Old Dominion Blacksmith Association
Photo of Dale Morse at the Virginia Institute of Blacksmithing      
 
                       Serving South Central and Western Viriginia Blacksmiths     
              

                           Blacksmithing Help

     This page is designed to help anyone, particularly beginners who are interested in learning to do the craft of blacksmithing, especially in south central and western Virginia including areas around Lynchburg, Danville, South Boston, Martinsville, Roanoke, Rocky Mount, Bedford, Stuart, Appomattox.


On this page you will find:
1. Tips from L.T Skinnell    
2. Where can you purchase good blacksmithing coal ?
3. Places to purchase mild steel
4. Fire Pots

 

Tips from L.T.:

* From LT : Jan. Monthly Tip: We hear and read about the need for fire control and it is necessary in order to get the right amount of heat in the right location. Heat in the right location is important and can make your forging session productive and rewarding. Heat in the wrong spot can cause frustration, extra work and less rewarding, to say the least. A simple example is upsetting the end of a bar. If the heat is concentrated at the end, your hammer blows are effective and the bar is upset quickly. But if your heat runs up the bar to far, your hammer blows are less effective, and the bar bends easily and you spend more time straightening etc. Another example is making hooks or just making bends. The bar will want to bend where it is the hottest. So let the heat help rather than hurt. Good fire control makes it easier to get the heat in the right spot. A coal forge can be used for so many different task when you have control.
Happy 2015 everyone!
L.T.Skinnell

* Tip of the month Dec.: I recently made some small hooks out of 1/8 x 3/4 flat bar. The biggest problem with forging flat bar that is much wider than thick is a cold shunt developing the length of the bar, when forging to near round. The cause of this is to much hammering on the thin edges. I have found it best to hit one blow on edge, one blow on flat, one blow on other edge, one blow on other flat side. In other words hit and rotate 90 degrees. This works very well for me. Monitor what is taking place as you forge and adjust accordingly. Cold shunts are ugly and they may cause your piece to break or fail. If you see one developing stop and grind or file it away.  
L.T.Skinnell
* Monthly tip (Nov.)To clean up metal shavings, you can put a magnet inside a plastic sandwich bag and sweep area. Remove magnet and Discard bag and shavings. This may help if you have shavings in a sensitive area, like customers property.
L.T.Skinnell
*
July's Tip from L.T. :
When we split a bar hot or saw it cold, we need to heat it up and radius the end of cut with a fullering tool of some kind. I usually use a hand held fullering tool with the bar clamped in vise. This will help prevent cracks from developing as the material is forged and worked. Sometimes a crack won't show up until you have put a lot of work into the piece
.
* Tip of the month Dec.: I recently made some small hooks out of 1/8 x 3/4 flat bar. The biggest problem with forging flat bar that is much wider than thick is a cold shunt developing the length of the bar, when forging to near round. The cause of this is to much hammering on the thin edges. I have found it best to hit one blow on edge, one blow on flat, one blow on other edge, one blow on other flat side. In other words hit and rotate 90 degrees. This works very well for me. Monitor what is taking place as you forge and adjust accordingly. Cold shunts are ugly and they may cause your piece to break or fail. If you see one developing stop and grind or file it away.  
L.T.Skinnell

* Monthly tip (Nov.)To clean up metal shavings, you can put a magnet inside a plastic sandwich bag and sweep area. Remove magnet and Discard bag and shavings. This may help if you have shavings in a sensitive area, like customers property.
L.T.Skinnell

  * L.T's November Tip of the month: This months tip concerns quenching oil. The container should have a metal cover just like the wax container I spoke about last month. The cover will snuff the fire out if needed. Sometimes the oil will catch fire especially if you are quenching a large tool and you stay around the top surface of the oil. It is better to go deep from my experience. Anyway, have the cover near and if needed you can take control. I could say more but that would be another tip.
* Oct. Tip from L.T.: I'm thinking safety this month. More Specifically, the flammability of the traditional wax mixture that we use on our colonial pieces. I use a two pound coffee can as my container, and have a metal cover for it. Initially when melting and mixing the ingredients, its best to stay away from an open flame. I usually use my old wood stove in the shop. For added safety, you could put the container in a pan of water. I have had my wax to catch on fire when I was applying it to finished pieces. Don't Panic! Put the cover on the container and it will go out. Just be aware that it can happen. For added safety keep other flammable material away when using it.
Be Safe and protect your property.
* September Tip: This month we will go to the other end of the range and look at welding heat. For mild steel this is white in color. Be careful, this is close to burning anddamaging your piece. Because the metal gets softer as it gets hotter this is a good heat for upsetting and forging a welded area. If you need to bend in a welded area, it is better to have it white hot. Besides upsetting and welding some people like this heat for making shoulders and general forging of larger pieces. I suggest everyone learn the different heats and what they are best suited for and let the heat work for you
* August Tip: We need to learn the different heats for different task. One of these is a finishing heat which is dark red in color and non scaling. As the name implies this heat is used for finishing your piece. The surface will be left smooth, the chamfered edges will be more crisp and pleasing to the eye. the reason for this is the lack of scaling. A scaling heat leaves a rough surface and the chamfers and different facets tend to blend and not be as noticeable. It is easy to overlook this but if you will finish at a low heat you will notice the difference.

 

  Where can you purchase blacksmithing coal?
Note: all coal is not equal! no two coals are exactly the same! coal of choice for blacksmiths is bituminous and not anthracite.
         
FYI- 1. a five-gallon bucket of coal weighs about 33 pounds.
                   2. when gas prices goes up, coal prices also go up.
                   3. price per ton delivered depend on how many miles to the delivery site
                   4. blacksmithing coal is getting harder and harder to find.
                   5. I suspect that blacksmithing coal will more than double in price in the next few years.
     

  • Lloyd Burns who lives in West Virginia will deliver the coal to your shop. He has been doing this for years and has delivered it to a lot of famous smiths, plus Colonial Williamsburg and John C Campbell Folk School. He and his wife Ruby are very nice people and they have delivered a three and half ton load to my shop four times. His telephone # is 304-497-2371 . The price per ton delivered to Lynchburg VA by Lloyd in Feb 2013 was about $270.00 a ton. Price in the winter time is better than the remainder of the year, if he can get it.
  • Dixie Gas and Oil Corp. Verona,VA (near Stauton) 540-248-6273: I talked with the owner in Feb 2013. Their coal comes from Penn.and they are presently out of bituminnous coal for blacksmiths and not sure if or when they will be getting more in but please telephone them before coming. They sell it only in 50 lb bag. He gave me a price this day only of $9.25 a bag (50 lb) delivered if I ordered 25,000 lbs (10 palllet loads).  They do sell anthracite coal (this does not coke well and burns very hot) and I did not ask the price.
  • Hill’s Coal and Trucking Co, Galax, VA 1-276-236-3507 --Master Blacksmith Billy Phelps says that this is not very good blacksmithing coal. I called on 02/28/2013 and they said they have coal and sell it to blacksmiths for $125.00 a ton. They do sell small quantities, but you will need to bring your own boxes or bags and you load it yourself.. The girl I talked with did not know what kind of coal they had. -------------UP DATE Jan.2015  I've been told by a newer member that Hill Coal & Trucking Co in Galax, VA is now selling coal from Kentucky and it works well for blacksmithing. ( $125.00 a ton.)
  • Floyd,VA from Rock Bonham owner of Blue Ridge Minibldgs just out side of Floyd,VA. Phone # 540-745-5035. 
    He says that he has bituminous coal for sale: 40 lb bags for $6.50 a bag or tractor scoop for $80.00  and it's about 600 lbs. It has 3" to 6" chunks, low sulphur content, high btu, and has been washed with very little fines.
    I telephoned him Friday 2nd to talk. He say that he has been selling it to blacksmiths. Lloyd Burns delivered a  truck load (over 20 Tons) from West VA a few months ago. I have no clue how good of blacksmithing coal this is until one of you try some. It has the largest pieces of coal that I've heard of in recent times, but you can break it up. That is an excellent price,close by, and you can get it in bags. Open week days 8am until 5 pm: Sat.9am until 1pm.

  • . Key Stone, West Virginia (Blue Stone Coal Corp). Note: as of May 2010 they are not selling to the public at present because (I've been told) they were sold to the Russians and all is going overseas.
  • Hatcher F.L.& Son Inc. Roanoke, VA   Note this place is closed down as per Feb 2013  
  •       
  • Monger’s Coal and Oil  was sold to Dixie Gas and Oil

  • New source of coal taken from Appalachian Blacksmiths Association Newsletter: Winter 2014. Greenbrier Minerals is now selling Sewell Seam Coal at Rupert, West Virginia. Tel. 304-372-1000, House coal=$125.00 ton; Blacksmith coal =$200.00 ton of stoker (bean size).

  • New to us on Feb 11, 2013  Another place to get Blacksmithing Coal: Both Fred Crist and Lanny Campbell told me Sat that they now get their blacksmithing coal in Harrisonburg, VA. I called R. J. Monger & Sons Inc.(a lumber yard) and this is what I found out. He has to order it by the semi truck load and he sales it for $6.50 for a 40lb bag. Load it yourself, not using his bags. the cost is $280 a ton and that equals to .14 cents a pound. That works out to be $4.62 for a 5 gal bucket that weights about 33 lbs. The size is about 5/8" to 3/4". John Monger said it's coal that burns very hot with not as much smoke. They will deliver but only within a 50 mile radius. ------265 Chesapeake Drive, Harrisonburg,VA 540-434-3882



Places to Purchase Mild Steel

1. BMG Metal, Inc
    100 Industrial Dr.
    Lynchburg, VA 24501
    1-800-528-5003

2. Jarrett Welding Co.
    954 Goodyear Blvd
    Danville, VA 24541
    434-793-3717
3.  Hudson’s Welding Shop
     1757 Westover Dr
     Danville, VA
     434-822-1452
4.  Ace Steel 
    
2200 Buford Ave S.W.     Roanoke, Va
     540-985-0292
  
5. Martinsville Iron & Steel Co 
    131 Virginia Avenue
    Martinsville, VA
    276-632-9781
    1-800- 626-7352 

                             Fire Pots

Fire pots for coal forges: from $180 to 325 not counting shipping and handling.
1.    Bob “Ironmonger” Cruikshank
Firepots---Call or write for sales brochure, Made in USA
1495 W. Possum Rd., Springfield, OH 45506
(939) 323-1300 www.creativeironforge.biz
Note: we’ve just got a new one & it’s an excellent firepot. Thick walls & well cast. He does not take credit cards.
2.   
Centaur Forge
Note: This is what I have in my rock forge and was the least expensive.
3.   
Blacksmith Depot: 
Note: This is the most expensive but I’ve been told it is an excellent fire pot Fire pots for coal forges.
4. John Elliott of
Blacksmith Supply now has firepots