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Author Topic: Metalwork and smithing  (Read 4290 times)
Jupiter Harsh
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« on: May 03, 2011, 03:07:57 pm »

So, I was thinking of trying metalwork.
I've got no problem with making the forge or finding tools and materials (but any tips on what forge or metal you'd recommend for a novice would be more than welcome), the
real problem is finding a good guide or tutorial for beginners.
If it's any help, when I'm good enough, I'll prob. be trying to make sword/armour sized
things all the way down to bits for not too small mechanisms.
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2011, 03:48:17 pm »

Personally, I prefer what you can do with welding rather then forging.  Start with a Oxy/Propolyene Torch for cutting, heating, melting, brazing, burning, and more.  As money allows a small MIG welder has all kinds of uses. Next you will need some angle grinders, several appropriate face shields and a small place to work.  Lots of scrap out there to work with.  You can make a very nice knife with an old file for the blade or try a leaf spring.

Blacksmithing is great if you like pounding, but lots can be done as a welder.
Happy creating.
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bassspine
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2011, 06:00:54 pm »

you can do a lot with copper, it's very soft and easy to work for repousse designs (three dimensional moulding of the metal), but it is hard to weld. Once annealed you can cut it with tinsnips. I used to have a supply of copper rivets which were lovely.

with Oxy-acetylene you can heat, cut, braze and weld materials, so mild steel becomes the choice. You can forge steel using a gas axe to heat it too, so no need for a forge, just an anvil. I used a foot-long piece of GWR rail as an anvil when I was a 'prentice. Steel is a lovely material to work.

I worked as a blacksmith for a few years, if I can answer any questions and get someone else working on the anvil, ask away.
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2011, 06:36:27 pm »


There are two main types of forge suitable for a small workshop. The first is a solid fuel forge burning charcoal or coke, the design of which has changed little in centuries, the second option is a gas fired forge which is a much more recent innovation.

Of the two a solid fuel is probably the easier to improvise and an effective small forge can be made very cheaply and easily. A solid fuel forge is versatile and fairly cheap to run (especially if you use coke). They tend to be particularly good for ornamental iron work since you have plenty of space to manoeuvre large pieces of steel and its easy to see exactly what is going on. On the downside the fuel is bulky and dirty and they generally take a good while to get up to temperature, plus it takes a bit of skill and experience to learn to manage the fire properly.

A gas forge is a bit more complex to set up and requires parts and materials which may take a bit of finding in some places but they do have a big advantage in terms of convenience since they get up to temperature quickly and require little adjustment once they're going. On the downside you need to decide how big a forge you need and since they're an enclosed space the size you choose will limit the size of work you can do to a significant extent and of course a bigger gas forge is more expensive to run.

With all forges be aware of the dangers not just of the high temperatures generated but carbon monoxide and other noxious fumes, good ventilation is vital.

The tools required to get started are pretty simple, basically a hammer and some sort of anvil, a straightforward ball peen hammer is fine to get started with and a serviceable anvil can be improvised from all kinds of sources from railway track to forklift forks.

As for materials mild steel is good to start with since it's cheap, easily available and quite forgiving to forge, wrought iron is fantastic to work with for ornamental structures but is expensive and hard to obtain. At some point you will probably want to experiment with high carbon and alloy steels which can be hardened to make cutting tools etc.

Be aware that each steel alloy will have its own individual properties which need to be taken into account when forging and heat treating and some tool steels, particularly high alloy varieties can be very tricky to forge. Scrap steel can be a very good source of material but having a big pile of mixed unknown steels can be more trouble than it;s worth so try to find a source where you can be reasonable sure that it will be of a more of less consistent grade, which you can at least learn by trial and experimentation.

As Maets says a welder is an extremely useful and versatile metalworking  tool and if you are serious about setting up a workshop will be invaluable for making various bits and pieces like work tables and shelves. A cheap stick welder is a good place to start.
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2011, 06:55:48 pm »

Thanks for the replies.
I've already dabbled in non-forge made knives, but what really interests me isn't as much making knives, etc., but the actuall forging(?) process, if you see what I meen.

@Narsil: as for metal, I think I could get hold of some rebar quite easaly, is that ok? And I'm thinking of going for a solid fuel forge.
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Narsil
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2011, 07:03:43 pm »


The properties of rebar can vary quite a lot, some is hardenable, some isn't, the only way to be sure is to test it.

There are a few tests which can give you an idea of the hardenability and composition of an unknown steel. Observing the colour and pattern of sparks produced when you grind it is a quick and basic method but if you want to make good quality tools you will have to experiment with some heat treating and refine your methods to suit the steel. The simple first test is to heat the steel until it becomes non-magnetic and then quickly plunge in water, if it has harden it should easy fracture with a tap from a hammer.

For more detailed information this site http://www.britishblades.com/forums/forum.php is an excellent source and a search through the archives should give you a huge amount of information and advice to consider
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bassspine
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« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2011, 07:32:40 pm »

Narsil - you obviously know your stuff. Might one enquire as to your trade? 

I was a mere common or garden smithy and so don't have as much depth of metallurgical knowledge as you.
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Narsil
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« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2011, 08:00:38 pm »

Well I originally trained as a mechanical engineer and at the moment I'm trying to build up a sculpture practice, working mostly with iron and steel, I've also done a bit of knife making in the past.
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bassspine
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« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2011, 08:50:26 pm »

Excellent.  I've had a few goes at pattern-welding blades, but my forge welding was not up to the job.
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Maets
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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2011, 12:22:00 am »

I hate to disagree with Narsil, but if you're in the market for a welder, I would strongly recommend a MIG over stick.  A MIG can do just about anything a stick can do plus alot more and it is easier to learn and use.   I have made a living for the last 19 years making metal sculpture based HEAVILY on using a MIG.  To get a taste of what is my main line of work go to:
www.edsbells.com
There are only a few pictures and a few videos on that site.

Ultimately, what equipment you need is based on what you want to make and its size.
Thanks
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2011, 03:08:05 pm »

Thanks again for all the answers.
I want to try bladesmithing, mainly knives but later I might try swords, so I think I'll go for a home made coke/coal forge and a hammer and anvil.
I have 3 questions:
1) Is a grinder essential or can I get away with a metal file?
2) Where can I find a tutorial that covers the very basics? for instance I couldn't get half of what narsil said
    about hardening.

Question 3 to come when I find the relevant pic.
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2011, 04:19:25 pm »

Question 3 :
I was thinking of making the forge with a brake drum or similar using this  design

My questions are:
a) How do you stop the bits of coke falling down with the ash?
b) What size would be best for making knives/daggers and blades in general?
c) Would a multi-speed hair drier be ok for the air source? or would hand powered bellows be better?
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Maets
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« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2011, 04:28:36 pm »

1) Is a grinder essential or can I get away with a metal file?

A grinder is essential for just about any metal working.  I have six different angle grinders set up with six different heads so I can grab the one I need and not waste time changing heads.  But one to start with is fine.  There are grinding disks, sanding flap disks of different grit, wire brushes, polishing disks, etc
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2011, 05:49:17 pm »

Seen my current financial situation, i-e the kind of situation where the only sort of grinder you can afford is the
tipe who's content is rather more frowned upon by the law Tongue , would my father's drill, that has a disc holder
attachment, work if I get the right tipe of disk?
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Narsil
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« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2011, 07:53:39 pm »

Regarding MIG vs stick it's very much a case of horses for courses, both have their pros and cons.

Stick is good for occasional use because you don't need to worry about either hiring gas cylinders or the high cost of disposable ones or indeed the gas running out at the wrong moment. You can of course use flux cored wire but in that case you might as well be using a stick welder.

If you're on a tight budget simple AC stick welders are certainly the cheapest by some margin, not the prettiest welds in the world but they will certainly do the job for simple fabrication tasks and a cheap stick welder is probably better value for money than a cheap MIG welder. Having said that  once you get into the mid-price bracket teh best option really comes down to the specific application.

It's also worth considering a DC inverter which will also be capable of running a scratch-start TIG setup, useful if you want to work with very thin sheet.

MIG certainly wins on convenience for a production setup, especially if you only want to weld mild steel, its also probably the most convenient for putting in tack welds.  

The other option is gas welding. For general jobbing welding oxy/acetylene has a number of drawbacks and it takes time to learn, certainly compared to MIG where you can be doing ok welds after an hour or so of practice. However a gas welding setup is very versatile since the same basic kit can be used for welding, soldering, brazing, cutting and general heating for much less initial investment than the electric equivalents, although you are committing yourself to the ongoing costs of bottle rental whether you use it or not.

Of course all welding processes have running costs in terms of gas bottle rental and refilling, filler rods, electrodes, consumables etc etc. Often the most cost effective solution comes down to what volume of welding you do and the type and variety of jobs you undertake.



Regarding  forge design

a) You need to make a grate from either closely spaced bars or drilled plate to stop the coke falling down the hole with the ash (assuming that you're going with a bottom draft design...if you make ma side-draft forge this becomes irrelevant). This grate will probably oxidise fairly quickly so you should design it so it is easy to replace periodically.

b) for making common sizes of knives a fairly small forge is adequate, the main requirement is that you can heat the whole length of the blade evenly for heat treating, although during the actual forging process you will usually only be working on a small section of the blade at any one time.

c) yes, a hair-dryer should be perfectly adequate for a small forge. It's quite hard on them since they're not designed to run continuously but you should get some decent use out of it. Few smiths now use hand bellows and those that do are generally reenactors of some sort who do so for reasons of authenticity. They will work but they are fairly complex things to make and tend to take up a lot of space if they're of a large enough capacity to be effective.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2011, 05:17:31 pm by Narsil » Logged
sidecar_jon
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« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2011, 09:01:53 pm »

Grinders are sort of essential and cheap a basic one is fine. For basic metal working i'd wander here...http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/forums/92/Metal-Working people there forge all sorts with the most basic equipment, in fact they insist on it.
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2011, 09:11:10 pm »

 Sad :'(
Today I discovered that my granfather used to own a beautifull 1x1m solid fuel forge, but that since then it has dissapeared  Sad

Anyway, I think I'll use the forge design discussed here http://forums.dfoggknives.com/index.php?showtopic=19395
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #17 on: May 05, 2011, 07:59:08 pm »

Right. I think I've worked out the basics and have found several tutorials.
My only question is: angle grinder or bench grinder?
From what I've seen an angle grinder seems more versatile, but... I don't know.
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Maets
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« Reply #18 on: May 05, 2011, 08:50:12 pm »

Both have their use, depending on size of object, but I find I use the angle grinder 50 to 1 over the bench grinder.  Easier to take the grinder to the work.  A fellow metal worker made a stand that holds his angle grinder to use as a bench grinder when he needs to.  Hard to do it the other way around. 
Grinding wheel
Flap disks, several different grits
Fine sanding disk,
wire cup brush  (very useful)
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #19 on: May 05, 2011, 09:21:58 pm »

Thanks enormously to everyone, you've been huge help.
I now have 5 weeks to the end of school in wich to find materials, refine blueprints and maybe study a little too 
Tongue

When I'm done making I'll post some pics in anew thread to avoid accusations of necromancy Tongue

If you have any last tips or comments, please don't hesitate

Till then, au revoir
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2011, 09:30:23 pm »

Please forgive me for being rather necromantic in my actions, but I think it's better than me starting  2 identical threads.

I've discovered a solid pig iron stove in my garage (yes, it really is that untidy Tongue ).

If I line the inside with clay and the outside with clay and those specifically made bricks, would it work as a solid fuel forge (coal powerd)?
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« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2011, 01:49:29 am »

I think we'd need to see pics to judge the layout of the thing before giving you a certain opinion.

PS: This isn't necroposting, it's just recycling, and I think most of us around here are okay with that.
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2011, 08:51:01 am »

I think we'd need to see pics to judge the layout of the thing before giving you a certain opinion.

PS: This isn't necroposting, it's just recycling, and I think most of us around here are okay with that.

Thanks, I'll be posting pics as soon as I manage.

What I was most cocerned about was if it's the wright material.
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von Corax
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« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2011, 05:34:12 am »

What I was most cocerned about was if it's the wright material.

I have a farrier's forge out in the shed that's made mostly of cast iron (I assume that's what you meant by "pig iron") so it's certainly suitable; even moreso if you line it with firebrick or fireclay.
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Jupiter Harsh
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« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2011, 08:33:03 am »

1) It's not the stove I thought it was
2) It's 2m x 2m x 60cm
3)It's an antique

So I think I'll go for a break drum forge, only I prob won't be able to find a break drum, so can anyone give any tips on material and diameter? Or tell what I can use as a break drum subtitute?

thanks
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