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I Forge Iron


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Greetings fellow blacksmit followers,


This might be a question that isn't asked that many times.


If you are making a living out of blacksmiting what do you do?


Do you fix things or make tools ? And is there a market for? 


Or simply said do you make suitable money to keep your needs?





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I "hammer" primarily for my own amusement.


Any money I make, is incidental, ... mostly from small "commissioned" items, ... for "friends of friends".


Occasionally, I'll restore an old machine or conveyance, that "needs" to be saved, ... but that I have no personal interest in keeping.


If I "break even" on something like that, I'm pleased.



Here, in the Northeastern USA, the only Blacksmiths I know who are making a consistent living, are doing "ornamental" Security Grills, and Gates, Fences and Railings, ... in and around the major cities.


The key thing here, is that this work has both esthetic and intrinsic value.



There are some very skilled people doing purely "artistic" iron work, ... but in the current economy, they're all slowly "starving".



My advice to anyone embarking on ANY small business venture, is to be careful about depending on "contract" or "commissioned" work.


It's fine to accept that type of work, ... but cultivate some "proprietary" products, as well.


Those proprietary products, ... no matter how humble, ... will make you efficient, and will keep you independent, when work gets scarce.






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To make a living out of blacksmithing you need to be able to market yourself and to fulfil peoples requirements satisfactorily. Same as anywhere else in the world.

There is a market for most things, (the trick is in accessing it) decide what you are going to target for your market and is it viable financially for you, if not stick to the hobby, and enjoy, not a business and jeopordise your own and your families lifestyle.

Get your skills together first, make some sample items, do some craft shows and markets, build on your results.
Seek out others who are in the business locally and assess what they are doing then ask their advice.

Look locally and see what is likely to be sought after, target that market

We have people who come on our courses(some here on this site)and set up in business relatively quickly and make a success of it.

It is not uncommon for them to report back they have already sold the items they made on the course, within a day or two of showing people what they had done.

The thing in common with most of them is the desire to learn, they have the basic skills to make most items, and then to put what they have learnt into practice and build on these skills,

They communicate to others (potential clients)about what they do, and then the word spreads and enquiries will come in.

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I'm 8 months in from making a living from selling ironwork, 8 months or so ago I took my first taster class with John B... Even the most simple items you can learn in an hour can bring you an income, it just comes down to finding someone to buy it! I do this via online, shows and now more word of mouth. One of the items we made in that taster class was beer/wine glass holder. I sold over 60 of them in a day during a summer festival I attended this year.

You can see what I sell from my website, but nothing is particularly beyond the novice stage!

A few things that have served me well over the last 8 months are, firstly I have a very understanding wife! Secondly keep overheads as low as possible, I don't think I've yet brought a new tool (my main forging hammer I picked up for a 50p/50 cents at a local market) and I certainly don't have a fancy commercial property to work from. And lastly it pays to know how to weld, you can pick up lots of jobs from big to small with this skill.

Oh and never say no to a job, as in if you don't have the skills it's a great way to learn quickly! Espically if there is a deadline, I find I learn best under pressure! And that's what this site is for :)

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I have a background in General Contracting.  When I was in school they were teaching that over 90% of new GC's were out of business within the first four years.  Of those, something like 20% or more went out of business in five.  Keep in mind that the vast majority of these entreprises are launched by people who not only believed in themselves, they also had financial backing.  To me that indicates they'd convinced others they were a good investment.


I'm going on my 19th year of experience in this field.  I can't emphasize enough how utterly brutal and random business can be.  The periodic swings in construction average ten good years and two awful ones.  Think about that.  How many of those firms started with only three years left in a good cycle?


In my opinion, the single most common factor for successful entrepreneurs was previous successful ventures.  Getting experience with someone who's successfull is worth more than a fancy degree or a nice shop.  Building to your market and making sure your market is strong enough to support you is a tricky thing to assess from the sidelines.  I know this isn't strictly blacksmithing experience but I'm hoping the similarities will be helpful nonetheless.

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For blacksmithing  I'd characterize it as two good jobs, ten awful ones...... especially when your starting out. Here in philadelphia I make most of my living with architectural work as of these last few years, Alot of that has to do with my snobbery. I really dislike crappy fab jobs and as I'm fond of saying, You can get pretty far in this world by knowing what exactly you aren't willing to do. The cash injections to my shop, that I suppose are a corollary to small production pieces, are the conservation/ restoration  jobs I get (the generalized fixing of old stuff). If you think blacksmithing is slow try conservation. With my brutish methodology (torches and scotchbrite pads) I can accomplish, in a day what, the conservation company that I work through could, in 2 weeks. I charge accordingly., As grant sarver said, it's about percieved value. I am hoping to develope a product line of homewares to help insulate me from the rollercoaster ride of independent buisness ownership in the near future. Also I am connected to a big name in metalwork(through the previous shop I worked for) and so get alot of nice work though my former boss. Otherwise I'd have to spend alot more time in the horrible world of marketing. Hope this random snapshot of a working smith helps. Take care, Matt

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About half my business is blacksmithing.  Most of my forging work is toolmaking,  I make tools for the steelmaking industry, foundries, drop forging shops and other blacksmiths.  I also make other industrial parts such as lifting bails and specialized eye bolts and bolts.  The other half of my business is Patternmaking which is also toolmaking 

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