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So, I want to be a blacksmith. I have been gathering information about blacksmithing lately, the only thing is, I don't know where to start. It seems that the underlying theme to everything I have been reading is, just get after it. I just don't know what I should attempt to make first. So, I thought I would ask y'all what your very first project was and how it turned out.

 

Also, any advice you might have for someone who hasn't even picked up a hammer yet would be helpful as well.

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I'm a beginner too. I picked up "The Backyard Blacksmith"  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0785825673/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 at Amazon pretty cheap. It seems to go over the basics pretty good and has some starter projects that yield useful things but take you through basic techniques too.

in addition to what dick said, see if there are any blacksmiths in your area that give lessons. What really got me hooked was taking a class a local blacksmith was giving on how to make a forged knife.

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Welcome aboard Bandit, glad to have you. There's a little difference between build a fire and get to it and Just get to it. doing some reading first is a good idea. I know I spent a few years trying to teach myself and wasn't doing so well till I discovered some books. A person should build a fire and get to it for sure just don't stop researching.

What do you have for kit? You don't need much at all but a little helps a lot.

What do you have for stock? My favorite is 3/8" sq. or 1/2" rd. mild but that's me. Depending on what your interests are different sizes are better. 5/16" rd is good too.

When you say you haven't picked up a hammer, do you mean that metaphorically or literally. If you've never used a hammer that's okay there are good exercises to help you develop the eye hand and muscle memory blacksmithing requires. If however I'm right and you mean you just haven't hit hot steel yet, we got you covered there too. No worries.

So, let's get started. What do you have for kit? List it out, not every little bit but the important things. You must have a way to control a HOT fire, you must have something to hammer against, something to hammer with and something to hold hot stuff. That's the basic kit, about all that's really necessary. sure, you'll want a way to cut stock and even hot steel but a hack saw is perfect and cold chisels from yard/garage/etc. sales should be on your to buy list. You'll want a center punch a drift or pin punch about 3/16" dia. is good. A big fat center punch is a good starter outer and handy for punching counter sinks.

What are your interests? Nobody gets into this craft without at least an idea or two about what they'd like to make. Well, almost nobody there are folk who just like collecting skills but even they have things they like to make. You like tools, hardware, decorative or architectural things?

We can adjust once we have an idea where your interests lay. I start students depending on their aptitude and skills sets.  I like a first session welding lesson to get the mystique of forge welding out of the way but that's not very practical here.

A good 1st. project in my experience is a leaf finial coat hook. There are video tutorials about making a leaf, look a couple up and give it a try. Then you want to draw a nice long even taper to a dull point. LEAVING about 3-4" between the leaf and the taper. Put a twist on the center section. Once you're happy with the twist get it screaming HOT and lay it on a block of wood with the back of the hook facing up and flatten the twist edges a little. The wood will cushion the front and not alter the edges allowing you to flatten the part of the hook that lays against the wall for a nicer look and fit. Okay, you DO know your leaf has a front and wall side. Yes? the part with the veins or vein like texturing faces the room. Get it hot again and lay it face up on the anvil and using the center punch drive two screw hole counter sinks. Later you'll be grinding your own counter sink punch but for starts a center punch works just fine. Drive it till the outside of the crater is about the size of a wood screw. Next punch into the center of the craters with the drift/pin punch till you can see the dark little spot on the back side when you turn it over. Lay the punch on the dark dot and punch the slug out. Now you have the screw holes. the hook will need a little straightening do that on the wood block with another wood block or better yet a wooden mallet.

Now we're down to the last steps and probably the trickiest. Heat the end of the taper and with the leaf facing up turn a little scroll on the very end and I mean little, think pencil eraser diameter and smaller. The only purpose to this little finial scroll it to prevent the hook tearing a coat. And the scroll needs to be pointing the right direction. Now heat the taper again and with the leaf facing down form the hook. You've seen coat hooks, make it look like that with the finial scroll coming about even with the bottom screw hole.

Get everything tweaked even, straight and make sure it will lay with the leaf flat on the anvil and the hook standing straight up. NO the hook isn't straight but it should be perpendicular to the back of the hook or it'll look kittywompus on the wall. Believe me people WILL see a degree or two off square, they might not know what's up but it'll look wrong. Humans have an instinctive recognition of square corners and straight lines.

Once it's tweaked wire brush it starting at a high red or low orange heat, brush vigorously and don't be afraid to use something to back it against to keep it from skidding all over the place. Now while it's still too hot to touch finish it. Plain old Johnson's paste wax works very well. I like Carnuba because it's super durable and super fluid when melted so it leaves a thin coat that gets into every cranny. Many folk like Bee's wax and it's a good finish but can stay a little tacky but you're going to wipe the excess wax off with a rag before it's completely cool so it won't be tacky enough to notice.

Of course you can paint it if you'd like, there's nothing wrong with paint, people have been painting iron work since paint was invented. The Yellin shop painted their work. Regardless, it's up to you and eventually it'll be up to your customers.

Well, that's about it, however the hook turned out go put it on the wall somewhere you'll see it. You can admire a useful first project and as the years go by compare it to how far you've come. A person should keep their first project as a reminder of where you started.

The last is assuming you have basic hand tool skills. If you need to learn basic hand tool skills, don't worry there's no shame in it, the condition is easily fixed and I have just the project to develop good hammer control skills.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Agree that you would be well served to find a local beginner's class.  It's what got me hooked, and it has the benefit of covering the really basic stuff right off the bat.  I got the same book Shamus mentions as my first blacksmithing book, it's still an invaluable resource for basic information about blacksmithing.  Check out Betterworld.com for their used prices on that book, often cheaper than you can find it on Amazon or some other site.  Your local library likely has it, too, but I think you'll find that you want to own it.  

Welcome aboard, just go ahead and open up your wallet.  LOL!!  At least in my case I went in thinking the initial $$ outlay would be very minimal, and for some folks it is, but I have this teeensy little Tool Fetish, so for me it's been a non-stop Year o'Acquring Stuff.  Don't let that scare you - people are correct, as you've read, that you really just need fire, a hammer and something to hit it against.  

At least at first!  :unsure:  

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RDS,

 

   Once you have the "get it hot" ,"hold it", "hit it with", and "hit it on" covered all you have to do if figure out what the "it" is.:huh:  A drive hook that is listed in most beginner blacksmith books will teach you how to draw, taper and bend. Start with small stock as Frosty said and do 10-20 of them. start with a long enough stock that you don't have to use tongs to do most of the work, that will help a newbi a lot. Most of the hooks will probably still be in your stock pile a couple of years from now but that's the price of learning. After you have a bit of hammer control pick up some Rail Road spikes and draw one of them out to 18" and put a hook on the end to flip steaks with.  

 

have fun

Russell

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My kit currently is a variety of hammers (some need new handles), and an assortment of vice grips, and a couple of vices. A few punches and chisels. A hacksaw and wire brush (I'm pretty sure). I'll try to get pictures up after I get off work. Maybe yall can tell me what I should use, and what I shouldn't use. No forge, no anvil. Though I do have an old propane tank for maybe a gas forge, and a friend of mine has access to a few brake drums.

My stock is..... well..... I might have some scrap metal in a trailor right now. And the local scrap yard.

As far as what I want to make? I want the ability to make anything. A gate, a Irish knot to hang on your wall things like that. And, of course I want to make axes, knifes, armour, that sort of thing.

I don't have any books yet, but the ones I am looking at are The New Edge of the Anvil, The Art of Blacksmithing, and Machinery's Handbook 22nd edition or older.

And, yeah, my statement of never hammering was metaphorical. :-)

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Snag the books ASAP and read them and find the post on the 55 gallon forge on this forum and read it. Between that reading, your buddy's brake drum and a few trips to junk shops and garage sales you should be able to put a forge together.

   Start looking around for big chunks of steel for a anvil.

GO TO A LOCAL CLUB MEETING!! even if it is a 2hr drive both ways it will be worth it. (take some cash if you have it, you never know what might be for sale)

Russell

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you lucky dog, you are in the domain a great blacksmithing group!   http://www.saltforkcraftsmen.org/ spending an afternoon with them will save you 6 months or so trying to do it on your own.

 

Back in 1981 I fired up my first forge in Southside OKC, did it all on my own and so now teach for free so others won't have all the problems I had.  Unfortunately I'm in southmost eastmost NM (and central NM) now or I'd invite you over.

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I know of the saltfork craftsmen. A buddy of mine mentioned then to me..... 11, 12 years ago when I had expressed a desire to learn blacksmithing. I got the chance to speak to a few of its members this past weekend at the medieval fair. They seemed like nice guys.

And GotMituns you mentioned a 2 hr drive, well..... that's kinda what I'm looking at I think.

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Back in Ohio I had a 2 hour drive to go to SOFA meetings, we got a group together and carpooled to save on gas, stopping at a fleamarket on the way for posvises and pie and anytime we saw roadkill scrap.  Great times!

I'd suggest going to a meeting and asking who lived out your way and see about carpooling.

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You have plenty enough to get started. Solid fuel forges are easy peasy and don't require much but a hair drier, mineral soil and a piece of pipe then charcoal or coal fuel. You already have a post vise, coooool, get it rigged and working and you don't need a hardy hole, eliminating the hardest to fake tool on an anvil. All you need for an anvil is a reasonably heavy piece of steel. If the local scrap yards won't let you buy, check out machine shops or heavy equipment shops. Machine shops will have drops and a nice piece of round stock in the 4"+ dia stood on end makes a fine anvil. Same for square or rectangular stock. Heavy repair shops might have a broken axle and they most often twist off at the spline end leaving the flange. Stood on end semi and dozer axles make SWEET anvils, they have a great depth of rebound (that's how hard the anvil hits back per blow) the flange and lug holes serve fine to hold bottom tools bending forks, etc. etc.

The wood chisels might be happier left as wood chisels or relegated to the HC stock bucket, I don't think they'll make very useful metal working tools but I'm wrong a lot. The star drills could well be an S series steel and make outstanding impact tools, hot cuts, cold cuts, punches, chisels, etc. for metal work unless you want to make mason chisels, etc. then that's the HC stock bucket they should go into.

The shorty punch will grind into a counter sink very nicely and it'll want a rounded tip. The large pin punch can be turned into all different shapes of hot punch as will the alignment (tapered) punch though those work well for punching and drifting holes. (drifting is expanding a penetration by driving a wedge into or through it. By wedge it can be a tapered round, oval, diamond, square, etc. cross section but it goes in narrow and gets fatter as it goes, hence wedge) Drifting is one of the best ways I know to produce a hole of precise shape and size. Tapered alignment punches work nicely for round but you're not actually driving them all the way through so it's not properly a "drift" but they do a fine job of opening a hole and in some cases a superior job as some holes should be tapered.

Grind the mushrooming of the struck end of that chisel! :angry: That one is seriously dangerous as it stands. The overhang can chip ending sharp jagged shards of hard steel flying at flesh penetrating velocities. Eyeballs and arteries do NOT take kindly to being randomly penetrated. Grind it clean and chamfer the struck end of ALL your struck tools. This is basic maintenance of struck tools and should be done whenever the chamfer becomes hammered flattish.

Any mushroomed struck tool either gets dressed or is a wall hanger in my shop, PERIOD. I have a few old top tools that are badly mushroomed with chips missing, I removed the handles and they're on a shelf as examples of dangerous tools.

Seeing as you have a post vise wanting minor REALLY minor repairs the bench vise needs to stay on the bench for hand work. DON'T HIT your bench vise! They're cast iron and don't like being beat on, forget about that little anvil looking thingy on back that's a legacy shape and NOT an anvil. It's a very nice vise use it like it was designed to be used.

The post vise looks complete missing only the return spring. Was there an odd looking gently curved piece of flat with a couple little tabs on one end and tapering down to a slightly more curve at the other end? If it isn't there these are really easy projects not needing spring steel at all. Heck the hardest to find, most often missing vise part is right there, looks like it even has the wedge, maybe both. Cool score.

Nice spread of sledge hammers in the first pic, the head on the left looks like a stone dressing hammer to me, I have a 23lb. straight pein stone dressing sledge and it makes a SWEET heavy hitter. Unless you're going to train a striker, I've found handles about hand and a half length work nicely, call it more than half a standard sledge handle length or maybe double a single jack handle length. It gives you room for two hands but doesn't get in the way, good for close accurate hammering with a big gun. Be aware, that's MY preference, you'll develop preferences of your own as you go but feel free to borrow mine. Mother taught me to share you know. <wink>

Ball peins, lots of them, good. I love ball peins, they're on my yard/garage/etc. sale buy em all list if the prices are reasonable. They're not only good smithing hammers as is but they can be reforged into all sorts of other useful hammers and top tools. For instance: Straight, angle, cross, etc. peins of different size and weights. Punches, slitters, hot cuts, butchers, shouldering tools, etc. again of different size and weight. Of course I suppose a person could use the ball pein for it's original purpose and pein rivets, tenons, head nails, etc. etc. they work a treat for that too.

The hammer on the bottom left next to the red head is a "shrinking" hammer. The pointed end should come to a relatively sharp point and the flat face is the plannishing face and should be polished with the edges broken lightly.(that's radiused so as not to leave sharp marks)  It's a body or sheet metal hammer used to reduce the area of a section by making it thicker. You use the pointy pein to make dents then flipping the sheet over or just working from the other side using the plannishing face to drive the pointed dents down flat. You use a "dolly" to buck the sheet while plannishing. Dollies are literally anvils and are often as light 10oz- though usually a pound or more. Anyway denting the sheet pulls the surrounding metal in towards the center of the impact area. Plannishing the dent flat can't make the surrounding metal expand so the metal IN the dent is upset or thickened. This leaves the sheet with a smaller area locally and thicker.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I do not believe the vice has the spring with it. 

Also, it appears to have a very short post, will that be a problem? (didn't examine it very thoroughly yesterday)

What do you mean by HC stock? I know you mean stock to work with, I don't know what HC stands for. Home something?

Other than an anvil, forge, and a real set of tongs, is there anything else I need?

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Yes Bandit: HC= High Carbon. I keep my short stock in buckets as to type, mostly by carbon content. Most of the time I forge mild but every once in a while you want something tougher or hardenable and it's good not having to look through a bunch of buckets.

Something to cut the stock with, a hack saw or chisels to cut it hot. A good hot cut is a masonry chisel, they're wide and thin.

Post vise springs are simple, easy and can be mild steel. The spring action doesn't need to be strong. There should be a number of pictures of threads with pictures of post vises being repaired here. A short leg probably means this one was used as a hammering vise. Not to worry, post vises were designed and built to take hammering on.

Frosty The Lucky.

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http://www.abana.org/resources/chf.shtml

 

Scroll to the bottom of the page.  There are 26 downloadable PDF format lessens for you.  Do them and you will have a solid foundation to start with.  I would recommend doing them multiple times. 

​This is the advice I was going to give.  Once you get your forge and anvil, you can start banging away, in which case you likely won't make too much progress, or you can follow these ABANA instructions, or information in published blacksmithing books, and actually learn how to smith.  There are an array of basic techniques used in almost all blacksmithing and learning them will allow you to make whatever you want.  Ignore them and you condemn yourself to mediocrity.

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