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Tempering Processes & Technology

ASM is hosting an online section of their Heat Treater’s Guide: Practices and Procedures for Iron and Steels. It has tempering info, but it also has a lot of valuable charts.

Types of Steel Found in Common Junkyard Items

This list describes some potential types of steel used in items commonly found in junkyards. This information was compiled from Machinery Handbook, Country Blacksmith, Blacksmith’s Journal, and Carpenter Technology Corp.

Machinery’s Handbook is an excellent source for heat treatment of these steels.

Ornamental Chasing And Repoussé: The Magic of Sculpting in Metal

This article by Valentin Yotkov is an excellent primer on getting set up to add Repoussé and Chased items to your work. They can be stand-alone pieces or added to your iron projects to give them a unique appearance. (I’m presently visualizing copper floral accents on a forged iron table.)

As Valentine shows in the article, the basic tooling needed can be easily made, so the equipment costs are modest and you can make more specialized tools as your level of expertise increases.

We want to thank Valentin for giving GCBA permission to reprint this excellent article along with images from his studio in Brooklyn, New York.


Antique Fire Pot RestorationFire pot assembled

Check out Tim LeMien’s creative restoration of an antique fire pot—donated years ago by D’everaux Coleman to Joe Rolfe’s Starr Homeplace Pandemonia Foundation.

TTT and CCT Prediction Calculator

There are two main types of transformation diagram that are helpful in selecting the optimum steel and processing route to achieve a given set of properties. These are Time-Temperature Transformation (TTT) and Continuous Cooling Transformation (CCT) diagrams. A full explanation and typical diagrams are illustrated here.

A calculator to generate the TTT or CCT of a particular steel is available here.

18 of 31 Al- Bronze Casting a Knife Handle
by Larry House, Tom Walker and Chuck Robinson

Follow the entire process here.

A Comparison of Abrasive Grit Sizes of Belts, Wheels, Stones and Hones.

For all you folks that are confused about abrasive grit sizes for your  abrasive materials, this chart translates the US, European and Japanese grading systems and make sizing grit more comprehensible.

Comparison of  Grit Sizes of Belts, Wheels, Stones and Hones Used in Knife making, Sharpening and Woodworking

Micro-Mesh Grit Size Conversion Chart

Sandpaper Grit Comparison Chart

Free Online Blacksmithing Books

Basic Blacksmithing:  An introduction to toolmaking with locally available materials

Rural Craft Publications

If you have difficulty accessing these sites (both located in England), try at different times of the day.  These books are worth the effort.

Lining a Fire Pot

by Daniel Kretchmar

I got my clay out of several different holes in the ground at various reenactments.  I have found that regular pure clay (no additives) will eventually crack, particularly if you are forge welding or getting a big fire going like we sometimes do for demos.

I have been making my own fire clay for a while now and it seems to work. I got the recipe from a book on how to make an adobe oven.

5 of 11Take a lot of small dry irregular chunks of clay (1″ diameter or smaller), the smaller the better and fire them in your forge (a gas forge works best for this).  If you don’t have a gas forge (which considering the thread, you likely don’t), broken clay garden pots work too!  The trick is to get clay that has been fired already.

Break it into tiny pieces.  I put on my boots and crushed them on the concrete floor. It doesn’t have to be powder, but it has to be smaller enough to stir.  I also put fiber in mine for strength.  I use natural rope fibers (manila/hemp/sisal/even grass clippings).  I cut the rope into 1″ pieces and separate the threads.

My recipe is:

  • 2 cups wet clay
  • 1 cup white sandbox sand
  • 1 cup crushed fired clay
  • 1 loose quart of fiber rope cuttings

I mix until it is uniform.  I add enough water that a 1″ ball of the mixture will deform slighty but stay together when being dropped from 4 feet off the ground.  I then pack it just like Wes does using a hammer and a 2×4.  I have several forges that have this lining that have lasted for years without any repair.


Dan also reminds us that a lot of the early forges were made from wood and covered with the clay liner.

I also remember smiths telling me that they mixed straw into the wet clay as a binding agent.


Inch & Metric Decimal Equivalents and Drill Size Chart

Tap Drill Size Calculator

Inch & Metric Conversion Chart

Knife Steel Analysis

Pulley “V” or Flat Belt Speed Calculator

Steve Bloom of the Florida Artist Blacksmiths Assn.

Steve Bloom has created an archive of past issues of their newsletter “The Clinker Breaker” and a very large archive of articles of projects and tips from many other newsletters and other sources.

It’s well worth checking out.

The Florida Clinker Breaker newsletter archives of the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association

Collection of Blacksmith Articles


High Temperature Lube for Hot Punching

  • Melt 1 cup of bees wax in a tin can, then slowly add about 2 cups of finely pulverized coal dust. Mix thoroughly.
  • Let the mixture cool until solid, then punch a hole in the bottom of the can.
  • Quickly heat the can until the cake  slides out.
  • Coat your hot working tools by rubbing the cake on the working surfaces.


Data to Help Understand Factors Affecting Heat Treating of Steels

The difference between  Hardness and Hardenability

Explanation of Time-Temperature Transition and Continuous Cooling Transition Diagrams

Click Here for the Site


Borax Flux

To improve your forge welds, use Anhydrous Borax, instead of 20 Mule Team borax.

Bob Patrick found that the 20 Mule Team folks add an anti-caking ingredient to their product, that melts at a higher temperature,  and degrades the quality of the forge weld.


Downloadable Graph Paper

Click here to download  a program to design and print your own graph paper.


Iron, Wood and Leather Finish

This is an updated 700 year old finish.  It works great on iron, wood, leather.

  • Use a double boiler to carefully melt bees wax.
  • Add boiled linseed, oil, turpentine ( synthetic turpentine ), and finally Japan dryer.  Proportions are 1 cup each and just 2 tablespoons of Japan dryer.
  • Store in glass jars.
  • Warm the material to be coated to facilitate penetration.
  • Wipe excess off surface several minutes after applying finish.
  • Remember to safely dispose of  the towels or rags used to apply the finish, to avoid the posibility of spontaneous combustion


Super Quench Formula

Rob Gunther developed a safer alternative to lye quenching.  It is usable on low and medium Carbon steels up to 1045.

To 5 gallons of water add:

  • 5 lbs. of rock salt ( ice cream salt – not iodized)
  • 32 oz of Dawn blue dish washing detergent
  • 8 oz Shaklee Basic I  ( a surfactant)

Make sure you stir the mix to dissolve all the salt, and also stir the mix every time before quenching.  Heat the steel till non magnetic and then plunge into the super quench moving it rapidly in a figure 8 motion.


One Response to Projects

  1. Chuck Robinson says:

    Hey Winston,
    Rob Gunther said that:
    8 oz Shaklee Basic I. (The solution needs a surfactant to maximize contact between the solution and the piece being quenched. Amway Basic H will also work. Your local farmer’s supply should be able to help here, as similar surfactants are used to facilitate the distribution of fertilizer in soil. In response to a question from the viewing stands, Robb said that just about any wetting agent should do, even the stuff photo film developers use. Just follow directions on amount of agent to be added to a given amount of water, then scale up or down to the 5 gallons of water used in this formulation.).

    This is a very fast quench to be used to harden low to medium simple carbon steels. Never high carbon. I don’t temper after hardening with super quench because tempering will reduce the hardness of the steel.

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