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I Forge Iron


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    Loveland Colorado

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  1. I read about a scam where the incoming call sounds like a bad connection where you can only catch bits and phrases. The caller pretends that they can't hear what you're saying either. They record your side of the call in hopes of catching you stating your name, and generic words like "yes". I gather that they use this recording to falsify your acceptance to a subscription service or some such.
  2. “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe” -Muhammed Ali There are many aspects of estimating/business/management that lend themselves to a pattern, process, or routine. The focus on consistency is largely driven by an assumption that diligent repetition will cause success. In this context, it’s understandable that so many professionals seek to improve their process throughput. This perspective may conceal opportunities to make small changes with large benefits. Survival manuals recommend picking a point in the distance and walking towards it. This is because minor differences in our bodies can result in one stride being longer than the other resulting in a tendency to walk in circles. This is especially common in situations where featureless expanses must be traversed. By focusing on a specific point, or feature, we can make minor corrections to arrive at our destination. Many readers will reach this point thinking about process-oriented solutions like error checks, and scope reviews. Consider walking through a featureless expanse, focusing on your selected destination. There’s plenty of time to observe and think as you walk. You notice your progress drifting to one side, and correct course. Now you think about why you’re drifting. Before long, you start experimenting with changes in posture, or compensating efforts to stop drifting. This effort to equalize your stride will eventually reveal your weakest link. Continued effort will strengthen your weakest link. It’s here that we can be surprised by how much harder it feels to strengthen the weakest link, than it felt to compensate for it. It often requires a greater effort to correct a limp, than to continue limping. When time is of the essence and there’s much to be done, will you stop to fix your stride, or learn to limp faster? A lot of smart people would say it depends on how much time you’ve got. This overlooks a very obvious possibility. What if there’s a pebble in your shoe? Obviously, you’d take a moment to remove the pebble so you could be on your way unimpeded. Astute readers might be expecting me to provide a list of “pebbles”. Unfortunately, that’s missing the larger point. See once you find a “pebble”, you’ll know exactly what to do. The bigger problem, the true weakest link, is investing too much into process-oriented corrections, rather than looking for simple reasons why we drift from where we want to be. This shift in perspective reveals a whole lot of “pebbles”. Once they’re gone, all the compensatory hitches in your stride become obvious. Every improvement you make reduces your work and increases your output.
  3. Thomas, I think your ideas could be pushed in another direction. For example, any small business in 2021 would greatly benefit from being able to sell online. There are lots of technology companies that make it relatively convenient to get set up with a website, all the sales transaction stuff, taxes, shipping etc. However, the vast majority of these website-making companies completely fail to address warranty, returns, back orders, and custom service requests. As a result, most websites force the client through some iteration of an annoying registration, or email scenario where they have no assurance that their concerns will be answered. Many small websites won't calculate the tax or shipping costs until some tedious order form is completed. Those that do, typically have an outrageously high "shipping and handling" fee. The ubiquitous technology makes it very convenient to ignore the things that make a person to person sale different. Beyond all of that, many to most of the "website in a box" software systems suggest aesthetic schemes that are conveniently uniform. Everybody ends up with the same look. Unique, memorable, meaningful, and searchable keywords are an incredibly important part of getting found online. Many of the most popular terms for blacksmithing will simply bury a business. My point, is that a customer relies on what they find online to determine how viable a given business is. A site built to take warranties as seriously as new orders, puts them at a higher level of service and trust. Similarly, sites which present the complete cost of tax, shipping, handling, etc. on the items before demanding client information, are communicating their respect for the client's time.
  4. By now, we've all probably heard stories about unfortunate souls who followed navigation directions into a lake. From a bystanders perspective, it seems so obvious that the driver should have exercised better judgement. The other day my work computer had some kind of update and now many to most of my programs are offering to complete my sentences for me. While I'm impressed at the progress of technology, I frequently find myself in situations where it's a lot more work to just type what I want to communicate. While always an issue, I'm not talking about auto-correct for spelling and grammar here. What I'm seeing is a comprehensive effort to add convenient features to technology, which function to force the user into uniform courses of action. I've heard marketing people refer to inconvenient aspects of a given thing as "pain points". I've also heard engineers respond "that's not a bug, it's a feature". Twenty years ago, I would have laughed at the suggestion that people would happily scan and bag their own groceries. Ten years ago, I avoided it unless I was exclusively buying items with a bar code on them. Now, I look back and realize that putting code stickers on produce was all it took to make self-checkout less frustrating than waiting for cashiers. To that end, I wonder how many people are getting trained by convenience to deliver the uniformity which will allow computers to replace people? If we don't express judgement, personality, and critical thinking in our output, what benefit do we offer beyond the systems we run? More to the point, if our customers can't see any difference, why should they hire you?
  5. JHCC, thanks for the answer about peanut allergies. I was thinking more on the lard thing, and it seems likely to me that lard is mostly fat containing water which is why it doesn't explode when water is added.
  6. JHCC, Thank you for posting that. I wonder if used cooking oils have different smoke, flash, and fire points. I'm also curious if people with peanut allergies would be affected by burnt peanut oil residue on ironwork. Finally, I wanted to mention something weird about lard. Traditional Pork Carnita's recipies call for basically deep frying the meat in lard. Once browned, many recipes call for adding a can or two of cola, orange juice, and other spices. I was shocked the first time I watched a video of the preparation, because the boiling lard didn't react like boiling oil would when the cola was added. The cook made a big point of saying "don't try this with anything other than lard". I thought maybe this cook was unique, so I looked into it more, and discovered that it's very traditional.
  7. I love trees, especially the way that aspen leaves will quake in a breeze. It's like a shimmer moving through the foliage. Hummingbirds are almost magic. One of my fondest memories is of a lonely motorcycle ride late on a summer evening. I was on the highway and the headlight seemed so feeble against the dark. Out in the distance there was a glowing cloud, which became glowing spots, which became individual meteors of light zipping by me as I rode. Lightning bugs. Couldn't have lasted more than 15 seconds, but wow, what an experience.
  8. There's a youtube channel where the host makes clock parts, including small springs, screws, etc. Many of the steel parts are tempered to blue in a bed of brass chips, set into an appropriate vessel over a burner. The consistency and vibrancy of the blue coloring this method achieves is pretty remarkable.
  9. The LED vs. Fluorescent discussion reminds me of some hard lessons I've learned as an electrical contractor. First off, the technologies are often discussed as though all the products on the market are consistent. They aren't. It's critical to understand that there will always be an intersection point between acceptable performance minimums, and maximum marketability. With some exceptions, fixtures marketed for "back of house" purposes like residential garages/shops will be "value engineered" to meet the needs of that budget-conscious market. By now, most people know how fluorescents can misbehave. However, it's been my experience that the same is not true for LED fixtures. One of the sneakier problems LED fixtures can have pertains to inrush current. Lots of people are familiar with how some electrical devices like AC motors can draw up to 125% of their running current while starting. An array of poorly-engineered LED fixtures can draw 600% of their running current while starting. All of this happens in the span of a few milliseconds, which is plenty of time to trip a circuit breaker. My company installed LED lights in an indoor riding arena at a residential address. The calculated load of thirty odd LED fixtures was roughly 8 amps. HOWEVER, the combined inrush current on these fixtures was over 50 amps! This meant that we have to run a 60A circuit to a fuse block, equipped with 15A fuses, which tied to the installed lighting circuits. This is because fuses take longer to blow than the inrush current lasts. While this solution worked for the riding arena, it could have resulted in an unworkable situation for a shop where equipment is running when the lights get switched on. Moreover, most electricians don't have test equipment capable of taking accurate readings on a millisecond basis. The manufacturers don't reliably present this information either, so an electrician will get blamed for screwing something up. Another misconception about LED fixtures is that they last a long time. It's been my experience that LED fixtures suffer a higher infant mortality rate than other lamp types, regardless of price point. Failures seem to be evenly split between drivers and lamp arrays. On larger jobs, roughly 2% of my fixture package will need replacement before everything works properly. Warranty replacements within one year will average another 1% or so. Back when fluorescent was the dominant light type, infant mortality was exceedingly rare. Warranty replacements were about the same at 1% or so. That being said, I doubt the root cause of this is all due to the technology. "Just in time" shipping has become the logistics standard for virtually all light manufacturers. At first, this meant a shift away from large warehouses full of finished lights. Now, this often means even the largest manufacturers won't even buy parts to build the lights until they're actually ready to make the customer's order. The overseas makers of the parts, do the same thing. The end result, is that everything is always late, so time-consuming Quality Control stuff like "burn in" get's skipped. "Burn in" is just a test running the device (or a sample of devices) for a period of time sufficient to reveal obvious failures. In today's market, I suspect that fluorescent fixtures would have a slightly better infant mortality rate than LED, because unbroken new tubes tend to work perfectly out of the box.
  10. That's more frisky than I want to be around! Got me thinking though. 1/4" mild steel bolts are typically rated for 60,000 PSI tensile strength. That works out to something over 3,000 lbs of instantaneous load to pull just one bolt to breaking. Four bolts were pulled apart, but I don't know that they were equally tensioned, so they may have failed sequentially. Either way, I sure as shooting don't want to be in the way of 3,000 lbs on it's way to freedom!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. That's the stuff I've used. It goes out very easily, but it doesn't generate much smoke or clinker when burned.
  14. 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?
  15. 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.
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