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THIS is a forum for questions and answers about blacksmithing and general metalworking. Ask the Guru any reasonable question and he or one of his helpers will answer your question, find someone that can, OR research the question for you. This is an archive of posts from February 1 - 7, 2001 on the Guru's Den
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Im forging knife blades from spring steel. I have a treadle hammer that Im tring to use on forging blades. I made some drawing dies and I guess they work some,but the flating dies just dont seem to do much at all. What I would like to know is if you were going to use the treadle hammer to forge blades what opperations would you use it for? What kind of tools can I make for it to help with forging blades?Its was a kit I put together and was Jere Kirkpatricks desgin. I guess maybe I was expecting more out of it.I guess part of the prob.is it not having mass like an anvil.
Thanks for your help Ronnie

Ronnie  <ronnie.hicks3 at gte.net> - Wednesday, 01/31/01 23:18:16 GMT

I was wondering if eather you could tell me were I can get suplys to build a knife forge or if I can just buy one and were. Also where would I be able to obtain a good sized anvil. Thanks.
Kevin King  <Kevin8585 at aol.com> - Wednesday, 01/31/01 23:58:58 GMT

Hear,Hear!!! I've got an old anvil that was left out in the rain I guess, and is deeply pitted. It has many ragged, jagged chips on some of, but not all of the edges. And its a fisher! A lot of people would pass this anvil up but I'm never going to get rid of it. Sometimes imperfections are plus's. A cherry anvil does not make one a better smith. If you want to impress someone don't show them your anvil, show them what you made on it. Its not the anvil, its the work.
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 00:04:49 GMT

Armour thickness: Kevin, it varies. Pieces that are heavily stretched, raised filed and polished such as helms may start at near 1/8" (10 or 12ga) and get thined to just a little more than 1/16" [.070 (2mm)].

Plate armor also varies in this range. Armor for different purposes was reinforced or thicker in some places depending on type. Jousting armor is different than that worn by a foot soldier.

Did you know that Ancient Greeks wore Tin (the soft element not "tin plate") shin and arm guards? The tin is soft enough to be shaped with bare hands. It was easy to fit and took a natural form on its own making it very comfortable. As soft as it is, tin is still better than bare skin. It also takes a brilliant polish very easily (LOOKs good).

Finishing Modern methods? Have you ever polished anything? Yes, motorized buffs DO speed things up but the vast majority of polishing is just plain HARD WORK. Modern grinding abrasives are different but buffing and pollishing media, Rouge and Tripoli were known to the Ancients. These are minerals that are ground and mixed with wax to produce buffing compound. The Ancients (many years BC) polished metal plates to make mirrors. A tool little used today except by musical instrument makers, the scraper, was used to produce smooth surfaces on metal as well as wood. Scraping produces a surface much smoother than filing or grinding and ready to polish starting with a coarse grit.

Hand polishing using abrasive compound made into a paste and applied using a rag is no different today than 3,000 years ago. The quality and availability of good abrasives is better today but the process and the results is no different.

For at least a thousand years or more grinding of blades, particularly swords has been common. Up until the last century natural sandstone wheels were the norm. Fine natural stones such as the "Arkansas" type have also been known for centuries. Many were powered by hand but water power was VERY common in places where large scale manufacturing was done.

As recently as the mid 1800's the finished surfaces of machine tool slides (lathe and milling machine ways and bearings) as well as the precision flats used to test those surfaces were produced by hand. Early machinists used cold chisels to rough the surfaces from castings and forgings, then hand filed them (with hand cut files) and finished the surface to 16RMS (one step short of polished) using hand scrapers.

Wet-or-Dry sandpaper and sewn cotton buffs are great tools but slightly less efficient alternatives have existed since before we had civilization or metal.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 00:05:03 GMT

Scrolls again: Tim, Practice. Most curve routines in ALL computer graphcs programs SUCK (excuse my French).

I've used ProdesignII which became DesignCAD for about 15 years. The current Windirt 2K version tried too hard to be like AutoCAD and it REALLY sucks. . It brags that is will import other CAD formats easily but will not even import earlier DesignCAD files. (Hey guys, FIX IT, and I'll say good things about it. Until then, it sucks.) I still use my old DOS version.

Unlike ALL the other graphic programs DesignCAD uses a sophisticated routine called a "Cubic Spline" or "B-Spline". The geometry is matrix math and it will follow the defining points rather than using "control" points off in space as is done by all the other types. I even managed to find code and produce a program in BASIC using this routine. It is the ONLY worthwhile curve routine. Using any mathematical or geometric method to define a small handful of points is will create a perfect curve on those points. I use it to draw "free hand" figures.

The manual method I describe in my iForge demo will produce ANY rate or size of spiral if you learn to use it. And they are PERFECT mathematical spirals. No, logarithmic doesn't do it. A spiral is a slope on a polar (circular) grid.

However, being an artist, I just heat it, beat it and eyeball mine.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 00:26:04 GMT

Knife making supplies: Kevin, The items you mentioned are ALL available from our primary advertisers. Centaur Forge, Kayne and Son and Wallace Metal Works. AND we have a new advertiser, Nimba Anvils. See our advertisers directory on the home page.

Bruce Wallace carries used anvils (he has a nice 350# Hay-Budden I'd LOVE to have) and NC-TOOL forges.

Nimba is probably one of the better priced NEW anvils and it comes from a KNOWN U.S. manufacturer.

Centaur and Kayne have a wider varity of tools and forges.

On our plans page we have a burner plan that has links to many other gas forge resources.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 00:35:35 GMT

Treadle Hammer: Ronnie, A Treadle hammer is a great tool but it is NOT a power hammer. Lack of anvil mass is a problem in all kits and home builts (treadle OR power). Hammer efficiency is largely related to mass up to a point. Less than 10 to 1 is a problem, however treadles almost always have less. They are a "third hand" tool and good for lots of things. But not drawing out.

If you want to draw out stock a hand hammer is as good as a treadle. If you want to do it fast and in less heats you need POWER. Mechanical, Air, Hydraulic. . it doesn't matter. Power hammers (mechanical or air) are the most universal forging tool. Hydraulic presses and the NEW McDonald Rolls are better for laminated steel work. See the version being sold by Kayne and Son. There is a discription UP a day's posts and a source for plans.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 00:46:39 GMT

My wife is an anthropologist who has spent time in Northeastern Brazil (Ceara, mostly Fortaleza and Caninde). I asked if she had seen any smiths at work, and although she had not, evidence was everywhere in the form of gates, window grilles, and other architectural ironwork. She mentioned that Salvador in particular has some fine colonial period ironwork. I don't know where in Brazil you are, and I know how big the place is, so I don't know if this helps any. You might try looking at any local security ironworks to see if they do any smithing, I'm sure they do welding. Wether or not they would teach you, I don't know.

Good Luck!
Alan L  <longmire at premiernet.net> - Thursday, 02/01/01 02:49:00 GMT

i would like to know the diff between forgeing my own blades or using spring steel. it seems that my stepson and his friends want alot of these items....... how do i deal with this........without giving everything away
its me  <jacque652000> - Thursday, 02/01/01 03:28:12 GMT

Blades: Giving everything away? There are no trade secrets in this business. However there are a LOT of details. There are many books on the subject. Most libraries will have one or more. If not then Centaur Forge has dozens and so does Norm Larson. Yes spring steel makes decent blades when worked correctly.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 04:45:57 GMT

If you don't like CAD programs, whatever you do DON"T get yourself sold ProEngineer (ProE) In my opinion it suck worst than a Black hole. I used to use Smartcam and they (work) made me switch to ProE about a year ago, damn near gave me a nervous breakdown! I lose at least 4-5 hour a week because of the program crashing on me. Yeah and they will tell you it's a FEATURE! not a bug.
Raslefrastlefrikenfraken*#$%## at %&&%%&**
Moldy (got my dander up!) Jim
Moldy  <nope> - Thursday, 02/01/01 07:03:09 GMT

Generally what are the pros and cons of using hardwood charcoal as opposed to soft coal for general forge work?
Bob  <bbeck at losch.net> - Thursday, 02/01/01 13:36:37 GMT

I've stayed away from this discussion as it has worked its way through various and different organizations and groups that I have been a part of in the last ten years or so. I would like to make two things clear:
1. I don't wish to insult or upset anyone.
2. In life you have to choose your battles.
My comments here today are in no way meant to add fuel to the fire, nor are they meant as an attempt to resolve this issue. I say this for one reason:
I have a responsibility to those who wish to pursue this craft.
Thats it! Thats my battle. I have a responsibilty to those already involved and those that went before as well, but they will have to fend for themselves. Newbies cant fend for themselves because they dont know any better. Let me also make this clear: "Blacksmithing" has become a broad definition, encompassing many aspects of metal working. "Traditional" work is one of those aspects. To deny or disparage that fact is to discredit and harm the craft! Any justification is mere smoke and mirrors. And so for your perusal, four hopefully salient points.

1. Many beginners do not have a grasp of the full range of possibilities in this craft. To tell them they must use arc welders or Oxy-X torches is a disservice to the craft. (Just as telling them they can't use arc welders would be.)

2. Many established people in the craft produce work which is not commensurate with their skill or ability. This is due in part to a lack of good information about what is possible in this craft. To not facillitate reaching the highest attainable skill level by disparaging a set of techniques is a disservice to the craft.

3. The lure of blacksmithing is for most, in part related to self sufficiency. The ability to create beautiful, functional objects, with nothing more than "a few tools and a stern look", is indeed enticing. To propogate the myth of dependance on fancy and expensive tooling is a disservice to the craft.

4. History is important. The two excuses I hear most often are both short sighted and diametrically opposed. To claim simultaneously that smithing "died as a craft" due to the individual smith's inability to fully grasp and come to the forefront of the industrial revolution, and that given the chance a "traditional" smith would have used a mig welder, plasma cutter or any other modern contrivance not only shows ignorance of, but apathy for historic truth. To ascribe to revisionist ideas and ignore history is to disservice the craft.

5. The third most frequent excuse that I hear is:
We simply cannot compete with X foriegn market and so must use every modern advantage available. This is pure drivel. Aside from comparing apples to crap you buy at wal-mart, It furthers mediocrity by assuming that something cranked off an assembly line is okay, by default, in the name of competition. To lower our status to that of unskilled, underpaid, third world sweat shop competitors is a disservice to the craft.

I say again that I do not wish to offend any one. I say this as a reminder. We as proffesionals have a tremendous responsibility to those hobbyists and beginners who look up to us for insight and help. We must be careful what we say. I myself am always careful to explain, and if needed or wanted, to teach the more modern methods, because indeed they are a part of metal working. Blacksmithing is defined by process. To deny that is to discredit those that have dedicated thier lives to learning and teaching that process. There is nothing wrong with the description which reads: Forged and fabricated. When answering querants as to the nature or benefit of techniques, I do not disparage the modern. Why? because I am happy. To allow our egos to answer for us is to include a host of insecurities and fears in the answer. This is a disservice to the craft.
smudge  <mccarthymp at hotmail.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 14:40:15 GMT

I must agree with you. but I have found that there is a large following of just hand me the anser line of thought.
I havee come up with a good way to weed out them out thought I will anser any qustion put to me in a polite maner. when one of these "kid's" asks how to learn I tell them to go pick up some reading meteral (art of blacksmithing ,new edge of the anvil,etc)and to check out this web site,if they allready have I tell them of some course's offered at a local school and I also sigest they take a course in welding or machine shop (for shop safety) then I tell them if they have any qustions to call I get about three calls a week with qustiions. I think about one in ten take my addvice they rest seem to get mad that I can't give them all the ansers I would love to spend more of my time teaching what I have learnd but I am a full time smith and I do this for a liveing it is hard enough to make ends meet with out spending a half my time teaching the craft to those who can't or (i think) wont learn on there own. It is our responsabilty to dispell the half truths and out right lies that are flouting around the craftand I think the best way to do this is to point them in the direction of the right ansers. as to modern tech I think that any meens to build that which you see in your mind is fine so long as you know how to do things the right way (be it arc welding or forgeing). sorry to spend so much time on this but I have gotin a bit annoyed at the responce "I want to do it not read about it" and I have very little tolerance for those that feel that way. very few of us were able to learn from someone. we may aish that it was diffrent but we must do what we can when we can.
MP  <swordmatt at Yahoo.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 16:01:40 GMT

Buzz boxes and Torches: I recommend these tools primarily as a method to fabricate tools, jigs and fixtures. In order to establish a shop affordably and safely I send newbies to school to learn the right way to use these potentialy dangerous tools.

Although you can do without them, using "tradional" blacksmithing techniques, you may fabricate a press frame by riveting the frame together, or heat a 30 pound slab of 2" steel plate in the forge to hot cut it rather than torching it, both are expensive wastes of time, fuel and material.

There are many ways to improve the efficiency of the blacksmith shop without reducing the quality of the work. Power hammers and other machines replace laborers that most of us cannot afford. Ironworkers and heavy punches can be used to shear, punch and blank work at rates hundreds of times faster than a team of smiths. Perfect tennons can be produced at rates of hundreds an hour on a lathe. Plasma torches and laser cutting have improved blanking to to where it is VERY advantageous to any class of smith.

Historicaly the "traditional" smith has been on the forefront of technology and has applied every new advantage to his work that did not change the quality of the final product.

There are many classes of work and there always will be. I agree that the very best decorative work has no arc welds. But there are many smiths that choose not to produce this class of work. That is their choice. I have friends that produce both classes of work and will argue with both over technique.

Which piece of work is best, the fabricated piece that has a first class three stage finish over a clean sandblasted surface, or the traditional piece that has a coat of paint slopped on over scale, coal plating and dirt?

One is the best in all respects of its class while the other MAY be the best in one respect but has been reduced to much less than the best in ITS class. To the specifying customer (the architect) and the final owner the piece that doesn't need constant maintaince or expensive insutu refinishing the piece that was the best in ALL respects will be the best in the end. Sadly, many smiths producing "traditional" work that they THINK is the highest class work, while looking down on the "fabricator", do not invest the same effort in a high quality low maintanence finish. They snobishly stick to "traditional" poor quality wax or oil non-finishes or let the customer finish the work. . . To me they have only done half a job. They have failed to carry through.

Many of those say that "paint ruins the work and hides the texture". To them I say, "Maybe YOUR paint ruins the work but rust will surely ruin the work."

Smiths that want to call their work the highest class need to learn to put as much thought and effort into the finish as into the forging.

There is also a school of thought that says forged should be hammered all over. One of the so called "top" smiths in the country is of this school. He uses a power hammer to "mark" his work all over. To the uneducated and the people that fall for his line of BS this "rustication" is a sign of quality work. To me this is just as phoney as the piece that is occasionaly marked with a ball pien hammer and has no forging at all. But phoneiness sold with a line of BS is what sells art today. I left the world of art because I do not believe good art should need to be sold with a line of BS. I found the same in blacksmithing and I will have no part of it here either.

So we all have our opinions of what constitutes "good" work. And there is much more to learn about the "process" than just swinging a hammer.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 17:54:51 GMT

Scrolls & CAD: Tim, I also have had problems with CAD programs and drawing scrolls. I did find one solution, however. I use TurboCAD 7 professional version and it has a "trace" command. I've only used it once, but it worked! First I scanned a scroll from a drawing in a book by "Shop Outfitters" in Wyoming. Then using the "Trace command" it automatically traced the scroll into my drawing. There I could it and place it. Somehow, it actually came into the drawing in the proper scale and I think if I scanned all of the scrolls in the book, I could come up with a complete library of various size scrolls. I haven't done that yet, but believe it will work.
Jack D. Davis  <hmds at pond.net> - Thursday, 02/01/01 18:06:15 GMT

Education: Matt, We have the same problem here. What makes anvilfire WORK is instant gratification. That is what everyone wants. Easy answers, NOW.

In the process of providing some of those answers we try to point the questioners to books that have more detailed answers. Some understand, many don't.

I have put myself in a position of needing a great deal of patience and also needing NOT to insult people. But it IS very tiresome when you have repeatedly answered the same question for the same person several times and you suggest they "read a book" and they respond, "I've read ALL the books. . ." Well. . . you KNOW they haven't. MAYBE they looked at the pictures. . . Those same folks rarely even look closely at what we provide here (for free).

This is not just a problem here. It plagues ALL American education. I don't know why but much of today's youth REALLY is different than that of MANY previous generations. Is it TV, hormones in fast food, societal changes? I don't know. But the so-called "crisis in education" is not just the system. It is also the kids in system.

But there are also those that REALLY want to learn and take our advice. So, we keep answering questions.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Thursday, 02/01/01 18:38:52 GMT

To all who pass on information and then get the "finger",
You are correct that wannabe's don't wannalearn. I've tried everything from forced readings to videos. New students walk into my welding class and immediatly announce to me their true intentions. Those that want to learn will do all that
is required and maybe more. Others come to class and immediatly demand that "I" find them a job simply because they are enrolled. My point is the same as Guru, MP and smudge have written... those that want to learn will do what ever it takes...the others just get by. Quality does rise to the top. It doesn't matter if it is traditional or contemporary. Every time you put your work up for the world to see, it has your name on it for as long as it and the memory of it last. When students bring me their work for grading the first thing I ask them is,"Would you pay your hard earned money for this?"
Steve R  <psrrfr at bellsouth.net> - Thursday, 02/01/01 19:08:11 GMT

Maybe I should add that anything that you do(even if you're the best in your field), the next should be even better.
Steve R  <psrrfr at bellsouth.net> - Thursday, 02/01/01 22:12:40 GMT

Phew, I am almost afraid to ask, but... I am trying to make some swages to fancy up collars, one side flat and one side fancy, now I wonder if it would be better to make this a top or bottom tool? or does it matter.

Also, I have a bench drill press from Chicago Machinery that says on both the name plate and the chuck that it is a
#2 1/2 JT. I assume this is a Jacob's taper, but two and a half? I can't find it in any books (yep. looked at pictures and read text and tables) The local tool dealers/industrial suppliers don't believe me when I say 2.5, and when I bring in chuck to show them, they all say "golly, ain't never seen that". I can't find a chuck to really fit it good (the why of this question). any info would be appreciated.
Tim - Friday, 02/02/01 00:29:39 GMT

I have been contracted (by my wife) to build the wrought iron fencing around our soon to be installed swimming pool. I have perused a number of catalogues hoping to find a book or video that might deal specifically with the topic of both the design and construction of wrought iron fencing and gates. Could you recommend anything?

Thank you,
Jeff Moffatt

Jerff Moffatt  <greenearth at falls.igs.net> - Friday, 02/02/01 00:35:04 GMT

Very little smithing content!

Wow, heavy hitting today! Can I chime in with a couple of thoughts and opinions? I like philosophy. I don't mean to offend either and I have not taken offense with any comments made. But I do disagree with how I perceive some of them. Pardon me if I took something wrong. I mean to offer an alternative perspectives to consider.

Nothing fake is satisfying to the maker. But if you have to put food in the kids bellies, make your best decision. If it's you or another able bodied adult who would suffer, don't give up your integrity. Get another profession.

NO ONE should be criticized for their methods unless they are being deceptive to the customer. Honesty and integrity must be upheld. But what qualifies any of us to judge "methods" negatively? Yes, I agree that just peening a piece all over does not make it a "traditional" forged piece. But maybe that's what the customer wants. And if the maker informs the buyer, who is hurt? A self named traditionalist? That traditionalist should remember that his view is OPINION, not fact. Even if it is widely held and I agree with it, it is still just OPINION! No one opinion is better than another. Bu we all have the right to have and express them respectfully.

Historic truth? What is that? Without the COMPLETE context of the situation, it is at best a guess. It is NOT truth. It is conjecture and opinion. Learn from history, but do not assume it to be exactly as presented. And please don't elevate past smiths above the realities of human nature. Past smiths met the needs and desires of the market, just like present day smiths do. The real difference is less communication. Because there was less communication, the customer had less options and the smith could enforce his desires to a greater degree on the customer. Personally, I like "Be the First to Accept the New, and the Last to Reject the Old"

Bruce, I would welcome your thoughts on history. Even if they disagree with mine.

Students will always have different desires and teachers will always have different preferred methods of teaching. What makes reading about smithing better than "doing" smithing? Almost every manual art student wants to "do" instead of read or talk. Whether it's masonry, or smithing, or machining or timber framing or ditch digging! That is not new. When a site like this was not available, and the books hadn't been written, how did one learn smithing? Face to face instruction will always be the best. And much better than reading. Communication has broadened the possibilities, but it HAS NOT necessarily made education better. If the accepted task at hand is to transfer knowledge from teacher to student, then how could you do it more effectively than doing it in the method that is most fun for the student? If you don't have time, then simply admit that and offer alternatives (such as reading or schools, etc.) But don't take it out on the student if the problem is really that you don't have time. Let it go, man. And move on. Also remember that you can't truly learn a manual art like smithing until you DO it. You can't get it all from a book or a web site. If you don't have the time or inclination to show it to them, send them to read getting started and suggest they get a rudimentary anvil, hammer, chunk of steel and DO it. Carefully at first, and safely. There is nothing wrong with that.

Just don't turn the willing student off with criticism of how they want to learn. That would be EXTREMELY disrespectful on the teachers part and achieves nothing.

Personally, I enjoy nothing more than showing someone how to do something sucessfully. And I enjoy it more when the student is having fun. I will adapt my methods to what the student wants. I don't always have time either, and I'll just tell them so. And if someone is asking disrespectfully, I will certainly tell them so and probably never help them.

Guru, I agree, you have put yourself in a position where you should exercise patience. And I for one, think you do an outstanding job with some of the inane and repetitive questions. Heck, some of them probably came from ME a year ago. I agree that we all WANT instant gratification to some degree. But not everyone is offended when they are sent off to read or research. Many are OK with that and enjoy the result. Anvilfire works without instant gratification too. I hope I am an example of that. In fact, I'd say it works BETTER without instant gratification. It must, however, offer near instant PROGRESS and hopefully encouragement toward the goal of those asking. And you and others and "Anvilfire" does that very well. Not everyone intuitively searches an entire site or monitors a mailing list or BB before asking questions. Take heart! I'd guess that much more than half are quite grateful with what they receive here. You and others DO help many. It's easy to remember the low life scum who are disrespectful. But many of those same people would give a different impression if the questions had sound and facial inflection instead of just text. THAT may be one of the real problems. Face to face communication is MUCH more respectful on average than just text or even voice. The medium is partly to blame. Human nature takes the rest of the blame and none of us can change that. Video internet will help immensely. But do we really want that? Or do we prefer to be slightly "removed" from the audience? I know how I would answer.

Foreign markets: I don't think we should be criticizing the foreign worker. I've spent much time with many of them and with the possible exception of middle class Mexico, they want the same things we all do. To not be hungry, have shelter, make life better for them and their kids, and make a good product they can be proud of. What we need to criticize, and loudly, is the scum that are making a mint off their labor without adding value. I don't design and build plants and equipment for foreign factories any more because I was unwittingly helping some of the scum make their money. I'll welcome the opportunity for a foreign smith to sell his wares at a fair price in any market if he gets the profit. And I'd say the same about foreign engineering competition. Even if it means that my standard of living goes down. I can't hold down someone who is willing to work just as hard as me and is willing to get paid less for it. But I WILL actively try to hold down the profiteering scum who are making the profit on the workers back unfairly. There will be some dilution of quality. Whether it's engineering or smithing. The market decides what level of quality is required. If there is no market, it must become a hobby or history. I don't want to see that happen, but I recognize the reality. I like to see high standards maintained as much or more than 95% of the population. But there's the rub. The 95% won't listen to me and MY opinions.

There, that was fun! I truly hope no one takes offense. Certainly, none is intended.

Darn, I typed and edited so long, I have no time to forge anymore tonight! Oh well.

Tony  <tca_b at milwpc.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 00:53:28 GMT

Heated topics - Okay keep it clean. Its like reading the newspaper. Sorry had to sasomething...
Barney  <barney at vianet.on.ca> - Friday, 02/02/01 02:47:24 GMT

Scientific American for January of 2001, as those of you who have been paying attention already know, has a crisp, well-illustrated piece on
damascus. The article includes a nifty step-by-step how-to showing how to cook a billet and then the forging of a damascus knife blade. Why am I telling you all this? Because:
The authors posted another version on the web that has even more metallurgical detail. The address: http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/9809/Verhoeven-9809.html
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 03:39:15 GMT

I have an old anvil (about 140 lbs) that is quite rounded off at the edges. I'd like to have sharp edges to work with. Is it OK to weld a bead of hard face on the edge and grind it to shape? Or is there another reasonable solution? I've read about how historically a new surface plate could be forged onto an anvil, but that's way beyond me.
Doug Parker  <parker at montana.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 03:54:23 GMT

Polishing swords the old-fashioned way: Fine emery and oil, ashes, diatomaceous earth, fine pumice on a wet rag… There are dozens of ways to get that mirror finish. The question is how much time do you have? Children? Apprentices? Doing things the old way is sure, but SLOW. Is the long game worth your candle? There are some good references in The Sword in Anglo-Saxon England by H. R. Ellis Davidson © 1962; corrected print 1994 by the Boydell Press, Woodbridge; ISBN 0-85115-355-0. Try your bookstore, library or inter-library loan.

History: History is at least as malleable as wrought iron. New research leads to new theories. Theories come and go. What seems an inevitable process of history doesn't pan out after all. (Just ask a former Marxist.) History was just a good story back in grade school. It also serves as a great teacher, or as a political weapon. It's a tool for understanding how we got where we are, and like any tool, it can be misused. Many tools make dandy weapons.

I can toss off lines like: "Where did my Viking heritage come from? Well; conquering populations are always free with their genetic material." From a perspective of a thousand years, it's funny. Applied to the Balkans, it's tragic. But at least it makes people think.

I agree with Tony: to understand the actions of our ancestors you must understand the context of the times. When failure results in the lack of food for your family, you get VERY conservative with new techniques. This is why people in a subsistence economy tend to hold with the old ways. The new ways have to be proven to them before they take the chance.

I mess with very early techniques because that is where my interests lay. When I can make a spearhead or shield boss that an Anglo-Saxon wouldn't take a second look at, then I'm on the right track. But this is a luxury. I have a "good gummint job" to pay the bills (and my wife said to keep working 'till all the kids college loans are paid). If I were to do this full time, I would certainly spend the time and money to put in the power for the free arc welder that I was given. Amo, amas, amat: amateur! We do it for love. Doing it for a living, you do what you must do. If you pull a gig at a National Park or Williamsburg, that's wonderful. But being a starving artist does not endear you to your spouse, your children, or the rest of the family and community.

It's late and I have another day near Foggy Bottom ahead.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone (Atli)  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Friday, 02/02/01 04:20:48 GMT


Well said. I especially liked:

> Doing it for a living, you do what you must do.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 04:37:05 GMT

Jacobs 2-1/2: Tim, There is a #2 short taper that is listed between #2 and #3 so I suppose someone might call it a 2-1/2. McMaster-Carr lists two keyless Jasobs chucks to fit a J2S taper. A JKP 80-J2S and JKT 80-J2S.

You owe me half of whatever you bet on that one!

Your collar tool is easy. Make it a bottom tool. If you have a power hammer don't put a shank on it. . The easy way to make a "die" for that is to arc weld three pieces of round stock side by side. A 1/4" in the middle and two 3/16" pieces on either side (OR whatever suits your fancy). Sink it into the block, dress the side edges gently with a file. The ends should be heavily radiused to prevent marking the stock.

As a bottom tool you can use it to support the collar while closing it. It also doesn't take three hands to use. .
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 04:38:56 GMT

Anvil Plate: Doug, We've answered that question several times this week alone. Search on the bold key words shown. Or start at the top, this is only a week's worth of posts. The short answers, NO, NO and you are right.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 04:52:01 GMT

Guru, I would like to apologize, I'm not sure how this message got posted on this forum, it was meant for V.hammer in. Thank you all for your thoughtful and thought provoking responses. In specific, Tony, MP, Guru and Bruce.
I would like to clear up a few things.


I do not lay blame to or critice foriegn workers, but rather the attitudes and beliefs that have led to sweat shops and other nefarious practices. And yes, I believe that if we could all talk face to face to face we would not have to contend with so much anger and so many knee jerk reactions. I am sincerely respectful of every person, especially those engaged in working iron in any capacity. (For one thing if we were in my shop you would be able to see all my modern equipment and this myth of "self titled traditionalist would dissolve :) )


I did not name anyone on this site. I am not even speaking of individuals but rather prevalant attitudes. I am deeply sorry that I have offended you and I hope you understand that these comments were not directed at any one person.

To reiterate:
My issue is not with the whole to arc weld or not to arc weld thing! Methods do not matter. Individual peices do not matter. Ultimately, quality does not matter. The approach matters. And some new comers to this site are left with the distinct impression that "traditionalism" no matter how hard it is to spell fast or define, is a simple four letter word.
smudge  <mccarthymp at hotmail.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 14:34:51 GMT

Bob: Charcoal vs. Mineral Coal

You may want to take a look through the archives as I know there have been large amounts written on this topic. Basically, Mineral is denser and therefore can give off a higher BTU per volume. It is a little cheaper, depending on your source of coal. The forge fire with mineral requires a little more finesse and control as the "green" coal will coke and the coke is what you are actually forging with.

Charcoal is much lighter and so burns more quickly (a good day of forging can burn through 100#+ of good charcoal). There aren't many colliers around making the stuff anymore, often only for restaurant use. However, if you have the wood and a barrel, you can make yourself. Your forge fire will be a bit wilder, when you need more coal you just dump another shovel full on top of the fire. At least this is how I was taught. Another benefit is that the smoke produced smells like a barbecue, so a little less offensive to the neighbors.

In short, you can do everything in Charcoal that you can in Mineral Coal. But most find that Mineral Coal when controlled well, heats metal easier and faster.

Just my little blurb.
tom  <don'tspam.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 14:57:47 GMT

Why sharp edges? I suspect that you will find teh rounded edges better in the long run. Also sharp edges will be where your anvil will chip amd break.
I have one tiny spot on my anvil with a 'sharp' edge it is about 3/4" long down near the hardie hole(no not on the hardie but on the the edge but near the heel)
the rest of the edges are rounded with varying radii.
Also you can and should make a hordie tool. A block that has
all teh crisp sharp edges you will need.
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Friday, 02/02/01 15:41:04 GMT

just to add to what tom has already mentioned: Ive forged with both, though not charcoal extensively, and definitely agree that the fire with coal is much easier to control, Also, and I could be wrong about this, I think the bottom tuyere forge was developed for coal. Never having burned charcoal in a side draft forge, I cant be sure, but I have heard from others, thats the way to go.
smudge  <mccarthymp at hotmail.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 16:39:02 GMT

Discussion: Smudge, not a problem. Occasionaly discussions such as this spill over from wherever. I rarely check the Hammer-In (too busy elsewhere) and probably would not have seen it. There is no need to appologize.

I'm sorry if it appears we have done less than we should to support traditional techniques. I'm afraid some of this is my failure to find time to write the articles I've wanted since the beginning on using modern techniques to produce traditional work. However, in the end this subject comes down to quality of work. Traditional techniques can be used to produce bad work as well as modern, though I will admit it is harder to do. But I also think that if you look at all our iForge demos you will find that most of them (thanks to Bill Epps) apply traditional technique. On the other hand, many of our tool making demos apply whatever methods get the job done.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 17:44:45 GMT

Yes a side draft was used mostly for charcoal.... But I am sure it carried over during the transition form charcoal to coal.... As we know tool developement takes time. And a forge is a tool....
I know it takes a different approach to maintaining a coal fire in a side draft..... But I like them. But I also like the bottom draft....

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Friday, 02/02/01 18:14:48 GMT

I'm curious about how the different specs on blacksmithing coal are interrelated. Is there any relationship between a high Free Swell Index and the type of clinker produced, relationship between volatiles and free carbon percentages, relationship between free carbon percentage and BTU content, etc. I ask because I am testing out a new coal source, and some of the specs are pretty decent and others differ quite a bit from other coal sources. Finally, of all the different factos in evaluating one coal against another, how high on the scale is Free Swell Index against other factors, such as high BTU content and low sulfur content?
Bob Rackers - Friday, 02/02/01 19:17:32 GMT

I feel I must disagree with some of the things you said.
First: "a good day of forging can burn through 100#+ of good charcoal" I watched the primitive forging demo at abana and the demonstrator forged for 3 hours on no more than about 6# of mesquite charcoal. He had no problem controlling the fire and it is easily purchased in large sacks at restaurant supply stores.
Second: "Mineral is denser and therefore can give off a higher BTU per volume. It is a little cheaper, depending on your source of coal" Here in So. Cal. Coal is $24 for 50# that works out to $960 per ton. We can get high-grade mesquite charcoal for about $15 per 100# this works out to $300 per ton. Quite a difference don't you think?
Third: "Your forge fire will be a bit wilder" There wasn't anything Wild about the fire I saw, it takes a forge designed for charcoal though, as one for coal isn't near deep enough. Also as has been said, you need a side blast instead of a bottom blast.

You and I agree when you said, "Another benefit is that the smoke produced smells like a barbecue, so a little less offensive to the neighbors." Not only does it smell like a barbecue, you can throw a grill over it when you are done forging or are hungry and cook lunch or dinner over it! TRY THAT with a coal fire!

Don't get me wrong, I forge with a coal fire but I have seen that the comments that you made here are not "necessarily" true.
Wayne Parris  <benthar at pacbell.net> - Friday, 02/02/01 20:04:10 GMT

I was heating a piece of steel I'd gotten from a coil spring. Curious to see what color it would be when it converted from magnetic to non-magnetic, I was very surprised to see that even when it was barely red (almost black heat), it was just becoming magnetic. This was done outside in the near darkness, so I was pretty shocked. I thought that it would have had to have been a much brighter, easily visible red for that transition point. The magnet was very attracted to the steel at the cool end, and I just kept moving it up until it stopped attracting. Any thoughts?
Bob Rackers - Friday, 02/02/01 20:30:24 GMT

Coal: Bob, I never heard of "Free Swell Index". My coal data charts don't list it either.

The best blacksmithing coal is high BTU, has enough volitiles to coke well, the ash content is low but also melts and coalesses, the sulfur content should be as low as possible.

High volatile coal uses a lot of BTU to evaporate the volatiles. In a furnace the volatiles burn and create heat but in a forge they burn above the fire bed and do not contribute to heating the metal. However, SOME volitiles are required to coke properly.

Loose ash contaminates fresh coal. So it is best if the ash has some low temperature melting silicas so that it produces a glassy clinker.

The best coal has a high enough BTU value that a mear handful in a clean firepot will create a welding heat almost immediately. YES, there is such coal. Everything from there on is down hill.

In comparison almost all charcoal is a uniform fuel. The diference being the density of the fuel. Hardwoods make a slightly denser charcoal than softwoods. However, as mentioned above mineral coal is much denser than charcoal. It takes a much greater VOLUME of charcoal to do the same work as coal but pound for pound the BTU of the carbon is much closer. Many folks confuse the volume of charcoal needed with the poundage.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 20:57:07 GMT

Would like to know best filler/joining wire or rod for cor10 steel. (the stuff Albert Paley uses)
woodrow  <slagcity at yahoo.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 23:08:47 GMT

Cor10: Woodrow, Your question is in last week's archives (January 22-31). I gave an answer and Cracked gave a very specific answer with lots of references.

Load the archive, click on it, then use your browser's search routine to search for cor10 and COR-TEN.

Things move fast here!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 23:19:31 GMT

Non-Mag point: Bob, Yep you have been overheating your steel when you quench it! NOTE: The transition point going UP is different than coming DOWN. Don't confuse the two. But the quench point is still a lot lower than most people think.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 23:27:39 GMT

Coal vs. Charcoal. Since Wayne jumped in..... I use lump hardwood charcoal from Grove Charcoal in Cedar Grove WI. 920.668.8080 I just worked out a better deal with them a while back, but I still pay more than Wayne does. I'd guess that buying from Centaur, if I picked it up in quantity, I would be just a little cheaper with the dino coal. Wayne, that's a darn good price. I forged all day last Saturday on 1" stock average and I don't turn the blast off between heats. I went through about 20 pounds max of charcoal. I suspect I could have economized that down to 10 pounds, but I like a big fire. There is nothing that I would consider wild about the fire. Unless I turn the air way up. Then I can spread the fire all over! (grin) The sparks are there, but they are nothing more than bright bits of dust. Nothing substantial and even if they get in my eyes, I don't notice since they have no real mass. I clean out my tweer about once every 30 hours of forging. I use a bottom draft forge and shape the pile with big fire brick. Sometimes I add it on the top, sometimes I add it on the edge. Depends on the work. I also don't have a hood. Charcoal is about 9000 btu's per pound and good bituminous coal is about 13,000 btu's per pound. Round numbers. I have been able to forge anything I want with charcoal so far. I melted the end off a big file in well under a minute a few days ago. And my son and I have a tradition now of having dinner or lunch while we play. Hot dogs or chops or small steaks, etc. We use hand forged forks of course! And I don't have to worry about a 12 year olds lungs. That's worth a bunch to me. Everything has it's plus and minus.

Good weekend all!
Tony  <tca_b at milwpc.com> - Friday, 02/02/01 23:35:43 GMT

I just bought an 85# anvil which has a marking "MP 85" on it. That is the only marking I can find. It has a long curved horn. Just wondering if the MP 85 indicates the manufacturer. This anvil looks like one solid piece, no plate welded on top. One square hardy hole 2 same size prichtel holes. Looks like a well made anvil and is in excellent shape.
azdoug  <dendrud at earthlink.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 01:25:42 GMT

I have a set of copper cookware that needs retinning. Can you recommend a place in Orlando or thereabout that could do it? Thanks
Beth  <bd2you at iol14.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 04:59:41 GMT

I believe the Free Swell Index is another name for Coking button.
I should have been more specific in my questions, so I'll try to rephrase them. I assume that the higher the volatiles, then the lower the free carbon, correct? I'm also wondering if a higher coking button is related to the amount or type of clinker a given coal produces, considering they are both related to a coal's "fusibility". Or is there no relationship whatsoever between clinker that masses together and coking button? I also assume that everything else being equal, the higher the free carbon, the higher the BTU content? And the last question was of all the different factors in evaluating one coal against another, how high on the scale is the coking button against other factors, such as high BTU content and low sulfur content?
Bob Rackers - Saturday, 02/03/01 08:01:32 GMT

Guru, I was curious about the magnet test as far as determining quenching temperature, for this reason. I believe Machinery's Handbook lists somewhere around 1410F - 1430F as the proper quenching temperature 1095.
My references tell me that temperature is EASILY in the visible red range, though off the top of my head I can't recall exactly. It should have been high enough for me to see it red in the daylight. However, this steel was at a black heat before it began to become magnetic. Are you saying the range is so large that I can heat something to non-magnetic in the red range, and I can quench it any time before that black heat (where it begins to become magnetic) and it will harden correctly? That's a huge temperature range, it's hard to believe the transition zone is that large.
Bob Rackers - Saturday, 02/03/01 08:09:46 GMT

Following the good Guru's teachings, I put a solid steel (6" X 9") built-up column from the floor to the treadle hammer anvil. the extra rigid mass sure makes a difference. I often use a 3/4" diameter set of spring fullers to do heavier drawing and it works pretty well.
Pete F  <artgawk at thegrid.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 08:35:46 GMT

Alright then! I already know I'm a fool so Ill go ahead and ask the foolish question! :) As I stated above I use both coal and charcoal, though not the char very frequently. My question is this: When I remove the iron from fire while using the charcoal, it seems to give off a kind of thin white smoke. While not particularly noxious, it definately cant be breathed enjoyably. What the heck is that? Its happens with all types of iron and continues even if I scrape or whire brush the piece!??! Does this go on with anyone else? Anyone know what it is? I am working with homemade stuff here (55 gal. Retort style) does that make a difference? Any insight would appreciated...
smudge  <mccarthymp at hotmail.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 11:47:54 GMT

I am new but very interested in working steel with a forge. I have been a welder for many years. The ornamental work is my main intrest. I am needing to build a forge that will be usefull in forging iron to make beds. I need a propane forge
that work longer & larger radious. there's so much information out there and I am ancious to get started.
steve  <koss at southwind.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 13:22:00 GMT

Guru and Cracked Thank you.Will contact Mr chen.You know what i am thinking.I want the right rust all over.You are verry fast fore sure.
Woodrow  <slagcity at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 14:22:23 GMT

I would like to know where I can go to repair a cast iron lawn chair that is put outside. It broke apart on one of the legs. Or can I do it myself and with what.
Ralph  <DMarianne at aol.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 15:52:48 GMT

I have a 50 lb little giant hammer. Can any one direct me to drawings or pics, on net, of the most handy dies-tooling for this rig.Have some nice chunks of FX,A2,and S7 I need To use before I leave the shop im woking at.
Regarding traditional black smithing.I have always thought it works best with 24oz mason jars of dark home brew.But i still wear safety glases.
Woodrow  <slagcity at yahoo.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 16:14:08 GMT

Retinning: Beth, Be sure who ever you find has experiance with this task. I had a fellow insist I try it on his old copper kettle. It told him there was a VERY high probibility that we would screw it up and that I would prefer NOT to do it. He pestered me until I finaly gave up and tried. . . The results were one of the worst failures that I've ever had. Not only did I ruin the pot but an old friendship.

If your cookware is the heavy expensive French stuff I would call the factory (yes in France) and get their recommendation.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 16:34:07 GMT

Hammer dies: Woodrow, The type of tooling that is handiest is that which is needed for the specific job you are doing. Otherwise combination dies are handiest on this hammer. Flat on one half and a gentle drawing surface on the other. The radius can be machined from a center point about 1/2" form the seating surface of the dies. It should have a slight flat at the center.

The next handiest tooling is a clamp on fixture to hold bottom dies. This can be bolted to the sow block and use set screws to hold the die block over the flat end of the die.

If you use clamp on tooling be sure scale does not collect between the tooling and the die surface. The scale can wear the die surface.

Interchangable dies and hand held tooling for low production can be made of mild steel. Shapes for producing fancy bar stock can be made by setting a master into a heated die block. Quick and dirty tooling gets the job done. Much pre-made tooling without specific purpose sits on the shelf and rusts.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 16:47:43 GMT

Broken cast iron: Ralph, Cast iron can be repaired by several methods. The most dependable is to have it brazed back together. This requires oxy-acetylene welding equipment and experiance.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 16:53:17 GMT

Gas Forge & Long bends: Steve, Finite size is always a limiting factor with gas and oil forges. Even with open coal forges there is a limit to the size heat one can produce.

Long bends are often produced cold on a fixture or weld platen. Sometimes they are bent in a tire bender (rolls). Many long cold bends are made in short bites in a press of Hossfeld type bender with press style dies and levers.

When long bens must be heated they are often done carefully using short heats. In this case the forge needs front and back doors. OR a rosebud is used. Many long gas forges can produce heats up to 30" or so. However, once bent, forget putting the piece back into the forge.

Gas and oil forges consume fuel at a rate proportional to their size. Large forges use a large amount of fuel all the time. It dosn't matter if you are heating a piece 1/4" square or a 3" square billet. Fuel consumption is the same. So most shops using gas forges have several sizes. The majority of work can be done in a small forge and ALL work when you are learning needs nothing larger than a something like an NC-TOOL Whisper Momma.

Our plans page has a burner design and that page has links to other forge plans.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 17:33:46 GMT

sounds like you are using partially chared coal Smudge. Good charcoal is CLEAN burning a blue flame and no smoke (some water vapour in beginning sometimes). If charcoal smokes or leaves deposits it is not good for your health as the smoke is most likely creosote like in composure.
I use alder, pine... (the scientific names and some more woods are in a posting from me in virtual-hammerin or latest archive thereof).
some woods are NEVER going to be good coal, willow to mention one, they will either be ashes OR chared wood. I have no idea why but that is the way I have found it.
sorry if it is no help.
OErjan  <pokerbacken at angelfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 17:40:32 GMT

Non-Mag point: Bob, The non-mag (A3) point on a rising heat is as high as 1700°F for wrought iron. However it starts at (A2) 1430°F for all steels. For 60 point carbon steel the A2 and A3 points coincide. Above 60 point carbon the A3 point is less than the magnetic point (A2) until 85 point carbon then the A3 point spikes upward.

The point is, you always harden on a RISING heat. The non-magnetic point is a good approximation of the hardening point on a RISING heat. If you want exact temperatures then you need a thermocouple and guage.

An orange heat cannot be seen in direct sunlight, a low red cannot be seen in normal outdoor daylight. When judging temperature by color the ambient light is EVERYTHING. The only way it works is with consistancy of ambient light. That is why I try not to use any of the long list of color terms made up over the years (sunrise red, lemon yellow. . ). They mean nothing. Most of us that work in bright shops go by the feel of the iron under the hammer rather than by color.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 18:00:01 GMT

Guru,Thanks for explaining the quench on a rising heat. Many of us do this without thinking about quench as the heat in the metal is dropping. Something else that can be passed on.
Rutterbush  <psrrfr at bellsouth.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 18:27:58 GMT

Charcoal: I think OErjan is right. It sounds like creosote deposits that are burning off or evaporating when pulled from the fire.

Woods that don't coal are fairly common. In most cases they are also lousy firewood. We have two local woods that I am not sure what one is that do not burn well or coal. Tulip poplar leaves a LOT of ash. A local white wood (very tough, rough grey bark) leaves an ash the same shape as the log. . produces very little heat. I suspect it is a low cellulose wood that is mostly water and mineral.

Sappy pine heart wood needs to be coaled longer and hotter than other woods to burn off the resiny sap that makes creosote. The problem with creosote deposites is that they look just like charcoal. . It can also condense in charcoal in the cooler parts of the retort.

Although charcoal has less variables than mineral coal it is made from a wide variety of woods that take different handling.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 18:28:00 GMT

It was at least a couple of years ago that Mr. Chen sent me that material re CorTen. He may well have been promoted or moved on in the interim. Point is,though, the company, US Steel, does have a tech dept. that can provide all the specs and advice necessary.
Cracked Anvil  <cracked at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 18:42:09 GMT

Guru , I'm making a leaf veiner finally. Can you give me somes tips for putting in the veining ? Cold chisel ? Dremel? I don't need shortcuts , just good veining. Thanks
Pein  <iforgeit at prodigy.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 19:12:29 GMT

How big is the practical difference in fuel-consumption between charcoal and coal? I´m guessing at about 3 units of charcoal to one coal, wich would make charcoal marginally more expensive to me but my welds and my nostrils cleaner . All coal in this country is imported and burdened with all kinds of taxes to such a degree that im considering switching to charcoal, wich, sofar, isn´t as regulated. (Better encrypt this message in case RSV - our IRS - is monitoring)
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Saturday, 02/03/01 19:46:18 GMT

Grooves: Pein, I don't use one of these prefering to use other methods. However, look at nature, some viens are nearly half round raised bars while others are simple folds. However, the raised portion is normaly on the BACK of the leaf. .

When die making I use whatever tools seem best for the job. Most common leaf vieners are cut hot with a cold chisle. If I'm making a die in tool steel I do a lot of hand finishing.

This is a bad time of year for it (at least in the East) but if you want to REALLY make leaves go pick some off trees and study them. I went to a demo last spring where Michael Walker was making a variety of leaves (News Vol 17. p.6). Most were large things cut from 1/8" plate and veining was created by folding.

What most of us make are symbolic little leaves that have little to do with reality. Those "V" cut viening tools are more of that.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 20:10:15 GMT

Olle. You are partly right; charcoal is by volume 1/3-1/4 of the fuel value. BUT if we go by weight charcoal is equal to good bituminous. So prized by weight it looses much of it’s disadvantage.
AND despite what some say it burns AS hot (checked with pyrometer several times in several forges) as bituminous. Difference is that it needs deeper firebed about 50mm (2”). It actually burned hotter in some cases. The reason I was given when asking a engineer at copper plant (he is working with developing furnaces and has some little knowledge) was that the surface is about equal in both and as only that can burn...
The "roof" formed by bituminous wont do much to increase heat quite opposite (less are actually burns). BUT it will keep the heat IN. The difference is taken away by the insulating properties of charcoal and the deeper fire.
The test was not scientific but convinced ME (and yes we switched forges after a while and after letting them cool and cleaned them out. Not much change when right air for greatest temp was used.)
OErjan  <see above> - Saturday, 02/03/01 21:14:40 GMT

Two Johnson Gas Blacksmith Forges on eBay. One is item number:


The other is Item Number:


I won't tell you the prices, you wouldn't believe me. If you are interested, go take a look. These units develop 370,000 BTU.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 21:17:06 GMT

BTW, the interior dimensions on these forges are:

27" X 8" X 7"

So you can heat a BIG billet in them!
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Saturday, 02/03/01 21:35:24 GMT

Guru, there's been several questions in the past about clear paint for ironwork. No, I haven't used it. If someone does use it I would like to hear about it. I've got customers that request the natural iron look.

A polyurethane that was developed for billboard sign painters. It has a 5 year outdoor life.
It can be obtained by contacting
Matthews Paint
Lakeview Corporate Park
8201 100th Street
Kenosha, WI 53124
Matthews Acrylic Polyurethane
Rutterbush  <psrrfr at bellsouth.net> - Saturday, 02/03/01 23:19:45 GMT

Hi. I am doing research on blacksmith wages in colonial america. Can anyone help me? I have had no luck! Thanks!
Neil  <stcyr008 at aol.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 00:34:30 GMT

I have a piece of inconel 600, 3/8 X 1-3/4 X 11" that I would like too use as a knike blade. Would this be a wise choice, and how well would it hold an edge? Any information would be helpful.
Jim  <rosevalley at home.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 01:03:27 GMT

Neil: Check out the Bookshelf and the 21st Century Blacksmith Page here, and then go to the links page and check out Saugus Ironworks and Hopewell Furnace under National Historic Sites. When you've finished these sites, click on the NPS "bookstore" link at either of them and see what books are available. Assuming that your paper isn't due Monday (which I'm sure it's not, you being a conscientious student and all) take a list of the most interesting books you've seen to your local library. If there are any of them that are not there at the library, ask for an inter-library loan. In about two weeks of study, you could know as much about Colonial Blacksmithing as most of the blacksmiths you'll ever run into (after all, we read the same books). I'm sure others will add to these suggestions. Good luck on your studies.

More Charcoal Tricks: I read somewhere (see above ;-) that one method used by blacksmiths using charcoal to "hold in" the temperature during a weld was to place a piece of sheet iron over the charcoal. I've tried it and it really does seem to work. Of course when your at welding heat you burn charcoal at a prodigious rate, so it doesn't pay to dawdle, or the fire will burn hollow faster than you would suspect.

One modern Japanese sword smith would cut his pine charcoal by hand into little cubes. Since he was the one that the government chose to establish the proper rate at which swords could be made, everybody else was limited to his production rate, part of which involved the time needed for cutting …little…cubes……of…… pine…… charcoal……… by…………… hand.

Damp and cold on the banks of the lower Potomac.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Go viking with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone (Atli)  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Sunday, 02/04/01 02:10:46 GMT

I would like to know how you take new clean metal and how to get a overall rusty finish on it as is popular today in alot of the metal arts. IE: Western art, bed frames??????
Mike H.  <Rznqtrhrs at aol.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 04:46:56 GMT

Last week I asked you for advice because I was having trouble forge welding with my mini mapp gas forge. Your advise was excellent. Finally got time to try your suggestions today. It is difficult to express the joy I felt when that first glob of hot flux landed on my nose as I began hammering the hot metal. Knew I was begining to do it right. I had more fun today than a two peckered billy goat. Thanks again for the excellent advise.
Russ  <wwrrsmith at mediaone.net> - Sunday, 02/04/01 06:31:58 GMT

Hey, this site is expanding my vocabulary.... (GRIN)
Olle Andersson  <utgaardaolle at ebox.tninet.se> - Sunday, 02/04/01 12:01:42 GMT

Paint: Rutterbush, The top coat in painting ironwork is almost irrevelent. The important parts are 1) surface preparation (the cleaning to absolute bare metal with tooth), 2) primiming with something that HEALS when scratched (Galvanizing hot or cold), 3) a neutral primer that doesn't chemicaly react with the galvanizing or the pigments in the top coat. I recommend cold galvanizing because it doesn't require further special surface treatment and primer other than the neutral primer.

The top coat over the primer can be almost anything but the longer the life the better. Good automotive lacquer has a 10 to 25 year life. Notice I said Good. Newer lacquers that require clear top coats have had a kinds of problems. A 5 year finish is a joke in architectural work.

However, with the above multiprocess finish if the top coat fails the work does not rust. A sloppy brushed finish of any kind over the old finish and you are good as new.

I will also note that one of the purveyors of wrought iron makes all the old claims about corrosion resistance but then recommends striping to bare metal and repaining every 5 years. Almost nobody is going to do that. So when it rusts he can ask, "Did you refinish according to instructions?".

Refinished every 5 years plain carbon steel will hold up as long as wrought. However modern customers will not accept that high level of maintenance. Wax and oil finishes need yearly (or more often) refinishing.

The only "natural" look to iron is rust. Rusted to dust.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 17:26:35 GMT

Rust: Mike, Chlorox bleach applied outdoors. Its fast so don't turn your back on it. Rinse well then neutralize with mild acid (dilute white vinegar) then neutralize THAT with a solution of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in water. Rinse and dry again. Keep oil free before applying a clear finish of your choice.

Typical day on the ol' guru page. How to keep it from rusting and how to rust as fast as possible in side by side posts. . . ;-)

Always experiment on a sample before applying chemical finishes.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 17:33:21 GMT

SPAM: This morning I was spammed by someone selling safety glasses. This mail was targeted at the blacksmithing community so I expect many of you recieved the same mail. I recieved numerous coppies of the same mail. . .

I reported the spam to AOL and to the on-line store host safeshopper.com. Safeshopper bounced my mail. This means that they support SPAM. The best way to reduce spam is to NEVER, EVER purchase from spammers. Even if you want or need the product. There is always somewhere else you can obtain the product.

Please note that I recommend the TYPE of porduct being sold. You can purchase these products at welding and safety suppliers. Note that expensive Didymium glasses are not needed by smiths but the light green should be worn in place of clear saftey glasses. Those doing lots of forge welding should consider the lenses with cobalt which filters more UV and infrared than the green. Both types are available to fit most popular safety glasses.

Please note that most safety glasses (such as those distributed to visitors at plants and ABANA meetings) are very poor protection for the actual worker. Our local foundries insist on glasses with snug fitting side screens. These are the best protection to flying sputter balls and grinding swarf. Yes, these are ugly but they WORK. They can be pruchased in various frame sizes so they FIT and with various lenses. The green filter type sold as "flash" lenses are the best for general forge and welding shop wear.
NOTE that OSHA requires flash glasses for all welders (under their helmet) and for other workers working in the general area. One of our "group" here, who was assisting a welder, would have avoided serious eye burns if he had been wearing flash glasses.

If you are interested in purchasing safety glasses on-line Centaur Forge carries some types. If you are interested in the specific type I described above, let me know and I will put them in our store.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 18:24:49 GMT

Wages in Colonial America: Neil, outside of the references listed by Bruce you have to consider your question. Today "wages" indicates a standard pay or pay per hour. There was no such thing for blacksmiths in the Colonial Era, nor is there now. The Colonial smith set his own rates and more jobs would have been bartered than paid for in cash. He was much more likely to take goods or services in trade than to take cash (in British units, Pounds, shillings). Everything from firewood and charcoal to chickens and eggs. Anything needed or that HE could use in trade.

In the Southern states he was also likely to trade for tobacco and to take payment at harvest time. Just prior to the American Revolution the economy was heavily based on debt and credit. Depts owed to businesses, private individuals and especialy to British Merchants. Remember, the British saw the colonies as sources of cheap raw materials and an outlet for manufactured goods. A balance of trade designed to keep the colonies in dept.

A little known piece of our history is the fact that after the Revolution, British Merchants went to court in America to collect debts incurred before the Revolution. In many cases the amounts due had been paid to the states and the states used the money to finance the Revolution. American patriots felt that the British had but them in a position where they could not pay the debts AND via the war had destroyed the capability to pay. They refused to pay these debts.

The new U.S. government allowed these cases because of our insistance that that we would have rule of law. At one time the government under George Washington made a payment of two million dollars to the British government to settle the suits, however the suits continued.

The really sad part of this business was that the most notable of the patriots were the targets of these cases and continously hounded by the British merchants. Patrick Henry was debating these cases until his death (1818 I think). In many cases the debts were taken out of the patriots estate after his death leaving widows and children with little or nothing.

In most cases our history books celebrate the Revolution with a happy ending. But for those that fought the hardest for our government and rule of law, the government abandoned them and the rule of law was used against them to assure there was no happy end.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Sunday, 02/04/01 19:12:54 GMT

I have just started up my own smithy, and finally have things working right, but I have come across a problem. I have no cut-off hardies or hole punch hardies (I have several that can be used by hand, but it is a bit hard to do so with only 2 hands). Any suggestions of what I can do? I don't currently have any stock that would work well for making my own, and I dont gave much skill in working thicker pieces of steel yet.
Sam  <vulanth at mindspring.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 01:25:27 GMT

Hardies: Sam, We have several iForge type demos on making hardie tools. Mine on using RR rail includes making a hardy.

Generaly you do not use hardy type tools for punching, you use plain punches. Most smiths just juggle the steel or support it with their leg. You need an adjustable stand to support long work. Some smiths fabricate spring or foot operated hold downs but I have little use for them.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 02:06:46 GMT

We are happy to introduce a NEW series on anvilfire.
The serial publication of the novel, The Revolutionary Blacksmith by Jim Paw-Paw Wilson.
This month we start with the Introduction and Chapter 1 of this historical romance.

Look for it on our new Anvilfire Story Page
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 02:18:45 GMT

Jock, do you or anyone know of a video called Power Hammer Forgeing Techniques", by a person named Clifton Rauch (This spelling is most likely wrong). Dave Manzer mentions it in the tape I just received from you on the Powerhammer Cycle.
robert (Rocker) Hensarling  <rhrocker at hilconet.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 04:01:56 GMT

I have a question about corrosion of late 1800's steel. I am the first owner of a pair of antique spectacles made by the American Optical Company circa 1885. I am told the frames are probably Bessemer spring steel, but I know very little about these things. What I DO know is that the bridge tarnishes very easily with a day or two contact with my nose. Is there anything I can do to prevent this corrosion? I can polish the corrosion clean, and perhaps that is what was done every day back in the good old days, but if there is a coating or a bond of some kind with another metal that is possible, I might consider it.

It's not really your hammer and anvil kind of question, but I figure if anyone knows a good answer. . .

Thanks in advance.

Randy  <randy at intothevoid.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 07:11:07 GMT

I am making a 3 tine sturgeon spear out of spring steal, an old truck leaf spring about 3/8 inch thick and 3inches wide. I've cut the tines out with a plasma arc, so far so good. Now I could use some advice on how to best 1) heat to straiten out the bow in the spring stock and then bend the outside tines into shape. 2) How to reharden and temper after other metal work is completed. I did experiment on a piece of this metal and found all hardness left upon heatin to a dull red gfor bending. Where is the quenching point for this type of metal, above or below the non mag. point? Also would it be best to quench with water or oil, if oil, what type and method? I am a newbie. My dad drew the pattern on the metal before he died 10 years ago and now I'm completeing it for my son so it means a lot to me to do it right. Thanks
dick sturm  <dicksturm at yahoo.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 11:45:17 GMT

I am going to look at a 50# little giant. The owner said he has rebuilt it from the pedal to the clutch. It needs new babbit and he has all that but hasn't poured it yet. I know very little about this type of hammer. Can anyone tell me approx. what it would be worth to purchase? Thanks
Scott   <vickrey at easilink.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 12:27:06 GMT

Clifton Ralph: Rocker, Centaur Forge and Norm Larson sells them. I've yet to see them but I hear they are good.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 15:41:48 GMT

Old Steel: Randy, It sounds like the steel was either not plated, the plating was too thin or the plating has worn through. This era device would have been nickel plated or even silver plated. Talk to a jewler or a silversmith. Some have equipment for spot electro plating. Either one should be able to tell the type of plating by its color. Silver is very white and tarnishes easily (but not daily). Nickel is yellower and stays bright almost forever. However if it is thin or porus the steel underneith will rust and show spots on the surface of the nickel.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 15:49:32 GMT

Old Steel Again: Randy, IF the frames really are not plated then they will oxidize rapidly. Sometimes steel is treated with phosphoric acid and produces a slightly rust resistant surface. This is called "phosphating". Sheet steel for auto bodies is treated this way. It is not a finish that can take wear. Cleaning the surface with Naval Jelly will produce the same finish. A little clear lacquer will protect the surface. Clear nail polish will work.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 15:56:11 GMT

Old glasses:

I had a pair that looked like steel, but they were nickel plated brass. I guess the nickel was worn thin on the bridge, as they developed a verdigris patina and turned my nose green every time I sweated.
Alan L  <longmire at premiernet.net> - Monday, 02/05/01 16:35:21 GMT

Spear: Dick, A forge is best for heating this type thing but it can be done with a torch.

You need to use a rose bud type heating tip. This will require a full fuel cylinder as they draw a lot of fuel and there is a limit to the rate that fuel will evaporate out of the cylinder. Most small 1/2" (13mm) rosebuds will draw as much fuel as a full size cylinder will produce.

Set the work piece on a firebrick or two. Stacking the bricks to make a corner retains the heat and reflects it back on the work. Heat the bricks before setting the work on the bricks. As you heat the steel be careful not to over heat it. Oxy-acteylene will easily overheat the steel and it is very easy to overheat the surface. Bounce the flame off the bricks onto the steel. Keep the torch moving. Heat until the piece is a nice bright red. Heat more than the area to be bent as the heat dissapates quickly.

Tongs or channel locks can be used to handle and bend the steel. A piece of pipe is handy for bending the tines. Quickly move the piece to a vise and clamp on the tang below the heat. Use the pipe to bend the tines, a couple of hammers (one to buck, on to strike with) can be used to straighten in the vise (if you don't have an anvil). If the piece gets to a low red heat it again to finish.

To harden you will want to heat the entire piece evenly. The non-magnetic point on a RISING (increasing heat) is the quench point. I prefer oil an quench but water will work if the part is evenly heated and not over heated. After quenching you need to temper. Setting the part on the hot bricks as they cool will do the trick. Otherwise you want to heat the part to about 450-500°F. Tempering reduces the brittleness a lot while reducing the hardness a little. Experiment on your scraps. If you grind the steel clean before tempering you can use temper colors to judge the temperature. A brown (which preceeds blue) is good.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 16:37:39 GMT

Little Giant: Scott, LG's vary greatly in price and condition. A little wear in the bearings doesn't hurt but the clutch bearing is also babbit and can be a problem depending on the type of hammer.

There are two styles of clutch. A center clutch between the bearings and a rear mounted clutch that hangs off the back. The center clutch was designed for line shaft operation. These can wear a great deal and still operate smoothly. Grab it and rock it back and forth axialy to check play. An eigth of an inch of play is not excessive and will not get worse if the machine is lubricated properly.

The rear mounted clutch is a later type and needs to be tight to operate correctly. Because of belt tension the bearings are hard to check but you can use the same method as on the center clutch, grab it and try to rock it side to side with a push pull motion. If its loose it will need rebabiting. Rebabiting either clutch requires careful setup and machining.

A pry bar can be used to lift the ram and check the crank pin and crank wheel bearings. The crank pin should not show any visible play. Wear requires remachining. The main shaft bearings can have between 1/32" and 1/16" wear without a problem. Again, oil is very important.

Look for cracks in the anvil cap (sow block) and loosly fitting dies. Also look for bent or abused toggle arms. Is the motor single or 3 Phase?

Early type hammers had a wrap around guide made of pressed steel plate. Late types have a dovetail guide. A lot of folks prefer the late type but they are difficult to repair if the guides are worn. Both the ram and the gibs tend to wear in a curve. This requires careful machining to repair. The wrap around type is not as rigid but it is easier to maintain. Even though the adjustment is via shims it is not needed often if the machine is kept well oiled. The dovetail type has screw adjustments but these do not compensate for curved wear AND are more likely to be incorrectly adjusted.

You will note that I mentioned OIL repeatedly. Well, most LG problems are due to lack of oil. A properly maintained LG will be a black mess of oil and grease. If not, its been abused.

50# Little giants sell from $1,500 in rough condition (but with all the parts) to #3,200 if they are in good condition. Hammers with missing parts are worth much less. As with all used equipment the price is dependant largely on the who's buying and who's selling.

The Dave Manzer video we sell has a lot of very good information about how the Little Giant works and what to look for. Even for the experianced hammer user it is a very educational video.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 17:23:53 GMT

I can buy a 100lb little giant in what looked to be decent shape for $1,000 is this a good buy?

Thank You, Jim
Jim E  <Ellis7 at gci.net> - Monday, 02/05/01 20:10:17 GMT

Hey guys, check out the Kuhn hammer for sale on e-bay for $6000.00 #555307927
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 20:15:23 GMT

100Lb LG: Jim, The 100# LG is a real work horse. Properly adjusted it will forge 1/4" (7mm) stock with ease. They tend to sell for less than the smaller LGs simply because they are heavy. Given the choice, I'd take one 100# LG over two 50's any day.

The price is good especialy if the hammer is in good condition. Look for cracks in the anvil cap (sow block). Take a pry bar and move things around. If you lift on the ram you can raise the crank wheel if its worn. At the same time you can see play in the crank pin if there is any. See the post above about checking out a 50# LG.

- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 21:17:40 GMT

i plan to build a gas forge using a forced-air and gas blower, and am looking for a supplier who would sell me a blower with a mixing chamber, valves, and other related equipment. i am located in portland, oregon, and would be grateful for a name of a supplier on the west coast.
thank you very much,
arnon  <andmia.teleport.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 23:12:08 GMT

Parts: Arnon, No such animal that I know of. If there were it would be component parts of a furnace. generaly manufacturers do not sell these type of parts without the entire piece of equipment.

Most of what you are looking for is just plain pipe. Check our plans page.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 23:22:33 GMT

To All,
A week or so ago I was looking for fire screen. I have found a good source and have posted a message on the hammer in for anyone interested in obtaining any surplus I may have.
Mark  <dilligaf at net1plus.com> - Monday, 02/05/01 23:30:46 GMT

I am looking for someone to hang an axe for me.I have an old axe that I bought in Canada 30 Years ago. This axe hangs on my saddle and has traveled many miles with me. The handle finly got old and woarout. The axe it about a two or three pound head on a 27 inch wood handel. I can't find any one that can put a new handel on for me. Can you please help me find an axe builder? Thank you Steve
Steve Fields  <fields.s at att.net> - Monday, 02/05/01 23:51:40 GMT

Guru, thanks for the information on polishing. Can you describe what a scraper is?(what it looks like etc.) I appreciate the info. Thanks.
kevin - Tuesday, 02/06/01 01:17:45 GMT

looking for plans for a 25lb power hammer,air or mechanical and what material the anvil should be made out of....to be used for drawing out "points" on 1/2 inch and down(wrought iron application)
john  <hayley.doyle at sympatico.ca> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 02:03:08 GMT

Scraper: Kevin, Scrapers vary in shape and style. Some have a chisel point for heavy work. A 60° chisel point ground on a file works well for cast iron or steel.
For soft iron, non-ferrous and wood, a scraper is a plain piece of thin hardened steel. Band saw blades with the teeth ground off and wood saw blades work well. The edge is files and stoned square. Then it has a hooked burr raised on the edge using a burnisher. This is a two step process. First the edge is drawn out flat to the blade. Then the "hook" is turned.

The burnisher is a hard steel rod. Precision hard dowel pins work. An outfit called Timberline Tool makes a slick little burnisher from a 1" square stick of hardwood. A slot is sawn in the end about 3/4" deep and a 3/8" dia dowel is inserted in a hole drilled passing through the slot at about a 15° angle.

Timberline Tool
P.O. Box 673
Medanales, NM 87548

Scrapers work in a scraping motion. When you have a good hook on a hard scraper it curls chips like a plane. Musical instrument makers use them a LOT. I learned about this type while building guitars and kithara. On a job in the field I made several to hand scrape a babbit bearing. We had to produce a fitted tapered and slightly curved bore on an 8" diameter 24" long babbit bearing. Reduced several pounds of babbit to fine curly chips. Took two of us several days. Most of the time was spent fitting the bearing to the shaft down in the dark wheel pit or a turbine.

For heavy duty scraping luthiers use those heavy duty paint scrapers with the wooden handle and turned end. The blades can be sharpened as a hook edged scraper or a knife edge scraper.

Knife edge scrapers also work but are much less efficient and do not produce as smooth a surface. Scrapers date from the stone age and are one of the more common stone tools found. For some work they are better than sandpaper and are what was used before sandpaper was invented. Its one of those old tools that few craftspeople learn to use today but is still very useful.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 04:27:28 GMT

Power Hammer Plans: John, We have articles on several styles of owner built hammer on our Power hammer page. ABANA sells air hammer plans and the Appalachian chapter sells spring helve hammer plans (see link from PhP JYH page).

The anvil can be steel or cast iron. It need to be 10 to 15 times heavier than the ram (250# to 375# for a 25#). If it must be pieced it should be made of long stock that is bundled not stacked pieces. A stacked anvil loses efficiency at every joint. A nice anvil can be built of 1/2 x 2" or 3" flat stock bundled into four groups. These can be tack welded together then held to gether with welded straps. The top end needs to be very flat where the anvil cap is welded on. This sounds like a lot of work but it is sometimes difficult to find a solid piece of 6" or 8" diameter shaft for an anvil.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 04:38:11 GMT

Thanks for the info on spear builing it is most appreciated. My complements on a wonderfull site in Anvilfire! I have some usefull information to pass along to Bob Rackers and others concerning coal and the FREE SWELL INDEX- " The coking of coal is expressed by the FREE SWELLING INDEX (FSI). This test is made by grinding a sample of coal to pass a no. 60 sieve and then heating 1 g under specified conditions described by ASTM. The profile obtained by heating the sample is compared with a standard set of profiles to determine the FSI of the sample. The sample profiles are expressed in one-half units from 1 to 9. Coals having an FSI below 5 are referred to as free burning, since the particals do not tend to stick together and form large lumps of coke when heat is applied but remain separate during the combustion process. Coals having a FSI above 5 are referred to as caking or coking, since the particals swell and tend to stick together when heated. The caking, or coking, characteristics of coal affect its behavior when burned on hand fired grates or stokers. When coal cakes the smaller particals adhere to one another, and large masses of fuel are formed on the grates. This action reduces the surface area that is exposed to oxygen and therefore retards the burning." (From Steam Plant Operation, Woodruff & Lammers).
As to the Btu content of coal per pound. The relationship of carbon to volatiles is a factor, however higher carbon percentage to volatiles does not necessarily make for more Btu per pound. In fact just the opposite may be true in most cases. Hydrogen may comprise most of the volatiles, if so hydrogen has a Btu content of 62,000 Btu per pound. Carbon has a Btu content of 14,540 Btu per pound. Sulfur though undesireable has a Btu content of 4,050 Btu per pound.
The assumption that the higher the volatiles, then the lower the free carbon does not hold true. Less sulfur and ash is will result in an increase of either or both carbon or volatiles(hydrogen). The percentage of volatile materal also has an effect on how easy or hard a fuel is to ignite.
A higher volatile percentage may also contribute to what is sometimes referred to as a wild fire (lots of flame above the incandescant zone).
I come to my knowledge of coal by way of being a power plant operator and power engineering instructor but not a blacksmith. Maybe some day.
dick sturm  <dicksturm at yahoo.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 06:01:41 GMT

G'day to all who read this
well after reading Guru's post the other day about workshop saftey , ie;saftey glasses ,
because of my stupid actions i may loose the sight in my right eye , was using a small ( 100 mm _ 4 " ) angle grinder today & a small bit of wheel came in & hit my eye in the centre of the pupil :( , if i had of been wearing saftey glasses over my normal glasses this would not have happened . ... so all i can say to the rest of u is PLEASE be careful when using power tools & wear?use all the saftey gear that u are ment to

1 very sore & stupid AUSSIE

chopper  <chopperdale at hotmail.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 07:44:44 GMT

Hi Guru,
I asked earlier an advice about power hammers and
was very happy about good and prompt answer.
So I am bothering you again:
I have treied to find detailed level information
about old style gun barrel making.
How smiths were able with basic simple tools
to bore and even make riffles.
Have any book or web material about this?
I did find a general level material, but what about
details about riffling tool?

Thanks: Tuomo
Tuomo  <tk at evitech.fi> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 11:48:22 GMT


Ouch! Good luckin your treatment.

Visit your National Parks: www.nps.gov

Come row with us: www.wam.umd.edu/~eowyn/Longship/

Bruce Blackistone  <asylum at us.HSAnet.net> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 13:19:04 GMT


Been there, done that. I hope the treatment works for you!


How big a rush are you in. Chapter Three of THE REVOLUTIONARY BLACKSMITH has a musket barrel making sequence. Rifle barrels were made the same way. (actually, there are three ways to make the barrel that I'm aware of.) And the book FOXFIRE FIVE has a good sequence on how to build the tool to put rifling in a barrel.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 13:55:49 GMT

Tuomo, There is a great tape called "Gunsmith of Williamsburg" that shows the entire gunmaking process. It is an hour in length. Blockbuster usually carries it. You'll like it.
Paul Parenica  <wroughman at yahoo.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 13:56:40 GMT

Hi I'm trying to forge some brass. Junk yard brass so don't know much about it but it gets brittle and just breaks up when I try to work it. haven't worked much with non ferris metal any help would be appreciated thank you Cy
Cy Swan  <cyswan at rosenet.net> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 14:34:34 GMT

Early Gunsmithing: Tuomo, The Foxfire book mentioned above is quite good. The Williamsburg tape MAY be available from Norm Larson as well as the Foxfire book. Norm is listed under Getting Started. Dixie Gun Works has quite a bit of early gunsmithing information in their catalog. www.dixiegunworks.com

Both the boring and rifling of early barrels was performed on machines made primarily of wood.

The rifling machine had a wood cylinder about 4" (100mm) to 6" (150mm) diameter with either spiral grooves cut in it OR spiral guide bars attached to it (more common). This cylinder was pulled through a frame keyed to one of the guides that caused it to rotate as it was pulled. A handle on the end of the cylinder rotated freely so the cylinder could be easily pulled by hand. The cylinder was indexed to the next guide after each groove was cut.

The cutting tool was on a long slender hickory rod. It cut one groove at a time and was adjusted outward via a system of wedges in a little iron holder fit to the end of the rod. Each groove could be cut in about 4 to 6 passes. I THINK the cylinder guide was rotated between each pass so that the groove were all even when the last cut was taken. The reason the rod was wood was to prevent wear to the barrel bore.

To polish the grooves a short lead plug was cast in the end of the barrel. It was then fitted to a long pull rod. The lead plug was covered with oil and a fine abrasive (pumice) and pulled through the barrel several times with the rifeler. This smoothed the rifling and debured the grooves. This process was done JUST enough otherwise the corners of the rifling would be rounded. What is wanted is a clean "crisp" corner.

As you can imagine, the rifling machine was a big device. It had to be at least three times the length of the barrel.

I have seen several of these machines and all were relatively primitive with a rough wooden frame to raise it above the ground to a comfortable work height. I have also seen primitive modern versions that replaced the wood cylinder with a square CF steel bar twisted to the desired spiral.

A friend of mine has a wonderful old one-off rifeling machine made by a fellow in the U.S. Army during WWII. A tag on it says, "Designed by Major J.O. Smithly 1944". It is a beautiful thing built like a lathe. Its designed to use a change gear system to change the rate of spiral and has a precision indexing head. I THINK we determined the maximum barrel length it would rifle was about 28" to 30".

It is for sale. This is a very special machine that was designed for custom military work ('don't ask' type stuff). The machine is complete, however there are no cutters or change gears. Let me know if you are interested. I can e-mail photos. Serious inquires only, please.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 15:00:30 GMT

Arnon, email me and we can talk about gas forges....
I am in Hillsboro, OR
Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 16:04:55 GMT

Eye injuries: Chopper, sorry for your loss.

Its the small stupid things that get us. Those little 4" grinders are SO handy and easy to use. . but they are just as dangerous as the big ones when it come to eye injuries. Those little Dremels and die grinders too! The small tools are probably MORE dangerous because they are not so scary to run.

The worst accident of this sort that I've had was drilling WOOD! I was drilling 5/8" (16mm) bolt holes in trusses that had a pre-drilled steel plate in them. I snagged the drill on a nail which twisted the drill bit in the hole which then dug into the steel plate and stalled the drill. The drill bit shattered with my face about a foot away. Luckily the flying shards embedded themselves in my arm near my elbow instead of one of my eyes! One piece hit bone and required pliers to pull out.

Hey, I was ONLY drilling wood. . .

Its the stupid LITTLE things that get us.

How many times have you struck an arc BEFORE flipping your helmet down? I KNOW you've done it! We all get out of sync once in a while and do thing 2 before thing 1. And then feel real dumb about it. THAT is what flash glasses are for. Those dumb spastic little moments. If they are GOOD flash glasses like I described then they will also help prevent sputter balls that DO get into your helmet from getting into your eyes.

It those LITTLE things (a 1/2mm white hot sputter ball). .

A friend of mine puts it like this. Machines have no moral values, they will kill or maim you just as easily as doing their job.

Luckily everyone in my circle of smiths still has all their fingers and toes. We are all amazed at this fact because the odds are against it. Stupid things HAPPEN.

Work smart. Think about the job before doing it. We still live in a world where folks learn the WRONG way to do things on many jobs and construction sites. That is why I send every newby or wannabe to a welding class. To learn the safety rules for welding equipment. I don't care if they learn to weld. Its the safety rules that are not taught "on the job".

Its the LITTLE things, like not using cylinders laying on their sides. When you know the reason not to do it you DON'T.

Lifting heavy loads is fraught with dangers that few understand. Rigging too short at too low an angle can but an infinite load on rigging. It doesn't matter what the rating of the chain or cable is if you apply an infinite load. This is a lesson you should learn in a high school physics class but few pay attention the week they study vector mechanics. And even fewer teachers point out the result of applying a load to a straight line. The mathematics get funny and crash calculators and computers when the answer is infinity. . . So it is avoided. But is is a lesson few doing rigging understand. They are taught "DO NOT" use slings below such and such an angle. . But never taught the infinity lesson.

Lifting a load perpendicular to a chain or sling wrapped around a load can produce an infinite force. Nothing can withstand an infinite force. However in the real world materials stretch and the angle changes dropping the load to much less than infinity. . . In the imortal words of Dirty Harry, "Do you feel lucky today?" If the stretch is enough then you might be lucky. If not? Then you might drop that Little Giant on your toe.

Its the LITTLE things like not understanding the whys and why nots of rigging. . .

Your personal safety is up to YOU. On many jobs they do a good job of protecting folks from themselves with rules and safety personnel. But when you work in YOUR shop, YOU have to be the safety officer. YOU the safety person has to be more stuborn than YOU the worker. . .

It the LITTLE things, like personal work habits. .

Wear those safety glasses!
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 16:07:24 GMT

Howdy do, I'm thinking of making a small rolling mill and would like some ideas on designs, thanks
Keymaster  <Keymaster_DC at yahoo.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 18:48:24 GMT

Rolling Mill: Keymaster, We are working on an article about the McDonald Mill. Kayne and Son sell their commercial version and the Hugh McDonald plans are available from Norm Larson larbooks at impulse.net.

If this isn't the type thing you are looking for let me know.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Tuesday, 02/06/01 19:48:24 GMT

How were knives made in the early 1800's?
Justin  <Airbarnes at aol.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 00:12:39 GMT


With a hammer and anvil.
Paw Paw Wilson  <pawpaw at paw-paws-forge.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 00:24:07 GMT

Dear GURU, Feb.6/01
Could you recommend a good source for various metal finishes. For example, I'm creating some gates that Iv'e wire brushed down to shiny metal and would like to put a dull non shiny rust resistant clear coat on but have checked around and can only come up with some shiny gloss finish laquers. I would also like to know if there is any good source of antiquing finishes , multiple colour patinas for metal (to add age to the piece)or what have you in the natural finish or metal aging process or even the changing of the metal colour by use of acids or what have you. Something kind of water resistant for indoors for example (towel bars) would also be helpfull. I'm basically working with iron.
Greg  <walmer at telus.net> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 03:43:46 GMT

Greg; Putting metal work in a bathroom is the same as putting it outside. When a customer asks me for bathroon hardware I just groan. One little hole in the finish and the rust is sure to start. Develop a faux paint finish line. You'd be surprised what you can get w/ an aluminum base coat with thin washes over that and then a clear top coat. Spray can galvanizing is supposed to be self healing. I've been hearing about the sign painters clear. But I've never used it.
Pete  <Ravnstudio at aol.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 04:42:31 GMT

Finishing Iron: Greg, I've answered this one once this week (in my tirade on quality work) and almost once every week. There is also a standing article on the 21st Century page.

If you want a "natural" forged looking finish use stainless steel. Otherwise the only "natural" finish for iron/steel is rust. Rusted to dust.

Clear finishes do not prevent rust on exterior work AND they have a finite life on interior work. As "impenatrable" as clear plastic finishes LOOK they breath air AND water vapor.

Once a piece has been properly finished (sandblasted, zinc primed - cold galvanize and neutral primed) it can be painted with almost anything. Automotive finishes are some of the best and can be sprayed to produce fine airbrush detail. Artist acrylic colors are designed to be color fast and can be applied by any imaginable method. However they are a little soft and dificult to get good rubbed effects. They CAN be sealed with clear automitive lacquer. Hand rubbed finishes can be made using varnish and artist oil colors for tint. These can be applied over a lacquer base color but then cannot be lacquered over. However, varnishes (even expensive marine spar varnishes) do not hold up well in sunlight and should only be used on interior finishes.

For interior work any of the guilding and antiquing finishes designed for furniture can be used on prepared metal work.

Hollywood set builders make wood and plaster look like ANYTHING from chrome plate to marble OR wrought iron with paint. Why can't blacksmiths paint their wrought iron to make it look like itself?????
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 05:49:05 GMT

Dear venerable Gurus,

I am a 20 yr. old Roman history buff with a _moderate_ amount of experience in metalworking (forging, arc & gas welding, casting, etc.) I am looking for info on helmet making to aid me in my travails and experiments in Roman helmet fabrication. What resources (books, web sites, etc.) would you recommend? So far, I have only used the dishing method; i.e., pounding the metal into a depression in a log. How deep of a helmet bowl can be made with this method with, say, 16 ga. steel? Is it better to work the metal hot, or to anneal it and then work it cold? Roman helmets were forged in one piece, and I would like to do the same. I would greatly appreciate any help you folks might be able to give.
By the way, this is a very intriguing site. Keep up the good work!


Tyler Watts
Tyler  <tylerwatts at hotmail.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 06:22:51 GMT

I recently acquired a complete 35 lb.( I think) Modern Power Hammer, made by Grinnell Manuf. in Grinnell, Iowa. It's a toggle arm type hammer. I know nothing about it and am looking for others that have one, sources for info, pictures, etc. Ideas on best way to convert the flat belt drive/clutch system to motor driven. All I've found out so far is that Nahum Hersham has one and I should call him. FYI ... this past fall I totally rebuilt a 25 lb Little Giant that was in sad shape. Can you steer me in any helpful directions. I definitely want to rebuild and keep this hammer or trade up.
Barry  <strom at methow.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 06:24:09 GMT

Mr Guru
I have a Champion blower forge. The cole box is 16" by 34"
Made in Lancaster Penn. It is good cond. and working order.
I would like to sell this forge but I have no idea what it
is worth. Can you help me? I have owned this forge for about 30 years. It is an old one. If you can give me a price range I sure would appreciate it.
Thank You Carl Stockton
Carl Stockton  <stocktoncarl at hotmail.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 12:36:14 GMT

Helm: Tyler, Go to our 21st Century page and then select Armor. I think the articles there will answer most of your questions.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 14:51:01 GMT

Modern Power Hammer: Barry, Pounding out the Profits has several drawings of slightly different versions of this hammer and a couple pages of history. The design was by a fellow named Koch. It was one of many short lived companies that made power hammers.

Unlike Little Giant which Sid Sudemier has taken over making parts for, Fairbanks which Bruce Wallace has the drawings for and Bradley which there are still drawings for, there is no parts or support of any kind for most of the old hammers.

Consider it like a one off prototype. If you want to rebuild it you must become the engineer and reverse engineer the machine and the manufacturer the parts yourself. If there are parts need that you cannot make then you will need to make detailed drawings to provide to others.

It is not a difficult job if you have good mechanical skills. But you ARE on your own.

OBTW - The flat belt clutch system found on Bradley, Beaudry and Fairbanks is the BEST clutch system for mechanical hammers. It is infinitely more controllable and requires virtualy no maitenance. The LG system is complicated, expensive, unneeded and high maintenance.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 15:10:08 GMT

Value of Forge: Carl, These old forges are selling at relatively low prices considering what they would cost if you could buy them new.

Blowers sell for $75 to $125 depending on size and condition. Forges sell for $125 to $250 depending on size, condition and whether or not they have a blower and all the parts.

The prices above are approximate asking prices based on what I have seen at ABANA chapter meets. You may be able to get more on eBay but not always.
- guru  <guru at anvilfire.com> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 15:19:47 GMT


Would someone send me the web site address for Jay. Lost a lot of my bookmarks to my sons tinkering and need to order another propane regulator from him. Thanks --
Plain ol "Bill"  <wcottr at att.net> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 15:55:28 GMT

Here is Jay's web site.

Ralph  <ralphd at jps.net> - Wednesday, 02/07/01 16:35:36 GMT

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