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Tristin Haas

Starting up a Blacksmithing Business

18 posts in this topic

I am a teen and I would like to get My future kinda planed out. I love blacksmithing and I really want to do something I love as my job. I was wondering if anyone has any tips or advice for me because I really want to do this but at this point it is kinda daunting. This is something I am very passionate about.

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first tip is to answer people when you join chat and they attempt to talk to you., Its rude to run away like you have done 2x already

 Also post post a general location the world is a big place. giving you info for working in China is different than at the North Pole. and we have members form both places.

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If you live in the USA, hunt down the Small Business Administration and find where they are offering classes on setting up and running a small business.  Take any accounting courses you can!  Start making a log about items, how much stock they took and how much time.  Where most folks fail is not in the Smithing; but in the running a business!  I worked under a swordmaker once that did "investment grade blades"  Some years he said the only profit he made was in how his equipment was depreciated on his taxes, and he had a 2 year backlog of orders!

I learned that I loved the craft but not the business; a true blessing as I didn't have to go through bankruptcy to learn it!  Now I have a major corporation paying for my health insurance and a good wage that stretches to cover my hobby quite well.

If you are living at home now is a great time to amass the equipment you will need as a business and start building up the capital you need to start one.

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I'm sorry for not join the chats I wasn't aware how too, I am from Missouri. And thank you for the tips.

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Good Morning,

Learn a Trade that will pay the Bills. Enjoy Blacksmithing as a Hobby.

When you have developed Blacksmith Skills and Business skills that will allow you to surpass your Professional Trade finance input, without risking your Family. Then think about creating a business of Blacksmithing. Not before!!!   It is better to enjoy Blacksmithing rather than, "I have to.........".

Neil

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Learn fabrication other than smithing--not only will it enhance your smithing capabilities but will act as a back up when the actual smithing runs thin.  Good fabricators are always in demand (and I mean skilled, not your average joe)  

Bone up on some practical math.  Someone who can calculate complex angles for things like winding stairs is hard to find.  

Take an accounting course or three plus a general business course or several.  Running a business takes a whole lot more knowledge than most people think.  Yes, you can bumble through making it work but you'll be ahead with a little more education on those things.

Keep records as though your life depended on it.  BORING but in my fabrication business I often have people call referencing something that was done in 1987 (yes, really) and having the old drawings has saved my backside a lot of trouble.  I even had a liability claim over 10 years old come in once and was able to pull a file which told me who the chain supplier was on the job--and they admitted they used T303 stainless steel accidentally for the chain pins and helped resolve the issue so it didn't fall on my head.

Marketing is another boring subject but a little knowledge will help.  In fact, when starting up you should spend more time on marketing than on hammering.  Perception trumps reality so you need to create and market the perception of what your business is from the beginning to make yourself stand out.

Buy quality tools from the beginning whenever possible. They are much cheaper in the long run than the junky stuff.  Cheap is generally false economy.  However, money is often so tight you have little option so choose your cheap wisely.

And of course practice practice practice....with a little more practice. Butchers like me are a dime a dozen so you need to develop the skills to go beyond that level.  

Everyone will have a different take so that's my 2 cents.  

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Adjunct jobs that might tie in with smithing---or help make/maintain your smithing tools are such things like welding or machining (I note that the future need for good tool and die folks is supposed to spike as the Boomers retire off!)

Don't forget training! Things like the ABS school in Texarkana can really push you up the learning curve saving thousands in time to try to learn it on your own. (for bladesmiths).

And remember the Boss gets all the headaches and in a small craft based business may not get much time to actually make stuff as to deal with the business necessities.

For blademakers we generally advise doing it as an adjunct to your "day job" until you can make at least 50% off the blades that you do off the job and then think about switching to be full time.

After all this I have to say: IT CAN BE DONE!

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I think everyone has said what you need to know, the 2 things you need to learn and excel at 1. all aspects of business, financial, sales, management, laws esp. tax laws, where the money is coming from.  2 all aspects of Blacksmithing, when you hang the sign the time for  learning the above subjects has ended you have to produce on a professional level.  Customers will expect it from day 1.  More Craft businesses fail from lack of business knowledge than anything else.  But don't give up the idea just WORK at it from both directions.  Good Luck.

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If you don't want to do the boring business side you will need to hire someone who will do it for you. I have seen a couple of artisans go under because they wanted to do the fun side, but not the business side as well. 

Cash flow the operation, and grow as the money comes in and allows it. Going deep into debt right off the start will be a quick way to end the operation. 

Look into Dave Ramsey's book Entreleadership.

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I can second Dave Ramsey's material. VERY IMPORTANT stuff. 

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My father took his woodworking hobby in a basement to a full-time business in a purpose-built structure with four full-time employees. Looks great, right?

Wrong. I love the guy, but he was a lousy businessman. He bankrolled the expansion with an inheritance, never had a business plan, bought supplies on high-interest credit cards, never banked the money to pay his tax bills, and basically skated by until my mom divorced him and he moved three quarters of the way across the country. I worked with him for a couple of years and was shocked and appalled to discover that his filing system was a cardboard box in a cupboard with three years worth of bills, receipts, cancelled checks, and other assorted unsortables.

At the same time, we worked our tails off and made some absolutely gorgeous furniture. I've got a few pieces left, which serve as a salutary reminder of how NOT to run a business.

Now, five years later (after my brief stints in violin repair and art restoration), I ended up working for a guy we'd supplied with chairs for his NYC showroom. This guy was (and is) my model for how you run a business: every single detail was worthy of attention. From ordering the materials to tooling the shop to the cleanliness of the showroom to training the salespeople to scheduling the deliveries to following up with the customers to the very end of time, he was fanatical about doing everything he possibly could to make sure that the quality of the furniture was as high as possible, that the customers' needs were met and their experience of the company was positive, that everybody got paid on time, that he had sufficient capital reserves to accommodate fluctuations in sales numbers and for expansions and improvements, and so on and so on. If something wasn't profitable, he got rid of it. If there was something that could be improved, he would find a better way to do it. He lived (somewhat) modestly (certainly by NYC standards), and didn't hesitate to reinvest profits back into the business. If there was something that he didn't know how to do (accounting, for example), he would find someone talented to do it for him -- but he made sure that he knew enough about it to understand what the other person was doing. He often would say, "The part of the business that you're avoiding is the part that's going to come back and bite you in the [sensitive portion of your anatomy]."

All of this is to illustrate what folks are saying up above: learn the business side of things as best you can, at the same time that you're improving your smithing skills. It's great to make a living at what you love, but if you aren't making a living, you won't love it for long.

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I would say that everything above here is true. However, after reading it, 99% of folks wouldn't want to go into business for themselves. In any fashion. 

Tristan,  I would suggest honing your skills and forging small widgets to sell for your grubstake. 20 meat flippers or 20 letter openers makes a $1000 @$50 each. That's a nice anvil, a good used 200 amp MIG welder or a whole used tool chest full of tools. You're young, stockpile some forgings while your overhead is low and find an avenue for sale. For a financially stable smith I would say the best thing you can do is always make $50 to $100 items to sell and don't search out custom commissions. If you always have a 55 gallon drum of meat flippers full it might as well be filled with $50 bills. Also, if you put an extra twist or detail in one they become $75 meat flippers real quick. 

Can you show us any of your projects? What's your favorite thing to make at the moment?

Start small, no big moves and beware of customers and jobs that are too good to be true. If things sound fishy ask about the "budget" early. When they frown and blush you'll know it's a good time to concentrate on the jobs you do have. 

Good luck and keep asking questions.

 

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"If you work for yourself; you need to have a real SOB for a boss!"

Moderators: can I use this acronym?

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3 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

Moderators: can I use this acronym?

"Somewhat Optimistic Blacksmith"?

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Tristan,

Lots of good advice has already been posted.  I think it's awfully hard to tell what you need to know/have/do to be successful in a line of work until you've actually seen a successful example first hand.

If it's at all possible for you to find a successful blacksmith shop that does what you're interested in it would be incredibly helpful for you to intern with them.

Once you know what's necessary to be successful in your line of work, you can go about finding places to learn those skills.   If it only takes a handful of courses to get where you want to go, you might find Ivy League institutions have made them available online for free.  I would encourage you to try very hard not to take on loans for education. 

It's not particularly popular to point this out, but Higher Education is a huge mistake for most people.  Statistically speaking, most of the people enrolling will never get a degree,  but they'll spend decades paying down the debt.  Out of the few students that do graduate, most of them won't earn the degree they originally wanted.  Virtually nobody graduates in 4 years, and in most institutions, administrators outnumber faculty by considerable margins.  Outstanding student loan debt is higher than credit card debt.  We have an entire generation that's unable to marry, buy homes, or start their lives as adults because of college loan debt. 

Higher education students today are getting more than they need, but less than they've paid for. 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 2/16/2017 at 6:46 PM, rockstar.esq said:

If it's at all possible for you to find a successful blacksmith shop that does what you're interested in it would be incredibly helpful for you to intern with them.

That's a hard trick, not many shops are successful, most blacksmiths have a spouse working a job that does the actual supporting.  And of the one's I know that are successful, we're mostly one-man shops with no interest in having someone in the shop.  And even if I was, it wouldn't be someone with little or no skills.  If someone wants to become a blacksmith by the way of working in others shops, then that person needs to show up with some basic shop skills, highest on the list would be welding.  That's what I was told to do and what I did.  As the smith told me, "if you know how to weld, than I can make use of you and you get a chance to learn some smithing", it worked out quite well for me.  Over the years, I've given this same advice to many and not once was it acted upon. 

Add to the list: solid math skills, etc.

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