Mike once you are in the dirt it's more of a lithostatic pressure rather than atmospheric pressure, though there are some notorious under pressure zones you had to watch out for when drilling for oil or your drilling mud would crack the formation, run out and let all the pretty methane come out to play...My first degree was Geology/Geophysics and I worked as a mudlogger in the oilpatch for several years afterwards.
Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/16/11 12:48:30 EST

That does make more sense, Thomas. Although when I figured out how deep you'd have to go to get to 700 PSI atmospheric pressure, it was a lot shallower than I would have thought. Still might be deeper than you could drill -- don't really know about that. And it lithostatic pressure would surely increase a lot faster than atmospheric . . .
Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/16/11 18:47:24 EST

Super Deep Holes and Pressure: The trick here is that now you have a huge amount of the Earth's mass ABOVE you and the normal rules of gravity do not apply. That mass is now trying to LIFT you away from the mass in front of you. IF you could reach the theoretical center of the Earth then you would feel no gravity. . .
- guru - Wednesday, 11/16/11 19:21:06 EST


That's true, but most of the column of air above you *would* be pulled toward the center of the earth by gravity. Something has to support all that, and you end up with a *lot* of pressure at the center.
Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/16/11 20:32:04 EST

gravity: the entire earth's mass acts as if all the mass is at the center of mass, according to newton. So, the center of YOUR mass will still be attracted by the center of mass of our planet, even though you drilled that hole!
stewartthesmith - Wednesday, 11/16/11 21:59:08 EST

Center of Mass and Gravity: Gravity is not uniform nor straight toward the center of the Earth (or other planetary bodies) except when talking about things on a stellar scale. Then everything is based on mass and centers of gravity.

But when deep inside a mass the rules are different. All mass, every atom has gravity. If mass above you had no effect then the moon would not pull on the oceans and cause tides. One planetary would not effect the orbit of another.

As you enter a mass such as the Earth you are always pulled toward the center, but the amount of force is reduced by the mass "above" you. The farther in you go the more mass there is above you.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/16/11 23:15:46 EST

Actually microgravity is used to map certain things. In geophysics class we had to map stuff using the ever so slight changes in gravity caused by density changes---it's pretty wild technique and depends on extreme accuracy of your measurements.

Isostocy was noticed when the British originally mapped India: there final triangle didn't close by some unbelievable amount and someone figured out that the plumb bobs must have been deflected by the gravity of the Himalayas---so someone calculated mass of the Himalayas and found out that the plumb bobs should have deflected even more! So they figured out that the Himalayas didn't weigh as much as they should and the theory of Isostocy was born...
Thomas P - Thursday, 11/17/11 12:16:26 EST

The Navy uses gravity maps for submarine navigation (combined with other methods). The detectors must be compensated for the Earth mass around the sub such as if its in a trench. This is combined with magnetic, dead reckoning and gyroscopic location systems. Its not perfect but when you want to hide running deep and silent its the best you can do.

Years ago I saw an article on tracking subs from space by detecting their wake on the surface. Apparently even when running quite deep they distrub the surface and it can be seen. Satellites were being used to study disturbances on the ocean surface using special imaging algorithms to plot wakes and distinguish between whales and boats. . .
- guru - Thursday, 11/17/11 16:33:39 EST

Dive Platform: There already exists a stable dive platform vessel used for maritime research. It is in the form of a long tubular section attached to a lab equipment section. It travels horizontally and on station, floods the aft section so that it floats vertically. The length of the aft section is such that the wave action is negated and the lab section is relatively motionless. Lab equipment, bunks, galley are on gimbals that rotate to allow use in both orientations.
Really weird looking but very functional.
- Jim Curtis - Friday, 11/18/11 10:57:16 EST

Really wierd..., but very functional.: Jim: That sounds like a lot of my friends! ;-)
Go viking!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Friday, 11/18/11 11:54:02 EST

Tim Ryan: Ken, I saw Tim at the FABA conference Oct 8th. He seemed to be doing well and his hearing seems fine. he did a good job as our auctioneer but turned his anvil shooting over to a couple of our members.
Ron Childers - Friday, 11/18/11 14:49:53 EST

Looking for a master blacksmith: This is probably a shot in the dark these days since I don't yet know of one single blacksmith anywhere, but why not..

I want to become a blacksmith so that I can pass on a great trade to my children when they get older.

I'm looking for a master blacksmith willing to be my mentor and teach me the skills of the trade in exchange for small monthly payments and labor. Its all I have to offer in exchange for your time, use of equipment, and supplies.

I have been and will continue studying any material that I can get my hands on related to blacksmithing.

I'm looking for a master at this trade who lives anywhere in the lakewood/tacoma, puyallup/parkland/spanaway, or graham areas of washington state(US) since that's where I will be moving with my family in feb-march.
You can email me at

Any help toward this goal would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
beckypowell01 - Saturday, 11/19/11 04:01:52 EST


On the Anvilfire home page scroll down until you see the link for Getting Started in Blacksmithing. Also check out some of the links on the NAVIGATE anvilfire page, such as book reviews.

Go to On their home page click on AFFILIATES, then on AFFLIATES LIST. On it, click on the North America Map which leads you to organizations by state. There are three listed for WA. Contact the closest one to you. Also use the RESOURCES link as under there is a link for JOURNEYMEN.
- Ken Scharabok - Saturday, 11/19/11 10:36:04 EST

See our FAQ on Apprenticeships. Also see the section on Costs of Education in our Swordmaking Article.

You seem to have a much better attitude than many of our corespondents looking for education so I am sure you may be successful in your goals. Here are some considerations:

1) There are schools where you can get a crash course in blacksmithing that would be of GREAT help. Having a certificate of completion from the Turley School of Blacksmithing will go a long ways toward getting you foot into someone's shop.

2) There are very active blacksmithing groups in the Northwest. Join them, go to meetings, take advantage of the "green coal courses" which are often free with membership. This is also where you will most likely meet someone willing to teach you.

3) "Master Smith" is a title few are brave enough to use these days, even when they are. There are some very good smiths out there that are not professionals who may be willing to have you in their shop.

4) Modern blacksmith shops are loaded with modern tools, drill presses, power saws, grinders, lathes, milling machines . . You can learn to use many of these tools at community colleges or trade schools. Apply to a blacksmith shop with the skill to hand sharpen a twist drill bit correctly (something most people cannot do) and you have a good chance at getting a job. This is a skill that takes knowledge, a good eye, concentration and demanding quality of work. It will prove you are capable of MANY other jobs.

5) Commercial, professional and amateur metalworking shops of all kinds all have more menial boring endless jobs than anyone can keep up with. Scraping, filing, sanding (deburring parts), descaling and derusting, feeding machines and other filthy dirty jobs.

EXAMPLE: I have a shop full of rusting and continuing to rust machine tools. Many are 100 years old and some had not been cleaned since then. When we were setting up shop I had my Granddaughter and her girl friend working for me for a brief time. They cleaned and "derusted" several of these machines for me. This required scraping nasty black metal chip and dirt filled grease from under the tables and in every crack, clearing chip filled T-slots. They scraped off layers of dried oil and dirty filled grease from every part of the frame. They sanded off dry rust then using oil and sandpaper cleaned the column, table, spindle and shafts. It took several days for the two of them to clean one machine working on hands and knees and on tiptoe. . . This work is one step above cleaning sewers and ruins clothes so you wear nothing that you were not planning to throw away. . . I paid well for this work and have much more of it to do. But it is difficult to find workers dedicated to doing this kind of nasty work. The girls are now both in college and quite busy.

You might think that doing such menial tasks is demeaning. But both girls learned a LOT about machinery in the couple weeks they worked for me. They learned how the cranks and levers worked, how the belts and gears drove the spindle. They learned where things get oiled and how to study a machine to figure out how it works. After machine derusting detail they moved on to using angle grinders to deburr a couple pallet loads of steel for a job and other undesirable jobs.

Craftsmanship includes everything from how perfect a polish you can put on a piece or accurately you can hold a tolerance down to how well you sweep floors or clean a toilet. I can give a person a broom and ask them to sweep the shop and tell in a few minutes if they are going to succeed in the shop. The person that leaves the dirt under the machines and tables because its hard to get to OR they have to move something and are too lazy or unimaginative to do so, OR needs to be told that they are not finished have no place in my shop. . . Think about it.
Apprenticeships in Blacksmithing
- guru - Saturday, 11/19/11 10:50:14 EST

I.D. and info on an avil: I found an anvil in my dads shed I would like to get some info on if possible. I know it is a William Foster. It looks just like the one in the gallery here. On one side it has a crown, 1840, WW. On the other side it has 1 2 2. It weighs 170lbs. If anyone has any information on the anvil and the markings they could share I would greatly appreciate it. A family member wants to buy it but I think he is offering way too much so a approx fair value would be nice also. It has one chip on the top plate edge and the horn tip is mashed in a tiny bit just like the gallery one. Thank you very much!
- Angela - Tuesday, 11/22/11 15:26:02 EST

Foster Anvil: It was made in England, apparently in 1840 from the marking, and it is marked in the British Hundredweight system as 1*2*2 which is 112+56+2 = 170 pounds, so it hasn't lost any weight in the intervening 170 years. :-) It is a forged anvil of wrought iron with a tool steel face forge-welded to it, and it sounds as though it is in excellent using condition, assuming the chip you mentioned is not huge. Small chips are a fact of use and not a bar to good value. Chis that have been "repaired" by welding can definitely drop the value.

As for value, it depends on where you are. In the upper Midwest of the US, (the "Rust Belt"), anvils are not scarce and it would probably go for around $2.50 to $3.50 per pound. In the Southwest or Deep South or the West Coast, the price could be as much as double that. So, depending on location, between $425 and $900 would be reasonable, based on your description. Wm. Foster anvils are good anvils, though they don't have the cachet of a Peter Wright or a Hay-Budden. Someone looking for an anvil to use would be happy with it.
- Rich - Tuesday, 11/22/11 16:52:12 EST

Angela, The 1.2.2 is the weight in old English Hundredweight. William Foster was one of the many English makers of anvils that made high quality anvils. They are not a common brand in the U.S. but they are not rare either.

Old anvils like these are sought after by both collectors and users. Prices start at a couple dollars a pound and go up according to location (demand), who buying and who's selling. On ebay they often go for $5/pound or more. But this is from recognized trusted dealers who put a lot of work into cleaning up and photographing their product.

Minor chipping may reduce the price a little but is to be expected on this old of an anvil. Generally

Between family members such an items might go for much less.
- guru - Tuesday, 11/22/11 16:53:49 EST

One of the neat things about a William Foster anvil is that they did date stamp them---I have an 1828 but in very rough condition indeed!
Thomas P - Tuesday, 11/22/11 19:30:59 EST

question: Question: what do you get when you cross a foster anvil with a brooks anvil? Answer: a drunk "foster brooks" anvil
- stewartthesmith - Tuesday, 11/22/11 19:54:00 EST

Old English Anvils (drunk or sober): Something many people do not appreciate about the old English anvils is that for their weight they are much more solid effective forging tools than the slim waisted modern anvils or "American" pattern which followed the late Peter Wrights. The old anvils had a thick waist and the sides tapered out to a wider base. Most of the mass was in the center rather than spread out in the horn and heel.
- guru - Tuesday, 11/22/11 21:41:31 EST

old english anvils: those thick waisted across-the-pond anvils are much more sledge-hammer friendly than more modern "tuning forks". I have never seen a thick-bellied anvil with the heel broken off, yet, after 34 years in this business!
stewartthesmith - Wednesday, 11/23/11 07:18:44 EST

Seasoning Cast Iron for Cooking: An interesting entry, both relevant for cooking gear, and for the (in)famous “blacksmith’s finish” that we use for inside items that will receive regular maintenance:

Some of the comments are a little “crunchy granola” for a non-foodie like me; but the practical advice is useful.

Seasoning Cast Iron
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Wednesday, 11/23/11 11:14:58 EST

Richard Postman now suspect the three leading anvil exporters to the US were Mousehold, Peter Wright and William Foster.
- Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 11/23/11 11:15:52 EST

Stewart, my 1860's Wilkinson English anvil has a couple toes and a piece of heel broken. A previous owner worked with BIG equipment (welding 12" deep, that sort of thing) and repaired it beautifully. Couldn't even tell until I accidentally spilled some etchant on the surface and viola! all repairs at least on the face were obvious.

Hey, what do you get when you cross a pein with a hammer?
- Nippulini - Wednesday, 11/23/11 11:19:12 EST

My 1828 William Foster is missing the heel and 90% of the face. Postman said that WF used fairly low grade WI and so I think they might be more prone to bad welds.

On the other hand the "best" high grade wrought iron anvils are more prone to slumping.
Thomas P - Wednesday, 11/23/11 12:05:52 EST

anvil fixes: I got a beautiful hay budden from my Mother, who got the anvil from a friend who found out I was a blacksmith. The entire heel was broken off and missing, behind the hardy hole. A friend of mine, with tandem stone forges, forged a new heel, forge welding a steel plate to a big piece of wrought iron. Then, when he finished making the new heel, he heated the heel in one fire, and the rest of the anvil in the other forge, and then forge welded the two pieces together. Incredibly, the anvil looks like a brand new anvil, and rings like a church bell. I posted pictures of his job in another blacksmithing forum, for folks to see!
stewartthesmith - Wednesday, 11/23/11 13:09:39 EST

Blacksmith Tools: If anyone in the west needs blacksmith tools right now I have a pile of them.Big anvils, vises, blowers, hardies, swage blocks, tongs, etc.I'm in AZ. (928) 442-3290
Barry Denton - Wednesday, 11/23/11 15:05:17 EST

Interesting article, Bruce.

I hadn't realized that flaxseed oil was the same thing as linseed oil. Not too sure about "opening the pores" of the cast iron, though. Or about putting oil on a 200 degree pan and rubbing your hands on it . . .
Mike BR - Wednesday, 11/23/11 16:49:43 EST

Mike, there is actually a LOT of difference and the article has some safety issues. Common paint store linseed oil is boiled (speeds drying) and has solvents and other substances added to it. It is toxic if taken orally. I am not sure how it would do on pans but I would want to research it a LOT.

Flaxseed oil or rapeseed oil is the pure stuff squeezed from the seeds. It drys VERY slowly compared to boiled paint grade linseed oil. Artists us "raw linseed oil" (also processed somewhat) to slow drying and add gloss to artists oil paint s which are made with special grades of boiled linseed oil. Drying linseed oil paint fumes can make you nauseous.

I find that olive oil makes a seasoning coating at lower temperatures and does not stink like linseed oil.
- guru - Wednesday, 11/23/11 17:09:24 EST

Barry: Your most profitable avenue for sale may be eBay. Up to 150 pounds can be sent as UPS Ground or UPS Ground. You do not even need to box up an anvil. Just put duct tape over and around face and attach label. UPS will charge you $8-12 surcharge though. Still lots better than trying to box it up. Swage blocks? I'd wrap them in cardboard, brown paper and lots of clear tape. Leg vises, no easly way to ship them outside of making a box.

Notice what Guru said earlier about the best prices going to those who do an excellent job on cleaning up and presenting old tools.

I do a lot of business with the local farmers' co-op. As such they will let me ship out and receive the occasional freight box/pallet at their loading dock.

Excellent, and usually free, shipping boxes can be obtained from your local supermarket. Called banana boxes. Two part - cover and base. Very heady cardboard. Box size is 10" x 16" x 20. Back when I use to go around hunting for boxes in back of liquor stores, Dollar Stores and at hardware stores were good sources.

You can do a google on cardboard box manufacturers and they do sell in minimum quantities such as 25. For example, I buy one size 4" x 4" x 36". Would hold a lot of tongs and small tools.

Don't overlook USPS flat rate shipping bnxes. Most are up to 70 pounds and I've gotten weight up that high a time or two in the past.

If you aren't familiar with eBay, I estimate I've easily have done 15,000 transactions there over the past ten year or so years.
Ken Scharabok - Wednesday, 11/23/11 17:15:46 EST

Seasoning Cast Iron: I'm still trying to figure out the opening the pores of the cast iron concept - what bleeding pores? Whenever I've examined cast iron under a metallographic microscope I've never seen any pores, no matter how high the magnification. Haven't seen any when it's etched either.

One of the members of our reenacting group who specialized in antiques recommended pharmaceutical grade mineral oil for seasoning cast iron. I've tended to use olive oil, as that's what I usually cook with.
- Gavainh - Wednesday, 11/23/11 22:51:56 EST

Ken Scharabok: While what you say is all god information, I rather suspect you're preaching to the choir when talking to Barry - he was selling blacksmithing equipment on Ebay at least ten years ago. I can't recall his seller name, something like Skull Valley or some such, but I bought a few things from Barry back before there even were Flat Rate boxes. His stuff was always first quality and accurately listed and well photographed.
- Rich - Thursday, 11/24/11 00:01:18 EST

Cast Iron: My cast iron *used* to have pores but some Clearasil cleared up those ugly clogged pores very nicely, thank you! (grin)

I always like it when people talk about the pores in cast iron or steel absorbing liquids like a really hard sponge. It would be handy sometimes if it were actually possible, but sadly it ain't. Makes for inspiring hype on things like "living steel" knives, though.
- Rich - Thursday, 11/24/11 00:05:16 EST

Anthropomorphization: Hammers have heads. Anvils have feet, waists and heels. When we work, we shoulder on the anvil edge. We split into two "legs." The leg vise has jaws, as do tongs. So hey, in that sense, I'm going to allow that the cast iron pan has pores.
Frank Turley - Thursday, 11/24/11 07:01:20 EST

linseed oil: Hardware store linseed has drying agents. Just wiki "japan dryer" to see the kind of toxic metals used. You wouldnt want to eat any of it. Flax oil is unrefined and should be food grade if sold in food stores. I can get large quantities of used canola oil from a restaurant deep fryer . It hardens up to make nice finish on steel that is dunked at just under red heat. Ive also used it as quench . I do wonder how the oil changes as it is used like that.
- we@nb - Thursday, 11/24/11 07:31:45 EST

Cast Iron and Porosity:
Cast Iron engine blocks were often "sealed" with paint inside to prevent oil seeping through porosity in the cast iron. Of course this is not a general porosity it is from sand inclusions and gas bubbles and generally localized.
- guru - Thursday, 11/24/11 10:09:44 EST

Happy Thanksgiving:
Try not to over-do ya'll!
- guru - Thursday, 11/24/11 12:48:40 EST

Metal and pores: Actually, there is one general class of metal that has pores, or planned porosity - sintered powder metal that has not had a secondary operation such as forging after sintering will usually be less than 100% dense. I don't have the books with me, but seem to remember that 96%/97% density is darn good without secondary operations. Depending on starting metal powder, density may be even lower. Other operations such as HIP'ing willl also get you to 100% density.

PM (powder metal) is one of materials used for "self-lubricating" bearings.
- Gavainh - Thursday, 11/24/11 22:17:54 EST

Porous Metal: Is that how "Oilite" bronze is made? Seems to hold a LOT of oil.
- Dave Boyer - Friday, 11/25/11 00:42:33 EST

Powdered Metal PM Tech:
There are sintered (furnace baked with a "glue" metal") and pressed powdered metals. Oilite (tm) bronze was the first. Some diamond wheels are bronze with diamond powder. Zinc can be pressed making solid metal. Finished gears are made this way, the pressing die acting as a follower to push the gear out of the draftless die.

Powdered metallurgy is still a wide open field for research. Common alloying is limited by melting temperatures of related ingredients and their interactions in liquid form. But powder metallurgy allows for a wider range of mixtures including adding non-metals (plastics and ceramics) to metals.

Either area of alloying is virtually infinite. While there are finite materials to mix the proportions are as critical as the ingredients. Then there are processing methods and heat treatment. . .

An outfit in Sweden makes "laminated" steels using the PM process and HIPing. While this is done to produce economical high art blade materials it shows just how creative the process can be.

This is just one area of research that requires government funding to stay ahead of the game. But if you do the research you also have to do the manufacturing to profit from it. . .

- guru - Friday, 11/25/11 10:58:57 EST

Down in Las Cruces NM for Turkey Day---the Sequel.

Funny to not be eating the leftovers from the TDay dinner I had but to be eating the leftovers from a different dinner I didn't have.

Anyway I got to spend time with my oldest Grandson (3 the end of January) in Albuquerque and with my parents in Las Cruces NM and plan to visit the Las Cruces Flea Market and Giant used book store tomorrow!

- Thomas Powers - Friday, 11/25/11 22:10:07 EST

Toot your own horn: I received a tiny bit of notoriety in a newly released, 2011, book, "The Ring Bit: History, Form & Function." by Donald Minzenmayer. I'm photographed forge welding a ring to dimension, which I did for HABA in Oldenburg, TX, in 2006. Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

The ring bit is a bridle bit that is not used much anymore in the U.S. It has an iron ring integral with the port of the mouthpiece and the ring encircles the horse's lower jaw. Most modern curb bits have either a leather strap or a flat chain in the horse's chin groove.
Frank Turley - Saturday, 11/26/11 21:52:28 EST

Christmas Help: One of the key gifts my good wif is hoping for is the tool that is used to remove the back from watches so that she can change her own batteries. I could Google it, but I figured that I'd start here, since you folks have arcane knowledge as to where to look, what things are named, and how well they work. :-)
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Monday, 11/28/11 11:23:59 EST

christmas help: try in google search. it is a jelwery company that sells at a lower price. i use to buy my tools from them in school.
- sidera208 - Monday, 11/28/11 11:59:47 EST

Bruce B - Atli: What you're looking for is called a "watch crab", among other things. As noted, Rio Grande Jeweler's Supply or Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply or even Harbor Freight sells them from time to time. or
- Rich Waugh - Monday, 11/28/11 13:36:18 EST

Most of the watches I've put batteries in had pressed in covers. I just use a pocket knife. .
- guru - Monday, 11/28/11 14:28:46 EST

Axe! and I'm sure you already have one...
Thomas P - Monday, 11/28/11 14:35:58 EST

Christmas Help: I knew I could count on you guys! :-) Knives and axes I got, but the wif requires something subtler. Thanks!
Bruce Blackistone (Atli) - Tuesday, 11/29/11 08:51:25 EST

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