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I Forge Iron

Never been more frustrated...

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I've never been more frustrated than I am right now with metalwork.

I've been working on a pair of tongs for a friend. I'm making the jaws and forge welding the reins on, harder but I need to practice forge welding. The first one worked the first time. The second? Two days and it hasn't welded. The last time the jaw part not only flew off the anvil, but landed on my oil bucket, melted through the cover, and by time I found it with the tongs had fused with the bottom of the bucket. So I've given up.

Then I realized, nothing I've done since late September has worked. I blew a hole in the helmet I was working on, the hammer adz I made looks nice, but it's got a couple cracks, and everything I've tried to make with bar stock has cracked, both scrap bar I have and brand new stock.

I know I'm not forging to cold, and even if I did a couple times by accident, how is that going to account for a 100% failure rate?! And it's not like I'm brand new at this. I've not been doing it as long as many here, but I didn't start last week! I know my way around a hammer and anvil, I know how to work hot steel. I've done a lot of things I've been happy with. And now I can't seem to get anything right. I don't see how stepping away and taking a break will help, because I can only get into the forge once or twice a week right now.

Anyway, I'll stop venting now.


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Thanks, you actually made me feel a bit better myself after reading about you. :P

Sometimes stepping back and trying to look at the big picture could help you figure out what is creating your situation the way it is.

Is it time? IOW, are you being rushed?

Did something change in your smithy?

Is the weather an issue?

Is your wife ready to deliver a baby? (DAMHIKT)

The reason I pose these questions is that in my case I know that it's purely lack of skills, and I do seem to be developing them, slowly. It sound as if that is not the case with you, so a look at what has changed, if anything, may be a good thing to take a look at.

Also, could be good to get together with other smiths and hammer together, that might shed light into something...kinda like group theropy. ;)

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Nick, As Alan said take note of any changes that could have contributed to the problem.

Back up and make something simple in mild steel. You looking at technique, not the finished project here. Then provide us details, what you did, and what happened, so we can help. Pictures will help us a lot also.

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I feel your pain and have had dry spells where it just won't come together. The funny thing is that I have had days where I couldn't walk through the shop without breaking or ruining something and others when nothing could go wrong (I call that "Zen forging" - it's almost like a meditative trance). I worked a little last night and had a good session so that's a blessing...

Taking a long break can help. Your subconscious will remember the movements until the next time but sometimes the conscious mind needs a breather. Something like a month if you can spare it.

Doing something very trivial can help. Clean the shop but don't light a fire - just piddle a while and go back in the house.

Forge something very simple and repetitive. Make 10 J-hooks or something similar - you can always use them somewhere or sell in the future. This also disconnects the conscious mind, which is your worst enemy right now.

Use your frustration to climb to the next level - anger can be a good thing when channelled properly.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.

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When I start having problems, I stop and go get a cup of coffee, and relax. Then I give the work a break for a while. I find that cleaning the shop, cleaning up the anvil and tools, and cleaning out the forge is good.

I find that success in the work, especially welding, has a lot to do with attitude. I have not been able to make a weld and then when showing someone what I'm doing and explaning it, everything goes perfectly. I don't worry about screwing up, just let the process flow. I guess it is a kind of "zen" thing.

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Nick, this is a common problem in any discipline, not just forging. It is caused by trying to hurry so you don't waste time. Slow down, concentrate, and don't worry about how much you are getting done.

You are trying to learn a skill that requires practice just like any other. Would you expect to be able to play the violin by practicing 2 hours once a week? Of course you can, but you won't play on the stage of Carnegie Hall at that rate. Instead, you have to keep your projects within the bounds of skills you can develop on such a limited time budget.

If you don't have the time to practice forge-welding, then use longer pieces of steel to make the tongs and draw the reins out instead.

When I was starting out, I was so determined to make forge-welding a natural part of my skill set that I started every session in the shop by building a fire, forging two railroad spikes together by their heads, and making the welds disappear into one continuous 5/8" bar. In my opinion, you HAVE to practice. Forging is an acquired skill with no shortcuts.

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Nick, you are not alone. No one on this board got good the first, second, third, fourth.....etc. I remember being determined to make a good leaf. When I failed, I cut off the bad, tossed it into the yard( had an outside forge at the time) keep on going. At one point I looked up to see a small grass fire I had started from all the hot steel I had tossed.

Make sure that the project you tackle is within your ability, everyone needs to stretch but we all have our limitations.

I start each session on the forge with a "Kata" pure form, working the hammer correctly, making sure I am in the zone for the harder stuff that will follow.

Don't give up. When your waiting for the steel to come to heat, think. visualize what your are going to do before you do it. Never met a good blacksmith yet that didn't have the patience of Job. Or perhaps they were just plain stubborn.

Get back to the forge and keep working, things will come in due time.

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I'm with Ed, sounds like you are working on fairly difficult projects without the regular background. I know that paying your dues is a bother but it really helps in the long run. If you don't have the time to forge regularly I'd stick to simple small stuff until you can get the time.

Getting the smithy set up so you can maximize the time you get to spend in it is a good idea as is working with a propane forge---less time spent messing with the fire, less work burnt up too.

When I have a day when everything goes wrong I clean shop or go read a book I *NEVER* work on a special project when in a hurry or under the weather---learned that the hard way over the years

Finally if you are not having fun---even when messing up perhaps this is not the hobby for you and you may wnt to try something else.

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Thanks all,

Alan, my wife says she definitly not ready to deliver a baby.

Thomas, believe me, there's probably nothing that can actually make me give up blacksmithing, no matter how frustrated I get. But I am a perfectionist. The really bothersome thing is that I've done many complicated projects before. I've made armour, tied knots, made tiny little pendants, and big campfire cook sets. I know I'm rusty at forge welding, but I would like to be able to draw a taper without the steel cracking! I'll be getting steel from Centaur Forge instead of Marquette Machining next time, hopefully that'll remove that particular problem.

I'll admit I was in a hurry to get the tongs done, Christmas and all.

But I'm not giving it up.

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