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I Forge Iron

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Take a look at this-


I know nothing at all of the story behind this man and his extraordinary hammer, but his shop looks quite newly built, while the helve hammer looks like it could have been taken directly from a medieval hammer mill and hooked up to the three phase! Very peculiar!
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They are excessive. I believe you can hear him using an old Spanish expression indicating that he thinks they are excessive, too. Those sparks indicate that he has burnt his steel quite badly. Luckily, if the stock is quite big and is to be drawn down, you can sometimes get away with it, because the nasty burnt bits sort of get forged in, but it shouldn't happen.
When you get proficient in forge welding, there should really be no sparks at all.

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Look at the dog run away in the beginning lol, I think he knew he'd have singed fur if he didn't get outta there quick...

Interesting hammer, though more "modern" hammers would have much more control and power; I still like it's personality ;)

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One of the members at Living History Library- Your Home for Living History and Reenactment! works in a shop that has an original hammer quite like that. I'll have to see if I can find it.


Thanks for the link. There are a few such hammer mills still operating in various European countries. Sadly most of those still functioning do so in the capacity of working museums. I think I would kill to be master of such a forge.
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If you are forge welding low carbon wrought iron a snowball welding heat is generally considered OK. For mild steel it's not so good and for high carbon steels is trashing it!


I have often read in old manuals, et cetera, that a sparkling heat is okay or even desirable for welding wrought iron, and I understand that this is still a widely held belief. I wouldn't want to tread on anybody's toes, but it is something I have heard quite often, and I would personally question why a sparkling heat is so often said to be okay- it may not be terribly harmful, but it certainly doesn't do the material any good, and is quite unnecessary. I would warn against a sparkling heat what ever the material.
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Old manuals talking about "a sparkling heat is okay or even desirable for welding wrought iron" may be correct when using wrought iron.

But it makes you wonder what the same author would suggest if he had mild steel or tool steels available to use when he wrote the piece.

The point is that what is good for one type steel may not work for another type steel.

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Thanks for the link. There are a few such hammer mills still operating in various European countries. Sadly most of those still functioning do so in the capacity of working museums. I think I would kill to be master of such a forge.


If I ever have a power hammer in my shop, it will be one of those water powered monsters. Which would nesseccitate having my shop next to a river which could run an undershot waterwheel at the least (though an overshot would probably be better).
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The point is that what is good for one type steel may not work for another type steel.


I obviously agree completely, Glenn, but the specific point I was making is that burning your material, ie taking it to a sparkling heat, whether wrought iron or otherwise, is bad for it. In my opinion, the 'sine qua non' of a competent blacksmith is good fire control, and good fire control precludes "sparkling" heats, i.e. burning the material!
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We are on the same page.

I was told for forge welding, you soak the heat into the metal till the inside of the metal is the same (close to welding) temp as the outside of the metal. Then bring it up to the point it throws a single spark, by the second spark it is at welding heat, by the third spark you waited too long. It is a good visual explanation for those starting to forge weld. YMMV (Your mileage may vary for your metal, in your conditions.)

If you have a better way to explain welding heat, please let me know as there is a Lesson in Blacksmithing coming up on that subject.

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I was tought to weld by judging the appearance of the metal itself, namely that when the metal appears to liquify on the outside, like a melting ice cube, it is ready. Now, being in the UK, we (generally) work with coke on side-blast forges, and when I personally fire weld I have the work right on top of my fire, first so that I can see it, and second so that their is lots of fuel between my metal and the air blast. This means that not only do I not have to look for sparks, but, if things are done correctly, there aren't any.
Of course, this may not work at all on a bottom blast forge with coal, so then maybe watching for sparks are the way to go?

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My reference is for a bottom blast coal fire. Yes, the suggestion is to look at the outside of the metal and it should look like butter sitting on the kitchen table in the sun, the surface coated with a liquid just before it slumps. That is not todays margarine product they call butter, but the real butter your grandmother used to use.

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The discussion is now getting down to the details. One fellow in UK using charcoal for fuel in a side blast forge, and another fellow half a world away using bituminous coal in a bottom blast forge. Both are trying to describe the color and properties of heat on metal at fire weld / forge welding temperatures.


Are the different welds all done at or about the same temperature? Is a cleft weld different from a scarf weld, and different from a T weld temperature wise? What about small stock vs thick stock?

You got me hooked. Can not wait to read the next chapter, and see how things turn out. (grin)

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I was told to wait until the metal looks like melting butter. Obviously this is a bit more subjective, but it's worked well for me.

Dan, an undershot waterwheel is one which is lowered into a running river, an overshot wheel is one which is positioned below a natural or manmade waterfall and the water flows down onto the wheel. That's the best type as far as getting the most power out of the water.

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Don't forget the breast wheel which is 1/2 way between the two...

So you got any fire hydrants that they would let you use to power a water wheel at least once in a while?

One of the SOFA members build a large tilt hammer using an old hay baler as the power source---the ram was what powered the hammer IIRC. Used it to forge weld a small anvil together at a SOFA meeting I *missed*. sigh.

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