rthibeau

It takes money to blacksmith !!!!

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I save my money for one thing, tools for my shop. In the last 5 months Ive gone from forging outside a rail anvil and brake drum forge to a 110lb anvil, chili habanero gas forge, and building a 15x30 workshop. I already had plans to build a shed of some type but I made it a little bigger so that I could use it as a workshop for smithing. I am addicted to say the least, all my extra money and thoughts go into planning for this craft.

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On 4/22/2012 at 11:55 PM, SmoothBore said:

I suspect many of those who seem to be "trolling" for bargains, ... or handouts, ... are relatively young, and are just beginning to learn the ways of the "real" World

That's me. Learnin' life. Thank goodness I've found good info resources.

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To be a professional blacksmith?

Yes, as a professional blacksmith I have a large investment in tools, books and schools.

To start learning? Nope I disagree.

My first anvil, piece of rail.

My first forge, home built (still works)

 my first hammer? $2 ( I have never bought a new hammer and I own hundreds of them.)

My first tongs? Free and broken. Had to weld on a new rein.

Tool stock? Bought many dozens of cold chisels for .50 or less. Same with files although I will gladly pay $1 for a sharp name brand file. (again, I have hundreds of all variety)

Hardy tools; though I have bought many used ones cheaply, I made my first hot cut Hardy from a percussion tool bit.

Flypresses, first one free, second larger one, $25 and a 2 hour ride.

Electric potters kiln for heat treating, free. 

Post drill $5 (I have since paid up to $125 for a particulurly elegant version.

Hossfeld bender, a mate gave me a handle from the scrap yard so I built the rest. Still works. 

Blower, $20 new old stock, neither the seller nor the buyer knew the real value.

Small scrolling pliers ground down from lineman pliers.

Large scrolling/bending tools; attachments welded to very large old fashioned adjustable wrenches

Twisting wrenches, see above. 

Bolt, nail and rivet headers, all made from an old drive shaft from some old machine,  hardenable.

Punches, cutters drifts, etc. all made from stock at hand, often recycled tool steel in one form or another.

This is why I advocate making tools as forging practice. 

The other day on the jobsite the builders needed a tool to finish a hole in the center of a ten foot long wood post ( ten foot long hole) 

We ended up making a 7 foot long 3" wife scorp.  With it the hole was completed in under an hour after days of work with all manor of tools by the wood butcher's.

We forged in in under two hours from 1.25 square bar with myself and two strikers using just an anvil, two sledges and a too small fuller but it got the job done. 

 

Edit, incidentally, the complex curve of the scorp was formed on the bottom of the horn of a London pattern anvil.

If I didn't have the anvil I would have done it on a wood stump, burning it into the wood as much as needed.

 

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Bladesmith.. My estimate cost over 5 years.

Anvil given to me by my teacher after spending a year under him.

Hammers, inheritted the same

Tong inheritted the same.

Belt sander 60$ maybe spent 1-2 hundred in belts? Over the last 2-3 years?

Table top grinder 60$ replaced the disks a few times... 40$? 

Angle grinder for cutting barstock and tripping profiles.. Engh 60$ bargin disks, grinder was 6$ at harbor frieght. (Not joking)

German classic Cut off hardy x2 50$ (100 for both) works as a chisel with a s7 striking plate on the bottom of the shank... I use this as my fuller tool top/bottom with assistance.

Steels over the past 5 years... 1000$? I have a nice collection of 1 inch round stock, of 1018, 1045, s7, w2 and A2 as well lots of .25"x2"x2' bars of cfv, 15n20, 1080 and 154cm. Salaged for free from friends auto changes: couple sets of strut springs, two full truck leaf spring sets (assumed to be 5160) and two truck axels (not sure on the alloy it has a blueish grey tint on the oxide?... Some unusual alloy) annd various pin stock.. 100$

Its cheaper to work your own stock if you have a striker for the day.

Steaks and beer... 1000$ easy

Charcoal and propane: probally at least 300-500 a year...

60 of satanite still have 50% of that investment.

Propane forge 170$ two 20 gallon tanks new were 100$. Replacement psi gage was like 40$.

Cheap axe used as hot cut tool: 10$.

Wood work and leather are outsourced and networked: trade/payments/favors

200$ish. Counting materials too.

Scales 700$ nice wood is expensive but worth it, customers buy blades by the handle and not the steel. Really makes me mad so i offer the blade by the blank and then discuss the handle.

Copper and brass... 400 easy. Even doing my own crucibles mixing with aluminum to alloy from popcans.

Jeweler saw 65$. Blades maybe 100...

PPE came from welding so i dont count that, i did have to buy 4 sets of cowhide gloves and few leather jackets and aprons and faceshields as well as a box of earplugs for the help. I dont charge for lessons but i make the help do my work as strikers. Extra sledges... 

400$.

Books. 500 ordered new online$. I will never regret my oakshot collection or the college books on metalurgy/chemistry/material physics.

100$ at kinkos printing copies of Verhovens guide to metalurgy in card stock to hit people with physically.

Fire brick... 400$ easy that crap is pricy.

Cheap brick 200. I just paint it with satanite as a cheap get away or mud if im lazy.

I dont have a shop, i borrow space for my brick forge or just build one and power the blower with my rv on some desolate spot, when i dont forge in a park using the ferrier forge. 

What i do have is enough materials to last me another 15 years at least on the steel. I did that because availability and pricing changes all the time so stock is sort of a get it when its available or made. 10 years from now you might not be able to buy 15n20 for example so thats a gamble...

borax... 200$.

How much i spend these days: fuel and food.

Returns subtracting overhead... 1100$.

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As a professional Smith my investment is small. I've enjoyed the challenge of "by hammer in hand".

My first forge and anvil are similar to all new to the craft. The bottom of an old cast water heater with tee post legs and two pieces of 1-1/2" pipe for a twyre. Rr track anvil.

My first priority was property. Paid off via my " self imposed apprenticeship" as a farrier.

First shop ( lasted 30 years) was 18'x20' with celutex walls. 2'x3' forge and my first 3-1/2" post vice and a portable cast rivet forge gifted from a rancher farrier customer. 

One centaur forge complete firepot, twyre, clinker ball and handle with a left handed ash dump. Two replacement firepots:~$300

124#pw $80. Refaced at Turly Forge

Turley Forge: cant remember the cost. 

A half dozen assorted tongs and hand punches from Turley Forge

Small post drill: $20

Pedel driven sickle sharpner" $20

Woodland Park Whitaker masters workshop brought me a 5'x10'x1" layout table and legs

Upgrade to industrial post drill:$50

Upgrade to restored Camelback drill: $100

10' tall band saw:$100 (4' dia wheels!)

25# lil giant: taken in payment for working  with Francis Whitaker,  for crying out loud!!

25# Clay Spencer treadle hammer: cant remember the cost

255# trenton" I found two this size. The other was an arm &Hammer about the same weight. A SWABA gent offered to buy both if I would give him one.

184#pw, gifted from a local lady who knew Francis,, small worldism. The cost was to tell Francis she gave me this particular anvil. I got a major set of raised eyebrows from Francis in response, but no hint as to the story.  ;)

a gifted 255 amp buzz box, 

Leased ox/actel bottles. I bought gage's and hoses and added a max important gas saver.

Second piece of property(present situation) 10 year journada and a miracle.

I missed a few tools, but generally the same situation.

And no admission to this ride,,, just the desire, dedication, and determination to not quit.

This small investment has taken me, as a traditional Smith from Beverly Hills to Prague and many points in between. 

 

 

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Wow "25# lil giant: taken in payment for working  with Francis Whitaker,  for crying out loud!!"      *paid* rather than *charged*!

Looks like "knowledge" was one of your more expensive costs, (Turley's class, etc)---and probably has paid for itself MANY times over!

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I got to agree it costs to get into it especially the part of Canada i;m in but we are lucky to have a master smith that does alot of teachin so its great to have that knowledge on hand.Books are also a great resource the last couple of years have been alot of fun heatin, beatin and repeatin workin steel on the anvil and buildin alot of custom gear...

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On 2/6/2019 at 11:09 AM, ThomasPowers said:

Looks like "knowledge" was one of your more expensive costs, (Turley's class, etc)---and probably has paid for itself MANY times over!

Many times. Without a doubt I owe so much to them both! (Oops, nearly fried my phone in a teary moment just thinking of it.)

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This is an incredibly interesting discussion here.  I am 40 years old.  I guess you could say I started this hobby 5 or 6 years ago while I worked in the oilfield.  That's when I started scrapping for my propane forge.  I finished building that forge just last month and I'm pretty happy with it, ugly welds and all.  

I can appreciate the talk about expense, but for me its pretty simple, and its been said here already.  $50 for a HAMMER?  My response: how often will you need another hammer?  $3800 for an anvil (the one I'm jonesing for anyway)? My answer: I'm gonna need a headstone some day.  

For me its the thrill of CREATING something in a craft I have always had an interest in.  It borders on the supernatural for me, using fire and fury to shape something beautiful (in theory) out of practically nothing.  And trust me; I like doing that -- I have 6 children.

I want to learn it, and I want to learn it well.  To do so I must do it.  And what better way to do it than to start making the tools I want?  And someday when I have a little less hair up top and a lot more everywhere else maybe someone will buy what I make.  Maybe not.  Maybe I could make a living doing it.  Maybe not.  But I can definitely love DOING it.

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On the other hand my US$1 hammer has done just fine the last 40 years and will probably work for one of the grandkids after I'm gone and the $46  (rehandled 3 times with $1 handles) could be spent on fuel for the forge; or put towards that $3800 anvil...

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Thomas Powers:

That's exactly right! I get it though, new and nice does have its appeal.  Yeah I'd pay $$ for some of the tools I've seen you guys make on the youtube.  Problem is: I do not have it!  Haha!  Besides big prices for good tools you never have to buy again is probably worth it.  But for a beginner (from a beginner's perspective at least) it's unnecessary, possibly a waste of money.

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Those follows with all the tools and toys did not make one phone call and just have them delivered. You are looking at many YEARS of collecting and investing (not spending) a little at a time. They seek out the tools and the bargains all the time, and from many different sources. 

The beginner sees the blacksmith make it look so easy, When ask how long it took to learn how to do that, the blacksmith DOES NOT say that this is number whatever, because he stopped counting long ago. He does not mention the years it took to get to that level of skill and expertise to make in order to make it look easy.

Let us say that the blacksmith has been smithing for 20 years. He did not have the internet and people willing to work with him which are available to you today. So in 20 years, or less, YOU can be as good as or better than he is. In 20 years, or less, you can find and collect all the tools and toys that you need for your shop. 

Start with what you have now and add one hour of hammer time every change you get.  Look for and add, as they become available, one tool or toy at a time.  You will get there soon enough. 

 

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We're talking the same lingo here Aubrey. When asked, I used to tell folks why I forge stuff. Look around, everything humanity has, does and is is made from or with steel. Iron and steel are universal symbols of strength and durability. To use mankind's oldest tools, a fire and something to bash with and make steel do our bidding sings to the soul. I can't think of a stronger symbolism virtually anybody can lay hands on and do. Few things in life feel as good as using a tool you made with your own hands. 

I'm not the only one here right with you on this. Better still, I'm NEVER limited to having the "right" tool to do a thing, I can modify make or scrounge something that will, failing that I can make the tools to make the tools to . . . Right?

Remember when self esteem and confidence classes were the rage? You can't teach someone to feel confident. What you can do is teach someone to do for themselves. If you can do yourself how dependent are you? You feel confident because you can do, whatever it is needs done especially if they have to learn to. 

Maybe one of the best lessons steel has to teach us is, "It doesn't care. PERIOD." Nothing we can do makes a difference to steel, it's happier as it was for millions, billions of years, napping oxidized. This is a good thing because it's just as happy being anything you can make it be. The difference between a lens (layer) of magnetite under the ground and clock spring or a needle valve in a rocket engine on it's way out of the solar system?

Human beings, those clever monkeys with big brains, thumbs and their fires and hammers.

Tools, no matter how expensive don't do diddly, it's the people using them.

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 4/23/2012 at 11:18 AM, rthibeau said:

Many people come on this site, whether in the forums or the chat room, and ask where can they find tools, equipment, stuff, etc cheap and fast. It should be public knowledge that it takes money to get into blacksmithing, it is an expensive hobby and even more expensive to set up as a profession to earn a living. A 100 lb anvil will cost more than $200, tongs are better than $20 a pair, hammers are $20 and up, chisels and punches and flatters and swages and tools too numerous to mention all cost money...whether bought outright or made. Unless you want to emulate the poorest of the third world country smiths.......don't ask for cheap, it ain't happening any time soon in this country.

It's funny when you think of the prices just 7 years ago. All is relative.

I disagree with the idea that blacksmithing is "expensive" Besides the fact that expensive or cheap is very subjective and relative to your wallet size and predisposition to spend, there is no need to start with a 500 lb Refflinghaus, 100 ton Anyang and 150 ton forging press natural gas forge with 3 phase blower and a forklift to move stuff around in an air conditioned 3000 sq feet shed with piped in ambient music. 

Considering how easy folks decide to fork out thousands in smart phones and laptops and notebooks, I think that blacksmithing taken as a hobby can be way cheaper than carpentry for example, cheaper than "gaming" on a rocket propelled computer with 3 screens, cheaper than boating, scuba diving, gliding and many more activities. 

Then again, if you want to have the lot yesterday ... you will probably need to spend a few bobs to stock up "everything".

Still ... if you are determined, you can start with little money, and even with no money at all. Sure it will be a tad harder.  

Professional is a different story. It depends of what you do and if the investment will pay for itself and make a profit. No point starting a factory for stuff no one will buy. 

What was the question again? :P

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Keep calm dont panic.

In the end everyone loses so i dont think it was ever about winning.

Anywho 5lbs of pure iron (99.2) costs 15 $. Shipping costs 25$. I have a small book i keep receits in with warrenties and mill reports on the steels in my small stockpile, most of thats shipping.

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3 hours ago, Irondragon Forge & Clay said:

The question is "What is the meaning of life"?

Everything you see is a holographic representation of your own creation ... or so I believe anyway :P

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I kinda agree with Marc on this, except I feel it's a holographic representation of your own perception. Who's to say what I see is what you see? I can describe it, and my description may match what you see, but is what we both percieve exactly the same? Does it matter? 

Does it take money to blacksmith? Yes. Somewhere along the line you are going to have to pay for something. How much you pay is entirely up to you. Whether you buy a new hammer from a box store, used from a yard sale or make your own, it costs something. Even if you get all your tools, materials, and fuel for your forge for free, you'll have to pay for the gas to get them to your forge. 

And don't forget to bring a towel:D

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5 hours ago, Shabumi said:

I kinda agree with Marc on this, except I feel it's a holographic representation of your own perception. Who's to say what I see is what you see? I can describe it, and my description may match what you see, but is what we both percieve exactly the same? Does it matter? 

Conflicting hierarchies. What I create and see only concerns me. Your perceptions are your creation. :)

 

As for the cost of setting yourself up for blacksmithing, it depends of so many variables that it is almost pointless to debate. Starting from what you intend to do. If you want to make small decorative objects, that is probably the cheapest set up. Large objects may need bigger tools and machinery. Knifemaking from what I hear, can be expensive too if you want to have the full set up yet I am sure it can also be done on the cheap. 

Someone living in a rural area may have it cheaper due to room available and no neighbours complaining of smoke and noise. Too many things to consider that is why ti is pointless to call something "expensive", unless someone needs an excuse to call it sour grapes and walk. 

When it comes to cost of set up I am always reminded of a guy living in Taiwan that makes hammers and other tools and sells them on the internet. He lives in an apartment and his set up is on a ground floor balcony or similar arrangement. 

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I keep having this same argument with the wife. She says it's expensive. I respond with, " but that tool has so many other uses on the homestead", i.e. the welder I bought last week to finish assembling my forge" Although I'm not sure I'll be able to apply the same argument when the time comes that i buy an actual anvil. Lol.

P.s. yall really are a bunch of dude who know where their towel is. :)

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DO NOT compare blacksmithing tools to pots, pans, and appliances in her kitchen, You will loose, she will win, those are the rules.

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Eventless,

Wrong approach!!  Sometimes it is OK to buy new, if you have the surplus. Look in all the back corners of whatever business and workshops you go anywhere near. If you come home with something that doesn't look new, the story is easier to swallow. You can clean it up and then make it look new, or not. Psychology 101. Trying to make up excuses will hurt you. I thought you said............  So sad. too bad.

Neil

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