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Richard Furrer

John Newmann swage blocks?

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Hi Rick  I am still making them.  I need to fix my website.  In the US I sell them though a blacksmithing store.  I have been working on a new one, an industrial style block with holes though it. 

We are pretty busy here right now so I am not sure when the new one will be ready. 

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Any chance you are going to have these cast out of steel? I looked at a lot of old industrial blocks while trying to find one to buy and never found one I was really satisfied with. All of the block had chipping and deformation around the edge of the holes. Being that they were made of cast iron there is not really a satisfactory way to repair this damage. However if they were made of steel they could be.

One other suggestion I would make is to have some smaller size holes than was typically found on the older blocks. I would think if you left off two of the largest holes you could substitute several smaller one and that most people using this type or block would find that more useful.

OK one more suggestion make the block small enough to be useful. I had a block that was 18"x18"x6" and weighed about 325 pounds. It was never moved to use any of the sides. It was just more convenient to make hardy tools instead. Now I have a much smaller block that I can actually move around by hand and it does get rotated to the side and used much more than the big one. I think it is around 14"x14"x4".

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They will be ductile iron not steel.  It is harder than Grey iron (cast iron)  does not chip and can be repaired by welding.  Ductile iron is more expensive than Grey iron but cast steel is often double again the cost of ductile iron.  As well there are other problems with cast steel for swage blocks.  Molten Steel is much less fluid than ductile iron and shrinks much more both during solidification and after.  The fluidity means that you often get a better as cast surface finish with ductile over steel.  The shrinkage during solidification means you need more and or larger risers on a steel casting to avoid shrinkage defects on the casting.  A swage block which is is very feature dense tend not to have large flat areas to add risers 

I have pretty much finished the design.  I  have to design the coreboxes and add all the coreprints to the pattern, then make all the above.  Then mount the pattern on a matchplate or cope and drag and add all the gating. 

I would love to add smaller holes but there are 2 problems with trying to to cast smaller holes in a chunky ferrous casting like a swage block.  A core that is long enough to go though the swage block and is really thin is very delicate.  It is just grains of sand glued together,  larger long cores can have reinforcing steel added just like rebar in concrete .  A long thin core is very likely to break either in handling, closing the mould, or when hit by flowing iron which even though liquid still weighs the same as when it is hard.   As well a thin core does not have the thermal mass of a larger core so when buried in a heavy casting the sand can melt into the casting creating "burn in"  This creates a messy mixture of iron and glass which can be a nightmare to try to machine as it is very hard. 

Unfortunately for small holes a bolster block has to be used over either a swage block or hardy hole.  Fortunately smaller holes are easier to drill or in the case of square holes drift. 

The block will be in the 60-75lb range both to allow handling and to keep the price reasonable.

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Well you defiantly are expert when it comes to all this. I’m just relating the trouble I have had finding an acceptable industrial style swage block and how I use mine. I for one am really excited for this new block to come to market. Not wishing your good paying work to slow down but I hope we see it for sale soon. What kind of price do you expect it to sell for in the American market? I know your distributors here will have a say but can you give us a ball park estimate? I can only image that making that mold, a core box, and the cores for each block it will not be cheap.

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John: What kind of binder do you use in the sand ? Pat uses a local river sand that is not silicate and doesn't have the problems with it fusing. He also resin bonds the sand and is able to get some pretty fine detail even in iron. For some molds done at the iron pour he uses green sand.

Not criticizing or making suggestions I'm curious and am laying out a little of what I know about casting iron. We did a lot of aluminum and a little bronze casting in jr. and High school and it's darned tempting to do a little.

Kubiak: I have a Lancaster pattern swage block that weighs in about what yours does. I mounted it on wooden guardrail posts, DOT was replacing them with galvy I beam posts. Anyway, They're 7" x 9" creosoted or copper sulfate treated timbers. I cut two so the swage block was at my preferred working height laying flat on them. The other two I cut so the block was at my preferred working height on edge. I lag screwed the 4 together so it's a really uncomfortable looking chair shape. 

The block is plenty stable laying flat on the high step and if I position it correctly with one of the through holes over an edge it's perfect as a BIG HONKING bolster plate, say drifting hammer eyes. Anyway to use one of the four edges I insert a pinch bar (long straight pry bar) in one of the through holes and pry it up till it starts to over balance towards the step. I slip the pinch bar farther through so it's on the stand and I lower it to the step. If I want a different edge than the one that's up I insert the bar through a through hole that just clears the top of the stand and is a little more than half way towards the edge I want to use and pry the block up. 

Being off center the block rotates around the pinch bar as I lift it and only a little muscling rotates it to the next edge.

I did have some really spiffy swage block stand plans drawn up for a long time but I'm not replacing something that works so well for something I designed before I used a swage block.

Frosty The Lucky.

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John,

I rather like the trunnion style for the rotation aspect of it.

Question: Would investment casting allow for more design freedom?

 

Ric

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On 3/10/2017 at 9:51 PM, kubiack said:

Well you defiantly are expert when it comes to all this. I’m just relating the trouble I have had finding an acceptable industrial style swage block and how I use mine. I for one am really excited for this new block to come to market. Not wishing your good paying work to slow down but I hope we see it for sale soon. What kind of price do you expect it to sell for in the American market? I know your distributors here will have a say but can you give us a ball park estimate? I can only image that making that mold, a core box, and the cores for each block it will not be cheap.

Because of the cores it will definitely cost more but my plan is to minimize the number of cores to keep the casting cost down by having cores make multiple holes.  I don't want square holes going corner to corner because this will create weak spots.  So the coreboxes for the square holes and the slots will be fairly complicated with offset parting lines.  I am hoping to have the price about 20-30% more than my current 60 lb block would be if it were the same weight.  But we will have to see.

 

On 3/11/2017 at 7:04 PM, Frosty said:

John: What kind of binder do you use in the sand ? Pat uses a local river sand that is not silicate and doesn't have the problems with it fusing. He also resin bonds the sand and is able to get some pretty fine detail even in iron. For some molds done at the iron pour he uses green sand.

Not criticizing or making suggestions I'm curious and am laying out a little of what I know about casting iron. We did a lot of aluminum and a little bronze casting in jr. and High school and it's darned tempting to do a little.

I am not doing the actual casting, I made the patterns and have them at different foundries depending on their capabilities and strengths.  Most of my castings are done in green sand on automatic moulding machines that can make over 100 moulds an hour.  The cores used for these use isocure binders which use an amine gas to cure them and need scrubbers to clean the discharge air.  My floor cones are cast in a Furan sand and the trunnion blocks are cast in a sodium silicate binder sand.   A number of things can be done to HELP prevent burn in. The cores or moulds can have a wash put on them,  there are sands like Chromite (expensive) which as well as having a higher refractory value act as a chill.  But if you get too thin in a heavy section in ferrous castings you are likely to get burn in what ever the sand is. Several years ago I made a follow board and was involved in the casting of several 5000lb iron statues .  On the last one we did, the engineer wanted a steel pipe cast into the base that a steel pin was to be inserted in to prevent the casting tipping over.  The id of the heavy wall tubing was around 2.5" .   We supported the tubing in the mould with a pipe filled with core sand to prevent the pipe filling with metal.  Unfortunately the heat of the metal of the statue base which was around 24" diameter and 14" high welded the pipe to the tube and burned in the sand.   We took the statue to a machine shop where they set it up on a huge boring mill.  It took about 2 days and a whole bunch of carbide inserts to bore out the pipe.  In hindsight we should have allowed the pipe to fill with metal.  The iron and steel could have been drilled and then bored out in an hour or 2. 

Not taking any of the comments as criticism and I hope I am not coming across as though I am taking it that way.  My experience is primarily in the patternmaking end of things but I have spent lots of time in foundries primarily ferrous ones and I get as much feedback from foundry managers, owners, and moulders as possible. 

On 3/12/2017 at 12:06 PM, Richard Furrer said:

Question: Would investment casting allow for more design freedom?

All of my experience is with sand casting but I do know that investment casting tends to be MUCH more expensive.   I am not sure if a small diameter hole could be more easily investment cast.  I do know most investment casting tooling to cast the wax patterns tends to be machined from aluminum which is much more expensive to make than patterns made from wood or plastics. 

If money were no object these days a swage block could be 3d printed in steel with infinite design freedom.  But  based on prices quoted to a customer for a part 3d printed in aluminum  I would guess you would be close to $10,000 for a 60lb swage block with a finish similar to a cast block maybe slightly better. 

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Thanks John: I just wanted to be sure I wasn't coming across like so many folk with grand ideas who don't know enough to be dangerous and for some silly reason I have more rep than actual knowledge in some metal crafts like casting. 

What I do know about commercial casting is, good pattern makers are the secret to success. Am I mistaken or did you replicate the Fisher steel face and cast body anvil type? 

We have an annual event locally called "Art on Fire" put on by the Valley Arts Alliance it highlights art forms using fire. The blacksmith club is a regular contributor but the star of the show is the iron pour. Cupola melter and regular taps and pour to a real crowd. I've wanted to try casting a steel faced anvil but I'm usually beating hot steel and BSing the spectators across the way.

When there's nobody blocking direct line of sight you can feel the IR from the ladle when Pat taps the cupola. The IR is like light to moths in no time the crowd is 3-4 people deep.

I'd drill and broach the through holes. Good clean gray iron drills easily, it's only sand inclusions that are a problem. Broaching from round to square is easy.

Oh crap there I go making suggestions. I am so weak in my resolutions. :ph34r:

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 3/10/2017 at 1:03 PM, JNewman said:

We are pretty busy here right now so I am not sure when the new one will be ready. 

Have the new swage blocks been made? I am interested in one in the 130lb range that I can drift through. I am in ontario.

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Just picked up a trunnion swage block and am trying to find plans for a stand for it. It would be nice to have it rotate as designed.

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I have the plans for the stand as a pdf and I will send it to you next week when I am in the shop.
If I don't get it to you by mid week send me an email to remind me

 

 

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On 4/8/2018 at 5:56 AM, JNewman said:

I have the plans for the stand as a pdf 

 

 

do you still cast firepots?  Are they avalable in the US?

I'm interested.

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On 11/13/2018 at 11:49 AM, anvil said:

do you still cast firepots?  Are they avalable in the US?

I'm interested.

Hi Anvil.  The pots and my swage blocks are sold in the US by Blacksmiths Depot. 

Unfortunately I have not made any progress on the new swage blocks as we have been so busy in the shop I have not had time to do anything with it.   Lots of big patterns and Lots of forging.  30 pairs of tongs (30-60" long)  in the last few weeks and  about 100 prybars and chisels. 

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