The Newsletter of the Houston Area Blacksmith’s Association Inc.


To Preserve And Promote The Art And Craft Of Ornamental Blacksmithing.


HABA Web Site: www.habairon.org


November 2001 Edition





David W. Koenig President

7418 Branch Point

Houston, TX 77095-2649




Larry Newbern Vice President

4918 Foster School Road

Needville, TX 77461




Frank Walters Secretary

13703 Larkway

Sugar Land, TX        77478




Les Cook

11222 Sagewillow

Houston, TX 77089-4536




Larry Hoff Treasurer


Houston, TX 77070-3747











December HABA Meeting – Page 2.

Nov. Meetings Summary–Page5.

January Meeting – Page 3.

March Meeting – Page 6.

Membership List – Page 7.

Cooking For ColorPage  7

Robb Gunter Demo. Page 8.

Great Web Site – Page 9.

For Trade – Page 9.

For Sale – Page 9.

The Fine Print – Page10.







Mr. Ray Snokhous is inviting all blacksmiths to an Open House of his father’s shop, the L. J. Snokhous Blacksmith Shop of West, TX.  This shop is pretty much the way it was on February 7, 1983 when Ray’s father passed away.


This will be a rare opportunity to see an old blacksmith shop and to talk with someone who grew up in the shop.  It will be a peek into the smithing past of a small Texas town.


Things will get started around 10:00 with a tour and stories about life as a blacksmith in West.  About 11:00 or so Mr. Willie Rejcek, a retired agricultural smith of West, will demonstrate how to sharpen and temper a plow point.  At noon Ray is going to lead all of us across the tracks and the Main Street of West to the second floor of the Czech Café.  He reserved the second floor just for us and to treat us to a Czech lunch of custom made sausage, potatoes, sauerkraut, kolachi, strudel and slivovice.  After lunch we can go back to the shop to finish some forging if needed and learn more about life in a West blacksmith shop.


Twenty-four people RSVP’d for the Open House so far.  Now that you know more about this very unique HABA meeting and wish to come, please call or e-mail Dave Koenig to let him know.  Our very gracious host needs to know how many are coming for lunch!

All of the contact numbers for Dave are on the front page.


Please RSVP if you are coming to the December 15 Open House at West, TX.


People from the DFW, Austin and Houston areas are planning to come.  The hope is more will RSVP!  We’ll see you there!


Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village


If there is time after the Open House, you might want to stop by and visit the Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village.  It is located NW of Elm Mott which is about 10 miles south of West.  Directions will be available at the Open House.  This village has a Deli, Gallery, Clay Studio, Furniture Shop and Blacksmith Shop.  The Gallery is filled with their handiwork.  Lyn Fritzland is the blacksmith.


Directions to West, TX and Snokhous Blacksmith Shop


The town of West is located just north of Waco along I 35.  Get off at the West Exit and go East a few blocks.  Turn right on Washington Street.  It is just before the railroad tracks.  The shop is at the end of the block.  Parking is available between the tracks and the street.




The November HABA meeting focused on making a belt buckle from one eighth inch thick sheet steel.  During the summer three other workshops focused on making the tools needed to make the buckle.  Attendance for the November was low, nine members and no visitors, but production and learning were high.  Six belt buckles were started and four were completed.


Dave Koenig led the workshop.  An anvil buckle design was chosen for the demo.  Dave used the treadle hammer to do most of the cutting.  The four people who managed to complete the buckle found some time on the treadle hammer. 


The shop was pretty busy with people working on the treadle hammer and the two shop anvils.  There were three other forges going outside.  These were provided by Les Cook, Charles and Sharon Heathcock and Larry Hoff. 


A highlight of the meeting was coal forge brazing a nail to the back of the buckle.  The nail was the pin to hold the belt buckle to the belt.  After a few practice tries and a couple of tries on each buckle we seemed to get the hang of forge brazing.  It was quite an effort.  One person cranked the blower.  One person to heat and hold the nail on the back of the buckle.  The third person applied the brazing rod and cooled the buckle once the rod flashed.  It probably looked just like it sounds but we succeeded and had a great time trying something new.

Let’s welcome a new member to HABA, Steve Green.  We first met Steve at Oldenburg in October.  The belt buckle workshop was the first time for Steve to work with a hammer, anvil and treadle hammer.  He completed his buckle too.  Welcome Steve!!!


A long time member, David Bailey, and someone we do not see enough stopped by to take-in the action.  David, it was sure good to see you again!


Charles Heathcock and Les Cook made good progress on their buckles.  Odds are the completed buckles will be at the January meeting.  Jessica, Huckemeyer, Steve Green, Larry Hoff and Dave Koenig each finished a buckle.


Before all the hammering got started there was a long meeting bringing everyone up to date on fall events and demonstrations.  Kurt House donated a copy of his new book to HABA.  The title of the book is Hand Forged for Texas Cowboys.  It is a beautiful book filled with color pictures and many of those are spurs.

For those of you who are not familiar with this title, Kurt’s book opens with some Texas history and the life, times and work of blacksmith, Joe Bianchi of Victoria, Texas, 1871 –1949.  Joe is best remembered as a loriner, a smith whose focus is making bits and spurs.  Anyone with a penchant for Texas history and a love of collecting spurs needs to take a very close look at this book.


Kurt House and Ray Snokhous will be the featured speakers at the February HABA meeting.  The February meeting location is the Tomball Museum.  This meeting will be open to all Museum members and the Tomball community.  Kurt will have an arm full of books and a new pen to sign one/some for you.


A major part of the HABA meeting had to do with bringing in a nationally know demonstrator to Houston.  We talked about this at other meetings but never seemed to be able to reach a consensus.  In this context, the subject of a treadle hammer workshop came up again.  This time there was a lot of interest by the group.  Les Cook and Charles Heathcock formed a committee of two to look into getting steel and received verbal assurances from others to  help cut steel, drill holes and do whatever else was needed.

Dave Koenig said he would contact Clay Spencer, the creator of the inline treadle hammer, to see if Clay could do a workshop in March of 2002.  As it turned out Clay was available and the date for the workshop is March 15 – 17, 2002.  For a little more information see the Treadle Hammer heading below.


The meeting adjourned and everyone got busy making a belt buckle.






HABA’s Third Annual Knife Making Workshop will take place at C&S Forge in Dobbin, TX.  Charles and Sharon Heathcock will host the meeting and Lee Oates will lead this workshop for the third time.  Lee is a great demonstrator as most of you know.  The knife project this year will be a ‘Blacksmith’s Knife’.  This is a knife where the blade and handle are all in one piece.  The handle can be as decorative as you can make it.  The plan is to build sheaths for the knives too!


The stock for this project will be hay rake tines.  Keep an eye out for old tines.  The steel in tines is good for all kind of things so an extra tine or two around the shop is good to have.  The cost for the tines, I am told, ranges from about $2 to $7




The second part of the January HABA Meeting will be the annual HABA Auction.  This is shaping up to be a pretty good auction in that John Forsman donated an iron bed he made.  Think about making something or maybe donate that old tool you rarely use anymore or that extra bag of coal or coke you can do without.  Someone will make good use of whatever you donate and HABA will have the means to do a little more.



MARCH 15 –17, 2002


The Houston Area Blacksmith's Association will host a treadle hammer workshop March 15 - 17, 2002.  Clay Spencer of course will be here to coach us.  This workshop will be limited to about 24 people.


There are no particulars available right now with regard to location or cost .  (FYI, Dave Koenig's guess is that the cost will be between $400 and $500.) More on location and cost after we have some idea how many hammers will get built.


We do plan to organize weekend work details to cut steel,  drill some holes and do whatever else makes sense to complete ahead of time.


Les Cook will be coordinating the workshop activities for HABA.


For starters, Les needs to get some idea of how many people plan to come.  So, if you ' think' you would like to take part in this treadle hammer workshop please contact Les.  There is no commitment on your part to say you are interested.


Les also wants to know who would be willing to get together on a few weekends before the workshop to help get things organized.  The more work that gets done before hand the more smoothly things will go.


You can get in touch with Les in two ways: 281-481-2457 and anvil@flash.net.  Please contact Les and let him know how you would like to take part in the workshop.


These workshops are great learning experiences, fun and most productive.


HABA Membership List


Hard copies of this The HABA Letter will include a November 2001 HABA Membership list.  This list will not be posted on the HABA web site.  Any member who would like a HABA Membership List should contact Dave Koenig at: 76021.3660@compuserve.com or 281-855-2869.


by Jerry Achterberg


Editor’s  note: The rich oxidation colors obtained using this process can be shown only with color pictures.  See the web site for color pictures.

Material: mild steel


All pieces should be polished and free of fire scale, oil, grease, and dirt to achieve maximum color.


Scale can be removed by soaking pieces in a solution of muriatic acid and water for about an hour.  The acid will leave some pits in the metal if it is soaked too long.  This may add character, depending of the piece.  Rinse with water after soaking.


All scale need not be removed, but scale is non-metal and will not take on color from heat-treating or patinas.  Again, this may be a desirable effect.


Wire brushing and/or sanding will also help remove fire scale and prepare the piece for polishing.  A buffing wheel can be used with jeweler’s rouge to polish to desired finish.  Use course rouge (black) for a satin finish and fine rouge (white) for a highly polished or mirror finish.  The finer the finish, the more color the finished piece will have. 


After polishing, a solvent may be used to remove the waxy residue left from the polishing compound.  Next wash with a dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn, dry, and place each piece in a tinfoil packet with the edges folded tightly.  This helps to ensure even coloring.


A cooking oven is best suited for maintaining a constant sustained heat.  I usually start at 475 degrees and the time varies, depending on the size and thickness of the piece.  Smaller pieces take from 1-3 hours, larger pieces from 2-4 hours depending on the desired color.  Check each piece about once an hour until you start to see the desired color, then more frequently.  As the piece is removed from the oven, with the packet open, you can watch the color darken slightly.  At this point you can let the piece cool slowly for a slightly darker color or quench to stop at that color.


The colors start at light straw and darken to peacock blue.  If you want the dark blue, there is no need to check every hour, just leave it for about four hours and turn the oven off.  Larger pieces may take a bit longer, depending on your oven.


All heat-treat coloring is only on the surface of the metal, it will scratch and can be removed by sanding or abrasive polishing.


Higher or lower oven temperatures may be used to achieve different effects.





Balcones Forge will be hosting Robb Gunter for two days of demonstrations January 26 –27, 2002.  The location is Larry Crawford’s shop in Marble Falls, TX.  More details will be published as they become available.


Robb is a terrific demonstrator and teacher.  Below is a short biography of Robb.


“I began studying blacksmithing 20+ years ago after a life long fascination with the craft.  Early instruction came form Rolando DeLeon and Francis Whitaker, both of whom are unfortunately no longer with us.  As soon as basic equipment could be procured a hobby level shop was started and my wife became a shop widow.  She was very patient and supportive.  Every available conference and workshop I could get to was a must.  It was down hill from there;


-         Blacksmith for Sandia National Laboratories - Industrial forgings and custom tool making.

-Developed, along with Karl Schuler the Recuperative Gas Forge - plans are available from ABANA

- Operated the FORGERY SCHOOL OF BLACKSMITHING for over 12 years offering basic, intermediate and advanced classes.

- Produced a 5 hour basic blacksmithing course on video patterned after the basic course from the Forgery School of Blacksmithing.

- Proprietor of Forgeco Architectural Metals since 1993 doing custom architectural ironwork for private and commercial clients.

- Current Commission: A private residence in Scottsdale, Arizona. – six railings, hardware for 52 doors, 10 chandeliers, 22 wall sconces, 6 fireplaces, and other misc. details.  At present my two sons and I have been working on this commission for 20 months.”





See www.machineco.com for pages and pages of metalworking tools…new and used including for power hammers, fly presses, forges……





From: "steve&chad wilber" <wildboar_studio@hotmail.com>

To: <habaweb@wtez.net>

Sent: Sunday, November 25, 2001 8:27 PM

Subject: blacksmith lessons


Houston area glassblower wanting to trade glassblowing lessons for blacksmith lessons.  If interested call Steve@Wildboar Studio 713-688 9307 or   send e-mail to wildboar_studio@hotmail.com.






New Swage Blocks

The Saltfork Craftsmen of Oklahoma are selling new swage blocks poured with new malleable iron.  This is a fund raising activity for Saltfork.  Each swage block sells for $75 FOB Houston.  Jim Carothers is coming to visit in Houston over the holidays and offered to bring some swage blocks with him.  Dave Koenig will pickup the blocks from Jim and you and Dave can make arrangements to get them in Houston.


If you want to get in on this deal, please make a check out to Saltfork Craftsmen ABA and get it into the hands of Dave Koenig by December 15.  The order is going in on December 16 for the number of blocks for which Dave has money in-hand.  These are good blocks that will require some clean-up.  See the pictures showing each side of the block.


For more information, contact Jim Carothers at 580-336-9213 or colonel@fullnet.net


Miscellaneous Items

Thanks for the treadle hammer news.  I can't come but please tell folks I have a swage block for sale.  It is 18" square and 4.5' thick.  ($ 400)  It is an old one.  Also have a very large belt driven grinding stone of Victorian vintage.  ($ 300).  A 1936 3 hp McCormick - Deering open crank hit and miss Kerosene burner.  Want $ 600 for that.  No magneto.  Block, crank and piston for a little jumbo 3 hp.  ($ 150).  No fly wheels.


Contact Robert M. Heath at 1055 Manship St. Jackson, Mississippi 39202 or 601-360-2884 after 5:30 or heathiron@aol.com.


Items are located in a shop in Canton, 25 miles north of Jackson.



The use any of the material in The HABA Letter is at your own risk.  All persons associated with this material disclaim any responsibility or liability for damages or injuries resulting from the use or application of this information.  They assume no responsibility or liability for the accuracy, fitness, proper design, safety or safe use of any information presented here. 



Dave Koenig

7418 Branch Point

Houston, TX 77095