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Greetings from NC!

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Hello all! I'm Caleb and I have a few questions to ask about forging, so I thought I'd come here. A few months ago I thought that I'd like to start forging/blacksmithing (whatever the correct term is), but I don't really know where to start. I've heard some things about being able to make a basic starting forge with two of some specific brick, you obviously need tools like a hammer and some long channel-lock type thing, etc. The main thing I'm trying to figure out is how I'd start off; are there specific tools I should use as a beginner? Where can I get bricks for this? Do I even use bricks? I'd appreciate any answers you can give to some of these, and I'm hoping I can ask more whenever needed. Cheers!

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Welcome to the forum.  If you add your location to your profile, we can better answer your questions, and there may be help near your location.

First off, pack a lunch and a cold drink and read all the stickies at the beginning of each section or subject on the site. This may take a while but is great information and will allow you to build a general data base of knowledge.

Find a blacksmithing group or organization near you and go to the meetings. You will learn more in several hours than you can ever imagine.

Second, armed with some basic knowledge, find a fuel in YOUR location that is cheap and easy to obtain. Build a forge to use THAT fuel.

You will need something to beat on, something to beat with (a 2 pound hammer), and something to get hot and hit. The rest are details. Reading and gaining information is good but you MUST take it to the forge and try it out to see if it works for you. Hammer time will answer many of your questions as well as create many new questions. Tell us what you read, what you did at the forge, how it worked or did not work, and there are many on this site that will assist you. We want you to succeed so later you can help the next fellow with his success.

 

 

 

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Oh, I didn't know I could change the location field... whoops. I'm thinking if there are going to be any of those groups you mentioned, they're going to be more around the Raleigh area. Louisburg isn't well known for its... activity.

Do you mind explaining what you mean by "fuel"? Are we talking about fuel for a gas forge? Also, I'm guessing I can't use a regular hammer like you'd use for hammering nails, right? Sorry; I really don't know anything but a few stray things I've heard from a friend who used to do this.

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Welcome aboard Caleb, glad to have you. Fuel is what you burn to make the steel hot and there are many kinds. The two basic types are solid and gas, forget oil fired forges, those aren't so practical or easy to get work safely.

You don't need anything fancy any smooth faced hammer will work there are types that work better and some have intended purposes but any smooth face is good to start. I recommend a "Drill Hammer" common at virtually any hardware section. They usually run about 32 oz. and have short handles. This is enough weight to do serious work but not so much as to make mistakes permanent right away. It's also a good weight to not tire you out too quickly till you build a good technique and some muscle. The shorter handle is good for control, you can build good hammer control much more quickly if the tool is easy to control. Yes?

An anvil is anything you beat something on don't get hung up on a "London pattern" anvil, horns are over rated. A sledge hammer head, a piece of shaft or broken axle mounted on end all make fine anvils. I like a truck axle mounted flange up they have lots of good shapes,  surfaces and handy holes.

If you use solid fuel: wood, (charcoal) or coal all you need is a hole in the ground, box of dirt or the simplest of elevated fire pits. Seriously the finest most high tech coal forge is just an elevated fire pit. You'll also need some iron pipe, NO GALVY! and an air source a blow drier puts out more air than you'll need and you can find them at yard, garage, etc. sales.

Buy a stick of 3/8" sq or 1/2" rd. mild steel. It won't cost that much and having a uniform material to learn on really helps. Well, pretty uniform, A36 can get a little squirrely for working characteristics but nothing like learning on found scrap.

No, you won't need tongs if you use stock long enough it doesn't get hot on the end you hold, 24" from the worked section is plenty. A can of water and rag to cool the held end is good but be VERY CAREFUL laying a wet rag on possibly HOT steel, nothing hurts like a scald!

You'll need something to cut with, a hack saw should be in everybody's shop, garage sale chisels work a treat for hot cuts too. Start hitting garage, yard, etc. sales for tools. Keep an eye open for smooth faced hammers, ball peins are excellent smithing hammers as are cross peins and single jack sledges.

Look up the TPAAAT method of tool acquisition here. Google search with Iforgeiron included in the terms works a LOT better than the search engine on the site.

Frosty The Lucky.

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That's a lot of stuff to go off of getting started; thanks! Is the stick of steel for the actual forging; like, is it the material I heat and hammer? Also, what's "stock"?

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When you first start anything, the learning curve looks like a vertical wall with no top to it. You later learn that it was just your perception of a slight incline. After a while you feel you need to learn more and see another vertical wall. It is just your perception of another slight incline.

The learning curve is just a series of steps you take one at a time. How high you go depends on how many steps you take.

To answer your question, fuel is what you use to get the metal (stock) hot. It can be many things, coal, charcoal, coke, wood, gas, oil, electric (induction heating) and many others.  Choose one near you that is cheap, and your area, and build a forge that uses that fuel. There is no perfect forge, there is your first forge that you will always remember, and several others that follow each being a bit different and or better.

Look up the NC-ABANA, a North Carolina blacksmithing group. There are also groups in Va and SC that you may be close to your location.

 

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Hi Caleb. I am the NC-ABANA librarian. Hope you can make it to some of the meetings. We also have a Facebook page, and an email reminder ring.

From the website listed above, where more information is available:

Triangle Blacksmith Guild – Central NC, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area. 
2nd Saturday, odd numbered months, location varies 

Statewide meeting this Saturday, but I have another engagement:

December 3 at 9:00 A.M.
Roger Barbour's shop in Clayton NC 

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This is also where having a book or two like "The Backyard Blacksmith", L. Sims (got a copy recently for US$10 at Half Price Books) or "The Complete Modern Blacksmith", A. Weygers.  Can really get you started.  Christmas is coming and books make good gifts (and a lot easier to wrap and put under the tree than a 50# sack of coal...)

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John, thanks for the heads up; I'll have to talk about transportation and possibly getting to go! I feel like that would be a huge help being able to go to one of those meetings.

Thomas, I'll take a look in to those as well. I don't normally learn by book, but I don't think it really matters this time around. Oh, and about the coal... wouldn't that be a good gift for a potential smith? Heheh.

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If it's good blacksmithing coal and few people not in the craft can usually tell that.  It's also heavy and dirty and so not so under tree friendly.

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Sorry I started using jargon on you. Learning the craft jargon is a huge advantage. There are words and terms with specific meanings for almost everything we do. It saves having to use descriptive sentences as parts of sentences instead of one word. For example I could say, " hammer the steel till it's long square taper that thins to the thickness of a dime at the end." Or I can say, "draw it to a thin taper."

A couple craft terms I used in my last response. "Stock." That's the material you're going to make something out of when you take it out of storage. . . .Oh okay. "Storage" is where ever you have your resource pile stored, shelves, racks, buckets, piles under a tree out of the wife's sight, etc.

A "Stick" of steel is a full length piece from the steel supply, usually a bit over 20'. They give you a bit over the advertised length so there's no question about shorting folk. Many supplies sell 20' lengths but what they load for you are 21'.

A good place to shop is "Fabrication shops," often called Fab shops. It takes diplomacy and good PR, say a box of doughnuts in the morning and always, A-L-W-A-Y-S stay on the good side of the receptionist, she's the true master of the company, if she likes you you're in, if not forget it. Anyway, Fab shops have what are called "Drops". A Drop is a left over piece after a stick is cut for a project but is too small to be used right away maybe ever. Some Fab shops will let you pick steel from t he Drops and sell them for scrap prices a BIG savings and being short easy to transport.

Fab shop, drop bins are excellent sources of bargain stock. Did that sentence make sense? See why craft jargon is important? it lets us say things precisely and everybody knows what we meant. Get a handle on the jargon and you can ask good questions and understand our answers.

Most of us would prefer to learn by doing but there are problems. If you don't have an idea of what you're doing you're almost certainly doing whatever it is wrong and learning bad habits. You have a couple choices to learn what you need to know, Youtube isn't a particularly good place, there is too much urban myth presented as fact and unless you know what's what you can get fooled. So, your two best ways to learn are find a teacher, this will probably cost plenty if nothing else your labor. Or books. Books will tell you what to do and show you pictures.

Books are better in a few ways. It's one thing to use a blacksmith's forge and something else entirely to build your own. He can tell you every detail but nothing beats a dimensioned drawings in 3 planes. (Top, plan view, front, elevation view, side, side elevation view.) A dimensioned drawing allows you to literally copy it and build what you need. Of course there's bookwork involved in learning how to read a print but knowing how to make a dimensioned drawing is hugely valuable skill.

A word of warning here. I'm a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) survivor and I lose track of what I meant to say and go off on long winded tangents. I just realized I meant to  give you a sample glossary of common terms used in blacksmithing and a good reason to start reading the sections on Iforge but got myself off on a tangent.

This stuff is actually a lot of fun, don't lose track of that. Okay?

Frosty The Lucky.

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You don't have to have a bit of TBI to smith---but it certainly hasn't stopped a couple of us anyway!  Frosty is the overachiever in that regard and I am just adding it to my repertoire.

Learning the jargon helps a lot; we get many people using the term smelter when what they mean is melter/foundry.  Totally different things and that can skew answers to something that is not helpful to them at all.

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Smiths are the only people who are deliberately bad, in hopes of finding coal in their Christmas stocking.

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