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Swage Block Glossary

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An alloy (mixture) of copper and zinc. Brass is normally 5 to 40% zinc (most commonly 30%). Brasses also have other alloying ingredients including aluminium, tin, lead, manganese. . .). Most alloys also have traces of other metals such as iron and silicon. Brasses are bright red to yellow in color and useful for functional and decorative items. Brass alloys with as little as 1% tin are often called "bronze" and others are incorrectly identified as bronze. Brass is most commonly cast but it can also be forged.

An alloy (mixture) of copper and tin or copper, tin and zinc. Bronze is normally 5 to 12% tin (most commonly 10%). Most alloys also have traces of other metals such as iron, silicon and lead. Bronze is harder than copper and stronger than cast iron. The first metal tools including swage blocks were made of bronze, thus the "Bronze Age". Bronze is most commonly cast but it can also be forged.

cast, casting
Verb, cast, casting or to cast. In metalwork a cast part is made by pouring melted metal into a mold. Molds for casting metal are made of clay, plaster or sand. Sand casting is the most common method as it is the easiest and mold material can be used over and over again. Plaster casting is an ancient method most often associated with casting small parts by "lost wax" or investment casting.

Noun, casting. A part made by the process of casting. Most swage blocks are castings.

See lost wax

cast iron
A direct product of smelting iron or remelting iron in a copula furnace. Cast iron has a very high carbon content resulting in it being relatively weak (compared to bronze or steel). It is also brittle and inflexible. Cast iron is fairly hard and combined with its inflexibility it is a good material for swage blocks. However, blocks must be well designed for its weakness or failure will result. The only advantage cast iron has over ductile iron is its greater fluidity when melted resulted in smoother blocks and blocks with smaller cored holes.

See Cast Iron Properties - anvilfire.com

A casting term. Top part of 'cope and drag' pattern, mold, or part. The cope is the closing side of mold that usually has less or no part impression in it. The parting where the cope and drag join usually requiring a sharp corner on swage blocks. The cope side is often identifiable due to increased roughness caused by the collection of gasses and dross in the top of the mold.

A casting term. A separate mold piece made of bonded sand, plaster or clay used to make holes in castings. A core is made in a permanent mold called a "core box" made of wood, metal or resin. A core is located by impressions in the mold called "core prints". Occasionally a missing core in a mold will result in an obvious unused space in a swage block casting. A pattern set includes the pattern and all the necessary core boxes.

See loose piece

In jewelry making, forming a dished shape in a die called a dapping block either with a dapping punch or a small hammer.

See Dapping Blocks

A casting term. The taper on the side of a pattern so that it can be extracted from the mold (usually bonded sand). Properly designed patterns should have the least amount of draft that lets the pattern pull from the sand reliably.

A casting term. Bottom part of 'cope and drag' pattern, mold, or part. The drag is the side of mold that usually has the most or all of the part impression in it. The corner that pulls out of the drag may have radiused corners on swage blocks. The drag side is often identifiable due to being smoother than the cope and having cast corner radii.

ductile iron
Also called nodular iron. Iron cast with the addition of ferro-magnesium which causes the carbon to collect in graphite nodules reducing the carbon in the surrounding iron thus making it ductile. Much stronger and crack resistant than common cast irons. A preferred material for modern swage blocks.

A casting term. Where the metal flows into the mold or is vented. Extra metal must be cut off at this point leaving a cutting or grinding mark on the casting.

loose piece
A casting term. A part of a mold made as a separate piece in a permanent mold like a core box. Loose pieces can be used to avoid draft or to create a feature that would not normally let the pattern pull from the mold. Loose pieces are also used as fillers for casting options such as left and right handed parts.

See core

lost wax
A metal casting method where a piece is modeled in wax then a plaster mold is made around the piece. Also called "investment casting" as both the wax part and the mold are lost or invested into making the metal piece. The wax is then burned out of the mold and the molded heated to drive out all water just before the melted metal is poured into the mold. The lost wax casting process can reproduce fine detail and shapes that cannot be gotten out of a normal mold. Lost wax casting is used for making jewelry, small parts and sculpture. It is an ancient process that is still used today in various studios and modern high tech foundries. It is most commonly used for non-ferrous metals (brass, bonze, silver, gold) but is also used to make small precision steel parts.

See casting

match plate
A casting term also called boarding. A match plate is a wood board (plywood) or metal plate with the two halves of a split pattern mounted on it on opposite sides. The match plate fits in special flasks with alignment pins that pass through the match plate. This allows common laborers to make molds where it normally requires skilled moulders. It also greatly speeds up the process of making the sand mold.

See pattern

open mold
A primitive casting process where the top surface of the mold is open and only five sides of a rectangle are molded. The open side of the casting is rough and often has large shrinks.

A pattern is the original representation of a piece to be cast in metal, clay or plastic. In lost wax casting the pattern is made of wax. Permanent patterns are commonly carved from wood such as pine or mahogany but can be made of any workable material. Wood and resin patterns are often used directly to make sand molds but in modern foundries they are commonly converted to a light metal such as aluminium or resin and fiberglass for durability.

Pattern making is a skilled and specialized art. Patterns must have taper called draft in order to be removable from the mold, and are made oversize to allow for the shrinkage of the metal when it solidifies. Patterns for modern foundries must take into consideration the foundry's particular molding process and preferences. Modern pattern makers are occasionally called in to be the stylist or designer of a product but they normally take their direction from the drawings or models made by the designer.

A pattern may be a simple part known as a loose pattern or it may be one of several pieces such as core boxes and loose piece molds that are part of a pattern set. Patterns may also be split and boarded (mounted on a flat board or plate) or part of mold boxes that produce a mold without a flask.

See casting

A casting term. Where the mold is split to remove the pattern. Also parting line. The parting usually leaves a rough line on the cast part due to bits of mold breaking off the closing corners or the mold not closing tight. Perfect closure is nearly impossible even on the best steel dies and becomes worse as the mold material becomes softer. On round parts the parting is usually on the center line, on blocks it is normally at the top edge of the drag in a cope and drag mold.

Machine finishing on a planer, shaper or milling machine offered on some industrial swage blocks. Planing makes the block smooth and flat removing the as-cast surface texture. Modern blocks are more likely to be "Blanchard" ground on a huge grinding machine or fly cut on a milling machine.

The removal of visible hammer marks (faceting) by fine hammering with a polished hammer while the work is supported on a smooth nearly matching shape surface. Light overlapping blows are used and when done by an expert the resulting surface is shiny and ready to polish. Support tools are usually stakes such as ball and mushroom but there are hundreds of special shaped stakes for this purpose.

A technique used to produce bowls, vessels and helmets where the metal is upset making it thicker in order to form the shape. The technique often starts with a shallow dishing made in a block.

sand casting
The process where melted metal is poured into sand molds. The sand molds are held together by a variety of binders. The oldest method know as "green sand" casting uses natural and man-made mixtures of sand and clay that is moistened just enough to hold its shape. Modern binders include oil and is known as "petro bond" a trademark, and a hardenable resin binder. These modern binders are replacing green sand in many foundries.

Sand molds can be made directly by hand but are most commonly made using wood, plastic or metal patterns.

While sand casting can be done in a pit near the copula where the metal is melted it is more common that the molds be made in boxes called "flasks". Flasks normally have two parts a top and bottom called the cope and the drag, but there can be more pieces. In resin bonded systems molds no longer use flasks and are just held together by clamps or weights. Most swage blocks are sand cast.

See casting

In modern metalwork a block of wood, usually from a large diameter log with or without bark. Stumps are used for anvil stands and as work blocks alone with depression carved into the end grain.

Verb, to form in a die.
Noun, a tool used to form a shape. In blacksmithing a swage is a tool with a negative shape used to form hot metal to shape and size. Common swages are half round, 90° V and half hexagons in pairs. A bottom swage has a shank to fit in the anvil hardy hole or a stake plate. A top swage is handled and struck with a hammer. Swage blocks replace multiple bottom swages.

Archaic blacksmithing term same as swage as in "swedge block"

See swage

Iron with less than 1.5% carbon (generally). Common "mild steel" has about 0.20% carbon. Carbon gives steel its hardenability and higher strength than pure elemental iron or wrought iron. Too much carbon makes iron brittle (see cast iron). Steel is used to make tools and blacksmiths anvils. It is rarely used for swage blocks and is most common in small blocks such as dapping blocks that are machined from the solid, not cast. Most commonly modern blocks are cast from ductile iron which has many properties of steel.

work block
A metal block often wedged into a rectangular groove in an anvil or swage block. They often have small drilled holes and hemi-spherical depressions for riveting, milled grooves to hold small work, pins for bending or a combination of features used in making a specific item. These are most commonly used on cutler's anvils but some swage blocks include a place to hold a work block.



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