Badger Forge: Why No Updates?

Perhaps some of you are wondering why there has been no update on my shop lately.

That’s because it’s basically been sitting there for 4+ weeks. I got the electrical panel installed and inspected then called in a reconnect request to the electric company and … nothing. Then after 2 weeks, I got a call from an engineer who wanted to know what kind of amperage I was expecting to draw; he saw the “heavy machinery” (sorry but a 2hp motor is not “heavy machinery” in Pennsylvania) and wanted to know if I was planning on running everything at once, or just one thing at a time. So I ran through all the items and the circuits and breaker amperages and he said that he’d schedule the hookup. That was 2 weeks ago.

What sucks is that everything from here depends on electricity. The next steps in the build involve welding together some tube steel tables for the forge and an hood over it. None of that can be done with battery power – I need to fire up the MIG and a chopsaw and an angle grinder.

So, everything’s just … sitting there.

The only good news is that all that sitting gave me time to do some more thinking, which meant that (naturally!) the project enlarged a bit more. I got to pondering the main door (which was going to be constructed on a welded frame) and came up with a design for a pair of doors that will go on rolling hangers on J-track. I’ve done some experimenting with PVC board and my biscuit joiner and some PVC biscuits and PVC solvent glue and I’m comfortable that I can build something really strong, light, and interesting. The plan is to use translucent fiberglass in a PVC frame to make doors that are a visual reference to Japanese sliding wood doors from a classical residence. That was the plan for the open wall facing the field, so I may as well make the whole mess match. So I got some materials, made a few joins and let them cure a couple of days, then whacked the bejesus out of them with a hammer. It took several whacks before the PVC board even admitted it was under attack, and the join was a simple T-joint with a single biscuit. The door design will use 1/4″ PVC fascia to stiffen the bottom and the fiberglass will be a structural component epoxied into a rabbet around the interior of the frame.

It all seems very complicated, but really it’s a matter of cutting the pieces to length, then doing some cuts on the inner edges with the table-saw, smearing things with lots of glue, getting epoxy in my hair, getting epoxy out of my hair, and tying everything together with straps until it cures. Now that I have a bill of materials, I already have the parts sitting on the shop floor ready to go; I just need time and that means stopping doing the other stuff that’s nagging at my attention.

tanko doors in my bathroom medicine box

If the hanging doors work out, I will use the same design for the sliding doors. Since I want the sliding doors to be removable and overlappable (like traditional Japanese doors) I’m going to take advantage of PVC’s lightness and strength but I won’t use the suspended J-track and wheel set-up: that stuff is ${expensive} and doesn’t handle overlap well. For the sliding doors I’m going to table-saw a slot down a piece of 3/4″ polypropylene butcher’s block which I will embed in the flooring (which will be 3/4″ wood) – that way the doors will slide on a nice smooth surface and they’ll be held in place with gravity. The grooves on the bottom are fairly shallow but the grooves at the top are deep enough that you can lift the door up and out of the bottom groove to remove it. Japanese-style doors are really clever design and very efficient to make. Naturally, the Japanese compensate for that efficiency by using insanely complex joinery all done with hand tools to make you cry.

------ divider ------

Meanwhile, I’ve done a couple of other fun knives including some weird experiments. I’ll probably post some of them eventually, as they find homes. I’ve been having tremendous fun and have been doing a lot of mirror polishes on my bevels. That is an insanely un-gratifying process but it’s really satisfying when it comes out. Perhaps I’ll do a whole posting on it eventually but if you’re into polishing media, look up “synthetic polycrystalline diamond” – it’s actually not that expensive but the stuff starts at 5000 grit (or whatever you want) and as you use it, it fractures into smaller pieces so the grit mesh goes up over time. You can get the stuff online from a variety of places. I have been using a piece of heavy leather bolted to a strip of polypropylene (with projecting doodads that protect my knuckles from the blade edge) and a bit of WD40 and some polycrystalline diamond gives a rapid, amazing, shine. It chews through steel as if it’s cheese, which is nice because hardened high carbon steel normally bears little resemblance to cheese.


  1. says

    Perhaps I’ll do a whole posting on it eventually but if you’re into polishing media, look up “synthetic polycrystalline diamond”

    Synthetic diamond powder also makes an excellent ground for a metalpoint drawing.

    By the way, do you have any ideas for an abrasive powder that is either black or transparent? I need a powder with particle size ranging between 2 and 6 μm. So far I have been drawing only on white grounds, but I have been thinking that I want to try making drawings on black and transparent surfaces.

  2. says

    Silicon carbide is a very dark solid gray. It’s cheap too. What grit do you need? I have a bunch of different grades.

    Edit: that’s 5000# or so. That’s hard to fond. 2000 is not hard. For glass you are probably looking for white aluminum oxide or synthetic diamond.

  3. says

    Silicon carbide won’t work. I already have some 1200 grit silicon carbide and it is pale grey. Coarser grits of silicon carbide are dark grey but finer grits are light grey.

    Here is a metalpoint drawing on a black ground done by Susan Schwalb. The artist claims that she’s making these drawings on black gesso, but I have no clue why it works for her—I have tried using the black gesso she recommended, and for me metals look much darker than in this artwork. I have no clue which black or at least dark grey abrasive powder could work. Probably I’ll just have to try various metal oxides and carbides and see whether something looks good enough.

    By the way, could you make for me a bismuth rod? Bismuth looks really cool in a metalpoint drawing, it’s very dark and really shiny. Bismuth wires aren’t available for sale, because this metal is too brittle, so I need a custom-made pencil shaped rod for drawing. (Many online stores sell bismuth pieces, but those are in the wrong sizes and shapes for a drawing tool.)

  4. says

    Stupid question: What about renting a generator? Or perhaps buying one, if you suspect the utility company’s going to blow you off for an extended period.

  5. John Morales says


    What about renting a generator?

    Well, they are a particularly polluting and inefficient source of electricity, so why not?

  6. voyager says

    Nice aesthetic. It definitely ups the cool factor of Badger Forge and should give the place a bit of a studio feel. I hope you can get to it soon.

    I’ve been imagining how it will be in winter, looking out through the doors to a snowy field and that made me think of a silly question. Does this type of door allow more heat loss from the building and is that even a concern when the building is a forge?

  7. avalus says

    Always remember: When in doubt, add more struts. And boosters, if you want the door to slide open really fast!

  8. lochaber says

    Andreas Avester @1, @3 – how hard does your abrasive need to be for metal point (I’m clueless as to artistic-type stuff)
    maybe something like the results of a mineralogy streak plate test might help?

    As to bismuth, I believe it has a fairly low melting point, so you could maybe set up something to get the shape you want? I think I’ve read of people acquiring it from the shot in some shotgun shells, and I think I’ve seen an instructable or similar on how to refine it from pepto-bismol, but can’t imagine that would be economically sound…

  9. says

    Lochaber @#9

    how hard does your abrasive need to be for metal point

    The abrasive powder has to be harder than the metal I’m using. Anything above 6 on the Mohs scale is enough.

    Some powders are too soft to be useful as abrasives, but after some threshold they all are hard enough and work just fine. Bone ash, cerium oxide, zirconium dioxide, diamond powder, aluminum oxide all work about the same.

    Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide make poor abrasives, those don’t work well, same goes also for marble dust.

    maybe something like the results of a mineralogy streak plate test might help?

    This was interesting. Thanks for the link.

    Those black unglazed porcelain plates look interesting. I don’t think I want to create artworks on a porcelain plate (too fragile, can shatter), but I’ll have to look into how those things are made and what abrasive is creating that surface grain on these porcelain plates. Maybe I can get that stuff as a powder.

    Also some of the minerals in the list made black streaks, so I’ll look into whether some of those could work as a black abrasive powder.

    Recently I wrote about metalpoint grounds here — Those are all white though, hence I was wondering what are my options for something black.

  10. says

    Marcus @#11

    I’ll get some and make a mold and see what I can do!

    Cool. Thanks!

    I need a bismuth rod shaped like a regular pencil.

    Also, if you have any dark grey, black, or transparent polishing powders, I’d appreciate a small sample. The white abrasive powders that I’m currently using are probably somewhere between 2 and 6 μm. I say “probably,” because I got that stuff from Chinese eBay sellers, and I have no clue whether the labels were accurate. There’s lots of leeway in the particle side that I can use though. I suspect that something between 1 and 50 μm would work.

  11. lochaber says

    Andreas Avester @ 12
    Thanks for the link, that’s interesting, and something I didn’t really know anything about.

    I didn’t even think about the black tiles, but I would imagine you could find something from a pottery supply company?

    I imagine you’ve tried or at least considered this already, but what happens when you mix up a whiteish abrasive with, say, black paint? does the abrasive tend to show through in spots?

    I’m now thinking of some stuff from when I used to do aquariums, sometimes people would get media from sandblasting supply companies to use as a substrate. Most of that is probably too coarse for your purposes, but it may be available in finer grades? I remember coal slag was popular, because it was a dark, black color. I think some people also got glass beads from a similar source.

    Also, not sure if it’s the right size, but maybe something like this for transparent?

  12. says

    lochaber @#14

    what happens when you mix up a whiteish abrasive with, say, black paint?

    You get uniform grey paint. Most of the time, assuming that the whiteish abrasive powder is opaque.

    Mixing dark grey abrasive powder with black paint would work, yielding near black end result. Using almost transparent whiteish or grey abrasive powder would also work.

  13. says

    The main problem with portable generators is you need a pretty darned big and expensive one to drive an arc welder. Mains power is the way to go with that.

    Pennsylvania is coal country; if you’re using power, you’re using coal, oil, or gas whether you want to or not.

  14. says

    Literally 20 minutes after I posted the OP, I had a message on my phone from the power company: “we need your inspection” (which I sent in a month ago)
    So I just spent 20 minutes on the phone and now it’s “all cleared up.” We’ll see, I suppose.

  15. says

    Update: I spent an hour on the phone with the power company and AS IF BY MAGIC as soon as I got off the phone a line truck appeared and a nice guy was knocking on my door!
    Then, he explained to me that he had brought the truck because the order said to install an overhead line and my line’s a buried line and they had to reschedule when they could bring the gear for doing a buried connect-up because that’s a different truck.

    The local boss I talked to said he’d been out and inspected everything and approved it, but his name was on the sheet ordering an above-ground wire. This, after I had told him about the excitement that I had a few years ago when the neighbor’s combine tore down the telco’s wire to my house (telco cheaped out on the number of poles they should have used to keep the line up, so it drooped).

    I’m not super happy with them right now!

Leave a Reply