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Michael Walker

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Posts posted by Michael Walker

  1. I decided to get into Photography in college, but before I got a camera I went to the public library and checked out books on photography and read them for a couple weeks. Learned the basic rules. The rule of thirds, fill the frame, pay attention to light and where it's coming from. Immediately my photographs were so much better that my friends started to hold me in awe because  "I was a photographer!" I still had a ton to learn but there was so much of a difference between my friends photos and mine, because I knew a very little bit about what makes a good photograph.


    This is like that. You see, I know nothing about working leather, and these look so good to me! It's the power of loving what you do, applied knowledge and skill.


    I think these all look great!

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  2. 30 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

    A quick Google of "steel distributors Charlotte NC" brings up a bunch. These guys https://www.alro.com/locations/Location.aspx?loc=CL are right next door, but they may not sell to a hobbyist.  Call around and ask who does small lots.  The big warehouses often have a minimum purchase and may or may not cut down a 20-foot stick.  For welding and blacksmithing you want hot rolled mild steel. This is usually ASTM A36 grade, but if you can find AISI/SAE 1018/1020 that's far better.  Both are low carbon, but A36 isn't as clean and will harden enough to be bothersome if quenched.  Hot rolled is the cheapest way to buy, and it will have the mill scale and, often, roller marks on it. You can pay more for descaled (hot rolled, pickled and oiled, abbreviated HRPO), but if you're going to forge it that's a waste of money.  Same with cold rolled. It's more precisely sized and usually descaled, but is also a bit work-hardened.  Ask any of these suppliers if they have a drops dumpster you can buy from.  These are the cutoffs and flame-cut waste pieces from other peoples projects.  They will not be free, the warehouse sells it to recyclers for a fair amount, and will probably charge you twice what they get from a recycler.  This is still cheaper than new.  If cost is no object, you can buy "weldable steel" from Lowe's/Home Depot/Northern Tool/Tractor Supply/Rural King.  a 4-foot stick of a given size will cost you the same as a 20-foot stick of the same size from a warehouse, and it's the same hot-rolled A36.  But sometimes you don't have space or need for 20 feet, it's your call.


    For blade steel, buy from a reputable online dealer and choose something easy to heat treat with a forge.  Stuff like 5160, 80CrV2, 1075, or 1084. Do not start with 1095 or O-1, and stay away from stainless until you know what you're doing.  This is because 1095 is very picky about heat treatment and has to be quenched almost immediately to fully harden, plus if you overheat it gets bad grain growth. O-1 is more forgiving, but you will miss out on some of its properties if you can't give it a 5-10 minute soak at 1525 F in a reducing atmosphere without overheating.  Stainless of all blade alloys is way technical to heat treat correctly with typical small shop equipment.  If you can find some 316L that's fun for blacksmithing, though.  It doesn't harden, but it won't rust (much) either. Good for outdoor or bathroom applications, just don't try to forge-weld it.

    Thanks for all of that great info Alan! I have very rudimentary metallurgical knowledge so you breaking it down like that really helps me out.  Looking at the alro site the Charlotte location will sell to the public, but they don't have the 1018 HR in bar, just in round. I can always do the A36 as they have that. https://www.alro.com/divsteel/metals_comp_type.aspx?Mat=CARBON STEEL&Type=Bars&mc=CS


    What is a good average thickness and width for most small projects starting out? (making tongs and such)

  3. Cleaning out the garage this weekend so I have space to put together the Volcano Forge I got for Christmas last year. I also picked up a cheap stick welder to learn how to weld on. I don't really know where to get steel and iron from though. I'm in the Charlotte, NC area of the USA. (Indian Trail to be exact). Where is a good place to buy metal for practice welding, as well as iron and steel for blacksmithing and bladesmithing?


    Many thanks in advance!

  4. On 1/11/2021 at 10:22 AM, Michael Stuart said:

    I'm not sure where in NC you are, but we're very fortunate to have active ABANA chapters across pretty much the whole state. The web site is not up to date but it lists some of the chapters at https://www.ibiblio.org/nc-abana/regional_groups.html There is a lot of expertise and sometimes useful stuff for sale at the meetings.



    Hey Michael, I did contact Steve a while back but the meetings were on hold because of some virus that was going around. Have you been to any of the Charlotte meetings recently? I'm in Indian Trail btw.

  5. Yeah the 3lb is a bit heavy. I'll probably get a 2lb when I can find one. Truth be told, I've never faced a hammer before so that 3lb might be 2 by the time I'm done with it! :D Got the vise mounted and I'm ready to dress that anvil and face my hammer. That little cross peen leaning on the anvil was in the box with the anvil as a freebee. The "workbench" is solid wood, seems like it will be sturdy enough for now.


  6. Got one of those 66lb cast steel anvils off of amazon. Should be here tomorrow. Also stopped by our local Agri Supply store and picked up a 3lb cross peen. I'll have to take an angle grinder to it to dress it. The workbench situation is semi solved, I'm using a kitchen table that will be serviceable and I'll probably pick up a cheap bench vise off of amazon or the agri supply. Pretty soon I'll be smithing!

  7. Thanks for clearing that up guys, I feel much better about the blanket!


    My wife has posted on an app called Next Door (some kind of local neighborhood version of facebook) that I'm looking for a workbench. So hopefully someone has one in their garage taking up space that they don't want anymore. I'll let you guys know when progress has been made. 


    Thanks again for all the responses! 


  8. Did not get any work done on the forge today but I have been reading the suggested pinned post by Steve and Dan, thanks guys!


    Daniel, I have seen a few forge builds with the wool on youtube and I've noticed some folks spray it with blue stuff and some coat it with castable refractory. All I really know about it at this point is its carcinogenic and I want to build the safest forge I can as I'm going to have my 8 year old in the shop with me some of the time. I'll keep reading up on it.


    I'll keep an eye out for a stick welder too, it may be cheaper to build a workbench from iron than wood these days! Just kidding.



  9. Well, after literally years of saying I was going to do this whole smithing thing, I've done my first thing. I am starting from the very beginning, with pretty much no budget. Here's the breakdown. Be kind if you comment as I don't really know what I'm doing. I also realize that some of the things I'm doing may not be quite safe, but balancing risk is part of life. Lastly, please don't hesitate to comment and share your knowledge, experience and criticism; I have thick skin.


    The plan: My father in law donated an old propane tank that I'll be using as the body for a gas forge. I was going to go with atmospheric venturi type burner but yesterday I heard about these ribbon burners and so I'm researching that now. What I've taken away so far is that they are more expensive to build but more efficient, which appeals to me. I also want to see if I can get away with NOT using a ceramic wool blanket and go 100% poured refractory. That wool stuff scares me.


    What I've done so far: I don't have any tools to speak of starting out.



    The tank my father  in law donated was empty and I did my best to make sure of that by opening it up and using a screwdriver to open the valve, but I didn't want to start cutting on it until I had gotten that valve unscrewed from the tank. I had a 9" prybar, hammer and cheapo Kobalt vice grips. No way to secure the tank, and nothing to secure it to anyway. After trying to get the valve off for an hour or so I decided to add more risk to the equation and broke out my drill. I very slowly drilled a hole in the top of the tank near the bottle neck and filled the tank with water. Next I cut the collar around the valve (handle?) off with a 20 year old dremel I bought while I was still in high school. This took quite a while and I broke a few cutting wheels. At this point I called it a night, drained the tank and let it sit overnight upside down.



    After spending so much time with the dremel the previous night, today I broke down and bought an angle grinder. After getting permission from my wife, we all went over to Lowes and I picked up a DeWalt DWE 4011 for 59 bucks. Also got a 4 1/2" cutting wheel and 80 grit flappy sandy disc. There was also a grindstone that came with the DeWalt in the box. That pretty much blew my monthly budget for this venture but Holy Hand Grenades an angle grinder made things so much easier! First thing I did was cut the valve out. then I finished breaking the base down and ground the welds down smooth where the base and collar were attached. By then my back was starting to really protest so I tested out the flappy sandy disc and quite for the night. 


    That's it so far. I plan on saving up a little cash for some wood to build a workbench, as right now I'm basically sitting on my driveway with this thing between my knees. I'm at a point now where I have to figure out what I'm doing with the tank before I cut any further. I don't have any welding skills or a welder, so I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to anchor the refractory to the wall of the forge. How big of an opening do I need? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?


    All in all, it feels great to have started. I'm not far but I'm miles ahead of not started at all.




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  10. You can always forge outside, unless you live in a house to house neighborhood. There is always a way around a problem.


    Yeah, I am renting in a cookie cutter HOA ruled massive subdivision. Our lot is only 14000 sq/ft most of which has house on it.


    Dave, I was thinking the exact same thing!

  11. I don't have access to a place to work right now but I don't want to do nothing.


    I heard somewhere that hot iron was a little bit like stiff clay and a great way to practice would be to take a hammer to clay to get a feel of how to move the iron around. Is this true? If so, what sort of clay would you use?


    Thanks in advance for your replies!



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