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I Forge Iron

Artist interested in Blacksmithing


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Hi everyone, I am an artist, and I'm interested in learning to blacksmith. The research I've done so far indicates that I should be signing up for a welding class first. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I live outside of Pittsburgh, in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and it looks like my best bet for that is Community College.

I'm interested in producing artistic garden gates and trellis type objects to start out with, and see where it goes from there.

Thanks for any help you can offer.

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Ditto Frosty. You can do more by blacksmithing than welding. (and I've been welding since '73!) Your work will be more appealing to the eye.
"I'm interested in producing artistic garden gates and trellis type objects to start out with, and see where it goes from there." Pretty ambitious for starting out. May I suggest some smaller pieces, check the BPs, then 'grow' into the larger projects. All above is MOO. (my opinion only) Good luck and keep us informed how it goes with ya.

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Deborah: It all depends on what you want to say, and how you want to say it with your art. Forging allows you to manipulate the steel in its plastic state. It is not the only state.

Liquid steel can be poured into molds. This is rather intense and dangerous work at the home level and is seldom exploited for art's sake. But it is the most fundamental state of steel.

Solid steel can be cut, bent (somewhat), bolted, screwed, drilled, glued (welded) and machined. That is: you buy the steel in the dimensions you need and treat it like a boards of wood are treated by carpenters to be mechanically joined. Beautiful things are routinely made this way by artists and craftsmen. In this solid state, the steel is just another raw material.

In between these two states is the plastic state. Steel is heated to the point where it is not melted, but is no longer solid. It is as malleable as hard clay, and can be manipulated almost exactly as clay. In this state, you may literally forge the steel into any shape you can imagine.

Blacksmiths are primarily concerned with this plastic state. In my opinion, it gives you the most freedom and the most power to express your ideas as an artist. You control every aspect of the steel, from it's form to it's surface appearance. Iron (and other metals), when forged by skilled hands, is both practical and beautiful.

So my recommendation is to find an existing artist/blacksmith near you. There are plenty in your area, including a Pittsburgh Area Artist Blacksmith (PAAB) guild. Their web site doesn't seem to work, but the one for the Pennsylvania group does:

Pennsylvania Artist Blacksmiths' Association PABA

I'm sure someone from there can get you to people close to you.

Welding is a very valuable skill and is often used in art. Blacksmith often weld steel parts together in the forge itself. The appearance of such welding is much like squeezing clay pieces together. I don't often use electric or gas welding on my forged items, but I use both routinely for for my tooling and practical items.

So in my opinion, welding isn't necessarily the best place to start, though you wouldn't regret learning it. Hot forging might be what you want to explore first.

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