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Everything Mac

Teaching a total beginner?

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Hi chaps, 

 

I may very well be running a one to one class in about a weeks time. The student is a complete beginner and has never picked up a hammer. 

I've run a good few classes in my time however they have all been for people with some experience.

 

What would you start them out with? 

 

As it stands I'm planning:

 

Basic H&S, do's and don'ts etc etc. 

Go over some basic theory and basic techniques. 

We might start by making a couple of nails if needs be. 

Project 1: Simple hook from square bar with a twist. - This covers: drawing out, twisting, scrolling and half faced blows

Project 2: Basic bottle opener. Covering the above techniques but throws in a one sided taper. 

Project 3: Fire rake. All of the above techniques put into a larger project. 

 

I'd have thought I can cover those projects in a single day. 

 

Any other ideas? 

Andy

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Sounds like a good program but unless your student is gifted it's a little ambitious. I've had a few students who have never swung a hammer and a full day's session typically saw 2-3 nails made.

You have to be flexible if a youngster really hasn't used a hammer they're going to need time and repetition to develop enough hammer control to move beyond a straight taper. I discovered I should've started the above young men on S hooks because heading the nail was beyond their hand skills on day one.

You or I may be able to cover the list in one session but the student may be swamped just trying to remember what a half face blow is let alone what it's for.

Frosty The Lucky.

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First Day?? Quite a lot to ask!!

SOR, Square, Octagonal, Round (Round to Square). Student MUST master this function, before moving beyond S-Hooks, Gate Hooks (there are a gazillion styles to learn). Nails will test your Patience to the MAX.

Good Luck with the adventure.

Neil

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I've never been called upon to teach Blacksmithing.

But I feel qualified to comment on the subject of introducing raw beginners to a subject that's totally foreign to them.

To wit; ... 15 years experience teaching handgun safety and technique, ... in a fairly formal setting, ... to the wives and girlfriends of fellow Gun Club members.

The thing I learned from that experience, is that it's not possible to underestimate the beginners lack of familiarity with the hardware.

So, ... I would resist the urge to jump right into any "hands on" training, ... and spend some time discussing all the basic tools, and materials, and their intended purpose.

To a neophyte, this is NOT immediately obvious, ... nor are the often archaic names of those various tools, particularly "self explanatory".

For example, ... most people have heard the term "cold chisel", ... but it's unlikely that they know WHY it's known by that name, ... or much about it's correct use.

Sure, covering such fundamental knowledge is not much fun, ... but I think it will help the true beginner put things into perspective.

 

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Years ago I came up with a beginners project that would teach a lot of basics, and give the student a usable completed project to take home at the end of the day.

I've used this with 10 year old 4-H classes, boy scouts, college adult education classes, with young and old, most of which had never done any forging, and every student has completed it in a day.

It's a simple 4 Hook Coat rack, I'll let everybody figure out everything it teaches.

afc demo 013.jpg

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When I have someone New I start them out by showing them how to swing a hammer, how to work the fire, and how to heat the metal. Most people take a while to learn to swing a hammer rather than just tap with it. If you make them put a point on a piece of 3/8" square stock, after you show them (in one heat) a square point this will keep them busy for a while. Let them heat it múltiple times till they get a point. You also have to teach them to cut with a hot cut. Let them work on their own till they can get a point in one heat. Point out to them to learn to look for their Mark on the steel. If you do not hit the end of the steel its hard to get a point. They learn a lot doing this exercise. After wards look up the two sided taper on youtube and continúe with that.

Good luck and Happy forging.

 

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You never know what a learner is capable of before you start, if they can only manage half a planned lesson in a day there is little you can do, but if they can manage to cover it in half a day, be sure to have plenty more to offer. I spent years writing lesson plans to fulfill the paperwork requirements and I don't think I ever followed one of then in full! Be flexible to suite your learners skills. I would have suggested making tools that they will be able to use in thier own forge but also provide the learner with choices. If this is the learner I think it is Andy, then the bottle opener is an absolute must given his dayjob and the more wow factor the better!

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5 hours ago, Smoggy said:

You never know what a learner is capable of before you start, if they can only manage half a planned lesson in a day there is little you can do, but if they can manage to cover it in half a day, be sure to have plenty more to offer. I spent years writing lesson plans to fulfill the paperwork requirements and I don't think I ever followed one of then in full! Be flexible to suite your learners skills. I would have suggested making tools that they will be able to use in thier own forge but also provide the learner with choices. If this is the learner I think it is Andy, then the bottle opener is an absolute must given his dayjob and the more wow factor the better!

My thoughts exactly Smoggy. I want him to be able to take home at least one usable item that has at least some wow factor. Something he can be proud to show off. 

I'll play it by ear. If we only get a few nails made then so be it. To me if they can put a point on a bar it's not so far off making a hook. And a hook isn't so far off a simple bottle opener in my mind. 

Andy 

 

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Six or eight years ago I was that total beginner and hadn't hit a piece of hot steel. I had read everything I could find at the time and lurked around this forum plenty.  I eventually completed a two day beginners course.  Over the two days, in a group of I think 8, we made a cold chisel, a hot cut chisel from a piece of leaf spring, a round punch, a centre punch, and a basic set of tongs.  We made the jaws of the tongs and the instructor forge welded the reins while we watched.  We riveted together - with varying degrees of success I might add.

It was a terrific learning experience and we ended top with a very usable set of tools that I still use regularly today.  Thinking about it now I'm pleased we made what we did and not s hooks and the like.

Good luck with it Andy.

Ray

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One thing is sort of assumed here which might not be as clear as it first appears.  There are people who want to learn beginning forge skills and there are people who claim they want to learn beginning forge skills but are really there to experience a day or two at the forge and "learn" quite little in terms of applicable skills.  They may not know themselves or be able to articulate it.  Heck, it's even hard for me to put into words.

A comparable might be those popular race car day classes you can take now.  No one is really there to learn to drive a race car even though they call them "schools"--people show up to get the very basics required to sit in the seat and experience what it is like to drive a race car around the track.  If they were actually trying to teach race-driving, most people would be so bored with the rote details involved before getting behind the wheel that the places would go out of business.  

A true class at the forge would therefore be focused on the basics and very small projects...with more hands-on and frustrating re-trys to learn basic skills.  However, if the student is there for the "experience", the instructor would be doing more complex stuff with the student sticking their efforts in here and there to produce a much more complicated day-project which the student could take home and brag about making themselves.  

So...are you teaching blacksmith skills or giving an "experience day" in the Smithy?  Both are called a "class" but what is presented should be quite different for those scenarios.

Hope this jumble made sense.

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20 hours ago, Everything Mac said:

Hi chaps, 

 

I may very well be running a one to one class in about a weeks time. The student is a complete beginner and has never picked up a hammer. 

I've run a good few classes in my time however they have all been for people with some experience.

 

What would you start them out with? 

 

As it stands I'm planning:

 

Basic H&S, do's and don'ts etc etc. 

Go over some basic theory and basic techniques. 

We might start by making a couple of nails if needs be. 

Project 1: Simple hook from square bar with a twist. - This covers: drawing out, twisting, scrolling and half faced blows

Project 2: Basic bottle opener. Covering the above techniques but throws in a one sided taper. 

Project 3: Fire rake. All of the above techniques put into a larger project. 

 

I'd have thought I can cover those projects in a single day. 

 

Any other ideas? 

Andy

Hi Andy,

If its only the one day, what you have planned seems ok, but I would consider rearranging the items.

Personally I would siuggest you start with the fire rake, that can cover all the skills in your project 1depending on your design, then project 2 introduces slitting and drifting and whatever else you want to include, then you should have a good idea of what can be achieved in the time remaining and do a quice nail or hook.

This is what I do on a one day course, skills are featured, and the items are only the result of these graded skills.

Also no need to use tongs on the wine/beer glass holder (could be a bird feeder hanger, but these introduce bending and a little bit of thought as to designing, wine glasses go in horizontally, beer glasses slip in from the top)

Then the BBQ fork brings in more skills, 

Finally the hook is treated as an exercise in production techniques and using tongs, punching holes and using a hardie to cut off.

Made on a one day course.jpg

My notes for making the fork

This exercise is suitable for an absolute beginner and can be made in half a day comfortably

 

Skills learnt;

Use of forge, hammer, hot cut chisel, wire brush, files, necking in using guillotine tool,  fullering spring  tool, or blacksmiths helper tooling.

Marking out using a cold chisel, centre punch, oddlegs, tape or rule.

Drawing down; square, round and tapers,

Forming an eye or ring, 

Bending sections to shape,

Forming a twist, putting it right when it goes wrong

Finishing using vegetable oil if to be used for food use, Not an oil containing nuts,

Or for a decorative finish a wax compound, clear lacquer or other finish

Material used; 16 x 5 x 400mm

Mark out

For the handle, twist will be done by eye to the discretion of the maker, ideally to suit a hand's width (100mm or 4”) and the  fork end can be shaped to students liking

Centre punch to indicate where to work sections from, 65mm (2.5”) from each end to allow for drawing out, initially using a light blow without pre tapping the punch with the hammer prior to the marking blow as it will probably be displaced if you do, then when happy position is right deepen the mark

Use oddleg calipers or dividers to mark on a centreline for the fork end

Use a cold chisel to mark in ready for splitting the bar hot for tines, This line is used to locate the hot cut chisel when at working heat. Again initially using a light blow without pre tapping the chisel with the hammer prior to the marking blow as it will probably be displaced if you do, check each mark as you progress it down the line, then deepen when satisfied it is correct position, check each time for position prior to using a heavier deepening blow, otherwise it may look like a map of a railway sidings yard and you won't know which line to choose to hot cut.

Fork and Hook.jpg

 

They can then call it a day or go on to make other items to complete their initiation into the basic skills, this being what tehy make on a three day session.

Basic skills 3 day course.JPG

Have fun and enjoy.

 

 

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11 hours ago, Smoggy said:

You never know what a learner is capable of before you start, if they can only manage half a planned lesson in a day there is little you can do, but if they can manage to cover it in half a day, be sure to have plenty more to offer. I spent years writing lesson plans to fulfill the paperwork requirements and I don't think I ever followed one of then in full! Be flexible to suite your learners skills. I would have suggested making tools that they will be able to use in thier own forge but also provide the learner with choices. If this is the learner I think it is Andy, then the bottle opener is an absolute must given his dayjob and the more wow factor the better!

My thoughts exactly Smoggy. I want him to be able to take home at least one usable item that has at least some wow factor. Something he can be proud to show off. 

I'll play it by ear. If we only get a few nails made then so be it. To me if they can put a point on a bar it's not so far off making a hook. And a hook isn't so far off a simple bottle opener in my mind. 

 

Cheers John, very much appreciated. 

All the best

Andy 

 

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I have always started with hooks.  S,j or drive.  But it also depends on how they are picking things up.  One on one is a little different than 6 or 8 at a time.  With the one on one you will have more freedom based on how they are doing.

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My favorite beginner project is the leaf keychain personally. It teaches a lot of the basic skills and it shows that blacksmithing can be used for more than just functional things. It also carries a lot of wow factor (I still carry my first leaf to this day, and a lot of people are impressed by it).

I also completely agree with SmoothBore, lack of familiarity with the hardware and terminology will slow your lesson down a LOT! The fact that you have so many projects packed into a day is great though, because even if you have to finish them on your next lesson it will give your student something to look forward to!

 

Good luck to both of you! It's awesome to see the torch of knowledge is being passed on!

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I teach blacksmithing regularly and find most beginners (98.9%) cannot swing a hammer well enough to draw/ taper 1/4" square Let alone heat it properly.  That takes about 1.5 hours.  

Basic instructions/tooling/safety/fire management/steel characteristics/terminology/etc etc takes 3.5 hours.

Giving 3 hours to "make" something.  

That is my first day class.  To walk out the door with an S-hook and what some would consider to be a nail is an accomplishment. 

Not humanly possible to have a beginner swing a hammer for 8 hours.

My second day is 8-hours of forging. Many leave after 6 hours or even lunch break, yet complain about day one as there isnt 8 hours of hammer time.

My third day is same as above and involves all forge welding projects.  By this time they are humbled.

20160820_145944.jpg

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3 hours ago, SReynolds said:

I teach blacksmithing regularly and find most beginners (98.9%) cannot swing a hammer well enough to draw/ taper 1/4" square Let alone heat it properly.  That takes about 1.5 hours.  

Basic instructions/tooling/safety/fire management/steel characteristics/terminology/etc etc takes 3.5 hours.

Giving 3 hours to "make" something.  

That is my first day class.  To walk out the door with an S-hook and what some would consider to be a nail is an accomplishment. 

Not humanly possible to have a beginner swing a hammer for 8 hours.

My second day is 8-hours of forging. Many leave after 6 hours or even lunch break, yet complain about day one as there isnt 8 hours of hammer time.

My third day is same as above and involves all forge welding projects.  By this time they are humbled.

 

I think we are all humbled at times. Hot iron is like that. Humility is good.

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On 01/09/2016 at 2:12 AM, Everything Mac said:

What would you start them out with?

All the lessons I've given have been to total beginners.
Get them standing correctly, stop them from pushing the hammer with their forearm and/or choking it after striking & get them with their body weight forward so they're not striking at a distance/totally upright etc, it'll speed up the lesson/their progress no end. If needs be stand in front of the anvil properly and draw around your feet (like a crime scene) then get them to stand in your feet marks.

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12 hours ago, Joel OF said:

All the lessons I've given have been to total beginners.
Get them standing correctly, stop them from pushing the hammer with their forearm and/or choking it after striking & get them with their body weight forward so they're not striking at a distance/totally upright etc, it'll speed up the lesson/their progress no end. If needs be stand in front of the anvil properly and draw around your feet (like a crime scene) then get them to stand in your feet marks.

Hi Joel, cheers for that idea. 

 

This particular guy backed out in the end anyway but I'll bear this advice in mind for next time. 

Cheers 

Andy

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12 hours ago, Joel OF said:


Get them standing correctly, stop them from pushing the hammer with their forearm and/or choking it after striking & get them with their body weight forward so they're not striking at a distance/totally upright etc,

What is wrong with an upright stance? My back does not allow me to bend for more than a few minutes and I am under the impression that it is better for the back to work in anupright position. All medical advice I have seen stress that.

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I mean when they're standing at a distance in conjuction with being stood completely upright they haven't got a hope at hitting accurately at the far edge of the anvil. It's when they're almost hammering with an extended arm their accuracy is completely sloppy. Ultimately I'm trying to describe something to the effect of being tense VS relaxed.

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OK I misunderstood. Perhaps because I have seen too many (posed?) pictures of smiths standing with bent back. I totally agree that the stance should be comfortable/natural - including the arm. I think that it is helpful to tell people not to think about the hammer but to concentrate the mind on the place to hit - or perhaps as someone (I think Frosty) just below.

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3 hours ago, gote said:

OK I misunderstood. Perhaps because I have seen too many (posed?) pictures of smiths standing with bent back. I totally agree that the stance should be comfortable/natural - including the arm. I think that it is helpful to tell people not to think about the hammer but to concentrate the mind on the place to hit - or perhaps as someone (I think Frosty) just below.

Ayup, I've said that or something very like it many times. I just enjoyed a first time at the anvil with a fellow who lives not far from me. He has good hand tool skills so he has the tools and just has to adjust to a new job. Almost all the correctional instruction I gave was on stance and arm position. He improved quickly, it was an excellent first session. Heck, he was there when I lit The NARB for the first time. (Naturally Aspirated Ribbon Burner)

Frosty The Lucky.

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On September 1, 2016 at 8:50 AM, PVF Al said:

Years ago I came up with a beginners project that would teach a lot of basics, and give the student a usable completed project to take home at the end of the day.

I've used this with 10 year old 4-H classes, boy scouts, college adult education classes, with young and old, most of which had never done any forging, and every student has completed it in a day.

It's a simple 4 Hook Coat rack, I'll let everybody figure out everything it teaches.

 

That's a really really good idea.  I like that it covers all the bases but also builds on very simply things to end up with something that they can use for the rest of their lives.  It's not too hard and it's very practical.

One of the things I usually get new people to make is a simple hook from a store-bought nail.IMG_0917.JPG

Smaller nails can also be used.  Combine several on a plank and you have a nice rack for the hallway or kitchen without much fuss or preamble.

9a8kcPMA-gYZMJSTU6mtV5P1uLzEwVP3qqgp3uvU

 

It's not much, admittedly, but it's something everyone can use in their home, even if it's relegated to the garage or garden shed.  The key point is that it shows the student some basic stuff like bending and punching but isn't too technically difficult -- and it opens their eyes to the possibilities in found objects.  I've had students that have never swung a hammer in their entire lives, so I always assume the worst when it comes to their technical abilities and like to have something like these hooks for them.

 

 

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On 9/15/2016 at 5:04 PM, seldom (dick renker) said:

one of the things i like to due with raw beginners is give them a peice of 2x4 about a foot or so long and have them hit it for awhile. lets them see where tthey are not hitting.emphasizes hammer control

 

That's a really good idea Dick it lets the student illustrate the instruction and correct themselves. PERFECT. Getting students to read the results of what they did is one of the tougher tasks of the instructor.

Thank you Dick, that one wet right in my teacher's bag.

Frosty The Lucky.

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