Meadowgrove

Minimum effective time to spend at the forge

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Even if all you have are 5 minutes you can grow your skills, sweeping the floor and putting things away requires thought, organization and sequencing to make the most. Sometimes just standing and thinking of why you can never find the right tool at THAT moment can really help. 

Frosty The Lucky.

Frosty, this brings to mind that you don't necessarily have to actually do anything.   If you have very little time then perhaps it could be used to mentally work through the sequence, tong useage, handling and so forth to quickly make optimum use of the fire once you make it.    If you have a good hot fire and a hunk of hot metal but don't really have a plan of what you are going to do with it then not much happens, it get's cold, and has to be heated up again.   And if still no plan then same result.   For me if I don't have a perfect plan then the perfect time to focus on it is while building the fire.   I actually find that very therapeutic.   Make the fire.   Zone out on the plan.   Prep the tools.   Mentally walk through the steps.  No big rush but when it's time be ready.     Execute...

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Before I opened your post I read the first sentence on the "Unread" page and my first thought was, The first sentence is only true if you don't consider thinking doing anything." Good thing I usually read before replying eh?  A while back I wrote about rehearsing moves, tool placement, etc. without lighting the fire at all. 

So yeah, effectiveness isn't measured on the clock it's measured by results.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I see a pair of trends in the responses.  The "pro/old school" approach is to learn by rote.  The "amateur/teacher" approach is to pace yourself while the teacher/experience encourages anything in the direction of progress.

Obviously there have been examples of successful people who followed either approach.  I think we're missing something significant here.

Enthusiasm can be a catalyst for learning.  Once you've mastered something difficult to do, it's tempting to focus advice towards that approach.  As the beginner, there's this enthusiasm to do something awesome that's just beyond your current abilities.  The sooner a beginner achieves something they see as  similar to the awesome they aspire to, the more enthusiastically they make the connection between practice and learning.

I used to teach beginning guitar lessons.  Lots of students quit within the first couple of months because it's difficult, painful, and often doesn't sound good to be a beginner.  I figured out that if I could get them to where they thought they sounded like their hero for even a moment, within their first few weeks they'd stick with it.    Since then, I've tried to find examples of "attainable awesomeness" for any new pursuit. 

 

 

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On 9/22/2017 at 3:27 PM, rockstar.esq said:

I see a pair of trends in the responses.

That's very well put.

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   Since then, I've tried to find examples of "attainable awesomeness" for any new pursuit. 

 

Excellent method, I'll have to include "Attainable Awesomeness" to all introductory lessons. Another Rockstar moment!

I'm liking this thread better every time I look.

Frosty The Lucky.

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What Vaughn To said.

 

Throw away your time machine and remain in the present. ;)

 

Quit when you are tired.  Push yourself as much as you are comfortable.

 

If you find you like smithing after a while, join a local blacksmithing group and go to as many demos as possible.

Then, take a class.

 

most important,,, enjoy

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To clarify, I don't mean to imply that you should work the entire 20' of bar in one sitting.  If you work for twenty minutes and get too frustrated with how the tapers are coming out, quit.  If you can go an hour, that's fine, too.

The key is repetition.

When you do quit, place your last taper off to the side so you don't lose it.  The next time you light up the forge, that last taper sets the standard.  What you'll likely find, though, is that your first few tapers will look more like the first few tapers from when you started on this path.  Why?  Because you lost the mind/muscle connection in the lull between sessions.

It'll come back to you pretty quickly, but it's something to watch out for and illustrates why you see new folks not moving forward in terms of quality when they're jumping from one thing to the next whenever they get some forge time.  The reason you set your last taper aside when you quit your last session is so you can see how far you progressed and how much you forgot.

You have to have good tools, too.  You'll hear a lot of people advise you to forge your own tongs, but that's probably the worst advise you can get.  Tongs are safety equipment, obviously, because good tongs keep the steel from flipping out and hitting you or flying off to parts unknown and causing a fire.  On top of that, they are also the #1 cause of aggravation if they aren't comfortable or don't fit the stock properly.  You'll progress far faster and have far more fun in the smithy if you invest in quality, brand-new tongs to get started with.  It doesn't take much, so don't think you will have to spend a fortune on a giant collection of the things.  You'll be working with 1/2" round and square, and they can both be held by the same pair of v-bit bolt tongs.  Those same tongs will also hold flat stock of the right size by trapping it between the corners of the bits.  That's one pair of tongs holding three commonly-used sizes of steel.

Tongs that will hold 1/4" round will also hold 3/16" round quite securely.  Box jaw tongs are great for keeping flat bars contained, and you only reasonably expect to work a few sizes of flat bar while you're in the learning stage of things.  Maybe you can hold off on that for a few months while you tinker with round and square bars.  The latter is pretty cheap to come by and there are a billion projects you can make without every touching some flat bar.  So?  Maybe $100 max for enough brand new tongs to get you by for the first six months of serious practice.  And if you follow the taper project, you'll have a bunch of hooks you can sell to buy more tongs if you need them. :D

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I had some scrap 1/4 inch round bar that I cut into 18 inch sections a while back. Whenever I get time at the forge, I try and start by taking a piece of this scrap round and making either a hook, or an S-hook. When I'm done, I hang the hook on a rail on the side of my forge cart and get to whatever project I initially started the forge up for in the first place. This takes me about 15 min, from the time I start the gas forge, to hanging the hook on the rack. Sometimes I turn the round into square bar before making the hook, sometimes I use a bending jig, sometimes I free hand the bends, sometimes I put a twist in it, sometimes I put a fuller here or there but every time I make one, I try and think to myself "make this the best hook you have ever made."  It keeps me mindful and even then, some of them are terrible. I think I have 'good times' at the forge and 'bad times' at the forge. Some days the hook comes effortlessly, some days it seems like I never made one, not sure how to explain that other than because it's a hobby, and not my full time endeavor I do better at times than others. I think any time at the forge is good time spent as long as you stay mindful and have a goal in mind. Making a hook helps me with those two because no matter what happens with the project I came out to work on, at least I made another hook for a craft show down the road. ;)  

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For me, a min of 1.5hr is a reasonable amount of time to warrant the fuel. Usually I just carry on tinkering till I get tired, one missed hit and it's time to call it a day!

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Just wanted everyone to know I'm super thankful for all the advice here. If anyone of you ever visit Finland, be sure to let me know so I can buy you a beer. 

No further questions just yet, don't know what to ask since I'm still missing the earthen fillings for my JABOD. At least I got the  basic frame together today! Wonder how badly old garden mulch would work... Wait, that counts as a question, right?

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On 9/29/2017 at 4:51 PM, Meadowgrove said:

Just wanted everyone to know I'm super thankful for all the advice

Garden mulch wouldn't be a good choice because it's flammable.

If you can buy cheap unscented kitty litter, it will work just fine. Mixed with a little water it turns into clay and can be used to line forges.

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That's what I thought. Never burned mulch, what kind of BTUs should I expect... Just kidding :D

Iactually live in a neighborhood that's built over a dried-up swamp bed, so clay is over abundant here. Just need to find a good digging spot on the yard.

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On 9/18/2017 at 7:03 PM, C-1ToolSteel said:

Personally, I wouldn't bother even lighting a solid fuel forge unless I had at least two hours total. Now, there is the exception of every now and then when I need to make one little piece for something, but I can't enjoy myself if I'm in a rush. 30 minutes is about how long it takes to get your act together and get a good fire going!

2minutes is about what it takes for me to light the forge and come up to a working fire. There are a few videos on the YT page with fire starting. 10 minutes from start to a forge welding fire with scarfing, and prep of the pieces.. 

Lots of information out there to the contrary might mean others are missing the mark..  Fire management is over looked as a basic skill set and is the #1 problem area I see in most students or forgers at events.. 

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Charcoal lights *FAST*; Propane lights fast but the forge needs to come up to heat. Starting with all green coal it can take a while to get a good coke bed created. Starting with a lot of breeze it's nearly as fast as charcoal.

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That's what I do. Start with coke from previous fires and up & running in less than 5 min, with little smoke then rake green coal to the outside perimeter to start more coke. I see many new smith's pouring water on the perimeter then raking wet green coal into the fire????

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On 9/19/2017 at 1:17 PM, VaughnT said:

 

Thank you for posting this wise advice. If this was a requirement to be allowed to blacksmith, there would be many fewer than there are.

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