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Hello from a newbie in S. CA

Guest Luckyramu

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Guest Luckyramu

Greetings,  My name is Jonathan in Apple Valley, CA.  I am going to be putting up a fence in the front yard and decided to include a small bit of architectural steel.  This led me to I Forge Iron and the art of blacksmithing and it looks like a lot of fun.  I know nothing, so I am going to ask a few questions here.


1.  someone linked a video of an anvil being milled flat and considered it torture.  My question is- if he fire forged it after and dunked it in water to heat treat it (there's a video of someone doing that), what is wrong with someone cleaning up the top edge?  Isn't an anvil with sharp upper edges considered more usable?


2.  From what I gather, most blacksmiths make nearly all of their own tools.  Is this correct?


3.  I have a steel yard down the street from my house.  Is this where i can get stock?  What size rods/bars are good to start with?


4.  Where do people find coal?  I could easily build a natural gas forge, but I think the smell of coal lends itself to a different atmosphere.

That's it for now.  


Have a happy hammer day.


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1.  many anvils are not solid tool steel, but a 1/2 inch ish plate of tool steel welded onto a lower carbon or wrought iron body.  milling the top off will at best severely reduce the thickness of said top plate, if not completely obliterate it.  so no, attempting to re-harden an anvil that has been milled is not guaranteed to bring the top back up to a good working hardness.  this is to say nothing of the expense and equipment required to heat and quench that much mass.  sharp edges in certain locations on the anvil are a blessing, but certainly not required for an anvil to be serviceable.  a slight and sometimes variable radius on most of the working surfaces is usually suggested to facilitate bends and inside corners.  sharp edges on the anvil can lead to sharp edges in the work, which can lead to cold shuts and cracking (not fun).


2.  pseudo customary, not obligatory, but most consider it fun or a challenge.  certainly a good way to practice your skills, and if you can make your own tools, you can make tools that can be sold to others :)


3.  theoretically, yes, a steel yard will carry steel that can be used for blacksmithing.  the questions revolve around the price per pound and what they have available to you, and if they will sell to a small time operator like an entry hobby smith, or if they only deal to industrial/big fish buyers.  I think in apple valley you are in good shape though.  which yard is it?  as to starting size, 1/4" square and round are very good easy starting stock, bring it up to 3/8th for more substantial projects and a little more elbow.  entering at 1/2" is challenging, 5/8" or better I would leave on the rack until you have a better appreciation for what CAN be done, before you start getting bogged down with the larger sized stock.  im sure the more grizzled veterans will say that the larger stock is just as easy, but for someone just starting it can be intimidating, and its real easy to start working it too cold because you didn't know to let it heat all the way through, which compounds everything :)


4.  I don't use it, so I wont pretend to know where to find coal.  I prefer gas myself, which is cleaner, easier, and more readily available.  YMMV.


Welcome to your next addiction, glad to have you on board! :) its a VERY slippery slope from 'I want to do the railing work myself' to actually doing it!  You would be wise to hook up with the CBA, they are online at www.calsmith.org and we recently opened up a subsection here on IFI.  Lot of good people there that can lend a hand and a hammer, plus more wisdom than you could digest in a lifetime!  There will probably be someone relatively close to you that you can link up with if you are so inclined.


pack a lunch and a drink and start bathing in the firehose of knowledge that is IForgeIron!


edit: forgot to answer the stock size question

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1) there are very few people who could weld another top plate on that anvil, it is a major job


2) a lot do, some dont, making tools you want to use is normally a good thing, you get a tool exactly how you want it ( sometimes ) not the mass produced tools most people want


3) probably, though a scrapyard is also a good source


4) add your rough location to your profile and you may get answers about local coal

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I'll just hit on two.  At the steel place, ask for 1018.  Most steel you'll run across is A36, it is a spec and the content can vary wildly affecting the quality of your work.  For what you are doing, a gas forge will be much more serviceable.  The biggest advantage for coal is when you get into large/awkward pieces that don't want to fit in your gas forge (a farriers forge has doors for that) a coal forge can make it easier; at least that's my experience as I have a knifemakers gas forge.

All it takes is practice, and yes a lot of smiths make there own tools.  Most do it as practice or are too cheap to buy new ones. ^_^ (yes, I am referring to myself). 

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For your first question: take a diamond engagement ring and remove the diamond  now tell the owner you will just heat it up and quench it and it will be as good as new!  See a problem?  Many anvils have a wrought iron body that will NOT get hard if heated an quenched.  Steel takes a certain amount of carbon in it to be hardenable from heating and quenching.


Sharp edges are BAD and 100 year old smith books advise people buying a new anvil to round them off so as to not mark their work and cause coldshuts.  Anvils may have been sold with sharp edges so the individual smith can dress them to *their* preferences.  If you need a sharp edge making a tool to fit in the hardy hole will give you 4 edges to use.  Putting sharp edges on an old anvil is like dressing your car tires to be octagonal or square.


Forge welding a new face on an anvil---how it was done traditionally----is very difficult.  However a person can arc weld and build up a new face---had a friend who had milled his anvil into uselessness have it done at an anvil repair workshop.  Preheated the anvil (a lot of fun moving around an anvil hotter than boiling water by 100+ degreesF.  Then using the Robb Gunther anvil repair technique a professional welder using professionally sized equipment spent 5 hours getting the face re-built---or if you paid to have it done 2 or 3 TIMES the cost of buying another anvil in better condition.


I tend to buy or modify tools when I can get them cheap and make them when I want something different or too expensive.  The thing is a smith *can* make almost all their own tools!  (I still recommend buying things like hydraulic pumps...)


Call around the cost of buying steel can vary from place to place and time to time.  You want to buy Hot Rolled steel.  A-36 will work and be the cheapest.  If you are near a steel yard ask them about damaged or rusty steel at a substantial discount.  I would suggest some 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" sq stock and some round in the sizes you will use.  Remember it comes in 20' lengths!  They will cut for a cost.  I have mine cut in multiples of my common items, (so a 2' item I'll get cut at 10' a 3' item a 9' and 11' to minimize waste)


I generally buy coal through the local ABANA affiliate.

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  • 1 year later...

This might be a day late and all....but you can get coal down in yucaipa at lee green's "shoein' shop"

And I know a guy who has a few yards with lots of steel...I can usually load up for under a $100 And he's been forging knives for over 25-30 years ...might be able able to pick his brain while your looking around...

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