Ridgewayforge

Common Beginner Mistakes

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Not being far removed from being a beginner myself, I would reemphasize that you need to plan your work while waiting for your piece to reheat, know exactly what you are going to do before you take it out of the fire. And another subtle one, you are going to see a lot of phenomenal pieces from some very talented blacksmiths - treat these as inspiration, something to aspire to, don't despair of ever being able to equal them. Finally, blacksmithing should be fun; if it isn't, you're doing it wrong. :P

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I agree about the natural fibers. When burned some synthetic fibers will stick to skin. Not a good thing and may turn a minor burn into something much more serious and painful.

Also, when sttting up your shop: The height of your anvil face should equal the height of you knuckles when standing. This is so that when you swing a hammer it's face will be parallel to the face of the anvil when it strikes. Higher or lower makes it more difficult to work accurately. The height of your vise should be the same as your elbow. This is so that if you are filing your forearm will be horizontal. This is probably less important than the anvil height because we do much less filing today than when that was about the only means of stock removal.


Don't expect your first project(s) to be perfect. We all learn something everytime we make something and mistakes teach very well.

Finally, if you watch a demonstration on Youtube or at a live event try to repeat it yourself as soon as possible. Muscle memory sticks much longer than visual memory. Frankly, most blacksmithing is just hand-eye-brain coordination, much like learning to play a video game.

Advisedly,
George M.

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PS In case you didn't know a "hot shut" is when you inadvertently fold over the side of a piece you are working on. It results in a fissure parallel to the work and at right angles to the force of your blow. It is also apparently known as "fish lips." As stated above it can pentrate surprisingly far into the finished piece and filing it or grinding it out can result in removing a LOT of metal.

GM

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The height of your anvil DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING! Working with large stock and heavy hammers then the old knuckle rule works well. If you use it at that height doing precision knife smithing with smaller hammers you will generally find that your back is trashed at the end of the day.

Just taught a stream of youngsters at an SCA week long camping event and what was repeated the most was:
Don't crank a blower and talk.
Don't take your piece out of the fire until you have your hammer/other tool in your hand.
Try doing what the smith is telling you---if he says hit the tip, don't hit 4" back from the tip!
If the person with hot metal tells you that they are going to the vise ahead of time it's so you can get out of the way AHEAD OF TIME!

These were mainly girls and boys around 10 years old working 1 on 1 or 1 on 2 with the smith---and the girls tended to do better as they would listen and try to do what was suggested!

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One mistake I still find myself doing is forgetting to put down the tool i'm using when my piece is in the fire.
I constantly find myself still holding the hammer while cranking the blower. :wacko:

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my first mistake was thinking I could make and progress making round things. Then I learned first to be square, octagon etc... I was clueless.

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I've been following this for a bit and just wanted to share what I felt my biggest mistake has been and how I've striven to over come it:
Being in a hurry to make something.
Take time to make nothing, that doesn't mean just smack around a piece of steel. But make a few pieces of 3/4" square into 1/2" round with a four inch taper or something similar. You could make a half dozen steak turners in an afternoon with a single taper and a couple twist but you'd spend a quarter of that time applying oil and admiring your own handy work.
When you light up the forge to make something; first make a few nothings to warm up and toss them over to the side. They'll be there when you're ready to make something a bit bigger.

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I don't like to make nothings; but I do have several simple items that I can sell and making a couple of them each time helps make sure I don't have to make dozens of them right before a show...

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As a beginner, take time to develop your craft. Many times we say we don't have the time... maybe next year. Most of us here have someone or some place we can go to learn from, even if it is a few hours. I get lots of ideas here, but I develop my skills doing and watching much easier than reading ( that's just me, not everyone). Even You Tube helps because you can see how they are doing it. Watch people carefully, watch where they hit on an anvil, watch how hard they hit, watch where their thumb is (had to say it), watch what way the metal moves, it will save you hours. One of my welding journeymen told me "You will either learn to be a good welder or a good grinder, it all depends on how you look at the details" this applies to our craft as well

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i'm a beginner too gr8 thread!  i would say bring a water bottle when ur at the forge.  i personally get super dehydrated standing in long sleeves beside a wood fired dragon breathing fire:D

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1 hour ago, (M) said:

i'm a beginner too gr8 thread!

Welcome to the addiction. If you will go to your profile and put in your general location, you may be surprised how many of the gang are close to you. A lot of answers are dependent upon where in the world you are located...

Stay hydrated my friend.:)

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I forgot what i was going to add after the time I looked for this lol. And its not even the one I was looking for but hey. A little cpr isnt bad. 

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On 9/4/2017 at 7:47 PM, (M) said:

i would say bring a water bottle when ur at the forge.  i personally get super dehydrated standing in long sleeves beside a wood fired dragon breathing fire

I have 3 each 28 oz tumblers full of ice tea in rotation at the work area. The full one goes to where I am currently working, other two are within arms reach. 

There is a thread on the site as how to stay cool and hydrated during the heat of the summer. Some great ideas there. One idea is to place a heat shield between you and the forge so you can just step away from the radiant heat from the forge. 

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I have a small Igloo cooler, a bit larger than 1 gl. I keep Iced tea and ice cubes in when I'm in the shop. The insulated stainless steel coffee cup thing I got at a Kaladi's or Starbucks keeps it all nice and cold, the lid keeps dirt and grit out. Darn cups cost more than the little cooler but are worth it. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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But it's so much fun taking a massive swig from a 1 liter stein at demo's...

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The difference between a beginner and someone more confident, can be measured by the willingness to undo and redo what does not seem right, and this at the drop of a hat. :)

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It's been said a couple of times, but it bears repeating - as soon as you see a cold shut, STOP EVERYTHING.  Look at it, figure out how you did it so you dont do that again (you will), and then grind or file it out,  or discard the piece and start over.  It can't be ignored, and all work beyond the cold shut is just a waste, even as practice.

Also worth repeating, it's a lot cheaper and faster to start over; whether you use free steel or pay new price for it, the steel and coal is a lot cheaper than your time, even if it's just a hobby.  Cut it off, and start over.  You'll be better for the experience, and in the end will have more time, even if you have a little less steel.  I know this, but still struggle with it.

Most importantly, though, just get out there at the fire and start hammering.  I started with a pile of bricks and a hair dryer.  Worked quite well, and kept me forging for months before I built a nice forge.  Don't get hung up on the setup details, that all will come in time. Fire + Heavy Thing + Hammer = Smithy  The rest is details.

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1000 hours at a $10 forge will make you a much better smith than 10 hours at a $1000 forge.

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On 6/13/2018 at 6:11 PM, Marc1 said:

The difference between a beginner and someone more confident, can be measured by the willingness to undo and redo what does not seem right, and this at the drop of a hat. :)

Excellent advice!

Lol, you can tell the quality of a blacksmith by the quality of his scrap pile.  ;)

On 6/18/2018 at 9:45 PM, ThomasPowers said:

1000 hours at a $10 forge will make you a much better smith than 10 hours at a $1000 forge.

Awesome,, and one I will not forget!  :)

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On 6/18/2018 at 7:05 AM, hikerjohnson said:

It's been said a couple of times, but it bears repeating - as soon as you see a cold shut, STOP EVERYTHING. 

Does everyone know what a cold shut is?    I suspect some do not.

In my business a cold shut is basically a piece of metal that has been folded over by hammering in this case.    It is folded over below welding temperature so it will look like a crack.   The metal is not fused together.   And unless you actually fix this by removal or forge welding then this crack will extend through your work as you hammer and elongate or form within the piece that has the cold shut.   It basically adds a crack like defect into your piece that propagates as you hammer and will make your creation structurally compromised.   And a bit ugly...  

Hiker correct me if I am wrong in my explanation or anyone else.       

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On 6/13/2018 at 6:11 PM, Marc1 said:

The difference between a beginner and someone more confident, can be measured by the willingness to undo and redo what does not seem right, and this at the drop of a hat.

Like when the pockets don't line up on my shirt? :huh:

Recognize a mistake, admit it, identify what's wrong, correct it. It's the path to knowledge.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thinking you can do some grinding on a second project while the first one is heating........ :unsure:

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