azelfrath.numAnvils++;

Before you give me crap about making a class variable public, realize that making the title of this post a full code snippet would be annoying at best.

For you non-programmers out there, the title roughly translates to “Ah gots mah anvil!”

Came today a little after 1:30 while my dad and I were working on the base for a shed. Took it out, did a ring and bounce test (basically to test the quality) and then sadly had to leave it be for a bit.

We went to the bottom of the hill and I explained a bit about how I wanna do the forge setup. Gonna try a few arrangements and see what works. Also gonna invest in an easy-up-easy-down style roof, basically just some canvas or tarp with string on the corners. Gonna feed the string through some screw-in eyes put into four trees in the area.

Relating to the rust removal, I am planning on letting the nails sit for another 4 hours to make it a total of 24. I can see a lot of bubbles on the surface of the vinegar, which is a good sign. Not sure how well it will work, but here’s hoping.

Your Skill in Mining Has Increased!

Not really, but I did get some nice 9- and 12-inch nails for blacksmithing. Was at a friend’s house and the landlord was having some work done that involved pulling these big railroad tie-looking things out of the ground. They were held in place by some pretty rusty nails, and we managed to get 24 of them out.

We spent some time getting the rust off. At first we used a simple angle grinder but found that we were wasting time cutting into the metal. Then we went to Home Depot and got a wire bristled wheel that should have fit, but ended up being the wrong type.

Right now I’m just looking for ways to get the rust off so we can have some nice metal to work with. I’m doing something I am surprised I had never done before, and that is using Coke and vinegar (separately) to clean them. I have a little experiment set up that I am going to check in a few minutes (exactly 4 hours in each solution). I’ve heard arguments for and against these methods, so I figured some good old-fashioned scientific method would be best here.

In other news, my friend and I managed to get a railroad spike hot enough to make the tip somewhat rounded, and we turned one of the cleaned nails into a hot punch for later use. We’re also planning on turning two of the 12-inchers into a pair of tongs, and possibly welding two 9-inchers together for a longer pair.

We’re looking at various selections of fuel. We used up all of our charcoal but plan on making more soon. In the coal versus coke wars (coke in this sense meaning refined coal) we’re going with coke for a cleaner, hotter burn. The extra cost is well worth it I would imagine. I don’t think the neighbors would appreciate a large plume of yellow smoke.

Pretty excited about tomorrow, which is when the anvil should be here. Forge still is not built, but we are planning on taking some time to do it later in the week. Tongs are going to be an issue. I have some things that sorta work (long pliers and cooking tongs) but can’t handle metal with enough dexterity. Still a relatively long way to go, but the journey is part of the fun.

Not sure what else to say, really. Just lots of excitement.

Dear God I Antiqued…

I know, I know. Let the bashing begin.

If you had told me a few weeks ago that I would go antiquing, I would have laughed and called you insane. But recently I did just that.

Believe me, it wasn’t like I planned this. I was taking my girlfriend to pick up an application at a local shop, and I saw this antique store that I had passed a few times but never entered. I figured she might enjoy it, and we had some time to hang out, so we went in.

At first, I was a bit overwhelmed. There was just stuff. Stuff from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and I was afraid that I would knock something over because the passages were so narrow. Luckily my girlfriend didn’t have this problem because she is tiny :)

After poking around for a bit, something caught my eye. It was a pile of old tools, some rusted some looking like they had just been forged. I was instantly hooked. I dug around for probably 20 minutes picking up this thing and that, wondering what each tool’s purpose was.

Eventually I settled on three. One was a combination hole punch and what I will call a “short little line” punch. The second was a simple ball-peen hammer that I liked. The third is my favorite of the lot, something I have come to understand is called a Farrier’s Nipper. Go figure. It’s basically like tongs used for clipping metal, I guess. I figured they would work as real tongs, then I could modify them a bit for a better grip. Total price was $13.

After dropping the diminutive one off, I decided to check the other stores in the area. It’s not a large town, but there were three other antique stores around so I checked them all. The first two had nothing of interest, but the third proved useful. At first I was skeptical, since the ladies working there looked prissy and way too polished up. I meandered to the back and found a small treasure trove of tools. Most were modern, but there were some nice older hammers there.

That’s when I saw her. She was beautiful, solid, and looked like she had some experience. Just holding her in my hands filled me with a sense of belonging. She was a 4-pound cross-peen hammer with fading red tape wrapped around the handle. The balance was perfect, and she just fit. And at $4.50, I had to have her.

It was a fiery romance from the beginning. I dressed her up in some electrical tape to improve the grip and hide the mildly unattractive red tape which was her only flaw. I named her Ahmer (pronounced “ommerr” with a slight roll of the R at the end) for the Arabic word for red.

So here we are now. I have her cradled lovingly in my lap as I type this, the warmth of my body transferring to her metal. I have a feeling she will provide me with many thrills as of yet unknown to me. It’s a beautiful thing we share…

Anyway, I know it’s still unmanly as all hell to go antiquing, but dammit where the hell else am I going to find these things?

Oh and as a side note, if you happen to have or know someone who has an anvil, do not hesitate to let me know.

Well, Charcoal Worked

Right.  So last time I posted, I talked about making charcoal and the forge designs.  Good news is, the charcoal works.  Bad news is, it works so well that it burned down our cabin.

Here’s what (I think) happened:  The fourth batch of coal I made, I only let cool for about 15 minutes or so, instead of the almost half hour I normally do.  I also didn’t seal the top as well, so some flames might have made it in.  The coals were perfectly cool to the touch, so I tossed the good ones into the box with the rest.  However, one of them must have had a small part smoldering that I missed.

Flash forward about an hour, and we get a loud pounding on our door.  Police are everywhere blocking the street, and I smell smoke.  Look down to the bottom of the hill, and a huge fire has taken up residence where our cabin used to be.

Fire was put out fairly quickly and didn’t spread to the trees surrounding it.  Luckily nobody was hurt, and the monetary losses were not substantial (at least not as bad as they could have been).  I am really sad that we lost the wagon my dad made for me as a baby.  It was made of oak and honestly would have lasted another 50 years at least.

So where are we now?  Waiting for the insurance guy to come out, doing minor cleanup, and making tons of jokes about how my hobbies all end up badly.

Fuel for the Fire

I posted before about my experiments in building a forge.  Just a little update:

We got the old water heater mostly disassembled.  The steel tank inside is a nice, solid one with a good 3 feet of height, maybe a foot and a half in diameter.  Bottom of it has three holes that I think were attached to water pipes, so we’ll have to see if those will be a problem.  If they are, we can try using it upside-down and have the holes function as smoke relief.

To give you a better idea of what it’ll look like, I’ll be following this excellent guide.  We also happened to have an old blow dryer which I took the motor out of.  Actually has a nice kick to it.  Cut up a pop can and gave it some length.  Hooked it up to a big 12V battery my dad had, so I basically have a portable bellows.

The other aspect of forging that I didn’t have before was the fuel.  Sure, you can build a fire, but that takes space, is dirty (ash and other impurities are terrible for smithing), and is just a terrible idea inside of a forge.  Instead, I started researching ways to make my own charcoal.

A few techniques involved large 55-gallon drums, which I do not have.  Even if I did, the space needed would be a problem.  Somewhere during my search I found this little gem explaining how to make charcoal in either a stock pot or a paint can.  I opted for the paint can because I’m pretty sure some explanation would be needed as to why cooking pots have gone missing.

After asking my neighbors if they had any (oddly enough we did not), I got a nice one and set off to make charcoal.  Girlfriend was picked up first, since we had planned to hang out anyway, and she was my little assistant :)

Basically, you just punch a small hole in the paint can lid, then place pieces of 1x1x4 wood inside.  Put the top on tight, and start your fire.  Once you have a nice blaze going, make a little hollow for the paint can and put it in.

Now the fun begins.

At first, nothing really happens.  The fire burns on and you watch.  After about 10 minutes, a small amount of steam begins to come out of the hole.  Just some water escaping from the wood.  Then there is more steam.  Then more.  And more still.  Eventually it looks like an old steam-engine scaled down to model train size.

Now the real fun begins.

Have you ever seen the JFK Eternal Flame?  You have?  Okay, now imagine that about three times bigger, and making a sound like an overhead jet.  It’s awesome.  Girlfriend liked it because it looked like  dragon’s breath.  I can’t blame her.  I’d love to see one in a stock pot.  Oh, and the paint can was only filled half way because I was not sure if this would work.  Just think what it would be with a full one.

After the pyrotechnic show ended, I took the retort (fancy term for “my ghetto-ass charcoal rig”) out of the fire and let it cool down.  Girlfriend and I went up to watch TV for a bit, then I took her home.

Upon returning, I went down to check the results.  I was a little skeptical about how well it would turn out.  A few times during the burn I saw flames shooting out the rim, so I had to put a rock on it to seal it.  Fire is hot, by the way.  Anyway, I took the now-cool retort over to where I could see it better in the moonlight and cracked it open.

It looked just like the picture said it would.  I reached in and found that roughly 1/4 of the space was taken up by light, brittle, dark charcoal.  Some sticks were nice and long, while others had broken up a bit into pieces ranging from the size of a dice to that of a lighter.  I took the good ones out, dumped the rest in the remains of the fire, and triumphantly began filling a small box labeled (in charcoal) “Fuel for the Fire”.

Journeyman

Recently I got really into the ancient arts of leatherwork, blacksmithing, and woodwork.  I think it had something to do with the Renaissance Festival. Anyway, I had made a pair of bracers a while back out of an old pair of my dad’s work boots.  And yes, he told me I could.  They turned out alright, but I didn’t do much after that.

Just before the RenFest opening weekend, I got the idea to build some sort of backpack to hold my cloak, mugs, extra water, basically anything I wouldn’t want to carry on a belt.  So I went down to Tandy Leather, spent a long time talking with the shop owners, and ended up with a large shoulder of thick leather.

Long story short, I made a pretty beastly backpack.  Held up pretty well the first day.  Second day I went, one of the rivets holding the straps on came out so it was uncomfortable to wear.  Easy fix, and it taught me a bit about what not to do.

After that, I got the idea to build a forge in the bonfire pit.  Took some bricks and laid out a basic rectangular area which I covered with a plate of thick steel.  Got a nice fire going, plenty of coals, and was actually able to get an old crowbar hot enough to straighten out.  We used our leaf blower as a bellows, which made an awesome fire display.

We just got our water heater replaced today, so I am going to try and take the internal steel drum out of the old one and make a proper forge out of that.  My dad seems to think the fan from an old computer will work as well as a leaf blower.  Right then.

Other than that, I got an idea during the dice scene from Pirates of the Caribbean 2.  I took a rectangular piece of scrap leather and sewed it into a can shape, then cut out a circle for the bottom.  Laced it all together and added a removable top.  Then I chopped a few pieces of firewood into rough cubes and sanded them down into almost identical-sized dice.  Cut a few pips, inked them black, and the end result is my own set of Liar’s Dice.

There’s something very satisfying about making your own gear.  Sure you can buy it from a store and it will be 10 times better, but where’s the fun in that?  Blisters, burns, and cuts are all part of the creative process.  And yes, I have gotten all three.

Pics when I get around to them.