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    Vancouver, BC, Canada
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    Roman Blacksmithing
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    Recreation Artisan
  1. @ThomasPowers Absolutely- I was pretty wary of the color at first but the specter of cracking got me over that one pretty quick LOL And yeah, today I did find it was a xxxx of a lot easier than any steel piece I've ever made- although the really short hammering time and going back to the heat so often did seem to make it take no less time. I tried welding some small bits into a large billet, but I hadn't yet found that the working temp nees to be so high so I had horrible splitting problems- I'll have to give it a go again now that I know. Yeah, I'm by my lonesome so I'm sure that makes a significant difference- ah for the days of apprentices to do the grunt work. Thanks for the reference suggestion- I'll have to check it out since I've so far been singularly unsuccessful in finding any written material on forging iron. @Mark- I did go much hotter today and it seems to have helped some- I suspect there's technique I need to learn too- drawing is probably one of the more 'energetic' processes and it sure seems wrought iron doesn't much like those. My other desire is to hammer out a thin sheet- that's already been a failure once so I expect it'll be a tough learn too. I realized leaving some mass at the end would control splitting although I promptly forgot it earlier and ruined 45 minutes' work when I tried to draw out a point from a short end and it cracked and split all to xxxx - welding didn't work to save that one. Drawing points seems one of the real difficult things to do in iron... @UnicornForge: Oh I'm not making nails- I just said that I understood part of my issue was that I wanted to draw something out significantly but that there had to be a way to do it cleanly because smiths made nails out of iron for a very long time (which are significantly smaller than what I am doing). @irnsrgn: Luckily my stock is round and square bar- seemingly of higher quality since the fibers are quite fine and even with a 10X magnifier I see no slag inclusions or anything but the tiny fibers.
  2. It's a Diamondback Ironworks single-burner propane knife forge- it does get quite hot since I can weld with it, although I'm still not so good at it yet ;)
  3. I have my anvil right on a concrete floor and I use a bit of leather between for protection and it works just fine- granted it's a light 83lb job and I don't do any sledge work and a floor's a bit different than a reinforced concrete stand, but I don't get any crushing, powdering or any kind of damage to the concrete...
  4. I find myself wondering more about techniques though since super heat is rather less efficient a compensating method when one thinks of the ancient smith using probably not invaluable charcoal- things like forging round-section for drawing since stresses on the fibers might be more at the corners?
  5. @UnicornForge- I really mean exactly what I wrote: wrought iron means wrought iron- fiberous, 120 years old metal (in good shape). And I am using it specifically- the size is what I need and the material is what I need. I've used mild steel a lot, so that I have no trouble with- I'm intentionally learning to use iorn since it's so different. Actually, it's because it's a whole subject that I ask- there's not a heck of a lot of information within easy reach it seems, I've looked a fair bit. It strikes me as something that'd be useful to have here. Unfortunately, I don't know if the stuff I have is high or low grade- it's cut 90% of the way through, then broken so the fibers are visible but the fibers don't look big and the sawed section is clean, i.e., nothing visible to the naked eye, but for all I know that's what low-grade stuff looks like and high grade wrough iron has barely visible fibers. @double_edge2 I hadn't thought of using anything to mechanically keep it together, but that's not something I think I can do at the moment since I don't have a swage block or anything analogous. Gentler and slower was the one thing I was afraid might be recommended LOL since I'm already going pretty slow and drawing out what I need to draw out is taking a good long time. It's the only thing that had occurred to me since my first attempt caused so much real cracking and I was striking as hard as I would using mild steel. Near welding temperature makes sense too but again is not what I was hoping for since that's more time and even less working time. But then anything's better than all the fine cracks I guess...
  6. Does anyone have a deal of experience working with wrought iron? I'm just now making my first foray into the technique and man is it dodgy. I've learned that iron is best hammered quite hot, and through trial (and much error) lighter hammerstrikes seem to cause less problem, but I still get a good deal of splitting and cracking- fine stuff, sure, but still visible after grinding and much can't be ground away so is deeper. Of course I'm working a 3/4" round bar down to about 3/8" square so it's a good deal of forging, but there must be a way- smiths forged iron down to nails for thousands of years before decent steel came along. Does anyone have any advice?
  7. Well maybe partly, but it's just as much as Frosty said- the 1/4" steel plate and the huge pine block add a good deal to the apparent weight. I wouldn't have thought as much as 67lbs, but then bathroom scales aren't usually high-accuracy devices ;)
  8. Yup, 83lbs, so I got it for about $1.80/lb, and definitely that's not a crack- it's just the edges of the weld being 'spread' up and down. Notice on the front shot it's sort of 'Z' shaped so had a projection on each half that corresponded to a gap on the other (proper joinery actually). it's just that the mating wasn't perfect and the smith(s) who made it simply hammered the extra up over the joint welding it to the outside of the attached bit.
  9. First thanks to all who offered suggestions and advice in my earlier thread about a GE farrier's anvil I was looking at- most said to keep looking and indeed that went well since a few days ago I found another nice, old Peter Wright for sale locally. The seller thought it was marked '0 2 87', which made sense since he weighed it on a bathroom scale at around 150lbs, and for $150CAD that seemed a great price, but when I stripped off the paint, I found it actually reads '0 2 27' (83lbs) so maybe not quite so awesome- but oh well. it seems to be in good shape to my rather un-expert eye, but I would like opinions. I've been managing fine for the last 18 months with a 55lb English-made ASO, so even this relatively light real anvil should be a step up- and since I don't do anything terribly heavy as far as work goes, I expect this lighter anvil won't be a real hindrance (I hope LOL). The workface is a bit dinged-up in the photo, but I've just quite successfully ground and polished it so only maybe half a dozen small deeper dings remain- and they're probably half a millimeter wide and deep each, plus they're well spread out so as not to pose any serious threat to a workpiece. The rebound is there, but having no experience with any other anvils, I couldn't say if it's good or moderate- by comparison the horn has virtually none. The ring is tough too- the hammer both the seller and I tried ring a good deal, so surely adds to the sound, plus I understand the wrought iron body does deaden the sound somewhat; this fellow is also welded to a 1/4" steel plate, which is nailed to a heavy pine block- but it's not in perfect contact so there are spaces, all of which I suspect significantly dampen the vibration. One feature you can clearly see in the photos is the weld between the upper and lower body sections- it's rather obvious where the ends were 'wrapped' up and down and it's somewhat messy- would this be considered normal? I don't see any indication of them cracking anywhere, nor can I pry any of the edges out or anything. Anyway, here she is:
  10. Well that's based on what I understand is the problem with wrought iron- it's difficult to find and thus one has to contend with quite variable quality. Sim contends the Roman stuff he analyzed was quite good. I wasn't commenting on further refinement since that has its own issues I should think. I'll see if I can get the paper you suggest though as I'm certainly interested to know what else has been found.
  11. I wish LOL Nope, just me arm. I ground the cross peen of one of my 1kg hammers quite blunt as I found that a better shape for drawing thicker stock (not so many sharp peaks to flatten and more metal seems to be moved for a bit less thinning). A couple of weeks ago I forged a 65cm long pilum from a 14" bar, thinning it down to just 6-7mm square for 3/4 of the final length without a ridiculous amount of energy spent. I did it over two days- of non-continuous work (forging other things at the same time and taking breaks of course) but didn't keep strict track of the time spent- but it wasn't excessive.
  12. I use 1/2" square stock exclusively as it is far easier to upset a little to provide more material at the end for sockets or broad-tangs a little ways up for spike-tanged pila. I made a Republican broad-tanged type with the folded-over edges a few months ago from such a bar and I don't think I really upset it much at all actually, and the thickness was still on the order of 3mm or so I think, even though it was quite broad indeed. Were I to want to make the type with the split and folded edges, I think I would try forging thin and folding over, welding only the middle so I had a natural split in the edges- I wouldn't be surprised if this is how it was originally done as I just can't see cutting a thin slit in a tang edge deep enough to give 4-5mm folds...
  13. Ah, likely so Dave (Budd)- I don't mean a seam, but rather the large gap that often people leave at the top- like on this one: Not a bad thing, as sometimes they do have it, just not the majority I've seen. Dave (W)- it's me, Matt Lukes And thanks. Yeah the ferrule started life as a bit of 1/16" wall square tubing that I forged on a form. It's actually compressed, not stretched- far easier I found.
  14. Everything Matt wrote is quite correct- I'd add that: Arsenic I think is also suggested, along with phosphorous to significantly affect the harness of iron- David Sim published a study of various pieces of Roman iron armour, and a section of segmented armour plate he found was nearly pure iron, with some P and As, but had a hardness far greater than it should have done with almost no carbon. He also demosntrated that sectionally, most of these artifacts (helmet, scale armour, shield boss, etc.) had very little in the way of slag inclusions and varying amounts of carbon suggesting high quality ironworking. Generally speaking, modern mild steel is the best choice given that wrought iron is near on impossible to find (and may not be so correct), and higher-carbon and alloyed steels are definitely way off. Another good book that describes variations in iron weapons, albeit briefly, is Bishop and Coulston's Roman Military Equipment (2.ed.). And as for iron being expensive vs. copper alloys, it was definitely the other way around- copper and tin, especially, are far, far more valuable. The Romans are known to have dumped literally hundreds of tons of iron at various sites, and that's what's survived for 2000 years so one can only imagine how much there might've been originally- that in itself shows it wasn't particularly costly. Copper alloys, on the other hand, are suggested to have been often recycled rather than discarded. It was also used for decorations and in particular money, which iron certainly was not. Roman coins, for example, often seem to have had real physical worth due to the amount of metal, rather than just an assigned value as our money has. The sestertius, for example, was a honking great chunk of brass often weighing around 25g. Oh and thanks Matt, I appreciate the compliment.
  15. Hi guys, I notice a few people talking about making Roman spearheads, so I thought I'd show my latest accurate recreation- a Roman hasta head from Newstead, Scotland, dated to the 2nd century CE (the fort was finally abandoned in 180CE). That's a full-sized printout of the original that I used to shape mine- it's forged from low-carbon steel as that's the closest thing to what was really used, and really the only thing I adjusted was the length of the socket- I didn't end up with as deep an interior space as I'd intended, so added 1cm of length to compensate. It's a pretty standard shape for 2nd century CE hasta heads- earlier ones seem to be more broad at the base rather than widening at about 1/3 of the way to the point. This is one of the larger examples though- blade length being a bit more than 22cm- many are rather shorter and narrower. Matt