Forge Notes Part 1

See also Forge Notes Part 2 and Part 3

Click photo to view a larger image.

Forge notes are a new addition to the website.  They are composed of the fundamental steps to different forgings, showing an outline of the process, the tools used, and the finished piece.  I hope it will serve as a helpful reference.


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175 LBS

175 lbs is how much my anvil weighs.  I bought it in 1998 from Laurel Machine & Foundry (LMF) in Laurel, Mississippi.  That's also where I bought my sidedraft coal forge and swage block.  As far as I know they are no longer making forge accessories.  I'm glad I bought the things I did, when I did.  I still use the anvil and forge every day.  Ray Robinson, who worked for LMF, created the blacksmith line of tools for them.

I have to admit, I've obsessed for the "big" anvil now and again, but everything I've ever made has been forged on the 175 lb.  So you can see, it's hard to justify buying a bigger one.

I wanted to be able to move the anvil around the shop if needed so it's not fixed into one position.  And what I mean by that is I didn't sink a timber into the ground.  Instead I cut (6) 6 x 12's at equal length, stood them vertically, drilled through them, and used all thread to hold them together.  I use small pieces of flat bar with lag screws to hold the anvil in place.  It moves around occasionally but not enough to cause any real grief or distract me from forging.

The anvil I use has a step.  This is a feature I really cherish.  It's great for trueing up square corners, offsetting, and backing up material sideways (like when making oval drifts).  The pritchel and hardie are on the tail.  The horn is not a cone, but flat across the top, curving upwards on the bottom side.

The question now is:

If I were to buy an anvil today, would it be the same style, weight, brand?  Technically speaking, it's not possible, LMF is no longer selling anvils.  If I had to answer though, I'd probably splurge and buy the 275 lb Peddinghaus double horn.

PS  I heard that back then that LMF was having anvils cast, they had the largest one in the US made, 1500 lbs or so.

The Workhorse

I thought I'd share some information about the grinders I use, there are two.  I wouldn't go so far as to say I built them, because really I didn't. I sort of borrowed parts and fabricated a few pieces.  Both grinders use the same components:

Aluminum Housing with Top Pulley
Bottom pulley/Contact wheel
Fabricated Faceplate

I originally bought a 2/3 hp Craftsman Grinder from Sears (about $125). This was fine for a little while.  I quickly realized I required more hp. I took the pulley apparatus from the Craftsman grinder, bought a 1 1/2 hp motor (single phase), fabricated a faceplate for the motor, and had a new grinder with a lot more power.  The belt size is 2 x 42, which is probably not optimum, but it works, and works well.  You can use the bottom pulley (aluminum cast wheel, 4 5/8 diameter) as a contact wheel for grinding contours.  It's not the best for side to side movement but there's a little room for that.  The platen from the Sears grinder was thin and eventually warped.  I replaced that with 1/4" angle iron.  I don't use the attachable table near the vertical platen, I think they're dangerous and get in the way.

Another realization, I needed different sized bottom contact wheels for radius/contour work.  Hmmm....My solution...I bought another Craftsman grinder, cut the pulley housing in half (horizontally) and made it adjustable, used different sized DOM with 1/2" holes for contact wheels, fabricated a faceplate, bought another motor(single phase), and had myself another grinder.  But there was one problem, the different sized contact wheels changed the belt speed.  To fix that problem I purchased a three phase motor with a phase converter/variable speed control.  Now I can increase belt speed when I use smaller contact wheels.

Here is the price breakdown for both grinders:

(2) Motors (WEG)@ $250 each                $500

(2) Craftsman Grinders @ $125 each        $250

(1) variable speed control                $700

Miscellaneous parts                        $200

Total cost:                              $1650

Now I have two very industrial grinders. They are efficient, low cost,
reliable, and extremely versatile.

Grinder #1

Grinder #2, adjustable, with variable speed.

Atlantic 33 (Flutegon)

Chris Marks introduced me to this steel about 12 years ago.  He was shipping me 70 lbs at a time in Flat Rate Boxes.  After that source ran dry I began ordering direct:

Atlantic Steel International Corp.
3527 36th St.
Astoria, NY 11106

I'm pretty sure there is no website and I don't have an email address so you have to contact them directly by phone.

Ok, so what is this stuff?  I'm not sure of the chemical analysis of A-33 and really it doesn't matter.  It's a water hardening steel that requires no tempering.  That's right, forge it, quench it, use it.  Punches, hammers, chisels, dies, stone carving tools, axes, it's good for just about any tool you want to make.  It is, in my opinion, unparalleled for hot working tools.  It withstands thermal fatigue like a champ.  You can bring it into the red or low orange color range during hot work, dunk it in water, and keep on working.

A-33 also has excellent resistance to galling, maybe not in the league of H-13 or S-7, but the trade off being you can cool it down with water. I've had a few hot punches made from this steel produce 1000 or more holes before they were retired.  A-33 forges similar to 4140 or 1045.  It grinds and files after forging with ease.  If you want to weld it, it's not a problem.

Think about this:

It's available in hex, octagonal, a wide range of the "Fluted" (refer to photo) bar 1/2" - 1 1/2".

You can quench it in water.

No need for quenching oils.

No tempering or tempering ovens required.

Forges, grinds, and welds relatively easily.

So why aren't more blacksmiths using this stuff?  I heard a lot of people say it's expensive.  I disagree, because the money saved from the points mentioned above, make it cost effective.  For most people, a little bit would go a long way.  It is also available in shorter sections (by the foot) through Mojave Southern Machine:

Mojave Southern Machine Works
190 Bissell Pl
San Jacinto, CA 92582
(951)-654-5660  ask for Jim

I purchase all of the A-33 I use in 1 1/2"  bar and forge it to dimension. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Don't overheat the steel, low yellow is optimum for forging.

DO NOT warm forge or hammer on this steel when it's below an orange color. No warm straightening either.

Quench it in the orange color range, low or mid is good.

If you're using it for hot working tools, cool it down when you see color in the steel (red or low orange at most) not yellow.

A-33 is not very useable for thin profiled chisels, I'm talking really thin.  For those tools I would suggest H-13 or S-7.

It is prone to warping in longer sections during heat treating.  I've made quite a few eye drifts (10"-15" long) from A-33 and it usually warps a little bit.  In this case, I reheat, bend it hot beyond the curve to compensate, and hope it warps straight on the next quench.

"Swede"  Swedish Pattern Hammer

(Using the Power Hammer)

This is one of my favorite hammers.  I prefer it weighing no more than 3 1/2 lbs. and no less than 1 lb.  For lighter weights, use a longer handle. For heavier weights, use a shorter handle.  The Swede is front weighted, so it falls more aggressively, you should feel that when forging.  You can adjust the weight distribution when you punch the hole.  It doesn't take much material to create the pein.  But also consider how you want the transition to be from the edge of eye to the pein.  Is it swooping and slowly tapering, or "pinched" leaving the same thickness throughout the pein.  If it's more pinched than rolling, the cheeks (looking at the hammer from the side) will appear more circular.

Start with a slight rectangle, locate where you want to punch they eye. Punch the eye. Use coal dust as a release. Use a smaller radius spring tool to isolate for the pein. Determine the transition you want from the edge of the eye to the pein.  Use a larger radius tools to finish drawing the pein.  Turn the hammer around forge create the front end (face).

You'll need a bolster underneath the hammer while drifting the eye.  This will prevent the cheeks from flattening and give them their final shape.

Aspery Modified

The Aspery Modified was a collaboration between Mark and I a few years ago. I had designed a hammer titled the Bailey Cross pein. Mark purchased a Bailey Cross Pein. About a year later Mark requested another hammer, but with slight modifications, heavier towards the face, a flatter pein, and the body of the hammer tapering front to back, wider at the pein.

Forging the Aspery Modified:

Start with a rectangular block, that way you build in the height. Locate where to punch the eye. Draw out the pein, keeping in mind the hammer has a tapered body, so leave the flare. You can use a wedge shaped flatter to maintain shape, you might need a few of these at different degrees.

Draw out the nose, it's a square face. Use a bolster underneath the hammer while drifting to preserve the diamond shape. Drift the eye and refine the final shape using the tapered flatter.

The Hammer

What an amazing tool.  It can destroy or rebuild, drive nails, break concrete, sculpt just about any material, be large or small,  be made in hundreds (if not thousands) of different shapes, make itself, and be found in almost every home.

I've seen them made using many different methods; forged at the anvil, forged with a power hammer, drop forged, pressed, milled, chucked on a lathe, cast, ground, torch cut, and cut from stone.

Most of the time hammers are made with the "tools at hand" or what economically makes the most sense.  In 2005 I visited The Workshops Rail Museum in Australia.  They demonstrated how they made railroad spike driving hammers with an old drop forge, pretty damn cool.  They also had a large commission from the Australian government for a few hundred double faced sledge hammers.  Those were being torch cut to dimension from 4" plate (the eye too) and finished by forging in the facets on the 1500 lb steam hammer.  In 2000 I watched Aaron Mareya, Tadeo Nzuda, Spencer, and Porshan forge hammers from 3" truck axle in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  That was the first time I saw a hammer forged at the anvil.

The first hammer I used to forge steel was a 3 lb ball pein I bought at NAPA Auto Parts.  I'm pretty sure I never dressed the bevel from the face or used the pein.  After that I purchased a 2000 gram German Cross Pein. That hammer lasted about 7 years.  I replaced the handle a few times, mig welded cracks in the face, re-heat treated it, ground off about 1/2" of both ends, and finally wore it out.

I learned to make hammers using a slitting chisel and eye drift.  THAT IS ONE WAY TO DO IT.  There are many different methods.  The eye can be punched, drilled, milled, torched, or slit.  Most of the time available technology dictates the method.  If you don't have a striker, punching the hole for a 3 or 4 lb hammer could be difficult.  What if there was no heat source but you had a milling machine and drill press.  What if you only had a torch?  How about if you had a forge and the steel to make a hammer but no hammer to strike with?  You see what I mean.

I've seen hammers without the eye, yet another way to do it.  So lets just agree there's no right or wrong way.  As long as it moves some steel, it's functioning.  But...some will function better than others.  This can only be realized by many hours of the hammer in hand, using it.  It's true, a skilled blacksmith could probably use any hammer to get favorable results. But there is a "right tool for the job".

Blacksmithing has a wide range of hammers to choose from.  Are you striking, shoeing horses, making chain, jewelry, forging tools, raising copper, chasing silver, or bladesmithing?  Only by doing a certain task for a considerable amount of time is when the slightest modification in the hammer seems to make a difference.  That is when you feel every nuance of how the hammer is working.  For example, someone working as a striker and using a sledge hammer will (hopefully) develop a good sense of optimum weight, handle length, posture, and head style.  Sometimes it might mean the handle being 1/2" shorter or using a straight pein instead of a cross pein that makes all the difference.  I've made chasing hammers that are 7 ounces.  Not 6, not 7 1/2, 7.  I'm sure that extra ounce could make a difference for someone who does that all day long.

Most of the general purpose blacksmithing hammers I've forged are cross peins between 2 - 3 1/2 lbs.  Most are fitted with oval handles, 12 - 14" long, hickory being the standard.  Steel selection for hammers is wide and you can  use just about anything with a fair amount of carbon.  In the past there were less choices, W-2 and 10XX series steels were the most common for tools.  Now, gosh, there's a different steel for every application.  So what makes one steel better than another?  Again, availability and economics come into play.

I've worked in places where there were limited amounts of alloyed or carbon steel.  In that case, we forge welded tool steel to the face of a mild steel or wrought iron body.  The pein was left as is.  Other times there was just mild steel, forged and water quenched.  No matter what, the job was always finished.  Perhaps not with the optimum steel choice or tool life, but enough for that particular job, and sometimes that's all you need.

Nowadays I am mostly working with large cross sections of carbon and alloyed steels.  My primary forging hammer is a 7 lb straight pein with a 10" handle.  The face is ground flat with radiused edges.  A 7 lb hammer of hardened steel striking a alloyed material, even when hot, creates a lot of rebound.

Try different hammer styles, weights, handles, and methods of making them. Grind different contours on the face and pein, forge the same bar repeatly to evaluate the results. Forge tool steel vs mild steel or wrought iron. But if you really want to know all the hammers secrets, its all about "puttin in the hours".

Brent Bailey Forge ®

3626 County Road P

Orland, California, 95963

Phone: 530-228-5388

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