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I Forge Iron


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  1. So, Halloween is on the way, and I've not been able to figure out a nice and simple skull for keychains, bottle openers, and other small items. Most of the examples I've found just don't look very good to me, but I know I've seen some nice ones posted in the past.
  2. Thanks, Thomas! I was afraid that would be the answer. I'll start with some spark tests and hardening tests in air, oil, and then water once I get it home, then. I'm hopeful it turns out to be some sort of tool steel. But even if not, I'm sure I can find a use for a foot of steel that thick.
  3. Ok, while looking around a scrap yard for parts for a tire hammer, I found some mystery steel to toy with. (I also found my 5" and 4" tubes for the hammer!) The bar is about 15 or maybe 20 feet long. About 2" solid hex. It looks just like a raw stock bar that never got used for anything. I'm having them cut off a foot for me. One end of the bar is stamped with 9781, and possibly either a 3, 5, or 8 after that. Too worn to tell more. It might even just be part of a mis-stamp. Sadly, googling these numbers plus "alloy" or "steel" doesn't bring up anything I'm recognizing as an ID. On wikipedia there's this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_steel_grades I'm guessing this could indicate a nickle-chrome-moly steel with 81 pts of carbon? But that's just a wild guess, since I don't actually know what the number stamp means, or even if the extra partial number is really a mis-stamp or not. For all I know, the number stamp is the zipcode indicating where it was made or imported to, or some sort of internal company tag number with nothing to do with the steel. For those more familiar with how steel gets labeled, Is there enough information here to narrow down probable alloy, or will it forever be in the mystery stack? If it ends up being identifiable and useable, I might go get the rest of the bar. If not, I'll just have fun with the 1 foot section.
  4. Sulfur fume painting, interesting. Sort of a shame is rubs off so easily and I've only had it happen by accident. It makes a nice white beard straight from the forge. Could be a fun little gimmick to add to the wizard heads at a demo if it were more controllable.
  5. Ok, what's going on here? I forged this wizard head a few days ago. No finishes applied, and no paint or galvanizing were ever present on the bar. I just reheated it up this morning to put bends in the hat, and was about to brush off the scale. I walked around, looking for the stupid brush that seems to grow legs any time I need it. Didn't find it, but then I look down at the piece, and the wizard's beard is now white. I haven't seen this sort of coloring happen outside of paint or the like burning off of a hot piece. Also weird that it's confined to the bottom of the beard, but not past it. I'm using well coked coal if that's relevant at all.
  6. I'm loving this new coal forge. I used getting a giant propane tank installed as an excuse to tear down and rebuild my coal forge, since it made using the propane forge a lot easier in the meantime. I was tired of the old coal forge. Terrible firepot design (Really, 'design' is rather a large stretch. It was just a pipe sticking up through a metal bowl shape that was convenient at the time.) The tuyere was always getting clogged, either with bits of coal falling in and getting stuck, or slag. The air grate burning away. It took up a bit too much floorspace. It was my best coal forge up til then, but it had its issues. I got an old water tank as part of a scrap cleanup at a neighbor's place. Using Mark aspery's plans as a rough guideline, I cut some holes, welded some pipe bits and pieces together, and made this fancy water cooled side blast. Some of the welds seep a bit, but not enough that it seems to matter. We'll see how they hold up over time. The bed is lined with as much wet woodash as I could find. It could probably use a bit more, but oh well, more coal storage. So far, works great! I love that I can forge for several hours now without worrying about clinkers clogging the air. Clinker still becomes a problem eventually, but not nearly as much as it was with my old forge. And no worries of my side blast pipe burning away like the uncooled plumbing pipe that I tried in the past. That thing burnt away rather fast, and it was always getting melted shut. I've realized I like coal a whole lot better all over again. I'm sure with the right propane setup, I'd be a lot happier, but back to coal for now. The propane can still happily heat my water and cook my food though! I might try one of the Jymm Hoffman style gas forges next time I get around to it. So, I'm giving my thumbs up to the water cooled side blast..
  7. Alan: Maybe you're right in your place. I hardly think of blacksmithing as being an industry here in the states. I imagine that over there it's still considered part of a proper trade or tradition. It's almost like if we had hobbyist or amateur plumbers in one country, but professional guild or union trained plumbers in another, arguing over the way eachother uses certain terms. One group is mostly doing it for fun and some might do it professionally, but without the institutional standards and history you may have over there. Different contexts entirely. TP: Heh, I rather like that way of thinking about it! Just gotta figure out which die sides maximize the odds of the steel losing its save. It could be the difference between making a cursed knife or +1 knife, ya know. Though it certainly helps more to just be a higher level blacksmith. nicole: Now I'm wondering how many syllables 'steel' is for a haiku. I've heard it pronounced in one go, and also as a more exaggerated "stee-ull" Charles: What's this dumbed down boston english lexicon thing? I skipped most of my English classes back in highschool to hide in the library and read. When they're still lecturing about how to tell nouns and verbs apart in highschool, somethin' ain't right. It was kind of funny, in college I enjoyed the English classes. But they were the absolute worst, most boring classes back in highschool. gote: I'm not trying to say newbies are stupid at all. There's nothing stupid about not understanding something. Understanding isn't about smarts, but the framework you have built up around something. One can read a high level physics book and know what all the words mean, without actually understanding it. You'd have to, either through math, or through experiment, experience physics in some way to really have a good understanding of it. Take your car, almost everyone experiences cars every day of their lives. People have the experience of cars and attaching any particular word to it is a simple matter. And car does in fact seem somewhat descriptive of what it does. It looks like it probably derrives from 'cart' or 'carriage'. And that's what a car is, a cart or carriage for transporting people. Blacksmithing and tool use on the other hand, you might only be exposed to today if you have a parent or friend into the hobby/trade. If you don't have the exposure, there's a lack of framework on which to apply terms and processes. I think most schools here don't even have shop classes anymore. And what I remember of them, it seemed like the only kids that took them were the ones that already had familiarity with them in the first place. Now, I realize I'm probably taking the idea way too far if I'm giving the impression I think newbies are stupid. I just know I've seen other people somewhat bewildered when learning something new that they have no real exposure to, and I remember how when I first started, I put way too much emphasis on this or that tool or set-up, or how some thing or another seemed awfully more important than it really was, just because I didn't have the experience to judge otherwise, and nobody right there next to me to show me what was wrong. Just lots of differently worded explanations in books and on the internet, that may have been technically correct, but didn't get the point across in a way that matched the experiences I had at that point. But once in awhile, I'd either experience something new that made old explanations make sense, or I'd stumble across a particular wording that made a lightbulb go on, and my work improved afterwards.
  8. Hmm, no I don't mean to say we should reduce our vocabulary. I'm trying to say how the words used about things can affect the way we think about them. This is particularly true if you don't have a background that gives you some familiarity with what you're learning about. Working with hand tools used to be a lot more common, as was the observation of others using them regularly. Today, a great many people do not have anything even remotely approaching that kind of familiarity. This is a world where many peoples' first response is to throw something away and buy a new one instead of oiling a stuck part to make it work again. Maybe I have taken the idea and run with it a little too far. I've always liked playing with word meanings and how they shape the apparent view of things. Does it help if I say my context for argument is informal learning, teaching and discussion on the internet, primarily aimed at relatively inexperienced folk that have no solid experience in how metal moves? I think most newcomers lack the experience of moving metal and/or using tools more than anything else. Words cannot replace experience, no matter how precise. In fact, I argue that too much precision hinders an absolute beginner, because they're at a stage where they have no idea of the relative importance of things. (Gotta have this special hammer, gotta have this special anvil, gotta have this special forge.. etc.) The best that can be done, outside of being right next to the student to show them and then watch them try, is using analogies that try to bootstrap some of the students' prior experiences into play. In today's world, we very frequently interact with people whose experiences are nothing like our own, so it calls for some more flexibility in the words used to bootstrap onto a student's prior experiences. It doesn't matter how precise or descriptive a term seems to be if it doesn't smoothly connect with someone's experience of how things work. But if you can find a connection somewhere, then use it. Not everyone is going to be equally responsive to the same way of saying things. Ideally, I'd say someone should go at least full week forging some sort of project over and over that incorporates most of the common operations, and then introduce them to the correct vocabulary of what they've been doing after they've acquired the experience of how metal moves and how the tools work. Once the experience of the process is there, attaching new words to isolate the process into smaller parts is fairly trivial, and more likely to be helpful, since it will often suddenly answer something that was bugging them the whole past week. But ideal situations usually aren't practical. So we're left to using other means. If new words or ways of phrasing things seem to help some people, leave them be and let them continue on with their learning.
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  10. We do have perfectly good words for things. But words alone don't convey meaning. The contexts of words and the experience of the users of words also matters. "Hammer" is a perfectly good word for a hammer. And the word does imply hitting things, hammer also being a verb with that meaning. But, at least to me, and I assume for at least some others out there as well, a "hammer" does not convey meaning as a forming/shaping tool or action. The word die, on the other hand, used in the context of using a hammer as a shaping tool, does convey that meaning and makes something click. "Die", also implies a degree of precision that hammering does not -- after all, what could be more crude than hitting with a hammer, and what is more repeatable than forming with a die? That can influence the way you think about and try to use a hammer. As a context, we should remember most of us have not grown up using the words 'fullers', or 'swages', or even hearing the terms used much, if ever. They don't even have features that imply their meanings based on words or wordparts we've encountered in other places. They're just a bit alien and a cause of confusion that can get in the way of learning for some people. Most people have heard of dies at least in the context of some kind of mold or molding tool. arftist: OK, left and right. There's a fun concept. When using the words, do you mean, yours, someone elses', or an object's (if it has a definable front and back, it has its own right and left)? Now, I know you meant in the context of a hammer face, but that's a great example where many people get context mixed up every single day. Heck, I sometimes have to tense the muscles in either of my arms to figure out which is left or right. Granted, I've been called weird more than once. But back to the real matter. What do sides, faces, peins, or heels of hammers have to do with anything? They do little to nothing in connecting the meaning of the tool in use to the name of the part. Many people out there have a context of actions that are more important to their experience than the names of things, particularly when learning a new skill. Similarly, "Roman claw die" makes absolutely no sense in the context of hammers as dies, because it is not used as a forming tool. Nobody would make that mistake if they understood the context. And it's perfectly OK not to understand a given context. We're all a little different. Assuming we're all the same is where the problems of miscommunication really are. Language is not set in stone (what a silly term, you can just scrape the stone down and recarve the words), meanings, contexts, and pronunciations change. Change isn't bad. It happens, no stopping it. If it didn't happen, we'd never go from wide-eyed kids to crusty old curmudgeons. I am gleefully awaiting the day when I earn my crusty old curmudgeon badge. Just go and try to read Old English using your knowledge of modern English. Or compare the Latin of early Roman times to that of the 16th century. The scholars of the future will generally understand that they need to know the context in which things are said rather than just the meaning listed in the dictionary. Sometimes they even have to resort to experimental archaeology to figure things out. There are uncountable pages of analyses of just that sort of stuff in the academic world. Miscommunication is unavoidable. What matters is recognizing that there is miscommunication happening and trying to find a way around it when it causes problems.
  11. Sure does, Frosty! Thanks Ethan. I sure hope it lasts. If it doesn't, I now know I can always make a new one though!
  12. I just thought I'd chime in. The words we use for things can be funny sometimes. When we use familiar words that we have known and used for years, we often don't think about them as much, we just use them and assume we know all we need, that they mean what they mean and that's that. Merely using some new words, some different arrangement of symbols and sounds, and suddenly, the experience of how the world works changes. That's magic, right there. I used to know you just hit metal with a hammer to shape it. And that's true. But until someone thought, for whatever reason, to call the hammer faces 'dies', I never really thought about the process in the way I do now. I knew of dies as parts in a machine that stamped or molded to specific shapes, but had never applied that thought to hammering steel. I mean sure, I knew about different shapes of peins and fullers and swages, but the use of this word just made something click in a way it didn't before. It maybe isn't accurate in a purely technical sense, and surely not in a traditional sense, but it forms an analogy that can change your thinking, if you're so inclined. Not every way of looking at something speaks the same to each person. This isn't to say correct terminology shouldn't be encouraged. It's essential for clear communication between people who are already experts. But it can get in the way sometimes for less experienced people, who don't have the experiential framework on which to attach the correct terms. Any wording that helps at least some new people get a better sense for something that they lacked before is a good thing, I think.
  13. Made this a couple weeks back for lack of a heavy crosspein. Weighs about 4 lbs. Forged by hand from 2" round mystery steel (I want a power hammer!). Whatever it was hardened fine in water, and has yet to chip anywhere after tempering. I'm guessing it's a medium-ish carbon steel. It sparks more than mild, but not lots more, and nothing at all like a file. The face could probably use just a tad more of a crown, but so far I like it, and it fills a need that my other hammers weren't filling.
  14. Thanks a lot, guys! It's sounding more like it'll be fine to use their regulator for the high pressure line, since I do use blown burners. The tech approved the setup, pressure-tested all the lines, and it's all good to go now.
  15. Charles: The gas tech coming tomorrow has final approval over it all and I certainly had no intention of altering it beyond what they allow. That you had a 15psi line leading downstream to other regulators at the forges seems to answer my question about the pressure behind regulators, thanks! swede: Just to be clear, I'm not running the high pressure line directly into the forge or anything. I'm not even running it into the building. I'm putting another regulator at the outlet to further fine-tune the pressure for whatever I'm using. So what I'm gathering here, is that pressure is less important than the volume of gas that can evaporate from a tank at a time. So using higher pressures from a small 20lb tank is sort of compensating for lack of total gas flow at lower pressures? So with a bigger tank, I might be perfectly fine with lower psi so long as flow is otherwise unrestricted? I'll look into getting that book when I've got a chance.
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