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I Forge Iron

New to the Forum and the trade


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Greetings all!

I'm a newbie to the forum and blacksmithing. I recently started learning the trade in early November. I'm also a member of the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association.

I look forward to learning more about the trade and skills and meeting/talking with people of similar interests.



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Thanks for the welcome.

I've always been interested in fabrication work and making things with my hands. I'd rather have something handmade than store bought. I'm fascinated with metallurgy and taking crude components and making them into something useful. I want to learn traditional techniques and  methods so that I may be able to pass what i've learned onto future generations, essentially keeping the spirit of blacksmithing alive.

My goal, primarily is to learn how to make bladed weapons and to branch out from there. I've already started practicing on rail road spikes, making three knives last weekend and already planning on bearded axes/tomahawks.

At this point, I'm without a gear or a forge, so I work out of the Dark Angel Forge & Armory in Pompano, Florida. That is where I took my introduction to blacksmithing course. I look forward to having a home forge, once I have house that will support such.

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Welcome aboard James, glad to have you. This is a very addictive craft you've decided to dabble in. FUN though. :)

I have a couple old timer thoughts for you though. If you wish to forge blades my advice is to learn to forge THEN learn the other crafts needed to make blades. The crafts are: Fire and anvil, Heat treatment of tool steels, Grinding and polishing and last but not least fitting and finishing: wood, bone, horn, artificial, etc. furniture materials. 

It is soooo much easier learning these things one at a time. Some crafts like smithing and grinding don't overlap with each other enough to interfere. Some things are though. forging and heat treating are similar enough it's easy to mistake a factor in one thing as significant in the other or miss it's significance. I'm not saying a guy can't learn the whole package at once it's just a lot harder.

Okay, that's the usual Frosty thing about learning complex things one component at a time bit.

Another thing to consider is what "traditional" means. It means different things to different people. To an old timey or commercial blacksmith Traditional means using the best, fastest, cheapest, easiest means that will yield the necessary quality. Seriously, who do you think invented the arc welder and oxy acet torch? Power hammers were invented by felters and paper makers.

The most common mistake using the term "traditional" is they are actually talking about a time period. Pick the time period you wish to limit yourself to and enjoy the craft. Its no skin off my shin, I'm a hobbyist who can make things with found junk using a camp fire, sticks and rocks. The first tool I forged was a chisel so I could cut steel, then a punch. After that it was all fiddly bits. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Why waste good alloys on practice runs? I have an exorbitant amount of railroad spikes at my disposal, to hone my skills, and find out what works and didn't work.

As my skills progress, so shall the materials with which i shall work. 

I know rr spikes aren't the best material for knife making, but again,  at this point for me,  it's just learning techniques and methods.

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Well, there is the fact that railroad spikes behave very differently under the hammer than high-quality alloys for knife making. What works for one may very well not work for the other. 

I would second ThomasPowers's suggestion that you consider rail clips (Pandrol clips, rail anchors) if you want to use salvaged steel for practice knife making. You'll still have plenty of difficulty doing a reliable heat treatment on mystery steel, but at least it will forge somewhat more similarly to a known knife alloy.

In the mean time, there are lots and lots of things you can do with railroad spikes other than knives. Bottle openers, wall hooks, steak flippers, flowers, tongs, etc, etc. The list goes on and on, and doing lots of projects like this will make your other skills (especially hammer control) that much better.

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Hammer control, undoubtedly... I've much to learn in that regard, its not always about murdering the steel. There's a degree of finesse also involved. 

I'll see about getting the pandrol clips or rail anchors from my contact.

Thanks for the advice.

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There are a couple of different kinds of rail anchors; the ones you want have a rectangular cross-section and are bent into a rather squiggly C-shape. There's also a kind with a T-shaped cross-section, bent into a fat J-shape; these are less useful, but not useless.

Here's a photo with some of the kind you want, in the lower right corner:


And here's something you can do with the other kind: make fullers!


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42 minutes ago, Mule1976 said:

I've sourced materials from a decomissioned section of railway, with the landowner's permission...

Depending on jurisdiction, the landowner may not have the right to allow you to take those materials. Even a decommissioned railway may remain someone else's property. We had a case near where I live of a landowner who allowed a scrap dealer to remove several miles of decommissioned track from their property, but it turns out that a private railroad company had purchased both the right-of-way and the remaining tracks. A seven-figure lawsuit later, the only people happy were the lawyers.

There are a couple of threads here on IFI about the legality of different sources of RR spikes; worth taking a look.

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