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"How to watch a YouTube video" collaboration


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Dear Fellow Smiths,

One of the challenges we face on a regular basis is dealing with people whose only exposure to smithing is what they see on YouTube. Now, online video can be an extremely useful tool in learning new procedures, exploring new ideas, or seeing the work of people whose skill and experience far exceeds our own. The problem is, much of what we see on YouTube is little more than newbies (or people who really should know better) making their mistakes in public, and often features procedures that are ineffective, inappropriate, or downright unsafe. 

It's easy enough to say, "Don't do anything you see on YouTube", but that would cut people off from a lot of otherwise-excellent material. The question is, How can we help people learn to separate the good from the bad? How can we help people learn some discernment, so that they are better able to judge for themselves whether a channel or a particular video is good or bad?

I'd like to suggest a collaborative project. In the comments below, please list all the things you can think of that make for a good YouTube video, and all the things that make one bad. In other words, what are the signs that confirm you're watching something decent, and what are the red flags? If we can put together a good list, I'll see about editing it all together into an easy-to-reference post that we can easily direct the newbies to. 

(Note: it's probably going to be easier to come up with warning signs than positive indicators, but let's give it a try.)


  • Good camera work: clearly showing workpiece, effects of hammer blows, etc.
  • Informative narration: describing next steps, where the metal is moving, etc


  • Lack of proper PPE
  • Recommending plaster-of-Paris or Portland cement in a forge
  • "This is the first time I've tried this."

Any thoughts?

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Nope; buried in the chaff I guess. The gist of it is that when you are looking for information in a field where you have no background for judging what is good and what is bad there are general methods: (None of these is without exceptions; they are just a good winnowing fan to start with)

 Look for experience:  suggestions made by folks with decades of work in the field are generally better than ones made by folks who count their experience in double digit hours in the field. (In forge welding JPH trumps 'Johnny I saw it once in a Youtube video')

Look for consensus; if  16 experienced people are all saying about the same thing it probably has more weight that the ideas provided by just one fellow. (Dog piling)

Look for issues with things you know about:  if something you know something about is wrong; the trust that other things you don't know about is right goes way down! (30 pound medieval swords  kills the willing suspension of disbelief!)

Judge the sources: smithing information posted on a gaming website is generally not as good as smithing information posted on a blacksmithing website.

Note that video  production values may have little correlation with smithing expertise; one of the best videos I've seen on using a powerhammer is done by a true expert who is almost painful to watch, (style and production values)---unless you want the information!

Note that 1000 likes by folks who don't know squat about a subject are easily trumped by a few experts agreeing on what was said---or quibbling about fiddly little details.

Note that there is a general cost of publishing tied up in books and so they get vetted before the money is spent---how much does it cost to post a video?

and finally a trail of "I tried it and it worked" testimonials can be useful as well.

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Cameras and cell phone cameras are capable of good quality videos. Like blacksmithing, it is not the tool that makes a good or bad product, it is the operator of the tool. Each area of the video can be a separate craft.

Story boarding is where it starts, what do you want to present and how is it to be presented. 

Does the shop and the anvil look like they have been used recently or is the presenter using them as a prop?

Use a tripod. It forces you to see what is in the frame. The tripod takes the shake out of the video, and makes camera movements look smooth,  A selfie stick is not a tripod.

Lighting is most important. You want to be able to see the presenter and the project. 

The background is important. A simple change in the lighting or in the camera settings can clean up many distracting backgrounds.

Shoot much more footage than needed and from several camera angles. If it is not right, then shoot it again.  You may have to make several of the same product in order to edit the material together into a well presented segment. Add the segments together in order to make the video.

If you need text in the video, make it so it can be read. 

Sunglasses or safety glasses on the top of the head do not protect the eyes. If the presenter in the video does not use proper safety and personal protection equipment then reconsider what they are saying.

The videos should be short and filled with information. 


As to video content, Reread the post Thomas made.

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Fortunately on the other website I have the luxury of making sure everything that gets on there is good.

Unfortunately in an unregulated free for all it's necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff. For some reason people who get to the point of doing first month apprentice work and either figure out how to trim a hoof without causing a leak or get a forge fire going all by themselves oftentimes set themselves up as self proclaimed authorities not just on you tube but often out in the world amongst respective clubs and organizations. Yeah maybe there oughta be a law but all we can do is take whats good and throw the rest out with the trash.

This is why I'm a staunch advocate of some kind of a certification program to give the good guys some credibility.


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5 minutes ago, George Geist said:

Unfortunately in an unregulated free for all it's necessary to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I absolutely agree. The question then is, How? If someone came to you and said "How can I tell if a horseshoeing/blacksmithing  video is any good?", what would you say? 

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She's now been teaching for over 40 years; and she is good!  I still remember back in the 90's were were visiting a craft fair in Germany and she was helping out a spinner having trouble with getting very even plying.  Unfortunately she wanted me to translate and my high school German teacher never covered "pulley rations" and counting treadles...

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I say, just look up the guy who posted the video. Does he have a website? Profesional smithing buisness? There are plenty of pros on YouTube with exeptional information in adition to outstanding lighting, etc. If you look up a video and can't find a pro demonstating how to do it, that should be a red flag! Find a few experienced guys you like and stick to them whenever you can. When you can't, procede with caution.

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I kind of think this post is meant for people just like me who want to get into this but come to realize there is a reason ABS Masters have 20 plus years, TV makes it look easy and fun and you tube makes it looks doable and fast and cheap. All things I can honestly claim I fell victim too. This is an excellent website and I have been flipping thorough threads all day. I am learning as I have several books from the library I'm studying right now. But Im also learning this is not really a trial by error friendly craft. 

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I love youtube and watch all types of videos. Some to learn, some to see how other people are doing whatever I'm interested in. I don't care if someone doesn't practice PPE, or if it's their first time, has improper information, does whatever in a dangerous manner. I've done my research, asked questions, read books, and use a healthy dose of common sense. I enjoy learning from others success and mistakes. I view certain videos as entertainment and not a guide on how to. I have a youtube channel and I'm a newb to metal working such as welding, backyard foundry, blacksmithing, and general metal shaping. I don't teach, I show how a beginner tries. We all watch the experts and they make it seem so easy. Sometimes, just watching a beginner struggle, fail, learn, and hopefully succeed is the inspiration to try or not giving up. I guess it's why I love Chandler Dickinson. He doesn't teach, but shows how he does it. Sometimes he fails, but he keeps at it. He is the underdog that's making it and inspiring others to try.

BTW- I do understand the severity of people giving dangerous information or participating in hazardous activities. I just don't promote watching those sites. There was a thread with a list of blacksmithing channels that I thought was super helpful. We should direct newcomers there. 

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My biggest issue with youtube is that popularity is equated with correctness. So popular presenters can become authority figures with their opinions and beliefs becoming de facto truths. Less popular presenters glean information from those more popular and start propagating falsehoods.


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Al I can say is corroborate the evidence, which equates to research. If you see it on youtube and you find the same info, process or method in three or four other authoritative places around the web, you might start to get the idea it could be valid info.

When I started out (still am actually), I watched many youtube videos and was looking into pearlite and making water glass from lye and ingredients I could buy at the box stores and mixing the two to make my own refractory. But as I gathered more info from other sources and saw the forges in the videos made that way burning out their linings, I concluded there had to be a better way to go about it.

Also investigate the source. Who is the presenter? What's their history/background? Go straight to the suppliers of the industry - what are they selling and recommending. Is it pearlite and water glass?

Another thing I do is once I find something promising, I'll put it in Google and add a phrase like "problems with" to see who's complaining about it and why.

3 hours ago, Rick S said:

My biggest issue with youtube is that popularity is equated with correctness

This is so true. I've read the comments below some youtube videos, that were clearly giving out bad info, raving about incredible it was that this person put out this valuable info. Then a few come along and point out the flaws and they are vilified as "haters".

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Is not always that simple. I won't publically mention names but will be happy to in a PM. There are some real idiots out there mostly of the barefoot lunatic fringe persuasion putting up some real amateurish trash. They have followings like rock stars.

Watch any horseshoeing vid no matter who shoes it or how good it is public comments will always be overflowing with armchair experts saying it sucks.

Public opinion is nothing to base intelligent decisions on. People voted for Barrabbas....Democracy in action.

For what it's worth pay no attention at all to those comments


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