ChiefCodeX

Starting out on a rough note

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Christmas is coming up and there's a recent thread on making ornaments, most of which require the above mentioned skills.  As worst you'll make a bunch of ornaments, gain some skill and be able to give away what you make as presents.  At best you can sell some of them to friends and use the money to buy tools or classes that you might need.  Fantastic thread btw, I've been smithing for a little over a year.  The spare cash has helped, but as Mark said, if I was dependent on it my family and I would starve.  My experience this year was initially I sold most of everything I made, but now the small market I was selling to is saturated and so I'm selling far less.  Fortunately it's just supplemental and for fun.

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I find it a lot more "fun" that if I need to practice a certain technique I find/design a project that requires a lot of that technique and do it and so at the end I have something I can show off or sell rather than a pile of bits to be thrown back on the scrap pile.

 

Also an old blacksmithing trick is: if you need to make a bunch of "identical" items; make a few more and then select the ones that match the best---the others can be used for another project where being identical is not so important.

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Any advice on what shapes to start practicing with first.

 

I'm only ~8 months into this obsession, so I can't offer the wisdom that the others have, but as someone trying to learn and practice all I can, I found that the projects on Anvilfire were great practice items. Theres lots of good info there. The blueprints here are also good sources of projects. There are also other sites on the web with articles, not to mention all of the free ebooks out there. I also bought a CD with like 30 out of print books on it for about $5, as well as other printed books. I have more reading than I can possibly get to but would reccomend Lorelei Sims Backyard Blacksmith as great book to start with, you might check with your Library. 

 

I will confirm though, that although books and articles and youtube are great, time spent with a blacksmith who can show even simple things will help tremendously. That and time spent at the anvil are invaluable. I forged everday for about 30 days straight after I built my forge, and fairly ofter for the next 6 months. This is only a hobby for me, but I only sold my first item a few weeks ago, after about 7 months of practice and at 40 years young I am still just but a babe learning the ropes of smithing.

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What exactly do you mean by frabicating. Like putting stuff together, making sure it fits right?

 

 

Yes, but often there can be a bit more to it.

 

I see a lot of guys who can't think ahead and plan how things go together and fit. I also see a lot of guys that simply lack basic skills in cutting and measuring. If you tell them to make something simple like a square box they simply can't. In theory if you cut 6 sides, all square, all exactly the same size and tack them all up so the inside edges touch, you get a nice square box. Simple right? But I see a lot of guys who can't even cut one square that is the same in both dimensions, let alone 6. Now lets say the pieces aren't all exactly the same... can you adjust how the pieces fit so they still come out square? can you take one that's a bit long and mate it with a side that is a bit short so the dimensions come out right? Can you set it up so there is a gap that you have to fill?

 

If instead of metal that's welded, you now make that same square box out of wood, it's a bit more complex. If you are doing overlapping edges so you can nail or glue, you need to figure the material thickness into the plan. To get a "cube" you can subtract a wall thickness from one side of the "side" pieces so when they overlap you still get a square, but then you need the top and bottom of the cube to be smaller and fit inside. Or you need to cut down the height of the of the sides if the top and bottom will overlap. Or get real fancy and off set 2 of the sides next to each other and reduce the height by 1 thickness and have the top and bottom fit inside on one 1/2 and overlap on the other.... the point being you sort of need to know before you go to cut all your parts how it's all going to fit together, so you can make up a cut list and order material. It gets a bit more complex if you also are trying to maximize your sheet materials at the same time. How many pieces of X and Y can I get out of sheet A and how many of Z will fit on sheet B and still give me enough left over so I can get the rest of the X and Y parts I need out without having to buy a 3rd sheet that I won't need...

 

The more complex the project, the greater the need to plan out parts in advance so they all fit and work together. If you are forging a gate or railing, you probably need to make a bunch of individual parts and then assemble them. Possibly you may have to assemble sub groups1st and then later assemble those groups together.  does this section have to fit with other pieces you are making? When you are finished, is the whole thing going to be the right size and square, or is it going to be lopsided and irregular?

 

 

The day school welding instructor likes to refer to me as a "mechanic". Not because I wrench on stuff, but because I can look at a project and figure out how it needs to be built and put together. I can cut and fit material. Cope where needed to get parts to match existing items correctly. Heat, bend, fold and so on so that pieces match existing contours. Make sure everything is square and that it stays that way when I've got it all welded up.  I once told a friend who was amazed I was able to cope pipe to fit nice on the 1st try, that it's not much different than what I do daily with wood. If I can cut and cope stain grade crown molding so there is no gap at either end to fit existing installed pieces, it's not all that different to do it in steel.

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Some real good info on this thread and I've found it very helpful. Thanks all..
 
If I could just add my 2 cents worth for all it is but I think it's very important; your own safety. Watch yourself & take care...use your PPE(personal protection equipment) and don't take short cuts. You'll get reminders of close ones with various pieces of equipment and that's what they are reminders..Don't learn the hard way..
 
Enjoy it & the best of luck..

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I would also suggest taking some courses at the local community college for welding, etc. Mine even had a blacksmithing program. They also have business classes.

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Chief: I've got to start checking my computer more than every few days!

 

Please don't think we're coming down on you, we're not. It may seem like it but you're young, full of whiz and vinegar, determination, plans and short on life experience. Nothing new there, we've all been there, some of us still are.

 

I REALLY want to thank Highsider for bringing PPE up. A hot shop, be it blacksmithing, welding, casting, metal spinning, etc. is full of things that WILL injure or even kill you. Treat everything in the shop like it's HEAVY, HOT, HARD, SHARP, OFF BALANCE, and just waiting for you to look the other way. Even the soft things in my shop can hurt you.

 

Along the same line as safety is knowing when to take a break or k knock off for the day. Working tired is probably one of the most common causes of accidents I know of. Working with an experienced smith who can tell you when you're getting tired is a really good thing. Most of the folk I've taught didn't notice they were getting tired, the cues are subtle, it's a matter of learning before you recognize them.

 

Fabrication is high on the list of necessary skill sets unless all you think you'll be making are things like nails, coat hooks, etc. Even a pot rack requires fabrication skills and believe me you can join yourself into a corner faster than you'd believe. Sequencing is all about the order you join things to make the whole project piece. In the old books it's called "making up a piece" or "made up pieces." Well, okay I call it sequencing, all it ordering the work or whatever. Do it in the wrong order and you can find yourself cutting it apart again and trying again. Been there, done that.

 

Good learning projects are nails, nails are good warm ups too, lots of the guys here make a few nails when they start a session at the forge. Coat hooks are good learning and warmup projects and can be as involved and precise as necessary. I like leaf finial wall hooks as training projects and like to use 3/8" sq. stock. Steel that thick requires drawing down in three ways: first the hook needs a nice longish UNIFORM taper to a point, Second the shank needs to be draw down to a UNIFORM straight 1/4" sq. Lastly the leaf needs a shouldered stem and a lateral draw to the leaf shape.

 

Once you have the basic dimensions the shank looks MUCH better with a nice twist, do THAT before you counter sink and punch for the screw holes. don't forget to put a finial scroll on the long taper, remember it goes the OPPOSITE direction as the hook! I can't count how many times I've done THAT little trick. <sigh>

 

Last it's time for a little refinement on the leaf and veining. Veining can be done with a chasing tool, I have an old cold chisel with a curved, rounded edge as my veiner but I also have veins chased in a piece of flat stock I can drive a HOT leaf blank into to make veins in the positive. Using the die is trickier as you either have to do it in ONE blow or you MUST realign all the veins between the leaf and die or it'll just look like a pile of sticks.

 

Does sequence count? You BETCHA it does! As a general rule of thumb you want to do the thick sections BEFORE doing the thin sections. If the first thing you do on the leaf hook is the taper to a point there's a good chance it'll get burned off when you heat it to forge the leaf or straight draw. (Yeah, I know I listed the steps with the point first but that is NOT the best way to do it)

 

Oh, the final step in any forged project? Finishing, you need to remove the forge scale, HOT brushing works well but you need a flat bristle butcher block) brush, they work a LOT better than a wire bristle brush. You want to keep your butcher's brush handy through out the forging process, scale WILL form as soon as hot steel hits fresh air and if you don't keep it cleaned off the hammer and anvil will drive it into the steel and leave permanent texture you may not want.

 

Anyway, do a final HOT brushing and once it's cooled to black heat that doesn't blacken a piece of paper or card stock, wipe it down with whatever sealer you like. I mixed up a batch out of Alex Bealer's, "The Art Of Blacksmithing", soot, paraffin wax, linseed oil and turpentine. Mr. Bealer evidently liked paraffin better than bees wax and I don't know which is better I still have plenty from the first batch I mixed up, oh those many years ago. What I've found I like really well now is "Tree Wax" furniture polish, it's carnuba, the stuff they use to armour bowling alleys under the oil. the stuff is tough as all getout and seems to last a good long time. Apply it short of smoking hot and it'll flow into every nook and cranny.

 

If you can find an old Boyscout manual it has a metal working merit badge that requires making a chain, it's an outstanding learning project.

 

I've rambled o WAY longer than necessary but I still have what I wanted to say and got sidetracked. <sigh> Bladesmithing takes a lot of time to learn to do right and even longer to earn a rep that'll earn you almost minimum wage for making them. Years ago I was associated with a "professional" bladesmith and the couple shows we did together it irked him severely when all anyone wanted to do was look at and handle his blades but bought every coat hook I made as part of the demo. I also made a number of special requests and a few repairs. All in all I usually almost covered my out of pocket and my EX associate spent the whole time trying to convince folk they really WANTED one of the BIG fighting knives he made. As I recall all he sold with any regularity were RR spike letter openers and sharpening.

 

Okay, signing off now.

 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Lots of good points made.  I'd throw one thing out there as it applies to career planning.  Very few people give themselves a chance to try out a career BEFORE they pursue the education. 

 

A terrifically unfair aspect of adult life is that a career typically involves a decent amount of stuff that doesn't get mentioned in job descriptions.  Lots of people study architecture because they like aesthetics, drawing, etc.  Lots of Architects quit because the spend most of their time in meetings being forced to make decisions they aren't happy with because there isn't enough time or money to make their dream come true.

 

I'd recommend finding a business that exemplifies what you're interested in and ask if you can "shadow" the owner for a few weeks or months.

 

Keep your eyes open and ask questions about what it's like, how it pays, and how that person got started.  Check out more than one company and look for differences.  Ask what education/certifications REALLY matter.  Contrary to what college advisers will tell you, it's not an advantage to accrue debt earning a degree that leaves you overqualified for the job you want.

 

An absolute ton of vocational material is recognized by the individual class-  not the degree the college is selling.  It's a huge advantage to end up with all the training and experience you need without overspending.  Most vocational stuff is available at night as well which is a huge boon to the working man.

 

Businesses don't always change owners through huge corporate sales.  Really often it's "sold" to an employee for what amounts to a pension for the founder.

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A terrifically unfair aspect of adult life is that a career typically involves a decent amount of stuff that doesn't get mentioned in job descriptions.  Lots of people study architecture because they like aesthetics, drawing, etc.  Lots of Architects quit because the spend most of their time in meetings being forced to make decisions they aren't happy with because there isn't enough time or money to make their dream come true.

 

 

Ha,ha,ha... You nailed me in one... I have a Bachelors of Architecture but have never worked in an office. I was making too much money swinging a hammer like I did to put myself thru school. I know quite a few people who I went to school with who are out of work in Architecture right now.

 

 

 

Businesses don't always change owners through huge corporate sales.  Really often it's "sold" to an employee for what amounts to a pension for the founder.

 

 

Guy I'm friends with who lives near me, just got offered to buy out the "blacksmithing" company he has been working for. They mostly do iron fence and gates and only a small part is actual smithing. The owner is almost 70 now and wants to retire completely so he's offered my friend the chance to buy everything and work for himself. Last time I talked to him he's probably going to take the offer.

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Guy I'm friends with who lives near me, just got offered to buy out the "blacksmithing" company he has been working for.


Call the fellow and offer to become his first employee.

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Trust me the way business has been this year I'm VERY tempted to do just that. Not quite ready to throw in the towel and go PT with my business, but I've really thought about seeing if he could use some PT help over the winter when my business is slow.

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DSW I know you mean by people not knowing how to put stuff together. The reason why I asked that question was because my dad does a lot of woodworking and I have grown up around it. Hopefully I'll be able to transition those skills over to blacksmithing. What I love about building/designing stuff is figuring out the best way to make it work, and having an end product that works really well. I do like the Christmas ornaments idea( Christmas presents maybe). Frosty thanks for the idea, and don't worry about coming down on me. I love all the advice you guys give me ( its actually why I love this forum so much.) I actually hope that members like Frosty, Glenn, and DSW and others will comment and add their experience and knowledge to the discussion.

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Chief- just a thought for you - what about making woodworking tools?

 

Take a look at what Veritas, Lee Valley, and other big names are charging for chisels, planes, and so on.  Axes for timber framing are a niche industry as well.  It's been my experience that anyone who spent the time to earn the skills in those vocations will happily part with a goodly sum for a well made tool.

 

Some hobbyist cabinet makers have tools that look nicer than most dining room sets.

 

I had another idea.

 

There are strong aftermarket accessory markets for stuff like car's and guns.  I know that aftermarket plane irons exist for old Stanley and Bailey planes.  Some of the moving fillister planes may have lost their fence or nicker blades over time.  Making reproductions / replacements may prove to have some demand.

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Chief
i would latch onto some of those local experts and offer to be their unpaid slave in exchange for learning the skills. This works while you live at home.

BTW everybody this is one of the best threads ever in this forum. nice job.

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I started my own business about a year and half ago,

 

its the most challenging thing I have ever done.. you have to get out there and spend money on advertising and marketing,

 

take jobs and build clients,

 

you have to work 24/7, everyday every hour your awake you need to plan and organize.

 

organization is the key, which means you need employee's because you cant work and do it all and if you do you wont do it well,

 

 

Running a one man shop is terrible if you are trying to run a business on industrial property, fully legitimately the government/ insurance rent costs more than I used to year per year and I have always worked hard and had a decent paying job.

 

you need to have a large income to run a business, it costs huge amounts of money to keep going I spend about $20,000 every month now and I wouldn't say I make a lot of money either the focus as been on growing the business and I don't need anything for myself personally. 

 

business is really the study of people, the mentality of human beings, I have spent my entire life focused on thinking about how people work, trying to figure myself out.

 

analyze the world and see what is really going on,

 

everything starts from a structure, while we all dream of doing the most elaborate and beautiful jobs in the world we should realize that no one starts at the top, we work our way up from the bottom,

 

in the metal trade there are so many things to learn beyond the skills that use your hands,

 

designing things to fit perfectly, seeing all the issues and being able to create something that always works is a challenge.

 

knowing the customers, their expectations, what they will pay, whether they are going to scam you.

 

bending over backwards for the right people at the right time can change your business in a few seconds flat.

 

you never know what you can do until its done.

 

 

 

I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
I seek opportunity … not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk;
To dream and to build....
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
I prefer the challenges of life
To the guaranteed existence;
The thrill of fulfillment
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence
Nor my dignity for a handout
I will never cower before any master
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid;
To think and act for myself,
To enjoy the benefit of my creations
And to face the world boldly and say:
This, with God’s help, I have done
All this is what it means
To be an Entrepreneur.”

― Thomas Paine, "Common Sense"

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Starting a business is a whole like the Wright Bros. First Successful Flight, It didn't go very high or very far and it wasn't their First Attempt at it either.  They kept at it time after time costing them a lot of money and Flying eventually became a big business, Orville and Wilber didn't get in on the financial success end of things. 

 

A friend said once Starting a business is easy he had done it 100s of times.  Ending one isn't hard either, keeping the blessed thing in the air is the hard part. 

 

Good Luck Young Man you are going to need it!  Keep us posted!

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