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My friends have been very interested in my blacksmithing so I decided to record my sessions for them to watch. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get some practical advice from those that know what they are talking about as it will be a while before I can get any proper training with another smith.

Now I realise that I will have done more wrong than right here and my technique and hammer control are likely horrible, but that is why I'm posting it here. What would you have done differently? Am I doing something that will likely kill me? I've been smithing for about 3 months, normally once or twice a week. I've forged a few knives and thought I'd have a go at a proper forge welding project, so I'm having a go at some tomahawks. Please excuse the mole grips... and the music, kindy excuse that too!

Don't worry about being harsh, any feedback is good feedback!



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Gundog, I really enjoyed your video. You put a lot of effort into it. I would like to suggest that you wear safety glasses all the time, not just while welding. Handling the hammer with a gloves hand has really bad control issues.
I place the hammer on the anvil face each time so it is always where I expect it to be when I want it.
When you can replace the plastic bucket.
All in all I think you did a great job with the video. You are well on your way.
Those with more experience than I will gladly offer advice.

Mark <><

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The beauty of a clay lined forge is you can reline it when it starts to deteriorate. You can actually use subsoil dirt with little other treatment, but it won't last as long your recipe hopefully will.

The grips are killing me. Tongs are easy, if time consuming by hand. Look at youtube also. Make some fire tools while you are at it too.

You may want to draw out the reins on your first couple pair, but welding the reins on from a different shape and size of stock is another choice.

You may be able to use the step of the anvil to support the eye and drift while the blade is on the face of the anvil for some later operations. It seems the weight of the drift is making your life difficult.

It seems like both faces of your hammer are very flat. Dressing one more round, or watch glass, may help reduce your hammer marks considerably, since you were complaining about them.


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You really need to make some tongs.

Not only do they greatly help with keeping your holding hand away from the fire and hot work, as well as align your body in a better position. Making them is good practice for hammer control, forging to a size, forging duplicates and fitting two pieces together.

Besides wearing eye protection, also consider wearing hearing protection. Any hearing loss is LOST!

Caleb Ramsby

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Dang ! you done good.now here it comes,sure like your forge have you thought about cutting the opening bigger?just the upper corners say at a 45degree angle from the bottom
it should give you a bit more access.hit the pawn shops and find a bit bigger hammer and shorten the handle like you are use to and you won't have to work quite as hard.them other fellers are right about the tongs,you do good work,tongs should not be a problem for you. hit the auto salvage yards for jack handles or pop oult some old trunk lid springs.they used to be 3/8 round rod not sure on the newer ones.you will need to use a BIG screwdriver to pop them out..again good job,be careful

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The folk above have given you some good advice and made some great observations so I won't go into that.

What did you do right? You're putting your heart into it kid! Your obvious desire to do the craft and the willingness to put yourself in front of us and say where can I do better says bunches about you.

You're off to a great start - Stick with it and keep asking those questions and most importantly, keep listening to the answers.

My single piece of advice is to seek out some experienced smiths near you and get some shop time with them. Given how you're doing now, you'll be amazed at how much of a difference it will make. (List your location in your profile so others' can tell where you are.)

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Thanks so much for all the comments- it was exactly what I needed and I really appreciate you taking the time to watch the video, I was kinda embarrassed posting it here because I could see the mistakes I was making when editing, I'm really glad that I did now. I'll be sure to post more of these when I have another forging session, it really helps me out, and hopefully you get some enjoyment out of them. Here's my list:

  • Tongs! I made a pair of adjustable ones before but they were fiddly to use in practice and didn't grip hard enough. I'll try the basic ones and make some clips for them. I do want to avoid ending up with 100 different tongs because, as you can see, my shop is pretty small! Also, I had huge problems with riveting the last pair, almost broke them in the process and they lost most of their movement- I think I'll stick to a nut and bolt until I learn how to rivet better.
  • Hammer- round one face to reduce hammer marks. I use the existing edges for peening the metal sometimes. I may invest in a Hofi hammer if I want to do more bladesmithing
  • Eye protection- I'll get safety glasses rather than the goggles I currently have, as for hearing protection it honestly isn't that loud (unless it's gone already!) When the steel is hot it's pretty quiet, and the ring isn't too loud either.
  • Other smiths- I plan to offer myself as an apprentice next summer when I have something to offer rather than being a burden! I think I'll put a session with Basher on my birthday list as he's in Kent, England same as me!
  • Fire tools- I actually have a fire rake, but it has quite a long rake part and is difficult to use in this forge, I think I'll either shorten it or put a curved rake on it.

  • The forge lining is holding up pretty well, however it is deteriorating and is awful for clinker- it can get almost completely blocked in 4 hours if your not careful. I'm getting some 1/2" steel plate for the belt grinder and I may cut it up and weld myself a rectangular firepot that fits over the stainless grate at the bottom, then seal it in by replacing the the cement I removed. This should make it easier to clean and reduce clinker, and with it being 1/2" I don't think I'll have problems with it starting to melt like my last one!
  • As for tongs, what design would you go for? There are many different variations, but I want something which will do most of the tasks I need, without having to have 100 different pairs. Would I still be a heathen if I used long handled mole grips? :P
  • Gripping the work- this has always confused me about tongs. With smaller pieces such as this, I really don't see a practical place to grip the work to get a strong grip but not be in the way. What's your general advice on tong use?

Thanks for the advice, I read it all thoroughly and really appreciate you taking the time to watch it and reply! I hope to do more of these in the future as I enjoy sharing what I do, especially if it means improving too!
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Gundog when I rivet a spur rowel in place I use a shim of thin metal.remove the shim and the rowel turns free.might try that on your tongs an see if it helps.tin can should work
soda pop can if it is not hot.cut out a rectangle and notch it out to go around the rivet

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Clinker builds up, you clean it out. Simple. Clean the clinker out of the clayed forge while it is all hot, it tends to stick badly after cooling.

For a grate a simple bar or two of 1/2 inch with 1/2 inch between would be adequate. Lasts a long time too.

Tongs collect, er, you collect tongs...yea you will end up with a number of tongs unless you limit yourself to only doing a few things. Tongs can be resized, and some designs are more versatile than others.


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Good start, and lookes like a good weld. There are sseveral things that jump right out at me..might want to rethink where you anvil and forge are..i like my forge slightly to left of my anvil and I can reach across to remove steel. if yoiu stand facing the side of the anvil you can work over the seet spot,,the area that has the moct steel beneath that portioon of the face. A lot of your work is towards the heel. Kee;p work near yoiu so you do not have to reach out to srike or hold. Yoiu are reaching out and even worse your right arm is wingin oiut,,the elbow moving way forward and way out away from your body. That is known to cause pain in elbow and shoulders. yoiu are using a real short handled hammer and have very little upswing with it. Power is weight times force. It seems like yoiu are workin with hard grip on the handle,,A loose grip with a high upswing will increase not onlly your ability to forge longer but you will move more metal,,even if you use a lighter hammer. Tight grip makes forearms hurt. It is hard to learn workin galone, see if yoiu can find a group and watch others work that really impress you,,video them if they allow. Then review this and compare.

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For tongs check out this thread on "The Ultimate Tongs" http://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/16260-the-ultimate-tongs/page__hl__%2Bultimate+%2Btongs

Kinda a one size fits all deal.

To adjust tongs, one heats up the grippy end of the tongs and holds the work in then, then lightly hammer it so the work fits.

Honestly, tongs don't take up much space. A metal horizontal rod 24" long can easily hold a dozen of them, closer to two dozen if they are light and packed in there.

Riveting can be tricky. Firstly one must make sure that the surfaces that will rub together at the tong pivot point are flat and smooth. If when making them the finishing blows are done with the pivot contact point of each part of the tong on the anvil, they should be flat and smooth enough to slide.

Secondly, when pounding in the rivet, do so hot. For a rivet I just use a bit of round stock that will fit in the hole easily. Cut the rivet so that close to two diameters in length of the rivet sticks out of each side of the tongs. Then put the two parts of the tong together with the round stock in place. Place the tongs in a medium intensity fire with one side of the rivet facing down, heat until said end of rivet is close to yellow, then flip the tongs over and heat the other side of the rivet. This can be done with one heat per side of rivet or two shorter heats per side of rivet to keep the temps more even.

When you take the tongs out of the fire the body and pivot point of the tongs should be rather cooler then the rivet ends. Have a pair of pliers at hand to squeze the two parts of the tongs together so that there is no gap between them. Then place one end of the round stock/rivet on the anvil and hammer it square on the other end of the round stock. It takes a medium hit, softer is better then harder, since when upsetting stock like this the key is to hammer directly in line with the axis of the round stock.

After a hit flip the tongs over to see if the other end is upsetting in a mushroom manner or bending over to one side. It should be mushrooming evenly on all sides. If it is then go back at it until the ends of the round stock, now rivet, are flattened out.

DO NOT quench the tongs after this operation. Instead, grab the handles of the tongs and work them back and forth while they are cooling down to a black heat. When they reach a black heat they should be nice and loose and then you can cool them the rest of the way in water if you like.

That is the way I do it.

Some other people heat up only the rivet and place a bit of thick paper, such as an index card(don't know if that is what they are called over there, just thick card stock) between the two halves of the tongs and this allows enough room for free movement when the rivet cools. The rivet shrinks as it cools and will make the tongs tighter. The paper will get tore up and work its way out and free up the tongs.

I should also note that when hammer the rivet, with either method, make sure that the tong halves stay tight to eachother. If there is a big enough gap then the rivet will upsed in between them, that is bulge out a good bit, this will cause a major issue with the use of the tongs. . . well not that major, just cut the ends off of the rivet and try again!

I would like to urge you to try your hand again at making tongs. If the chrome plating on the grippers you are using starts to burn off it is a very bad thing, that stuff is deadly toxic, NO joke!

Caleb Ramsby

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Looks good - I'm noob enough myself that I can't offer any real advice, except about hearing protection.

I worked around machinery, listened to loud music, and worked at rifle range, all without proper hearing protection, exactly because it didn't seem like it was very loud.

In my mid-40's now, and I have a hard time distinguishing overlapping sounds, like two people talking at the same time, higher ranges sounds are harder to hear, and talking on the phone, which I currently make my living on, is harder than it should be, (the listening part, of course.)

There are earplugs (which I prefer to muffs) that are effective and comfortable to wear. I also prefer plugs with a cord between them. I can tie them around my neck while I'm setting up shop and they are close at hand when I need them. They make it easier to keep track of them when I'm not using them. I'm sure you could find a good set or two for naught more than a few pounds apiece.

PS - I envy you your small shop. I have to set mine up outdoors anytime I want to work. I'm sure I'd get a lot more done and find more opportunities to play around if I didn't have to set up and tear down every time.

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Loving the videos :)

I put a comment on youtube for one of your previous videos, but I'll reply to this one here. I'll also try not to write too much! Most of this has already been mentioned, but I'll reiterate it!

- Where's the fire-rake? You'd done one in a previous video!
- As someone else suggested, definitely get the basic toolset (some tongs) before doing other things. In my opinion, vee-bit tongs work for square, round and some rectangular stock. If you make them bolted, like the universal tongs, you'll be able to grip even more pieces.
- Instead of holding the axe at below your hammer arm (like at 21:41), just switch over to the other side of the anvil and hold it more comfortably.
- Your anvil looks to be far too high. It should be at knuckle height if you are standing up with arms alongside your body. This makes it easier to strike harder.
- Related to the above, you should not use your wrist. The strength should come from the elbow and shoulder.
- It seems like you are hitting the material at a slight angle, which leaves hammer marks. This is normal at the beginning, and is related to anvil height. It's also the reason why a lot of smiths hit the anvil with a light tap. If the hammer comes straight back up, the angle is good. If it bounces left, right, or forward of backwards, then the angle needs to be corrected! I'm going through this adaptation process right now with my new anvil.
- Like someone else said, if you're hammering, get the hammer high and swing it down. Some shoulder and lots of elbow. As it turns out, it ain't like hammering nails where it goes a bit further in every time. Here you really have to whack it! :)
- Avoid using gloves, especially in the hammer hand. I rarely, if ever, use them. With practice, you'll be able to feel how hot the piece is just from the rebound that it's giving you.
- Get your piece hotter. At around 11.30 in the video you are forging way too cold already. We always feel like doing some more hammering, but sometimes we go too far :)
- This one only comes with time. Sometimes you look at the hot piece and wonder what you're doing. Try to get that process going while the piece is heating up. Always know what you are going to do before you take the piece out of the fire!

Looking great otherwise! I'm really looking forward to your next video!

Edited by Anvilfolk
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