Maybe it’s an ‘F-‘, I’m not sure.
Today, I hauled a great big load of steel to the fabricators in Clearfield. [td fab] Over the last decade, I’ve gone to TD with a variety of weird projects, usually providing rough sketches of what I’ve got in mind. They have never disappointed. Well, there was one mis-communication but that was my fault for assuming they’d know that the thick end of a damascus bar is where the tang goes, not the other way around.
My original agreement with the fellow I usually talk to at TD is “if I don’t specify it exactly that means I don’t care.” So a lot of the details in the work they’ve done for me is based on what they felt would work best. And that’s been fine. But today, I pulled in and talked to The Boss, since the younger fellow I usually work with was away. He took a look at my sketches and started pointing out where I needed to add dimensions. Ugh. Yes, there are a lot of places where I didn’t put dimensions because “I don’t care” is the dimension. But in general, he was right – I have to go back through and specify a few things and maybe do some closer, more detailed sketches of some of the parts. The problem is: I’m a lousy artist. I know I could fire up powerpoint or inkscape and do a really nice design drawing but it would take me days of work. Somewhere, my high school shop teacher, Mr Brune, is spinning in his grave. I know how to do mechanical drawings with all the measures and labels, but I simply do not want to – probably because of Mr Brune’s punctiliousness.
In the meantime, the back of my truck is full of parts for “some assembly required.” About 500lb of parts, in all.
The heaviest single part is the 1/2″ thick 4 x 3-foot steel plate, though the longer piece of pipe comes pretty close. These are actually components for a couple of items: 1) a forge body, 2) a vertical smelter, 3) a vacuum casting machine. Getting the forge assembled is the priority, since when I get it back I am going to need to cast a refractory lining in it and plumb the gas system. The red thing in the right-most piece of pipe is a ribbon burner – it’s a refractory-filled plenum that distributes the burning propane/oxygen mix out to the forge body evenly. That needs to be mounted through an opening cut into the side/top of the pipe, and will provide the heat. My plan is to aim high (I always do) (my friends call it “overkill”) (I have few friends) and build the fire system with a blower fan to drive more air and generate more heat, as well as a K-type thermocouple in a ceramic probe protector, hooked to a programmable temperature controller and a normally closed solenoid valve on the propane line. I recently saw another smith using such a system and it is delightful indeed to be able to set the temperature on “weld” or “quench” and just let the forge’s feedback loop figure it out. I’m going to have to do some careful thinking about failure modes – what happens if the power fails (propane valve closes) and then returns while the body is still hot (“pop!”) or the heat causes combustion in the feed-pipe when the blower drops the pressure – I am going to need a spark arresstor and perhaps a small battery-backed uninterruptible power supply that will allow graceful shutdowns. If you are thinking “Marcus is going to build his very own F-35 of a forge” you’re thinking what I’m thinking but, at least I don’t have to worry about giving it a stealth coating – it’s heat-signature will be a dead giveway.
When I get the forge body back, I’ll need to weld tenons onto the interior so that the castable refractory won’t pull off, then make core inserts and cast a couple layers of refractory. My current plans are to use castolite for an outer layer, with some pearlite added to it to make it more airy and some chopped carbon fiber to make it stronger – then mizzou refractory for an inner 1″ or 1.5″ layer and a cast curved “tray” to sit in the bottom of the forge. I’ll need to make molds for that.
In the meanwhile, the temperature has gone up enough that the snow and ice are melting, which means that in the next 2 weeks I need to get Ken M. to help me move my forging press and then I can get busy on “the great hookuppening” at the new forge building. I need to do the propane feeds, power feeds, and (still) the doors. Ugh! So much work and none if it especially fun. Actually, it is fun, it’s just more fun to have all that stuff done, than to do it.