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I Forge Iron

First sword ideas


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Hey everybody, I'm new to the forum. So if I break any rules (which I will use my best judgement to avoid) please let me know. 


So now that the introductions out of the way, I'm a relatively new smith who has had some pretty good beginners luck so far. In fact I decided I'd like to try my hand at making a rapier or a viking style long sword, just for giggles. 


I've made two iron gates so far and I learned so much from all the mistakes I made it's unbelievable, so I decided to just jump into making a sword with the expectation of failing miserably, just to learn from the mistakes I'll make. So don't worry about me getting my feelings hurt by the end product.


That brings me to the question I'm here to ask. If you could go back and give yourself any advice for your first sword, what would it be?


Anything that ruined the project that you had no way of knowing beforehand?


Anything you learned that makes a better quality product? 


Thanks guys in advance, from what I've seen on the forums so far you guys are pretty cool. And yes, I know, it's a lot of work to go through just to learn something, but that's how I learn best. 





A little more info for you to think about. All I have on hand are rod stock, so I was thinking of flattening out a piece of 5/8 and go from there. I know it's not the usual sword quality metal, just regular gate quality steel, but it's cheaper than buying 1075 or 1060 stock just to likely ruin it. 


I do have a professional grade coal forge and anvil, purchased from centaurforge.com, and a few hammers I bought and one I made. Let me know if there's a specific type of hammer that you wouldn't start a sword without. 

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Swordsmithing is a touchy subject here.  There are many experienced smiths who produce beautiful blades, and most will caution "young" smiths to learn the basics first, then graduate to knives, and only afterwards start swords.  For the record, I have never made a sword, but there are some considerations that I can give.


Is your sword going to be a wallhanger, or are you going to attempt to produce a working item?  The amount of understanding of blade mechanics and properties is much more demanding for a functional piece.


Are you attempting to make an accurate reproduction, or a fantasy blade?  Again, enormous differences.


From what you've posted, you have at least a little experience pounding iron, and at the end of the day, you are the master of your actions.  Think things through, and don't do anything heroically stupid.

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Don't set your expectations too high or you'll probably be disappointed! Like many smiths my age, I had a keen interest in medieval weaponary. I went charging in wanting to make nothing else, you've done a lot more than I had at that point so you may have more luck. Anyway, after the first few months of forging I had nothing really to show for it. I wasn't expecting to make anything particularly good either, but stuck at it and learned more and more with each time I tried and every week I could go back to my books and I'd understand something more after having actually tried it. I've now made a few decent blades, but have primarily moved to decorative work as I hate grinding!


You've got a lot of the skills which I lacked when I tried, so you may be able to produce a decent blade! Definitely try knives first if you haven't already and be sure to read The Complete Bladesmith- that book is my bible! 


Basically, there's no harm in trying and learning in the process, as long as you don't set your expectations too high and put yourself off trying again!

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Learn to blacksmith first? NAW, Rich has the right of it. <grin> There is a LOT to know about forging before you're really ready for blade work, not saying plenty of folk have started out with blades, just saying there are less frustrating paths.


Try spring stock, it's high enough carbon to make a blade and best, it's pretty forgiving in the heat treat.


Frosty The Lucky.

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haha, I have to say that some of the responses I'm getting are quite humourous. I really appreciate the advice everybody. 


And to Gundog48, don't worry about my expectations. The only high expectations I'm holding are that I'll learn a bunch from this first failure. But I'm fully prepared for this to be a failure. I'm crazy, but not stupid,  ;)


Actually, so far I don't think I did too bad. I used a piece of rebar since it's so cheap I won't feel bad if it goes wrong. I'm going to include some pics if I can figure out how. 


I need some advice on how to draw out the tang, but I think I've got the rest planned out pretty well. I'm going to pound a groove in the blade to give it some width, and then bevel the edge to give a nice nordic style shape to the blade. 


Problem with the tang is that it's currently only one handed, but I was trying to make it a hand-and-a-half, plus room for a pommel. 


This will probably only be wall worthy, but it'll be a nice first sword to show off I think.



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Big problem; high carbon steels forge differently than low carbon ones---forging temps and ranges differ; so by forging regular A36 you are NOT learning how to forge a sword because if you use the same techniques you ruin every blade!


As for blade steels; well you should be able to get it CHEAPER than buying A36 at a metal store by finding a place that does lifts (or drops) on cars and getting leaf springs for at most scrap metal prices.  Try to source ones with as little use as possible. (I had a student that worked at a place that built EMT vehicles on truck bodies and so the first thing they did was to junk the original springs---had 24 miles on them being the distance from the dealership to their business.


Third suggestion: START WITH KNIVES; lot faster turnover and so you can make your learning mistakes quickly and rather than throwing away a couple of months of work, you are tossing a Saturday morning away and can be back where you were by the end of the day.  It is actually faster to learn swordsmithing by learning knifesmithing and then moving larger.

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I had the same problem with pitting on my first sword, one of those things you learn to control the more you do it. I suggest you try forging daggers as opposed to normal knives. They are very similar to swords and you'll be able to work on that taper which becomes very difficult to centre as the blades get longer. You can even fuller them and get practice on the almost identical fittings. Then you can just get longer and longer until you're making swords!

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Good points Thomas which makes me ask the following question.  To this point my forging experience has been making gardening tools, bottle openers & a few knives using HC railroad spikes.  I recently got some Bellota farrier rasps that I want to make knives out of.  I tested one by heating the rasp's tang to non-magnetic and then quenching in water.  The tang of the rasp broke when struck laid across the anvil. 


When forging what differences should I expect?  I know striking the rasp/file if under a dull red (risk shattering the steel) or heating too much and burning it up in the forge.  Then of course heat treating will be different.  I thought I would try a plain, small knife first to minimize the initial amount of time and effort. 


And I will have to try making one of the rasptlesnakes that you suggested in another post.

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Hoof rasps, files in general aren't water quench steels, you're lucky it didn't break in the quench. No worries, you gotta experiment but you need to be careful, failures can result in flying pieces.


Making rasple snakes will really help you get a feel for file steels, a good place to start. Then making knives and move up. I'm largely self taught and can say NOT setting yourself up for failure is a good thing. Learning the craft in managable challenging steps is the way to go. You'll always be pushing yourself to the next step but it's doable, you'll get the most from your failures if they're not the norm.


Frosty the Lucky.

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Hi Frosty,  I plan on using motor oil for when heat treating the files/rasps.  That was just a test to confirm that it would get brittle hard.  When something breaks in the quench does it just crack or shatter in such a way that metal flys?  I did put a piece of cloth over the rasp before striking it on the anvil, just in case. 


Knock on wood, up to this point I've only had one forging that wasn't a success and even that I learned from.  I had have a knife blade that was almost finished burn up in the forge.  I ended up cutting off the blade and selling it as a bottle opener.


Except for a few things I've kept to show others, almost everything I've made I've been able to sell.  In a way I feel like I should be making stuff just for fun and to learn, but right now I need the extra income to finance another project & help pay bills so I make small, simple things that sell.  While not always the most challenging I do learn new techniques or design new things to find another niche or market to sell to which brings up another question since I've highjacked this thread...


What small items have you made that sell well?  Pictures would definitely help, as well as even pricing info.  Right now most of the stuff I sell is small as previously mentioned.  Mostly by word of mouth, though word is getting around and people have started asking me to make specific things.  Even though my forge is just an 11" brake drum forge, it is on a table built out of scrap metal so I was even able to straighten a large rock bar.  I just found on CL a post vise in need of some forge work, I plan on repairing it and then selling it for more than twice what I paid.


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  • 3 weeks later...

I have made a letter opener knife, a few spoons and a tool. the opener was rebar, the spoons mild steel and the tool 5160. They are right that 5160 is a LOT harder to work. I say go for it. I would suggest starting with a nice big knife.

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