Thank you all SO MUCH! I hadn't gotten any email replies and was thinking no one had seen this thread. Imagine my surprise to log in and find so many thoughtful responses! Much appreciated. I see the Central Minnesota Blacksmiths page is listed as inactive -- with any luck my hubby can get the group going again. He has made four knives and just loves this hobby (though he immediately developed massive carpal tunnel, literally within the first month of the three months he's spent doing smithing, and is lined up for evaluation for surgery next month. He's wearing braces on both arms as much as possible now; we also got him two different pairs of shock-reducing gloves, a better smithing hammer that reduces shock/vibration, and padding for his tool handles.) He had gotten a basic 55-lb. anvil from Northern Tool or Harbor Freight, and managed to mount the sucker on a big stump that he dollies in and out of the garage as needed. It's large enough, but he was hoping for something even bigger. (Though if he's sticking to 15" and less items, I'm thinking this anvil might be large enough anyway). He has been using a homemade coal forge that he created out of a Weber kettle grill that he lined with fire brick and refractory cement, but after several burns, some dirt fires, and a melted-through railroad spike (LOL!) we decided to shell out the money for a Devil Forge three-burner propane forge from Lithuania. It should arrive any day!
We're not well-off by any means (my hubby is disabled due to PTSD/major anxiety disorder and therefore my income carries the four of us in our family) but we try to live inexpensively. He is so entranced by this work that I didn't mind spending way more than I'd initially anticipated to get him set up and going! We estimated that with the supplies, the belt and angle grinders, the forge, the materials, coal, etc. we've already put in about $1500 in the past few months, which was SO much beyond our budget, but we eked it out. He's delighted with the pieces he's made already. I'll post pictures...the first photo was a purchased blade that he made a knife from for me; he crafted a handle out of some cedar closet wood, with a resin insert in which he put a raven earring (I have a raven tattoo). The second photo was a metal rasp file that he turned into a knife with Brazilian rosewood handle material for our daughter; the third one was a pre-crafted blade that he added a brass guard to and crafted a handle out of bone for our son; and the fourth one is a machete style chopper that he designed from scratch for himself with custom pins and a buffalo horn handle. He forged that blade from a bar of A2 steel, which apparently was exceptionally difficult for him to work with, being so hard. Lastly, there's a cute little hatchet that he made from a branch we had on our property (I think elm or maple) and an old rusty ax head that he ground down to be small and light. Not bad for being brand-new to the hobby, I think! Three months of work and we have quite a few great things, with many more to come. I'm happy for, and proud of, him!