Laughing Bodger

Greetings from the NSW mid north coast

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Hi all. As the thread title says, I am from the mid north coast of New South Wales, Australia. Needless to say, I'm an aspiring blacksmith. But, as is often the case, one without an anvil. But one of the members here (I think his handle is Work With Nature) has inspired me. I saw in one of his photos that he uses a couple of sledgehammers, side by side. My wrinkle on the idea would be to get hold of two like hammer heads, bolt them together through the eyes (hopefully I didn't just embarrass myself with that terminology), and dropped into a recess in a suitable tree stump. Surely that would be better than the cheap Chinese rubbish  and good-quality-but-wickedly-expensive anvils you find on Aussie eBay.

As for a forge, I figured a box of dirt one would do for now.

Any thoughts?

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9 hours ago, JHCC said:

JABOD forges are effective and dirt cheap.

Duh-duh-tsss!

Im glad to see someone embracing the fact that simple implements will take you a long way. Too often new, aspiring blacksmiths beleive they need a 500 pound hay budden and a red brick forge to do any sort of work. 

Good luck to you, Bodger. Welcome to the forum. 

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Ha ha ha, JHCC, I saw what you did there.

Thanks for the encouragement, both of you. After viewing the Improvised Anvils, I've been convinced the right piece of steel awaits at the local scrapyard - and the cheaper/simpler the better, as far as I'm concerned. Smiths of yore made durable and beautiful work for hundreds (thousands?) of years before the appearance of the London pattern anvil. Besides... as I am saving up for a house (and the other Aussies on the Forum will tell you how difficult that can be), I don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars on an anvil. If I did so, I suspect my other half would chain me to it and throw it in the river. And rightly so.

Looking forward to learning all I can here - and that seems to be a vast amount.

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1 hour ago, Laughing Bodger said:

Looking forward to learning all I can here - and that seems to be a vast amount.

And no doubt you will. Welcome to the forum, fellow Australian. Hmmm, Mid North Coast - I'll hazard a guess at Byron Bay?? There are probably other smiths in that area - ask around and you might find someone to help you getting set up. You are right about eBay anvils - ridiculous prices for ordinary stuff. Search the TPAAAT method - using that you are always in with a chance. But remember you don't need flash gear to make good work. Marvellous what can be done with a brake drum, a hairdryer and a lump of railway iron.

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Hey ausfire, not even close! I'm actually in Taree - Byron's far too crowded (and expensive) for me, though I love some of the areas around there... perhaps when/if I ever retire. There's actually a smith in Wauchope (about an hour away from Taree) who teaches classes. I thought I might take one, but that's not likely to be for a few months yet, I'd like to try to get some forging under my belt before I front up there.

As for railway iron... well, a friend of mine gave me a 25cm long piece of miniature railway Iron (the real thing has been frustratingly hard to get hold of, even though ARTC has a depot in town). Reckon it'd work if I bolted it to the side of a tree stump? Vertically mounted, it seems a bit small.

Edited by Laughing Bodger
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"I suspect my other half would chain me to it and throw it in the river."   I suggest she listens to the Goon Show's "The Canal" first for pointers---and don't forget the insurance rider!  (and yes, thousands!)

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Just about anything will work in a pinch, but I think mininrail is beter as a sorce for high carbon impact resistant steel for tools, the double sledge (or single) works, tho one mounted face up as an anvil and the other mounted handle hole up as a hardy tool holder would be better. Don't make any permanent modifications to them as sooner or later a better anvil will come along (and a striker) and you will still have sledgehammer  heads. 

The box of dirt works well, tho changing to a trench insted of a round bowl is more effecent and the addition of at least one wall is very useful if one burns charcoal insted of coal. Coal forges can be even simpler as fire spread isn't much of an issue and the fuel it's self can be used to shape and  contain the fire. 

Welcome to Glenn's international block party. 

 

 

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Thomas, she loves English comedy (as indeed, do I), so has all the pointers, I think - right up to hitting me with a very large fish to make sure the job is done - pith helmet optional.

Charles, excellent advice, thank you - retain the minirail for stock. Tools are indeed where I would like to end up, I have a few ideas such as froes, adzes and the like, once I have the skill (old-school timber framing is an artform I really admire, and would love to knock together a smithy in that style once we're on our acreage). I did figure I'd add some features to the JABOD along the lines you were suggesting, as I do intend using charcoal for reasons of conscience and sheer economy (we've got timber lying around, just for the asking, in my neck of the woods). What are your thoughts with regards to perhaps making the forge more durable by adding pulverized cat litter (the cat is welcome to use whatever I don't)?

Thanks again, all, for your welcome and well wishes. I reckon on my next day off, it'll be down to the scrapyard to find the perfect (or merely adequate) piece of steel upon which to begin the journey.

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5 hours ago, Laughing Bodger said:

What are your thoughts with regards to perhaps making the forge more durable by adding pulverized cat litter (the cat is welcome to use whatever I don't)?

Before you do that, test your local soil by filling a glass jar mostly full of subsoil (not the topsoil at the surface), topping off with water, shaking up, and allowing to stand. The coarser material (sand) settles to the bottom; silt, at the middle; clay, at the top. If the sand makes up at least 1/2, you're golden. If it's more than 3/4, you might try some cat litter, but it may not be necessary (one of the beauties of the JABOD is that you can try it, tear it apart, and redo it with minimal fuss). If the clay layer is more than 1/2 the height of the sand layer, do not add more. @Charles R. Stevens, that sound about right?

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Thanks, JHCC, another very good reason to do a soil test (I also want to know where to plant my beans and tomatoes). As it happens, I've been reading a fair bit about how to improve soil, but I won't be improving anything until we're on our own soil. Charcoal helps in this, so blacksmithing dovetails nicely with gardening, so it seems.

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Just remember: the goal of care for gardening soil is to improve not only its content, but its structure. Heavy cultivation (tilling, double-digging, etc) can compact the soil and make it harder for plants to root and take up nutrients. Take a serious look at no-till gardening, which relies on heavy use of organic mulches (coarse wood chips, straw, rotted hay, etc) to slow erosion, suppress weeds, loosen the soil and improve its tilth, retain moisture, and (as it decays) provide nutrients. Be careful about going overboard with adding organic material directly to the soil, as excess nitrogen can get into rainwater runoff and end up polluting local waterways. I don't know if there are services near you that will measure your soil for nutrient and mineral content, but as my gardening mentor says, "Test your soil, and only add what's missing!"

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1/3 clay 2/3 sand is ideal for Adobe, 1/4 clay and 1/2 sand will work. A bit of ash is seposed to improve the mix buy discouraging coal clinker from sticking. Chemically lie, lime and ash stop clay from expanding when whet.

i used the soil from a couple of post holes (power poles for a tun in shed) that is clay rich, it vitrifies around the fire. 

As to charcoal, a retort is of corse the best way to go as one has fuel to store for later use, but a separate fire can also easily provide fuel if your local council gets wound up about the smoke. More advanced retorts acualy capture and burn this hydrocarbon rich smoke making it a much cleaner process. Check out the black powder sites (they make high quality willow charcoal as one of the 3 components. 

I assume you have red the stickie on charcoal forge design? 

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JHCC and Charles... we seem to think a fair bit alike. I'm also very much into soil care (don't feed the plants, feed the soil) and minimising my impact on the land - I have a few harebrained and perhaps not-so-harebrained schemes (mostly concerning sustainable power) for when my fiancee and I are on our own property - when one rents, one's options are quite limited (though I was just told that keeping bees would be OK - very excited!). I already use a slow combustion stove, which has provided decent amounts of charcoal, but definitely a purpose-built retort is best. I'm not so worried about Council, as I have access to a friend's remote property - 360 acres of more or less virgin bushland, I figured I could build a portable retort and spend a few days up there at a time making charcoal, and yes, I've seen designs which use the wood gas to sustain the process, reducing the amount of wood required for fuel - it all makes perfect sense to me, both in terms of sustainability and economy. My friend is also supportive of my madness, encourageing me to build whatever kind of forging/foundry facilities I want up there. Very exciting times ahead for me.

Ask me some time about my most-harebrained scheme - involving a biogas fired steam turbine locomotive. All involving metal casting (I've already built a small foundry and amassed a pretty good amount of scrap aluminium for preliminary experiments).

Now I'm just hanging out for the chance to head down to the scrapyard... Monday afternoon, here we come.

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Hi again LB. Yes, I was a bit too far north suggesting you may be in Byron. Taree is nice. We were there not long ago - just passing through on a trip to Canberra.

You seem to be making good progress in gathering the knowledge for your future forging. Some very knowledgeable people on here. I use charcoal exclusively in my side blast forge. It's clean (no clinker to gum things up), plenty of heat, burns away a bit quicker than coal/coke, but at least it's free. It's fortunate for us that we can just venture out into the bush and find where the bushfires have been and help ourselves. I look for those hollow shell stringybark trees that the fire has gone up. Push them over with the bullbar and just shovel up the charcoal.

Let us know how you get on at the scrapyard. If you get lucky, a slab of 4X (or your NSW equivalent) for the owner might put you in good stead for future visits.

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Ausfire, Ha! Why did I not think of bushfires as a fuel source? There was a very large fire near Comboyne (a dairy village in the mountains north of me), I should go up and scavenge the charcoal from there. As for XXXX, don't you all drink Great Northern up there now, like the rest of us? I'd heard that the Queensland diet was more or less Bundy and Great Northern. Anyway, I'm told I could possibly get railway track at the scrapyard (by the skip-full if I'm very lucky). Even if I don't end up using it for an anvil, I'm sure I can think of other stuff to use it for.

Either way, very excited about tomorrow.

 

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Yes, a source of charcoal is one of the good things bushfires do. I use a lot in my daily demos and will soon have to go and find some more. Most of the hardwood gums provide good hard stuff, but I tend to avoid she-oak and never use cypress which is all crackle and spark. One of the best is gidgee, but you have to travel a long way west to get that. When I had a forge in Mount Isa I would use nothing else.

And yes, Great Northern is very popular up here. (As well as the inevitable Bundy).  I just delivered a slab to a mate of mine who did some earth moving for me. Bit like currency here.

What's the go with your forum name? Don't tell me you have one of those bough lathe things! I see a bodger working up here at the markets occasionally - looks like hard work to me.

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Hey ausfire, from what I've read, burning Gidgee would be nigh on sacrilege - it pretty much sounds like the most precious species we have (or, at least for toolmaking and musical instruments). Regarding the name, I sort of inherited (adopted) it from my Dad. He was a diesel fitter/fabricator/could-do-anything-with-metal sort of bloke and not long after his workmates heard his Pommy accent (I was also born there, don't ask, I have very strange ideas about nationality), he was christened Bodger. Funny thing, I moved to Taree for work, and one of his old workmates who ended up moving there recognised me for who I was, so for the purposes of this Forum, I adopted the name, with a bit of a lackadaisical bent. If I end up half the craftsman Dad was, I'd be stoked.

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12 hours ago, Laughing Bodger said:

He was a diesel fitter/fabricator/could-do-anything-with-metal sort of bloke

I was under the impression that a diesel fitter was the person who does the last quality control check on ladies’ underwear— the one who says, “Yup! Dese’ll fit ‘er!”

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JHCC,

30 minutes ago, JHCC said:

I was under the impression that a diesel fitter was the person who does the last quality control check on ladies’ underwear— the one who says, “Yup! Dese’ll fit ‘er!”

SLAG says.

GYaaahh !!

Nothing personal.

Just sayyin.

SLAG.

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19 hours ago, Laughing Bodger said:

Hey ausfire, from what I've read, burning Gidgee would be nigh on sacrilege - it pretty much sounds like the most precious species we have (or, at least for toolmaking and musical instruments). Regarding the name, I sort of inherited (adopted) it from my Dad. He was a diesel fitter/fabricator/could-do-anything-with-metal sort of bloke and not long after his workmates heard his Pommy accent (I was also born there, don't ask, I have very strange ideas about nationality), he was christened Bodger.

Gidgee does make good handles but it's rough on lathe tools. Charcoal from Gidgee and Mallee seems to last longer than the gum charcoal.

Interesting how you adopted the Bodger name. Are your 'strange ideas about nationality' related to recent developments in Federal Parliament? You're not considering running for the Senate are you? What a debacle all that is!

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On 11/20/2017 at 10:05 PM, ausfire said:

Interesting how you adopted the Bodger name. Are your 'strange ideas about nationality' related to recent developments in Federal Parliament? You're not considering running for the Senate are you? What a debacle all that is!

Bodger is mostly homage to my Dad (who really is clever when it comes to building stuff - if I turn out half as good as him, I'll be thrilled). As for a tilt at the Senate, no way! I just want to live out my life in a quiet part of the country, in relative obscurity, pursuing my interests (blacksmithing, obviously, but also beekeeping and meadmaking when the time comes).

I agree, though, it is all a debacle. I wish they'd just clean house and get on with the job - if that means an audit, so be it. Shed the blood and move on. The Electorate has had its say with the SSM issue and, just as I suspected, the socially conservative elements of the LNP are trying to derail it and hope we just forget about it. Truly, the Ringmaster's asleep and the clowns are in charge. Turnbull will be lucky to still be PM after New Year... I just hope we don't get Abbott again, but I don't really see who else it could be.

Anyway, enough depressing stuff. My trip to the scrapyard was a total bust. They were packing up and going home when I rocked up, and must've cleaned out their skips that day, because all they had in them was old microwaves - the aspiring scrapper in my was drooling, but I've really got no room for all that junk for the foreseeable future. Never mind. I'm going to visit my folks on the weekend. They've got heaps of scrapyards near them, and I've got three days to check 'em out.

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G'day Bodger 

There's a chap in Brisvegas who has some good crane rail, if you have means of getting it to you. It masses around 79kg/m. Happy to put you in touch of it helps?

Ausfire, great idea for getting charcoal. :)

 

@Dale Russell Hey, Cuz Dale, where are you bloke?

Bodger, and any other Aussies who haven't yet - please add yourselves to Dale's Oz Roll Call thread?

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A trip to the scrapyard is my treat for this American Holiday weekend too---hoping he won't be closed.  Funny the others are talking about a Black Friday Shopping spree and I'm planning on a scrapyard spree...

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