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I Forge Iron

You sometimes have to ask for help.

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I'm lucky and I'll tell you why. I'm a college drop out. But I work diligently toward anything I'm passionate about and school wasn't it. Growing up I was an otaku of sorts, nerdy, fantasy oriented.. home schooled from 6th grade on self-taught.. so the internet and computers were an oasis. My classes online, my time my own by 14. By then I knew what I wanted to be.. again: a network engineer. (Previously it was mechanical engineer.) By the time I graduated at 16 I'd been working for a year and a half as a paintball reff for ActionTagg paintball it was great, I modified nerfguns as a hobby before that. I eventually got to work on markers in the store. In between weekday private games and Tagg on the weekends I bailed pine straw for 75 cents a bail as much as 52 hours a week total not counting Cisco CCNA networking classes. I spent free time on forums like with a great place for tinkers of all walks to share.
There I saw an anvil Doc had refaced and then the bug hadn't bit me. Yet I saw it as a thing of beauty still.
The summer I was 17 I met my wife to be Ashley Smith. I was still working, taking classes and now infatuated with a girl only in town for the summer to visit her mom. I was moving to (NoVa the northern Virginia area, ya know think where die hard was filmed). Great turn of events though I totaled my car before moving. I had really hoped to go to ECU or UNC and got in but young love is a powerful thing. School is important and I'd been taking classes for two years at JCC. I couldn't spare the time off in a hurry to grow up. To me it was just a piece of paper I was after. I already thought I knew everything I needed to know. Funny thing about ITT they give you the tools to learn additionally they have a very lenient attendance policies. You can miss any number of days but no more than 3 classes in a row. This is very appealing to working professionals, parents, and young college students with a budding social life and a heavy work load. But moving to NoVa taught me so very much more than ITT could have. It didn't have any sort of social life at all. I rode a bike, I worked waiting tables, at Safeway and fixing computers for folks. But I met a lot of great friends that made me a better person today.

My father is a carpenter and I've always helped him as he needed it.. or allowed.. my parents wanted more for me than they had and told me so. I grew up watching my mom work in a factory (Cant Actually Tell ya the name 'cause of angry 'SSBlackbelts') building tractors. Nine years she worked. She was one of the first woman on the floor when she started and took pride in being able to pull her weight. She saw a lot including a steady decline in important areas. In a team meeting my mom let a xxxx slip in. She was bringing up the passionate subject of quality to a suit. I've only heard her curse twice or so my short life and that's because she's devoted to that sort of thing. But before she could be there ten years as the company is laying folks off (recession not lawsuits due to anything in particular) what would have been a slap on the wrist, most times for most employees instead became elevated when the suit said she felt threatened by the language and tone.. that was a big no-no. I learned a few lessons from that but I'm very sympathetic given the circumstance. Plus I'd worked fast food but detested the atmosphere. If you work too hard in a place like that.. well it isn't appreciated or rewarded but resented. If you stand out and management is happy with sub-par standards.. well you've been to the the drive thru. Both my parents worked with their backs as much as their minds and it takes a hard toll. I do the same thing now that they warned me against doing.. but I'm very fulfilled by the work I do and very proud of the life I'm able to live working with my hands. I feel if all knowledge was shared openly and more people were creating things they love the the word would be a better place filled with beautiful objects and happy people - Thanks mom and dad.

I moved back to NC, when I was 20 after my mom lost her job, I and eventually Ashley moved to NC to live with my little sister while she graduated and my mom moved to VA to be closer to my grandfather. Within a couple days I answered a local craigslist advertisement looking for shop help, someone who could read a tape measure and pass a drug test. A small two man fab shop called All American Ironworks and I started out cutting parts but moved up. Rails, gates, window boxes and more than a few unique jobs. I was planning on finishing my degree but something caught fire in me there. It was where I saw my first piece of blacksmith work it was made by Lucas House of Iron house forge. That was two years ago and while work has been insanely busy/slowing to a halt/insanely busy there I've lived inexpensively taken odd jobs and worked for my self as I always have. A year and 3 months or so ago I went to Lucas's shop, someone I'd never met, and said "I've been looking into blacksmithing and was very interested". He showed me around his shop. We shot the xxxx and he was kind enough to give me some odd shaped firebricks. I didn't have a credit card at the time and no idea where to acquire them locally. I haven't been back since to see Lucas, but that was all it took to get the ball rolling. I'm very thankful I hope you check out all three sites.

I'm proud to call myself a blacksmith and Iron worker. It's been a long road (from my perspective) and I've learned being self employed doesn't mean you don't have a boss. It means you have many different bosses. The work I do fulfills me and tomorrow I'm taking a huge step on a longer road. The skills I've learned no one can take away and I can do it anywhere. It's a grounding feeling. After the wedding I'd like to travel eventually, there are open shops across this country and only time will tell for us. I'm very lucky to have a loving woman in my life and a wonderful job.

If I could list every website or book or video I've watched and thank each and everyone of them personally I would but I've simply lost track and to do so would be impossible for me. I read a post on blacksmithing blog (can't find the link, interestingly enough a person had given me ) recently linking to How to steal like an artist and 9 other things nobody told me. And it made a lot of sense to me. I know this sounds silly to me as I'm putting it into words. I read that and I knew who I was. More than that I new I wasn't alone.
I'm inspired by everything I see so to start off a few things no one told me and one thing someone did tell me:
1.I've worked in a few other trades just enough to learn skill is acquired through practice and repetition. Knowledge comes with patience, dedication and reiteration.
2.Listen, or read more than you project; even the openest of persons may not give you that valuable piece of advice if they think it'll just go in one ear and out the other. Something I'd like to say about that transfers especially well online. I've always enjoyed message boards, <i> I've grown up with them </i>. Some folks have more or less time to read than others. For me I personally would like to respond to a lot that I read. Kinda like shouting at the screen in a theater or sitting on the couch with your friends every community is a little different with how they respond to what you say and how often... Another effect is the "wrong effect". Ever notice how if you say or hear the same thing over and over you start to believe it, I think they call it brain washing. Myths and folklore are born in small* communities online just as they did in the days of old in little scattered towns.
3.Some folks like to watch you learn n' struggle. If the right efforts there when you least expect it you'll find out you got/get what ya needed all along.
4.Most want you to be successful. Some don't. They're the type that tells you to take the high road so there is more room on the low road.
5.Happiness doesn't only come with money. - I'm sure someone has told me this, but never without a "but". I'm giving it my own spin. It's art.
6.If someone corrects how you're doing something and you think you're right. Remember there are several ways to do the same thing even if you're right this time you may be wrong next time. Respect is often given in turn. In the work place I've often had to bite my tongue knowing (with out being told) it would take longer to explain why I thought I was right than it would to just do it. I've developed my own techniques that fit my dexterity and physical abilities. But I have learned much more from others.
7.Not all free advice is good advice. If I pay for something it's mine but credit is due. If I find something and it wasn't anyone else it's mine. Something I heard someone else found out from someone else that sort of advice deserves a warning label, sticker and neon sign. If something is freely given to me in good faith then it should be appreciated none the less the quality.
8.If you have a local blacksmithing community at least test the waters. I waited over a year to attend my first abana meet locally as I'd been warned against it. My first meeting I found a supply for coal and got a tip that has helped a ton "Keep your thumb off the back of the hammer" something I had been doing unconsciously when focused and many other great insights. Thanks NCABANA guys Triangle region. That said one of my more self fulfilling moments was a solitary one there. There were several boyscouts learning the ropes. I observed the various demonstrations and talked quietly with several other smiths who were observing or offering helpful advice on this or that to each other. I watched a gentleman teach how to make spoons and square nails. While I'd seen most of it done before through pictures and screen it was interesting to watch. I asked if I could try a square nail and he very thoroughly showed me how before leaving for lunch with the rest of the crowed and I was left alone to work.

I read number 8 countless places in forums and websites so many people couldn't have been wrong and I should have dawn that conclusion sooner. If you're reading this and holding out I'd like to make a small point. The internet is like Halloween. Often seen as a faceless whole and that goes for how folks talk it's often trick or treat. The less mask people wear the more honesty and helpfulness you get the way I see it. More than that I'd wager a man that's worked his whole life to learn something is more willing to share with a person he can relate to face to face more than a few characters on a screen. But everyone is a little different.

Art is theft, but so is life. I'm influenced by everything around me whether I want to be or not. Surround yourself with the best influences you can and you'll develop better as a person for it I believe. More so I find explaining myself, or teaching helps reiterate.

Here are some of my earliest forge constructions. I wanted to get into propane but I had just enough money for an anvil and some natural lump charcoal. I now jokingly call my old anvil "my harbor freight 25lb'er". That's 'cause it has so many nicks n' dings. In reality I got it from Agri supply 'AGS' You can find similar cast alloy anvils at harbor freight for less or at other tractor/agriculture supply places if you're looking for local suppliers. Ask for Farrier or welding supply sections. -- If you are not ready to jump in head first or if your willing to wait I recommend taking the time to find a good anvil. Fill that urge to "Do something" by attending local ABANA or similar meetings and what you need might find you.
But if you're like me and want to get as much practice as you can then you will want to use anything. But first let me tell you a bit more about myself. My first time heating up metal and working it was actually at home before I was even allowed to touch an A/O torch in the shop.
I showed a lot of interest and gleaned a lot of insight on other tools but I used a grinder and and band saw almost exclusively for many months in the shop. Sometimes drilling parts while day dreaming about a hammer n' punch* (*Day dreaming in the shop leads to missing digits just a joke folks!) . That is not including the core, hammer, impact cordless drills used on installs. But the MIG and Oxy/Ace torches were for experienced hands only.. I took that to heart.
I got better at preparing and organizing cut list while labeling and deburing parts. I learned along the way the difference between a 1/32 and a 1/16 is important at times but . Sometimes standards vary as stress does and deadlines impose at times but mostly it depends on what the part is for. You don't start off knowing little things. A 1/8 off ain't bad if you're fast enough as I've been told while framing houses.
1. Maintaining and caring for all your tools is very important.
2. Checking the squareness of the blade and the clamp is important.
3. The plane of the stock it's self is important. More so when cutting several pieces of stock welded together at one time. Sagging or shifting piles of stock.
4. While if you must you can grind down something too long or very carefully weld something to short but that takes time, additional clean up and it messes up the eb and flow of things. The little quick task that make a shop run like clock work and when that happens it cost money when competitively bid jobs are priority.
5. What side of the blade your measuring from is a simple mistake but I've been warned.

In my first stint working in the shop angle grinding was probably the most important skill I learned. There are a lot of nuances that go into it at first. Many stones, cutting disk, sanding wheels, flap disk, pads and brushes. And then you have rotary tools and files. Each have a place and a use. Some are more or less useful worn depending on the task. Changing attachments takes time, multiple grinders in my own shop I find extremely helpful. A lambs tongue done right*, not a bent 45, but a split and welded carefully ground lambs looks xxxx good. A little 3/8 hand held belt sander makes for a great tool. In decorative work careful attention to detail is important, each weld, sharp corner or piece of random splatter is a flow. A well finished done 90 degree welded piece of cap looks seamless. This eye for detail is developed over time and by looking for flaws in the work of yourself and others. Many customers don't even know the difference until they've seen it and it's undeniable. I'm very lucky to have touched and seen first hand quality work. I've since been able to increase my skill set a bit and I'd like to address some of the things I've learned while welding and working in a full time fab shop and how that's helped me be a better blacksmith.

When you get something that cost a little bit more from someone here in the states you pay for quality of life because we're lucky. I worked for wal-mart in between lulls at AAI works. In the two years I've barely made enough money to get taxed for if that tells y'all financial folks anything, but I volunteered a lot. (I don't like to talk about money honestly I prefer to leave that to business folk, but a man has to eat and fulfill his financial obligations. People don't know how you feel about something until you tell them. Thats' a personal lesson I've had to learn from experience over and over again and I'm thankful to finally understand. Thank's Love) I digress, the point is I had seen the high cost of living (I'm a documentary video type of guy. They're available to anyone online free often and a great way to stay informed even to know what biases are out there; in my opinion you can even just listen to them half the time). What I did there made me unhappy. Why? If you've seen the documentary please indulge me: It was a good job. I was very lucky to find a job paying anything in the double digits a hour around here. Already a hard worker after my mom had been fired I was very much so the ideal employee when I was there in my opinion.. That is to say.. when I was there my heart was far from into my job.

Long story short It's been a challenge and I think I'm a better person for it. I've really had to push myself to work at times. Push past creative stumps, frustrations, failures. But I'm proud of the things I've managed and would like to sell them. I need cash if I'm going to advance. It's sad but true I have to sell out. What I've recently learned is: that isn't a bad thing. Everyone has to eat and while I know my work has some flaws, glaring ones to me. It is appreciated by some. I know many people who have things they don't need, many nick nacks may be high priced compared to what they appear to be but it cost a bit more to eat in the states and the quality of life we have here is more expensive and better than folks making a lot of everyday items. The only sort of thing I can afford. What they are to me is a accumulation of raw hopes and dreams. I've given away more than a few knives and hatchets, sold 3 for $20 (a fair value, I've never afforded more than a $20 knife, but so much less than minimum wage it's unreal; what is a fair price?), for me they're simply arrived at forms while not true craftsmanship in many ways it is art. How do I market and sell my product line on line and in person. I don't want to have to be there. I'd love to do demo's and events when I'm ready but I'm not yet. I've always known it wasn't always what you know but who, I'd kinda like to have a bit of both in my pocket. I hope y'all have enjoyed getting to know me recently. I know I've posted rather frequently in my short registration here but I hope it gives some insight to who I am and shows that any help will be very much so appreciated and maybe I'm not just a bunch of words on a screen to ya anymore. With the internet our world is getting a bit smaller in a lot of ways and I think that with effort and responsibility people can move past the immature nature sometimes brought on through obscurity.

Nothing you say can offend me I've heard the line get a haircut and get a real job. But any helpful advice, articles, websites or anything else would be very helpful. I'd also like any advice on jobs I could get that would help me learn and grow in my field. I don't have money for school and already have student loans. I'm very willing to move after our wedding in June. Thanks I like writing more than most. - Greg 'Raggy' Price

Edited by Glenn
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Hi there, i just read your entire thread and i have always been a firm believer in helping out when and if required,
so in response to the last bit of your thread.(But any helpful advice, articles, websites or anything else would be very helpful)
i have some blacksmithing books on on disc ( which i sent to glenn and are being uploaded on to the downloads section) but if you would like if you send me your email i will send all of them other (theres about 10 of them). so just let me know,

Not trying to step on admins toes but if anyone else reads this and wants the books PM me and ill get them to you but please be patient with me.

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Thank you very much. Google books and this site for it's preservation and storage are great tools I'd recommend for each and every new user if I had the time and energy. I'd also say download and save every idea that you've ever liked. Keep back ups. I've seen one thing and been amazed and looked back and actually understood. It's an accomplished feeling and the first step toward doing.. At least in my mind.

I'm sorry for the lengthy post but I've been under a lot of stress lately. Having better tools now has eased one aspect of it an awful lot. My work takes up a ton of time and attention for me. My time hasn't been my own and we've been planning a wedding that is out of our means already honestly. Now I've bought an anvil wedding two months away. Can you read between the lines. If you look around it won't be hard finding a post that warns about the perils of women and steel. That said she's got "nothing gold can stay" above her heart and I've got "Far from gold"... and an anvil. But we're in it for the long haul and I'm young but I've been working hard with no return (Not that I haven't worked for folks as needed when I could or when necessary). I'm a dreamer and know it, but I need to become a professional. I don't know how to. I've never wanted to be a businessman but I confronted with the fact that I have to. It took me a long time (%based on years I've lived) the to learn everything I have. Stress is a powerful motivator.In my experience people often ask the same things over and over with out research. I've done some research. I prefer helping people who've tried to help themselves. Time is the biggest investment I can make to express how I've made an effort. My hope is that often really good answers are more complex and take more investment to give...

Edited by RaggyRead
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