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meeekyh

Giving a demo to elementary school kids

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I have just joined my local smith's guild and we are doing an annual demo for little kids this week. I am hoping you all may have suggestions on what to show the kids, what bits of history should be mentioned what type of item I might forge to show some actual technique.
All suggestions are welcome and the demo is set to be 20 minutes long.

Thanks.

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I would imagine that this goes without saying, no forge welding. I would make something small and no longer than ten minutes. You on your own with the historical knowledge though.

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Heat some iron to red and taper a point. Reheat and burn some holes in softwood. Kids will love it and remember more than any historical talk.
I sometimes demonstrate at a historical site. Nobody pays a lot of attention altho hooks are popular. Another demonstrator with no skills did the burning holes thing and the people thought it was the second coming??

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I have worked with a number of elementary school groups and one demo that always wows them will also demonstrate how we are able to forge the iron. Take a 3 or 4 foot piece of 3/4" square bar, clamp it in a vise or stick it in the hardy hole of your anvil and ask the biggest, strongest boy to step up and see if he can bend it. After he fails, take a heat in the middle, and ask the smallest weakest girl in the group to try. When she makes it look easy, you can explain how the metal becomes like clay when heated. That demo will stick in their minds long after everything else is forgotten. One caution-remember that kids are short and their eye level can be close to the anvil top and most likely they will not be wearing safety glasses. A welding heat is not recommended unless you maintain a long distance from them to you. Liability insurance is a definite plus when doing demos.

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If you are a quick nail maker the kids love getting a nail from the smith. I have been doing that lately at the museum shop and it is a big hit. And you can talk about nail making history a little bit as you go.

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If you can whip them up a couple of rough/quick bodkin points are great for kids. They love all that adventure/battle stuff, even the girls.

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Bodkin points, Egad! Here, they confiscate the nails before they get back on the bus, because someone will get poked.

A leaf keychain for the teacher or parents/chaperons goes over well.

Tying an overhand knot in a 1/4" rod is always good, as is branding a piece of softwood at a black heat after it is too cold to forge. Shows the difference between too hot to touch and hot enough to work.

Having a suspended magnet to show the phase change in heated metal is a good Mr. Wizard science moment, too.

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Heat some iron to red and taper a point. Reheat and burn some holes in softwood. Kids will love it and remember more than any historical talk.
I sometimes demonstrate at a historical site. Nobody pays a lot of attention altho hooks are popular. Another demonstrator with no skills did the burning holes thing and the people thought it was the second coming??


Bitter much? ;-)
Thanks though the Idea of burning wood is a good one to be sure...
Or not as it doesn't resemble working metal in any way. If anyone out there has an addition to this, pitch in.

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Hey Meeekyh,

To me the biggest aspect to blacksmithing history is that the blacksmith provided tools for darn near every other trade out there.

The other great thing to me about blacksmithing is how beautifull a tool can be made to be. I really like to make prybars that have ornamental aspects to them. One of my favorites is a one ended prybar with only a mild curve on the prying end and a good looking twisted handle end. I came up with the idea when I was making tongs for a place that forged aluminum bits in closed dies, the bits would get stuck in them and I figured that a dedicated one ended pry bar would do the trick, the worker wanted it but the boss didn't see the point. . . oh well.

What if you made a good looking prybar out of say 3/8" stock and then when finished let them use the prybar to tilt up one side of the BIG HEAVY anvil. Maybe a bit larger stock if you have time to forge it out inbetween the lecture.

Caleb Ramsby

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Bodkin points, Egad! Here, they confiscate the nails before they get back on the bus, because someone will get poked.



Sounds like a rough world you live in over there. Anyway points don't have to be sharp to show how they are made and the kids don't need to keep them. Maybe I will stop complaining about our regulations over here so much......................

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Yeah, it's a rough world. PC has taken over. I tell the kids (20-somethings) that I was born under a flag with 48 stars and grew up in a free America. We could smoke in High School and carry pocket knives. Now, we can't even do that in the College I work at. :angry:

Anyway. Meeekyk, burning peg holes in wood is very traditional in pre-1860 America, especially on the frontier. It is about as fast and easy as that rarity, brace and bits, and cheaper too. Remember, a fully outfitted toolbox was the mark of a Master of a craft, and generally a settled life.

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Demo for youngsters... nails were well received, along with the story of how valuable iron was on the frontier, you can even tell the "story" about the burned cabin. As previously mentioned, little peoples eyes are near at anvil height. I made up a protective screen. Used an old aluminum framed metal wire window screen about 3 ft sq. painted flat black and hung on a couple of rods in the ground. Better and cheaper than plexiglas.
Joe B

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I have just joined my local smith's guild and we are doing an annual demo for little kids this week. I am hoping you all may have suggestions on what to show the kids, what bits of history should be mentioned what type of item I might forge to show some actual technique.
All suggestions are welcome and the demo is set to be 20 minutes long.

Thanks.


"This bar is one inch wide. I can put a one inch hole through it without weakining it." Demonstrate slitting and drifting. Then run the end of the bar through the hole.

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Make a nail, then make a ring out of it.

Make sure they know the difference between a farrier, and a blacksmith.

Small tools would be good; screwdriver for example.

A friend went to a mountainman rendezvous and his kid got the BS bug from watching a guy make a combination spoon-fork with a twist between them. Fairly rough, but good enough to get my buddy looking for BS tools now.

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When demonstrating I do the following
Nails and talk about how building were burned down to salvage the iron
I have 1/4 or 3/8 square stock pre sawn with a band saw to do friederick split cross
Not at school events but thressing shows I make small swords from double headed nails.
one piece rose from 1/4 round

If I give away something I give it to the teacher or adault otherwise there could be problems.

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Thanks to you all. The suggestions are good and I am especially fond on the burning down of buildings in order to salvage the iron. Something both green and black.

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I have just joined my local smith's guild and we are doing an annual demo for little kids this week. I am hoping you all may have suggestions on what to show the kids, what bits of history should be mentioned what type of item I might forge to show some actual technique.
All suggestions are welcome and the demo is set to be 20 minutes long.

Thanks.


Actually it is 15 minutes and rapid-fire...12 in 3 hours.

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When demonstrating I do the following
Nails and talk about how building were burned down to salvage the iron
I have 1/4 or 3/8 square stock pre sawn with a band saw to do friederick split cross
Not at school events but thressing shows I make small swords from double headed nails.
one piece rose from 1/4 round

If I give away something I give it to the teacher or adault otherwise there could be problems.

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It seems unlikely that someone would burn down a useable structure to salvage a bit of iron. I have heard this before but have never seen any documentation. The History Channel does not count. I would hesitate to repeat this legend to a group of school children.

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A few years ago an elementary school here was doing a Pioneer Crafts thing. The blacksmith got hurt just before and called me - a mostly farrier with nothing prepared - to fill in. I did what I do best, horseshoes. It seemed to go well, forging plus punching, but this is a rural ranching area and that was a school that received a lot of ranch kids. I could talk about when machine made shoes came in, how that influenced the Civil War, etc.

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I would also be very hesitant to quote the burning down of buildings for the iron story as well. Would seem to be a heck of a waste of salvageable materials such as posts, lintels, shingles etc. If a building burnt down by accident then yes, I can see that as plausible but otherwise...hmm.

Leaves are always a good demo for kids and you can stop part way through making one and explain how it can become an arrow, nail etc. What about tools like chisels, screwdrivers etc. Simple and fast. How about making a rivet? Then you can turn it into a mushroom, or maybe a snail? Even knives and forks and spoons are simple and pretty quick to make. The choices are nearly limitless

Mainly have fun and try to make sure they do too...

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A few years ago an elementary school here was doing a - to fill in. I did what I do best, horseshoes. It seemed to go well, forging plus punching, but this is a rural ranching area and that was a school that received a lot of ranch kids. I could talk about when machine made shoes came in, how that influenced the Civil War, etc.

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Re, burning down buildings for nails, from historymyths.wordpress.com...

"Here’s a good illustration on how a myth gets started. Ken Schwarz, Colonial Williamsburg’s blacksmith since 1982 and the master blacksmith since 2003, says he hears this one every time they make handwrought nails at the Anderson Forge. It’s not true, yet there is a nugget of fact if you dig deep enough . . .

. . . back to a single Virginia law in the 1640s that forbade the burning of buildings for the nails. However, Ken explains that during the earliest years of the colonial period—the first few decades of the 1600s—buildings were constructed in a very slipshod manner, with wood touching the ground. They were meant to be temporary, because the earliest settlers hadn’t planned to “settle” at all–they were here in the New World to make a quick fortune and go home. So they built shoddy buildings that quickly rotted. Therefore, it was an occasional thrifty practice to get rid of these shacks by burning them, but then, why not sift through the ashes for the nails? Ken says the nails weren’t all that valuable, but why waste them?

The law aimed to stop Englishmen from deserting their plantations and from burning the buildings as they left (and taking the nails with them) by giving them the estimated number of nails. Here, read it yourself.

And it is further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid, That it shall not be lawfull for any person so deserting his plantation as afore said to burne any necessary houseing that are scituated therevpon, but shall receive so many nailes as may be computed by 2 indifferent men were expended bout the building thereof for full satisfaction, reservinge to the King all such rent as did accrew by vertue of the former grants or planting of the same from the expiration of the first seaven years.

Perfectly clear, right?

Okay, the translation: in essence, it says, if you’re going to desert your plantation (which you are leasing from the king, you don’t own the land), don’t burn the worthless buildings for the nails before you leave; we’ll give you as many nails as two men estimate are in the building, but you won’t get any of your rent back from the king.

Ken Schwarz says that this practice didn’t last long. Slipshod building techniques soon gave way to sounder architecture. No one would ever have burned a decent building for its nails."

Pretty cool, huh? bart

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Burning the cabin story... true or not, who knows? Sometimes , espically with youngsters the "story" only is a vehicle for conveying the message. In this case that back in the day items that we take for granted as "throwaways" were scarce and held dear. One such story, from grade school that stuck with me was "The neighborhood needle". Remember that one? One sewing needle passed around to support the entire pioneer community. As for nails being dear, I swear that grandpa never bought a new nail in his life, had all us kids straighting bent-up salvaged nails.

Joe B

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