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Newbie Minimum Tools


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Hi Guys.

Like so many after a few too many Youtube videos I decided that I wanted to try blacksmithing.

Today I built my forge (similar to a brake drum style) and rushed into it with a few hammers, an anvil (that I believe may be cast Iron :( ) and only waterpump pliers as tongs hoping boldly to make my first 'proper' tongs.

After a while of frustration and then the end pretty much burning off the 16mm square stock I decided that maybe some more tools and some advice were in order.

What is your advice for the minimum tools required for a newbie starting out? ( I plan to start out making fireplace tongs and pokers and maybe move on to blades and such)

Regards

Bruce

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Fireplace tongs are a surprisingly easy project to start with. Take 2 pieces of 1/4" x 1" bar stock, pick how long your jaws need to be and make a mark. Heat and twist both pieces clockwise 90 degrees at that mark. Then 2" back from the twist, heat and twist clockwise again. now drill and set your rivet.... quick tongs. adjust jaws as needed

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Make lots of double ended plant hooks. You'll learn drawing out, scrolling the ends, bending, twisting. Practise them till you could do it blindfolded. Don't rush into doing tongs and blades. Good luck!

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Something to use as an anvil; a hammer and a hole in the ground with a way to blow air into it---everything else is "gravy".  I've done pattern welding demos using a claw hammer and a short chunk of RR rail and using charcoal sieved from old bonfires in the desert in a fabbed up sheet metal firepot.  We did have a *real* hand crank blower though.  

Perhaps the most unlisted tools are knowledge and experience and it really speeds up the learning curve if you can 'borrow" them from another smith.  A Saturday afternoon spent with someone that knows what they are doing around a forge can save you 6 months of flailing around on your own never sure if you are getting it just right. So if you are handy stop by and I'll work you through a project of two.

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As a newb with only a few months behind me, and besides some decent safety glasses,  I found the most important part for me was learning hammer control.  Being a bigger guy that has always figured you could muscle your way through anything important in life, I was very disappointed to learn that hitting the metal harder isn't always the best thing.  Because I wasn't gripping the hammer right, I wound up with some early stress injuries in my hand.  Because I wasn't swinging it in the best way, I couldn't figure out why I couldn't seem to move metal as easily as the youtube guys who were smaller guys, using smaller hammers.  And when I simply tried more brute force, I'd tend to walk away in tired frustration.  Strength and endurance do come in to play, but with proper technique, they both become a much smaller part of the equation.

I've been doing this for about 8 months now, mostly on my own, although I've had a few people from this forum, who are close to me, offer to help, but it all comes down to free time.  It took me some time, but learning how to grip the hammer so I wasn't causing injury to myself, and learning how to control the swing so I could move metal in more efficient ways was a biggie.  I finally scored a small Vulcan anvil off craigslist for next to nothing, but it was the RR track for me for the longest time.  A big set of vice grips served as my tongs... heck, I still use them from time to time, even though I've gotten fairly proficient at making tongs.... not good, mind you, but good enough that they work the way they were intended.  No tong beauty contests for me.

So get out there and move some metal, and remember to keep it fun.

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Welcome aboard Bruce, glad to have you. If you'll  put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the Iforge gang live within visiting distance. Every hour working with an experienced smith will teach you more than days trying to figure it out yourself.

An anvil is anything hard and heavy enough to hammer hot steel on, even a cast iron ASO will . . . "work" though not terribly well. A sledge hammer head is very similar to what smiths used for thousands of years and many still do. Japanese sword smiths use a small block anvil in the 3-4" sq. range.

Take a look around maybe hit a heavy truck repair shop, broken truck axles make excellent anvils when mounted on end flange up. A little clean up with a disk grinder and  it's ready to go to work. Any shaft, bar or RR rail mounted on end or plate on edge has a good to terrific depth of rebound. You only really need an anvil face a little wider than the hammer's face and the more steel directly under the blows the better it will move steel. Check out Brian Brazeal's favorite anvil.

As the Jeep guy says blacksmithing is about control not strength and it takes time and practice to learn control as a muscle memory so you can work properly lost in the Zone. Given time and PRACTICE you'll get to the point your conscious mind is almost in the way, all you want it to do is tell your reflexes what you want, NOT how to do it.

Oh yeah, your original question. The minimum equipment list. (MEL) A heavy hard something for an anvil, a sledge hammer head is good but heavier STEEL is better. And no it doesn't NEED to be high carbon, mild works fine if not the best. A smooth faced hammer, I recommend 32oz. MAX for beginners. Learn control THEN work on developing power. Hammer technique is much more important than big. A fire can be most anything flammable provided it's solid fuel, gas forge are w whole nother game. Anyway, all a forge needs to do is hold the fire. It can be a hole in the ground or you can pile dirt on a wooden table and scoop a hole in it so you don't have to bend over. If you're burning wood / charcoal look into "Side Blast" forges they also work very well for coal. "Bottom Blast" forges are work much better with coal than charcoal.

The fire WILL NEED air, garage, yard, rummage, etc. sales often have mattress inflaters most are 12v but there are 120v versions. These produce WAY more air than you'll need but it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Blow driers are good too, more air than necessary don't use the hot setting it just burns them up with no good effects in the fire.

Lets see, then there are some of the basic hand tools besides a hammer. Tongs are nice but if you use long stock you don't need them and you will have MUCH better control of the stock without tongs. Tongs are for later, good intermediate projects. You'll need something to cut stock and projects as you finish forging them. Hack saws are perfect for cutting stock into convenient lengths. Various chisels are good for cutting finished projects from the stock. Chisels are excellent beginner projects, they require longitudinal drawing and lateral drawing plus some basic heat treatment. Make some chisels though feel free to use yard, garage, flea market, etc.sale, chisels. Same deal for punches and drifts, a little drawing, rounding up and hot filing makes punches and drifts.

You DO go to garage, yard, etc. sales YES? Cheap end of the day bargains on old hammer heads, punches, chisels, allen wrenches, etc. are almost always good scores. Chisels, punches and hex keys are good forgable tool steel and make EXCELLENT stock for your shelf.

If you must have tongs weld some rd. stock to the handles of slip joint pliers. Soak in vinegar till the chrome plating is gone, Gone, GONE before you do any welding on them UNLESS you have proper PPE for welding in toxic metal fumes!

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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My location is Taupo, New Zealand.

My Blower was a shop vac with a dimmer speed control but it seems it blew too much air, will make do for now and keep an eye out for cheap air matress inflator or similar.

My coal turned out to be charcoal because thats all I could get at the time. Seems now I can get coal so will do when in Town tomorrow.

Nice pointers on the visegrips and long stock, this will come in handy.

Will have to start collecting old chisels and punches etc.

They make it look so easy onthe videos but I can see there is a long road ahead.

Thanks

Bruce

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1 hour ago, Frosty said:
1 hour ago, Frosty said:

A shop vac is WAY WAY too much air, it'd be a pain trying to get enough diverted to not be a fuel hog. I use an old shop vac to burn stumps in short order.

Frosty The Lucky.

A shop vac is WAY WAY too much air, it'd be a pain trying to get enough diverted to not be a fuel hog. I use an old shop vac to burn stumps in short order.

Frosty The Lucky.

So it would appear... my air inlet is via a 20mm tee in the base, air from the side and the vetical section as a trap for fines the drop down.  Even on low speed i ended up opening the bottom of the tee to dump airflow and calm down the fires of hell.

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Charcoal works just fine, just needs a whisper of air, even a large PC cooling fan will work, as will a pair of cheep fire place bellows (if you have a bellows thrall to operate them) charcoal and side blast forges are a match made in heaven, and it will burn coal just as happily. 

Keeping your tuyere to 3/4-1" range gives you a 6" heat zone, plenty for most hand work.

tongs are a good project as one needs to taper, draw, fuller, bend, punch and rivit. To make them you must forge a punch, drift and hot cut chisel. 

So now you need to learn the separate operations and figure out what order to do them in, lol. 

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13 hours ago, turbo7 said:

Gee I wished I had meet you 5 years and one dirty great stump and a fortnights worth of digging ago Frosty

A good way to get rid of great big PITA stumps in place is to cut or drill holes, slits, etc. into the top and pour a couple lbs, a kg. of potassium nitrate in them, then water it regularly. It'll rot out in a few months. Burning stumps in place up here is a BAD idea you can get the organic overburden burning and the fire can last a long LONG time, flaring occasionally.

I wish I'd had a leaf blower when I was burning the stumps and trash logs after clearing the land for the house and pastures they'll really make a fire big and HOT.

Frosty The Lucky.

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