• Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited



  • Rank
    Senior Member

Contact Methods

  • Website URL

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Not Telling


  • Location
    Loveland Colorado
  1. Cleaning the old work table

    SoCal, I used a gel based paint remover from Wallyworld that worked a treat removing a baked enamel finish from steel. PPE is critical for that stuff but probably 90% of the paint slid off with a putty knife. The tenacious stuff took a second treatment but no more. As memory serves that gel was soap and water cleanup. I left it on overnight for the first application, and maybe 15 minutes for the second.
  2. workshop walk around (lotsa pics)

    Cool photos, thank you for sharing. This got me to thinking about something a little silly. Out where I live there are lots of residential developments with home owners associations (HOA) that dictate the color palate for house paint in the neighborhood. To my eye, all the HOA's seem to agree that the only acceptable colors are those you'd find splattered on the floor of a primate exhibit at the zoo. Brown, to polite company. Anyhow, looking at a neighborhood, you can kinda tell who's made changes over time and who hasn't. The only thing that never changes is the aforementioned color palate. Looking at the photo's it struck me that "rusty" would generally define the aesthetic of a lot of blacksmith shops. Just like the "new and improved brown" homes, there are types of "rusty" that signify changes afoot. Rusty with a good coating of dust might signal a pack-rat collector type. Rusty with shiny working surfaces, might accompany a working shop that lacked humidity control (roof). The one that really speaks for itself is the "curated rust" that I find on fairly modern tools that were labeled "antique" to justify a higher asking price. I wish I was kidding, but there's an antique shop near me that literally paints hammers and saws with a rust colored brown paint. You can buy yourself a genuine antique Harbor Freight hammer for just $20.00!
  3. What did I miss?

    Joshua, In my opinion, even if the fan and hairdryer were equally loud, the fan would be vastly superior for supplying air to a coal forge. Hotter fire, less wasted time, less clinker, etc. It's also built to connect to cheap and available round duct. Some hairdryers don't offer the ability to shut off the heating element. This leads to a handheld device that's drawing 80%+ of an ordinary residential circuits current capacity. Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal. I don't know what your setup is, but I can tell you that I often run into situations where I need to run a power tool while forging. Depending on where your panel or fuse box is located, it might be a significant hassle to get the power back on if you accidentally overloaded the circuit. Even if we set all of the above aside, the design duty cycle for a hairdryer is nowhere close to a bathroom fan. People routinely use bathroom fans without issue for decades. A hairdryer isn't built to last as long, that's partly why they generate so much electrical noise that they scramble radio reception.
  4. What did I miss?

    It may go a bit against the grain of some advocates here, but I find hairdryers to be frustrating for coal forge work. Same story for vacuums. They generate a lot of air speed but little pressure. The coal I've used tends to generate a lot more clinker when the air speed is high. Large volumes of slower moving air will generate more heat with less clinker. Something like a bathroom exhaust fan will deliver a large volume of air at slower speeds. Plus they're much, much, quieter. You can find them for $35 brand new which is comparable to a sturdy hairdryer. Rather than muck around with waste gates or speed controls, you can put a pivoting plate over the inlet side of the fan to regulate the intake. That leaves you with zero moving parts between the fan and the tuyere. Now I realize that blacksmithing is generally a noisy/dirty/hot/semi-dangerous occupation, but it bears mentioning that an ordinary hairdryer is loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage.
  5. JHCC, no doubt about it you are correct! I didn't realize it was a force of habit, now even though I know, I sometimes have to stop myself. The hook and pull works a treat so long as I let the clinker cool a little beforehand. After about five hours with the coal I use, the clinker forms a U shape around the tuyere. JLP, I believe some side blast forges used a cast iron part called a "ducks nest" that served that purpose. Clinker doesn't stick to cast iron so maybe one of those wee little cast iron skillets would be a decent option.
  6. Joshua, I think the coal mixing with sand is less important than it seems. A bit of raking at the end of a session tends to pull the coal out of the sand. Clinkers are a breeze to remove, especially if you've dug a little well in the sand below and in front of the tuyere. Almost all of the clinker forms below the fire where it stays out of the way. One big difference if you're used to a bottom blast is that you can't pry against the pot to break things up. My first few fires I was a bit too forceful pushing stuff around and I ended up dousing my fire in sand. Another difference is that the water cooled tuyere is a heat sink. If the whole thing is buried in coal, the heart of the fire will be a few inches away from the tuyere. Stock will rapidly cool if you get it too close to the tuyere. If you're looking for a cheap metal box to build with, consider contacting a commercial electrical contractor. A lot of jobs end up with spare or salvaged panel tubs. Some are pretty close to the necessary dimensions for a side blast forge.
  7. Insurance

    Drakes, Are you saying they refused to insure you because you make knives, or because of your social media account? I'm curious because you mentioned them checking your social media accounts. It occurs to me that the people following your account may make as much of an impression on a viewer as the content of your account. Some followers are "bad for the brand".
  8. Friday Fare

    I know at least one blacksmith who accidentally trimmed his beard when it got too close to the forge!
  9. Fire Alarms

    Slag, I have no doubt you are correct about the potential to be prosecuted for malfeasance. I can also see how disaster inspections are likely to be done by well funded and equipped investigators. The problem as I see it, is that a lot of shoddy work manages to evade notice because it didn't catch fire or hurt anyone. Another problem is that it's very, very, difficult to prove what the inspector actually saw. I've never heard of an inspector facing any liability whatsoever for failing to catch a code violation. We're working on a job right now that exposed generations of hack work. I'm talking about stuff that's obviously wrong from 50' away. There was no place where you could look at the system without spotting a huge problem. I know for a fact that all the generations of work were permitted and inspected. It's tough not to question the inspectors integrity. In contrast, I've had inspectors who flipped out when we used a shovelfull of dirt as ballast to hold vertical sections of empty plastic conduit in an open trench. They claimed we had backfilled without an inspection!
  10. Fire Alarms

    You are correct. Jeremy, you're making a good suggestion, I've sent a message to the owner about it. A few years ago I was hired to inspect the panels in a chain of retirement homes. One facility had a panel that opened into a public hallway outside of the kitchen that was arcing badly. Making it worse, the panel was installed between the doors of the mens and womens restrooms so there were people constantly walking by. I needed access to the main electrical closet to shut it down. Being an elder care facility, we can't just turn off power indiscriminately because people are on oxygen pumps, health monitors, etc. I ran to the front desk to explain my situation. The facility manager was a 20 something girl who "was in a meeting". I told the receptionist that we had a life threatening emergency to deal with and reiterated that I needed access to the electrical closet immediately. The receptionist told me "it's being handled" and asked me to wait. I ran back to the panel and my jaw dropped at what I saw. Someone had stuck a piece of paper to the panel that said "Danger!" with a stick figure drawn surrounded by lightning bolts and the word "Zap" next to them! The "manager" must have called down to the kitchen and instructed them to make a warning sign. That poor fool could have been hurt touching the panel cover. I realized I couldn't trust the staff to keep away from the hazard so I took out my phone, called the front desk, and told the receptionist that if they didn't send me someone to unlock the electrical closet, my next call would be to the fire department. That finally got results. When everything was shut down, I got into the panel and found that the last person to put the panel cover on had run a cover screw into one of the conductors. Ordinarily that would have tripped the mains. However this building has what I consider to be on the short list of the very worst switchgear ever installed on large scale. Based on the dates, and grime on the panel, I'm guessing this wire has been arcing for the better part of fifteen years. My report on that facility recommended replacing every single piece of gear as well as basic hazard training for all of the staff. I specifically wrote that their staff should never touch an electrical hazard, not even to hang a warning sign. It's worth mentioning that out of the twenty-odd buildings that I inspected in a half dozen cities, there were only two with life-threatening safety problems. Both were in the same city, and both were in the kitchen area. One of the conditions of my contract was that I had discretion to immediately remedy any life safety issues. Glenn, You're making a great point. A lot of commercial tenants do shade-tree remodels that aren't permitted or inspected. When I worked for a GC, we got a lot of calls from executives who wanted more privacy in their office or conference room. Tucking a bit more insulation in, or taking a partition wall up to deck often involves moving installed systems aside. A lot of fire alarm devices get "bagged" to keep them from setting off the alarm during construction. Sometimes a bagged device gets temporarily set above the ceiling and forgotten. The bag keeps the device from detecting a fire, the insulation makes it harder to hear them, and being above the ceiling, there's no light visible from the strobes. I can understand how the cost of permits and inspections can seem frivolous for a little job. The thing to understand is that there's a lower barrier to entry in the market for small jobs. A larger firm doing a smaller job might be more risk averse because a safety issue could cost them larger jobs. A smaller firm that specializes in off the books work doesn't have that level of concern.
  11. Fire Alarms

    Earlier this week I had to meet an inspector to get final approval on some fire alarm work my company did. The building is a large entertainment venue with an arcade, bowling alley, theater, laser tag, etc. etc. To avoid disturbing their customers, we scheduled the test before the place opened for business. I got there early and waited in the vestibule for the inspector to show up so I could let him in. As I stood there, a good half dozen employees came in for work. Their ages ranged from about 18 to mid 20's. Given the hour and the fact that I'm a stranger standing in the vestibule, I gave each of them a friendly smile and said "good morning". Not one of them replied to me, although they all made direct eye contact. I thought that was a bit rude but I dismissed it. Eventually the inspector shows up and I put the system into alarm. Since this place has a lot of noisy stuff like arcade games, music systems, movie's playing, etc., the fire alarm system triggers a shutdown for virtually everything but the lights. It's funny in retrospect but the fire alarm in full alert is actually quieter than the normal noise level. This particular system plays a recording that says "Emergency, please exit the building" on repeat with strobes flashing. I've been told that these systems are typically required wherever the average occupant isn't competent enough to understand that a horn sounding signifies an emergency. Places with lots of children, infirm and elderly occupants generally require these systems. As part of the inspection, I have to take down the last device of the system to take a voltage reading for the inspector. The last device was conveniently located across the entire building in the 15' ceiling of a vestibule. This meant that I had to carry a 12' tall step ladder through the arcade, bowling alley, etc. and through a set of self-closing doors to get the ladder set up. As I'm making my way, I'm constantly finding employees standing in my path. None of them will move when I say "excuse me, I need to get through". Since I've got an inspector in tow, and a fire alarm system in full alert, I just opted to walk around these living obstacles. Thankfully the inspector decided to get the vestibule door for me so I could get to the doggone device. Measurement completed, I hurry back to the panel to shut everything down. All the employees are right where I last saw them, and none of them step aside to let me pass. On my walk back after shutting the alarm off, I hear one employee say to another "Does this mean we can go home now?"! To the best of my knowledge, none of these employees knew that there would be a fire alarm test that morning. None of them asked me what was going on, or indeed, even spoke to me. I'm obviously not one of the employees of this facility, yet none of them challenged my presence in the locked vestibule that morning. The whole experience was surreal to me. Most of these employees were standing in groups blankly looking at one another. Many of them were idly fussing with their hair. I got the impression that they were more concerned with what their group was doing than anything else. So long as the group stood around, they'd stand around too. Nothing I said or did could affect that dynamic. A few days later the client called me back out to the site because his theater had a problem. It turned out that his vendor had supplied an undersized a transformer which got smoking hot before they shut it down. I don't know how close they came to having an outright fire, but I can tell you that transformer stinks of burnt insulation. They must have shut it down just before it got bad enough to set off the fire alarm. Fire alarm systems aren't perfect. Everyone who hears or sees a fire alarm should get out of the building without delay. Although it seems obvious to me, it bears mentioning that when a fire alarm is being tested, there is no active protection. If a fire broke out during a fire alarm test, the system wouldn't know the difference and neither would the occupants. After witnessing these people's behavior, I went home and reminded my kids that they need to be responsible for their own safety. All of those employees should have challenged my presence. At a bare minimum, if they'd responded with a "hello" we'd have the beginnings of a rapport where they might feel less uncomfortable asking me what was going on. The whole experience led me to consider how being socially awkward could lead to life-threatening consequences for people.
  12. Estimator shortcuts

    Glenn, Those are really good points. As I was reading your response it occurred to me that my examples were for materials that typically require a low percentage of waste. Wood for trim or flooring will have a much higher percentage of waste because most installations will require straight, unblemished, and properly oriented pieces. For example, nobody wants to look at a joint in a straight section of trim. Flooring/decking can be tricky if the material is prone to warping. Sometimes the waste needs to be upwards of 20% to ensure that there will be sufficient usable material for the installation. For blacksmiths, salvaged steel can cause similar problems. A piece of "mystery steel" that doesn't forge, bend, punch, or weld like the rest might jeopardize the entire job. Working along those lines, if using performance spec steel, it might be better to buy a large batch for the entire thing that to risk a metallurgical difference by buying out of different production lots.
  13. I was recently visiting a small project that my company had just completed. As I was looking around, I noticed that there was a lot of unused material sitting around. It became obvious to me that our field staff had overestimated the material they needed on every order they had placed. Since it was a "little" job, the oversight folks weren't really paying attention to the orders. All totaled, the guys ordered roughly 60% more material than they needed. Virtually everything that was left over was in an unopened state. Our PM tells me that the guys "don't have time to estimate" every little thing they need so they over-order to ensure that they can make production goals. Setting aside the fact that I provide a material count that literally defines every single part necessary for the entire job, I considered their position. It occurred to me that hedging a guess in order to "save time" is a real problem. The reason I can see it's 60% more than I estimated isn't because I memorized the quantities of every part on a job I bid six months ago. It's because I can (roughly) estimate what was needed to do the finished job I was looking at. It dawned on me that I'm using shortcuts that allow me to quickly estimate what I'm looking at. I figured they might prove helpful to others. First and foremost, most of us struggle with doing math in our heads. We've all heard people refer to "nice round numbers" when they're trying to simplify a calculation. The problem with this tactic is that the more "round" the numbers are, the further they get from a useful answer. The key is to mitigate mistakes by accounting for the rounding effect of your math. Lets start with something that seems pretty obvious. The relative precision of your calculations should be tailored to the increments of your work. For example, thinwall conduit is 10' long and it's typically sold in 100' bundles. Knowing that, we'd want to consider the path the conduit would take in 10' increments. If say, your calculated run comes to 30', you know you could have three such runs per bundle. The remaining 10' of conduit in that bundle gives you a 10% waste factor to make up for errors due to the rough measuring you're doing. It's pretty critical to keep this straight. In the above example, I have a 10% surplus in my calculations. Lets apply this to area now. Commercial carpet is often sold by the square yard which is equal to nine square feet. Division is easier in multiples of ten. Lets say you have 290 square feet. Divide that by ten and you get 29. We know that 9 out of 10 is 90% so we have underestimated by 10%. Shift the decimal point one to the left and you get 2.9 which rounds to 3 because we're only dealing with whole square yards. Add 29 to three and you get 32 square yards. If you divided 290 by 9 you'd get 32.22, so we're really close to the correct answer doing simple math in our head. Lets take it to volume next. Commercial concrete is usually sold by the cubic yard. There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. It's easier to do the math using 30 instead of 27. Notice how 10% of 30 is three which is the difference between 30 and 27? That means we can use the same tactic as above on the area. Before we get to that, we should tackle another aspect of volume calculations. In most concrete calculations, there's a definitive shape that can be visualized as an ongoing assembly. For example a column is a prism defined by the area of the cut section multiplied by it's length. A 12" square column is using 1 cubic foot of concrete for every foot of height. This applies to flat stuff like floors as well. Every square foot of floor is a constant assembly too. Lets say we're trying to calculate the necessary concrete to pour a 4" thick slab on a rectangular area that's 20' by 30'. Right off the top we know that the area is 600 square feet but we're going to have an issue with thickness in inches. Four inches represents one third of a foot. Another way to say this, is that we can divide our area by 3 to get volume in cubic feet. 600 divided by three is 200. 200 divided by 30 is hard enough that we can safely say it's "six and change" somewhere above 6 but below 7. Put it down as 6.5, and repeat the 10% trick which tacks on .7 to our tally for a total of 7.2 Cubic yards. 200 Cubic feet divided by 27 gets us 7.4 Cubic yards, so here again we're really close using math we can do in our head. Now I'm not suggesting that these sorts of rough estimations are sufficient to bid work or to place a super-critical material order. Errors are magnitude dependent as well. In other words, the answers will be closer to correct when you're dealing with smaller figures. The higher the stakes, the more precise you should be. That being said, it can be really helpful to do a quick "gut check" on what you're seeing. Even top-of-the-line estimating programs are susceptible to calculation mistakes. I've caught quite a few this way.
  14. Tomahawk story board

    Gerald, as I was looking at the photo you posted it occurred to me that your storyboard communicates what needs to happen without language. That would be a huge advantage for a foreign student, or even a student with limited vocabulary. I've had teachers whose enthusiasm for the subject led them to talk so much that they complicated a simple lesson. Another thing that really pops out at me is that your story board is driven by the smiths thought (and working) process rather than the presentation medium. I've sat through a whole lot of power point presentations that adapted a lesson into "bullet point lists" simply because that's what powerpoint does best. Ten "slides" with bullet point lists of instructions would be less coherent than the single photo you've presented.
  15. Install GFCI protection on all shop circuits powering convenience receptacles. Replace all worn cords, plugs, receptacles, and tools. Extension cords wear out, and small wire gauge cords are a bad investment. Buy the largest gauge you can afford, it'll spare your tools the voltage drop. Don't lay extension cords on the ground in walkways, hot work areas, or where sharp metal will be falling. On a related note, don't grab a person being electrocuted. Knock them loose with something non-conductive. Worst case, flying tackle away from the electrical source.