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Matt Bower

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Posts posted by Matt Bower

  1. Does anyone have a good picture or three of a cutler's hammer, a.k.a. a Japanese bladesmith's hammer? I've only found a couple online (one here on Don's site), and they don't show a lot of detail. I have a nice chunk of 1.75" diameter 4140 that can make at least two hammer heads, and I'd like one of them to be a cutler's hammer. But I'd like to to see how the face is dressed, and its relationship to the handle.


    Also, is important that the diameter of the head taper from larger to smaller from face to eye? The ones I've found pictures of do seem to taper to some degree or another, but I don't know how important it is. (It'd be easier to make without the taper, obviously.)


    I understand that the eye should travel through the hammer head at something of an angle, so that the end of the handle will be closer to the face than the eye is (like the hammer at top right on this page: tinyurl.com/2jvt2r) Makes sense to me, because otherwise you'd have to use a much shorter swing to compensate for the handle sitting so high off the face of the anvil. But does anyone have any suggestions on how to punch or slit and drift an eye at an angle like that? I have limited tools and work alone, so I suspect slitting might be easier. Would I be best off by drilling a series of holes, running a chisel through the webbing between the holes, cleaning them out with a file, then drifting the resulting opening? I hate to waste good steel by drilling, but it's only a little and that approach seems like it might be easier than slitting through a solid chunk of steel, especially since I don't have a sledge-wielding striker at my disposal. (I don't think I can just drill the eye, because I don't have ready access to a drill press with a large enough chuck.)


    For that matter, any suggestions about how to hold the head securely while punching or slitting it? I've never tried anything like a hammer head before. Since it's round, getting a good grip on it with a vise will be something of a challenge.

  2. I don't know anything about the e-clips, but very recently I contacted a manufacturer of the flat style rail anchors (like this) to ask what kind of steel they're made from. The answer was:


    "The current standard for rail anchors is 1040-1060 steel, depending upon manufacturer."


    Whether he meant AISI 1040-1060, or whether he just meant "steel with 40 to 60 points carbon" (which would include many alloys), I'm not entirely sure. But I have a few anchors, and I'm going to try folding and welding a couple into camp axe heads.

  3. Luc,


    You only need a couple feet worth of track. Surely you can move that! Or are you thinking you'll only be able to get an entire section? If that's all you can get, ask if you can cut it up on site. An angle grinder would work, as long as there's electricity available. I've cut stuff with my little 4.5" HF angle grinder that I'm sure it was never intended to cut. The keys are patience and a good supply of cutting disks.


    About a month ago I picked up a 16 gallon (approx. 14" diameter x approx. 30" tall) oil drum from my local Jiffy Lube, to use as the shell for a new forge. The guy who gave it to me said they go through one or two such drums a day, and I'm welcome to come get another one anytime I like. So check your local Jiffy Lube or a similar place. If sixteen gallons is too large for you, you can always shorten the drum. (I shortened mine by about six inches, as I recall.) Or you could start with a 5 or 6 gallon metal bucket like the kind Thompson's Water Seal comes in. If you're not too proud to go dumpster diving around construction sites and the like, those aren't too hard to find. They require some cleanup, but they're free.

  4. I went to a local structural steel place and got a chunk of I-beam out of their scrap bin. (This place is happy to sell to scrap pickers like me. Some aren't. Don't be discouraged if you get a few nos before you get a yes.) I borrowed a buddy's MIG welder to stick a 3/4" thick steel plate from the same shop onto one end of the I-beam, and sunk the other end in a bucket of concrete. (The MIG wasn't ideal for this, but it seems to be holding up.) Then I buried the bucket in a big garbage can full of dirt and rock. It works just fine, and the plate has 3/4" diameter holes near the corners that I can use as pritchels. I'm also planning on making some hardy tools to fit them.


    A simpler approach is to get a piece of 3(ish) inch to 4(ish) inch round or square steel and bury that on end in a bucket of concrete with a few inches protruding. (A similar sized rectangular piece would be fine, too.) Tim Lively produces some very handsome knives on just such an anvil. You can often find appropriately sized pieces of scrap on eBay, fairly cheap. Look around here: http://business.listings.ebay.com/Metals-A...ListingItemList Here's one that might worK: http://cgi.ebay.com/6-OD-x-5-lg-4140-Alloy...1QQcmdZViewItem Here's another one: http://cgi.ebay.com/H13-Tool-Steel-Round-R...1QQcmdZViewItem (H13!)


    Finding a functional anvil isn't as hard as it may seem if you think outside the box a little.

  5. I came across variants of this recipe about a year ago when I first started playing around with making a casting furnace. The guys at Backyardmetalcasting.com have played with a number of similar recipes as well. They work pretty well at aluminum melting temperatures, but the mica (Perlite) will melt at about 2000 F. That's most of the substance of your lining (using the ratios you've given), so it'll tend to break down fairly quickly after that. I wouldn't recommend using a high-Perlite mix in a forge that I planned to do a lot of welding in. Even in a forge that's not intended for welding, don't expect it to be as durable as straight commercial castable.


    I just used commercial castable (Mizzou from Darren Ellis) for the first time in the forge I'm working on right now. Personally, I'm sold. It's so much easier to work with than the homemade stuff, and you know what you're getting. I doubt I'll ever go back to the homemade stuff.

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  6. Fair enough, DJ. That's good advice. I didn't mean to sound argumentative; I guess I didn't read some of these posts very carefully before I started blathering. I should know better.

  7. The MSDS for galvanized steel products given above includes all the elements in both the galvanizing and the underlying steel! I could be mistaken, but I'm about 99% certain that all of it except the zinc is part of the steel alloy itself (or is present as contamination, which could be present on ungalvanized steel as well) and isn't going anywhere just because you heat the steel up to a thousand degrees or so. If I'm wrong, then forgers are breathing most of that stuff every time they forge.


    I agree wholeheartedly with Brent: for a healthy person who doesn't do foolish things, I don't believe that a few zinc fumes here and there are the bugbear they're often made out to be. (I have a number of questions about the one incident that people typically trot out as evidence that MFF can be fatal.) Be smart. Metal fume fever doesn't sound like much fun, and should be avoided if possible. If you're going to burn or melt a little zinc -- which I've done both inadvertently and intentionally with absolutely no ill effects -- do it outside, and don't hang out around the smoke/fumes. But if you're a generally healthy person, well, I have yet to find a single report of such a person dying or even being permanently harmed by a case of MFF (at least in the short-term; the effects years down the road are less clear to me) -- and I've searched the Internet far and wide for one. If someone can point me to one, I'd be happy to read it. I'm open to persuasion that I'm wrong about this. I just haven't seen any evidence yet. (And again, I have tried to find some.)

  8. From what I've read porcupines don't actually throw their quills, but the quills are barbed and will remain embedded in your favorite family pet (or you) when the animal pulls away.


    That hedgehog sure is a cute little bugger, though.

  9. Terry,


    What kind of specs are you looking for? Heat treating specs? Chemical composition?


    For composition you should really ask the manufacturer, because there can be some variation. But since 10xx steels are simple carbon steels, there shouldn't be a whole lot. Here are sample breakdowns for 1050 and 1055, which I pulled from MatWeb.com and from here:


    Component Wt. %



    C 0.47 - 0.55

    Fe 98.46 - 98.92

    Mn 0.6 - 0.9

    P Max 0.04

    S Max 0.05



    C 0.50-0.60

    Mn 0.60-0.90

    P Max 0.04

    S Max 0.05

    (the rest is Fe)


    You can get generalized heat treating info for 1050, 1065, 1075 and 1095 from Admiral Steel's web page, here. 1055 should behave very similarly to 1050; it'll be just a little harder as quenched and at a given tempering temperature.

  10. I raise my certainty to 95%. B) I didn't realize it was such a freakin TINY piece. That explains the fine fibers, it's been forged within a quarter-inch of its life! Hopefully the doohickey it came from is bigger, i.e. of usable size. :huh:


    It's a big doohickey. Several of them, actually. I'll probably go retrieve more this weekend.


    Several folks here and elsewhere have suggested the spark test to me. I'll try it when I have a slightly bigger piece.


    Thanks for the input, guys.

  11. Others were saying it's better to cut 3/4 - 7/8 of the way through then break, but to me it looks pretty fibrous, like Alan said a high quality wrought.

    Check with others though more =P I'm learning same as you.


    I know. But the thing's so small that when I tried that, I could barely see the broken area. I need a good magnifying glass!

  12. Sounds and looks like a nice refined wrought to me, but based on the pic and descriptions I can only go as high as 90% certain. ;)


    Well, these aren't great, but here are the best two I could get of the end grain (cut ~1/2 through, then broken). See if they drive that 90% up or down:




  13. I've read about several methods for identifying wrought iron. One is to look for a grainy or fibrous appearance on old, rusted pieces. Another is to cut a sample nearly all the way through, break it the rest of the way, then look for a grainy, fibrous appearance in the broken area. A third old trick posted over at Anvilfire's Wrought Iron FAQ, is to drip a little dilute nitric acid on a clean spot of bare metal; supposedly this will instantly turn steel black, but takes much longer to work on wrought.


    I tried all three on the piece below (I used an overnight soak in vinegar to replace the drop of nitric, since I have no nitric), but the results aren't very dramatic so I'm not sure how to interpret them. I see some graininess on the outside, though it's so badly pitted that it's hard to tell. The break has a grainy, somehat fibrous appearance, but nothing as dramatic as some pics I've seen; the fibers -- if I'm not just imagining them -- seem to be very fine. And the overnight soak in vinegar didn't have any effect on the cut ends; they remained bright. But my only basis for comparison on the vinegar thing is high carbon blades. I've never tried it with low carbon steel.


    So I'm asking the experts: can any of you folks tell from this photo whether it's wrought iron?




    PS: Based on the tests, and where I found this piece, I'm about 75% sure it's wrought. But I'm looking for some confirmation that Santa really has finally come, because up to now there's been a lot of coal in my wrought iron stocking. :D

  14. As a starting point, Moran himself stated in "How to make knives" that he used mosty O-1. Of course, that may be a red herring...


    Well I can verify that it hardens in oil. But there were quite a few different types of steel on the trailer -- including a bunch of long, 1" round bars of W2 (wish I'd bought one) -- so I don't think I can assume it's O1. It very well might be, though.

  15. Hi guys. I've been lurking here for a while, but I think this is my first actual post.


    I'm pretty new to bladesmithing, and at the moment it's just a hobby. But it just so happened that I started to get into this at about the same time Bill Moran's estate auction was held -- and I live in Northern Virginia, not too far from his shop. So I took the day off and drove up for the auction.


    The bottom line is that I bought probably fifteen feet of 1"x1/4" bar stock there. It's very obviously blade steel of some kind (in fact I've made one knife from it already), but it wasn't marked and the guys who were running the steel trailer at the auction weren't able to give me any further info. So although I know it's blade steel of some kind, I don't know what alloy it is. I'd like to find out.


    What I'm looking for is a place that could give me a chemical analysis of a sample of the steel, which I could then check against the compositions of known alloys to figure out what I have. With enough googling I could probably find the kind of place I'm looking for, but I'm hoping someone here will be able to recommend one they've done business with in the past. And can anyone tell me what the cost might be? I'm wondering if I might be able to get this done more cheaply and quickly by taking a piece over to my local university and asking nicely -- if I could figure out who to ask.

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