Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks From Members and Other Source

Here are various tips & tricks to give you new ideas, save your time, and help you make better work.


*One of the best guides to metal for the individual interested if forging is “Metals for the Engineering Craftsmen published by the British Rural Industries Bureau (COSIRA) in 1964.  It has an elementary spark chart, a nice glossary and clearly describes the metals a shop would most likely run across from wrought iron to Monel.  It describes the properties. “These are high-strength materials, cold working raising the tons / sq. in. from 23 in the annealed state condition to over 50. The addition of silicon not only enhances the strength but confers resistance to corrosion by acids, and improves the weldability. There work hardening properties are good, and annealing is achieved at temperatures between 490 C and 760 C. but they are subject to fire cracking and stress corrosion failures.” When forging, welding and polishing the coppers you should be aware of fumes and dust. Good ventilation is important. I still love iron. Unless you get hit by it, it’s very safe to work with.  From David Court *Regarding books, how many of you have read Fredrick Faller’s novel:  A Sword for Immerland King?  This is a great read AND he manages to weave a lot of blacksmithing and bladesmithing information into the story.  Don’t get this book because the craft of metalsmithing is integral to the story.  Get this book because it is a great story in which the craft of metalsmithing is integral to the story.
From Rick Korinek

* Practical Projects for the Blacksmith
By Ted Tucker
Rodale Press
A good book to begin with. It has good instructions for the projects and a glossary. The focus is on American colonial style forging. Tucker has a good eye for practical beauty so I often find myself browsing this book for inspiration.
From Lucian Avery

*New Edge of the Anvil
By Jack Andrews
Skipjack Press
This book has a little of everything. From basic instruction and shop setup to blacksmith portfolios, design theory and metallurgy.
From Lucian Avery

*Professional Smithing
By Donald Sreeter
Astragal Press
Streeter was an amazing blacksmith and this is one of my favorite books. This book focuses on Streeter’s methods of making high quality colonial reproductions and has great informative photographs. Beginners may be frustrated at the lack of basic instruction.
From Lucian Avery

*Werk und Werkzeug des Kuntschmieds
By Otto Shmirler
*Ernst Wasmuth Verlag Tubingen
This one has German, English and French text but the best part is the pictures. It is a photo library of traditional hand tools and techniques side by side with corresponding details of exquisite German ironwork.
From Lucian Avery

*Plain and Ornamental Forging by Ernst Schwartzkopf ISBN 1-879335-95-6
It covers everytjing from building a forge to making all of your own tools and covers techniques from basic forgings to advanced tool making and ornamental forging. It is very nice and the forward I believe is by a smith I know from theForge Mr. Mark E. Williams. It is a nice book in paperback and only 18.95
From Ted Jones

Computer Tricks

* To keep your desktop uncluttered consider putting a new folder called “Metal Filing Cabinet” in your documents folder   This will allow you to send many files to “My Documents” and categorize them in the sub folder.
From Ralph Sproul


* Blacksmithing – The Process
A blacksmith is a person who forms hot iron with hammer and anvil – a process called forging. When metals are heated they become softer and can be readily shaped by skilled hands. It is a cyclical process of heating in the forge then shaping with a hammer on the anvil as the metal cools. When the metal gets too cold and hard to forge the process is started again, and is repeated until the desired effect is achieved.

*A Bit of History
For three thousand years blacksmiths forged all of the iron needed for civilization.  They made weapons, household items, agricultural implements, architectural pieces, horse shoes, art and many of the tools needed by other craftsman. During the mid 1800s the methods and scale of industry changed from one of a kind work done by the blacksmith to mass production. The small community oriented shops could not compete with the prices of the mass produced goods and they faded away. Mass production now gives people the time to, once again, produce things that have individuality and character. The over abundance of sameness in our culture has stimulated people to search for articles that bring character into everyday life.  Because of a growing demand for the unique and an increasing number of people working to preserve this cultural cornerstone, blacksmithing is now moving away from the brink of extinction.

Traditionally, a metal containing layers of silica interbeded with iron, called wrought iron, was used. Often, if you look at old ironwork you can see the wood like grain caused by the iron rusting away, leaving the silica raised. Smiths today generally use mild steel, a readily available, homogeneous iron alloy, though we now have many choices of medium – stainless steel, brass, bronze, copper, aluminum and even titanium are often used. There is some confusion about the term “wrought iron.” Wrought means hammered, so the term literally means “hammered iron”. When referring to types of steel it means the aforementioned historic, no longer manufactured iron containing layers of silica. In this case it refers to its method of manufacture. Cast iron blooms were forged out, with large trip hammers, into wrought iron. The term is often used today to mean decorative ironwork made of mild steel that, hammered or not, resembles traditional ironwork.

Traditional forging techniques are often divided into the categories listed below. In practice these divisions are not clear cut and two or more techniques are often happening simultaneously. Some of these are used on both hot and cold metal.
Draw out – to make thinner and longer
Upset – to make thicker and shorter

Bend – this term is used in the normal way — to cause to assume a curved or angular shape

Chisel – to shape or cut with a sharp tool – a chisel

Chase – to indent with a blunt tool from the front

Reposé – pushing out from the back to give more depth. Usually used on sheet metal.

Hot punch – to make a hole by displacement and sheering

Twist – to turn the ends of a piece in different directions and impart (or take out) a helix shape

Forge weld – to join two or more pieces by adhering their two surfaces together

A contemporary blacksmith will command a host of auxiliary skills in addition to those listed here, such as brazing, heat treating, electric welding, filing, grinding etc.

Again, this list contains only the most basic traditional elements, the tools that distinguish blacksmithing from other trades/arts. A modern, well-equipped shopwill have a huge assortment of tools, some specialized and some extensions of those listed below. One of the beauties of blacksmithing is the ability to make ones own tools. This gives smiths great creative latitude, as they are not limited by what is commercially available.

Anvil – These come in many shapes but all are heavy blocks of iron or steel with a flat top on which metals are shaped by hammering. The horn is the round, pointy end, the hardy hole is square and the pritchel hole is round.

Hammer – These also come in many shapes. Hammers typically have a flat side, called the face and the other side is called the peen. Hammers are usually classified by their weight and their peen end.

Forge – The furnace of hearth where the metal is heated. Mild steel is forgeable between 1300F and 2400F.

Leg vice – A stationary clamping device with a leg that transmits the force of the hammer blows to the floor.

Tongs – Large iron pliers that allow the smith to handle hot metal.

From Lucian Avery

Forging Bronze:

*The alloy is CDA 655Here’s what I’ve found when forging it:
SB can be forged up to a dull red color. When it’s at the right heat, it is very soft and forges very well. You can do most of the same kind of things you can with iron, with the exception of forge welding. It doesn’t really scale like iron does, so you end up with a smooth surface texture. You have to be careful with the heat, though: there is some sort of phase change at about a bright red heat. I highly recommend learning it in a semi dark shop. What happens is you pull the piece out of the fire and it looks fine, nice and hot, and then you goto hit it, or even just drop it on the anvil, and it will crumble like a piece of cornbread. It has NO STRENGTH in this phase!  If it gets to this temp, and you realize when you take it out of the fire that it’s too hot, be very gentle, you can just let it cool till it cools below the threshold, then forge away. Just below the critical heat it is VERY soft and really easy to push around. You can also just melt it, too… I think the melting point is around 1700 deg. F, and the weird cornbread phase is maybe 1-200 degrees below that. If you think a piece has been overheated, check for cracks if it matters. The stuff I’ve bought from Diversified seemed to crack a lot easier than the stuff from Atlas…At least I had this experience once with some 1 1/4″ rod that I was forging into a 5/8 x 1 1/2 rectangular handrail. I usually rub it with a green scrubby pad, or emery paper, to finish it, and then maybe spray lacquer. Don’t contaminate it with abrasives which have been used on steel, or it will rust. It doesn’t hold a brassy type of shine, but it ages very gracefully and anything that is handled regularly will get polished. Outside it will go brown and then slowly verde gris green, with very little bleeding and no rust. SB is extremely sensitive to work hardening, which you can really use to your advantage if you want to. Cold working is the ONLY way to harden it, and if it is heated and then not cold worked it will be soft even if it’s quenched. I think “cold worked” is below maybe 500 deg., but I don’t really know. Maybe 700 degrees.  I’ve made a lot of letter openers with it. I make the handle, then draw the other end to a small SQUARE tapered point maybe 3/16″ or less, tapering to a point 3-4″ long or so. Then I heat the taper up pretty hot to get a good even anneal, and then quench it. The point is then dead soft and you can bend it double with your fingers if you want. It should never see heat again! I then forge out the blade cold by flattening it on the diamond, and when it’s all thinned out it has a very nice spring to it and it will hold enough edge to open a really lot of email.   I think it would make good little leaf spring type things for locks and such. One thing about SB is the different shapes. Round bar is cold drawn and very hard– for bronze– and is the cheapest. (Maybe $4/lb or less last time I got some). Plate is also available and is sort of half hard or pretty soft, and it costs DOUBLE per pound what the rod costs. Rectangular bar is available in a few limited sizes, and is cold rolled and very very hard, with sharp edges, and also double the price. The price varies… Once I needed some <yesterday> and paid $11/lb for round stock from General supply in New Bedford. SB mig wire is available. Torch welding is tricky because of cracking during the cornbread phase. I usually have good luck torch welding round stock and no luck with flat stock. I use straight borax for flux. Brazing with brazing rods is pretty easy but the color match isn’t too good. I also silver solder it a lot. Remember there are a million alloys of “bronze”. I’m only talking about CDA 655, which is 97%Cu, 3%Si, 1% Manganese. From Whit Hanschka
*Bronze – Forging bronze is a lot of fun.  I like forging the silicon bronze because it is easily forged and it also can be cold worked and welded.   655 silicon bronze can be forged between 1300-1600 degrees. I use the visual of a dull red color.  385 architectural bronze is another forgeable bronze 1150-1350 that we use a lot.  There are a lot of forgeable bronzes out there, these are just a couple that we use.  Just remember that bronze goes through a band when cooling that it is real brittle and will shatter when hit.  After that is cold workable. You can get more info from Copper Development Assoc. 260 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10016.  One book of theirs that I like is the Copper Brass Bronze Design Handbook.
From George Martell
Formulas & Layout
Harden & Temper

*To harden and temper molding blades: I used a piece of 3/8″ plate about 4 or 5″ square and lay it on top of the fire….. until it turned red….. Then lay the thin molding blade on the plate and let it soak up the heat until it was red then remove it and quench it in oil and back to the block and I had a little bolt welded to the plate so I could stand the molding blade on its back and let the heat run the colors until I got the straw that I wanted and cool that in oil….. It is kind of simple but it worked for me… and the guy I use to do them for never broke a blade and he had a huge machine that turned out all this custom molding and it had a massive motor and it would chew up a knot like butter….
From Bonnie Billings
Patina & Finish
Shop Setup
* Flow Chart for a metal working shop
Item or Process                   Tools required in area

Stock/Plan/Cut/Layout        -drawing plans/layout table/steel rack/cut
off saw
Rough Forge                      -forge/ anvil/vice/ welder/ swages/ tooling
Weld – Jig/Fab                  drill press/ clamps/ quench tank/ torches
Punch                                treadle hammer/ power hammer/ tongs

Weld/Twist/Upset            -layout table/ vise/ benders/ rolls/ drill press
Punch/Bend/Drill/             tooling/ jigs/ swages/ stakes/ welder/
Tenon/Rivet/Texture        torches/ clamps/ treadle hammer
Roll/ Assemble


Grind/Sand/File            -finish bench/ belt sander/ grinders
Finish                             files/ compressed air station
Photo                            packing bench or crating area

So you can see this is a rough outline I have devised to layout a shop’s floor space, material flow, product steps and execution, on thru to shipping and installing.
From Ralph Sproul

*One of the best was to make room in your shop is to have casters on your tools. Another way to improve the efficiency of your work is to have all the accessories on that tool with casters so when you pull it out – you are ready to go to work. This of course is determined by having a concrete floor in your shop.
From Ralph Sproul

*Floor pockets are a very handy option in a floor. I use 3/8 wall 6 x 6 tubing so that any 5” square tube will fit in it for a tool post, support, or accessory to be plugged into the floor socket.
From Ralph Sproul

*Installing weldments in your floor allows you to add a plate to the floor to work from for sculpture of mocking up railings. The addition of a ground cable in the concrete to the weldments set in the floor eliminates the need for a ground cable crossing your work space from you welder.
From Ralph Sproul

Stainless Steel:

* Stainless falls into three categories, the 300 series (18-8 types) nonmagnetic, non-hardenable and the most forgeable, the 400 series, magnetic, hardenable, and very narrow forging temperature range, and the Ferritic grades; 430, 434, and 430F are non hardenable, magnetic and very difficult to forge because of their low hot working temperature and fast grain growth when heated.  Stay away from the sulfurized grades; 303, 416, 420F as they crack easily as does 440A, B & C (for bearings and knives).  Stainless needs a lot of force to move as you will see, and if you do forge the 400 series, don’t letter it cool as it will harden in air.  Best to start by trying some 301, 302, or 304 stainless, then 316.  If you don’t have a power hammer you will wish you did.  Also, stay clear of the 600 grades (630, 631) as they are PH types, with extremely narrow forging ranges and even annealed are about Rockwell C 30-35.
From Michael Schermerhorn

*I guess from the comments on “returning SS to being corrosion resistant,” I should have adde that stainless gets its corrosion resistance from the chromium that it contains. When the Cr meets with the oxygen in the air it forms a chromium oxide film on the surface of the metal that is very resistant to general type corrosion. The chrome oxide film forms by itself over time on the 300 stainless grades, but the 400 grades, especially the high carbon 440C, A, &B require that the material be heat treated, similar to a tool steel, to produce the required cr oxide film.  All stainless grades, regardless of chemistry, can be “passivated” to instantly produce the desired film by use of a nitric acid bath.  Most commercial plating companies can do this for you if you don’t want the problem of what to do with the acid when you’re done.  To do it yourself; First wash the parts by a 30 minute bath in hot (150-200F) 5% sodium hydroxide, or any alkaline cleaner – FREE OF CHLORINE. Clear water rinse. The 300 series and lower carbon 400 series (403, 410, 420) grades are then soaked in 20% nitric/water solution heated to above room temperature (120-130F) and soaked about an hour.  Followed by a hot water rinse.  The surface of 440C may etch in this solution, so raise the acid to 50% to avoid the etch.  Hot water rinse. To give you an example of how the high carbon stainless grades rust, when we hot rolled 440C at the steel mill, and then ran it though the pickling tanks to remove the surface scale, we would hook onto a 2,000# coil with the forks on a tow motor, lift it out of the hot water rinse tank and speed to the tanks that held the rust inhibitor, and by the time we got there (maybe 2 minutes) half of the coil would be covered with rust and you could watch the rust run across and around the coil.  This is one of the reasons that you will see a great deal of 440C in small diameter sold with a copper coating like MIG wire, to keep it from rusting before it is heat treated.  BTW, the copper on many of the MIG wire grades is on there for these same reasons, including our Pure Iron MIG wire.  The copper acts both as a drawing lubricant for cold drawing to smaller sizes (or cold heading or cold forming) and a corrosion barrier. PS, or as my college student daughter writes: PMS- If you do forge one of the free machining grades (303, 416, 5F, 430F or one called EZ or Project 70) add about 2% sodium dichromate to the passivation solution to avoid having the surface attacked.  Don’t forget that the sulfur is in there to help in machining, but dirt is dirt, and the acid solution will attack it.
From Mike Schermerhorn





Fabricated & Machined Tools

*Adding receiver pockets (like a trailer hitch) to your work bench allows the addition of many table accessories and tools by just dropping them in and taking advantage of the full weight of the work table.
From Ralph Sproul

*I have a broken anvil (the horn is missing). I use it’s hardy as a tool holder so my working anvil is free for pounding. Railroad spikes fit the hardy nicely. I cut off the heads and weld quarter inch plate to them and use them as a platform for making jigs. Near where I live are several railroad sidings. When repairs are done to the bed, the old spikes can not be re-used so they are left behind. There also are round headed bolts which I use for staking tools. These I have to forge square to fit the hardy. I weld a ring on the shaft just above the spot where the stake begins to get too snug so that in use it will not get stuck in the hardy.
From Mark Berlinger
Forged Tools

Forges (Coal)

Forges (Gas)

Shop Ideas
*Put your files in sandblast medium (coal slag) it keeps them from touching and getting dull.
Idea I liked from David Court’s shop
from Ralph Sproul

Ed Grove’s Blacksmithing Techniques





            A Yellinesque Quartrefoil By Francis Whitaker



Heating small objects in the forge (not with a torch)

* Place a small plate of steel ( 6″x6″X 1/8″)  on top of the fire and heat it
and the rivets, bolts or what ever you want to heat….   if you were to
concave the plate a little so much the better….
From Bonnie Billings

* I can suggest using a piece of long flat stock with some holes near the end to pass the pieces through.  It would be like a one piece holder.  If you make it a loose fit the stock should not take too much heat and you always have the option of pre-heating the stock, dropping in the small piece and going back to the heat.  The cold end makes a handle. Different sized holes would suit different small parts.
From Owen Bostrom

* Try putting some screen/grate on the coal, than put the small parts on the screen.
From Larry Theroux

* As to the suggestions concerning heating small parts in a coal fire. The steel piece (or better still Pure Iron [higher burning point] used as a stage on which to heat the small forged pieces is an idea often used by me. Especially when heating small pieces such as springs for hardening where grasping them with tongs (even preheated tongs) will result in irregular heating and failure of the part. Generally though, small parts (what is small anyway) can be securely heated in a coal fire if the fire is properly built
and managed. A new fire, well packed, lots of available coke and a good coke “cave’ fire. Keep the bed of the fire well packed with coke and use intermittent or light blast once the fire is up to snuff. Properly built, the heat produced should maintain itself enough to heat a number of pieces simply laying in a quiet fire (no blast). A hand blower is best. I feel electric blowers should be used by professionals only. A hand blower forces you to be at the fire during all heats and inevitably leads to good fire management

The small hardware store gas torches are handy but expensive to run. I burn alot of propane and acetylene and I can tell you there is no cheaper heat than coal, nor as versatile.
From David Court

*Doug Wilson uses a flat bar with a slot in it that will hold a dozen screws or so. Or a bar can be bent into a “U” shape with
space left between the legs to line up the screws/bolts/rivets in question in a row so that the heads are touching. A handle can be forge welded to the “U”. If you slit a 1/4″ thick bar from one side, the sharp edges formed on the opposite side will tend to keep the threaded ends of the screws/bolts from sliding through the slot. Doug puts the slotted bar in the fire so that the axis of the screws/bolts is horizontal.
From Doug Wilson

*When trying to heat small parts I use a small crucible that can be found at a jewelry supply.
From George Martell


          Doug Wilsons forge sequence




Carbon Arc gouging

Gas Welding



*Low hydrogen rod like 7018 is one of the best rods for welding dissimilar metals which are becoming more prevalent with all the countries of the world shipping steel to the US now.  The ability to weld mild steel to low or medium carbon steels is exceptional with this rod also.
From Ralph Sproul

*When considering polarity in rods that will weld in either  -use the reverse polarity (electrode positive) for penetration, and  the straight polarity (electrode negative) for build up or overlay.
From Ralph Sproul

*When trying to run a vertical weld it is a common practice to cut the amps by 10-20% from the flat weld bead setting, to get the bead to run correctly.
From Ralph Sproul

*An electrode Guide:

Arc Welding Rod – Basic guide for electrodes

There are many types of electrodes used in the shiedled metal arc welding process (SMAW). Arc Welding electrodes are identified using the A.W.S (American Welding Society) numbering system. An example of one of the more common rods used for many jobs 1/8″ E7018 electrode.
The rod is 1/8″ in diameter

The “E” stands for Electrode

Next will be a 4 or 5 digit number and the first three digits of a five digit number indicate the tensile strength of the rod in thousands of pounds per square inch.

E70XX Will have a tensile strength of 70,000 psi.
E11018 would have a tensile strength of 110,000 psi.

The next to last digit stands for the position the electrode can be used in.
1) EXX1X is for use in all positions
2) EXX2X is for use in flat and horizontal positions.
3) EXX3X is for flat welding

The last two digits together indicated the type of coating on the electrode and the welding current the rod can be used with. These currents would be DC straight(DC-), or DC reverse(DC+) or AC.

Electrodes and Currents Used:

EXXX0 DC+ (DC reverse or DCRP) electrode positive
EXXX2 AC or DC- (straight or DCSP) electrode negative
EXXX3 AC, DC- or DC+
EXXX4 AC, DC- or DC+
EXXX8 AC, or DC+




*Climbing pressure on your regulators is something to watch for. The acetylene regulator is especially important on this point. When acetylene is released at over 15 PSI it creates an explosive compound that can be triggered merely by gas passing over them. That is a reason the red area is on your acetylene regulator – never allow it to be run over 15 PSI. Have all regulators with climbing pressures rebuilt.
From Ralph Sproul

*Oil on an oxygen tank stem is another thing to stay away from. When oil reaches the high-pressure oxygen section of your tank it will explode. Watch out for your power hammer sending oil in the welding tanks direction…this is not a good practice.
From Ralph Sproul

*Never weld around charging batteries…if you think propane or acetylene is explosive………you’ve seen nothing comparing it to Hydrogen. The battery will explode sending acid all over you (not to mention the battery case/top comes apart like a grenade.
From Ralph Sproul

*NEVER EVER weld on a car or truck rim as long as
there is air in the tire…. TAKE THE CORE OUT OF THE VALVE STEM
STEM………. heat from welding on the rim will expand the air inside
the tire and it will explode when enough pressure builds up… People
die every year doing just that…. there is enough pressure in a truck
tire to blow your head off…
From Bonnie Billings