Blacksmiths Slate

When making something to a specific size, you often have to follow a pattern. But a normal paper pattern will catch on fire. So you need a slate.

Any piece of rusty sheet metal 10-12″ a side will work for most patterns. Put chalk dust on the back of your pattern, then trace the pattern onto the slate with a blunt pencil. The rust acts as a dark background for the light chalk.

Note that I said rusty, so no aluminum (won’t rust), stainless (shouldn’t rust), or galvanized (will poison you if it gets too hot).


Now like a bone head I forgot to wet my fresh metal and now I don’t have time before class. So I’m using gun blue instead. The metal is already clean, so I just need to apply it.

Make sure you dry and oil it afterwards so it doesn’t rust… um well I guess that doesn’t matter in this case.

Next I docked the sharp corners using my trusty old harbor freight shear.

It’s a bit floppy, so I used brake to bend up one edge. (Could do two or even all four, but even one helps a lot.)

Then I closed the seam with a small anvil and brass mallet. I want it nice and tight so my metal will lie flat on the slate.

The corners still bug me, so belt sander time. (Files would work too.)

Cool. Now I just need to blue it again because I scratched it all up with the anvil. Next time, bluing goes last.

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Thibault on Reach with Shoulder vs Wrist Cuts

In this illustration from Thibault (chapter 1, figure F) you can see the difference in reach between a wrist cut and a cut from the shoulder.


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Class Outline for Sunday, Jan 6

This is a tentative outline. Due to the rain, we may have to cancel tomorrow’s class.

2 PM: Directed Sparring

April it out of town, so in lieu we’ll have some light sparring to get the blood pumping. Intensity will vary by the participant’s skill and comfort level.

2:30 PM: dall’Agocchie: Parries from Coda Lunga Stretta (Sidesword)

This begins a comprehensive look at the defensive actions you can use when standing in Coda Lunga Stretta. As you go through these drills in class, think about how you would apply these techniques to other guards.

Handouts will be provided.

3:30 PM: L’Ange Rapier Chapters 4 thru 7

As promised, this is a repeat of the foundational techniques we discussed just before our winter break.

Time permitting, we’ll add a disengage and attack on the outside.

4:30 PM: Meyer Dagger Second Parry from Oberhut

For those wanting a little more exercise, we will continue our introduction to the rondel dagger.

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Class Outline for Sunday, Dec 16

I’ve been asked that we offer more structure to our classes. With that in mind, I’ve prepared a formal lesson plan for tomorrow. Participation in this lesson plan is optional. There will be four sections, and you are welcome attend as few or as many as you wish. And anyone not participating in this lesson plan is free to work on whatever other material they are interested in.

Handouts will be provided for all 4 sections.

2 PM: Mair Short Staff 1

Since there are no Pilates today, we will warmup with some staff exercises. This begins promptly at 2 so try not to be late.

Then for our play we will look at the “The First Two Upper Bindings from the Right Side”. In this exercise we look at how Fülen (feeling) works with crossed staves.


2:30 PM: Fiore Longsword First Remedy Master

We’ll begin with cuts with an offline step. The emphasis will be on foot placement and stability.

Then we’ll look at the offline parry with careful attention to the wrist. We’ll also look at parries that are high on the blade vs those that meet in the middle.

Though the word Fülen is German, it still exists in the Italian systems as well. So we’ll see how Fiore introduces the concept in the First Remedy Master. In conjunction with this, well see a basic dui-tempi (two time or two action) parry and cut, which mutates into a thrust. (This was taught to me by Mr. Stokes, so I will endeavor to do it justice.)

We’ll also look at a Zucken (Pulling or Twitching) cut to the other side.

Time permitting, we’ll add in a little Zucken trick from Meyer that fits with this overall play.

3:30 PM: L’Ange Rapier Chapters 4 thru 7

In L’Ange we’ll begin our exploration of the rapier by discussing measure and how to safely gain it. As with the offline parry we saw in Fiore, we’ll be gaining control of the opponent’s blade by taking the point slightly offline. This needs to be done in a manner that allows us to quickly bring the point back online for a thrust.

The book chapters are 4 Near and Wide Measure, 4/5 Gaining the Sword, and 7a, the first thrust in Quarta.

[This lesson is foundational will be repeated next week.]

4:30 PM: Meyer Dagger First Parry from Oberhut

For our last half hour we return to the offline parry we saw in Fiore, only modified for the use of daggers. Again we’ll be focusing more on the structure of the body than the parry itself.


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Coppersmithing a Coaster Part 2

Same 3 1/2″ starting disk.

This time I used a 3″ steel round, 3″ high, as the form. I trued it up in a lathe and then used a file to put a radius on the corner. The radius is vital when using a steel form, as it would otherwise cut into the metal. (When using the wood form, the sharp corners are going to mush anyways.)

I pre-bent the disk again. This really helps with centering because the slot bending tool is cut to the depth we want for the bend.

I only had to anneal the copper twice this time. The steel form really sped up the forging process and with more practice I might even get it down to a single heat.

Again I trued up the edge of the coaster using wet sandpaper over a steel plate. Glass or granite would have been better, but I have steel.

I then pickled the metal using vinegar in a crock pot, followed by a good scrubbing with Boraxo and a Scotch-Brite pad. Be really careful to not touch the metal with your bare hands after this point. The oil on your fingers can interfer with the patina.

I used Sculpt Nouveau smart stain. This is not a real patina, more like an ink.

In theory you can put it on cold with the spray bottle it comes in, but the spray bottle is crap and left a thick, uneven spatter instead of a mist.

After re-pickling the metal to remove the failed patina I tried again using the “warm” method. This time I heated the metal to 350 degrees on a hot plate before applying the patina (again, really a stain or ink) with an acid brush.

Looks good I think, but bits of the brush stuck to the metal. In fact, I think they melted on.

Lessons Learned

  • 3″ rounds from my metal supply house are not cut square. They are almost square, but that’s not good enough.
  • A Chinese mini-lathe can support a 3″ cylinder in the four jaw chuck, but it’s a pain in the ass to center it. Since neither the top and bottom are perpendicular to the sides, it has to float in the jaws. This means dealing with up/down, left/right, and the angles when trying to center.
  • I could really use a larger 3-jaw chuck. It would have eliminated half my setup issues.
  • Steel forms kick ass. I may focus my limited blacksmithing time on making more forms for coppersmithing. Especially stakes, which I don’t see making any other way.
  • 350F is NOT warm when it comes to stains and patinas. Rereading the instructions, “warm” is only 120F and “hot” is 180 to 220F.

Copper Coaster 2

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Coppersmithing a Coaster Part 1

Started with a 3.5″ disk. Started the bend with a bending tool (think metal bar with a slot), then cold forged it over a wood form to 2 7/8″ inside diameter.

In theory the edges are thicker than the base metal, but I don’t have a way to accurately measure it.

Lesson’s learned:

  • a 3″ hole saw doesn’t give you a 3″ wood form. 3″ is the diameter of the hole, not the slug.
  • don’t go crazy with the pre-bending or you’ll introduce a lot of wrinkles that take forever to fix
  • hit it like you are planishing, not forging. Lots of rapid taps move the metal, heavy blows just bend it

Copper Coaster 1

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Super Quench Formula for Mild Steel

This is used to harden mild steel (up to 45-50 points of carbon) by rapidly quenching it.

We use it for ad hoc tools. This will not work for hot cuts, as the thin edge will temper quickly and lose its hardness. Heavier tools such as fullers and cold tools such as center punches work well. (Though they are not as good as tool steel equivalents.)

Not for use with high carbon/tool steel. This cools the metal so quickly that high carbon steel will shatter.


  • 5 gallons water
  • 5 lbs salt
  • 28oz bottle of Dawn blue dish washing detergent
  • 8oz bottle of JetDry or other rinse aid.

Do NOT reduce the total quantity, you need the heat capacity from using a large bucket.

Store in a sealed container to avoid evaporation. When the mixture turns yellow/green, it is used up and you need to make a new batch.


  1. Mix thoroughly, but gently so you don’t form bubbles.
  2. Heat metal to critical temperature
  3. Submerge immediately and keep in constant motion. If the metal doesn’t “scream” it wasn’t hot enough.
  4. Rinse immediately to avoid flash rusting. Then oil if appropriate.
  5. Do not temper. Any tempering at all will remove the hardness.


Super Quench was invented by Rob Gunter of Los Alamos Laboratory after they banned the use of sodium hydroxide as a quenchant.

More information:

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