Checking my learning curve (more advice requested)

Hello all,

Had a chance to do a little playing around tonight, got the forge tuned a little better (changing the blower mount so that it is sucking in the hot air rising from the forge instead of the cold air from near the floor made quite a difference in heat *and* the smell the new forge was putting out) Mounted the anvil on a stump, and get a decent vise set up on the garage bench. It's starting to look like a real setup, and not just a bunch of junk in the corner of the garage.

So, in the interest of experimenting on something useful, I made a watering can for the quench bucket. That went pretty well, and made for good practice drawing tapers, scrolling, twisting, etc. So, I decided to move on to try working some of the 1095 I got last week.

Here's where the trouble began- and maybe it's not trouble at all. The stock I got is 1" x 1/2" rectangular bar, and I was working at drawing about six inches of it out to a ribbon taper to make a little knife and see about all the heat-treating, grinding, etc. before spending a lot of the stock on the chisels I've got in mind.

What I found was that hammering this stuff is *very* hard going. I'm a fairly big guy, and have done a lot of time with a hammer- but after about 45 minutes, I have only got about 3 inches of the bar flattened to about 1/4"-3/16". Now, I have no idea if that is how long such a project should take, so I may just be whining here. But I am wondering if I am doing something wrong and wasting a lot of effort.

My forge will heat to what I'd call a medium-yellow but may be a high orange depending on the person looking at it, with a few odd sparks shooting off the piece when it is struck- but not welding heat at the setting I was using. I do try to stop hammering and reheat before it gets to a dull orange. So here's the question, for those guys with more experience than I- is 1095 (W1) just really *that* tough, and I just need to suck it up and keep hammering at it, or am I doing something wrong, like not getting the steel hot enough to work it properly? I still have plenty of room on the regulator to jack up the propane flow, and possibly get the forge burning hotter- but I'm trying to be at least somewhat sensible about how much gas I'm burning. I am using a 32 ounce hammer- and I know that may be a little small, but I don't want to hit my little 50-pound anvil hard enough to wreck it by using a heavier hammer.

Is there a good way to speed up that flattening process, perhaps by using the cross-peen to stretch it and then flattening out the grooves with the other side afterwards? When I said ribbon taper above, that's not entirely accurate- I'm just trying to resize the stock to a thinner size before working on shaping it. With that in mind, would it be better to cross-peen across the width or along the length? I am trying to stretch the material without widening it.

I'm also thinking ahead to this as-yet theoretical knife blade- when it comes to where I am happy with the basic shape, I'm certain I will have at least a few hammer marks and other oddities that I'll want to grind out. To do that, should I be looking at quenching and then grinding, or let it air cool, grind the blade, then reheat and quench? I think I've got the basics of tempering it down, but am a little uncertain about when to quench it.

Pretty fun stuff, though. I'll have to leave the blacksmithing alone and do some of my woodworking that has piled up in the past few weeks tomorrow, but it was enjoyable tonight.

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Good on ya! Another addic^H^^H^H^H^H -- er, ah -- smith appears!

That's not a problem: That's 1095. :)

If your anvil is solidly mounted, it shouldn't hurt it to use a heavier hammer. 3-4 pounds might be a little better for what you're working. Depends on what your arm likes.

Fullering across the width, as you said, will lengthen the bar without excessively widening it. You can keep very good control of width by turning the bar edge up and (gently) hammering it back to dimension. Fullering's one of the first skills you learn when you don't have dimensional material of the right size for whatever you're making.

For wider, fuller along the length. You can do a lot by fullering. Changing stock width or length is only the beginning of what this technique can do. You can make curves, asymmetrical stock for bucket bands, etc. all kinds of good stuff.

If you want to make a knife from this stuff, I'd say don't quench it at all until you're ready to heat treat it. Before grinding you want to anneal it dead soft. Thin sections of 1095 will air harden somewhat.

You might run down to your local house and garden store and buy a big bag of vermiculite. When you're ready to start grinding, heat the piece to non-magnetic and stick it in a 5-gal. bucket of the vermiculite so it cools slowly, like overnight, to anneal it.

At my friend's shop he just heats it bright red and throws it into the coal furnace after banking it up for the night. Works like a charm. Soft as a baby's butt in the morning.:)

Gazing into the fiery forge, I look into the future and see you eventually having a line of woodworks with hand-forged metal parts. :)

Reply to
John Husvar

Unless you have one of those cheap harbor freight cast-iron anvils, it should be able to take a pounding.

  1. Make a hold-down (bent rod that fits into the pritchel hole and holds work to the face of the anvil);
  2. Get yourtself a two-handed sledge hammer.
  3. holding the work with the hold-down, smite the work with the sledge!


John Husvar wrote:

Reply to
John O. Kopf

It seems strange to me that using the warm air above the forge made a noticeable difference. This air is warmer, it also should have less oxygen. Is your forge running rich?

Drawing 1095 that size will be a lot of work. You can greatly speed it up by using a peen style hammer. You can also speed it up by hammering over the horn (stock left to right across the horn). You don't want a tight radius (on the hammer)--manufactured hammers have way too small a radius. Try 3/8 to 1/2" radius, with rounded corners all around. If you're also trying to use the horn, you will want a straight peen.

Your anvil may be a little light for this. I don't think you'll hurt it, but the anvil probably bounces around chewing up some of that work you're putting in. Working over the horn may make matters worse. You may want to make some kind of saddle fuller if you can tie it down solidly. Anything that bouces is wasted energy on your part.


Prometheus wrote:

Reply to
Steve Smith

When John O. Kopf put fingers to keys it was 2/11/07 10:28 AM...

Another happy hold-down: a length of relatively fine chain (sash chain works well) fixed to the stump on your side, hung over the face of the anvil with a weight on the other end.

- Carl

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Two words: Power hammer. Costs about as much as a new 500-pound anvil and a bigger hammer anyway. Best get your wife/girlfriend/SO to wanting something you made: That way you can tell them how much you"need" these new tools to do it. :)

Squash, make flat!

Reply to
John Husvar

I don't know Steve, maybe if he worked an inch of the alloy at a time, thin it out, turn 90 degrees, flip back. Could work to a dull red, put it back in. It shouldn't be taking so long.

I worked a piece that was an inch by two inch, worked that down to a

3/4" square section on one end, it took probably about 10 minutes... I used a 4 lb demolition hammer though, and I was sore after. The anvil is a shitty little cast one. I've got to get a decent one.

Regards Charles

Steve Smith wrote:

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And you'd be right in your prediction... I figured I'd just make chisels, but as usual when learning to do anything, plenty of other possibilities have come to mind. Even just simple twisted drawer pulls would be a nice addition to a hand-crafted wooden drawer or box, to say nothing of what a guy could do with custom box corners or handmade hinges.

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Maybe. I'm not savvy enough to really make that call quite yet. What I do know is that the air below the forge is sub-zero (at least until the thing has been running for a while) There's quite a change in internal heat when the warmer air is being pulled into the forge. I should also note that I leave the garage door cracked for fresh air, and I am not ducting the exhast from the forge to the blower- It is about 2 feet from the forge mouth, and the forge exhaust is undoubtedly mixing with some oxygen from the air around it, and that may be enough.

I've tried a whole lot of little tweaks, and it appears to me that I get the best heat when about 75% of the flame inside the forge is a solid blue, with about 25% of the swirling end orange. This results in an orange flame licking about 3-4" out of the forge. There's still plenty of adjustment there to either get the thing roaring like a jet with an all-blue flame, or quietly spewing fire halfway across the room by adjusting the airflow. I have been judging the level of heat by the relative brightness of the firebrick on the bottom.

Doesn't appear to be or feel like it is bouncing to any signifigant degree. I sucked it up and put it on the maple stump I have, which is too heavy for me to pick up easily (at a guess, maybe 220 pounds) and bent some 8" ring shank spikes I had laying around over the feet.

That being said, I did do that *after* I tried to flatten the 1095, and it was bouncing pretty good when it was just sitting on a bench. Perhaps it will be easier going now that I've got the anvil mounted properly.

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No need to convince the wife, she knows better than to raise a stink about either of my shops. She knows full well that if I didn't have them to occupy my time, I'd probably just sit around watching TV and drinking beer (which I did way too much of before we bought our house and I had some space to work in.)

I'm sure I'll be making a power hammer soon enough- it's just a matter of figuring out what I need and want before putting it together. I hate wasting too much time and money on things I need to replace right away.

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Yep. I just haven't gotten around to making one of those yet.

Thanks for all the advice, guys. There is still a little hammer power I was holding in reserve, so in my next attempt, I'll make a point of really whaling on it. Took me a long time to learn not to hit things with everything I've got, so it's a habit that is somewhat hard to unlearn.

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Dig That!

Had to retire from construction and industrial maintenance electrician because of MS putting me in a wheelchair part-time and cane or crutches most of the rest of the time. Now I have too much work and not enough me sometimes. :)

A friend and I built two a couple of years ago from the Kinyon plans as modified by Larry Zoeller. We made a 25 pounder for a fellow smith. (who else?) and a 65 pounder for my friend's shop. The 25 pounder is nice and makes drawing out a lot easier: The 65 pounder hits like the Wrath of God! We draw out inch square pattern welded 1095/L6 billets like they were butter. :)

We tried just bolting it to the (very thick floor,) but it tried to dig its way to China. So we built a 4X4 platform of three layers of PT lumber and an inch thick conveyor belting mat. It doesn't try to go through the floor any more, but we have to tighten the mounting bolts regularly.

Reply to
John Husvar

This is not what I was picturing (exhaust wise). It now makes more sense. Your flame sounds like it is in pretty good control.


Reply to
Steve Smith

That sucks. :/

We had similar jobs :) and I got "pulled out of service" and retired on disability too.

Gov't calls the job "signal mechanic", but "industrial electrician" is really more like it.

Alvin in AZ

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On Feb 11, 3:05 am, Prometheus wrote: ...


Hi Prometheus. Couldn't cut out much more of your post, since it is all pretty relevant. I was doing a similar thing another day, but with a railroad spring clip (one of those C-J shaped things). I have read that this is similar to 1060. Its cross-section is 5/8 x 1+", similar to what you have. But, I was *not* trying to bring it down to a knife cross section. This is too much. Unless you have a power hammer or a rolling mill, this is a bit too much of a dimension change, unless you are just trying to practice. I did need to taper the end to 5/8" round to fit inside a 1/2" iron water pipe. I tapped twice on the anvil, and a big guy stepped out of the shadows with a 10 lb long handled sledge. It took only one or two heats.

A couple of things I noticed about this spring clip. It was not worth hitting it at red. Don't hit it at bright yellow either. A dark yellow is fine, and stop wasting effort as soon as it drops below orange. The hammer will just bounce off, since you are not in the plastic range yet. Of course, a bigger hammer will bring it into the plastic range where the deformation will be permanent. It helps a lot to use the edge of the anvil. A loosely fitting bottom fuller is almost not worth the effort. I also don't like the horn, but I just learned a great tip. Kill the sound with a magnet under the horn. It makes a terrible noise that I hate. I also have a Brazeal Brothers block with a ground in fuller. These work well to. I would say that the 1060 is about 3x harder to move than mild steel. Less to show for the effort, but when it is cool, the steel makes a great "clink" noise, and everyone will know you worked hard. For the mindless stock reduction, though, nothing beats a power hammer, and this is one of the safest operations. You will be productive after one 10 minute lesson. The guy who taught me warned me, though: "Don't try anything else yet."

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Yeah, I had to let my big guy out, too. I have a tendancy to hold back when whacking things, as I've been known to break stuff when letting loose in the past. Still only had the 32oz hammer, I just swung it (a *lot*) harder. I figure it took 3-4 heats after I really started whaling on the sucker. The real trial was twisting the handle- I reshaped it to 3/4" square, and went to town on it, but foolishly used a smallish cresent wrench for the job. I'm still feeling that one three days later, but it does look cool.

Why can't you hit it at bright yellow? I think I was doing just that, but color is pretty subjective depending on the ambient light, etc. I definately did not let it get below orange, except when normalizing.

I don't actually have any hardie tools yet- to fuller, I was just using the peen on the hammer, and I use a rectangular punch from the big CNC punch at work that I ground down for a cold-cut. That one is awfully entertaining- I haven't got the hardware store to get a bolt that I can use to attach it to the bench yet (it has a tapped hole on the bottom) so it just sits on top of the bottom die (which is just there because it's a little bigger and reflects some more of the blow back.) After hitting that sucker, I've been able to get it to bounce almost 6 inches off the bench- but it actually works pretty well, dispite it's tendancy to do acrobatics.

Yep. Treadle hammer is on the list of things to make.

On that subject- the designs I've seen for them use a couple of springs to raise the striking head after each blow, and the striking arm pivots as it descends.

Assuming that I can design and fabricate it (neither of which is a problem), it seems like there would be a real advantage in bringing the striking head straight down and having it return by using a wieght on a cable that is stretched over a couple of pullies. As Pete (spaco) pointed out to me when he kindly gave me a lesson a few weeks back, changing the dies on the common pivot style results in things not always matching up without some special adjustments.

Anybody else made something like this? Is there some particular reason why it may not work as well as the more common pivoting striker arm? I've got just about any metalworking tool a guy could hope for (except an engine lathe, unfortunately) availible at work, so fabrication difficulties aren't really much of a barrier. I figure I could laser or plasma cut a slot in the striker arm so most of the design would remain unchanged and the arm would simply push down the head with a pair of pins (probably big bolts), and I could even mount the striker on dovetailed ways if I needed or wanted to get really fancy (though I imagine that something like casters or ball bearings might rob a little less power from the stroke)

If a guy were to build a really useful one, how heavy should the striking head be? I figure that I could maybe buy a really cheap cast-iron anvil (on the theory that it is heavy, and cast-iron is reputed to have good shock resistance- but I do have a bucket full of M2 that could be stacked and welded inside a container if need be) and mill it to fit whatever ways I go with, then attach the dies with a dovetailed slide and a couple of set screws. Would I want or need to bolt something like that down with some redheads, or is it better to let it sit on the (well cured concrete) floor unattached?

Just blue-skying it for now, as I don't have the cash on hand to get the kind of materials I'd want to make something like that out of, and that's an awful lot of steel to get from my employer, even though they'd probably give it to me if I asked real nice (at least, they've never allowed me to pay for any materials yet). Maybe in a couple of months, though. Figure I'll *really* appreciate it then, after beating things out with a hammer for a while first.

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Clay Spencer has plans for both a swing-arm (paralleogram) type and an in-line type (where the head moves straight up and down). His plans are excellent. You can get them from Norm Larson Books (larbooks at It may also be fun to design on your own.

Clay's in-line:

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really like mine. It seems like it hits about 10% harder than the swing-arm type, based on how well it strikes coins.

Clay's design uses a head of about 60 pounds. The more weight on the bottom anvil, the better. If you were using the hammer exclusively for chisel work, you might want it lighter. You might also want it heavier if only for drawing. 60 pounds +/- is a reasonable compromise. I've made one of Clay's swing arm hammers and several friends and I made six of the in-line hammers.

There is also a hammer called the grasshopper. I don't know much about it:

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I will say that the swing arm hammer was a lot simpler to put together than the in-line. The Grasshopper (without more than glancing at it) looks a bit more complex.

You will want some kind of pad under the treadle hammer. If you put it directly on concrete, the hammer will chip away at it and eventually dig a (shallow) hole. Mount it on plywood or dense rubber. Conveyor belting is popular for this.

For a lower anvil, build it up out of 2" round, 1" square or whatever you have. Good luck at the scrap piles.


Reply to
Steve Smith

I've been reading through this thread waiting for somebody to say it plainly but never saw it. One of the first things I did in blacksmithing was pound out a 1x1 inch piece of railroad hardware into a Wak blade. I was similarly depressed at the rate of progress and went looking for a bigger hammer - I'd been using a two or three lb. Cross Pene. I went on this trip to home depot with mention of a straight pene being easier to use echoing in my head. So as I'm wandering down the long handled hammer isle I spot a splitting maul. Lightbulb goes off in my head and 12 dollars later I'm dragging an 8 lb. straight pene hammer home with me. When I got home I cut the handle to about 14-16 inches, ground the the wedge down till I had a nice round pene and did some contouring on the flat head side. Armed with this weapon of smithing I can break down the bigger pieces of material pretty fast. Yes, it will take a toll on your arm. You have to let it do the work and just concentrate on raising it in the air.

The point here is that there is no substitute for mass. In your anvil and in the hammer. Hitting it harder just wears you out faster. With a bigger hammer you just have to take your time, get smooth rhythm going and build some endurance. When breaking down thick stock you definately want to make use of the pene.

Something I learned while experimenting with making forge welded blade stock is if you can get a couple friends interested in tandem hammering the metal will move incredibly fast. Picture one person holding the work and one on either side of the anvil taking turns hitting the steel. You don't even have to be trying to hit it hard with a couple of eight pound hammers working in tandem. You can see the metal moving a lot in a single heat.


Reply to
Kyle J.

That's a fine looking piece of equipment, to be sure. It sort of looks like buying the plan may be the way to go, if only to save time- no need to reinvent the wheel everytime!

I'm not sure what it's main use will be quite yet- while the original purpose behind looking into all this in the first place was the chisels, I'm finding that I really do like the look of ornimental iron work, and that may well be the bulk of what I do with this second shop.

Will do.

I'll take a look around- I know there isn't much trouble finding a bunch of mild steel, but I (perhaps unrealistically) kind of have my sights set on scrounging up some larger diameter alloy bar stock. I know that most machine shops have plenty of odds and ends left over from jobs, and sometimes they can be gotten pretty cheap or for free. That would be the polite thing to do, considering I'm "hiring" a welder from work to do the welding for me in exchange for some woodwork. Of course, I do not know offhand what really big hunks of metal cost, so something like a 5" diameter piece of 4140 that is three feet long or better may be wildly out of reach, even at bargain basement prices. I'm sure I'll be able to scrounge something, though- it's amazing what people throw away in the metal industry sometimes.

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That very thought has crossed my mind, to be sure. It's nice to see that it's not such a crazy idea after all. I'll be looking into that this weekend for certain. I've also been tossing about the idea of putting a handle on my spare splitting maul head and grinding the blade end back to make a cross peen that goes the opposite direction.

The bigger hammer, I can do- but the anvil is going to have to wait for a while. While I'm more than willing to run out and buy one, my checking account disagrees.

That seems like a tall order, though I guess it couldn't hurt to ask if anyone I know is interested in swinging a hammer.

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