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I Forge Iron

Why does size matter?

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Mm ... 

10 hours ago, JHCC said:

The other thing about the rock-breaking trick is that an unbroken rock transmits energy, while a breaking rock absorbs energy. In other words, if your assistant doesn't hit the rock hard enough to break it, you gonna be hurtin'!

The kinetic energy of the hammer in both cases, broken or unbroken rock is the same. The collision is mainly elastic so almost all the energy is returned, the hammer bounces up, the rock moves down. The bigger the rock the less it will move down however ... and this is a good way to see why not all the energy goes into the stand in an anvil or the stuntman under the rock ... the big hammer blow that brakes the rock does so because the energy travels inside the rock in all directions and not only down. Just like a bullet hitting a water jug and sending the water in all directions if the speed of the bullet is high enough, the kinetic energy in the rock blows two or more pieces of rock sideways and make the life of the stuntman that much easier. 

And in relation to those answers that talk about big anvil being better than smaller ones ... As it is the case with other things, to qualify something as better one must specify what for. The question was posed ... why does size matter.

Is a Mini Cooper  better than a Dodge Ram truck? Or is the truck better?  

Since no one talked about "what for", the only pertinent answer is why does size actually matter, and not in what situation it does not :)

Sure, if you forge little pen knifes, you only need a small anvil, if you want to forge a ship anchor, you will need a 2000 lb anvil and some more. Does size matter? of course it does!

But why was the question. Why? i am sure most people her know that it does, and even why it does, but the answers invariably get mixed up with preferences, personal experience, work performed and many other variables that have no much to do with a simple answer. It does matter, and it matters because ... well we already said it a few times over:)

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Note that they specify they are using wrought iron which is much softer at forging temperatures than modern steels.  Also, are you confusing the size of the face with the size of the anvil?  That anvil may have a total weight of 600 pounds but you are only seeing the face sticking up out of the floor. Again when they rivet up the shackle pin there is a small nub sticking out of the floor they are using as an anvil but seeing the forces exerted on it I'll bet there is substantial substructure there!

Definitely a superb example of something both blacksmith made AND factory made!

Notice during the anchor forging section the use of offset sledges which so many people think of as "Japanese hammers" when the style goes back at least to medieval times in Europe.  (I need to review my Roman and Egyptian tools again)

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Hard to tell when most of it is buried. It seems strange to us nowadays but many of the "heavy industry" shops didn't have concrete floors. Look at "typical" subsurface structures for mounting a industrial power hammer; they had no problem with digging a 20-30' deep hole and layering up stuff to ground level.

I remember seeing pictures of them forge welding ship structures on a dirt/scale/? floor using large piles of industrial coke with massive blowers just pointed into the piles and a crane holding a multi ton  chunk of ship in it to be heated. (OSHA would fine itself for the explosions that occurred when the inspectors saw how it was done...)

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3 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

Perhaps skill and experience are more important then theory.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor that boards the ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast ... Leonardo da Vinci

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41 minutes ago, Marc1 said:

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor that boards the ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast ...

I don't recall Da Vinci as being a sailor, I on the other hand have sailed both schooners and brigs.  I'll take practice and I'll add "Practical Experience" over theory.


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5 hours ago, iron woodrow said:

He said then not than.... is that enough?

Word choice was fine; he just left out a comma. Should be:

“Perhaps skill and experience are more important, then theory.”

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I have a poster in my classroom that reads:

”Let’s eat, Grandpa!”   Then....”Let’s eat Grandpa”.

It’s a conversation starter for my grammar deficient students.  Then again, I’m the guy who types random numbers in the middle of words because of this offensive iPad keyboard.  


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My boss bought me a "retro keyboard" made to look like a teletype keyboard (still doesn't have the "KACHUNK" of a keypunch though...)

I had told him that nearly 4 decades of smithing makes using a tiny keyboard very inefficient for me.  I have an old cell phone with a full keyboard that helps a lot; especially as it doesn't try to help a lot!

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14 hours ago, iron woodrow said:

He said then not than.... is that enough?

It's all fine.  I freely admit I'm a high school dropout.  In the last semester of the sixth grade, the school put me in the janitor's closet, they said I was disruptive.  I wasn't even allowed to join recess or gym class.  School never got any better and 3 days after I turned 17, I was enlisted in the army.   So while my grammar and spelling isn't what it could be, the school of hard knocks developed other skills.  Such as my ability to make money as a blacksmith, which is quite good and I don't need to credit anyone but myself with my success

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All i was alluding to was the fact that theory, in language AND blacksmithing practice is very important.

I am also a high school dropout.

I am a qualified industrial blacksmith, trained by a highschool dropout, who was also a qualified industrial blacksmith.

Theory comes before action.

Also, knowing the theory of this, our english language, is paramount to understanding AND teaching anything to our fellow speakers of this fine language.

Never let the past dictate your ability to learn and affect the future, for the better.


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Ha ha, take it easy guys, it is all in good fun.

I couldn't resist talking (writing) a bit about why the size of an anvil matters.

In the process I had to google the difference between 'then' and 'than'. If I ever knew the difference I have since forgotten it, mixed up in the melange of 5 language that reside somewhere in my brain. 

As for the reaction that a couple of formulas and some unfamiliar and perhaps counter intuitive concept can stir up, this is perfectly understandable and a very old bugbear. 

The kid that goes fishing with an old bamboo rod and can out fish the new boy with his new carbon fibre rod and electronic lure, or the boy that hunts with a 1930 .22 gallery gun with iron sights and brings a bag of rabbits home whilst the rich boy with his Sako 222 and Leopold scope comes home empty. You can write a book about this emotional issues.  

Experience vs resources, ability vs money ... no need to explain any further. 

However ... if someone asks about the difference between the triple deuce and the .22 LR a technical response is all that is required, and the arguments about shot placement and hunting experience shouldn't come into the conversation most of the time.

A big anvil is usually more expensive. if the conversation steers towards big anvil matters, the concept comes dangerously close to big is better and therefore more money, means better blacksmithing with all it's understandable controversial thought pattern. 

I have always had a love for physics, chemistry and it's associate mathematics, (not maths by itself that I consider right or wrongly the realm of gigs). So because of such inclination I tend to mistakenly assume that others may also have some sort of interest in why things are or act as they do, just like I find myself explaining enthusiastically the origin of a word in english that means a different thing in another language only to see others' eyes glaze over and turn to an observation about the weather.

It is what it is. It so happens that the physics of collisions is that little more complicated and can be that more interesting and generate that bit more of a blacksmithing related conversation. I hope we can do so in the spirit of learning from each other regardless of size ... :)


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On 7/14/2018 at 5:36 PM, Marc1 said:

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor that boards the ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast ... Leonardo da Vinci

When I started blacksmithing.. I had no guidance other than what books I had read and at 8 years old there is a lot that just doesn't sink in..   Each one of them told a story of which I knew nothing about and continued to know very little till years had passed..   Practical blacksmithing is my favorite. Then the Corsia series.. 


Sure I had picked up heat treating, but as to theory of forging it was lost on me..  All I knew was the hotter the metal the faster I could hammer it and the larger cross section I could work on.. mind you back then 1/2" was formidable.. 

I have found over the years that most don't need to know anything more than to  " HIT it when it's hot" and phase changes, etc, etc are much less important in the beginning.. 

As newer smith progress and you see " smarty pants" come along they sometimes will use their brain power to show how " Smart they are" (some can forge well, others can't but they are happy to spew information all day long)  when in most situations with forging " unless you want to show your mental prowess"  it's all moot..   

There are really only a hand full of times where knowing and understanding the material becomes book smart..    Heat treating and the forging of alloys...  All the others can be taught and learned with very little in terms of  " Book learnin"..  

For years all I would do is   " Read books about blacksmtihing, then go and practice, and before bed read more about blacksmithing and then the next day.. Do more practice.. this went on for years..   So eventually I become pretty learned and I also could forge or spew information...   

I quickly learned ( 10 years not so quick) that as a spewer of information that most could care less about and in some circles it was almost insulting to the others in the group as they had much more experience than I, yet I could tell them the difference between a siding down chisel, oil groove chisel, outside radius chisel, etc, etc .. I had spent 3 months learning to file flat for a 1, 2, 3" block..   I had made files...   All of these things eventually became a noose with which I hung myself...  

Today I for the most part keep things much simpler and try to find ways to help others understand with simple examples like holding the rock in the hand and hitting it..   While I could go look up why it works..  I really don't care anymore in a beginner class or even an intermediate class unless I am asked..      I used to know whether it was  MASS or weight  or how many sq inches of force is applied in psi if the hammer weighing X is swung at so many fps..     But in reality it doesn't mean a thing except to the people it means something to..  From an engineering stand point or academia it's important to some.  Sure.. 

But for people in the trenches it's moot and just fun to throw around for the brains who like to show brain power..   

Again,,     Why is bigger better..   Or when is bigger better..    Or  Why does size matter...                 That silly little experiment will show anybody how to answer these questions without having to sit and listen to all of it or figure out via math problems (which are useful if you have constant output)..   Now if you live in the desert with no rocks it might be a problem.. 

And as for quality of work..   Quality work is quality work,   Or it isn't...     It doesn't matter the size of the anvil..  

Where the size of the anvil comes in to play , is when the hammers get bigger (not swung as fast) and the ratio of hammer to anvil to material size plays in)

Sadly, everybody will come back with brain power and list formulas again as a way to protect the ego..     But yet, when they look at their own work they if they can look honestly will say also that on some project it would have been better to have a slightly larger anvil or a smaller anvil or a better mounting system for their smaller anvils ( it moved around to much)....

As I pointed out before..  If you move the hammer faster (doesn't matter the size) it will penetrate deeper before effecting the anvils mass and thus creating a disturbance with this mass as the kinetic energy applied will them be effecting the anvil directly as the force of the hammer going into the metal is not passed onto the anvil and stand..   Basically as a simple term the concussive wave.. It (hot metal )will for an instant not transfer energy to the anvil when hit with a hammer..   Again, there is a millionth of a second where the energy of the hammer is put into the metal before the anvil can take on this energy..    Watch time lapse of a high speed bullet going through steel plate...  

I know this will bring up arguments as people will see it as an a front to intellect..  But I don't mind.. It will just allow for more brain power to be exuded helping to make the brain even more powerful..   

The rock experiment is far simpler and shows more than any words I can put on paper.. 

Here are some videos of bullets hitting a target in slow motion..  This will also show how the bullets (hammer) applies force and then the rest of the object responds.. It takes just a fraction of a second for the kinetic energy to be transferred to the object releasing the energy into the mass..  







As an addemdun to the quote..  

A theory without implementation is a useless thing indeed..           Someone who possesses incredible forging skills,  staring at and anvil with hammer in hand does nothing if they never swing it.. 

in martial arts or any conflict between 2 or more people takes a person to make the first move...   If they never move there is no conflict..   Move being first verbal then physical in most cases.. 

a Theory without application is just that and for most will prove useless..  Unless of course one want to argue the point as to its worth..  


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No arguments from me JLP.  I agree completely.  Knowing a lot (head knowledge) never trumps experience actually doing it.  I've read a lot on blacksmithing, but until my skills improve through practice and I apply that knowledge to produce decent work, it's just information.  I like how you think and it's the old craftsman (craftswoman) way of thinking.  I doubt when the old master blacksmith took on a new apprentice he sat that apprentice down for 3 1/2  hours of theory, equations, etc.......pretty sure he got the apprentice to work by showing them how to do it and offering correction where needed - and most likely as a striker or making nails or something I'm sure.    

When I teach flintknapping classes I talk for maybe 20-30 minutes about theory and then I dump out a large bucket of flint and tell the students to dive right in.  I then go student to student asking them what they are trying to accomplish and offer corrections and encouragement.  Around and around I go until the allotted time is over.  I'm always surprised at how fast the time goes by.  I've found this way of teaching a hand craft skill works best.  It may not work for blacksmithing, but I think you all get where I'm coming from.  I've had students show up who've watched several of the videos over and over and they know the right words but they have no idea how to make that theory happen with their own hands.  By the end of class some of those book / video heavy students are ahead of the others but most fair no better than the person who just started that day without having watched the videos or read the books.  Carpenters, mechanics, and woodworkers fair the best as they understand hand-eye coordination and the correlation between hand and mind in the sense of having vision of what they want to accomplish. 

Long winded way of agreeing with you JLP, though I have vastly less experience and time at the anvil.  I learn by forging over and over and over. 

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Interesting ... so you are the kid with the bamboo rod in my story. 

Am I the smarty pants in your story?

I am sorry that you feel threatened by a few post that had the only purpose to illustrate what most know intuitively but can not express in a formal way.

To the OP if he is still around. Yes, size matters, and this thread is living proof. 

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I assume it is universally understood that people learn best by doing.  It is also true that they learn better by teaching.  However, sooner or later, anyone who reaches a high level in a skill will find themselves mired in theory.  They may have derived it on their own or learned it from someone else, but it will be the same information.

 I don’t understand why people seem to think that practice Andy theory are mutually exclusive.  People can learn by doing AND be educated in theory at the same time.  It happens in good classrooms of all levels every day.  It’s what “new math” is all about (much to the ire of most American adults).  They have kids play with numbers in a variety of way so that they can figure out number relationships on their own.  The goal is that students can intuitively understand the standard formulas we were all taught without having been shown them.

I remember being on the job site building offices and the guys I worked with loved to find fault in the “books smart” designers and engineers and rant about how their experience trumped anything the engineers could do....if the engineers knew how to swing a hammer they just might not make stupid designs...blah blah blah.  But they all got in their cars and drove home and it wasn’t their mechanic who designed and made a 2 ton hunk of steel that could accelerate to ridiculous speeds and still be safe to operate.  How do they know whether or not that engineer is a machinist, welder or blacksmith as well....or that the guy next to them has multiple college degrees and is better at the job than they are?

People tend to oversimplify.

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I fully understand and again..     There is nothing wrong with Math or formulas or keeping things as simple as possible..         

The only problem there is when someone then takes a defensive roll in order to " Make themselves be heard and understood"..   (the " Why don't you get it"? ) I'm guilty of this.. 

A good Teacher is always learning from their students as each student has different problem solving skills..   

As to you being right..    "  You are RIGHT"..       There is no wrong way to swing a hammer.. Only better ways..  If you feel like you method is right.. Than it is right..  Showing someone a better way is all that can be done.. 

I am ALL,  the person with the bamboo rod, the scholar with the pen and paper, the person looking at the stars...    

We all have a role we are to play and keeping things in an order which makes us more comfortable is part of what many see as their answer to comfort.. 

People have a tendency to be harsh when they don't agree and will use names or anger and as one of my friends likes to say " Idiot"..   Why don't you get it..   LOL..   

I think it's funny and it makes me laugh each time he says it..  I can see the frustration in his eyes and hear it in his voice and see it in how he moves..    The reason why he says this is " Because it's important to him and he understands it as a 20/20 vision thing..   How come no one else can see it????????? 

If you have a question and you find and understand the answer, Then everyone else who doesn't have the answer when you show it to them, well can be an " Idiot" if there is anger and judgement involved.. 

I don't look at it that way or think of it that way..   I simply see they are not ready for the answer, and as for myself there has been millions of times where I don't have a question or an answer till way after completion of what it is I am doing..    20/20 vision for Sure.. 

I have always been one to question " Why"?      This has lead to a very long and interesting journey as well as a lot of heated discussions with people in the "KNow"..   As a teacher of many things I have also found that until someone is to " KNow" they will not "KNow"..     That ah, ha" moment is what keeps it interesting.. 

So, please continue with all the formulas I'm sure you are helping those that are looking for this information and without your help, they may never have found it.   

Thanks for helping all of them..   :) 

I feel as though part of this on my behalf is being misunderstood as a way to minimize others thoughts or opinions..    Thus dismissing  "Others feelings as to what is important to themselves and others"...  

This is not the case at all..    As I believe " Your opinions and feelings and thoughts are in some way more important than my own"...   

Information is simply information..    What one takes or gives with it is up to them..   I don't judge I just try to contribute in a useful way from having a different view.. 

Not sure if you have figured it out or not but I'm pretty far out there in the weird region and don't follow any norms..   But I do try to be kind, and considerate of others.. 

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