jimmyw404

Beginner Projects with These Tools

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Backstory: Got interested in blacksmithing this summer and have read several books and have been seeing what's out there in my area as far as tools/materials etc. I couldn't start because of the location I live in, so I decided to move to a house in a wooded area with an elderly lady. This is in South Lyon, Michigan.

Once I made that decision I went and picked up what I hope doesn't end up as an ASO from Harbor Freight.

anvil


And have ordered the parts to make a propane forge from Zoeller

forge


I am also acquiring a bench grinder and angular grinder and am collecting other various tools and safety gear to get started. I move in January and will be spending most of my free time (I work full time) on my new lifelong hobby.

I am also going to be attending a welding class when I can, the two community colleges near me have around 10 welding classes that are all full, but maybe I can squeeze in.

I also joined Michigan's blacksmithing association: MABA, Michigan Artist Blacksmith's Association and will be making the trip to go to the next party.

I am overwhelmed by the number of blacksmithing blue prints and projects out there and don't know where to begin, since so many require specialized tools I don't have.

I do not have a lot of money, but I do have a budget set aside for blacksmithing. Unfortunately that small budget is matched with a list of items that I 'need' that is quite long.

My question is this: with these tools (anvil, forge, bench grinder, angle grinder, store bought hammers) what projects would you suggest someone like me with zero smithing experience do?

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i have tried a few projects, all i can say is don't bite off more than you can chew. try s- hooks and let your imagination lead you. pick projects you like and work on hammer technique/ control. and have fun!! good luck, jimmy

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I would recommend getting a "Blacksmith Primer" book, start from the beginning, make the tools required to work your coal forge. If gas is the way you are going, then tongs will be first. There are easy tongs. Search the BP's. If I choose a project that requires a special tool, then I have a new tool and I add to my repertoire. Good luck and keep on hittin

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Do some tapers and scrolls and hooks. Look for a post vise as your next tool purchase. After you get comfortable doing tapers and scrolls and hooks, etc, then look at some blue prints that you want to do. If you don't have the tools to do them, then start making the tools.

Have fun :)

Oh, some people aren't a fan of the anvil you purchased, others are OK with it. I think it will be better then a rail or a random hunk o' something, but I think down the road you will want an upgrade. Nothing wrong with all that.

Congrats and Welcome :)

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jimmyw404,
I can see that you are serious about learning the blacksmith trade because your actions speak much louder than words about your intentions to learn the trade. I respect a person who is willing to help them selves; it makes me feel more willing to give up my time and energy to someone like your self.
I wish you lived close to me. I would attempt to help you get started if you did.
Because of your drive and associated activities you are pursuing, you will soon find out
about where your skill level is. And then it is onward and upward from there.
In addition to what the other smiths have suggested to you, I would suggest to you to make sure that you are using a mild steel to forge with, and stay away from any steel that is treated with galvanize.
The suggestions they have provided to you should keep you busy in the meantime until you are able to attend a meeting with the Michigan's blacksmithing association.
They should provide you with enough guidance to get you going straight down the right path.
Be safe!
Old Rusty Ted

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I have basically that same anvil from Harbor Freight, it is a Russian made cast steel anvil. The only difference in mine, is that the hardie is square to the anvil and not diamond shaped. You'll need to grind and sand it smooth but it is more useful than RR track and psychologically you'll feel more like a "real" smith using an anvil than track. Don't get me wrong, rr track works well enough but for me, I felt better with a "real" anvil.
Keep it up! You're well on your way to the greatness known as blacksmithing!
As for projects, tongs are neccesary for almost everything we do, you'll need a punch and chisel and with those you can make as many tongs as you need.

00007.jpg

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Larryjr

I like your step by step layout board. The Master smith I learned from did these for almost every imaginable process he did in the shop. He simply made one for each step and punched a hole and strung them on bailing wire. They were invaluable to have for the newer smiths when they had a few moments to try something new. I wish now that I had made a set for each one of them that I tried. By the time you have made a set like that it you have hard wired the steps, in order, in your mind and arm.

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Someone else mentioned "A Blacksmithing Primer" a book by Randy McDaniel, I have to 2nd that, it is a great book for beginners and in it he gives you small projects to start with and then works you up to bigger ones, well worth the $.
You sound like your off to a good start, welcome to the forum and good luck, stick around here and you'll learn more here then any other one source.

welder19

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Go to IForgeIron.com > Blueprints and find something you want to try and then go to the forge and make it. You can learn a lot from the computer, but hammer time is what produces results.

Then go to IForgeIron.com > Lessons in Metalworking > Blacksmithing > LB0008 Reference material and LB0008.0001 Reference Material.

You may want to visit the IForgeIron.com > Forum > Archive (bottom of the forum page). There are a couple of good ideas tucked in there somewhere.

When you think your about out of ideas, go to IForgeIron.com > Gallery. There are over 5,200 images related to metal working and blacksmithing.

Ask questions about anything you do not understand or when you need more information.

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Leafs, rose.. tools.

If I am able to make a rose with an oxy acetylene torch as my heat source, large piece of steel for my anvil, some hammers, pliers, few makeshift fullers (I used the smooth section of a large bolt for a fuller and rounded the end of a 5' long prybar for a forming tool for the rose.. few other things)
Start simple. You may have difficulty with a rose as I used the OA to weld.. but you could possibly braze with the forge or make due some other way. Skim through the blueprints and see what gets your fancy. Items out of RR spikes are usually easy.. coat hooks, letter opener, bottle opener...

I would try to make tools if it were me. They require too much heat to be doing with an OA torch as the heat source (as does anything large like a RR spike)

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Hey guys,

Thanks for the responses. I think I'll follow some of your suggestions on projects to make. I went to home depot today and bought $100 worth of tools/materials for this. Some hammers, vice grips (No tongs and the metal in the forge is too hot for my hand!), a couple chisels etc. I can't wait to get something hot and beat the devil out of it.

I'll probably start off doing such ambitious things as turning a square rod into a round one, and then back into a square rod, then making some of it wider, then some longer, then maybe make it look like an S.

I think my first 'real' project will be to do this:

copyrighted photo removed
Tong Article

I'm a little worried about the riveting and I still need to find a punch and 'drift', and I'll be buying a bench vise before then, perhaps I'll get lucky and get a leg vise soon.

I would recommend getting a "Blacksmith Primer" book


I read one Charles McRaven's books, "Country Blacksmithing" cover to cover and loved every page. I'll order this book too.

Oh, some people aren't a fan of the anvil you purchased, others are OK with it. I think it will be better then a rail or a random hunk o' something, but I think down the road you will want an upgrade. Nothing wrong with all that.


Yeah I knew when I bought it that it wasn't a great anvil, but it'll have to do until I get lucky enough to find a great one. Even then it can be a travel anvil or a gift to a blacksmithing newbie like I. I also don't like trying to buy the best things at first in these types of adventures, as if I would be able to 'buy' my way into mastering something.

If anyone in the metro detroit area has a #300 anvil they don't want, let me know! ;)

Because of your drive and associated activities you are pursuing, you will soon find out
about where your skill level is. And then it is onward and upward from there.
In addition to what the other smiths have suggested to you, I would suggest to you to make sure that you are using a mild steel to forge with,


Thanks for the kind words.

I found quite a few commercial steel places nearby me, and will probably shop around the area for them. Once I get more experienced with the area's junkyards and steel shops I won't have to pay top dollar for steel, but for now I'll have to try to find some mild steel I can hammer with.

You'll need to grind and sand it smooth



I hope I can use my new angle grinder to perform this. I don't have access to a belt sander yet, and every one has been expensive >$1000 so I'm stuck with the angle grinder.

Thanks again for all the informative posts. I can't wait until I am able to set up shop and start putting to practice what I've been studying the last few months.

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Gday jimmyw404,

Good choice for a project, its 'relatively' easy and will allow you to make other things. Those bolt tongs are some of the most useful in the shop.

You can make a punch & drift. A drift is just a length of steel with a long taper at one end and a short taper at the other. I often make a quick drift from the material I want to put in the hole. Lets say you want a 3/8" hole for 3/8" stock, just put a longish say 1" to 2" taper on one end of the 3/8" bar, cut it off about 4 to 5" long and put a taper on the cut end that is just longer then the thickness of the material its going through. Thats a simple drift. It can be mild steel, it will work just fine for a while. Make the end of the long taper just a bit smaller then the hole you punch or drill, so it will fit in easy.

A punch, well thats just like a drift, execpt the end of the long taper is flat. This too can be made from mild steel, it will work for a while. If you use mild steel, you don't need to harden and temper them. Just be warned, they bend easy and mushroom easy too. Both these tools can be round, square or any shape you like.

Thats 2 easy tools, you learn a lot by making your own tools. Also try looking up "quickie tongs" they are in A Blacksmiths Primer, page 97. They are the simplest tongs you can make, and will let you start, you can even make them without a forge. If you can't find them, I'll explain how to make them.

Good luck and keep trying.

Regards
Rusty_iron,
Brisbane, Oz.

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I started smithing with a charcoal briquet/half of a hot water tank forge...used a 50 lb scale weight as an anvil and a pair of channel locks as tongs....loved it!!!!
took a few years but i have several coal forges and two gas forges i built myself out of scraps from work (im a welder/fabricator/ironworker) and a 128 lb hay budden anvil i bought for $75.(and yes its in fantastic shape). As of yet havent needed a fancy shmancy belt grinder or a 2000 lb oliver hammer but that doesnt mean i dont want one..LOL. work with what you got and if its something you love then thats all that really matters. use your imagination for tools...believe it or not you can find perfectly good tools and steel just laying along side the road that has bounced out of someones truck..i dig freebies:-)..just get out there and bang and let the juices flow.
Go man go!!!!

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I started out using RR spikes. They are in abundance and they can be made into virtually anything! Get some of those and go to town. If you mess 'em up, don't worry, you can fix it. That's the thing about blacksmithing. If it's broke, you can fix it.

Good luck. And believe, listen to these guys/girls. I couldn't do half the things I do without them.
-Hillbilly

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Jimmy,
I started with a little cast steel anvil that I found buried on a hillside. I bought one of those russian submarine anvils from HF and still use the heck out of it. I am always on the prowl for a nice 150-200 pounder, but will work with what I can afford for now. AS for steel, It has gotten so bad that even my wife and children (there're eight of them) are always looking for "metal" anywhere and everywhere they go.
Welcome and great luck to you

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Update:

I moved to my new house. It's deep in the woods where I can blacksmith without being too noisy.

I also built my forge and mounted my anvil on a stump.

I found an 8" x 3/4" steel bar and have been making it into a pair of tongs using Larry's instructions:
00007.jpg
tong making - Blacksmith Picture Gallery
and have been mostly successful so far.

I had a few questions though, about hammer technique. I figure that now that I have an anvil, a forge and a set of hammers, I should learn as good of hammer technique as I can so as to preserve my mostly healthy arm. ;)

I've read what I've found on hammer technique (including this thread: http://www.iforgeiron.com/forum/f7/hammering-technique-10/index4.html ) and seen a few videos but haven't found answers to these specific questions.

Keep in mind that my experience is entirely limited to working a 3/4" steel bar with what I think is a #3 hammer.

1. When I hammer I inevitably get tired in my wrist. It's not really pain, my wrist is just tired of picking up a hammer every second. I've trying choking up, and I'm going to try using a lighter hammer (I don't know how heavy my current one is but I think it's #3). Is there anything I can do for this? Or is this just because my body isn't used to lifting relatively heavy objects in that manner and my tendons get tired?

2. I've been looking for videos of good hammer technique and haven't seen anything that really shows the 'best' way to use a hammer. I imagine that the 'best' way is variable based on 1. Body build, 2. Hammer, 3. Type of strike, 4. Material being hit. However I'm still learning basics like where the elbow should be located, how high to raise the hammer etc.

3. When I don't have any metal on my anvil face and I hit it with my hammer, it rebounds. When I put some bright yellow steel on it, my hammer hits it and is dead. It seems like 100% of the work in lifting the head is done by my wrist. Is this normal?

4. Has anyone every heard of putting the anvil at a bit of an angle (Such that the anvil face is leaned towards the user maybe about 20-30 degrees). This would detract from the power of gravity forcing the hammer down but would make it much easier to raise the hammer away from the anvil, distributing the load between the flexor muscles (which are doing almost all the work currently to raise the xxxx thing) and the extendors.

5. How does me being tall with long forearms and relatively thin affect how I should hammer metal?

Thanks!

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Jimmy,
I started with the same anvil that you have. I have to admit that it is not that great but, for the price it serves it's purpose well. I got it to hold me over until I found the perfect anvil at a good price. With having one that is useable, I was not in a hurry. I still have not found the perfect anvil and do not have to be in a rush and make a bad/expensive decision.

As far a projects, get some steel, heat it up and beat it. If all you make is scrap, they will buy that back by the pound. I know this from experience. At times though, I manage to turn something out to be proud of. You don't know until you do it.

Heat it, Beat it & enjoy....

Jerry

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Jimmy, I'm glad you found the tong progression picture useful. It's been invaluable to me.

I've have also experienced the wrist tiredness that you mention, I think part of it is not being used to the weight but a larger part is overgripping the handle. Hofi recommends in his BP BP1002 Hofi Hammer Technique*-*I Forge Iron - Blacksmithing and Metalworking to hold the hammer very loosely, to the point it's almost going to fly out of your hand as you swing it. As I'm still nursing my neck back to heath, I haven't been able to try that technique but plan to as soon as I can hammer again.

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Just a quick reply,

Check the height of your anvil. The rule of thumb is to have your knuckles (as you would hold the hammer) barely brushing it as you stand beside it. If it is obscenely high or low, it might be throwing your whole geometry off as you stand and work. Also, make sure you are not using the death grip on your hammer. You should be able to control it with out strangling it. You could be right as well, different people can swing different weights of hammers.

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I read that article last night and tried it. I think it worked a little but I already knew from previous jobs not to grip the handle too tightly. My problem is at some point my wrist needs to support the rotational force of the hammer head as I lift. I'm hoping that it's just me wrist getting used to the weight.

My anvil is right at my knuckles while I stand with my boots on and hang my fist loosely downwards.

Like I said it's not painful, I'm just trying to be careful with my body while I start out blacksmithing so I don't erroneously damage it. I'm thinking about buying Hofi's DVD.

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I found this tidbit and am willing to try it a little more. I tried getting the strike of my hammer on hot steal to 'rebound' the head such that it drives it to cause the hammer to be verticle, but I had no success. I suppose I'll try some more.

Gripping a hammer handle tightly at the point of impact is a good way to develop tendonitis. I won't get into the specifics of the Hofi method of hammering, except to say that I have the video and I try to practice it.
The mechanics of forging hammers are relatively simple, in that force equals mass times velocity. So you get the force from the mass of the hammer accelerated by gravity plus your shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers. If you maximum force, you need to use all the motive tools available to you. The shoulder to start the hammer moving, the elbow to begin the acceleraton, the wrist to speed it up and the fingers to finish the accelerationo and direct the blow. If any of these muscle groups are "locked up" they're robbing you of speed, and thereby power.
For powerful forging blows, I let the rebound from the hammer hitting the work kick the hammer head up until the handle is about vertical and begin to elevate it, then I help it the rest of the way up to over my head. At the point it reaches apex, I use my shoulder to start it directly downward, then accelerate it with my elbow and use the wrist to begin to turn the hammer to the striking position. At the end of the swing, my fingers flick the hammer the rest of the way to where the handle is horizontal and the blow strikes, starting the process over again. My fingers never grip the handle tightly; in fact, I use only my thumb and middle finger most of the time, adding the final whip with my ring and little fingers.
This delicate grip applies to all one-handed hammering, from light chasing hammers of one or two ounces up to my heavy Hofi forging hammer of about 3-1/2#. I choke up on the hammer handle when it feels right, and use the full handle when that seems appropriate. The only time I grip a hammer handle at all tightly is with my left hand when striking with a sledge. The right hand, which does the power and control, still has a relatively gentle grip. The left had grip is snug to be a solid pivot point and to gaurd against an errant flying sledge if I get sweaty-handed and/or tired.
For power forging, you need time and distance to accelerate the hammer, so you swing from overhead. For lighter blows, you don't lift the hammer as high, and you use less shoulder. BUT...if you try to move metal using only part of a blow, you run the risk of damaging your joints and connective tissue. Decrease the velocity of the hammer and you decrease the force. Analyze what you are doing and look for places to make your movements more fluid and graceful. Watch an aikido or kendo master and notice how fluid all the movements are, even the short ones. Apply that to your hammer technique and you will use less effort to move more metal.
I heartily recommend that you get the Hofi video on hammer technique. It is about much more than just the mechanics of swinging the hammer. It also gives you information on how to get the most out of each blow, conserving heat, and moving the metal most effectively. I would not presume to try to teach you the HOfi technique. Get the word directly from the master.
n.b. - I would not recommend a 3.5# hammer to start out with. I would starting a pound or so lighter until you have really mastered the movements. Too heavy a hammer will have you trying to force the movements and that will prevent you from learning to be graceful and fluid.

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1. When I hammer I inevitably get tired in my wrist. It's not really pain, my wrist is just tired of picking up a hammer every second.
The hammer could be too heavy. Find a lighter weight hammer, use it, and see if things change.

I imagine that the 'best' way is variable based on 1. Body build, 2. Hammer, 3. Type of strike, 4. Material being hit. However I'm still learning basics like where the elbow should be located, how high to raise the hammer etc.
You are right, your situation is unique to you. The hammer arm operates from the shoulder to the hip in one plane of space. this located the elbow close to the ribs. (different hammer techniques referenced below)

3. When I don't have any metal on my anvil face and I hit it with my hammer, it rebounds. When I put some bright yellow steel on it, my hammer hits it and is dead. It seems like 100% of the work in lifting the head is done by my wrist. Is this normal?
That means that the energy from the hammer swing is moving the metal. It may also indicate that the anvil your using is cast or not of the best quality.

4. Has anyone every heard of putting the anvil at a bit of an angle (Such that the anvil face is leaned towards the user maybe about 20-30 degrees). This would detract from the power of gravity forcing the hammer down but would make it much easier to raise the hammer away from the anvil, distributing the load between the flexor muscles (which are doing almost all the work currently to raise the xxxx thing) and the extendors.
Start with the anvil at knuckle height, with the face flat and level in all directions. From there you can tweek things to your liking. The hammer is then tilted as needed to move metal.

5. How does me being tall with long forearms and relatively thin affect how I should hammer metal?
Anvil height is still at knuckle height to start, with the face flat and level in all directions. Use a light weight hammer. Then make small changes one at a time.

Look at IForgeIron.com > Lessons in Metalworking > Blacksmithing > LB0004 Blacksmithing Hammers

Blueprints by Hofi on his hammer technique Blueprints 1000 series.

BP0344 Hammer Technique by Irnsrgn aka Jr Strasil

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Thanks for the reply.

As promised here's a few pictures of my shop so far. The blankets are covering the garage door to muffle the noise a little.

I mounted the anvil on the stump with a cable, tightening it with two screw-hooks. The vibration was knocked down quite a bit to a decent level. Just for fun I got some heavy chain and wrapped it around the base of the anvil as tightly as I could, the noise went down even more so I just kept it there.

jameswalkersmithingnl4.jpg forgeandanvilir8.jpg

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