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I Forge Iron

Boy Scouts anf FFA demos

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I am looking at putting together some demonstrations specifically geared towards the Boy Scouts of America, and Future Farmers of America(FFA) groups in the area. The FFA group here at the school where I teach has asked to do something for them in the near future.

Has anyone out there done any work with these organizations in the past? If so what did you do, and any suggestions you may have would be a great help.

I am thinking of flint strikers for Boy Scouts(maybe get them to make their own?), and nails for the FFA....


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Back when I was a Boyscout, the troop still had one of the blacksmithing merit badge books in the troop library, this was after the merit badge had been discontinued. I believe it is possible to find some of the information from that book on the web, although I am not sure where. Over at anvilfire they have a few of there demos that are based on the BSA merit badge projects. I think if you went with stuff out of the book, it would be kind of appropriate since at one time all the projects were approved by the BSA.

Another thing to consider is that boys being boys...any chunk of steel glowing orange hot and being hit with a hammer is gonna be cool. BUT before you let them work in the forge, consider things such as liability, dangers , and the posibility of many new marks on the face of your anvil from innacurate and over zealous hammer blows.
-Aaron @ the SCF

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Woody (and primtechsmith),
The BSA does have a metalworking merit badge. IIRC it deals mostly with welding and machining. If you have the setup, and the time to donate, becoming a merit badge counselor isn't that bad of a deal. Basically you take a test that shows you are competent in the subject and they certify you to be a counselor through the local BSA troop (the are details but that is the jist of it), then you deal with a couple kids now and then who are usually willing to learn and snatch up any information you can give them (least that's how I was when I was a Boy Scout).

Forgot to mention earlier. FFA might be interest in seeing horse shoes being made, or some other horse/livestock item being made. Of course we ARE blacksmiths and not farriers ;)
-Aaron @ the SCF

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The BSA Metalworking merit badge has a few different components that the boy can choose from. One of those is blacksmithing, where the boy would need to perform some basic skills, like drawing out, bending, etc. You can see the requirements here: Metalwork Merit Badge

But there is no real proficiency test to be a counselor, at least in my council (Daniel Webster, basically most of New Hampshire). You have to write what your interest in the subject matter is and that's pretty much it.

I helped out with our council's summer camp Foxfire program. Mainly, I taught the teachers and suggested some projects for the boys. We settled on a drive hook. It covered all the requirements except for riveting. But a fireplace shovel or burger flipper could do all the req's fine. The Foxfire program was not there to fill in any merit badge. Mainly it was a fun thing to do with a theme. Any merit badge requirements were a bonus.

I would think the striker would be a good project, too. Whatever you do, you need to keep the ages in mind. You may get an 11-year-old along with a 17-year-old. A small 11-yr-old hits with a light hammer and has little arm strength. It could take him 12 heats to point up a hook.

If all you're doing is a demo, then keeping it short and sweet is key. The striker, followed by a demo of using it, sounds pretty nifty to me. A lot depends on your alotted time and the audience. Another thing is the demo format itself. If this is at a troop meeting, then you're stuck with the time they give you. But at a large jamboree, you'll have boys coming and going and more flexibility.

But getting back to my little experience - I visited the area to see how they were coming along. The day I visited they had two patrols in there. That was a group of 14 boys sharing one coal forge and two anvils. My recommendation was not to do that any more. They cycled through OK, but lots of time was spent hanging out, waiting their turn.

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I may be able to help some here. I did demos for the scouts for ten years as a registered Scout Master. Yes you can do demos and on a certified basis. Meaning your demo can be used for advancement, on the boys part, at their need. Perhaps a scout can get a credit towards his social merit badges by visiting a public display. Or another get information on history or rural frontier skills for campfire cooking. And on and on. The all get something out of it. As to what is up to them and their needs or interests at the time. "Be Prepared" is the Scout Moto, so "Be Prepared" to allow hands on if required. Some extra eye glasses for anyone inside "The Rope". And always two deep leadership, which means there is always another adult there. This is required for advancement. After all, the Scouts are always looking for volunteers. Go strait to the council. They should have staff who's only purpose is to help you do your thing so the boys can do their thing.
I made brands for the council for one of the camperalls. My irons were used by over 1300 scouts, in one weekend, to brand a leather banner with the letters "KLONDEZVUES 98". The name of that camp-out. 10 irons in 9 fires as proof of completion at 9 stations to complete IIRC. I have also demoed as an invite by other councils. Blacksmithing has everything it takes to keep boys interested. Fire, noise, hot steel, hammers, steam, color and if you complete the package, history. You will get more than you give with the scouts. At least I always did.
As for the Blacksmithing merit badge. It was discontinued in ,I believe, 1951. Although the scouts can still do the requirements to complete it, they can not receive the badge towards advancement. I had several scouts that did the requirements. It is challenging for a beginner. This should be done in a shop somewhere and not at a camp-out. There is a lot to it for even a few scouts at a time in a couple of weekends. Camp-outs and demos should be kept short and sweet. Projects that start and finish in small time slots give a good average exposure to all the scouts.
I had heard a rumor about the reactivation a few years a go as more history and art, but I don't think it did. Check into it and let us know.
Anything I can do to help.

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Oh dear, bin there done that.

All I remember was thinking I want a rest, please let me rest, I'm desperate for a rest now.

Oops too late, I've expired.

The onslaught was relentless. Like the invading hoardes. A new batch of ten scouts every twenty minutes. The leaders were just as harrowing. Ooh blacksmiths, do you think you can make me a ... insert article requiring an hour to design and another hour to forge. What about my rest?

Bear in mind most scouts (12 to 14 years old here) are not very proficient in hammer use or eye hand coordination.

We tried to make at least one thing for the troup camping box rather than an item for each individual. Pot hooks were popular, so too were sticking tommies. Dunking a piece of hot iron in the slack tub was a winner as well.

Notwithstanding the above it was very satisfying to see all the happy, eager smiling faces. And the three of us smiths got a badge as well. Not much I know but it was the thought that counts eh?

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I used to do demos for the local cub scouts day camp. This camp was set up with 1 hour activities for 7 groups of 10 to 15 scouts each. The groups would rotate from station to station for a one hour session. For each of my sessions, I would make something that the troop could use for camping and that I could easily make in each session along with the lecture. Usually something like a tripod set with a couple of S hooks, or some cooking utensils, fire starters, etc. As these were younger kids, my sessions were just demo and lecture, but the kids were always very interested. They were usually fascinated by the fire and the plasticity of the hot steel.

I always gave whatever I made to the troop leaders, NEVER to one of the kids. I learned that the hard way when I gave a fire starter to one of the kids after I finished it. I had 14 others demanding one also :( .

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