Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blacksmithing Punches, Lubricants and Treadle Hammers

How Do you Make A Blacksmith Hammer Drift?

How do you make a good oval drift, for example for a hammer head?

I would use a good tool steel S7 or jack hammer bit are my preferences. Forge a tapering rectangle of the slightly over size of the dimensions you want. Then knock the corners off with the hammer while the drift is hot. This will give you sort of an octagonal oval. At this point I swich to a hand angle grinder and grind smooth so there is no catch points for when you are drifting.

I have made limited use drifts out of mild steel but prefer the tool steel.

What Blacksmithing Lubricant do you Use?

What except charcoal, do you use as a lubricant preventing to get your drifts stuck in deep holes?

I also use coal dust or coke dust by themselves or mixed with beeswax in a tin can that I can dip the hot tool in. there are lubricants comercially available but I haven't tried them. A good graphite paste or spray might work well but I have had good success with the coal or coke dust.

Blacksmith Treadle Hammer Blueprints?

Do you know of the existance of blueprints for a treadle hammer, because I have to do everything single handed and sometimes there is a hand short.

I am biased because I really like my air hammer and it allows me to do mostly what a treadle hammer will do and so much more. But I do recognize they are not for everyone and a treadle hammer will help a great deal. First I would suggest finding a copy of Werk und Werkzeug des Kuntsschmieds by Otto Schmirler ISBN 3 8030 50405
Click Here For this Book

This is a great book and he has a good diagram with measurements of his "Oliver " which is a treadle hammer. The rest of his book is tools and techniques.

I would also look at as I think they sold treadle hammer plans you may also find plans on or

I hope this helps.

David Robertson
Artist Blacksmith

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blacksmith Hand Crank Blower

What to Look For In a Blacksmith Hand Crank Blower?

Handcrank blowers are a bit hard to find and I can't recommend buying over the internet unless it is from someone that you completely trust. I use a Champion and like it but I am not sure the name is as important as it's condition. The main thing with the blower is that it should turn smoothly in both directions. If the gears grind either way it may be more costly to fix it if not impossible.

It should have been kept well lubricated and should be able to be lubricated easily with oil or grease ports. The fan blades should not hit the housing and there should be no cracks that later could cause problems..

The gear box is the heart of the blower and it must be in good shape to give you years of performance. I know some smiths that have refurbished a seized gear box but you must get the blower cheap enough that you can invest many hours soaking it and cleaning the gears.

The larger the blower the larger the forge fire you can effectively work with it. You will still have nice control on small fires. The small blowers really only work well with small fires. You can't easily get enough volume through for a large fire.

In my opinion the stand is secondary to the blower itself. I can always make a new stand if it is not in the best condition.

I really like to look a blower over in person before buying it. I understand that this is not always possible but it is best practice. With a large and heavy object shipping will be expensive.

I hope this helps and good luck in your search for hand crank blacksmith forge blower.
David Robertson
Artist Blacksmith

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What to Look For In a Blacksmith Post vise?

Blacksmith Post Vise or Leg Vise what are they worth?

Blacksmith Post Vises
price range $40.00 to $700.00
Typical in good shape, clean jaws, spring and screw intact, 5 inch jaw size about $65 to $100
Like anvils typically the larger the better if it works well. The larger also costs more.

There is quite a spread and depends alot on availability and size. At Quad state this year there were many in working condition at the $40 to $60 range. Nice ones that weren't too beaten up sort of started around the $60 range.

Things to look for.
Jaws close tight and are still aligned both flush and left to right. Not too much slop either side. Faces of jaws not too scored up. Spring intact, and screw works smoothly. A bit of oil doesn't hurt to loosen things up. Mounting plate intact with wedges.

Remember a machinists vise is fine for twisting but if you are hammering then the Leg vise is better.

David Robertson
Artist Blacksmith.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blacksmith How to Keep Propane Tank From Freezing?

My Blacksmith Gas Forge Propane Tank Freezes Up. How do I prevent it?

As propane is drawn off a propane tank it cools the temperature of the liquid propane inside. It can cool it to the point that it freezes. At this point the pressure in the tank drops to nearly zero and the gas forge is starved for fuel. In cold weather this can happen with a significant amount of propane left in the tank.

There are a couple of things You can do.

The best is build a box that holds 100 watt light bulb that the propane tank can sit on. This will provide a gentle warming that helps keep the propane from freezing. This becomes more and more important as the weather gets colder. A simple crib made of 4x4's that is small enough for the propane tank to sit on comfortablly should work.

Another option is to gang two or more tanks together so that you draw off a larger thermal mass and it doesn't freeze as quickly. This requires a number of plumbing fixtures and POL fittings but does work.

Battery heating blankets might be another option. Wrap two together. You would have to take a look at how they are configured.I don't recommend any heat source that provides a source of ignition.

Hope This Helps

David Robertson

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is a Treadle Hammer an Useful Tool for a Blacksmith Shop?

What is your opinion about treadle hammers in the blacksmith shop?

Thanks for the praise about the youtube videos. They are only 10 minute long videos but actually take me about two days to produce. I put them up so they can help people like you. There is more information on each topic on my website in the members area so check out the newsletters when you get a chance. Videos have their place and combined with the written word can be quite powerful education tool.

Treadle Hammers
Are they a useful tool?
Yes sort of. Since I build air hammers and have good control with them I can use it effectively as a treddle hammer. My opinion is that if a person can afford to build an air hammer that this is a better option.... but a good half way point would be an air assisted treddle hammer.

The big bonus with a treadle hammer is the control and cost can be quite low. They are not fast but you have a great deal of control with them for punching and texturing. They are unpleasant for drawing out, which I use my air hammer for all the time.

In short it depends on the type of work you do.

I hope this helps.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wholesale Pricing of Blacksmithing Work?

How to Price Blacksmithing Work at Wholesale?

Pricing is always difficult and wholesale can be tricky. Unfortunately I can't give you step by step but only generalities.

Work as many irons at a time that you can. a gas forge is easier in this respect as you don't burn the steel.

Jig everything possible that you can. Shape of the hook cut off etc. This will also give you an uniform product which the stores like. Unfortunately makeing the jigs takes some time.

Negotiatiate with the stores for better advertising "Locally Hand Made by Traditional Blacksmith" so they can ask a higher price than usual so you can charge a bit more.

Negotiate with the stores to advertise you so you can get larger commission work from customers. Pay them a finders fee perhaps 10% and build this into the price you charge the customers. In this case deal directly with the customers and don't have the store as a middle man if you can help it. It will save you many headaches.

In short you have to work as efficiently as possible to keep your cost per unit down. If you can work in multiples as this streamlines the process. Eg. curl 6 hooks, bend 6 hooks, cut 6 hooks, start over.

If you find you are doing much production consider hiring a student at minimum wage to do the non cost effective work such as painting. At first this seems like a large expense but if you keep them busy it does actually pay.

I hope this helps. I have sold wholesale for years and you can make decent income with it and you usually have few problems getting paid which is good and if you have a good relationship with the stores they will work for you too.

There is more information on pricing on the main site in the members area under the articles.

David Robertson

Monday, October 26, 2009

What Flux to Use For Forge Welding Damascus Steel?

What Flux is right for making Damascus Steel?

One of my family-members asks me right away if I could make a knife for him, made of damast-steel.
This is the reason why I'm coming with another question:
What product do you need for welding pieces together, or making damast-steel? In other words: what works best?
I've been looking on and they offer borax, magi-weld and something they call "Flutsch". The last one is black and looks like tar. Magi-weld is the most expensive but does that mean it works best?

I am not familiar with those products except the borax.
Some of the smithing fluxes have iron filings in them that help the steel stick, but this can muddy the layers in the pattern. Most of us use a product called 20 Mule Team Borax. It is laundry borax. Cheap and works well. Found in the laundry isle in the grocery store. Some people use borax ( boric acid) from the pharmacy which is more expensive but is more pure.

I strongly suggest practicing welding mild steel together many times before trying damascus steel. It is a very tricky process and requires a good deal of practice.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How To Make a Flint and Steel Striker for Primitive Fire Starting?

How to Make a Strike-a-light for Primitive Fire Starting ?

First I think you are doing two great things. Teaching primtive fire starting and how to make a steel striker. Your success depends on the actual type of steel you use and the heat treating process that you use.

I have a video up on Youtube that answers most of your questions see

I use W1 tool steel but have had good luck with spring steel and others. Mild steel won't work. In the video I use an old rattail file which will work fine although not the cheapest way to go.

The heat treating is critical. It must be quenched just as the steel becomes magnetic. At this point it should through a spark with a sharp piece of flint. They will work like this but should be tempered a bit so they don't break as easily. Also the other key is that you need to catch the spark in charred cotton cloth. Again see the video.

How to Make a Basket Twist

How do you make a basket twist?

Start simple take 4 rods weld the tips together both ends
Heat the bundle uniformly and clamp one end in the vise
Twist tight one direction
Then untwist a bit and the basket should open up
You may have to tap one end a bit to get it to open up as well.
You may have to use a pry tool to get them evenly spaced.
Large globe shaped baskets are much more work but can be made around a form then welded then twisted.
Experiment a bit and see what you get.

Is to split the bar from both sides instead of welding. this is nicer but much more work.

What To Quench Tool Steel In?

What is best to quench tool steel in to harden it?

Different types of steel require different quench media.
Some require oil some require water some require air quench.
It is best to refer to the manufactures guidelines and quench as close as possible to their recommendations.

If you quench an oil hardening steel in water it will be too brittle. If you quench the same steel in air it will be too soft.

The thickness of the steel will play a roll as well. Thicker sections usually mean you can quench in the next faster medium.

How to Make a Forge Fire Pot?

How to make a coal forge fire pot?

The best solution for a fire pot is to buy a cast steel one from or or or all have good quality fire pots that will last a long time. They are expensive.

It is cheaper to weld up your own but don't expect it to least near as long. It is esentially a flat bottomed rectangle with tappering sides with a lip around the edge. General size top opening 10 by 8 inches, bottom size 6 inches by 4 inches with a 2.5 inch hole in the centre. Depth top to bottom 4 inches with tapering sides down to the bottom to fit. The lip around the edge about 1 inch wide.

You will need to add a grate in the bottom that is removeable. I have used one with 9, half inch (1/2") holes in it arranged in a grid pattern that fits over the 2.5 inch hole. This grate will get burned up but you can make another one easily. I have used 1/2 inch thick plate for this.

The plate thickness for the walls and the floor and the lip of the fire pot should be 1/2 inch thick or a minimum of 3/8 thick.

I think if you dig around they may have some more information and diagrams.

Hope this helps. Really you are farther ahead to buy a cast one and spend the $200 or so. Save you a ton of time and much better product.

Gas Forge Precautions

What is a list of precautions to take with gas forges?

Gas Forge Precautions

You are the proud owner of a new gas forge so how do you use it with out blowing yourself up?

1) Make sure the forge is set up on a stable surface well away from any combustible material.

2) The forge should be placed with the fresh air coming to you first then the forge. Remember the forgeproduces a lot of carbon monoxide, and produces a lot of carbon dioxide. It also use oxygen at a high rate.Carbon monoxide is poisonous.ALWAYS HAVE FRESH AIR ! If you feel light headed or nausea then shut the forge off and move to freshair immediately.

3) Place the burner in the forge as far down as it goes. Make sure it is secure.

4) Attach the hose and regulator. Attach the regulator to propane tank. Remember fuel threads are left handthreads. All attachment points should be secured with a wrench.

5) Check for leaks with dish soap and water. Also sniff the joints to detect any leaking propane.

6) Start the forge with pressure set to about 8 psi registering on the regulator.

7) Ball valve should be off. Place a lit piece of paper in the chamber and turn propane on. If you have anatmospheric burner (no blower) that should be it. If you have a blower right after you turn on the ball valve youneed to plug the blower in.

8) A flash back can occur if the propane velocity is lower than the air velocity. This can happen at lowpressures. The flame will go out in the chamber and start combusting inside the burner. The sound will changeand you will need to shut the ball valve IMMEDIATELY ! Increase you propane pressure and try again. Thisusually is not a problem with a blown system but could happen if the power went out.

9) Make sure your hose is out of the way of falling hot steel. Hot steel could melt the hose and ignite a fire.When the hose is connected make sure it is out of the way of direct heat from the forge as it could soften andmelt causing a fire.

10) When finished for the day shut ball valve off, turn off blower if any, shut main tank valve off. Always shutthe main tank valve so if there are any small leaks in the system you don't come into a pool of propane whenyou next start your forge. Propane will pool if there is a leak. This could ignite just by turning on a light switch.

11) General work usually about 8 to 10 psi. Forge welding 15 to 20 psi. If you are going to forge weld put apiece of sheet steel in the bottom of the forge to catch the drips of flux. Flux will eat the lining and the firebrick.These you will have to replace over time but why speed the process up. Fire brick on the front and back willeventually break and the support steel will sag. Replace when needed.

12) If you are working a long bar make a separate support that stands on the floor. This will help prevent theforge from tipping over.

13) Always wear safety glasses, and have a fire extinguisher nearby just incase.

Refacing an Old Anvil?

Is it worth the time and trouble to reface an old anvil?

Refacing an anvil is not an easy job. My short answer is to just use it as it is until you find a better one.

If you use welding rod to build up the face you will have a lot of grinding to smooth things out and you will probably take the temper out of the surrounding steel meaning that you will have to heat treat the whole anvil.

Your other option is to have the surface milled to take down the high spots. This means you will have less surface thickness over all to work with, although it will be flat. With this you shouldn't have to heat treat it.

All in all considering time and money many people just find it cheaper to buy a new anvil. Try or or for price comparisons on new anvils.

It is tough doing some of this work alone I would check for any associations in your area. It is great if you can talk to actual people and see demos close up.

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