Jack-O-Lantern

Advice to newbies from a newbie

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I am encouraged by what I've found.

 

A bunch of folks note they successfully made tools with sway bars, without quenching/hardening, just normalizing/air cooling.

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Depends on the type of tool; I think it should make great drifts, bending forks, fullers, etc but not my first or second or third choice for slitting chisels or smaller punches that will be buried in hot steel during use.

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2 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Depends on the type of tool; I think it should make great drifts, bending forks, fullers, etc but not my first or second or third choice for slitting chisels or smaller punches that will be buried in hot steel during use.

 

That would be absolutely perfect. I need drifts, have no fullers, etc. Good practice forging too.

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2 minutes ago, chimmike said:

That would be absolutely perfect. I need drifts, have no fullers, etc. Good practice forging too.

I made my spring fuller from a sway bar. Very handy indeed.

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Newbie here also and I agree with your post.  I have had to hack together stuff to get me started but I feel doing this makes you appreciate learning more.  Ditto on using the Royal Oak brand charcoal....not to expensive and burns hot...wife was good to me and bought me a couple of bags for Christmas...

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Try to find if there is a company making charcoal locally to you.  When we did bloomery runs we always went to the source and bought 40# bags cheap. (They gave us the wholesale price after finding out what we were doing with it...)

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On July 16, 2014 at 4:16 PM, Jack-O-Lantern said:

This may seem presumptuous as it is only my second post and the fact that I've only been smithing for 7 months. However, after studying this craft for a year and being in the thick of newbiness I've noticed several things that I feel should be discussed and avoided by my fellow beginners.

Thanks, for this. It's actually very helpful. 

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Hi all, first post and true newbie/ metal beater here. However, I am determined to learn how to do this. I currently have most tools scrapped together (I think) and my wife bought me a single burner gas forge for father's day. Due to past/ current work, I have a 3 pound engineers hammer, cross pein hammer same size, several sizes ball pein hammers and a  good variety of other tools. I am using a fairly large ammo can for a quench tank and have a plan for my overall setup. However, I am having a dog of a time figuring out what I can do for a good anvil (budget limited as I have a kid in college). My thought for a beginning project was to make a hunting knife (hopefully), though I feel like I ought to use some rebar to maybe fashion tongs and other things (like hangars etc. to get used to shaping hot steel etc.). Like I said before, my real issue here is where/ what/ how I can find something to use as an anvil. Any ideas or experience would be greatly appreciated.

I do have a fair amount of machine shop experience and worked maintenance in an industrial forge for about 18 months. Understanding that I need some experience with color gauging, steel characteristics and heat treating is there. I have access to a color chart but for different alloys, I imagine it might be different. Any other reference material folks might recommend is also very much appreciated.

 

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4 minutes ago, rangert said:

My thought for a beginning project was to make a hunting knife (hopefully), 

 

Knives are ambitious as a first project. Get used to moving steel first: there are lots of threads on how to get started.

6 minutes ago, rangert said:

though I feel like I ought to use some rebar to maybe fashion tongs and other things (like hangars etc. to get used to shaping hot steel etc.).

REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. REBAR IS NOT GOOD MATERIAL FOR TONGS. 

Tongs are also not good newbie projects. If you really want to save some money and make something yourself, check out the twist tong blanks from Ken's Custom Iron (findable with any decent search engine).

All that said, Welcome aboard!

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The fastest way to making good knives and not driving yourself mad from the frustration of having them fail all the time is to learn the basics well first and then add on the more advanced skills. Would you suggest for me to walk off the street and use a 5 axis CNC with no training?

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Welcome aboard Rangert, glad to have you.  Rebar is too inconsistent in analysis to be good for much except making picking up the blacksmith's craft more difficult that necessary. Flatten the learning curve and just buy a stick from a steel yard or if you're a personable soul see about picking through the drops. Ask the guys in the yard, not the counter. The people at the counter have to charge you while the guys in the yard have important work and are most likely to just point you at the pile. 

Advice point (3?) Learn to blacksmith THEN learn bladesmithing. If you're proficient at the anvil all you need to learn to forge blades is a new material and heat management. Mixing the two in the beginning simply puts you on a much steeper learning curve. It's up to you of course but I've found making learning a new craft in steps is faster easier and more thorough.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for the advice all, I read up on some of the properties on rebar in various places. Seems you might make a wall hangar or something but that is about it. I need to make tools for use right now but nothing hardened yet. That will come later. The blade smithing is one end goal but not the only one, however, it is important to remember that as a way to keep focused. When I started machining, I was started out on an old Bridgeport mill. Never learned CNC though. Tongs seems like a good first project. This is something I am doing with my 12 yo son so we will learn this thing together.

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Mr. Rangert,

In my opinion tong making from scratch is not a good first project. S- hooks are a good one. You need to to draw out and twist to make a sexy one. Bottle openers are a good second project. They usually require punching and drifting in their manufacture.

Mr. JHCC has posted a very good thread listing knowledgeable smith's blacksmith videos on you tube. There are a lot of trashy and wrong videos on that site.

Check the abana .com site for their series on blacksmith techniques. Also, search for the COSIRA series of on-line books.

There is a lot there but it will save you a bundle of time and frustration.

Regards & good luck,

SLAG.

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Tongs have tolerances that have to be met to work well.  A good first project is one where you can learn: how hot steel moves, how your forge heats, how your hammer impacts, how your anvil is set up, etc without worrying about your tolerances.

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Great first project - get a coil spring from a junk yard, cut off 7-8 inches, heat and straighten, create hex taper for hitting end, create round taper for business end, mix up a beeswax and boiled linseed oil finish, repeat multiple times with different shaped punches. All great fun with useable tools as outcome. Teaches hammer control, use of anvil, how to move the steel, heating, etc. Very rewarding for a new smith. There are many youtube videos on making punches from coil springs. I have found nothing more satisfying than making the tools you use!

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So first projects are not what might be ideal but a: I don't own tongs and B: I don't own an anvil either and c: the wife is at her spend limits atm. So really, I don't have any option for a first project and I have to start somewhere. So my anvil will be an old block of cold roll steel I have and I still have no tongs...

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If your stock is long enough you will not need tongs.

Iron is not a great conductor of heat. 

You can cut off the long handle portion after you have finished.

Vise grip pliers are adequate, although not ideal.

SLAG.

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Your anvil is just fine. As Slag says don't cut the piece off the long stock till it's almost finished. If rebar is what you have and can afford then that's what you start with. It REALLY sucks to try making tongs from though, you have all that texture to deal with AND make everything fit properly. 

Good beginning projects with rebar :

Tent pegs, you'll learn to make a long even taper and either head or turn a short hook to make tent lines fast to. Vise grips will work to make the last steps.

Garden tools, weeding fork, draw a flat taper, split the working end, either with a chisel or hack saw is fine. Draw a taper on the handle end and turn a finial loop for a hanger and decoration.

Garden shovel. Either do a lateral draw for the shovel blade directly from the rebar stock, or draw a flat taper, punch for rivets. Cut the blade from moderately heavy steel, punch for rivets and rivet to handle. Remember the finial loop hanger. One goal is to make the pieces similar enough they make a set.

Garden hoe is almost exactly like a garden spade but the blade is square on the working end and the flat taper has a 90* bend. 

These aren't stand up dig potatoes, weed the garden tools, they're like you'd use in a planter or the sandbox, one handers.

You can make all these without tongs though a hack saw and chisels punches, etc. will come in handy. Start hitting garage sales looking for useful tools if you aren't already. Any smooth faced hammers around 2lbs. are a good start. Develop good hammer control and habits before you worry about using heavy hammers. Old chisels, punches, crow bars, etc. are excellent stock for the forge. Keep your eyes open for a coil spring it makes excellent tongs when you get a little more proficient.

However buying a stick of new steel say 1/2" rd. or 3/8" sq. will make learning much easier for being much more consistent. It's not that expensive if you call around.

Keep us in the loop, we're pulling for you and the boy. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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Rangert; for over 2000 years an "anvil" looked like a block of steel or even wrought iron in the early days! (Sometimes with a spike on the bottom.)  Using these anvils they made pattern welded swords, armour, axes, cooking gear, ornamental ironwork., etc. The London Pattern anvil is about 200 years old So when you say "I don't have an anvil, all I have is what has been used as an anvil 10 times longer than what I think an anvil looks like" I am perplexed!

I do medieval demos with a 25# block of steel anvil and a stake anvil I forged to use as a bickern.  I've forged using a corner of a campfire and a single lung bellows.  DON'T LET YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS KEEP YOU FROM FORGING!

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Hi all, I got my furnace fired up for the first time yesterday. I think I have quite a bit of tuning to do to it but it will work well I think. Single burner design from Devil Forge in Lithuania. no problems with it so good score there. I got my test billet up to dark orange heat and began shaping son with my son. I will say that left hand threads are a bear to get used to :)My anvil is not large enough to use properly (it is only about 4"x4" square face and is cut to resemble an I sort of) so I am on the hunt for a larger piece of steel to use. If you have any recommendations for inexpensive alternatives, I would appreciate it. A block of cold rolled steel maybe? or is tool steel a better option if I can find it? I was thinking about maybe looking around to see if anyone had an old die set from a full scale industrial forge (the kind used to make automotive parts or whatnot). Also, I need to assemble my work space so that it we can work out of it. So much to do....

By the way, I will start my own thread so as to quit hijacking this one so please look for that one here shortly.

Edited by rangert
added a line

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@rangert

 

from a newbie to a newbie, I learned more from this video than anything else I've come across so far.

Pete

 

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Rangert:  Yeah, I thought I'd make a knife for a first project and stopped quickly after learning that 5160 spring steel is much harder to move for a newbie than mild steel.  I should have known better having mastered a couple of other crafts in the past.  I read a ton more on here and realized I needed to start sensibly with making hooks and simple things first.  Those simple projects don't wow people, but they teach you the skills you need to master to be able to make blades someday

I also made the mistake of trying to make a pair of tongs from two railroad spikes.  Again, too advanced for a newbie but I managed to get something that would work as tongs.  I like to challenge myself, but starting out with too lofty of a project really just robs a newbie of learning the true craft of forging.  From one newbie to another, start making hooks and hardware.  You won't be sorry and you'll find ways to be satisfied scrolling stuff and making hooks for things around the house.

I just made replacement hall tree hooks for a hall tree coat hanger that I stripped and restored.  It will be a Christmas gift.  I also built a stocking hanger post and forged the hooks for that with some scrolling.  It added that heirloom touch that hooks bought at the big box store couldn't have done.  I've made brackets to mount equipment and even sold some hooks at a show I sell my other hobby stuff at.

I still have that first knife I started work on.  Someday I'll finish it when my skills are there and I've put my time in at the anvil.

 

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Don't absent-mindedly switch hammers or you'll end up with a sore head.

I went to move a small claw hammer out of the way after spending the previous hour swinging a 4# hammer.
Needless to say it left the bench at a much faster rate than I expected it to.

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I like to use a thin piece of rebar to weld on to a small or awkward piece I'm forging to use for a grip. I have a limited tong inventory and this method has helped many times. 

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Starting with a longer piece to use as a handle or welding on a handle is common in smithing and has been going on a long time---see the video I posted a link to in the  improvised anvils thread where a traditional japanese swordsmith forge welds a handle onto the piece of metal he stacks his billet pieces on.  Most folks doing pattern welding today arc weld a handle on.  However rebar is hard pn the hand; I'd go with a nice metal handle like the swordsmith uses!

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