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I Forge Iron


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About Patrick1992

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    Essex, England

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  1. Thanks for your replies. Its great to know that some of these sentiments strike a chord with others!
  2. Firstly, I’d like to apologise in advance if this seems like it’s turning into some kind of annual diatribe; It’s more by coincidence than design that I find myself posting my thoughts and feelings around the topic of blacksmithing around this time every year. Whilst I love talking about the act of blacksmithing itself (ask my faux-enthused and often bemused friendship group), I find I cant help but talk around the topic, which can often stray into the abstract and even the irrelevant; So apologies for that as well. At it’s heart, this post is an annual offering that provides an honest account of my ‘blacksmithing year’, and as such, I am always incredibly interested to hear other peoples’ opinions and comparisons on the things I have experienced, as well as the conclusions I have made along the way. As I did last year, I have broken down this account by theme, and included some of the lessons I have learned in this; My second year of blacksmithing. 1. You Can’t Always Get What You Want In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones. I have been struck more than ever about how this differs from many other hobbies I have or have had in the past. Given the option in many of the latter, it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to conveniently acquire all of the highest end kit an equipment needed to ensure that I could participate. If you want to get into playing the guitar, you can by a Les Paul. Into golf? Get yourself a nice set of Callaways, and so on. This has never been my experience of blacksmithing, and this became ever more pertinent when I had to move my entire shop due to refurbishments on the farm. Before... After! This is not to say that the experience was a negative one, quite the contrary. I found that the move gave me the opportunity to iron* out a lot of the set-up mistakes I had made when I set up my first shop, and despite the reduction in space, the overall layout is safer, easier to use and better suited to my needs. I also think there is something special and endearing about the lack of uniformity in blacksmithing. Just scrolling through the forums here has demonstrated to me what a diverse range of equipment, techniques and real estate exists out there, and I think that the ‘have a go’ nature of that reality is something that should be celebrated. 2. A 70% solution made is better than a 100% solution bought “[It’s] an indescribable sense of satisfaction. [It] means that you’re living. You’re not cowering in fear, you’re out there taking chances. I think that’s such a beautiful mentality.” - Nick Offerman on making things. This is something that I touched upon last year, and if anything, my conviction that this statement rings true has only become stronger. I realised very early on into blacksmithing that in almost all respects, I was useless. The problem was not my own, but that of the environment around me. I had worked hard through school, college and university to develop a skill set that would set me up incredibly well for the world of employment. I was educated, computer literate and ready to sing songs to the beat of another organisation’s drum. Like almost everyone in my peer group, I had been conditioned to be of utility to another entity, not to myself. I would find over the next decade that I had enough money to buy solutions to all of my needs, but it turned out to be a hollow victory. Blacksmithing on a purely amateur basis has reinforced to me this year more than ever that there is something incredibly empowering about investing in the types of things that are of utility to me. The things I make now out of metal and wood, albeit imperfect, are more important than the end product. Every time I learn to do something for myself, I become a little less reliant on buying a solution. The beauty of this journey, despite the initial difficulty learning how to achieve the solution, is that you eventually own the solution, and continue to apply it with more competence each time it is required. Blacksmithing gave me a clearer perspective on the way I assessed my competencies, and ultimately, who they benefit. I have found this year that learning skills that provide me with solutions for life is an infinity better way to spend my time than repeating the same task or function I always have to acquire enough money for someone else to do it for me, every time I need it. The 70% solution has extended to cider making and garden furniture! 3. It’s not a race! This sounds incredibly simple, but it took me a year to realise this. There is no rush to learn how to make a quality piece of work, and indeed rushing to make that perfect piece often resulted in disaster, for me anyway. Taking knife making as an example, I was far too eager in my first year of blacksmithing to have something that looked like a knife that I could show off, without properly going through each of the steps needed to ensure that it functioned well. This year, I have been taking time to go through each step with a little more finesse and understanding. By way of recommendation (if you don’t want to make the same mistakes as me), if you don’t have the luxury of an experience smith over your shoulder, get a copy of something they have put out there and take it into the shop with you. Steve Sells excellent book on knife making is something I have referred to time and time again when going through each step in slow time. By ignoring the finished product and concentrating on the process I have made better gains in my own knowledge and abilities this year. Footnote Steve, if you’re reading this, thank you! 4. Life will inevitably get in the way This is as true now as it was when I first got into blacksmithing. Despite my rhetoric on the empowering nature of self sufficiency earlier, I am a realist, and a lot of people here will empathise with the notion of having big ambitions for their blacksmithing but not enough time to dedicate to them. It’s been two years of having small bursts of hammer time for me, and with that comes the need for an enduring dedication. Distractions are everywhere in the modern world, but if you are new to blacksmithing and find yourself in a similar situation to me, try and stick at it. I have found that lowering my expectations as to what can be achieved in the time I spend in my shop, and setting smaller goals, has helped with this. It is rewarding, and feels satisfyingly defiant, to fight off distractions and come back to the shop after a long period away to pick up where I left off, and I guarantee you will feel the same. What do you think? It is always difficult for me to summarise exactly what I have learned and experienced in a year of blacksmithing in a concise way, and I’m sure that there is a lot more to say. To that end, I always love to hear your thoughts and feelings around my own, as I’m only too aware that mine is but one perspective in an ocean of hard-earned experience. All that is left to say is thank you for reading, and hopefully what you have read has been mildly interesting at the very least. With any luck, I will continue to swing a hammer, and look forward to the prospect of learning more in the year to come.
  3. Jon, Sorry for the late reply, I've been out of the country for a while. That sounds good to me! I'll be returning to the UK late spring/early summer and so would love to take you up on that when I do.
  4. Hi to all, It's been quite a while since I have posted, however I was keen to jump on and provide a bit of an update at the end of what has been my first year of blacksmithing. (The forge as at July 2018; A year on since I first set it all up) I've been extremely luck to have had such a convenient working space over this period of time, allowing me to come and go as I please. I have tried my best to make maximum use of it around what has shaped up to be a very busy year, and whilst it's true that I haven't been able to be totally commit to improving my skills, it's remarkable how much more confident I have become as a result of the time I have been able to commit. (Along with learning the craft itself, I have also tried to restore and build tools as new additions to the forge, admittedly with varying degrees of success!) Based upon what I have experienced this year, I thought I would share with you a couple of the most important things that I have personally observed and taken away in this short space of time: 1. There is so much to learn! As with all new things, it is quite daunting (and at times a little overwhelming) when taking that initial plunge into something you know nothing about and could easily get wrong. I read a very entertaining article recently highlighting the four distinct phases of learning to code competently (The Hand-Holding Honeymoon, The Cliff of Confusion, The Desert of Despair and The Upswing of Awesomeness). It was apparent to me that these phases could quite accurately apply to the learning of any new skill, and I found myself relating to them in regards to my own blacksmithing. Learning the basics was a honeymoon period when I was in somebody else's forge and under one-to-one instruction, however I soon found myself (as we all must eventually) on my own at the 'Cliff'. The things I knew I didn't know were only a fraction of the vast amount I didn't know I didn't know! Despite this, nothing has been too difficult thanks to the support of others, which leads me on neatly on to my next point... 2. Help is all around you. It became apparent to me very early on that if you are proactive and humble enough to seek it out, help is always at hand. In the internet age, even if you are geographically isolated, there is always somebody to troubleshoot with about anything, and the blacksmithing community (both in the UK and abroad) is incredibly passionate and forward leaning. 3. Creating anything form scratch requires dedication. For all of the benefits of the modern world, I do still think it is a double-edged sword*. Creating very basic things in the forge over the past year has made me appreciate just how very useless I am as a human being and how reliant I have become on people selling me quick cheap fixes in supermarkets and on Amazon. An alternative to something that I had slaved over on the anvil could quite possibly have been picked up on the internet for less than £1, without the need to invest time and energy into anything at all! For the first time in my life I got the sense that the world was more interested in me as a consumer than it was giving me the skills to create my own solutions. This is not entirely true of course. Skills and knowledge are out there for those of us that are willing to take the time to look, and if I choose an off-the-shelf solution out of convenience then perhaps I only have myself to blame! *Pun apologetically intended. 4. Blacksmithing is rewarding. My final (and perhaps over-arching) learning point is that despite the difficulty in starting out, I have stayed with it, and this is largely because the positives consistently outweigh the hardships. I have absolutely loved creating things for friends and family as gifts this year, and have made modest progress every single time I have picked up the hammer. There is something incredibly empowering about 'doing it yourself' and having something to show for your hard work, however intricate, at the end of the process. (Twisted garden hooks that I made for my grandma's hanging flower baskets; She was really pleased with them!) Thanks for reading and sticking with it! I would be incredibly interested to hear your thoughts and opinions on any of the above and look forward to where the next year takes me. Patrick
  5. Same subject posts have been merged Evening all! I wanted to post this brief update for a couple of reasons, the first of which is to provide a bit of a catch-up from my previous post back in September, but secondly (and more importantly) to document all of the generosity of others associated with setting up the forge over the past few months. The first part of this generosity took place back in October, when a family friend called John found out that I had shown an interest in blacksmithing, and insisted that I have the tools that he had used as a young man in order to begin to furnish my forge. Even though I had known John for a long time, I had no idea he had any of this equipment! I told him that as soon as I had set everything up I would bring him down to see all of his equipment being put to good use again (as he would not accept any payment other than a few bottles of wine, I felt this was the least I could do). (John's equipment) Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to take John to the forge as he sadly, and very unexpectedly, passed away shortly before Christmas. I know he would have absolutely loved to see all his old stuff being used again, and his family have asked if I can get a photograph of the new forge made up to be placed in his grave along with other photographs celebrating his life. I owe John and his family a huge debt of gratitude for this generosity, and will think of this every time I am hammering away on his old anvil. Having cleaned up John's equipment, I managed to get myself a good space for the forge on my girlfriend's family farm, which was kindly leant to me by her uncle. (The forge space, pre-clean up) I spent a lot of time after Christmas cleaning up the space and slowly bringing in tools and equipment to give the whole thing the resemblance of an actual forge and not just a big room! (Equipment being moved into the forge space- the anvil has not been properly secured here) Although it is a very simplistic set up I have over here, it's been a great experience getting it all to come together. Having got everything how I want it, I fired up the forge for the very first time a few days ago and made a couple of coat hooks (although admittedly they were a bit rough around the edges!). One final thank you is in order- thanks to John and Dave from Glendon Forge for their hospitality and mentor-ship during a number of one-on-one courses I have taken with them over the past few months, the lessons have been invaluable. (My oil drum forge previously made. The forge is being used outdoors for the moment due to a lack of ventilation!) (Main working area and bolted down anvil) (My shoddy craftsmanship!!) I would be happy to answer any questions about specifics etc, as I have tried to keep this brief and so have skimmed over a lot of the details about the set up! If anyone has any suggestions or comments, or indeed any information about the origins of some of the equipment I have, it would be great to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
  6. Charles- thanks for your help there, I appreciate it. Glenn- Didn't actually think of that as a method of air control! Thanks to all!
  7. Thank you both! Bit of an oversight I agree and this is something i'll add when i'm going over the finishing touches next week.
  8. Hello all! Just a very brief post to show you all the 55 style forge I have just finished putting together. I followed the 55 blueprint for the most part (very much appreciated!) and although the end product is pretty basic, I am very pleased with the result. The entire build cost £5 as the brake drum was the only bit of kit I had to pay for, everything else was a freebie. Pictures/videos paint a thousand words, and there are an (admittedly fairly random) assortment of photos attached. The vast majority of the progress was captured on video however, the link for which is below if you are interested in a bit of insight into the build. Thanks for the material, this would never have been completed with such ease without the assistance of IFI. Paddy. Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuyeBmRzl4E&t=31s
  9. Thanks a lot! That's good to know and I will definitely take you up on that.
  10. Thanks! That's great, having had a flick through some of the threads already I can see what you mean, incredibly useful resource with a lot of helpful people. I'm actually heading state side myself in the next couple of days (Nashville then New Orleans). I hope you haven't been hit too badly by the bad weather where you are! Unbelievable scenes.
  11. Hello everyone, Brand new to the forum so I thought I would post a quick introduction. As the lack of creativity within my handle suggests, my name is Patrick and i'm 24! Blacksmithing is something I have been interested in for a long time. I pursued this interest as a career whilst I was still at school, hoping to secure an apprenticeship, but unfortunately apprenticeships were few and far between at the time and the opportunity never arose. I went to university instead and joined the British Army after that. I have had a great career so far, but as you would expect, it comes with a fair amount of time constraints! In my free time, I would love to peruse that boyhood interest and dedicate more time to learning the basics of Blacksmithing, just for the sheer enjoyment of it. As a complete beginner, I appreciate that I have a lot to learn, but that's all part of the fun! After a few years, the aspiration would be to have enough time and money to set up a modest forge on my girlfriend's farm with a few of my close friends in order to further practice and have fun with it. Knife and sword making is of particular interest to me, but getting the basics right is what i'm interested in at the moment. I look forward to talking to you all in the future, as well as replying to any questions or suggestions anyone has going forward!
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