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I Forge Iron

insulted by a newbie

Larry H

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A friend was fond of saying"The only justice you ever get in this world is the justice you make for yourself".
Justice means different things to different people depending on their upbringing.For some it means being spoon fed with a silver spoon.For others it means retaliation or revenge.Still others believe it defines the workings of Karma.
BTW-That friend is behind bars,again. :(

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The ones I like are those who tell me that they "know all about blacksmithing because they have done it in a video game"!

My standard reply now is to hand them the hammer and ask them to demonstrate something----*always* good for a laugh!

Some classes I'll start by telling kids that everything I'm going to teach them is *right* now but will be *wrong* in the long term---it's like Newtonian vs Relativistic physics: Newtonian is *right* for everything going 90% and under of the speed of light and *wrong* for only stuff going above that.

So I teach then how to work A36 and try to emphasize that what they are learning may NOT work right for knife grade steels or real wrought iron where the forging temp range is different and much more restricted. However hammer control, drawing, straightening, etc is much the same for a "S" hook as well as a knife.

I do run into the folks who "don't want to make an S hook, they want to make a knife" as their *first* project. I usually pass on them.

I teach a free intro course; I don't expect most folks to continue; but it introduces them to the craft and such seeds may lay dormant for years only to spring forth and flourish. (And there is always the few who are ready and willing; teaching them is a joy, I compare it to throwing a match on gasoline! at least one of them is on this forum...)

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I had a utter dill phone me quite a few years ago and ask me if I had any apprenticeships on offer, I told him I was looking at starting another in the new year, call me then, earlier rather then later. He left no phone No. and he seemed a little vague. New year came and went, did'nt hear from him so I started another kid who was keen to learn. A month later he rings me to see if I had put on a kid, "yes I told him, what happened to you". Get this "oh I really wanted to learn from a proffessional, you know, someone who really knows what they are doing, so I decided not to go with you". "I'm looking at getting a job with XXXX" OK I said, all the best. One year later he rings me again, says he's made a mistake and the other bloke has'nt taught him anything, he's not learning much at all, all he is is just a labourer by another name, and could I sign him up for an apprenticeship with our company. Bet you can't guess what my answer was.


I am not making any excuses for that kid's rudeness but newbies are in a difficult position. When you don't know what you don't know, you don't know who does.
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Hey there Smithy1,

I have been learning blacksmithing for about 9 months now and would love the opportunity to learn from someone with even 10 months experience. Young people today have it drilled into their heads that someone has to be properly educated (ie college) in order to be of any worth when it comes to passing on knowledge.

Not that those with a formal education are any less knowledgable than a seasoned professional or even an experienced hobbiest.

The young man that passed you up is all the poorer for it. If I was in your area I would seek you out.

Pass your smarts on to someone that is really willing to learn. Like everyone else said, his loss not yours.


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  • 2 weeks later...

This seems to be very common. It has happened to me quite a lot.

When I teach, we work on swinging the hammer first. I cut a 2" x 4" with a handle and make the student strike wood first before they strike any metal on my anvil. This is when they usually quit because it's thought they would jump right in and forge items. Not with me!! In my shop it's hammer types, hammer weights and hammer face configuration, hammer control and technique, forge/fire control, etc.... The very basics first for a good foundation. If they don't like it , oh well!!

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Iron Clad: Well, I might be a crabby old curmudgeon, but I think that's too much stick and not enough carrot. I'd intersperse it with some hot iron and let them see why they need to learn the other stuff

Personally, I can't do exercises, I usually have to jump right in and "do".

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One of my mentors,an old curmudgeon named Whitey,caught me trying to use a pair of slip joint pliers instead of a properly sized wrench early on in our time together.He confiscated those pliers and put them in the pocket of his bib-alls.
Every task was explained and demonstrated ONCE and then I had a chance to ask questions.After that I repeated the task on my own while Whitey watched.If I made a mistake I got rapped on the knuckles with my own pliers by way of correction.
About a month into this I was having a bad day and got rapped one time too many by my count.I put my tools down and looked him in the eye and told him "I`m about topped off with your crap old man and the next time you reach for those pliers you`ll eat `em".
He held my gaze and said "Son,the first time you lay a hand on me will be the last time you learn anything from me or anyone else here. you`ll be on your own and out of a job".
At the end of very long and rather silent day he stopped and told me"I was wondering when you`d decide you were gonna stand up to me,we didn`t talk much today but I think you still learned something valuable".He handed me the pliers,smiled and said, "I don`t think I`ll be needing these anymore".
I learned a lot from old Whitey.

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Grant, totally understandable. However, one of the first students I TRIED to teach changed my mind on teaching methods.

This kid was 17 and in the shop with his daddy. Over the course of around 2 hours trying to teach him to swing he gave up. He kept bending over with his face right close over the anvil and he swung the hammer with his elbow straight out away from his side. He almost hit himself in the forehead several times. He refused to listen and his father wasn't any help either. Besides, he hit my anvil several times as well. Of this I was happy he had his elbow out from his side because he didn't have enough power to dent the anvil face and destroy the hammer. Also, I learned to use an old beat anvil after that experience.

Then again, not all students are the same......

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