New to blacksmithing? Read this

The VERY BEST way to get questions answered is to get into a group that does what you want to do. There are over 60 "clubs" around the USA and
Canada organized primarily to educate folks about blacksmithing. ABANA, the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America at www.abana.org, has a list of the whereabouts of most of them. These clubs have various meeting schedules and conferences. The members range from "never lit a fire" to real professionals. Many have education programs. All of them welcome and look forward to meeting new members. Many of the members have been upgrading their equipment and therefore have things to sell, trade, etc.. Many of the groups also have newsletters containing "how-to" articles. For instance, our group, The Guild of Metalsmiths, has an index of about 750 how-to articles from our newsletter! So, to the folks who are new to blacksmithing: Find your closest ABANA affiliate, check out their website if they have one, and join the group. Get to a few meetings and introduce yourself. Tell folks about your interests and go from there.
Finally, when you are asking for "where to" information tell us in general where you live like "west central Wisconsin" (me). Who knows--- you may live a mile from me or some other person who can help.
Pete Stanaitis -------------------------
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very good advise... by the way one of my best friends and his wife are almost the same names... just diff spelling, Pete & Cherie.. and yes they pronounce it Sheri

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SNIP

Yep! real good advice Pete.. One question, Do you know of a good (read cheap) source for coal in the central Wis. area..other than Centaur that is? Thanks.. granpaw (northern wisconsin).
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I have a question, how does coal and charcoal compare?
I was given a 5 gallon bucket of 3/16" square hunks of charcoal the other day. The water-softener-outfits have tons of it to get rid of. :)
Could fine charcoal like that be used for forging?      My plan is to make some steel from iron sand and I don't want sulfer in it. If or when I get around to forge-welding my plan is to use propane for the same reason.
Alvin in AZ
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As long as the charcoal is wood charcoal that is "natural" (not briquetted), it oughta work. I have never tried pieces as small as you mention, but it would be interesting to try. I know several blacksmiths who use charcoal exclusively. They buy it in 20 to 50 pound bags. As far as using it to make iron, the 3/16" chunks may be on the smallish side. The furnaca may clog. We use 1/2" to 1" "cubes" and some bigger stuff. For forging, you tend to go through a lot more volume of charcoal than coal, so be prepared to keep shovelling. Also, you can't really control the size of your fire as well as with coal. I have seen forge welding done with charcoal, but it takes more skill than with coal.
Re: forge welding with propane to avoid sulphur (I think that's what you meant): Be careful when choosing a propane forge for forge welding. I have seen several dissapointed folks who built a propane forge and then it wouldn't reach forge welding temperatures or if it did, the atmoshpere was too oxidizing for a good weld. If you use "blacksmith coal" you WILL have a low sulphur coal and no problems with forge welding.
For making steel from iron sand: I hope you have a lot of real good friends because this process takes a lot of work, good choreography and more than a little luck. If you haven't already done so, go to www.iron.wlu.edu/anvil.htm
Pete Stanaitis ---------------------------------
snipped-for-privacy@XX.com wrote:

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It's not pressed or anything like that it's supposed to be coconut shell charcoal, I guess that's why it's so small.

I don't know anything about making iron, other than its chemical formula, it's something I plan to do someday. I want to use black sand that's been picked up with a magnet.

Yep. No sulphur allowed, if or when I get into forge-welding.

Hmmm... mapp gas? :)
I won't try to invent one myself.
I did that with the heat-treater and it took years to perfect and it's not anywhere near as demanding of a burner. Since it was before the internet, I was on my own tho. ;)

I'm planning to study up on how the Japs do it for their swords before lighting any fires. ;)

Cool thanks. :)
All I've done so far is collect 45lbs of it and shipped it off to a couple r.k'ers a few years ago.
Alvin in AZ
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snipped-for-privacy@xx.com wrote: (snip)

I've done that. It was fun. We got about 2 pounds of iron out of that run. I think I got about 5-6 pounds of black sand for that run. After that I picked up about 1/2 ton of crushed magnetite powder. (snip)             Todd              (only a furnace monkey on those runs)
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On the difference of coal and charcoal. Having used both I find I use about the same mass for both but coal is a bit denser so I use less volumn of coal. That means more fire tending with charcoal than coal. Coal produces more and more noxious smoke than charcoal. All in all I prefer charcoal if I can get it. Cheap and easy to make so if you have a source of wood (preferable not treated). A 5 gallon bucket I found to be worth around 2 hours work. At 3/16" you will have trouble with air flow. I find anything below about 1/2" gives me problems with air flow. Restricted air flow means a smaller, colder fire. I'm goint to test some modifications to my homemade forge which may help with that. But that will have to wait for consistantly nice weather. (I have a "fair weather forge"). What have you got for a forge or have you yet?
As far a propane, I'm less impressed with that than either coal or charcoal. Not all burners can reach welding temps. On the up side of propane it takes less fire tending, doesn't have the same chimeny requirements (just adequate ventalation) and is ubiquitious.
I have never tried briquets but on knifeforums someone (don't recall who) claims it can be used. snipped-for-privacy@XX.com wrote:

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I've heard of having neighbor problems from using coal.

All I wanted it for is iron making.

No forge here, just in the dreaming stages still. ;)

I finGured there was something wrong with water softner charcoal, otherwise I wouldn't be reporting its avaiability like it was news. :)
All I got it for is it was free and thought just maybe it'd be good for iron smelting.
Took an "iron rock" a week or so ago and using a hand grinder cut and ground it into a cube shape. The thing looks metallic as anything, but didn't throw sparks while I was grinding on it.
Don't know if it's magnatite or hematite. :/
Is hematite attracted to a magnet?
Alvin in AZ
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Kind of decided I wasn't going to test that theory in my neiborhood...

You mentioned you were planning to study the Japanese method. You'll need plenty of room and a big ass bonfire. Then there is the ground prep. Read a description of it once - don't actually know anything. The old world primitive methods look more practical. Kind of an earthen chiminy thing. Like to try it myself some day. How much room you got where you live Alvin? Seems to me I've read about smelting parties in your neck of the desert.

I found a rock next to the tracks and brought it home. Looks like a cross between a rock and slag and figured it was iron. No magnetic responce though. Not sure what it is and thought I'd toss it in the forge one of these days and see what happened.
GA
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Plenty. :) Plenty of hombres too. :)

Now that would be the best way for me to go huh? :)
I'm more interested (at this point) in getting the steel made from my iron-sand source -tested- than anything else.

All my iron-rocks are attracted to a magnet, some more strongly than others. The darker-heavier ones more than the rocky-redder ones.

Hope it doesn't pop on you.
Alvin in AZ
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There's a gentleman name of Tai Goo lives and teaches knifemaking outside of Tuscon. He's into "Neo Tribal" techniques of knife making and I'm thinking he does some smelting - not positive on that though... I know his knife making impresses the hell out of me and he's got a great down to basics approach to what he does. Reported to be an easy guy to talk to too.

That would be good... It's definately not a river rock. The surface is all bubbly looking with lots of holes in it. The bottom side of it is slick and kind of shiney and has reddish stain to it but the whole is charcoal grey and heavier than you expect when reaching for it. If it's not man made then its got to be some kind of lava rock. Doesn't appear to be a fragment of a larger piece either.
GA
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On Sun, 06 Mar 2005 11:47:12 -0800, Greyangel wrote:

Congratulations, you are the proud owner of a chunk of slag. I had a couple of chunks when I was a kid. Got 'em from the slag heap at a copper smelter (Bisbee? Morenci?).
Your verbal description popped up a 40 year old memory; I can see those pieces as clearly as if I were holding them now. Now, where did I put my car keys?
--
"Keep your ass behind you"
vladimir a t mad scientist com
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all
and
grey
then
of a

Ok. If it were iron slag such as you might expect to find near the railroad tracks would it not be magnetically reactive? It appears to be more mineral than metallic. If it is slag I should be able to heat up a piece and pound on it without breaking it right?
GA
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On Mon, 07 Mar 2005 16:00:48 -0800, Greyangel wrote:

Mine was mostly glass and crud. It shouldn't be magnetic--they kept the good stuff and threw out the slag. There will be _some_ iron in it, if it came from an iron smelter, cuz no separation is ever 100%. (First or Second Law of Thermodynamics, I don't remember which.) Hot or cold, I expect your chunk to smash into little pieces if you whack it. Try it, see if my guess is correct.
Are we having a definition problem with the word "slag"? I'm using it to mean the non-metallic waste product from a smelter. There might be other meanings of the word that I don't know about. The word I use for bubbly rocks found along RR tracks is "clinker;" crud left over after the coal burned in the loco.
--
"Keep your ass behind you"
vladimir a t mad scientist com
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railroad
mineral
pound
I would consider "slag" to be anything that drips off of melting material and runs off onto the ground. Like a byproduct of torch cut steel? Anyway I plan to whack a chunk off and get it really hot - just to see how it behaves.
GA
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Second try at posting this. Maybe not worth the first try even?

Definitions are spot-on;) chances are what GA found is slag left over from copper mining/smelting operations in AZ and NM since the Southern Pacific used it for "ballast". It was heavy and rough and I figure the mines gave it to the railroad for free (or even paid them to take it?) just to keep it from piling up.
As far as the iron and metallic luster on the surface that's how the stuff looks. Like gold leaf it's a super thin layer of copper etc and sometimes a thick layer of iron that later rusts. It's not black as coal when new but almost, then later developes the carnival-glass(?) looking surface after it ages.
The "clinker" I'm familiar with is a yellow/tan/brown color and I guess mostly calcium/magnesium-carbonate left over from the coal?
SP was the last big outfit in the US to switch to diesel-electric but was early in the use of oil burners. I guess it had something to do with the oil fields in southern California and the lack of good coal fields? Coal for the coal fired electric plants around here tends to come from Colorado still.
An iron-rock, as soon as you pick the sucker up) will be obvious as anything. ;)
Alvin in AZ
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I have about a half ton of slag that we made some years ago (while trying to make iron blooms) buried out back. It looks a lot like what you describe. But it really IS just another ROCK. All we did was to turn one knid of ore into another kind of ore. Sometimes magnetic, sometimes not.
Pete Stanaitis ----------------------
Greyangel wrote:

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I'm not enough geologist to make an educated opinion. The stuff I got really does seem more like rock than metal. Heavy stuff though - expecially considering its got lots of bubble holes in it. Meteoric material comes to mind but it's probably something far more mundane.
GA

is
slick
copper
railroad
mineral
pound
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Remember, the difference between rock and metal is often Oxides, silicates, sulfur(s) and the like. Likely some of the flux used on top to keep oxygen from spoiling the mix.
Various fluorides are likely in the wild and maybe in the flux.
The glassy surface is from the various chemicals generated at that temperature and mix.
Martin [ books are *packed* so no real examples possible :-( ]
Greyangel wrote:

--
Martin Eastburn, Barbara Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer snipped-for-privacy@pacbell.net
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