Glenn

What do you need to get started in Blacksmithing?

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OSHA would have freaked. Osha has done a lot to improve the safety of the work place but if they were around back when the video depicts, we would never be as advanced as we are today. Glad they are there to help keep us safe but just sayin....

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Im amazed how much steel fell off of the bloom as they forged it. My instinct would be to work it hotter near or at welding heat.

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Based on the weld at the end of the video, as well as comparing the fire to the metal when they pulled it, they were at welding heat throughout.

Phil

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The idea was to show the newbie that you do not need a high tech blower, a high tech forge, or a high tech anvil.You can forge metal using a rock. It may not be efficient but it can be done.

Personal safety is an issue as you can see two fo the strikers getting hot material on their feet, and there is no eye or ear protection.

I did find it funny that the smith bounced his hammer on the rock anvil.

To get started in blacksmithing, you need a forge which is nothing more than a container to hold the fire. You will need something to hit upon, a large rock, and something to hit with. Add fire and iron rich dirt. Anything else just makes life easier for the blacksmith.

Forge
Today you can use the exact same forge, or other side blast forge, The cost is some mud and a pipe. The air can be obtained from a skin bellows, a wooden great bellows, a hand cranked fan or an electric fan. The fire does not care as it just needs air to get hotter to the point of heating the metal to the temperature you need to work the metal.

Fuel
Charcoal, coal, coke, wood, corn, etc can be used as solid fuels. You can control solid fuels and the amount of heat they produce with the amount of air you blow into the fire. Gas fuels require more care, containers for the fuel, gauges, hoses, burner apparatus, an insulated container to contain the burning fuel etc etc. Gas fuels CAN GO BOOM. Your neighbors can tell you how loud it was when you wake up (in the hospital). If you are starting out, solid fuels are safer, cost less, and easily available.

Anvil
A big rock will do. The next step is anything (metal) with a mass of 50-100 pounds to hit upon. If the thing has shapes, you are fortunate as you can use the shapes to your advantage.

Hammer
Look for a hammer about 2 pounds or less of any shape. Ball peen, machinist hammer, mini-sledge, single jack or double jack, etc etc.

Metal
Today we are fortunate to have metal that is thrown away. Most all metal (except metal that is coated with zinc or galvanized) is usable to the blacksmith. Mild steel is easy to use, readily available in dumpsters, and what you need for practice and most projects you will make. Specialty steel such as tool steel, springs, etc can be used but is better saved for when you need that type steel. These steels require a little different forging technique.

Today if you are a scrounger and can find the materials you need in dumpsters, alleys, and being thrown away, you can build a forge and get started at very little cost. How little depends upon your ability to find free or low cost materials.

Search this site for the 55 Forge, or Blueprint BP0133. Search again for the side blast version. Both can be built for under $20. They do not have to be exactly as shown as you are using materials you find at YOUR location.

Read the 1/4 million posts on IForgeIron and you will have most of your questions answered. Do not be afraid to ask question but do a little homework first. We have answered the basic questions (above) many many times before and sometimes our patience is a bit thin when we hear *I do not know what I am doing, have never done this before, but want to make a sword* A sword is an advanced project not a beginner project. A sword is a weapon designed and refined over many years, whose only function is to kill or injure other people. Not a good place to start in our opinion.

Again, read, research, seek out other blacksmiths, go to the blacksmithing gatherings, conferences, etc. seek out and take classes from recognized schools, or recognized blacksmiths that can jump start your learning. Always seek out those that are the MOST knowledgeable, as you want to learn from the very best. Take what they provide to your forge and work with it, practice, practice and then practice some more. Understand what they are trying to teach, how and why they said to do it this way, then go back and ask intelligent questions about what you have learned. They know when you are talking about something YOU have done or something you just read about someone else doing. If you have done your homework, they will help you advance. IF you have not, they will invest their time and knowledge into someone THAT IS interested in learning. It is just that simple. Oh yes, and do not mention swords. (grin).

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Most of what fell off was slag.

You don't want to consolidate the bloom at welding heat, for reasons explained by Lee Sauder (who's made quite a bit of bloomery iron):

We often begin working up the bloom immediately after smelting, using our bloomery with the top sections removed as a forge, moving later to the gas or coal forge for welding. At this stage, your object is compaction rather than forging. If you take a welding heat now, all your slag will run out of the bloom, leaving you with lots of separate pieces of sponge iron. Rather, take a series of orange heats and compact the bloom, beginning with fairly gentle blows. Watch out, slag will be squirting all over the place. You will note that the spongy character of the bloom causes it to neither conduct nor hold heat very well, requiring many short heats to work it. When it’s compact enough to heat like iron and return energy to the hammer like iron, take a welding heat and go for it


http://iron.wlu.edu/anvil.htm
.

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Excellent topic Glenn, so many folk really overthink smithing especially getting started. The video is icing on the cake. this could be one of the better posts on the site.

Frosty the Lucky.

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They should look into the Neo-Tribal metalsmithing movement---forging great stuff with minimal tooling!

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Some iron, a heat source, something to hit the iron with and something to use to hit the iron against, and something to hold the hot iron. So at a flea market you can get some scrap, a hammer of some type, and a pair of pliers.

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In 1991, a local primitive skills expert, Scott Kuipers, invited me to attend and demo blacksmithing at a gathering in Rexburg, Idaho. It was called Rabbit Stick Rendezvous Skills Conference sponsored by the Boulder (Utah) Outdoor Survival School. I said that I would do it, but I admit that I was at a loss as to exactly what to present. Scott told me that there would be teachers present from all sorts and types of primitive skills, but that I would be the first to show smithing at this annual event.

I had a Japanese style box bellows that woodworker/smith/friend, John Burt, made for me, but I never yet had occasion to set it up. I knew very little about the reduction of ore to iron, so that was out. I thought that we could salvage scrap iron once we arrived in Rexburg. We were all camped next to the Snake River. I remember that it was cold sleeping at night, so cold that you didn't want to get up to pee. You just lay in the sack and worried. lol I noticed that the banks of the river had large deposits of gray clay not far from our tent. In the morning, I gathered some and made a Japanese style forge with a 2" galvanized pipe for a tuyere. The anvil was a small one that I brought with me. We drove through Rexburg and were able to find some scrap by the roadside and in alleys. We charred wood in the forge to make charcoal. You could put wood on top of a charcoal fire and it would allow you to get some work done...not ideal, but we could get our heats.

At that time, Sloyd knives were fairly popular with the skills teachers. For whatever reason, a few of the guys had them with their respective sheaths tied around the neck with a leather string. On the first morning, we teachers all stood in a circle and introduced ourselves, saying what skill we were presenting. When I said "blacksmithing," one guy said that blacksmithing was not primitive to his way of thinking. My response, "If blacksmithing is not primitive, I would suggest that all of you wearing Sloyd knives throw them away and that all of you cooking on iron and steel pots and pans at your campsites, get rid of them."

A good time was had by all. One nice thing. You didn't need to dress period, as reenactors do. Nobody was going to check whether your moccasins were made of brain tanned or commercially tanned leather. The important thing in terms of a teacher's skill: "Could he or she DELIVER?"

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I lot of folks get riled when I point out to them that cast iron pots are not medieval. I like to build a adobe forge every now and then with two home made bellows just to show folks you don't need high tech "modern" stuff like they used in the 1800's to smith. (But I sure do appreciate the post vise!)

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Thank you fpr posting that :) as someone with high intrests and NO experience in any metal work, except listening to my brother in law who is studing meatl work at the local college. He thinks that since I am old ( not even 35 yet) and a girl that my best bet is just to watch:) However I have been deeply involved in many areas with the local ren fest. adn I still think that anyone with some common sence about hot stuff and the stregnth to swing a hammer should be able to atleast learn.

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We have has blacksmiths as young as 6 years old that can handle hot metal and swing a hammer.

The weight of the hammer and size of the metal should fit your stature and physical build. Start with safety first. Read all you can about being safe and not getting hurt. Then find a hammer about 1-1/2 pounds to 2 pounds, and metal under 1/2 inch in size to play with. Once you gain good technique, hammer control, and physical strength, you can then move on.

As far as a forge, search this site for the 55 Forge Blueprint 0133. An anvil is just something to hit on, usually with a mass of 50 to 100 pounds. It does not have to look like an anvil, it just needs to be heavy. Dumpsters, alleys, and companies that throw away metal things are a good source for metal to get started. A ball peen or machinist hammer is as good as any to start with.

The metal moves at yellow to orange in color. You can even work it down to medium red, but when it starts turning low red toward black, put it back into the fire and warm it back up. Tuesday 10 pm Eastern time US go to the chat room for the Blueprints presentation, a discussion on making things from metal. Two Blueprints are presented each week, followed by an open forum where anything related to blacksmithing is discussed.

Start a new thread and keep us informed as to your progress. You might be surprised how many folks on this site are willing to help you. Find a blacksmithing group near you and attend the meetings. It will jump start your learning and is a great source for tools.

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I've known a couple of smiths still smithing in their 80's and 90's so you still may have 50 years of work left in you! I've learned quite a lot from several extremely talented lady smiths and there is a whole lot of smithing that don't take 300 pound gorillas swinging a 9 pound hammer (and when they need such "help"; well a powerhammer is faster, stronger and smells less!)

If you are around central New Mexico USA let me know and I can introduce you to several lady smiths and help you get started!

Mean while look up Roberta Elliott, www.velvethammerltd.com and Dorothy Stiegler

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Re Dorothy Stiegler. She and her husband Ed (now deceased) came to my blacksmithing school in the early 1970's. Just prior to that time, they both knew that they wanted to pound on hot iron, but didn't quite know how to go about it, so they attended a horseshoeing class. The shoeing didn't really appeal to their inner desires. They somehow found out about me, probably through the old "Whole Earth Catalog." During my class, they had made an agreement between themselves that whomever was most successful in school, that person would head the business they were going to have. The agreement was a little 'tong-in-cheek,' but it appeared that they did compete a bit. Dorothy wanted to make a fancy hinge for her final class project. She made a quite nice, multiple stranded hinge with it's small tail strap. It had a flowing stem and floral motif, as I recall. When it was finished, Ed sort of threw in the towel and said, "OK, you're the boss." The other class members gave Ed a good natured tease. Don't get me wrong. Ed was a good smith, but Dorothy was a good designer and a good smith. Dorothy is still forging away in Southern California not too far from the Nevada border.

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Save where it's strictly taboo by culture there have always been women who smithed. We know about them in medieval Europe due to guild regulations stating that they could only work in the Smithy of their: Father, Husband or Brother. No need to make a law if it's not happening.

In India the caste of itinerant smiths uses their wives as strikers.

Throughout most of history the difference between family and workforce was often pretty small.

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In England if I remember correctly most of the nail trade was manufactured in the home by women nailsmiths. Them were the days when women really got their nails done on a daily basis,cooked three meals a day, reared the children and furnished all the beer money for the man of the house. He couldn't find work most of the time because there just wasn't much work for an adult male, women and children worked cheaper and were easier the manage. And we think we unemployment problems today.

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Cool video. I noticed about half way through the guys with the hot feet found some shoes to wear! Good idea! Also noticed part way through they switched from rocks to hammers. Also a good idea. I wonder if the little woman switches from striker to seamstress to mend the holes in the fancy knickers afterword! I guess they succeeded in what they were making but it doesn't look like they were having much fun.

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I have watched this video possibly four or five times now because it reminds me to be thankful for the tools that i have and reminds me that i could be worse off, because even as little true tools i have i still make do and compared to these guy (or at least what there using here) i have a hole shop it helps me be more thankful that i have a anvil and not a rock and a few hammers and heck a nice pair of tongs. So thank you for posting the video i will most certainly be watching it again soon enough.

Tim

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