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Feeling Lost.


ForgeNub

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So my forge set up finally complete, a real anvil and stand purchased, had been working on making tongs, failed (much learned in the process) about 4-5 times because of cold shuts, thin/long bosses and overall lack of knowledge.  I went to forge today and Its like writer's block....I have no idea what to do, so made a simple fire poker for my sister's fire pit and some drawer pulls altered that she wants for her cabinetry.  As far as forging something out of basic stock or scrap that I have....I feel entirely lost and a little disheartened by the recent failures in making tools.  I don't know what to start on next to really keep learning and advancing, I feel like I need to make tools because my selection at hand is slim but, with a vast amount of choices and variety in what I could attempt, I just have no idea what to do right now.  Any recommendations for you veterans out there? What is the best direction to head when you have a ton of Truck U-Bolts lying around, 2 giant coil springs, Head bolts, just lots and lots of Automotive steel sitting in my garage and I stare at it blankly with no idea what I should be doing with it.  I get it for free from my work so no problems "wasting" the metal, I would just prefer guidance as far as doing things to utilize the things I have learned, how to work towards new skills, and make useful items for my shop area as well as just cool stuff. Thanks in advance y'all!

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There are lots of ideas here on this forum , but I can recommend a few things that might give you ideas, based on what I've seen here.

You can make something for the kitchen, some easy tools (punches, hot cuts), wall hooks, or some bottle openers. Ornamental stuff will teach you a lot, will be hard to do, but will not be as critical as a "tool" if it fails.

Do you have a partner or a close family member with a hobby? Make a gift related to that, for example a miniature golf club or baseball bat, or a set of dice. Flowers can be difficult, but leaves and vines are more forgiving maybe, so there are stuff for gardeners as well.

If you can't think of doing anything for yourself, do something for another person!

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Look at the IFI Blueprints, how to tutorials.  Choose one that you like and follow the directions. It does not have to turn out perfect, as you are using it as an excuse practice and to hammer on the anvil. 

There are many examples of things you can make in the gallery. Part of getting the project to the anvil is figuring out how it was made. Modeling clay works the same as metal, and lets you practice, any where, and any time you want. It is a problem solving device and practice media.

Make 20 S hooks, each better then the one before. Work on speeding up the process by making a double length hook, pig tail and loop on each end. No need for tongs as the metal is long enough to hand hold. Then cut it in half and make a pig tail and loop on the cut ends. Depending on the length of the hook you may need tongs or vise grips this time.

Figure out how long the S hook needs to be so you can then cut it in half and make 2 drive hooks or beam hooks. Make a long(ish) S hook and turn a portion of the center section from round to square, then twist the square section for a decorative element.

How many different twists can you make? May want to spend some computer time to get ideas before going to the forge. (grin) 

Is your anvil set at the proper height? Is you work area compact and efficient, no wasted motion? How many ways can you hit the metal with your hammer, and how does each move the metal? Research and practice good hammer technique. Train your off hand to hold the hammer, swing the hammer, AND hit the intended target. (This may take a while, and will pay off down the road.)

How many surfaces of the anvil can you use? Turn the anvil on its side and use the curves as a swedge for bending metal. Turn the anvil horn up and look for different curves, then turn it heel up and look again.

Measure your anvil so you can use it as a ruler. How long is the face? How wide? How far from the edge of the hardie hole to different points. How long is the horn? How deep are the handling holes? Write all possible measurements down on paper. Now remake your projects to fit these measurements. 

Any excuse to practice blacksmithing, in what ever media you choose, is still constructive time, and can be used to learn. 

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I don't recommend S hooks for a first project. Do things that use long pieces of stock that don't require tongs. Buy the necessary tools, and just play around. Stop trying to make *things* and just make *stuff*. It's a good way to learn hammer control and other skills, and you can't mess up! The blades will come before you know it.

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Start with learning hammer control. Square to round, round to square, tapering squares and rounds. Play around with scrolling styles. Try and make them smooth and devoid of hammer marks..  Do some different twists. Then combine all of these to make s-hooks, fire tools for the forge, etc.. 

You don't need tongs if you have vise-grips, or long enough stock. The u-bolts may make some good spring fullers depending on what size they are. Do you have a welder? Some u-bolts are medium carbon steels like 4140. Test some, then make punches ,and drifts out of them. 

Do not get too hung up on tools, in reality for a lot of projects you don't need much more than a hammer. 

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You just need a break from "serious" work Nub. Make some copies of things you do well now at the beginning of a session as a warm up. 

You don't need tongs to make S, drive or leaf hooks. To make the tapered point on the close end do it on the near edge of the anvil. Isolate the area on the edge by holding the stock at a 45* angle and strike directly into the edge, rotate the stock untill the shoulder is thinned down then lay it flatter on the anvil and work the high parts. Continue to lay it flatter. (not FLAT, FLATTER) It's a gradual process till the taper merges smoothly with the stock. When it's as you like simply part the point by bending it back and forth. You may need to clean the point up with a file but that's normal blacksmithery.

Same process for any kind of pointy tapered end. Forge the leaf or whatever first, then the last taper. You want to do the prettiest taper first and the one that's not so important last, say the point on a drive hook is perfect for practicing the above technique on.

Just take a break from hard learning stuff. Frustration can kill your ability to climb the learning curve. Find something easy and enjoyable. This stuff is supposed to be FUN! Do fun stuff for a warm up, everything you do on the anvil will sharpen your skills, EVERYTHING.

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 4 months later...
On 8/5/2017 at 6:10 AM, the smith man said:

some times i feel like that

Welcome aboard, 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. Also a better web handle would be good, calling you "the smith man" is pretty cumbersome from the start.

You feel like . . . . ? If you mean frustrated or lost, welcome to the club. Not many of us got involved in the craft in a shop with a job and mentor. I started because my Father owned a metal spinning and machine shop and I was steeped in ridiculously close tolerance work on a daily basis. So as a break I got steel hot and beat on it with hammers, no micrometers, heck not even a scale, just beat it. It was a long time before the net went public and I discovered there WERE blacksmiths out there and I really started learning.

Well, you have us. If you'll be more specific about what you want to know, don't get upset if we answer with a link instead of "just answering the question" we'll help you up the curve. Just remember there is NO SECRET outside of a little knowledge and a lot of practice. The necessary tools are so simple an 8 yr old can make his own, I did. About the only thing a beginner really should buy is a smooth faced hammer max weight of around 32 oz. I like Drill Hammers for a bunch of reasons, get the 32 oz. leave the 4lb. till you've developed some control.

I think there are a bunch of good beginner skills to hone in this thread alone.

So, what's on your mind "smith" guy?

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 10 months later...
On 8/5/2017 at 4:19 PM, Frosty said:

Well, you have us. If you'll be more specific about what you want to know, don't get upset if we answer with a link instead of "just answering the question" we'll help you up the curve

This is what I love about this forum! I've only been on here a week and this fact has been proven to me time and time again! 

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8 hours ago, TwistedCustoms said:

Hey CC, nothing to do with this thread, just curious about your handle. Is that Cannon Cocker as in "Red Leg" or something else? I was a 13 Bravo in a past life and I haven't heard the term in a few decades. Either way welcome to IFI.

I was an 0811 (Marine Corps Artillery) in my past life.  Now I'm a pastor who works with combat veterans.  Thank you for the Welcome TwistedCustoms!

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I have to agree with JHCC, nails are useful and good practice.  Tongs are kind of tricky work... lots of pretty good smiths are not comfortable making them.  Handmade nails are not at all the same thing as what you can buy in the hardware stores... they can be vastly more useful.  Hooks are also great projects to get you started.  A good J hook is quite useful and an excellent skill builder!

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Nail headers are nice beginner projects too!. If you don't already have a tapered square punch making a nail header is a good excuse to make the punch! In a few hours you can have yourself a new hot cut, new square punch or two or three and a nail header. And a hand full of really cool square nails and none of it requires more than  the most basic steps of forging. I have always thought tongs are good beginner projects, a lot of smiths disagree, but square punches, nail headers and nails are much easier than tongs! Getting fast at making nails is another story!

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