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I Forge Iron


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  1. Opening the ash dump on an idle bottom blast forge serves another safety purpose as well. I was at the anvil when I heard a thump. As I turned to see what happened, I noticed my coal fire landing in the fire pot! Everything seemed OK, so I kept at it. As I was cleaning up at the end of the day, I noticed a crack in my fire pot. Then I noticed that all the bolt heads holding my tuyere to the pot were stretched to where they broke. Best guess, is that coal gas piled up in the tuyere pipe until it pushed it's way out of the idle hand-crank blower's intake. From there, an unlucky breeze took the coal gas over the fire whereupon it caught fire, which carried it's way down the pipe, blowing the pot off the tuyere in the process.
  2. There are a few pitfalls in this methodology. Simple stuff like taxes, licenses, and fees. can dramatically affect the cost of doing "the same" business in one location versus another. While I can appreciate the desire to simplify things, it's really important to know what is getting simplified, and how that will affect the answer you get by taking that shortcut. JHCC pointed out that overhead costs could be factored into the material cost in this methodology to render a more complete answer. This is technically true, however it would only be possible for each individual case, for a single point in time. Overhead is driven by time, not material parameters, nor percentages of sales, nor hours worked. There's another wrinkle here, that is somewhat hidden for most businesses. Sales are seldom constant or consistent. That means that there will be stretches of time where overhead costs are adding up, with no income to pay them down. If there are relatively few sales per year, those sales will have to pay a greater share of the annual overhead. Seasonal businesses need to pay down the entire years worth of overhead within the period of time they're open. Conversely, during a boom time, it may be possible to pay off the annual overhead with the first few sales of the year, which may make it possible to reduce prices while increasing profitability as you push competitors out of your market.
  3. That's the stuff I've used. It goes out very easily, but it doesn't generate much smoke or clinker when burned.
  4. Dan, Your post brought a couple of things to mind. First off, it's been my experience that technicians at printing shops possess and absolutely incredible ability to misunderstand "the point" of whatever is being printed. Simple stuff like sending a link to download your image file, might result in a massive full color printout of the link file path! I thought I was the only one until I saw an episode of "Parks and Recreation" where they made a joke about exactly that same thing! Cake decorators sometimes do similar stuff where they'll write instructions instead of inscriptions so you end up with "Happy Birthday Leave a space Mararet". A slightly different option would be to look into laser engraving. I used a shop out here many years ago and was surprised by how affordable it was. Maybe you could make a volume deal with someone in that line of work?
  5. One popular trick among a group of smiths I know is to take an old soup can with both the bottom and top cut off. You put paper in the bottom, put dry wood kindling over the paper with a piece or two of lump charcoal on the kindling, then your coal or coke fuel. Light the paper, put the can over your tuyere, and gently give it some air. Once you see your first couple of floating cinders, you can start to give a bit more air, and refill the top of the now-depleted can with more fuel. In my experience, some coke requires sustained high heat to light. Paper and wood won't last long enough to get the coke going. There also seems to be a critical mass for burning coke in a forge. If it burns down to one or two lit pieces, they won't give off enough heat to light neighboring fuel if its all just in a pile. That get's really frustrating because the lit pieces go out if there's too little air, but too much air just blows past the fuel and cools the unlit material. The can technique helps to focus the heat and air to where they do the most good. Another approach that's popular in some shops is to use a gas torch to light their coke fuel in the fire pot. It never worked for me, but I don't have an oxy-acetylene torch so maybe that's why.
  6. Gmbobnick, I repurposed an old "star drill" used for manual rock drilling as anti-rotation punch for riveted joints. The point self-centers in a round hole, and I get six evenly spaced notches.
  7. Building on what Thomas pointed out, it's commonly overlooked that large masses require more energy to move. Simply put, the entire point of a guillotine tool is to help a solo smith working with hand hammers. Heavy top tooling defeats that purpose. There's a really old episode of "The Woodwrights shop" with Roy Underhill where he's visiting the Colonial Gettysburg blacksmith. The smith is shown cutting sheet metal with a really stubby little cold chisel. I thought it was short from a long life of grinding which got me wondering why a master smith with plenty of opportunity to make better tools would keep using something that short. Then it dawned on me that this master smith was getting more done with less work, by using the right tool for the job.
  8. Chloe, I have an old blacksmithing book that shows top tools called Butchers which have working faces that are shaped like a chisel, only instead of a straight cutting edge, they have a concave crescent shape. In use, the curve "hems in" the stock, cutting from the outer edges towards the center. This makes it a bit easier to cut stock that would otherwise jump away from the chisel. It also helps to minimize deformation of the stock at the cut line. That may help to track a cut around the circumference of your stock since the tool will self-register in the earlier cut. Finally, this tool could be used at the edge of the anvil for a final shearing blow. You might get a similar effect with a chisel grind on your top tool instead of having bevels on both sides. The flat back of a chisel grind will want to create a smooth plane. In fact, I suspect a chisel ground top tool would be handy for cleaning up that nub.
  9. JHCC, I'm not sure about NYC, but there was a code revision about fifteen years back that allowed "Stumpys" which are sometimes called "Five over ones". They're commonly a type of mixed use development where the first floor is commercial, with five floors of apartments above. However there are plenty of them that are purely residential. The main change was that only the first floor had to be built to commercial standards, however the top five floors are all residential-style wood framing which is much cheaper to build. Developers pushed hard for unified designs so that they didn't have to hire new design teams every time. Most of these projects are repeated patterns of symmetrical transpositions like shifting an aesthetic feature from left to right, or rotating the floor plans on a site. Stuff that can be done by a CAD professional without any need to pay a costly Architect or Engineer. Aesthetic features were intentionally limited and made into modular blocks so that a simple material specification change is all it would take to get zoning approval. Out here, there are noteworthy Architects penning public letters disparaging these developments on aesthetic grounds. However, these self-same professionals are famous for designs which are equally bleak, repetitive, and rectilinear. In my first-hand experience, the only difference between econo-block, and luxury bloc, is how much is spent on overpriced minimalist trim. Absolutely outrageous sums are spent on low-quality "luxury" light fixtures which are indistinguishable from the cheap stuff put in housing projects. I've seen more than one European art-house manufacturing firm that is clearly selling rebranded Asian import stuff at 20x the price. Tourism to cities with pre-WWII architecture is always higher than post-war which strongly suggests that the overwhelming majority of people prefer classical architecture to modernism, minimalism, or brutalism. It's been my experience that the overwhelming majority of Architects hold the opposite opinion. They've largely succeeded in convincing young people that a 70 year old aesthetic famously applied to the most hated low-income housing developments in world history is "modern" and "luxurious". Nope, it's cold, hard, loud, bleak, and intentionally dysfunctional. There's no room for your stuff, your spouse, or your kids, which sells vacations and storage units, while reducing the need for building schools.
  10. It has been my experience that every metro area in the U.S. has a recent article claiming or predicting the fastest growth. Bad news is only ever reported in hindsight, usually within the confines of a prediction that things will improve. Out here, they level a farm to slap up depression-era style housing blocks and self-storage facilities following every foreclosure wave. We're supposed to believe we're seeing "growth", in a situation where none of the young working couples can afford to buy a home, or have kids. I read recently that there is a huge investment group that's buying some enormous percentage of homes on the market. They're not renting them out, so as to keep the home prices high. My bet is we're past the point where meaningful construction growth has slowed out here. Three months from now I'll expect to see trade journals predicting fourth quarter growth percentages that read like they're higher than the losses they'll only admit to then. But if you "do the math" on the figures presented, you'll see stuff like a 50% loss followed by a predicted 75% gain, which leaves you 12.5% below your starting point if they're right (and they never are).
  11. Dan, I've never been to Serbia, however I'd be very surprised if your entire country had no harden-able steels for sale. When I first started blacksmithing, I didn't want to spend my time looking for resources, I wanted to work with whatever came to hand. That wasn't smart. I tended to select inferior materials of preposterous size, which wasted a lot of time. I grew frustrated, and sought ever-heavier hammers, and took the metal to higher temperatures, hoping to speed things along. Most of my early projects ended up burnt in two. I injured my elbow to such an extent that even years later, a little bit of light hammering is all I can take. As a beginner, many, to most, intermediate projects will require tool-making before the project stock is even heated. Initially, I thought that was optional, because I figured hard work would counteract the lack of tooling and skill. In most cases, doing things "the hard way" is only a viable path to failure lamely rebranded as "learning something". See, if I knew I doing something wrong, which led to failure, I wouldn't actually learn anything by that failure beyond confirmation of cause and effect. I recently watched a video about high performance kit cars. It started with a discussion of all the incredible values on offer. For only $X amount, you could have a working race car that performed on par with famous makers. Towards the end, the discussion shifted to the problems with this market. Namely, that most people never finish their kit cars. The absolute number one reason for not finishing is the "while I'm in there" trap. See people are building the car, and they decide to upgrade to "better" parts, which are always more money. This means that the project gets put on hold any time they have to save money for the upgraded parts. The whole process repeats itself until the owner realizes that they're never going to finish the kit. By then, the partially finished kit isn't worth much because there are no buyers for that condition. Car buyers want something that works. Kit buyers want to start from scratch. If your goal as a beginner is to make an axe, don't get sidelined trying to make high-carbon steel.
  12. Not much to add beyond four suggestions. #1 Put a leather washer in between the ball ends of your handle for quieter operation. #2 Make a receptacle plate for the leg end to spread the forces so you don't hammer it through your deck! #3 Make a set of shims with through-rods such that the rods allow the shim to hang between the jaws on one side. That'll allow you to firmly hold long stock of equal size to the shim on the other side, bypassing the screw. Bonus points if you make them so they're on the vice stand without getting in the way of other work. #4 Find a way to securely hold a water vessel for ballast in that workmate. A five gallon bucket full of water will add about 50lbs of ballast, which helps a lot when you're trying to hot-twist stock. Make sure to find a metal cover for the bucket, as many high carbon steel projects have an insatiable desire to jump into slack tubs. Water is handy ballast because you can cheaply add whatever you need for the job at hand, then dump it when you're done.
  13. The pickups on electric guitars are magnets wrapped in a coil of wire that's insulated with varnish. They are typically mounted so that the distance between pole pieces and metal guitar strings can be adjusted. It's counter-intuitive to many novices that the pickups need some distance to work properly. If they're a little too close, they generate weird harmonics which "flutter" under the dominant note. This is due to the magnetic coupling/dampening working against the induced magnetic fields within the coil of wire which generate the signal. If they're way too close, sustain suffers. Conversely, if the pickups are too far from the strings, the attack of the note diminishes, as does the volume. It's for this reason that most novices adjust their pickups too closely. They notice the increased volume because it's really obvious, but they don't realize that their pickups are actively working against the rest of the instrument. The optimal distance changes depending on the mass and tension of the string. Larger strings generally need more distance, smaller strings need less. Just like the bell, node placement matters. Pickups located closer to the mid span of the string tend to have a warmer, more voice-like timbre, whereas pickups located closer to the edge of the span tend to have a colder timbre like you would get from a brass horn. There's more amplitude at midspan than at the edge, so it's quite common for "neck" pickups to have fewer turns, lower magnetic flux, and smaller winding wire than "bridge" pickups. This allows the musician to switch between pickups without a huge change in volume.
  14. Thomas, Enthusiastic time spent on a subject can run parallel to rigorous study, without ever crossing into factual understanding. I once met a nine and one quarter fingered owner of a gun store who went on and on about manufacturer accuracy guarantees being impossible. For those that don't know, rifle accuracy is generally expressed in Minutes of Angle. We all know there are 360 degrees in a circle, well each degree may be divided into sixty minutes of angle, which may be divided into sixty seconds of angle. The practical application of which is to imagine a right triangle arranged such that one corner is the shooter, one corner is the impact point, and the right angle corner is placed at the bullseye. The hypotenuse is the straight line between shooter and point of impact. One hundred yards is 3,600 inches. The tangent of 1/60 degrees therefore equals (one minute of angle in inches)/3600 All of which factors out to 1.047" Which means that for all practical purposes, a minute of angle is equal to approximately one inch per hundred yards of range. Precision is a measure of repeatability, whereas accuracy is the capacity to hit the intended target. There's an underlying assumption that a precise rifle can be adjusted to where it will repeatedly deliver tight groups on the point of aim. For most people, the equipment is capable of better performance than their skills will allow. Mr. 92.5% took all of that and added his own unique twist. See in practical terms, all of these measurements are based on the resulting holes in the target. The size of those holes is obviously dependent on the size of the projectile. He believed that you measure the largest outside to outside dimension of the group, then subtract half the projectile diameter. The resulting dimension is what he compares to the minute of angle dispersion for whatever distance he's at. I explained that it doesn't make sense to have an accuracy standard that is caliber specific. He didn't understand. So I offered the following example. Let's say you had a rifle with a 1" projectile and you fired two shots that went perfectly through the bullseye at 100 yards. He replied "That's a half minute rifle". I said, no, it's perfect accuracy because the center of the projectiles are perfectly and repeatedly coinciding with the point of aim. You're supposed to subtract the full projectile diameter from the measurement. We were at a bit of an impasse, so the subject changed to some really small handguns in the case. He removed one from the case. I watched him cleared the action with the stump of his left index finger right at the barrel crown, and the index of his right on the trigger. Speaking as he did so, he remarked that "This is just like the one that took my finger..." Right around that point I realized how things "added up" with this gent and made my exit.
  15. Bantou, I see your point, and I also see how you took my wording. I actually intended my suggestion of the "most important" question to apply to the first half. Broadly speaking, I think Plato supports portions your argument, however I would add that he goes into great depth about why it's not reasonable or just to explain the higher minded reasons of things to the cave dwellers. Your comment definitely applies to me personally, and professionally. I came up through the trades, went to college, and work in management of that trade. Many of my professional colleagues are college graduates with limited, and heavily "sanitized" field experience. By and large college internships in the construction industry feature a remarkable lack of difficult situations. For example, spending eight hours working upside down in a trench. Mostly they act as bystanders wearing fluorescent safety gear and carry a clipboard. This whole thing get's a bit slippery depending on where you start a given person in the allegory. Take the intern watching the trench crew from my example. That empirical observation of "life in the cave" may be based on watching masters of their craft doing an ugly task, just as plausibly as it may be based on watching ham-fisted apprentices doing everything the hard way. The intern would have no way to know. I would argue that this makes the intern a prisoner in the cave. Now, send that same intern back to college and teach them everything about how construction contracting is performed. All the hard work, knowledge, material sciences, all of it is ultimately a shadow of objects placed in front of the light source. What is the giver of all light in the construction world? Contracts. Contracts define what you do, when you do it, what you don't do, what you will be paid, and what happens when things change or go wrong. Everything thereafter is about professionals at companies arranging their affairs to trade risk for reward. This is why it's often profitable to employ skilled people to do, and build, stupid things. All employment is trading in human potential. Sending the now "enlightened" graduate into the field to run stuff doesn't guarantee greater perspective, judgement, or morality. The "blinding light of truth" in practical terms will mean that many contracts will require tunnel vision, slavish devotion to avoiding legal snags, and pushing risk off onto others. The only way to avoid this humiliating waste of human potential is to pursue contracts with clients who cultivate trusting working relationships which don't require vicious enforcement of their contracts. That is not taught at the University I attended, and I strongly suspect it's not in the curriculum of most other schools either. It's been my experience that most contractors and subcontractors are unaware of this principal beyond horse-trading change orders while speaking in platitudes about "building relationships". Much of this was explained to me by working journeymen during my apprenticeship. I would argue that these journeymen were the prisoner returning to the cave, since it was childishly hopeful gibberish to most who heard them. I would also argue that pushing those "enlightened" Journeymen into management via the Peter principle, is how this industry has formed the managerial equivalent of coprolites. I'm sure that most of us can think of awful managers who have an abundance of education and experience. I believe influence is the most important fundamental of leadership. That's a dynamic property, driven by trust and engagement. I've seen many projects where everything just "fell into place" so well that one might never notice the leader at work. Instead of assuming that education or experience will fill in this gap, let's consider what a person would have to do in order to achieve trust and engagement with the workers. I submit that anything we might put on that list amounts to sincerely validating human potential, and honestly addressing the realities of the situation. In other words, you've got to do the best you can, with what you have, right now.
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