Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fly Press Tooling

Posted: December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

It has been a busy summer and fall. We have been working on wildfires and prescribed burning projects, but things have finally calmed down enough to get some metal work done. I am making texturing dies for the fly press, mainly from 1045 medium-carbon shafting – 1″ round bar.

Most of the dies are worked hot, and then finished on a metal lathe. Others are done completely on the lathe. Most of these tools will be used on hot metal.


These were cut with the lathe, and then hardened using a brine quench.


Some are hand-filed or cut on the lathe and then forged.97




The flower is built from rods and hand-filed. Negative was faced on lathe.99

Next step – using these for some projects.


Fly Press

Posted: February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

We just got a new tool set up in the shop. It is a 1930s Norton Fly Press, made in England.
We are using it to make tooling, and will be using it to forge hot and cold iron.
Here are a few first experimentations using it to form blocks of hot steel into rounding dies, and a make hot-cut hardy chisel from a jackhammer bit.

Some tooling that we’ve made for it so far:

One of my favorite things about springtime in Chico is knowing that our wild Chinook Salmon are making their way up our local creeks.

I met the fish in the late 1990s when my friend Eric – who was living in Helltown, in Butte Creek Canyon – got me surveying work in the Upper Butte Creek Watershed. He invited me over to his place to swim with the fish, and I have never been the same since.


Poolfull of Spring Run Chinook, 15 miles from Chico.


The fish navigate the crazy hydrology that is the Sacramento Valley, swimming thru the Golden Gate and SF Bay, thru the Delta and up the Sacramento River, turning right into a canal that parallels a huge flood control bypass, past some gates that spill Butte Creek into a different part of the Sac. River near Colusa, thru duck clubs in swamps near the Sutter Buttes, between levees through rice fields South of Durham, over cobblefields leftover from hydraulic mining and gold dredging, and then into the tranquility and shade of Butte Creek Canyon.


Some old friends have a place in Helltown overlooking the pool where the top two photos were taken, and over the years, they have introduced hundreds of people to the fish, and done an enormous amount of lobbying, politicing, and activism to help improve the odds for the fish. They asked if I could make them a metal Chinook Salmon and matching address sign for their place, and I finally had time this week to finish the project.




Holding in the Shade

Pectoral Fin


Wanted the sign to match the fish



Industrial scrap, with reflective road sign surpus that I found years ago at a fabulous crafting store in Durham, North Carolina



Hammered scrap pipe


Texture from custom punches


Bullet holes for local flavor


Picked up some industrial scrap in the form of discs that are left over when holes are laser-cut into plate steel. I wanted to make a candle holder/altar that can hold 3 large candles, so I made a couple of dies for the treadle hammer to use to shape the hot discs into bowl shapes.



Final product




I had another unfinished piece that was the result of an experiment to hot-twist multiple bars of steel rod and rebar using an impact wrench, so I cut that in half, and untwisted the open end to make a sort of tree candelabra.


The top candleholder was sort of a ‘happy mistake’. I heated a 2.5″ disc and used punches and a ball peen hammer to texture it, then heated it again and used a large ball peen under the treadle hammer to press it down into a cut-off piece of 2″ pipe. It wanted to fold along the textured edge, and I love the way it worked itself out.



Wasn’t happy with the clunky welds where the base meets the stem, so I added roots with a MIG welder and they looked like – welds… So I ground them down, like them much better. The grinding pops out the decorative punchwork, too.





New Fire Hose Tool Bags

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

Just made a couple of fire hose tool bags for our friend Dave Richer at Earthen Iron. They do ornamental metalwork and custom forgings, and need to lug a bunch of hammers, chisels, and clunky tools around to their various jobsites, and the old milk crate wasn’t cutting it anymore.

We made them two 6×20″ bags out of indestructible fire hose that nest inside of their rolling tool chest. One bag is going to be used for hammers and punches, the other for small tools. The small-tools bag has pockets for pens, small chisels, and bits.

These bags are 99% recycled. The only new material in them is the thread. $80/apiece or 2 for $150. Email us.


Even though steel prices are high and lots of old stuff is getting melted down to make new, poorly-made Chinese crap, there is a lot of good, high-quality tool steel around, and we are looking for ways to recycle it into tools and art.

I have been lucky to spend some time in some great metalworking shops this year, and have learned a lot from the generous people in these photos.


A jig for clamping hot metal in a post vise at an angle so you can work it hands-free – @Earthen Iron


David searching for a part in his van-based storage system


A kitchen knife we made from part of an old sawmill blade with a baseball-bat ash handle

Somewhere in South Chico

Consignment auction in Chico

Old iron in Portland

Dave Richer and Anthony at Earthen Iron bending up a custom stair railing for a hair salon.
I like the scaled-out template on the concrete floor

Their finished product

Forging night at Earthen Iron

Dave and Brent Bailey at the coal forge

Metalworkers social

Heavy sculpture in progress at Earthen Iron

Some basic tools

Preparing an exhaust hood for our forging area from reclaimed nut-drying ductwork

Starting point of a coal forge blower rebuild, c. 1901.

Champion Forge Blower guts, just needed some oil, cleaning, and $5 worth of loose 1/4″ bearings.

Champion Forge Blower frame and tuyere, it needed new legs

A new burner for the forge, some sort of old hub.

Nena Creasy, Klamath River metal sculptress

A collage

There’s a heart in there

Hand forged hooks in Nena and Max’s kitchen

The beginnings of a firepan for the coal forge, an International Truck wheel and hub.

Firepan, step 2. a custom base plate to fit it on the tuyere of the original blower.

Anthony texturing straps for gate hinges on the power hammer

Oak chair parts > forging hammer handle

Rake becomes pound-in key hooks

Richer’s gas forge

Rake becomes key hook or cellphone shelf

Anthony laying out a railing

Firepan, step 3

The refurbished forge, complete

Forge, in action

First tool out of the new coal forge

Hatchet made from old hammer head

J. and David Irle, South Chico, with 58 years of accumulated materials

Anthony and Dave at the forge. There has been a blacksmiths shop on this property since the late 1800s.

Anthony practicing his decorative twists on an old railroad spike

Looks about right

Improvised anvils were getting old

Broken anvil found in a junkyard and purchased by the pound. Made in England in the 1800s.

The broken top cleaned up well, and without the missing tail, it still weighs 200#

Got a 24″ Valley Oak stump from an arborist friend to put it on, together they weigh about 500#

Decorative twists in railroad spikes

Drawknives made from car leaf springs

Handles from an old axe handle, ferrules from 3/4″ copper pipe couplers


New-Old Xtracycle Bag

Posted: April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

Just finished a four-year-old project.

I started on a pair of leather bags for my bike back in 2009, but somehow only ended up finishing one of them. The basic panel for this one sat in a milk crate under a spare industrial sewing machine motor and some other hemp Xtracycle panels that we cut in 2011(?)

I think that reason that I only made one back in 2009 was that these bags are deceptively complicated, and the first one took so long. I forget about this until somebody finds a picture of one of our bags online and sends me a custom order like this one. Then I say that I can do it for $200 and it takes me 20 hours. Man, they are a lot of work.

I was feeling it yesterday, though, and had a little time in the shop with Penny Lee and KZFR. I wanted to make a new one that incorporated the tweed and leather style that we have been toying with for our new handlebar bags. The tweed is backed with heavy-duty cordura packcloth.

One reason that the bags take so long is that we build a separate suspension/harness out of seatbelt webbing that distributes the load across the whole panel – I was worried that if we just used leather, that the loops that go over the top of the Xtracycle frame would stretch or sag – you can see the harness as 2 lines of horizontal stitching about 3 inches down from the top.

Another reason I quit on the last one was that our walking foot machine wasn’t working very well, and it kept choking right in the middle of each line of decorative stitching. Unlike nylon or other textiles, if you blow a line of stitching in leather, when you pull the thread, you are stuck with a bunch of holes in the fabric that don’t rub out – you have to start over. The main panels for these bags use 9 square feet of leather each, so mistakes are expensive, or you just have to live with them. Leather is fairly heavy but so are Xtracycles! These bags probably weigh more than some road bikes, but we aren’t weight Nazis around here – we’d rather look cool. Also, Chico is flat.

I sure like rivets.

The straps are military-surplus cam buckles. One day a guy showed up at our house with a shoebox full of them (about 80). He said ‘Some of your friends from Westwood go you our church and they told us about you, do you have a use for these?’ They are great. Thanks Larry and Seren! I have been liking having tie-downs for ratchet straps and bungees, so we added extra loops to the webbing that holds the buckles, and ask some sewn loops between each buckles.

Inside pocket with snaps.
We can make you a pair, but it might take us a few years to finish them.