Hey, everybody, I don't know if you've heard, but we have a book coming out finally, finally after all these years. It's great. It's fun. You're going to love it. It's called stuff you should know. Colen an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things. Yeah. And it's 26 jam packed chapters that we wrote with another guy named Nils Parker, who's amazing and has illustrated amazingly by our illustrator, Carly Manado. And it's just an all around joy to pick up and read, even though we haven't physically held her hands yet.
It's like we have Chuck in our dreams so far.
I can't wait to actually see and hold this thing and smell it and so should you. So preorder now it means a lot to us. The support is a very big deal. So preorder anywhere.
Books are sold. Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of radios HowStuffWorks. Hey, welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh Clark, and there's Charles Dubi, Chuck Brown over there and Jerry's out there somewhere. And this is stuff you should know that I tell you about my new hobby that started yesterday. I bet I can guess watching blacksmithing videos.
Yeah, I was going to say the same thing, man. Like, I don't have any desire to blacksmith myself. No, I just like watching these videos. There's something really amazing about them.
Yeah, there's one. I don't know if you watched. It's on YouTube. It's called blacksmithing. Forging a bearded X. No, I didn't see that one.
God. Well, it just reminds me of the.
The sort of the lulling of that show, how it's made, but I watch this video and most of them have some sped up stuff, too, because blacksmithing takes so long. Yeah, that a 30 minute video. I mean, half of it is in fast motion. So it just goes to show you and it's edited and they always do.
They always put it to yakety sax. But it's just crazy, though, when you see how long it takes to make this one acts and then you think about outfitting armies.
Yeah, it just feels like it was every other person, a blacksmith. And did they just do that 24/7? Yeah.
I get the impression there is a Walt Whitman poem about blacksmiths and he's basically like they were the most important people in any community. Everybody loved them. They owe no one anything because they never had any debts, because they were so vital that anything they did probably was worth ten times what anybody else could do for them. And they seem to have been pretty amazing people on the whole. Yeah.
I mean, and we'll talk about this more. But when you think about just nails. Yeah. And how many nails built this country in the world. Right. Those nails had to be forged.
Yeah. When you watch some of these blacksmith videos and like you're saying, when you do see how long it takes to just make an average thing that you would like to buy in a second these days, it really gives you an appreciation for just what a sea change the Industrial Revolution was. Yeah, I mean, where this was automated and made it converted to mass production, it just could have never happened before and it didn't happen before.
But it was up to the lone blacksmith to to equip their entire communities with all this stuff is pretty cool.
So are we going to do blacksmith history first or the metal history first?
We'll do blacksmith history first, I think.
OK, I guess we got to look at the name, because if you if you look at other Smiths, they were a little more specific. They were called bronze Smiths. Blacksmiths are not called iron Smiths. No. Even though they work with iron. And most of the other Smiths were named for the metal that they work with. Silversmith that's a good one. Yeah. Good silversmith. Sure. It's worth their weight in gold.
Silver don't bring up gold those. Oh no, no. But black comes from well we're not positive. But one explanation is blacksmith comes from the hammer scale or the scales. If you're watching these videos you'll see when they're hamrin the stuff these little tiny, chunky, thin, not chunky actually just little chunks of thin scales are falling off every time they hammer. That's the hammer scale and it is black and your hands get all black and your face gets black.
Or it might have just been because iron is black. Typically it's pretty dark. It's dark enough, especially wrought iron. It's it tends to be black. So that's why they think one of those two reasons is where Blacksmith came from and the name Smith itself. We actually talk about this in our book that's coming out, you know, in the episode on Keeping Up with the Joneses. Oh, that's right. We talked about the chapter.
Yeah, yeah. The chapter in our book, we talk about how keeping up with the Joneses could have very easily been keeping up with the Smiths because the two names are so prevalent. And in fact, Smith is the most prevalent name in the United States and it's all derived from blacksmiths and just how many blacksmiths there were because every community needed one. And then if you were in a large enough community, you had multiple blacksmiths all working because one blacksmith had to do all this work to supply this one community with all this stuff.
And they could only keep up with a certain size community, you know.
Yeah. And if you had an on site thing that you were doing, you had a blacksmith with you. If you were out at war in battle, you had blacksmiths there because not only do they create these weapons and the armour, but they have to fix stuff. You know, after a long day of battle, you go in and trade in your sword and say, fix this thing. Yeah. And those Smithy's got to be working round the clock.
Yeah. And they have like apprentices and help and all that kind of stuff. But but yeah. I mean like the you get the impression that the community could come to a standstill when the blacksmith was sick for a week or something.
Yeah. And there were blacksmiths doing all kinds of work all over the place. So many that they eventually in this make sense would become a little more specialised. And horses were a big deal. And back then we'd still love horses today. But back then they did a lot more for humanity. They just look pretty and run around in fields now, right.
So they had to make horseshoes and it was a very specialized set of equipment for making horseshoes as opposed to just regular blacksmithing. So that was a very busy job. They were called farriers. And even when blacksmithing is a whole kind of went away, there were still farriers working because it's. Not like a shoe store where one size fits all, well, shoe stores aren't one size fits all, but. All right, it's very specific to your foot size or your hoof size as a horse.
So you can't just throw any old shoe that's close enough on there. You got to make them a la carte. Basically made them order, I think, in the fashion world. What's it called a pre-report bespoke?
Oh, yeah, that's the opposite of pre-report. And so Ferrier's continue to work for years and years and years. And I think there are people that still do Feria work today, aren't they?
Sure. Sure. Just to show off. Sure. But I guess you kind of spoiled the ending. Blacksmiths aren't really around much today because of of industrialization, but they were around there in Brooklyn, New York. Yeah, they are. For about 2000 years. They were extraordinarily important to society. But, you know, society was around for for a very long time before blacksmiths came around. So there's this this really important window in the historical development of of human society that blacksmiths, you know, existed in.
Prior to that, you know, we had tools, but they were mostly made of stone. And then at some point somebody said, hey, if you put tin and copper together, you can come up with stuff called bronze. And it's pretty great. You can make some pretty neat things with it.
And one of the things about bronze is that it has a fairly low melting point, something like seventeen hundred and forty two degrees Fahrenheit, nine hundred and fifty degrees Celsius, which you could get a hot campfire to that that temperature to melt melt into molten liquid bronze, which means that you can create casts and molds and you can pour that molten bronze into it. And as it cools, you've got a handy sword that you can make over and over and over again.
So Bronze fulfilled this purpose for tools for many thousands of years. So much so that and these medals were so important that we go back and call these historical ages by the name of the metal tools that were being produced. So you get the Bronze Age. And that was eventually followed by the Iron Age. And one thing that stuck out to me, Chuck, I hadn't realized before is that you think of history is progressing, you know, constantly.
Yeah, but the Bronze Age, even though it was followed by the Iron Age, the Iron Age marked a period of cultural decline where the Bronze Age, which had come previously, was a period of cultural blossoming. But for the first several centuries of the Iron Age, it was a step backwards. A lot of the classical or antiquity societies kind of crumble at about the same time, they think possibly because of climate change or mass droughts and starvation.
Kind of like the Maya.
Yeah. So it's not like the iron cause that. But iron like really good bronze is probably superior to iron in a lot of ways. I think iron is a little softer. It might rust a little quicker.
It depends on what kind of iron you have for sure.
Right. But the iron that they were using, basically they started using and you know, there's not like a demarcation line, then there is some overlap and no one knows exactly when the big switch happened, but it was cheaper and it was more readily available than bronze was. So they just started using iron, basically, and it surpassed bronze.
Yeah. The Greeks pin, a semi mythical group called The Challenges, who supposedly were absorbed by the Hittites in Anatolia in Turkey, and that they were the ones who figured out how to mine iron because originally there was iron stuff like King Tut was found with the dagger made of iron, and it would have been even more highly prized than anything made of gold in his entire tomb, because iron was so rare at that time, because the only source of iron on Earth, as far as humans knew, came in the form of meteorites.
So you define a meteorite above ground totally to find your deposit of iron. So making a dagger out of that would have been that would have been a very special dagger. And then eventually they say the Kalb's figured out. Now there's actually iron like in rock in the Earth. And people started figuring out that you could take that rock and heat it to some pretty high temperatures considering and hammer it. And you can hammer the other stuff out the ore out or hammer the iron from the ore.
And you have something approaching what you would consider iron, something called Bloom.
Yeah. So they just couldn't get the fire hot enough basically at first to get to the Iron Point. Right. But they could make it hot enough to get to the bloom and they would put it in an oven known as a blueberry and it would kind of just roast out. Those impurities had iron and slag, which is sort of a glass like byproduct that you you know, it's so funny that you just hammer that stuff out. But Bloomwood, eventually when they I mean, it worked, OK?
You could heat it up, you could hammer it, and it would get a lot of the slag out, and it was it was useful enough for tools.
But right when the blast furnace came around, when you really got larger furnaces and hotter fires that incorporated bellows to really get that oxygen in there and get it super, super hot, that eventually allowed them to get that or to pig iron. And pig iron was a pretty big advancement because from pig iron, you could hammer that slag out to eventually get to wrought iron. Right.
I want to give a shout out to Harold Smith, HRA Aldy. He wrote an intro to Iron Smelting that talks all about making Blum himself with pictures. It's pretty cool.
Let's check it out for sure. And the Webster helped us with this one, right?
Yeah, big time. Thank you, sir. But with pig iron, that was like it was like you said, like a pretty big change in that. Like you could suddenly make much pure iron because we had a much hotter furnace that we were working with. And the thing about pig iron is in very much the same way as Bloom. You've got to hammer out those impurities. And so to make pig iron into wrought iron, you would take this pig iron, which is pretty impure, heated up and hammer it with a sledge hammer over and over again.
Heat it, Hamara heat it, hammer very much the same processes bloom but at higher temperatures and producing a much pure iron. And then eventually you would have wrought iron. And they say that they figured out how to use water hammers like water powered hammers.
Yeah, in part because of the plague of the 13th century. It killed so many people that they didn't have the human power any longer that they needed to hammer pig iron. So it made people devise water hammers.
Yeah, water hammer, steam hammers.
You know, if you look at these videos today, these these people in there and their shops and their sheds behind their house have it looks like hydraulics, I guess, that are pounding this stuff.
And at first when I saw that I was disappointed. I was like, oh, man.
But that's just the big initial work.
Like, there's still tons of hammer work by hand because there are many, many there's a lot more to it than that initial hammering. Right. To get to the wrought iron stage.
But I was at first just like, oh, man. Well, I don't like swinging a hammer anymore right now. No, no. They're very smart. They don't need to swing a hammer.
Right. It's called Work Smarter, not harder. But there are traditionalists who are like, now you want to use a hammer. But so the different types of irons that that humans have come up with over the over the ages. And this is a really important point, I think we should point out here, just like blacksmithing and all of the information and knowledge in like ways of working with different types of iron, different techniques and actually coming up with different types of iron, all of that started with those people who figured out that you could take rock from the earth and hammer the iron out of it.
Yeah, and just more and more people over the ages as it spread and continue to be around for hundreds and thousands of years, all the people working with with metal contributed to that body of knowledge. Yeah.
And so that's I think one of the things that's so appealing about blacksmithing is that it is a genuine human technology that was created by humanity, you know, not just like a couple of people who had a really good idea. It was this this group of humans, countless humans, all working together over thousands of years, contributing to to one another's knowledge.
You create this body of knowledge that I think that's what makes it so neat to me, so cool and like such a brute way of doing it, you know, that was the finest comes in for sure. And maybe that's what I like about it. It's both like it's swinging the heavy hammer, but it's also doing this really beautiful, finless work later on in the project. Right. Really cool. Yeah. So if we're going to well, maybe let's take a break and then talk about the types of iron.
How about that.
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No foundation, no vision. No.
All right, we promise you talk of iron types, there's Iron Maiden. Sure. There's take your iron supplement. That's right. What there's really just Iron Maiden.
Yeah, I guess that's all. That's all you need to know.
Iron types, they're based on the carbon content of the iron. So if you hear wrought iron, you might just think that's like the cool thing that you're your stair case spindles are made out of.
They are not made of wrought iron. There are wrought iron anymore. At least they used to be back in the day. Yeah, but this is also called Bar Iron. It's about point eight I'm sorry, point 08, percent or less carbon. And this is sort of from what I saw back in the day, just the main iron that they would mainly use for the most part, the wrought iron.
Yeah, yeah. And the difference the big difference between rod iron and steel is that wrought iron has silicates in it. That kind of ends up is like these fibrous filaments that get hammered into order basically by the blacksmith from pig iron, which which gives it a certain structure with steel, steel, like you said, all types of iron ore basically based on their carbon content. Steel has a much higher carbon content than wrought iron does. And so it doesn't need to be hammered like wrought iron does because it doesn't have these iron silicates that need to be arranged just so or else it'll make it brittle instead because of this carbon in it.
It forms this kind of crystalline structure in the iron that makes it hard and durable, way harder and more durable than wrought iron. The problem is, is because that that durability and the strength and hardness, it makes it more difficult for a blacksmith to work with down the line than a wrought iron. But it's also a much more effective, say, battle axe than a wrought iron battle axe.
Yeah, and like you said, it's not what we use on our staircase isn't wrought iron these days. It's not wrought iron. And the production of that and like a big way went out and, you know, the twenty 20th century pretty much all together went out with this go, oh gosh, I wish it lasted until the 70s.
So one thing we should say also do, Chuck, is we tend to think of steel as like a modern invention. Steel was perfected in the modern times. It was like basically the thing that kicked off the Industrial Revolution, if you remember, from our Robber Barons episode.
But that's not to say that people weren't experimenting with steel long before that. It was just the scientific understanding of it was lacking. Instead, that was replaced by an intuitive understanding among blacksmiths of, you know, what fuel did, what to see, what to iron, to make it stronger. They weren't saying like, oh, if I use charcoal or Coke, it's going to make this a better steel than, say, you know, coal or something like that.
That's right. Then you've also got cast iron. If you have a a nice cast iron collection in your kitchen, it's going to be two percent carbon or more. It's very brittle. So you're not going to hammer cast iron. It is formed into shape by casting it. That's why it's called cast iron and use a mold while it's molten and put in there. And it's a great thing to cook with.
Yeah. And we would have never been able to make anything out of cast iron until those those bellows were introduced to the forge to to really bring that temperature up because you get a very high melting point.
Yeah. If you're going to pour it, it's got to be super, super hot and we'll get to these temperatures in the different kinds of hot later on, which is very interesting stuff.
Yeah. So we've got like the blacksmiths are working with this. They're figuring out that if you add like carbon or if you do this, like if you if you heat the iron to a certain temperature and then take it off and hammer it and then let it cool on its own, it's going to form one type of a finished product. If you do something what's called quenching it, which is cooling it down in a bucket of water and usually mineral oil, these days, it's going to cool differently.
So its structure is going to form differently. And again, they didn't they were passing this knowledge on, but they weren't using terms necessarily that we were using. Right. What's interesting to me is we use terms that they came up with, like quenching and slag and scale and that kind of stuff like those are all still very much around. And it makes sense. Still, even after having made the transition to industrialization, they still use words very much like that, if not those same words.
Now, do you mean quenching is in how a human might quench their own thirst? Um, kind of. Kind of. But rather than turning up a bucket of water and mineral oil, you would plunge the iron, the hot iron into that bucket of mineral oil and water.
That's right. Very cool stuff. So you making a joke that I just missed a reference? No.
OK, no, I didn't know. I didn't know if you were saying the etymology of the word quench was from smithing. Oh, maybe. And that when we quinter thirst, it's taken from that maybe it's possible. All right. No, I mean, might they think that the words might in Smith are from the same word, right?
Because Smite means very biblical meaning or not meaning. But these are loten Bible times to hit something, right? Yeah. To strike it to to to smite something. Right. And that's what a Smith does. Space. Should we talk about tools?
I think so. One of the cool things about blacksmiths is that they when you get good, you just start making your own tools.
That man, I need tools to make tools. Yeah. You got to start somewhere though, even. Yeah.
You got to lay down a little bit of money first. But I saw I saw this one blog post by a blacksmith who is like, look, if you're just starting out, just, you know, get the bare minimum stuff, get some used things, see if you like it first, and then eventually when you get good, you can invest a little money and then you can just start making your own stuff.
Right, which is very cool. I did see there was one YouTube video that was like I had to get going for less than 100 bucks. Oh, I'll bet. Yeah, it's very basic stuff. Yeah. So if you're going to be a Smithee, you're going to need some things. It might be less than one hundred dollars to start. You're going to need a forge, which is the heat. There are different kinds. You know, the one that I saw the this was sort of a I don't know if it's old timey, but it was actually using coal.
And that's very appealing to the eye.
If you're watching on YouTube, it seems like the backyard Smithey these days uses a a gas powered oven, a gas powered forge where they're using coal or charcoal because there's a big difference.
It was coal. OK, I didn't know much about charcoal until this. We'll talk about it later.
But it seems like these days the gas powered. Yeah, forge is kind of what you use. They're not very big.
It's sort of like a double size of a breadbox, because when you're making something you're not making you're not building a car out of iron, you're making a tool, you're making a a dagger or an axe head like they're all kind of small, something you can just sort of stick in there. You're going to have your anvil. Very key, very key piece. Yeah, you're going to have a lot of other tools for like the more finesse work grinders and files and stuff like that, and you can have a nice collection of hammers, of course.
Yeah, you definitely there's different hammers for different things. And like we said, you know, hammering pig iron in the wrought iron. People don't do that these days. So you're not using a sledgehammer. And so using like a little more finesse and precision to to kind of strike what's called the workpiece. Whatever you're working on is called the workpiece. That's one thing that really stood out to me watching some of these blacksmith videos is like these guys do not miss at least if you're at the level where you're doing close ups of your work on video and posting them to YouTube, you don't your hammer is not missing.
It's going exactly where you want it to every time, which is pretty cool, too. It is.
But I also and this is not to knock the Smithy's, it seems like a bit of a forgiving craft and art. Sure. So where you can sort of like if something didn't if you did strike it and it kind of did something you didn't quite like, you can change that, right? You can restrike it. You can reheat it. Yeah, sure. There's a lot of trial and error involved when you're first getting started. You know, first.
Yeah, I'm sure, too. And then, you know, you keep advancing, you're figuring out new techniques and all that kind of thing. But like you're saying, the anvil is it's it's pretty neat. Like, I didn't realize all the different parts to it. Like anybody who's seen a Wile E. Coyote cartoon can recognize an anvil until you probably draw one from memory and you'd probably be pretty close. And that's a pretty accurate image of what an anvil does.
But all the little different details from like the point on the front to the feet of it, all of those serve this this kind of group of purposes that come up pretty frequently in blacksmithing.
Yeah. So the anvil is super heavy.
It is very hard. Obviously, you don't want the anvil itself to be dented or start falling apart when you're swinging this heavy hammer on metal, on this thing or on iron. And so you also want it so it doesn't like just absorb the hammer blows too. So it's got to be the right amount of hardness. Can't be broken, can't be shattering. You've got a horn on the front. You talked about the pointy thing. Yeah. That's what's on the front of it.
And usually and all the animals I saw when I looked him up to buy one just to have although they were way too expensive, it's got a little dip right before the horn where the horn juts out. So the horn is.
Yeah, the horn isn't exactly level with the regular base of the anvil. It's down just a bit. And that and it's not by accident. That's very much one of the big uses of the horn is that little stepdown.
Yeah, that's one of the neat things about Anvil's is like each little detail has a purpose, a larger purpose that's hidden until you understand what you're looking at or what it does. What about those holes? There's like two holes in every anvil.
Pretty much one's around in one square in the round one is called a spiritual hole. And it is basically a hole so that you can punch holes into whatever work piece you're working on. I saw that if you're punching a hole, you actually want to punch it on the face of the anvil, which is the top. You punch it on one side, almost all the way through, flip it over, punch it on the other side, almost all the way through, and then you move it to the hole.
And then that's when you you widen it to the shape you want. So it just allows you to punch a hole all the way through without harming the face of your anvil.
That was one of my favorite parts of the video I saw because that was where the axe had hole went, where you would, you know, put the axe handle.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So I was like, how are you going to do that? And just to see it happen in front of your eyes, it was it was pretty awesome.
Then what's the other hole. The hardy hole. Yeah, the hardy hole is actually square with the D Yes.
Yeah. Yes. It's not hard see because it's very tough, although it is very tough. Sure.
But it is a square hole which sounds counterintuitive, but it's not. And you can put tools in there that allow you like you might stick something in there and then use that to then bend the hot iron around to make different bends and cuts and shapes and things.
Yeah, I saw this one tool in a couple of different videos that fit the hardy whole the hardy holes, almost like a Dremel tool. Right. So there's all these different things you can put in that that square. Yeah. Yeah. Hold that hold in place. But the difference between them is what, what tool is attached to that square peg. That's right. Square peg. Square square peg. That's right.
And one of the ones that I saw looked like a tuning fork. It's like two rods that are very close together. I saw that. And you could put like a hot workpiece in between them and then, you know, bend it so you can make like an asshole gets used for like very tight, creating very tight curves in the workpiece.
Yes. Very, very cool. Yeah. You got to have your tongs. Oh, I don't think we should have mentioned to the anvil. It's not it doesn't have a sharp edge. Like the edge all the way around, the main work base of the anvil is a little bit round. Mm hmm. Because, you know, if you've got something super sharp and you're hammering away, it's going to make a little creases in the iron. You know what?
I think the step is the sharpest edge of the whole thing between the horn in the face, the top of.
Yeah, I think that's where you need it to be sharp. One other thing I saw that that I thought was really interesting is when you buy an anvil, you want to actually fit it to a block of wood. And traditionally people use like a good tree stump of wood that doesn't split very easily. And like, man, you you fasten it to that wood, that tree stump, and then you bury the tree stump whenever you can, about three feet into the ground so that the the anvil becomes part of the tree stump, becomes part of the ground.
Yeah. So it distributes that extra energy that that gets lost rather than back up at you down to the ground where it's absorbed, which I just find absolutely fascinating. But you make it so well fastened to the stump that the stump the air will become basically one.
Yeah, it's like the anvil is essentially connected to the earth at that point. So nice to just man, just keep thinking a Thor and Led Zeppelin.
I know all the things J are talking. Yeah. Yeah. The Smithey. You got to have those tongs and these are not like grill tongs that you have on your back porch. These are those big thick metal iron that they look like, like, like gussied up nail clippers almost. Mm hmm. And that's what you're going to use to put stuff in the in the forge in that fire. Pull it out. It's funny here that says that pretty much no one wears gloves.
I didn't see that. I saw plenty of videos with people wearing gloves. I saw both and I saw some where they did. And I guess sometimes if you're working really near the heat, you might want your gloves on, but you might also want to have the hand feel during that finesse work.
Yeah, because and I think it's worth saying one more time that that that forge where the fire is. It's I mean, it is very small. I saw as little as like a six by six inch like little area of extraordinarily intense heat.
So it's a small area of heat, but the heat that is there is so hot it can turn iron white hot.
So, yeah, you want to not get too close to it. And even when you're wearing tongs, it's smart to wear gloves from what I saw. Yeah.
We never really talk much about the fuel said these days. They power it with gas mainly back in the day. Back in the day they would use charcoal. That was the first thing. And charcoal, apparently, if you're, you know, going to be a Brooklyn hipster, you want to work with charcoal because that is the superior product and the superior superior fuel.
But it's really messy and wasteful. It's very wasteful. It's expensive. A lot of it takes a lot of wood to make charcoal. So then coal comes rolling around and there was a lot of coal and it was super cheap and they had to kind of rebuild their forges. But coal, even though it has some impurities like sulfur and stuff in there, they basically kind of made the big switch to coal at a certain point in time.
Yeah. And even better is if you can get your hands on Coke, which is a derivative of coal, just like charcoal is a derivative of wood, it's just wood with the sap in the water burned out. It's a really energy dense form of it. Coke is the same thing with coal. It's got the impurities generally burned out. So it's in pure energy dense form of of coal. But both of them play a really important role and that they produce really high temperatures.
But they also introduce a lot of that carbon that gets absorbed into the iron at those high temperatures, which produces better, harder, stronger steel.
Can you cook with that stuff? Can you cook with Coke? Cook with coke? Sure. I don't know, like in a in a tomato soup like egg type cooker.
I don't know. That's one thing that I saw in one of these blog posts about different types of fuel. I think it was like the no, but they spelled out the word B.S., which I'm not going to see here go because they're they're blacksmiths. The the the no B.S. guide to different kinds of fuel. They said one of the things to consider is what kind of environmental impact is your fuel having. Right. So that's a good question. If you're like, I'm not sure I should be cooking with this.
Don't forget, you're going to be in a small, enclosed room that your blacksmith shop with that same stuff. And you probably have a pretty high efficiency chimney, but some of it's still coming back. So that's definitely a consideration to think of your own health and the health of Mother Earth. Who is absorbing the blows from your Annville?
That's right. You do need good ventilation in your workshop, eye protection. Sometimes if you really want to kick it old school, you might have one of those leather aprons like Leatherface and then you're Quink.
You know, we talked about quenching. It's called a quencher quench bucket, and that is the bucket with the water. And like you said, sometimes mineral oil these days where you'll plunge it in there, just like on TV and in movies. When it makes that great steamy sound and the steam rises everywhere and they pull out a beautiful battleaxe or longsword.
Yeah, apparently so it's not that surprising when you consider Sammara, but the Japanese are really, really good at creating high carbon steel blades. Yeah, and there is one guy named Goro Goro who is like, well, widely considered the greatest Japanese swordsmith of all time from back in the 13th century. So he can throw together a katana. No problem. No problem.
We take a break. Yeah. All right. We're going to take a break and talk a little bit about and get quite a bit wrong. Probably about. Technique's right after this.
No foundation, no vision. No.
All right, let the parade of misinformation begin. You know, these worry me more than other episodes that we do when it's something very technical and very specific because these guys make battle axes. Yeah. And it's any time it's a very specific craft or something that you haven't done like we haven't done. Right. You can research it and watch videos and do your best, but until you've actually done it, you can't get it 100 percent right.
So I will say, though, the videos help Tremendo for sure if this is even remotely interesting to you. And hopefully it is if you're you know, this many minutes, 33 minutes or so into this podcast, that is go watch some videos. There's a bunch of them on there. And I think you're going to be like, oh, OK. I get what they were saying. Oh, that makes sense. Forging a bearded bat, forging a bearded X.
That's the one I've got one black bear forge, this giant man, the giant beard, a tiny little leather cap. And his name is BlackBerry four. Adorable. Yeah, he he the video I watched is called Scarf Theory and Making Change, which we'll talk about that in a minute.
But it's just amazing.
It's so cool. And like you said, I don't want to do it. I want to have a friend that does it. I want to go over to their house. Yeah. And watch them do it, like let's see if we can get John Hodgman into it.
Hodgeman. Although he's got very strong forearms, he does freakishly like Popeye. All right, so here's some of the techniques. What you're doing, if you're a Smithee, is you are shaping hot metal. That's what it comes down to.
And this is where the temperature of the metal comes, becomes really important because certain metals have to be at certain temperatures to do certain things these days. Like I said, if you've got your your gas powered forge, you can set that baby on whatever exact temperature you want. And it's not quite as it's still very impressive.
But back in the day when they were using coal and charcoal, there was, I feel like much more intuition and trial and error and actually looking at the color, the color temperature because the metal will turn different colors at different temperatures. Right.
So there's white, hot, orange, hot, yellow, hot, red, hot, different kinds of gradients of orange and yellow and white, too. There's glowing white, which is the hottest.
There's just those aren't just expressions. People say no.
And that's again, that's an homology etymology of of of blacksmith lingo. Basically, that has made it into white hot. Yeah. Like red hot.
Those abs of yours are white hot. Oh wait. Those are different. Different episode. Yeah that's right.
So and but apparently blue white hot is the the hottest of all. But you don't typically see that in blacksmithing. White hot is about as hot as you get.
And how hot is white hot. White hot from what I saw was twenty five hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit which is super high in Celsius. OK, yellow I think is just below that. Yeah. And then you've got orange. Right.
And then you've got llamo red hot which is so lame, which is only fourteen hundred degrees.
Seven hundred and sixty Celsius. You can't do anything with red hot now you can draw some very like very limited stuff.
But at that point the iron is, is, I mean it'll probably bend a little bit. I saw um good old Black Bear Forge was making some chain with what looks to be red hot iron at the time. OK, and he was been it pretty good. But I mean, I'm not the best judge of color.
He's making chain. Yes, I'm just going to I'm not going to wait any longer. This guy made a chain, a length of chain, a perfect each length was exactly the size of the last.
He was making them like in threes and then connecting those three to other 3s. And he was using the horn.
Chuck, are you just about to satisfy Max or something? Now it's just so satisfying it it touches these parts of my body. You know, it's not sexual at all. Right? You know, I'm saying, oh, I know what you're saying.
It's it's I know exactly what you mean.
Although I haven't seen it. You never know what might happen. Right. But this guy. So, you know, the horn of the anvil, right? Oh. Do I think he would make like he would he would bend the chain initially on kind of like a thick about the middle part of the horn and then he would bend it even further, moving it a little up the horn in this case, just so expertly put it exactly where he needed it to be.
I think one of the things I like about Black Bear Forge guy is that he doesn't seem the least bit pretentious and pretty sure he lives in Minnesota. He's he's not wearing his little leather cap. Ironically, like he just he seems very helpful. He was born in the camp videos to help. Yeah, I do think you might be right. And with a white beard. A baby born with a white beard as well. Well, when you watch this bearded X thing, what this guy does is he starts with a block of iron and then eventually makes an axe head.
But he's hammering this thing out. He's using this little rolling tool and hammering that as he's kind of rolling it forward. And it's almost like kind of reminded me of baking, like the way you would use a rolling pin to smooth out dough. And then when it came time to actually make the the sharp part, I guess what he was doing was forge welding. And we're kind of jumping around. But this is one of the techniques and it's also called fire welding.
And that's when you combine different grades of iron and steel and you're joining these things together in multiple shapes together. I think that's what was going on, because what he did, he had this acid and the sharp part, he split.
And I was like, well, dude, what kind of an axe is that? That's crazy looking.
I thought he messed up, but then he put some other kind of metal in between and would use this. And from what I gather, it's where is it flux? Is that what it is?
Flux. Yeah, like sanded. It looks like sand. Well, it was in a bottle and it looked like a little sandy chemical. So I guess that's what it was. And he would heat it up and then spray this stuff on it and hammer it together, heated up, spray some of this and hammer it until that metal becomes one. And the really bright, you know, the super specific metal that he needed for the sharp axe blade was melded with the rest of that iron where you couldn't even tell.
It's just like they became one with one another.
He was probably reinforcing the axe head with a stronger, a stronger type of iron, totally slightly different carbon content. And then the outside was a harder kind. So it resisted surface deformities. But the interior stuff was was strength was strong. So it resisted breaking, probably. But he was making these two one I saw a black bear forge's do the same thing with the chains. He was he was using a scarf weld where you make one and angled and then you make the other and that it's going to join to angled in the opposite direction.
So they kind of fit tightly together and then he would heat it up and hammer it together and it just became one. But he used Flux as well. And from what I could tell, when you use flux like sand or borax, I think is something you can use. It prevents that joint from oxidizing, which makes it a stronger a stronger joint, a stronger seem rather than kind of a compromise seam.
Yeah, and it was also interesting to see how this guy would sometimes that block was out for quite a long time of hammering and shaping and hammering and shaping.
And then it looked like when he got into a little more detailed work as it became an axe head, he would he would put it in the fire and he would turn around very quickly and start hammering. You could tell he wanted to do it very fast and he would hammer it for like ten seconds and then put it right back in the fire. Yeah. And then pull it out and really fast for ten seconds. So whatever he was doing at that point required a super, super, super hot piece of what you call it, Gramp's Workpiece.
Yeah, but I mean, so most most blacksmiths you'll notice in their shops, they set the forge in the envelop within just twisting distance like you're standing in one place, moving from one to the other so that you can lose as little as possible.
When you transfer it out of the fire, you walk across your shop. No, you don't stop and make a sandwich or anything.
There's also drawing which is drawing that metal out into a longer, thinner shape. You might be shaping something into a rod or a block into a blade like I saw.
And that sort of it's sort of lengthening it without flattening it out. Right. Because you can also flatten it. That's another thing that's called peening. Yeah.
There's also offsetting, which is the opposite of drawing where you shorten the length of iron or steel. Right. By hammering it. And that's what happens when you make a nail, which you want to talk about making nails here. Yeah.
I mean, we kind of mentioned earlier, you know, the the foundation. I mean, there were things that were built with dovetail joints and corncobs to keep log logs together. And there were technologies like that. But if you really want to talk about the building of of the world, you got to talk about iron nails and how many millions and millions and millions of iron nails that were made in the world by hand by people.
Yeah, I mean, before industrialization, they were all made by hand. And it's apparently harder to make them than you would think. I watched a video by a blacksmith named Nick Kimball on Instructables, and I guess his brother writes for Instructables and interviewed him. And he's like a blacksmith at one of the colonial model farms. Yeah. Think maybe Mount Vernon, they didn't say. So he looks like it, too. He looks like a cool dude, but he he showed how to make a nail and he says he can make one minute in.
This guy's an advanced blacksmith, like he has a job as a blacksmith. That's how advanced this guy is in the 21st century. And he can make he can make one a minute. Apparently, blacksmiths of yore could make ten to a dozen of them a minute. And it's very involved. Like it's you would you actually have to make the tool first to make to make the nails. So you take an iron bar, flatten that, punch a hole in it using your Pritzl hole in a punch, and then you take a nail rod, little strips of of the iron that's going to be nails heated up, hammer a shoulder into it on the edge of the anvil so that there's like it's, it's narrower at the in the for the bulk of it and then up top it just kind of is a little wider and boxy and then you put it into the whole of the tool that you made and then you heat it up and you hammer the head a bunch of times to flatten it.
That's what you have to do to make one single nail. And some blacksmiths in the days of yore could make a dozen of those in a minute. That's how good they were at it. Unbelievable.
I would have charged so much for nails. It would have been astronomical.
I would have been like, no, I will. You'll like let's make you some chain mail instead. What do you need nails for? Let's do something cool. And they'd say, know, I need to build a second story in my house. I'd be like, all right, it's going to cost you the nail.
Yeah. The Josh Clark special, because it would not be fun to make nails for sure now.
But boy, they made a lot of them did. There are also some other techniques. There's bending. We've kind of already talked about when you're creating curves and things, if you've mentioned the staircase irons, how they're how they're twisted around, that is done with a square bar, which is a bar with a square hole in it, and that's placed over a square rod of hot iron. And then you turn that square, you basically sort of like that dremel you were talking about.
You stick that hot thing into the hole and you twist it around and you create those little twists.
Yeah, I mean, every time it's a blacksmith tradition, you say Ebola.
You get anything else? I don't have anything else.
It's just I know we got stuff not quite right, but hopefully the Smithy's hopefully our enthusiasm won them over.
Yeah. Let's hope so. Are they're coming. Our ignorance, the they're also there's like a ton that we didn't talk about. It's a really I mean this is a countless human thousands of year long body of knowledge and we just try to do in 45 minutes and failed at that. But there's a lot to it. So if you're interested in it, go, go check it out. At the very least, go watch some videos. And since I say go watch some videos, everybody, it's time for Listener Mail.
I'm going to call this Olympic torch bearer, OK?
Hey, guys, I was a torch bearer for the Winter Olympics and it was a lot of fun. The amount of logistical coordination that went into it was incredible. I was told four months in advance when down to the minute I'd be carrying the little torch and it wasn't off by more than a few.
Actually, a guy came to our hotel with a bunch of toys, vehicles and action figures and modeled exactly what would happen. That's so cool.
I had to be reminded by my handlers to ensure that I kept it very high, high enough so as to not light my head on fire.
The torch is pretty light, but fairly top heavy. I'm sure we were wearing mittens to make it impossible for any of us to make any finger gestures, even accidentally, that could be seen by the world on the live feed. Did you think about that?
Yeah, one term you didn't use that. I thought you'd appreciate when one torch bearer passes the flame to another.
It's called the torch kiss. We went through training and practice just this part on the street. We did a little dance after we kissed and then I and whoever just finished got back on the bus. As you mentioned, a guy took my torch and extinguished it right afterward. And since it was still hot, they started in Iraq on the bus. When we got back to the starting point, they removed the fuel cell and gave it back to me, broke it in half.
And that is for Matt Jones. We had a quite a nice little exchange about this. He said he did get it through work, but he was not a C level executive. He won it through a drawing at his work.
Oh, that's that's totally great. Yeah, that's great. He might as well have gotten it from contributing to society. This is great, man. I've got to thanks for that, Matt. Also, I knew it was called the kiss. I thought I said it was the kiss and if I left that out, that drives me crazy, man. When there's a fact that I know that I failed to put into the podcast, that somebody then comes and said, you left out this really awesome fact.
And I just dropped to my knees like the Liberty Mutual guy in the elevator and go, no, you know how much that bothers me when that have.
To me, how much fun, man, it's like it'll ruin my week, my week's just toast now thanks to Matt, there's the difference between you and I.
Well, if you want to ruin my week and have a neutral effect on Chuck's week, maybe even make it more positive. You can email us.
Go ahead and type it out after that. Wrap it up after that spanker on the bottom and then send it off to Stuff podcast that I heart. Radio dot com.
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In this time of pandemic and revolution, do you find yourself frustrated at high levels of corruption and inequality at our inability to get basic things done at the persistence of systemic racism? You're not alone.
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