jgirard13

what got you into blacksmithing?

Recommended Posts

nice one.  I enjoy others' stories, as well as sharing mine. 

My first intro was at a renfair somewhere around central NJ (lakewood) when I was a senior in high school.  I talked with the female apprentice who was cleaning up the "shop" at the fair while her master was at lunch.  I passed on an invite to talk with the master about apprenticeship in his shop in toledo, spain (young and dumb and afraid to leave home)

After I was newly married (still married to the same beautiful woman going on 21 years, and parents of 10 indigenous children), we went to a little mountain fair in "little" washington VA and actually swung a hammer on steel for the first time.  The smith said I was a "natural" and should try it out, but I didn't (again).

Well God was evidently involved with all these attempts, because about 8 or 9 years ago, I moved my family down to a little town just south of Raleigh NC.  A year later my in-laws followed us and retired onto a small 15-acre piece of what used to be some families farm.  Their retirement place was about 4 acres cleared and the rest was hilly brambles and woods with all kinds of junk pushed into the woods.  One day, I was walking around in their woods and stubbed my toe on the "toe" of a little 75-lb no name anvil.  Just the toe was sticking up, and I dug the anvil out with a pocket knife.  Low and behold, buried right next to the anvil was a 4-inch, 40-lb leg vice missing the spring.  minimal rust and fully operational.  nothing else was within 20 feet.  believe me, I checked on my hands and knees.  Well I brought the anvil and vice up to the house (about a 1/4 mile away, but those things practially floated the whole way) and showed them to my Father in Law.  He said he didn't want 'em and my wife said "God had to dump them on you to make you get the hint".  I have been happily banging ever since, any chance I can get.

Those faitful things aroze from the earth?  You must be destined to be King of the Blacksmiths!  Well done, indeed.  Keep at it.  it is a worthy endevor.  The unseen hand moves ever forward....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1963, discharged from the Marines after 4-years of service. lookin for work, found a job as a crane operator in a steel mill in Cleveland Ohio (Republic Steel). Learned/watched how steel was made. I worked mostly in the bar-mills. Watching a 8 inch square billet, 30 feet long come out of the furnace and pass through a series of rollers and come out as bar stock, maybe a half mile long if it was 1/2' round or square is something to see! As it passes through each set of rollers it gets smaller and moves faster. When it exits the final set of rollers it is traveling at a high rate of speed as it runs down the trolf for 1/4 to 1/2 mile, all done in one heat. From here it gets sheared into 20 and 40 ft legnths and is the stuff we buy. As a crane operator I would load the finished bar-stock onto trucks and rail cars for shipment to the world. This was when America was strong and produced things. Before we outsourced everything to Mexico and China.

This is where I got hooked on the elasticiy of near white hot steel and how easly it can be moved to produce another shape. It was a dirty, hot and dangerious place to work but I thank God that I was lucky enough to have had the first hand experience. I worked there 7 years. OSHA, and the EPA ran all the steel mills out of busness with their safety regulations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gerald.  Wow!  to watch a piece of steel get that long in one heat.  Wow!  thanks for sharing.  I am with you on the osha thing.  They have a place, but if you follow every safety rule they put out, it would be safer to commit sepuku

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've had for years the inward desire to forge metal, but didn't really take the steps to get into it until I met my future wife and father in law and they both forged. Now that I have my own set up my goal is to be what I've termed a "Farm" Smith much like my uncle who died far before I was born. Add in that my wife and I are trying to be a self sufficient as possible, blacksmithing just makes sense. I will succeed in my eyes when I can create anything we will need on our farm. I've still a long way to go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My family took a trip to Pidgeon Forge this past Thanksgiving and while there we went to the Smokey Mountain Knife Works.  At the SMKW they have a small cottage in the parking lot that you can go and forge a knife out of a rail road spike with a bladesmith.  That was my first time swinging a hammer and I have been hooked ever since.  The funny thing is that I have yet to make my first knife since that time...I have gotten sidetracked with making tools and venturing into the artistic side of blacksmithing which i have found very enjoyable.  Im sure i will eventually make a knife or two but Im in no hurry!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I needed a hobby to spend all my money on and I couldn't afford drugs.  :D Actually my grandfather was a Blacksmith for the Northern Pacific Railroad in Dickenson, ND he died before I was born but I had always been fascinated by the craft.   started out makikng knives and sort of switch back and forth between knived and ornamental stuff.  In his spare time my grandfather made cemetery crosses, his crosses have been found in over 20 cemeteries in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  And he is mentioned in the book Iron Spirits, about the blacksmiths who made crosses.   

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After mentioning about learning blacksmithing several times over last  few years, wife bought me a 100lb anvil.... With encouragement like that why not try it.....

 

Dale

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

living at this place is what got me interested in blacksmithing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSdQlA3n_yE it was like living back in time. it had a complete blacksmith shop, and coopersmithng shop. The blacksmith shop was a 12x12 log room off to one side of the barn. My very first forged piece was a fire poker for the wood stove in my bed room. up until then I would have to wear a welding glove to move half burning wood in the stove, and after catching that glove on fire at 1 in the morning, i decided it was time I tried my hand at blacksmithing. The rest is history. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having grown up in Virginia means schools would bus classes out to Williamsburg all the time. I remember going while in 5th or so grade and being completely blown away by the Anderson Blacksmith Shop. I actually snuck out of the group after leaving the shop and returned on my own to only be found out and taken back to my teacher. Who was, freaking out for “losing me”; little did she know I was far from lost. I knew exactly where I was and where I wanted to be.


I made a few attempts to further my curiosity through high school. It fell on deaf ears.

 

In college I was too poor to do much of anything. I had no TV, so the library gave me some hope on entertainment. I began searching out blacksmithing books. I found Bealer’s book and read it. I then went to the computer and found Anvilfire. That was 2001.

 

My girlfriend stopped by and saw what I was reading and began to tell me her dad was a blacksmith. It is important to note I had fallen in love with her BEFORE she told me this news…

 

I met her dad. I harassed him with question after question for months. It is amazing he even let me come to their house there at the beginning. I guess he figured I wasn’t going away and my interest wasn’t going anywhere.

 

I remember showing up one afternoon and him inviting me into the forge. All he said was, “The first thing you have to learn is to start your fire.” Handed me matches and some newspaper and pointed to the firepot. That was somewhere around 10 years ago.

 

He hasn’t thrown me out of his shop yet, let me marry his daughter, and he shows me something new every time I get in there with him. The education is an endless thing and his guidance has done a lot more for me way beyond the anvil. I am very fortunate to have him as my teacher, mentor, father-in-law, boss, and friend.
 

That’s my story…

Peyton



 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now that's a long story

 

In my first life I was an autoshop/welding instructor and than off to operating a motorcycle shop for a few years.  Opened an auto repair shop with a lot of employees and a lot of problems... Had enough of that after 20 years and retired..  Well that stunk so I opened a blacksmith shop for 15 years. 

 

It all started being a fabricator/welder/dreamer. I started collecting old tools and blacksmith stuff about 35 years ago for my northern Michigan farm for display.  Back then no books or people to show how it was done. I did find an old boy who put on a demo on blacksmithing and it was off to rhe races.

 

In my business, my blacksmith shop  took off like gangbusters and continued for 15 years.  If you could dream it I would make it .. I made tons of things  including railings, gates. lighting,custom kitchen, interior furnishings, etc,etc,etc 

 

I am retired and spend most of my time teaching our trade to future artists..  On my farm I have many buildings:  2 blacksmith studios, a sheet metal shop, a welding shop, and a machine line shaft shop. I enjoy teaching new artists  the basics and the advanced smiths tool making, treadle hammer methods and flypress operation..  I like to link english wheel /flypress/treadle hammer work into our trade with repousse..  Some multi-media.. I guess I can sum it up this way.  My grandson now says MY GRANDPA IS A BLACKSMITH...

 

A student of blacksmithing ( of 35 years)     Hammer on

 

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I got into blacksmithing in the reverse order than many folk.  An anvil and forge got me into blacksmithing.  In 1978 I was working as a geologist in Riverton, WY and went to an antique auction.  I picked up a 100# Vulcan anvil and a 22" Buffalo forge and blower for $25 each.  I had always had a vague interest in blacksmithing and even in 1978 that was a good deal that I couldn't pass up.  I had to rebuild the blower, it was covered in pine sap and there was an old mouse nest in the blower.  I got some nasty old slaked coal and some books out of the library and started getting steel hot and hitting it with a hammer.  The Weygers books and Charlie McRaven's "Country Blacksmithing" were a great help.  I'm sure that I still do some things bass ackwards because I never had a chance to apprentice or even watch an experienced blacksmith.  I'm envious of the new smiths of today who have videos and Youtube to guide them.  Also, there are lots more opportunities for real instruction today than there were 35 years ago not to mention more and better  printed references.

 

Initially,

George M.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Gerald,

 

I worked in the Alloy Bar Mill at the US Steel South Works in South Chicago in the early to mid-60s and had some experiences similar to yours.  I do have to disagree about the EPA and OSHA though.  US Steel and Inland Steel in E. Chicago, IN where I also worked were pretty safety concious even then.  They didn't have much in the way of hearing protection though and I still have some high frequency damage as a result. 

 

Pre-EPA we would sometimes get orange snow in south Chicago because of the fall out from the mills.  It was weird but sort of pretty once you got used to it.  It can't have been very good to breath that kind of stuff, though.

 

I suggest that a large contributor to the demise of the steel mills were the unions.  The labor cost per ton got high enough that it was cheaper to import what was needed by industry.  It's real easy to blame the bad old government for all kinds of woes but the reality is that things are almost always more complicated than that.

 

There's something to be said to be done with industries which wore out and wore down men before they were 45 years old.  There were old timers around who had known my father when he had worked there years before but a lot more got injured or worn out way too young.

 

Un-nostalgically,

George M.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be honest...   I don't know.   I always said that someday I would build my own forge.  I did not really even know what that was.  Then one day I started to research it and made a gas forge.   Found I needed an anvil and some metal to hit.   It just went from there.   Though, in the movie "Platoon" Tom Berenger pulls out a T-Handle knife and Cuts Charlie Sheen.    Somehow I told myself that I will make a T-Handle knife some day.  And so it happened.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my story !!  My father was a metalworker all his life. He sometimes needed more then a torch to heat metal. He had his father's anvil, and some blacksmith tools from the farm. We found a forge, set it up in the shop where he worked. Now he had an A/C welder, torch set, metal benders and a coal forge. He made the tools he didn't have. When he retired, it all when to me. That was 22 years ago. It's been my hobby, and the greatest gift a father could give. His knowledge and his tools.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

well it started young in junior high school made a yard sign in metal shop and a bunch of casting. was always drawn to it at historic parks in 1987 was stationed at camp Lejeune. wanted a set of ice carving chisels. did not want to spend the money they wanted for them so I decide I could make them on my own. The curator of the museum in Richlands NC had a blacksmith come to demonstrate. It was cold and rainy ice freeze on trees day. the demo was great and I had tons of questions the demonstrator handed me a piece of metal and we worked on a fork. He said just do it. The neighbor saw me working on the back of a vice as an anvil and gave me his. then he told the farmers in the area I had a working forge. They didn't care if I could fix what they brought Just wanted me to try So I did and soon lots got fixed and I had more work than I knew what to do with. I moved to chapel hill and met an other blacksmith I wast visit his shop and see what he was working on the I would go home and make the elements. Its been a journey and a whole lot of fun. In the last month I find out it is in my blood my great grand father came from Italy he was a knife maker and worked for empire knives and imperial knives. seems the family has been making knives form the roman times.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 I got started a little different than most from the posts I've read. I was suckered into it !My cousins and I were members of an antique tractor club at a meeting my cousin stood up and said, he has most of a blacksmiths shop and he's going to do a 3 day demo at the next show  3 months away.Altho I collected old tools I had never lit a fire!So I found the old KeenJunk web page and posted "need a teacher quick and where I was".I got 2 replys 1from the Saltfork Craftsmen pres. and 1 from a fellow that lived about 10 miles from me. I met the guy that lived close and found out he had lit 1 fire! So we started playing and trying to make something that looked close to what we wanted,and started going to the club meetings .We went to that show and had the time of our lives beating on hot steel.For some reason Mills brought a 2 1/2"truck axle.Whats that for ? We are going to make a shovel out of it!OK.

16hours later we had an ugly but usable shovel.It now hangs on my forge in a place of honor and I use it almost everyday.That was 13 yrs ago,From that weekend I came away with 2 things a  passion for hitting hot steel and a friend for a lifetime! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

responce to post 38.

George,

Yes I completely forgot about the orange snow. Made me laugh when I read your post. Across the river from Republic Steel was J&L Steel so we not only had orange snow but also orange houses and at the end of your shift you went to find your vehicle among all the other orange ones in the parking lot. Sure was tough on the paint.

A lot of the steel workers in the Cleveland area were Russians, Poles and Serbians and few spoke very many words in english. And yes, as I said it was a dirty, dangerious and hotter than hell. I also remember the yellow salt tablet despencers that were everywhere and you were encouraged to "take several each hour".

I now suffer from cronic lung diease and wear hearing aids in both ears. The price one has to pay for being poor, uneducated and having to work in a steel mill in the 60s.

Aside from that, I saw and experienced things that few ever have or will. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.