Saturday, April 09, 2005

Too much to summarize

Over at Smallest Minority, Keving had a busy day with posts on a serious social problem in Britain, Jane Fonda, the Joyce Foundation's tentacles into academia, fisking Josh Sugarmann... he's been busy.

The last includes some interesting info on multiple murders at schools in the People's Republic of China and Japan, using knives.

As I said, too much to summarize. Go start at the top and work your way down.

And, over at mASS BACKWARDS, there's this about piracy, and about mass killings in Rio. Let's see, didn't Brazil just enact a lot of restrictions on gun ownership to prevent crime?...


Forge fuel, that is. You've got three choices, gas, coal or charcoal. They do make electric forges, but they cost a fortune to run very much.

Gas, natural or propane, has definate advantages. It costs no more than coal, you can do anything with it you can with coal, and if you're doing production work- lots of the same thing- you can adjust it to a certain temperature and it'll stay there. You do need a forge designed for gas, many build their own or you can buy one. The one real disadvantage from what I've heard is that once you light it, it has to stay lit, you can't just turn the blower off for a while.

Coal is the standard. Downside is it smokes, it's dirty to mess with, and if you don't get good coal you'll be constantly cleaning out the fire. A friend once gave me fifty pounds of coal that he'd never had a chance to use, and I wound up throwing it away; it was the nastiest-burning stuff I've ever used, and constantly clogged up the fire. Good things are it's easy to get in many areas, it'll keep forever as long as it has some shelter from rain & ice, it burns hot, and you can turn the blower off to take a break, and it'll still be burning when you get back.

Charcoal was the fuel of choice for many centuries. It burns clean and hot, and could be made anywhere there were trees to cut. Nowadays the problem is you need raw charcoal, and when you can find it it's damned expensive. Briquets will work, but the stuff they use as a binder to keep in in nice neat briquets produces a huge amount of ash and clogs things up. And you will use a lot more of it than coal to do the same amount of work. I read once that in Britain Elizabeth 1st issued an edict ordering the iron industry to switch from charcoal to coal: she had been informed that the forests of Britain were disappearing into the furnaces, and there would not be wood left to build ships at the rate things were going(takes a lot of trees to fuel a blast furnace).

If you're in a place where you'll be clearing land and can make charcoal from the timber, you're in good shape while it lasts. If you don't want to mess with coal and can't get raw charcoal in quantity, gas might be the way for you to go. Any of the three will work. I've used charcoal and coal, and prefer coal simply because it costs less than charcoal and I don't want to buy/build a gas unit. I will add that if you're just starting, or want to try it out, you can rig up a coal forge fairly easily, and do good work with it.


To those coming over from Kim's place. Have a look around, and tell your friends.
(assuming they're interested in 'Angry Bastard with Guns and Tools who Plays With Fire)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Blacksmithing books

I was asked this question a LOT over the weekend, and had a couple of question from people here(see Bane, I remembered), so I'm going to list some of the books I've read that have good info in them. I'll break it into general smithing, and bladesmithing.

Country Blacksmithing by Charles Mcraven. Pretty good on most things, especially making tools and decorative work. Also some on making a forge.

The Complete Modern Blacksmith by Alexander Weygers. Similar to the above.

The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer. An old book that's been reprinted. The style of writing can take a bit of going through at times, but lots of nuggets of good information.

Practical Blacksmithing and Metalworking by Percy Blandford. Much like 'Art of'.

There's a book I found, early 1900's British school book for metalworking, with lots of patterns for decorative stuff. I can't @#)$*!! find my copy, I'll add the title in when I do.

Of the above, I'd say the first two are probably the best for starting off.


The Complete Bladesmith, by Jim Hrisoulis. Excellent book. Covers just about everything from steel types, heat-treating, building a forge, materials.

Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop by Wayne Goddard. Working with a group putting together the simplest, cheapest way to make good blades, he actually set up a shop for $50. Good book.

Ed Fowler's Knife Talk, by Ed Fowler. Lots of stories about his knifemaking. Good read, with some good information.

These are not the only works out there. However, I'd strongly recommend Hrisoulis' work, it's very in-depth. If you're wanting to just cobble some equipment together and give it a try, Goddard's book is one to go with. Hell, read both if you can. Information from two master knifemakers- make that three, Fowler's one too- available on paper for your edification.

Materials is a different category, but I'll throw it in.

Centaur Forge is a blacksmith & farrier supply company. I'd get their catalog simply to look at everything. Tools, materials, blanks, you name it, it's probably there. Including coal for the forge. If you can find a place a reasonable drive away you can probably get it for less, especially in quantity, but for a smaller amount to try out, they've got it.

Enco Tool Supply is a good place for general tools- including sanding belts- and materials. You can get tool steel bar stock, oil, air or water-hardening for good prices if nothing else.

Depending on what you're working on, scrounging can get lots of good stuff. Broken springs, bearings, old files & horseshoe rasps, found at salvage yards or flea markets. At flea markets, keep your eyes open for odd hammers, sometimes you can find a ball peen or straight peen without a handle for cheap; or you can find a double-face that you can modify to a straight peen. For that matter, sometimes you can find tongs, anvil tools, blowers, vises(not that kind, the mechanical kind) and other stuff. A new post vise with 4.5" jaws runs about $600 last time I looked; I found one last year at a flea market for $35. It needs a new mounting bracket, can you say big frickin' deal?

If I can find/remember other books, I'll add them to this list later on. But this stuff should get you started.

Another view

This shows the equipment a little better. Not visible in the background to the left is the bar stock and tool box. I take an assortment of stock, from 3/16" square up to 1/2" round & square, the trick being to try and guess which stuff I'll need more of so as to keep the weight to carry down.

One thing that helps in carrying and keeping organized is some thin-wall steel tubing about 3" diameter. You can put a lot of stuff into one, and carry it all at once. It keeps it together and out of the way, and makes it easier to clean up and load.

Also not visible is the sign on the table that says(in calligraphy) "You Bleed on It, You've Bought It". It gets the point across.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Medieval Fair

This is the setup I use when doing a demo. The forge is an old Champion portable, I think from nineteen-teens. The anvil's weighs 110 lbs, and the stump it sits on weighs about 80-90. I've got two wood buckets my father helped make, one for coal, one for water, and three rods set up to hold a rope to try and keep some idiot from sticking a hand in or a face over the fire. And yes, that's me hammering away on a long roasting fork.

I like to work on things that are small enough to allow people to watch from beginning to end, and this is one of the best for that. Take a piece of stock, flatten one end. Split that end and spread it apart, then draw each section out to make the tines. Heat the stock just behind the fork and put in a twist. Then go to the other end for a handle. Flatten the very end and curl around, then move in about 4" and bend over, then bend the curl down to touch the shaft. Only takes a few minutes, and people like to see it done. 'Course, it helps that I've made so many of these that I can damn near do it with my eyes closed.

Lots of little stuff you can make while people watch. Screwdrivers(an old pattern I found in an illustration), candleholders, strikers for flint & steel kits, tent stakes, etc. And it's fairly easy to rough out small knife blades, so between it all there's plenty to choose from.

One of the nice things about a fair like this is when someone shows up with "I need this right now, can you make/fix/duplicate it?" Interesting to make a piece, then announce that you have to deliver it, and it gets the point across to kids that this is not just show, you're actually making things people need.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Interesting piece on 'they think you're stupid'

Over at Head's Bunker, a piece on how it seems that so many of the gun-ban groups treat women as stupid.

I've gone through some of this arguing with people before, and I'm too worn out to reprise it myself. Anyway, Head does a marvelous job. Take a look.

Found it through Smallest Minority

Mostly recovered

From Medieval Fair, that is. It usually takes a few days. It usually goes like this:
Thursday, take the big stuff down to the site. That means the forge, stump, anvil, toolbox, coal and water buckets, and assorted steel barstock(I should have a picture of the setup, I'll post it when I can). Find my spot, get it all unloaded and secured, then go see people I haven't seen for a while and lend a hand if I can. After I head home, get some edibles and drinks together for the next day. I drink a lot of iced tea and water these days.

Friday, take the stuff I've got made and the ice chest and such and set up for the day. Friday is School Day, and usually has enough rug rats running loose to make me long for a taser. Most aren't too bad, but some are a genuine pain in the ass. I've got a couple of people who help me out; necessary, because there's no way I can run the forge and watch the table at the same time. So I spend a large part of the day heating and hammering and talking. End of the day, secure the tools and pack the small stuff into the truck.

Saturday & Sunday are busy. Estimates of the crowd for last year were about 300,000 over the three days, and at times I felt like I'd talked to at least 1/4 of them. End of the day Sunday means pack it all up, load it all up, clean up, and go home. As Sunday progressed it started clouding up, and I thought "Crap, if it's going to rain tonight I've got to unload the big stuff TONIGHT!" Happily, just clouds, and a friend helped me unload and put away the stuff Monday.

I love doing this fair. I always wind up sunburned and/or half-frozen, dead tired, and dirty enough to make think about hosing myself off before I go in to the shower. Some people annoy the hell out of me- not just kids- and I'm thirsty enough to drain a pitcher all by myself. But...

I really like demonstrating this stuff. I like showing how things were done, and in some cases still are. I like showing the kinds of things that can be done with fire and tools and metal. I like answering questions about it, and the history connected with it. And I really like it when Grandma or Granpa or the parents come by with the kids and say "I used to/your Grandpa used to/your uncle used to do this on the farm/ranch". I like seeing the eyes of the kids when they hear that, and-sometimes- the look when someone says 'those things are still out in/behind the barn'.

I like taking a piece of spring, turning it into a flint striker, and using a piece of flint to throw sparks as some kids watch. I like showing how someone can take a piece of rusty crap, put some work into it, and create a gleaming blade, or a new tool for the forge or something else.

Weather, for the first weekend of April can run anywhere from 80 degrees and blowing like hell, to 30's and blowing-and sometimes sleeting or snowing- to just beautiful. And sometimes it can go damn near from one extreme to the other in that three days. A couple of times I've spent the first day mostly turning out tent stakes- heavy ones- to keep tents from blowing away. I've had people come by with 'can you make this?' or 'can you fix this?' on all kinds of things. I've given 'how to get started' lectures to I have no idea how many people, everything from what books you can read to where to get coal and tools to how to find/put together a forge and anvil. And except for the occasional jerk, I enjoy all of it. To the point of dehydrating or blistering because I don't take rest breaks when I should("You need to rest." "I know, but I'm supposed to be demonstrating!" "Take a break and a drink, you idiot.")

I don't think I could do the full Fair-circuit, I like living in one place too much. But I can understand the attraction of it.

More on this nonsense later, I just noticed I need to put something on a burn.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Tired. Dirty. Sunburned. Blistered.

But home. Setup Thursday, Med-Fair Friday, work regular job Saturday early morning then to the fair for the day, all day today followed by packing up and helping someone else pack up.

Decent weather this year, saw some folks, but too damn worn to blog about it now.

Later, guys.