September 19, 2007

Saltfork Craftsmen Artist Association 11th Annual Conference

I am going to the Saltfork Craftsmen Artist Association 11th Annual Conference! Join me in Perry Oklahoma. Follow the link for more details.

Update: It was great! Maurice Hamburger made a special effort to use hand-hammer techniques for everything other than drawing out stock, so we could take his ideas home and try them out. Jim Keith made an awesome dragon, and had a dragon-handled fireplace set so we could see where he was going with the final product.


September 05, 2007

Books on Blacksmithing

For Christmas 2006, I received 2 Blacksmithing books, "The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith" by Lorelei Sims, and "The Blacksmith's Craft: A Primer of Tools & Methods" by Charles McRaven.

"The Backyard Blacksmith" has the best pictures and layout of any how-to book I've seen. Lorelei does a wonderful job of discussing basic and intermediate blacksmithing skills. I also enjoyed the list of projects in the back, with still more step-by-step color photos. If you learn by seeing, rather than by reading, buy this book!

"The Blacksmith's Craft" is an updated version of a book written in the 1980's for the "Back To The Land" audience. As such, there are a number of references to barn building, etc. but I really enjoyed his discussion of steel, what I might call junk-yard steel, and forge welding. The author is refreshingly open and honest about the difficulties that some smiths have with forge welding, and mentions various helpful tips and alternatives.

In summary, I liked them both, but if I had to choose, I would always go with "The Backyard Blacksmith" by Lorelei Sims.

August 11, 2007

Planning for a new shop

I just wanted everyone to know that I'm not dead! I have been working on a programming project this spring and summer which will finance my new workshop. I am thinking about a 30 x 50 foot shop - enough room for a blacksmith shop, lots of shelves, storage area, and a secure parking place for the lawn mower. I'll need to clear the site and level it to within 3 inches. I know where I will be building, but I need to get my brother's bulldozer over here before I can get much done.

December 30, 2006

Hardie Tools from Shackle Rod

Bill Kendall showed me a few of his hardie tools, and gave me a few ideas about how to make them from shackle rod aka "sucker rod" ends. He had a "hot cut", a bending fork, and a bick. He also showed me a piece of mild steel with a tab bent down that fits into the hardie to hold it in place.

I have one large piece of shackle rod, and a few smaller pieces, and I spotted a few rod pieces on a recent walk across my land. Since I don't want to use tongs, I am leaving the rod about 3 feet long.

First comment: wow! it takes some work to shape a 1.25 inch bar!

My recommended steps are: square up and draw down the shank to size (7/8 inch for me). Now form the chisel shape at end. A hot cutter has a thinner blade, while a cold cutter has a blunt "chisel shaped" working end. Now you can cut below the shank with a hacksaw, but make SURE you do not have any more forging to do. Try a little fine oil or cutting fluid. If the shank doesn't quite fit, you can file or grind it. I tried to heat and draw out my hardie shank that last 1/8 inch over the anvil, but I could not hold on to it with my tongs (I only have one pair that is remotely useful for that shape). I think the Uri Hofi Woop tongs demonstrated on IForgeIron might work. I have not tempered mine yet, but such a large chunk of metal would need a nice soak in the fire before quenching and tempering.

December 07, 2006

Cheap and Easy Brake Drum Forge

Here is a link to how to build a Brake Drum forge on the cheap. Personally, I would put the fire pot into a cut up 55 gallon drum to act as a wind shield and coal reservoir / pan, but he wanted to be able to break it down and store it compactly in his garage. My complements!

I am working on a freon can-based propane forge, with a "T-Jet" burner as recommended by Frosty on I have gathered all of the parts, and will share the details after I have completed assembly and tested it out.

November 02, 2006

Bolt Tongs and Google Blacksmithing Videos

I worked on a pair of V-bit bolt tongs last weekend, but I did not finish them. They still need the boss (hinge area) flattened and drifted, and the handles need to be rounded and smoothed out. It is difficult but not impossible to draw out, straighten and flatten a piece of metal on a chewed up anvil. I think the hard top plate is simply missing on my anvil. After grinding on it some, I have a flat surface, and 2 inches of rounded edge suitable for drawing. All other edges are ragged or chipped. I need to learn how to arc weld, and lay down a new top with "hard-facing rod."

Making my tongs, I had to work out the process of forming the V bit. I flattened the bit from 1/2 or 5/8 inch round down to about a 1/4 inch thickness, then I put the bit in my swage block's smallest V shape and hit it with the pein end of my 2 pound cross pein hammer. Of course, all work was done hot, and the thinner metal lost heat very quickly since my swage was cool. A specialized tool like a smithing magician would be handy here. The critical part is getting the metal to fold at the center line. A smarter man would have taken some spare stock, heated and flattened it, and formed a few practice bits into V shape.

Below are some cool blacksmith videos found searching for blacksmith or forging:

Forging a nail - using a hammer, european style anvil and a header tool
Curl Making with the Anvil

Making a Katana from a railroad anchor (I think it is a clip):
Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Tempering tools, using a hot cut, a fancy twisted rod

October 31, 2006

Propane Tank and LP Gas Forges

My apologies to those of you who read my posting on, as the first part of this post will be very familiar to you. Scroll down to see my thought on moving from "have tank" to "have propane forge". For those who have not been to IForgeIron, they have blueprints (step-by-step instructions and photos) of a few burners and gas forges.

My dad used to drive a propane truck, going to houses and filling their tanks. I told him once that I could use a propane tank, and he mentioned a 275 gallon tank on a trailer. That seemed a bit large to me, but then he remembered a smaller tank that came off of a tractor or a truck. It is a 43 gallon (358 pound) tank, with a gauge to see how full it is, valves for liquid, vapor, bleed off, vapor return, etc. And of course, a pop-off valve just in case someone fills it too full. This tank is heavy! I could lift one end, but we used a tractor's front end loader to load it into my truck.

I still need to get the gaskets inspected, get a cap for one of the return lines, paint it, and get it filled. After that, I will stop by my brothers to see if the hose, regulator and (hopefully) gauge from his old barbecue grill will be useful. I would prefer to have a "hard line" rather than hoses for my daily use forge, but I would also like to have a portable forge.

I would like to have two propane forges at the house. One of them should be a small, portable forge for demos, Saltfork Craftsmen's meetings, and going to a friends house (informal hammer-in's). I'm thinking about a freon tank forge here. The other should be larger, and capable of heating a car or truck coil spring for straightening. I would guess that would require a 12 or 14 inch diameter shell. So far, I am thinking of buying a pipe burner kit, some dura-wool and a small tub of "Plistix 900F" and making the freon forge. After I use that for a month or two, I will have a better idea about my needs. Maybe instead of making a large forge, I will get a T-Rex burner and make a brick-pile forge.

To satisfy your propane forge browsing needs, here are some links:
Zoeller forge price list
Rex Price's (T-Rex) Hybrid Burners
Chile Forge
Ellis Custom Knifeworks
Cashen Blades gas forge combustion processes