Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Tools that have been through a Forrest fire.


Recommended Posts

I met a smith who lost his home and shop in the California wild fires. Depending on the location of the tool in the fire, what might be the expected damage to the steel with regard to tempering or annealing? Anvil on a burned stump, hammer heads with handles burned off. Tongs? What might be the general consensus on “repair or re tempering”? Fire survivor Anvil and hammer heads? I’m thinking it really depends on the temp and duration of exposure in the fire. Would the hammers and anvil be softer as a result of the heat? He might need to straighten the reins on the tongs, but I think they might be ok. Any thoughts or recommendationS.? Asking for a friend. TIA,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most tongs are made of mild steel, so should be fine.

On the other hand, hammer heads and anvils could easily require new heat treatment.  Not that difficult for hammer heads, as most are only around 40 points of carbon and a water quench, snap temper and torch or mandrel temper of the eye will suffice.  Or they can be used as soft faced hammers, which are helpful for training beginners, or using with top tools, chisels, punches and the like.

Anvils, unfortunately, are quite difficult to properly heat treat.  If an older anvil, he will certainly have lost the thin work hardened face, and probably the quenched tool steel top plate as well.  Even a newer H-13 cast steel anvil will likely be softened well past it's original standards.  Of course if you keep your stock hot enough you can still use the mass of the anvil as an effective surface, but a miss-strike with a properly hardened hammer face will surely dent it, and the edges may deform and mushroom easily.  It would be interesting to see what a rebound test showed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The larger the anvil the more likely it would have survived in a usable state.  However, if the fire was particularly hot or of long intensity it could fatally damage even a large anvil.   If the smithy was of light construction and burned quickly it might not have heated things as badly as if it was a substantial building that burned long and hot.  Most of the smaller tools would need to be re-hardened and tempered.  The ones that do not depend on a particular hardness like hot punches or other hot tools should be OK once re-handled.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your prompt and useful information. I will suggest the rebound test for the anvil. How would they heat treat temper the anvils when forged. I’ve heard the top plates were forge welded to the forged anvil body. Where they then oil quenched or slow cooled in an annealing furnace?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Slow cooling in an annealing furnace will give you a soft anvil, which is not what you're after. To harden a steel-faced anvil, you have to heat the whole thing up above about 1475 degrees (F) and then cool it VERY quickly. This is a major challenge, as the mass of the anvil retains a lot of heat that has to be gotten rid of, and the steam jacket that forms on the water-cooled surface actually insulates the metal from the water itself, slowing down the cooling process even further. 19th century anvil makers got around this problem by putting anvils under a flume that would release huge amounts of water from a large elevated reservoir, crashing down on the anvils and smashing that steam jacket. Not an easy process to replicate, by any means.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A flume quench isn't that difficult to duplicate if you have a good body of water close to the fire. You'll need a way to move and manipulate the HOT anvil. Place it face up under a bit of scaffold that supports the outlet hose from a RENTED, 2" trash pump aimed directly perpendicular to the anvil face. In general a 2" "trash" pump will deliver about 200gpm and doesn't care about smallish debris in the water, say 1/4" pebbles or somewhat larger wood, sticks, etc. 

I've never tried using a trash pump for a flume quench but can't think of a reason it wont work. If 200gpm isn't enough there are larger trash pumps. Maybe rent two if you have a group project.

Temper with residual heat from the anvil's body and stop the temper by starting the pump back up.

Hmmm?

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anvils follow the same rules as other tool steels. If you have lost your temper, you need to aneal, harden, temper.

Heating can be done with a large rosebud. As for quench, there are good suggestions above. Lol, ive seen an anvil dangling from a chain on a backhoe and quenched up and down in a lake. 

I have no clue if a commercial heat treating company could do the job, but worth a try.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The trash pump is an interesting idea. What do you think about mounting the outlet hose on a swing-away arm of some variety, so that you could put the anvil on the ground, heat the face with a rosebud (as anvil suggests) until salt melts on the surface, swing the outlet into place, and pump away?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles McRaven in "Country Blacksmithing" redid an anvil and the quench was using the local Volunteer Fire Department's high pressure pump.  I would wonder if you could get a fast enough quench using that backhoe technique as anvils have a quite powerful leidenfrost effect!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rent a Honda powered trash pump and it'll start on the first pull, no need for a swing away. The output is generally a smooth enough stream straight from the hose you don't need anything special. We used to fill mud tubs to drill at a distance from the water supply and they'd literally fill the mud tub fast FAST. 

I'm thinking the back hoe technique would work better swinging the anvil in an arc but raising and lowering would beat dip and sit. 

If it's a controlled pond, dish soap or sodium laural sulfate wetting solution would go a long way to breaking leidenfrost.  

Breaking surface tension / leidenfrost is what they do in "superquench" recipes.

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I once saw an account where an anvil was heated for hours in a large beach bonfire in California, then lifted using chains and poles and quenched in the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest slack tub.  I don't recall the outcome as to whether the face was properly hardened and tempered but the process was impressive.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually worked with a friend who refaced an anvil and we used two large rosebuds to for heat.   The new face was drilled and we did a full plug weld to join the face to the anvil. Then wrapped it in a thermal blanket to anneal. I dont believe I was involved in how it was heat treated after that. Senior moment. I do know his son is still a working smith and the anvil is in operation.  

Concerning the backhoe, there was a series of, i believe, youtube vids on a guy and son who refaced an anvil via forgewelded plate a few years ago. They used the anvil on a chain deal to quench. The plate didnt pop off, and appeared to be  file test hard. It was a good watch, and good bit of trivia for now.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Years ago when Rocky Mountain Smiths had an anvil rebuilding session at the welding facility at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, WY using the Gunther method we used propane weed burners to preheat the anvils. We used welders' temperature crayons to measure how hot an anvil was getting. My 100# Vulcan was greatly improved by the process but the people running the workshop and the welders really knew what they were doing.  Getting a hot anvil home, even wrapped in insulation, was fun.

I once heard a description of a skilled thief that "He could steal a red hot anvil."

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, anvil said:

Then wrapped it in a thermal blanket to anneal. I dont believe I was involved in how it was heat treated after that.

I have no doubt that an anvil could be preheated to 450 deg. F with two large rosebuds while wrapped in a thermal blanket, and hardfaced using the Gunter method, or plug welded as you describe.  I'm just not sure that a single rosebud could get the face up to the required 1450 deg. F needed to quench it to harden it if new hardfacing steel was not deposited, or if there was no accessory method of insulating the balance of the anvil.  I don't believe it is impossible, just have never seen or heard of it being done successfully.

That doesn't even include the whole quenching issue, which others have more than adequately detailed. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 hours ago, Latticino said:

needed to quench it to harden

Actually I agree with you. Using a high tech repair for an anvil is not the same as doing a complete heat treat on an anvil face that has lost its temper. I think your first question is the most serious. That is that the anvil body would act as a heat sink.

I dont have the knowledge or experience to know if ox/actl and a rosebud or two could  reach the needed temps. Both of the two examples i know of, the backhoe above and a remembered Turley story about his experience, if i remember right, built a forge in the ground and used coal as their fuel and brought the whole anvil up to heat.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sure a couple rosebuds can get an anvil hot enough but holy cow the price of the gases. 

I got a 275lb. anvil 400f hot with a $12 bag of charcoal briquettes. 

Were I heat treating an anvil I'd cut firewood in short blocks and split it pretty mono-dimensional. Say 6" blocks split to 6" wedges. A 12v mattress inflator and getting a couple three hundred lbs to critical wouldn't be a serious problem. If you have coal it'd be easier.

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Turley used a champion 400 or the like plumbed into the firepot in the ground. And believe it or not I think they used a frost free hydrant and a garden hose instead of a lake. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Years ago when i was much younger I was intrepid enough that I used to redress anvils by hand, by heating them up in the forge and rehammering the faces back into submission.  
I had read somewhere that once the faces were applied 2 men with sledge hammers would standing on opposite sizes strike the anvils in sync from each side and the would pull the sides/corners up and then a set hammer would be used to push them back down.. 

With my cousin Billy recruited we actually did 3 anvils this way ranging in weight from 100 to 150lbs..   I never documented it as back then it wasn't as important.. 

So, for heat treatment.   I would use about 15 5 gallon buckets full of water and an old wash bin and hose.. 

The wash bin was filled with water just below where the face would be..  the anvil would be brought up to the required temperature in a coal fire that had bridges on each side.. One under the horn the other under the handling bar. this was to keep the anvil from sinking into the fire..  

the fire was started with wood with the anvil in position and was banked up with green coal..  I had coke I had saved from the reforging process  and once the wood/charcoal started to burn away I would introduce the coke back in under the anvils face..  this process of feeding the coke in would last until the anvil was heated to the proper temperature. 

The anvil would then have the second bar put in and would be lifted and stood up so the face was up..   this would be dropped into the water tub and the hose and 5 gallon buckets would come into play.  

The tub cooled the anvils waist and the buckets and hose would cool the face..    it worked fine everytime.  they always hardened just like they were supposed to.. Never had a soft spot. 

In Joshua Kavetts  Eagle anvil book they used a wash tub for the hardening process.. 

In another book I had seen they used a pressurized fountain head arrangement that had a curtain of metal over it and was lowered over the anvils that were being hardened. it looked a lot like the fire suppression system used at gas stations with 5 or 6 tubes for water jets. 

for my own anvil making adventure  I was going to do and immersion tank with jets on the bottom of the tank much like a wirlpool or hot tub arrangment.  This way the anvil could be submerged but have a bunch of water circulating over the face the whole time.  Submerging the anvil deep enough to cool the waist at the same time. 

Something to realize is, it is the thickness of the face of steel/wrought iron anvils that controls how much of it is hardened.. Where with cast steel or steel anvils it's the depth to which the face is heated that controls the amount or thickness of hardened face.. 

Heating the anvil slowly enough so not to over heat the edges is the most important part. 

I had thought about the methods I had read about early on and realized I needed to get as much heat out of the body of the anvil as I could to get the face to harden..  (wrought iron body, steel face). 

Now with having a better understanding of metallurgy  it's how fast the drop takes place from transformation temperature, thats all that needs to take place..  (time vs temp). 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Mod42 changed the title to Tools that have been through a Forrest fire.

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...