Want2Forge

Brand new, looking for info/help

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Hey everyone,

 

I have always wanted to forge metal- make axes, knives, eventually work my way to swords. Maybe some other little knic-knacs for outdoor use.

I know there are basic tools and setups for people, like me, that are new to this... but I did not like the "kits" offered out there.

Any recommendations for starting up this craft? I am looking to start with gas forge, not coal.

 

Thanks in advance. :D

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Pull up a comfortable chair get your favorite beverage a snack and start reading.  Start with the stickies at the top of each section they will explain a lot.  Then come back and ask questions. 

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Pro tip: our resident curmudgeons do not take kindly to being asked the same basic questions over and over, but they LOVE answering informed questions that show that you've done your research.

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Grab you a used anvil. 1/4"square stock. A two pound hammer of some fashion and draw it to a long  even taper to point. Cut off with hardie and do it again.  Long even taper to a point. When that goes well try rounding that taper. 

You gotta start small. The blades will come some day. Maybe years. But in time you will get there.

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As I hate practice for the sake of practice.  I start my students out making things that just happen to have long even tapers done on the square as part of them---First class is S Hooks and nails.

As for equipment: remember you don't need a london pattern anvil and "better" is usually more cost effective than bigger when it comes to forges.

Stop by sometime and I'd be happy to let you try out my equipment to see if you like it.

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SReynolds, ThomasPowers,

Thanks for the responses, gents.

I have seen so many different products on difference websites. Im lost when it comes to choosing a quality forge. Any recommendations? This will be a garage op, and in an extremely restrictive county in SoCal.

For protective gear, FR hybrid or traditional thick gauge leather?

Anvils and hammers, preference leans towards French and German anvils/hammers..Pro/cons of each? recommendation?

I am a pretty husky guy, 6'1 290lbs 24%bodyfat... what weight hammer would fit me? I dont want too heavy where I gas out...dont want too light so it takes 4 times the work.

For quenching...Ive heard about oil..what type of oil is used? Water quench too? Then there is clay, muriatic acid and ferric chloride...

A lot of info and products, hard to pick through with no knowledge on whats best suited for beginners.

 

On another note...

ThomasPowers, good to see a Texan here, got family in Texas..NE of Denton.

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Hammers: Get a range from 1.5#-3# to start (my personal favorite is my 2.5# cross peen that I got from sears of all places...). Start with the light end of the hammer. You may be big, but you'll need to develop muscles you aren't used to using. Start small and work your way up. I can swing an 8# hammer 1 handed for an hour or two, but then I can't forge for a week or so while the tendons in my wrist heal. Let the heat do most of the work for you.

Anvil: Get the heaviest anvil you can afford. Take a ball bearing and a ball pein hammer to look at them. It should have a nice ring (louder at the horn and heel) with the hammer and the ball bearing should have 60% rebound or better when dropped on the face. More rebound is better.

Restrictive California forges... I'd build a propane forge if coal is out of the question, though having a coal forge and a gas forge is super nice. Either way, there are a plethora of designs online for forges. I would never actually buy one when it costs next to nothing to build one (and building things is why we are here)

Quench: Get a metal container (ammo boxes are nice) and put veggie oil in it. That should be fine for most quenching. As for water, I have a metal bucket that holds my water for quenching and coal management. Keep them both. Start with an oil quench, if it doesn't get hard enough, use hot oil. Still doesn't work, move to water. 

Clay: Cool for building coal and charcoal forges, and for putting a hamon on differentially quenched blades, but that's pretty advanced. Just get a tub of play dough. You can use it instead of metal to figure out what you want to do and how to do it before ever lighting the forge. 

Acid: Muriatic/ferric chloride/etc are for etching. You can use them to etch designs on your blades or to show the layers of pattern welded "damascus" steel. Don't bother with that when you are just starting, you have a lot to learn before you do your first forge weld, let alone a successful damascus billet. Crawl, Walk, Run.

PPE: Quality safety glasses are a MUST. You only have 1 set of eyeballs, and eye transplants only have a 10% success rate that I know of. A set of sun glasses or #3 welding goggles are nice when you get to doing damascus, since you have to watch the steel in the forge. I wear denim pants, boots, a long sleeve cotton shirt (loose and billowy is nice here in the 112+ degree AZ summers) and a Harbor Freight leather welding apron (under $10 with coupon). I wear a glove on my tong hand (leather) but no glove on my hammer hand because I find I grip my hammer too tightly if I have a glove on. I wear gloves on both hands plus add a face shield to my glasses when running a wire wheel. 

Lastly, I know you don't want to hear it, but DON'T start with knives/edged weapons. Learn to make a taper. Learn to make hooks. Learn to make bottle openers. Learn to make a leaf.  You need to develop hammer control and muscle memory. When you get to the point that you can enter "zombie mode" and knock out a few hooks relatively quickly without having to think about it, then start considering blades. If you jump right into knives, you'll dissapoint yourself quickly. Also, buy some mild steel from your local home improvement store. It moves easily, and works well for the projects I mentioned. For drawing/tapering remember...Go from round to square to octaginal to round. You'll fight too hard trying to keep round stock round the whole time, and square draws faster and easier. 

 

 

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Southern California?  Oh man. Say hello to all the famous horses trainers and jockeys out there.  Nyquist is favored for the Ky Derby. 

I can't tell you what to do. Depends on your time level, equipment level, skill level, money level. I'm a coal guy. I live in coal country.  I love the smell, dirt, etc. I would hang out with this custodian in the boiler room at high school cuz they heated w coal. In a garage it makes a mess. But gas forge is quite noisy.  I used one once.

I have made my own. From brake drum. They work but are not all that user friendly unless you embellish it. I bought two rivet forges and pretty much had to rebuild from ground up. Then I mafe a real fancy table top forge with cliner breaker and all the whistles etc.

I work at a historic village part time and use their equipment too. So no hurry for me to buy my own tools etc.but I have tons of stuff now from years of making and buying.  

I would buy a few tongs. One tong dont fit everything.  Make your own in time. You will need the skills required to forge such items. YouTube's how to is awesome. Take notes on items interesting to you. Draw pictures and employ them as you work through the tasks. The skills will develop and items like tongs will become easy.

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All of  your questions are answered in the stickies at the top of this section.  How to get started in blacksmithing. Hmm im out

 

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You'll want to get a Fisher anvil then.  For years my neighbors thought I was doing cabinetry, and that was me swinging a sledge.  Start small and as your skill increases so will your tooling.  Go ahead and look up those local guys, seeing a proper shop in action speeds up that learning curve.

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Hey and Welcome....i am still a beginner too. Yes i have made a bunch of knives up's and downs the whole way through and i still ask for help all the time....i figure when i can EASILLY make a blade EXACTLY the way i want it i wont be a beginner anymore. So take this how you want everything i am writting was told to me when i first got going and  alot of it i didnt listen to and everytime i didnt listen to that advice ....i wasted time, wasted money, broke things, and generally just did things backwards ..now all that advice makes perfect sense (some of it didnt at the time tho) so first yes everyone wants to get metal hot and shape it to there will. however as a beginer it makes more sense to learn stock removal first get your self some KNOWN steel (not a file or a leaf spring or somehthing you just dont know what it is.) Also make sure it is a high carbon stee (1084,  1095 ect...) unless you already have a $1000 heat treating oven...you can not sucesfully heat treat stainless or the more complex steels in a forge. Ok on to the forge dont buy one they are so cheap to make. Go and get a stove pipe or cut the ends of a EMPTY propane tank or anything that will give you a metal cylander it really doesnt mater on how thick it is it can be thin sheet metal bent in a circle. Then go online to hightemptools.com or another place and buy some inswool (or koa wool same thing) get your self some satinite, as far as the burner is concered you can buy one or make one buy it if you want it now make it if your trying to save money. wrap the metal cylander with the inswool (on the inside) and coat the whole thing in satinite add the burner and you got your self a forge, as i said yeh you can get some metal and move it around and play wiith it for a while but no matter what being a begginer you are going to have to grind that blade alot to get what you wantt. so why not skip that part until you can do all the rest...take that bar of carbon and cut/shape it into a knife shaped object then use a grinder (or by hand with files if you dont have one) get it almost done then Heat treat that knife if you get it all right on the first shot your a miracle man. I was taught the Heat treat is the most important part if your blade is to hard and chips or breaks in half its useless if its too soft and doesnt hold a edge its useless. The only way to learn this is to experiment and test. the first one i did the guy that was helping me had me do all the tests. brass rod test chopping up a 2x4 ect...then he told me strap it in a vice and break it in half well i thought he was joking...he wasnt by breaking it you can see the grain structure and therefore how good or bad the heat treat was....i ended up testing and braking about 6 or 7 knives before i got the heat treat down. All of that is alot to learn by trying to forge a knife instead of doing a stock removal you are adding a whole lot more to your plate...i am not saying dont ever do it but learn to make a quality blade first then take that skill you learned to new levels,,, if you just want to "play" with metal and make a "knife shaped object" by all means dont bother learning the heat treat and just forge a blade. To me since i just went through all this the NUMBER ONE thing to learn is heat treating as i said your knife is almost useless if not properly heat treated. i am not saying you CANT learn by forging but your just making it harder....I know alot of this you may ignor (i did sometimes) trust me when you look back in a few months you say all of this is right and i am not saying i came up with all this, this is the way it was taught to me and i am sure this knowledge is the collective knowledge of many blade smiths and blacksmiths alike over the years that have had alot of experience...i know there is alot here i am trying to help i was in your spot a year ago and i made it hard for myself sometimes cause i am stubborn trust me try not to do that if you have any questions about this feel free to send me a private message or ask another knife maker here i am sure most (if not all) know exactly what i am talking about

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As less than a beginer, I can only talk about what I have seen in this forum, and my own thoughts.

As I see it, you have 2 options to start:

  1. Learn forging/general blacksmithing, then move on to forge blades. This way, you'll probbably make most of your tools, and get a nice set of skills (hammer control and a lot others). Once you move on to making blades, you'll be quite profficient in forging, so you can focus only on the blade-specific processes (heat treating, grinding, sharpening, handles, etc). I'd recommend this if you want to be a blacksmith with bladesmithing skills.
  2. Learn how to make blades (by stock removal), then move on to forge blades. This way shows its rewards faster as it won't take you too long till you have your first sharp knife. You start by learning grinding, heat treating, sharpening, handles, etc. and then you move on to forging, where you focus on general blacksmithing skills and the like. This would be if you want to be a bladesmith with blacksmithing skills.

In the end, you will probably get enough profficiency in both aspects if your ultimate goal is to make knifes/blades. This is just how you start.

DO NOT try to do both since the begining, it will be too hard and has gotten a lot of people frustrated.

 

EDIT: Just to avoid being misunderstood, I'm not saying that one way is better or "more blacksmith-y" than the other. Both are equally valid, it just depends on your likes and what you plan to do.

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Well, to be sure in knifemaking learn stock removal first.  Why?  Even if you forge your blade your going to have to grind it.  Better to learn to get that part right (along with the heat treat) first.  Forging a blade has many pitfalls that can cause endless frustration and drive a man away from the craft.  Blacksmithing is a wonderful craft to learn, with it you will be able to take something and make it into something else.  It isn't only in knifemaking, but building artwork and tooling in which the skills can help make you a better rounded smith.

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Yes andres and jmcustom both hinted at what i was trying to say yes you could do it either way  as andres said but if your goal is to make knives then your better off at starting with stock removal...as jmccustom said if you forge a blade you will always have to grind it and for a beginner you are going to end up grinding away most of what you forged..so why not start with stock removal and learn to grind first. any time you try and learn to many things it get very frustrating and alot of people leave the hobby when the get frustrated in the beginning that is why most of us will give you advice to make it as easy as possible (we dont want to see you get frustrated and give up) also as i said in my opinion heat treating is the most important thing to learn first since if not properly heat treated you blade is scrap metal....however what i noticed as i said in my last post i grinded a bunch of blades heat treated them tested and broke them to see the grain structure....so in the process of learning to heat treat when you grind each blade for testing a side effect is you have learned (somewhat) to grind a blade since you did it for heat treating...to me that is the most logical step to takes...again any questions please ask i just went through learning all the beginner stuff last year so i know how frustrating it can be and i also said i dont want to see people getting frustrated and giving up...i would have if i didnt have a good group of guys on the forums to help me 

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A couple thoughts.  

If you have a steel supply yard buy from them.   The box stores will charge you twice as much for 1/4 the volume of steel.  Or something ridiculous along those lines.

I would have at least a water quench handy.   It's good for a quick hand rinse and if the steel gets a little warm to hold by hand you can submerge the hot end in there without making an oily mess and then keep on forging without tongs.  Oil is messy and not needed for a lot of stuff.   For knifes it may be necessary but I am not an expert there.

Get some books or vids from the library.  Watch plenty vids on you tube.   There are links to them around here.

I am not a big guy.   5' 7" and I like my 3.5# hammer for most work.   A lighter hammer seems like too much work,    Heavier seems to heavy... too me.   Let the hammer do the work.  I did a lot of work with a store bought 3# cross pein.  At first it was a little heavy until someone told me to lossen up my grip and stop gritting my teeth.   That was good advice!!!!

Start.

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A couple thoughts.  

If you have a steel supply yard buy from them.   The box stores will charge you twice as much for 1/4 the volume of steel.  Or something ridiculous along those lines.

I would have at least a water quench handy.   It's good for a quick hand rinse and if the steel gets a little warm to hold by hand you can submerge the hot end in there without making an oily mess and then keep on forging without tongs.  Oil is messy and not needed for a lot of stuff.   For knifes it may be necessary but I am not an expert there.

Get some books or vids from the library.  Watch plenty vids on you tube.   There are links to them around here.

I am not a big guy.   5' 7" and I like my 3.5# hammer for most work.   A lighter hammer seems like too much work,    Heavier seems to heavy... too me.   Let the hammer do the work.  I did a lot of work with a store bought 3# cross pein.  At first it was a little heavy until someone told me to lossen up my grip and stop gritting my teeth.   That was good advice!!!!

Start.

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Oh, reding Borntoolate's post, he said something quite important about hammer technique.

If you searh this forum, there is a post called "BP1001 Hofi hammer technique" that will have some pictures and show a good way to grip the hammer. But the most important part is that you want a loose grip when the hammer strikes the metal, don't "force it" into the metal. Let the swing/speed carry the energy. That will save you a lot of energy and possible wrist injury. I can't explain it very welly in just one post, but searh around and I'm sure you'll find lots of information.

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1 hour ago, Andres Bello said:

Oh, reding Borntoolate's post, he said something quite important about hammer technique.

 I can't explain it very welly in just one post, but searh around and I'm sure you'll find lots of information.

I'll take a whack at it...  Hold your hammer just tightly enough that it doesn't fly out of your hand. A person should be able to snatch it from you mid swing.

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