Write Up of the March 29, 2014 CDBA Meeting by Jack ConnellEvent Date: Apr 21, 2014
This meeting had another good turnout which included members, guests, and greenhorns.
Gil’s demo on the various aspects and steps towards hardening and tempering high carbon or tool steel (having at least 0.2% of carbon) was clear and informative. Gil initially demonstrated how steel taken up to the point of being non-magnetic (1500 degrees +-, or dark yellow) when quenched too quickly is as brittle as a candy cane and when lightly tapped will snap in two. To move from this brittle state to a useful one, the steel needs to be "Tempered".
Tempering relaxes the steel and changes the interior crystal size from large, brittle crystals to smaller more relaxed and stable ones. As Gil demonstrated, this tempering is done by taking the above heated steel and quenching the first inch or so (pre-taper the edge, assuming that you are making a chisel) into the water quench (or could be oil, depending on the ultimate use and/or steel type), swirl it around a bit and make sure you have sufficiently cooled this tip. Then withdraw the steel from the quench and quickly, while there is still most of the heat remaining in the shaft, with a file or angle grinder, polish one side of the cooled tip. This polished section is where you will see the various colors slowly moving towards the cooled tip edge, the first color to show and move down to the edge is light straw followed by the other colors. Each color will represent a degree of hardening. Once the wanted color/hardness is at or very close to the cutting edge, immediately quench the whole piece of steel again to stop/arrest the color. Gil used a propane torch to get these colors. This is a simpler, cleaner, easier and more predictable way to control the heat transfer and helps insure that you can see and can stop the color where and when you want it. The color chart and scale (the oxidation color spectrum) that Gil showed is a real good tool to use to compare the color of your work piece edge and thus the needed hardness. Generally, the rule of thumb is that “straw” color will cut stone; “Bronze” will cut steel; “peacock” will cut wood; and the color “purple” will give the high carbon steel a “springiness” and finally, “blue” will keep the steel relatively soft. Keep in mind that there are other methods of tempering, but all have the essential ingredients noted by Gil. We again thank Gil for sharing his knowledge and look forward to him demonstrating again at another monthly meeting in the near future.
Speaking of which, here is an updated monthly meeting schedule. However, as you can see, we still have many gaps and need someone to step forward to demonstrate (can be on anything related to steel – this can mean even steel design / architecture demonstrated on paper) for the months noted. Any volunteers please speak up!
April 27: lee Harvey on bells
May 18; Noah Khoury on Dutch hinges
June 29: ??
July 27: Travis Edginton: Forging an axe head.
August 24: Mark Feldman on casting
September 28: Mike McCarthy at Mike Cataldo's forge: Finishing techniques
October 26: Peter Schmidt on forging a very unique wine glass holder which goes on a wine bottle. This is Pete's own design.
November 23 (or 30th): ??
December 28: ??
Write Up of the February 23, 2014 CDBA Meeting by Jack ConnellEvent Date: Feb 28, 2014
Once again Mike Cataldo stepped up to the plate and held this month’s meeting at his home shop . We had a good turnout of over 20 people, including one relative neophyte all the way from Oneonta!
Mike started off the meeting with a short informational talk about the August ABANA conference he will be attending. There will be lots of tail-gating and retail sales of blacksmithing goodies and Mike offered to take orders for whatever you need. He will text pictures of what he would buy for you so that you have a chance to approve or not. This discussion was proceeded by a few words from Rand Condell, the Board President at the Adirondack Folk School in Lucerne. Rand shared with us information and printed material on the variety of really fantastic courses offered at the school besides all of the Blacksmithing courses taught by the likes of John Acker, Jonathan Nedbor, Mark Aspery and Joseph Szilaski , etc.
The theme of today’s demo was making animal heads. Mike, as is his usual fashion, explained what he was about to do, why he was doing it that way and what the goal was. He is a terrific teacher. He started off with 2 pieces of ½” stock about 30” long. His plan was to simultaneously make two figures, one of which would have a long tongue, not an easy thing to do if the whole head is one piece! The first character Mike was hammering out had horns – also not easy. Turns out that the tongue belonged to a very a very interesting dragon head which Mike demonstrated and explained his steps from the first blow to the last stroke. The horned figure was a devil figure. Both figures were done well and all of the steps were clearly and patiently explained and shown by Mike.
Of Course, during, before and after, all 20 participants got a chance to catch up on each other’s gossip and consequently with all that was going on one and all had a wonderful experience thanks to the hospitality of Mike and, not to be left out, Rachel who brought the coffee and Mike’s mother, who came out with some great cookies and brownies, unfortunately after most of us had already left! However, some of the remaining few got to eat the share of those departed.
Mark your calendars for our next meeting is at Pat’s Forge at Normanskill Farm in Albany on Sunday, March 30 from 12-4+-. Gil Bullock will be demonstrating how to temper and harden steel – something Gil knows quite a bit about. This will be followed up with the usual green coal opportunity for new members and neophytes to try their hands at forging iron. Keep in mind; these folks get first dibs on the green coal session! See you on the 30th.
looking for people interested in a propane forge burnerEvent Date: Feb 5, 2014
I have recently acquired plans for building a very nice and simple naturally aspirated propane forge burner. I will be making at least one for myself. if there is anyone interested, I can make more. I'm not looking for any commitments, I just need to know if anyone might be interested. Please let me know, my email is email@example.com. I can come up with cost and configuration etc. let me know…
Patrick Quinn artist talkPosted: Nov 30, -0001 10:00 AM
Patrick Quinn will be giving an artist talk during Festival of Fire at Salem Art Works next Saturday, 9/21 at 10:00 AM. For more information on Festival of Fire, please visit our site at
I just found that we all can share the Anvils Ring and The Hammers Blow. Just go to the web site:
http:wwwabana.org ( then for the Ring enter) /back-issues-anvils-ring ( or) /hammers-blow
The CDBA is a member of ABNA