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Getting started, apprenticeships, and etc

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By Frosty the Lucky

Welcome aboard, glad to have you RPG character handle, guy. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the IFI gang live within visiting distance.

NO. Keep your job, stay in school I dearly HOPE you're majoring in something that's a marketable skill. There are thousands of Art, English, History, etc. etc. degree holders flipping burgers.

NO again, you aren't going to find apprenticeships this side of the Atlantic. If you did find one, NO apprenticeships do NOT pay, you are entering into indentured servitude. You work for nothing but room and one meal a day, you'll spend upwards of 7 years doing scut work, sweeping floors, hauling, packing, stacking and cleaning. Just whatever dirty low work the smith or his wife come up with. For much longer than you anticipate your "blacksmith" training will be getting to watch if the smith lets you slack off that much. Maybe if he really likes you you'll get to pump the bellows, crank the blower or even OH JOY!! Strike for him or OH HAPPY HAPPY hold a top tool or tongs. Eventually you'll start doing basic stuff to free him up for more skilled work, say 2-3 years in. Eventually he'll allow you to make your own tools. IF you've picked enough usable scrap out of the bin you'll be able to make them without having to BUY the material from the shop master.

Years down the road, he'll be letting you do projects on your own, under HIS mark of course but your projects. Once you become proficient enough and have a good enough reputation (that's assuming you can) to start taking HIS business he'll declare you a Journeyman and send you packing.

In reality your opportunities for learning the craft to a useful level of skill is as simple as collecting some tools, building a fire and getting to it. Join or at least attend meetings of the local organization, you'll find a long list towards the bottom of the Iforge opening page. It really isn't that expensive to get into the craft IF you get over the mythological BS. forget the RPG crap, it's just fantasy imagery come up with kids with zero practical experience let alone any real blacksmithing experience.

You do NOT need a "real" (London pattern) anvil, check out what the Japanese MASTER bladesmiths use. One who who was declared a national treasure and moved back from Alaska probably 25 years ago can afford most anything in his shop and he uses a slightly domed square block of steel maybe 5" square driven into the ground. He forges sitting down or squatting.

Find yourself a heavy piece of steel, if it has a flat place, good, if not flat is over rated, don't worry about it. RR rail gets a bad rap, especially here, especially from the new guys. Most of us old timers have at least one old startup RR rail anvil on duty as a bench anvil. Don't grind it flat, forget the horn, lay it flat and spike it down or stand it on end. Being at proper height for YOU is the important thing. Rail anvils are wonderful things IF the smith knows what he's doing.

Any smooth faced hammer will serve, hit the yard/garage sales and keep your eyes peeled for ball peins for cheap, broken handled ones are meat and drink for us. They make a wonderful selection of tools other than striking hammers. There is plenty of discussion w/pictures here.

No need for a BIG hammer, 2lbs is a good starting weight, I rarely reach for the 3lb. and almost NEVER the 5lb straight pein. Cross peins are very useful as is a straight pein, I have and use both. Another go to hammer on my rack is a drilling hammer, these are sweet little 2-2.5lb double faced (no pein or special shape) short handled hammers. (the shorter the handle the more accuracy) I use mine for fine tuning shapes say finishing fork tines, etc. A turning or rounding (same hammer, different names) is an outstanding smithing hammer I have a couple in my go to hammer rack. Very well worth spending the money on or making when your skill attain the level. Of course club members often get to attend workshops for making things like . . . hammers, gs forges, power hammers, etc. Good things, clubs.

Unless you have: a very high aptitude for the craft, come up with a golden bullet product and are lucky, you're unlikely to pay so much as your materials and utilities for a few years, at least till you build a name and rep. Blacksmithing, especially fantasy weapons and armor is a severely limited and highly competitive niche market. Don't worry,(metaphorical example coming) it's a common fantasy amongst student drivers to become the next Indy winner. Ain't going to happen without learning the craft and building the clientele. Become a good certified welder fabricator and you'll be able to pick and choose amongst jobs. Better still you'll be in the right neighborhood to pick up blacksmithing skills and tools. LOTS of fab shops have smithing tools collecting dust in a corner, you might luck out.

Ah, I've talked enough to let you go with one last bit. This forum has many hundreds of years of experience, examples, how tos, blueprints, etc. about blacksmithing. Pull up a comfy chair, pack a lunch and refreshing beverage, pick a subject and settle in for hours and hours of reading. You can build up a REAL knowledge base so you can ask good questions, we LOVE good questions and you'll have a shot at understanding the answers.

Welcome to a very addictive craft, the learning curve is endless. Enjoy the ride.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Having been through a modern blacksmiths apprenticeship, I can say it is not quite as austere as you make it out. Your description was an exaggeration, but not entirely off base. The number of such positions is pretty slim, and they are not " bill paying jobs". Most full time smiths just dont have the means or desire to babysit. Classes at the various schools are a better route and definately set up tools at home and try things yourself- it wasn't to long back that many of us started with junky old tools and the three or four books that were on print back then. Regardless of your source of instruction, you will likely destroy lots of iron before this gets easy. On the up side, iron is cheap- be glad you arent having to fumble around with gold. Groups such as ABANA and its local affiliates can help and there are groups in most parts of the country that can help get you started. There are links on this site that can help you find them.

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I'll add to this. I created my own form of apprentice/journeyman setup.

I chose Smith's I wanted to learn from and offered to work for them on a per job basis as long as they supplied me a place to live. It worked out well.

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