In the first place, a good charcoal fire is necessary; next, good steel, and then a good light hammer with a smooth - faced anvil. A pick should never be "upset," or hammered endwise, nor raised above a full red heat. The steel should be, moreover, heated as quickly as possible, as long exposure to heat - even if the heat is not in excess - injures its texture. Many blacksmiths find great difficulty in tempering picks, because they do not choose good steel. After being heated, the pick must be worked with care, special pains being taken, in drawing it out, to hammer on all sides alike, in one place as much as another, and on one side as much as another. When ready for hardening, it should be heated in the blaze of a charcoal fire until red hot, and then plunged into cold rain water, and kept there until it is nearly cold; but if kept too long in the water, or until it is quite cold, the comers are liable to fall off. Some blacksmiths use salt water; no salts of any kind should exist in the water, but the water should be cold; if the water is warm, and a little ice should be thrown in to chill it, the tempering will be all the better. Pure soft water for hardening will make a tougher pick, and one less liable to crack at the edges, than where salt water is used.
An old miner who always sharpened the picks at the claim, and was quite expert at it, used to hold the pick end in the water exactly until a certain shade of colour appeared. Then he did not consider it properly tempered until the point was inserted in the ground and allowed to gradually cool. The last hammering of a pick should always be given on the fiat sides, across close to the edges, and then up each side about an inch, By doing so, the corners will be less liable to crack off.