All posts by Joe B

November 2016 newsletter

Joe Babb demonstrated forge welding at the October meeting.   Joe did both a faggot weld and a drop-the-tongs weld.  See picture.  Dropping the tongs is an important part of the process.







Faggot welds can be used to increase the mass of the end of a bar, do a welded hinge eye, or bind several pieces together.  It is one of the easiest welds in that you only have to hold one piece.  It is also one of the harder forge welds because you only have your eyes to tell you when the piece is at a forge welding temperature.

When you weld two pieces together, usually one is fairly small such as a handle.  So the small piece gets held down by the longer piece, you drop your tongs (this time on purpose) and grab your hammer to complete  the weld.  In this case you need to scarf the weld joint.  This helps to blend the ends so the weld is not so visible.


We talked about 3 different kinds of fluxes, Easy Weld, Iron Mountain, and Borax.  There are many kinds and it seems that the best one is the one that works best for you.  Forge welding requires much patience and practice and you must be willing to try many times and fail some before you find the best practice for you and your forge.  Try using a pair of flip up sunglasses to reduce the glare from the forge so that when you come out of the fire to complete the weld you can flip them up and not have a big purple spot in your field of view.


The important things to remember are to upset the ends of the bars and scarf them properly, flux well to protect the steel from oxygen and help melt the scale, keep your fire clean, and get the metal hot enough so two pieces stick together in the fire.  Oh yes, and practice, practice, practice.

On November 5th we had a knife workshop with Stephan Fowler.  Steve led several of us in making a chef’s knife.


Here’s a picture of the forged blank which started life as a piece 10″x1.5″x3/16″.


Steve took time to explain to us various parts of the knife and why we were forging it that way.


Forging the handle area.


Better picture of Steve’s anvil.  Note his fashionable kilt attire.


June 2016 Newsletter

Many thanks to Bob Curnell for hosting our May meeting at his shop.  Thanks especially for the cookies and drinks.

Bob started off by giving everyone a piece of steel from an old farm implement and challenging us all to do something with it.  Bob plans on judging what you’ve done with it at this month’s June meeting.  So do your best and don’t forget.challenge







Bob uses a gas forge to heat metal.









He demonstrated several different kinds of twists that you can make using combinations of square and round bars.

Bob has a very handy support fixture to aid in keeping twists straight.


But things have a way of going wrong sometimes, so that’s when a wooden hammer is handy for straightening wayward twists.


Bob recruited Matt to help on a reverse twist.  These are always fun especially when you can do them in one heat.


Seems like no end to the variety of twists you can make and they add a lot to almost any piece of ironwork.  Many thanks again to Bob for hosting our rowdy bunch.  We had a fun iron-in-the-hat drawing.  Don’t forget your challenge piece for the June meeting, the 26th at the home forge.  1:30pm.


May 2016 Newsletter

The April meeting started off with Joe Babb demonstrating how to make and use a fire tool called a “slice”.  This is a handy tool for managing your coal fire and it is easy to make.


To make the slice you need a piece of sheet metal about 4.5″ x 3.5″, and a handle to which it gets attached with rivets.  The goal of this demo was to enable members to make their own slice and get the experience of cold riveting.  We used 3/16″ diameter rivets, cutting them to  a length that would give about 2 times the diameter sticking out beyond the surface after passing through both sheet metal and the handle.  The round handles were flattened a bit.  Then two holes were drilled for the rivets.

When you do cold riveting, you start upsetting the end of the rivet with a ball peen hammer.  This action spreads the end of the rivet outwards into a larger circle of material.  At a certain point, the material can be domed using a rivet set.  Where do you get a rivet set?  Let’s make one.shaping-rivet-set

Start off with a piece of tool steel about 1/2″ in diameter.  This can be from an old coil spring or other source.  It won’t be hardened or tempered.  But it needs to be annealed so you can drill a shallow hole in the end to give you a target for the next step.  You need to make a tool whose end has the shape of the rivet head that you want.  You do this either by grinding or a combination of forging and grinding.  You can check your work against a depression made in clay by the rivet you are using.  Then heat up the future rivet set, clamp it in the vise and use the positive tool you just made to deepen and shape the depression in the rivet set that was begun with the drill. deepen-rivet-set This may take a couple of heats to get just the right amount.  Afterwards, use something to relieve the edges of the rivet set so it won’t leave cut marks on the work you rivet.  You also need a bottom tool which is like the rivet set you just made except that it fits in your anvil or vise.



Next meeting is at Bob Curnell’s shop, May 29, at 1:30pm.  Bob always puts on a good demo plus feeds us with snacks and drinks.  Directions will be in the member’s email.

As always, work safe, wear your safety glasses.  If you have any questions send email to



March 2016 newletter

sign-bracketWe had a great turn out for the February meeting with Max Fairchild demonstrating the general design concepts of a sign bracket and the use of a scroll form.   Max began with a discussion of laying out the pattern full size.pattern

Then we moved into the forge where Max began a penny roll by using a half-face blow on the edge of the anvil.


half-fac After completing the penny roll, Max showed the use of the scroll form.

using-scroll-formAnd then the final product.

finished-scrollMany thanks to Max for taking the time to give us a great demo.

Since Easter occurs on the last Sunday this month, our next meeting is March 20 at the home forge at 1:30pm.  We’re going to be discussing the purchase of a gas forge.  After that we’ll work on fire tools.

Another Open Forge will be held on Saturday April 9th at 1:00.  This is an opportunity for members to work on projects and learn the basics.

As always remember to wear your safety glasses.  This is required at all times in the forge area.  The guild has extra safety glasses if you forget your own.

February 2016 Newsletter

January meeting at the home forge

We introduced new officers: Andrew Messersmith, president; Joe Pyle, vice president; Joe Babb, secretary/treasurer; Brad Greenwood, librarian.  A great big thank you to outgoing officers: Matt Sharp, president; Shelly Powers, secretary; Jason Berry, treasurer.  All did a great job and kept the guild going strong.

Attendance matters:

Every time you attend or participate you get a raffle ticket (1 ticket per guild meeting and 1 ticket any time 2 or more members meet at the home forge to work towards guild goals.  Holiday party drawing for next years crbg and aacb memberships)

Changes in meeting structure, contests:

Our monthly meetings will now be more focused on spending time in the forge. Every 3 months we will have a traditional meeting which includes discussing future plans, voting on the contest submissions, Iron in the Hat, and an in depth demo. All other meetings will be more workshop focused. We will have a monthly project to work on, as well as an opportunity to work on your contest pieces and learn the processes of blacksmithing.

A contest will be held quarterly with the focus on getting members in the forge. Our first contest subject will be “fire tools.” This includes pokers, shovels, rakes, and slices or anything else you can use to help control a fire. We will vote on a winner during the May meeting.

In addition to our monthly meeting we will also be opening up the guild shop for open forge hours. These will be scheduled for mid-month and will be mostly unstructured so members will be able to work on any project they’d like at the guild facilities. We will also have more experienced members available for troubleshooting problems and introducing new smiths to the art. Our first open forge is scheduled for March 12th at 1pm.

Changes in dues:

Annual membership dues are $20 and are due at the beginning of the year.  We now have a family membership available for $35.   We can now accept dues through credit card via Square reader on phone.  If you want to mail in your dues, send check made out to Clinch River Blacksmith Guild to:

Joe Babb, 4815 Kingston Pike, ste. 188, Knoxville, TN. 37919

Hammer project needs new leader:

We need someone to get back to organizing hammers again. (we need a new hammer eye punch to be produced,  our first one was a little stubby even before we put a new edge on it a half dozen times)

Joe’s demo:

Joe Babb made a chain shackle demonstrating use of spring fullers and spring swages along with simple hardening and tempering of small punch and use of drifts.



Start off with a guillotine fuller to define the location of the end elements.





This helps to isolate the center section to be drawn out roughly to 5/16″.  Then we use a spring swage to dimension the center shaft to 5/16″.


The reason for this demo was not so much to show making a chain shackle as to demonstrate the use of various spring fullers and swages that can be made in the shop.  The particular tool that inspired this was one that Joe saw used by John Woolsey at the AACB Christmas Party.  It’s a spring swage for creating a ball.  Here’s an inside look of one half of that tool.

The lengthwise hole is 1/2″, while the crosswise hole is 5/16″ .  Notice on tools such as this all edges should be nicely rounded.



Placing a section of 1/2″ rod into the tool and rotating the rod as hammer blows are applied (many thanks to Brad for striking) ends up producing a ball with a diameter of 1/2″.


These ball ends are flattened to give a disk shape.  Then they are punched and drifted to 3/8″ holes for a clevis pin.  Joe demonstrated a quick and dirty hardening and tempering method for making a punch in a hurry.





The finished product.  finished-shackle


Upcoming Events

The February meeting of the CRBG will be held on Sunday February 28th at 1:30pm at the Home Forge. Max will be giving a demo on architectural scrollwork.
An open forge day is scheduled for Saturday March 12th at 1:00pm

Be Safe

The guild officers would like to remind all members and visitors of the importance of following good safety practices in and around the shop – safety glasses and appropriate clothing and footwear are required – and all attendees should read and acknowledge the safety policy notice posted in the shop.

As part of our commitment to safety, all new and returning members will be asked, upon paying their membership dues, to sign a copy of our liability waiver to be kept on file. Visitors shall be asked to sign a “visitor” copy of the waiver on each visit. No persons under the age of 18 will be admitted without the presence of a legal guardian. And, lastly, a note that attendance of workshops is limited to paid members only. Visitors are welcome to observe our meetings and demonstrations.