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I Forge Iron

What did you do in the shop today?

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16 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

; are you soaking your hammer handles in the hammer eyes in linseed oil?   

One of the handiest tricks I've learned since joining. Thanks Thomas, it worked wonders on a hammer that got just a little loose. I now do it yearly in a big pan after wiping down all the handles. It's become a part of my yearly maintenance. 


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I use a small baking tray that will hold around 5 hammers at a time, usually set it up one weekend and let it sit till the next weekend. I like to see linseed oil wicking up over the hammerhead handle line.  We don't have nearly as much of a humidity cycle out here so I only repeat when a handle seems to need it.  Some have gone a decade so far.

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Last night I hung out with a friend that I haven't seen in about 10 years. We caddied together at a country club here in the 'burbs when we were teenagers. We started catching up about a week ago and he expressed he wanted to come check out the smithy and take a whack at forging. Of course, I couldn't be happier to oblige.  

With it being a special occasion, I felt the forge should be special too. I grabbed a piece in my stash that I suspected was wrought iron: an old hook with a wrapped eye. It looked like a meat hook, at about 8"-9" long and 1/2" round. Well, I needed a handle for a scale brush I got from BD a couple weeks ago, so that was the project. I cut the ends off and the sparks said WI.

I taught him how to draw at the horn, square up at the face, and the importance of working quickly and at a high heat with WI. He did a pretty good job! He also assisted me in holding the work while I drifted a hole. Although it incurred a crack at the end, it was a successful drift and I don't think the crack will be detrimental to its use. 

It was my first time consciously forging WI. It started to splinter on me at the tip of the taper before I scrolled it, but I fluxed it and was able to weld it back together; turned out to be one of my best scrolls, IMO. We tried forging a nail with the cutoffs, but ran out of charcoal before we could finish it. I'll do it with the next batch.

What a great time with an old friend. Another bonus is that he works in landscaping at a local community college and it's tree-trimming season! Says he's gonna bring me a bunch of alder wood soon for my charcoal. 




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Haha cruel? He didn't spend much time with the hammer, but I was explaining along the way how it differs from mild and HC steel. From my limited feel for it, that is. I already waxed it, unfortunately... and I don't have any etching acid haha. Next time!

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With or without a battery charger?  Electro Etching is a well known process.

As I recall salt was a suggested possibility for the etching of early medieval swords in "The Sword in Angle Saxon England"  (as was the tannic acid found in peat bogs...)

I have not tried it myself.

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Not sure how I feel about this. Was just going to be a sunflower but I added hangers to it for plants or whatever as a yard hanger. Got the leaf stems and leaves tacked on. Plan is to paint the leaves and stalk once fully done.  20201120_220519.thumb.jpg.e964c8e7a440ee8092c8109b35c37549.jpg

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That sunflower hanger looks really good.

Corkscrew, take 2 over here. At least this time it's right tighty and there's no cracks. I'm gonna start again to get a more uniform twist and a more leaf-y leaf. Need more practice. I'd like to get the screw more uniform but I'm running out of tricks to do so. I've been using a chisel to try and pry the turns to the right spacing, but then I wind up with some turns steeper than others. I may just need to go at it with some good pliers this time.IMG_20201120_184746.jpg.c60dfe0027236fd09270ec6b0d991e71.jpg

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"Ahhh forge welding, you cruel mistress.

You tantalize me with your awesomeness,

Yet deny me your form."

Thought id attempt a wrap eyed axe, because i want to learn how to make an axe. This quickly turned into "why can i not forge weld THAT spot" and "why is THAT burning?!", along with lots of curse words and what what not. 

Grumble grumble



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Do not start forge welding with something big or something important.  Start small and easy until you get the feel of things. Then move on with the confidence.

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Twigg, if you twist it tight then just use a flat head screwdriver or small forged spatula to separate the screw turns you might have better luck. Looking good. Also might want a sharp point to initialy dig into the cork better. 

Dewnmountain, there is a Lot to get wrong with forge welds. There are a few great threads on here on how to. Be sure to check them out. One thing is be vigilant with clean clean clean mating surfaces. Another is maintaining welding temps and brushing, reflux, and back in the fire once you start losing that heat. Initial sets are light taps till it sticks, and make sure your mating pieces are flush. Gaps are not your friend. There is more to it but as Glenn mentioned, try some practice welds till you get it. And also refer to the forge welding threads for more great info. Once you get it, it'll be like riding a bike for the most part. 

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well, im stumped. Made another attempt at forge welding mild steel today. and i dont know what im doing wrong.

started today by looking on here, researching everything about forge welding as described. Even watched a few videos about forge welding. 

i made sure i had a clean forge.
High pile (7") of coal
cleaned my steel
fresh flux on hand
heated the face plate of the anvil because it's cold here in wisconsin.
swapped normal hammer for a light hammer to ensure tapping
heated steel on one side of the forge, and not over the center
rotated steel to get even heat
applied flux
brought to weld heat, let it soak to ensure that it was heating evenly, looking at both the color and the surface fluidity (I tried it off of color for one attempt, and another attempt for the surface look was without flux just to remember  how steel looks when it hits that fluid texture before it burns)
quickly  moved to the anvil, picking up hammer, and tapping the weld. Even did an attempt where all i did was one single tap and then back into the fire.


i get the feeling that this is just something that i need to find a smith who knows how to do it can show me in person. My two regular blacksmiths i talk to and ask for help both admit that they dont forge weld.

I can forge weld a billet of high carbon steel steels with ease. No problem. And i know forge welding mild steel is a pain because of its low carbon and high weld temp. 


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I like it Das, it's going to look great covered in hanging plants. However, if the hangers had hands and the feet had . . . feet, it'd look like an alien halloween critter. 

Dewmountain: You're getting input overload. You really need to KISS forge welds.

To start do NOT weld mild nor spring steel. Find some medium carbon simple steel. Shovel blades are kind of thin but a good choice for alloy. Medium high carbon means lower melting temps. 

Forget making something other than a weld. Don't shape the stock more than absolutely necessary. If you do a simple billet weld you don't even need to scarf it so forget that. Sandwich 1 piece of shovel blade between two thicker pieces of mild.  Clean the joint surfaces with sand paper, shine em up good. Once shiny wipe the joint faces with a little light oil, 3 in 1 is perfect, dust them LIGHTLY with flux before you: wire, tack with an arc welder or whatever the billet. 

I know I'm probably the only guy around who recommends fluxing before you put a billet together but the hotter steel is the faster it oxidizes, you can watch scale form at orange heat so I don't understand why anybody brings an oxidization sensitive process to a condition where oxidization happens instantly before doing the one thing that shields the steel from oxygen. Flux melts far cooler than steel starts to scale so first means the flux melts and coats the joint surfaces before they can oxidize. You don't need enough flux to carry crud away because it prevents crud from forming so a little dab will do you. Make sense?

Warming the anvil face isn't a bad idea so go ahead. 

TAP the weld to set, is how YOU swing the hammer it has zero to do with the hammer itself. A light hammer is a poor choice, it won't have enough energy on impact to make the set unless you swing it hard, the opposite of what you want to do. A 3+lb. hammer just  falling from a foot or so in a dead blow will set welds in one or two blows. This is a "tap," you could drop a loaded semi on it from 2" and it'd set the weld. Swinging a 8 oz. hammer hard enough to do the job will cause the joints to bounce apart or shear sideways and not set. 

Have you used a gage wire to test for welding heat? You can sharpen a piece of small round stock to a point or use a piece of baling wire. When it looks like the billet is at welding heat give it a gentle poke with the gage wire and pull it away. If it feels like it's sticking the surface is close enough to temp to weld. Soak the billet a while at that temp and take it to the anvil.

Have the hammer on the anvil so you can pick it up immediately, if the anvil's cold, hold the billet off the surface and let the hammer drive it into the anvil. Give it 2-3 dead blows.

Brush, flux and return to the fire. Bring to temp, soak and give it another 2-3 dead blows. Remember it will come to temperature more quickly as the center is still reasonably hot. 

The higher carbon steel in the center will have a lower welding temp than the mild outer layers and it will be more protected from oxy decarb. It's thin though so carbon migration will be more pronounced so don't refine the weld more than a couple times after setting it.

Frosty The Lucky.


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3 hours ago, Frosty said:

Have you used a gage wire to test for welding heat? You can sharpen a piece of small round stock to a point or use a piece of baling wire. When it looks like the billet is at welding heat give it a gentle poke with the gage wire and pull it away. If it feels like it's sticking the surface is close enough to temp to weld. Soak the billet a while at that temp and take it to the anvil.

I thought about this. Read on here that some people liked it and others that did not. Decided to not use it...thinking i'll try it tomorrow.

With my last attempt at forge welding, i had used just a piece of 1/2" square stock. I cut it 3/4 through and then bent it over onto itself, making a faggot? Is that the right term? I read somewhere that its easier to learn to forge weld mild steel using 3/8ths to 1/2".


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Yeah, there's no telling what a boy might read on Iforge. The wire gage is just a gage, not a guarantee, some folk have a natural eye for heat colors, some have to learn. Either way a little practice and you won't need the help except maybe in special circumstances. 

Yes, that'd be a "faggot" weld. If I'm wrong someone correct me, please. I'd rather BE right than think I am. ;) 

Are you scarfing the end you're folding over? I believe Jennifer made an excellent video describing scarfs and how to make one. Personally I don't feel they need to be as exaggerated but I don't work wrought iron and steel is more forgiving of shorter scarfs. 

Scarfing 1/2" square for a faggot like this is making a blunt single edge bevel on the end and narrowing the top of the bar slightly and evenly. Viewed from the side the end would look like a very blunt wood chisel. Viewed from the end it'd look like a truncated pyramid, one with the top cut off so the top of the stock maybe 1/8"- narrower than the joint face. 

Does anybody out there have a drawing of this kind of scarfed joint? Please? Drawings are more clear than photos and especially videos. We just need the idea of what one looks like, a video is good to show HOW to make one but sometimes doesn't show us what a subtle shape looks like.

What the scarf does is prevent a 90* end from shearing into the bottom surface. The edge being thinner MUST bend before the lower face shears. The thinner areas will also be hotter than the rest so welding is encouraged. 

You want to be encouraging with  your steel, it can get downright sulky and vindictive if you aren't. Just because we use hammers doesn't mean we aren't coaxing things to do what we wish. 

After you make the 3/4 cut let it cool, sand it shiny and close it cold, it's mild it'll fold nice and tight just fine. That is LET IT COOL do NOT toss it in water and cool it, you want it normalized and soft. Yes? No problem sprinkling a LITTLE flux in the joint when you close it up but it's narrow enough you can't count on it staying in place.

So, to flux it, sprinkle a little on the seam and lay it that side up. When the flux on the surface melts remove it, quickly brush and sprinkle flux on both sides and the lap end. The joint will now have it's prophylactic oxy shield of molten borax. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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