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Daniel Jamieson




Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Joined: 15 Oct 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jan, 2008 7:24 pm    Post subject: Foray into the Forge         Reply with quote

With my introduction into the world of WMA came a reminder of my past. When I was a lot younger my school went on a trip to Upper Canada Village and I managed to score the "apprenticeship" of the village blacksmith. When I came home I was very excited about the idea of learning more but it quickly became apparent that there was not much available in the ways of instruction for a ten year to learn any form of smithing.

Now though I am more committed to learning. I have a basic understanding of how to forge simple objects like hooks but not much past that.

The question I pose is how do I get started. I have various tools already and was wondering if a propane torch is adequate for working steel. Some restrictions apply for example I probably can't make a full sized forge in my backyard for the reasons of bylaw and parents.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Foray into the Forge         Reply with quote

Daniel Jamieson wrote:
With my introduction into the world of WMA came a reminder of my past. When I was a lot younger my school went on a trip to Upper Canada Village and I managed to score the "apprenticeship" of the village blacksmith. When I came home I was very excited about the idea of learning more but it quickly became apparent that there was not much available in the ways of instruction for a ten year to learn any form of smithing.

Now though I am more committed to learning. I have a basic understanding of how to forge simple objects like hooks but not much past that.

The question I pose is how do I get started. I have various tools already and was wondering if a propane torch is adequate for working steel. Some restrictions apply for example I probably can't make a full sized forge in my backyard for the reasons of bylaw and parents.


I can only give you a limited answer but a propane torch isn't hot enough. An acetylene torch would be but it's not very practical for forge work as it's difficult to heat enough of the steel at any one time to be able to forge a blade.

O.K. for welding heating a section for bending, braising and cutting plate to a degree.

There may be ways around this like some sort of long ceramic tube were the heat from the torch might be used to heat long sections of steel at one time. ( I'm not sure about how this kind of set-up might work and the cost of gas and oxygen might make this very expensive and not cost efficient ).

I think some people have gaz ovens to heat the steel and some people use a traditional charcoal forge set up.

There may be courses available somewhere ? I think custom knifemakers have a " Bladesmith " society that might have some answers or resources. ( You would have to do a Google search for that ).

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Addison C. de Lisle




Location: Maine
Joined: 05 Nov 2005
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Posts: 613

PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 10:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Foray into the Forge         Reply with quote

Daniel Jamieson wrote:
With my introduction into the world of WMA came a reminder of my past. When I was a lot younger my school went on a trip to Upper Canada Village and I managed to score the "apprenticeship" of the village blacksmith. When I came home I was very excited about the idea of learning more but it quickly became apparent that there was not much available in the ways of instruction for a ten year to learn any form of smithing.

Now though I am more committed to learning. I have a basic understanding of how to forge simple objects like hooks but not much past that.

The question I pose is how do I get started. I have various tools already and was wondering if a propane torch is adequate for working steel. Some restrictions apply for example I probably can't make a full sized forge in my backyard for the reasons of bylaw and parents.


I have similar interests to you, and to pursue them I am currently attending art school. At my school the sculpture department is pretty flexible, and they have a couple of coal forges, so I am going to see what I can get out of it. In addition to some metalworking skills, I feel that art school will give me a good base in design and aesthetics. I believe Mass Art includes medieval weapon forging to some extent in one of their programs; but I'm not 100% sure.

You might also want to take a look at the Complete Bladesmith by Jim Hrisoulas. Even with no forging skills (at the moment, although we are just starting to forge spoons for my Metals and Jewelry class!), the book is an interesting read and gives me a bit of an idea of what's going on.

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Jeffrey Hedgecock
Industry Professional



Location: Ramona CA USA
Joined: 22 Jan 2004

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 11:06 pm    Post subject: Re: Foray into the Forge         Reply with quote

Quote:
An acetylene torch would be but it's not very practical for forge work as it's difficult to heat enough of the steel at any one time to be able to forge a blade.


I completely disagree.

A rosebud tip on an oxy/acetylene or oxy/propane torch is more than adequate for forging any sword or knife. I've even forged pollarm heads with a torch. Heat treating is another matter. Fact is, you can only work 3-4 inches of the blade at a time before the steel cools, so a torch is perfectly effective for heating that much working area. I've heated larger areas as well, it just takes a little longer. A torch is ready to go without waiting for it to get up to temp, like with a forge. I recommend a gas-saver cutoff valve if you're going to use a torch regularly for heating, as it saves half of your gas or more.

A proper propane forge is a better option for production forging, as it allows you to heat multiple blades simultaneously, working them in succession. I've done this with up to 10 knives, and it saves a lot of time. I can forge that many knife blades in about 1/2 hour once the forge is up to working temp.

Both tools have their advantages and disadvantages. The torch is good if you already have one, or they can be purchased easily and relatively cheaply through a welders' supply or even Harbor Freight tools. Gas tanks can be rented. A propane tank is really cheap. Torches have the advantage of being tremendously versatile. I forge all my armour with a torch. A forge makes it much more difficult in some respects. Consider the idea that if you use a forge and are working a large-ish piece of steel, you have to move the work around to hammer on it, which can be quite awkward, where moving a torch is pretty easy. Forges are harder to locate, though not difficult if you know where to look, but there are fewer things you can do with them.

I don't like coal forges very much, and I learned bladesmithing on a coal forge. They're messy, dirty and at least in this part of the country, smithing coal is hard to find and very expensive. I switched to propane over 15 years ago and have never looked back. Built my own propane forge with NC tool burners and castable refactory material and liked it so much I built a melting furnace too.

I think a good rosebud tipped torch is a good place to start.

Cheers,

Jeffrey Hedgecock
Historic Enterprises, Inc.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Sat 19 Jan, 2008 12:48 am    Post subject: Re: Foray into the Forge         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Hedgecock wrote:
Quote:
An acetylene torch would be but it's not very practical for forge work as it's difficult to heat enough of the steel at any one time to be able to forge a blade.


I completely disagree.

A rosebud tip on an oxy/acetylene or oxy/propane torch is more than adequate for forging any sword or knife. I've even forged pollarm heads with a torch. Heat treating is another matter. Fact is, you can only work 3-4 inches of the blade at a time before the steel cools, so a torch is perfectly effective for heating that much working area. I've heated larger areas as well, it just takes a little longer. A torch is ready to go without waiting for it to get up to temp, like with a forge. I recommend a gas-saver cutoff valve if you're going to use a torch regularly for heating, as it saves half of your gas or more.

A proper propane forge is a better option for production forging, as it allows you to heat multiple blades simultaneously, working them in succession. I've done this with up to 10 knives, and it saves a lot of time. I can forge that many knife blades in about 1/2 hour once the forge is up to working temp.


I think a good rosebud tipped torch is a good place to start.


Thank for correcting my comments which I based on doing metal sculpture welding and very VERY limited amounts of hammer forging years ago. I did find it personally difficult to heat what I thought, at the time, was enough length of steel at any one time. Oh, and I guess I didn't have the right tip either for the acetylene torch.

As to propane I was thinking of the small hardware store type: Are those capable of heating steel to red heat ( forging heat )? I don't think they can heat enough for welding ? Just asking, as I don't know. Wink Cool

Maybe all propane set-ups aren't equal ? I would guess that for heating multiple blades simultaneously a propane FORGE is a different " animal " than a propane torch ?

Jeffrey: One thing I know for sure is that you know much more about it than I do. Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Doug Lester




Location: Decatur, IL
Joined: 12 Dec 2007

Posts: 166

PostPosted: Sun 20 Jan, 2008 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am a knifesmith (well...sorta Worried ) I have made a 13" seax, which is as close to a sword yet. Yes, a propane torch IS hot enough to use in forging, but the flame must be contained in something that will help build up the heat. This can be something as simple as a coffee can lined with insulating ceramic fiber matting coated with a thin layer of a refractory. I have also made a mini-forge with two soft insulting bricks (cost, minus shipping, approx 15 USD). An anvil can be as simple as a sledge hammer head set in a bucket of concreat. Look up some of the knifemaking forums or even some of the knife making suppliers for information. It would also help to understand exactly what restrictions you are working under.

Doug Lester
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Addison C. de Lisle




Location: Maine
Joined: 05 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Jan, 2008 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We just had a forging demo (we're forging copper spoons) and we used an Oxygen propane torch set in a firebrick with the middle hollowed out as a forge. It heated up the copper pretty quickly; steel would take longer but I wouldn't imagine that it's unworkable. As for hammers and an anvil, you can make a pretty decent (albeit small) out of a piece of railroad track, and hammers aren't too expensive.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Jan, 2008 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

double post

Last edited by Bruno Giordan on Mon 21 Jan, 2008 1:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Mon 21 Jan, 2008 1:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My favorite anvil is a 30 cm by 30 cm cube of untreated low grade steel I had cut from a beam.

Pls consider that until the early medieval age anvils were a little more than that, most often they were a trapezoid like little thing that today would be despised by any beginner ...

Actually my cube works well, even if it is not treated.

When straightening a blade I work on the diagonal, which gives a very long surface for working with long seaxes and even blades.


I guess your major concern will be noise and a place to work at ... if yu have aplace for you where you can bang things you are almost done.

I have worked with charcoal, cola and a very good gas furnace, gas is the better option.

The oven I was able to sue was made by recycling an old condo sized boiler's burner.

Cheap since it was recicled, termendously eefctive too.

Oven was really the size of a pizzeria's oven.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Jan, 2008 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:


The oven I was able to sue was made by recycling an old condo sized boiler's burner.

Oven was really the size of a pizzeria's oven.


Bruno, I would appreciate any picture of your oven (heat treat?) if you can post one.

I am wondering how many hobby bladesmiths have tried making salt baths? I have contemplated using a carbon steel pipe (worried about corrosion) to hold the bath, and a ceramic lined vertical shell to burn the gas in for heat. I believe it is Dan Fogg who shows an illustration of one with a thermocouple based regulation of the main gas (would expect separate pilot) valve.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Tue 22 Jan, 2008 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Bruno Giordan wrote:


The oven I was able to sue was made by recycling an old condo sized boiler's burner.

Oven was really the size of a pizzeria's oven.


Bruno, I would appreciate any picture of your oven (heat treat?) if you can post one.

I am wondering how many hobby bladesmiths have tried making salt baths? I have contemplated using a carbon steel pipe (worried about corrosion) to hold the bath, and a ceramic lined vertical shell to burn the gas in for heat. I believe it is Dan Fogg who shows an illustration of one with a thermocouple based regulation of the main gas (would expect separate pilot) valve.


It is not mine but it is owned by a smith guild in Bienno, Valle Camonica, Northern Italy.

It is set up in a 1649 built forge ... plenty of space there.

Anyway, it is as high as 180 to 190 cms ca (at the top of the domed ceiling) , it is almost 1.5 meters deep, the floor is at roughly 120 cms of height: above it, the oven proper, very large (I would say a little more than one meter, capped by a dome.

It is made of firebricks and refractory mortar.

It looks quite like a traditional oven, one of that made either for baking or for making bricks: the burner has a cylindrical nozzle that is 20 to 30 cms in diameter, it enters the oven freely through a slightly larger hole.
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Lawrence Parramore





Joined: 24 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Mar, 2008 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi, I have just finished my blacksmithing course, very traditional with lots of fire welding, took me a few years, you can't beat learning from someone who has learned from our forefathers in the art. We used coke forges and I prefer charcoal myself, but I agree with what is being said above also, with gas you can see what you are doing so can avoid mistakes from the very beginning, whereas with a forge it takes time to read what is happening and understand the fire and keep it clean, a coke or charcoal forge has the potential to set steel on fire and as you learn you will see things burnt by what I can only describe as plasma, but it is rewarding to work in the traditional way.
So I think it is a question of tradition v's modern and also expediency?
There are some good videos and books out there and lots of different societys.
So go along, what you will learn from the 'old timers' will save you a great deal of time and hard work!

My saying is 'the more you know, the less you need!'
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Vaclav Homan




Location: Hradec, Czech
Joined: 22 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2008 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Best fuel in forge is black sintering coal. Coke is not good charcoal best but luxury. A have old smith bellow and side exhaust as medieval forge. For quenching smoll object I use charcoal and for loger blade sinter coal (there is not Si and P).
For welding is good charcoal for aptitude build up faster heat.

There is only one art of fence yet many ways to reach it
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Lawrence Parramore





Joined: 24 Nov 2006

Posts: 132

PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2008 4:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Vaclav, I think something is missing in translation, coke is a derivative of coal and not Charcoal and I believe you mean annealing or normalising is best done in charcoal ash? I guess you mean side blower like we mostly use in england as opposed to updraft, but using the old bellows great Big Grin
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Doug Lester




Location: Decatur, IL
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2008 5:23 pm    Post subject: coal         Reply with quote

One thing to understand about coal is that it is not used to forge with. It first must be burned down to coke which is to coal as charcoal is to wood. You can either make your coke ahead of time like the late Bill Moran did or "coke it out" at the side of the fire and rake it in as needed, which is probably more traditional. If green coal is use to heat the steel, the bladesmith runs the risk of it absorbing impurities, such as sulfur, and being ruined.
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Lawrence Parramore





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PostPosted: Sun 16 Mar, 2008 2:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In England you can buy coke ready made, but really we consider this to be still green and treat it as you say above before bringing it to the 'sweet spot', this also helps get rid of dust and moisture.
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Vaclav Homan




Location: Hradec, Czech
Joined: 22 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Sun 16 Mar, 2008 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My English is not good but in this case I know whot I mean :-) Using coal kinds is individual. I dont like coke (heat threatment coal) and smith litaratre is it not recommend for forge. Black coal (paleozolic era coal) is more better is it good substitute the charcoal (dry distillation wood), this coal have aptitude to sinter (?) this aptitude is wery common and I use wather. Charcoal ash is good for normalization but I use charcoal for heating smoll objects, charcoal have not sulfur.
Charcoal is expesive.
Smith bellow with sideways (down exhaust) like Nuerberger Stiftungsbuch.

There is only one art of fence yet many ways to reach it
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Lawrence Parramore





Joined: 24 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 16 Mar, 2008 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I understand what you mean and I agree Big Grin just need to convert the rest.
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