Harold

Projects & advice for a new guy

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I need some suggestions for things I should be trying to teach myself to do as a total beginner.
I have an old round Champion forge with a hand crank blower, a three pound hammer that I found in the garage and put a handle in, and a piece of railroad rail for an anvil that's securely anchored to a very solid (and heavy!) oak stump I got last weekend. Also have a pair of channel lock pliers and a couple cold chisels.
I fired the forge up today and made an attempt at making a spear from a piece of steel pipe. I actually managed to get it somewhat spear-shaped but I didn't have enough heat to weld the "blade" into one solid bar. My next attempt will be forge-welding a somewhat pre-shaped blade into the socket, then shaping the whole thing with heat and hopefully getting it close enough to take to the grinder.
I know I need tongs. What should I make them out of?
A post-vise is on my flea-market wishlist. I have one I can use now but it's my dad's and mounted in his garage which is far from my work area. And I need my own.
What other tools do you suggest I lay hands on?
Any other suggestions or insight would be appreciated as well.

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Making your own tongs...not the easiest thing to do well. But if were you I would suggest picking up a used pair first. If you decide you want to make them, think about the size and shape of your most commonly used stock Is it round, square, or flat. You can make tongs without tongs you just need a long enough piece of stock to hold onto. For making tongs I would start with 3/4" or 5/8" round or square stock. There are many tutorials and videos on the web to help you in making them. I would suggest this one by our own Brian Brazeal http://picasaweb.google.com/brianbrazealblacksmith/TongBlankInClay# He also has one where he is using metal but this one will give you a good idea of what is involved.

As far as other things to make that is up to you. Are you doing this for fun or market. Anyhow that is a start of a conversation. Take care.

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Check out the blueprints on Anvil Fire and the forging fundamentals on the ABANA website. You won't really be successful at big projects until you master the basics. Find some instruction nearby. Do a lot of reading, books and the internet have all the information you can want. Find a smithing group nearby, that will be the best help of all.

I don't mean to stifle a beginner(I was there once my self and haven't forgotten).

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Hi Harold

Woah! Slow down a bit, I've forged a grand total of 12 times (LOL) and I cant upset,punch or cut without a lot of help. To me, and every other blacksmith I've talked to, drawing-out, also called drawing-down, is the first step to bacoming a blacksmith. Every book I know of starts with drawing-out. Dont feel bad, the first time I forged, I tried to make a knife, and burnt the steel,even with expert help! My advice is, practice basic techniques, I also think you should get a book or three on blacksmithing, you can never have too many. You should get a book called "The Complete Blacksmith" by Lorelei Sims, but thats just my opinion. Also, getting instruction from an established blacksmith will be extremely helpful.

I dont mean to burst your bubble. :P:lol:

Jordan

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I'm almost in the same boat you are. After watching Brian Brazeal and LDW I decided to start with a ring with flower. It utilizes a two sided taper and a lot of drawing down. It is small work and loses heat fast. It is teaching hammer control, being ready to forge when it comes out of the fire,
and humbling me. On my 4th, still hiding the results, but each one gets closer. Check out:
I'm looking for sombody close to help me learn, you should to.
David

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www.metalwebnews.com has some good free books you can print out start with the basic. drawing tapereng and keeping your square stock square and round stock round. Hammer control you just have to practice. and attend meetings then try to duplicate what was tought in the meeting. ask questions an as the first blacksmith said to me "just do it" do not over think it you will develope your own style before you know it

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hi and welcome to the forum....
as the others have said..... SLOW DOWN.....start with the basics..... making round bar square, making a square short taper, making a long square taper, rounding of a square taper, making acurate bends over the horn to learn how to use the horn properly, fullering over the bick, etc.......
you shouldn't be trying to forge weld right now.....start with the basics....I made the mistake myself. ( it would have been a lot simpler for me) i have been forging for 11 months and still can't forge weld properly.......
make some"j" hooks, they are a good exercise
i hope you were not offended by me saying that...


alec :D

keep forging

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I think the book referenced is actually: The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith (ISBN: 1592532519 / 1-59253-251-9) Lorelei Sims

The Complete Modern Blacksmith (ISBN: 9780898158960) Weygers, Alexander is another book I really like as he has a scrounge it and make it philosophy that resonates in my smithing soul!

Like those above I wouldn't start welding till you get the basics down and it *REALLY HELPS* to have a proficient forge welder walk you through it the first time.

As it is you can make spear points out of better steel that use no welding, you hammer out the base into a fan shape and then bend that around a bick; yes most of the European ones would then forge weld this socket; but many of the african ones do not---if you can hunt major game animals without a welded socket I figure you can do ok with smaller targets...

Tong material---have you looked through the i-forge section over at anvilfire? There are a number of tong projects over there. Materials: sucker rod, strap stock even re-bar has been used. I tend to use whatever I can find that is closest to the final shape and is *free*---creative laziness *and* cheapness in action!

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with tongs i just get two pieces from the scrap pile that are the right size and hammer them out :D (free)

alec :D

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I would agree with all the others to start with more of the basics. Of all the books I have I would say the best would be The New Edge of the Anvil. It runs you through many small projects and the tools required to do them. It has instruction on how to make all the basic tools and a few specialized tools. If you work through the book it will take you a long way. My first 6 months smithing I would resort back to that book at least 5 times a week studying how to make something.
Hope this helps and good smithing.

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No worries about the advice to slow down - I'm not at all offended. The biggest thing is that I didn't even know what the basics are.
I'm basically a guy who always had an interest in historical things, got the opportunity to buy a forge a couple weeks ago, and couldn't wait to at least try it out. My skill level is nonexistent, so any suggestions are cool with me.
But I'm still also going to retry the spear. I have a very small chance of getting it to work, you guys are right and I admit that. But it will still get me some practice heating steel up and hammering on it.

FWIW - the failure the other day taught me how much I have to learn, so it wasn't a total failure. I think...

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Harold,
Besides practice the best thing you can do is find a local blacksmithing group, join and participate. Here are two in PA.

PENNSYLVANIA ARTIST BLACKSMITH ASSOCIATION www.pablacksmith.org
PITTSBURGH AREA ARTIST BLACKSMITHS paaba.net

Also see if someone offers lessons. Even if their site does not mention it you may be able to convince a local smith to give you lessons.

Working with other folks is not essential but can really keep you from making more mistakes than progress.

Glad to have another interested soul on-board. Good luck

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Make nails, it is a good way to learn hammer control and how to use a hot cut, it teaches you how to control a taper. Making nails takes very little material and fuel and you will learn alot from doing it
Making%20Nails1.doc

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Thanks for all the advice.
Oddly enough, I just stumbled on to a blacksmith who is somewhat local to me, actually not too far even when I go back to college next semester. He gave me his business card and told me to ask if I need any advice or help and also suggested some books.
I found some round stock but some of it is short and what I'm using for tongs won't fit it. I'm planning to fire the forge up again next week to practice some more and flatten out a lawnmower blade I found to try cutting out a knife blank with the grinder, and to use up the charcoal briquets I have left so I can replace it with some coal. I was told look for less than 2% sulfur and 14,000 BTU's and that there is a local source. But before I get too serious I'm going to have to get my butt to a flea market and get some more tools. I'm seriously limited with what I got.

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Just a thought on flea market shopping. Remember to not just think of what the tool is meant for but what you could change it into to do. I have made many punches, hot cuts, etc out of chisels. I've seen different ideas of people using channel locks and vise grips etc to make make shift tongs and hold downs. Check through the anvilfire.com how to's, theres quite a few different plans on easy to make tools on there.

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A couple of items I noticed. You mentioned briquettes for fuel. Lump wood charcoal is OK, briquettes not good.

The other thing is that it is common practice to heat, and form the tongs to the part being held for best grip.

In Weygers book he mentions Vise Grips as a boon to smithing. Anything that will hold the piece securely, and keep your fingers from being burned will work. Look at what some primitive smiths have to work with.

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When I'm at the fleamarket I am often looking for the *worst* tools, rusty, no handles, mushroomed ends, etc as I am generally going to chuck them in the forge and remake them anyway why pay for pretty? I also have "general buy points" like most any decent sized ball pein hammer head for US1 or under I will pick up on spec---nice to have a bucket full when a class wants to make hawks from them.

Steel alignment pins---bull pins, and less polite names; I get for $3 or less as I like to use them for drifts when the class makes hawks.

Not being in a hurry to get stuff and being willing to walk away can really help the budget!

(There was this really nice top tool at a fleamarket that the fellow wanted *way* too much for; kept going on and on about how much the new handle he had put in it raised the price---well he had done a really bad job of it and it would have to be re-done right---so finally I pulled the new handle out of the head and handed it to him and asked "how much was just the head and he could keep the new handle!----I said it was a bad job...got it into my price range though)

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I would suggest that you find a local group and become a member, There's alot of them out there that would welcome you.. On another note, Be sure and get you some safty glasses and put them to use.. Safty is very important, Make you some tongs, and then make more, Then learn heat treatment and make punches and chissels. then make more tongs.. lol.. One other thing,, Welcome to the Family...Tom

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Wow! Just been reading this whole thread, really awesome! I'm from Phoenix AZ, an RN by trade, and got interested in metalworking/blacksmithing out of an interest in creating heavier sledgehammers, for several demolition side-projects. I appreciate what everyone is saying, because I know absolutely know nothing about metal work. If there's anything else any of you can suggest, it would be awesome, but if not then I will use this thread as a beginning point (and buy all these good books!). I've looked for groups in Phoenix and so far no luck! Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

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I totaly agree with all of the above
Another book I like is The general blacksmith by Malcolm Paine
Dont know if you can get it where you are though.
It goes through from forge design, how to light your forge, tapers, making your on tools ect.
I would (& have & still do ) try to find some weekend coursesfor basic blacksmith work.
A mentor is great if you can get 1 remember them helping you goes both ways. Help out by offering to clean there workshop & off side for them when you can you can learn a lot by watching them.
Have fun with the insanity of blacksmithing

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In Weygers book he mentions Vise Grips as a boon to smithing. Anything that will hold the piece securely, and keep your fingers from being burned will work. Look at what some primitive smiths have to work with.


I hate to disagree but vice grips/mole wrenches and the like are dangerous. They are not designed for forging: they grip only over a small area, allowing the stock to swivel uncontrollably; the jaws mark the work; they can spring open suddenly; it's difficult to adjust the position of the metal and the heat will soon make them useless for anything.
Use them for their intended purposes of rounding off nuts and scraping your knuckles.
Sorry, I've got a bit of a 'thing' about them!

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Being a newbe myself, I made a hold down today. It is made from a 1/2 inch rd stock, and is used in the pritchel hole in the anvil.

LeeRoy

post-2288-005607400 1276813939_thumb.jpg

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I hate to disagree but vice grips/mole wrenches and the like are dangerous. They are not designed for forging: they grip only over a small area, allowing the stock to swivel uncontrollably; the jaws mark the work; they can spring open suddenly; it's difficult to adjust the position of the metal and the heat will soon make them useless for anything.
Use them for their intended purposes of rounding off nuts and scraping your knuckles.
Sorry, I've got a bit of a 'thing' about them!


Perhaps it isn't the tool but how you use it Sam? Personally I don't want anything between my hand and the work, tongs of any kind are a step down in control. vise grips were invented by a blacksmith who was tired of having work fall out of more traditional tongs.

Recently I've been retraining myself as a working smith by making tongs, there's nothing like a brain injury to take the polish off one's skills sets. Anywho, in part and parcel with making some decent working tongs I spent some time going through all my old pairs of vise grips looking for some that worked well. What I found were a few that worked and a bunch that didn't. The needle nose vise grips work a treat for small items, especially holding a couple different pieces together while being shaped or fitted. The larger more heavy duty more standard shaped ones are okay if adjusted carefully but they're not too good for a quick grab.

Funny thing is I run into the same situation with my many pairs of tongs, some are the perfect shape and size for a given job but not others. If I'm not careful to select the correct tongs for the job there's no telling how quickly I'll lose control of the project or what kinds of mars will get imparted.

In large part this discussion gets down to one of the best parts of being a blacksmith and that's being able to make or modify your own tools. If you simply MUST have a grabber that'll hold a three sided steeply tapered semi circle on the inside of a steel cone then you make one.

Making squeezers to suit a particular project then discovering that's the only project they'll work for is probably why long time blacksmith shops have wall racks filled with tongs.

Frosty the Lucky.

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Wow! Just been reading this whole thread, really awesome! I'm from Phoenix AZ, an RN by trade, and got interested in metalworking/blacksmithing out of an interest in creating heavier sledgehammers, for several demolition side-projects. I appreciate what everyone is saying, because I know absolutely know nothing about metal work. If there's anything else any of you can suggest, it would be awesome, but if not then I will use this thread as a beginning point (and buy all these good books!). I've looked for groups in Phoenix and so far no luck! Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

Go to the ABANA website and click on associates. You will find a contact for the Arizona Baacksmiths Asssociation. There are blacksmiths everywhere.

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Perhaps it isn't the tool but how you use it Sam? Personally I don't want anything between my hand and the work, tongs of any kind are a step down in control. vise grips were invented by a blacksmith who was tired of having work fall out of more traditional tongs.

Recently I've been retraining myself as a working smith by making tongs, there's nothing like a brain injury to take the polish off one's skills sets. Anywho, in part and parcel with making some decent working tongs I spent some time going through all my old pairs of vise grips looking for some that worked well. What I found were a few that worked and a bunch that didn't. The needle nose vise grips work a treat for small items, especially holding a couple different pieces together while being shaped or fitted. The larger more heavy duty more standard shaped ones are okay if adjusted carefully but they're not too good for a quick grab.

Funny thing is I run into the same situation with my many pairs of tongs, some are the perfect shape and size for a given job but not others. If I'm not careful to select the correct tongs for the job there's no telling how quickly I'll lose control of the project or what kinds of mars will get imparted.

In large part this discussion gets down to one of the best parts of being a blacksmith and that's being able to make or modify your own tools. If you simply MUST have a grabber that'll hold a three sided steeply tapered semi circle on the inside of a steel cone then you make one.

Making squeezers to suit a particular project then discovering that's the only project they'll work for is probably why long time blacksmith shops have wall racks filled with tongs.

Frosty the Lucky.


Good control of tongs is a vital part of smithing. Vice grips are not tongs; it would be safer and easier to hold the work in your teeth than to use these vile contraptions.

From the replies to my other rant(), it seems that few people use these things (I can't bring myself to refer to them as 'tools') for their intended purpose, they just 'do' for a variety of other tasks when the proper equipment isn't to hand.
I shall not rest until every last pair has been recycled into something useful!

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