C-1ToolSteel

Little things that make a BIG difference

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There are so many.

I was comparing these two letter openers, and it got me thinking. Here's a picture of two items that are 95% identical, but it's the little 5% that makes it go from rather crummy to something nice looking.

Tell us about a little thing you do in your shop that makes a BIG difference.

 

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I decided if I was going to ditch gloves, I'd stay consistent with my other limbs... The socks were just for the picture, as I knew that the last thing you hot, tired, weary blacksmiths need to come home to is a picture of C-1's feet. Trust me on this one...

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S'okay, we're up to the challenge of counting to 12. I'll count on my dog's toes. :)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Here I was thinking of 2-10-11 "Eyes-Fingers-Toes"

Anyway: dressing the hammer faces makes a big difference; especially for people just starting out.  When I get students with more than usual hammering issues I tend to move them to a hammer that's dressed very smoothly indeed!

Using starting stock that is close to finished size/shape.  Yes you can forge odd ball shapes into other oddball shapes but the time and fuel involved often results in the finished piece looking poorly as you spent all your energy at the start of the project and so give short shrift to the end of the project.  If you have the discipline to do a project in stages over a number of days you can work around this issue.  (The old "Free 1" sq stock" is NOT free when you are making 1/4" round items!)

Wire Brushing often!

Keeping the face of the anvil cleaned off---especially important for knifemaking!

If you are making a bunch of an item that should "match"; do it in steps and do a step for all the pieces before going to the next one.

Almost forgot this MASSIVELY IMPORTANT ONE: If you are making a blade from scrap; TEST IT BEFORE USING IT!

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Put drinking water where you can reach it from the forge blower or wherever you rest during heats.  Put the pitcher of refills where it won't spill, or be forgotten.  Dehydration makes everything harder to do.  Once the fire is lit, it's harder to find time to get more water.

Stop when you're tired.  I've burnt more stuff in two trying to make things go faster when I was tired than anything else.  

Getting the air flow, fire pot, and forge all dialed in with a coal or coke forge.  I used to spend half my free-time fighting to keep the forge lit, let alone actually heating the work.  Coke has many positive attributes, staying lit in the absence of a constant draft is not one of them.  

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When I use coke I let the blower on all the time. It uses more coke but it makes forging that bit easier than needing to tend to the fire all the time. 

And ... one that is not restricted to blacksmithing is rehearsing your strategy in your mind before getting started. When I am planning for something I have never done before, my mind seems to go to work by itself and a few days before starting I seem to go through all the necessary steps and try different ways to do the most challenging parts in my mind. It usually works and I find solutions that avoid costly mistakes rather than diving in the project without a plan. Reminds me of that movie of Sherlock Holmes when he is in a fist fight and thinks ahead all he moves in slow motion ... love it :)

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Listen to your body. If it says do not do something, then do not do it. 

Stop when you're tired.

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Using proper tongs, using the correct weight/type of hammer for the job, using good fresh sandpaper, using sharp files, soaking things in venegar to remove rust or scale...

And then on the bad side: Sticking your work down in the bottom of the firepot (too much scale), letting your mind wander with a blade in the forge, forgetting to wear dirty clothes when in the shop. 

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standing properly at the anvil, I learned that one just today. 

before I was just standing at the anvil like you'd normally stand, feet side by side about a shoulder width apart and bending at the knees but finally my friend pointed out that I should try moving my right foot (I'm right handed so it most likely goes opposite for you lefties) a bit back and to the right, something akin to most martial art basic stances and stand 30-45 degrees to the anvil.

I felt how it engages the Latissimus dorsi (the muscle just under your arm) in my side a lot better, therefore relieving the bicep and triceps of some strain, it also brought me down just enough so the anvil was at a perfect height for working with smaller diameter stuff and I personally find it easier to lift myself up on my toes a little bit to get that slight extra swing and power which makes the work a little bit easier for me and in turn makes a big difference at the end of the day for me at least

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Wasted motion is a bigger deal than it might seem.  One day a few years ago, I went out to a site where we needed to finish terminating all the electrical panels so the HVAC system could be energized.  This job had four identical panels mounted side by each.  An apprentice had been working on terminating the first panel for a day and a half by the time I got there.  I started on the furthest panel from him and worked my way through them.  Halfway through my first panel, I made him stop and watch me demonstrate how to strip, tag, and terminate a conductor.  I pointed out that he was switching tools more often than he needed to.  This caused him to let go of the conductor during his tool shuffle.  He was constantly chasing the wire he needed in the tangle of loose wiring.  To a bystander watching, the apprentice looked like he was hustling.  I probably looked like I was mostly standing still. Being made of impenetrable teenager, the apprentice was adamant that he always had a good reason for the wasted motions.  Since I was sent out to get the job done, not teach the apprentice, I held my tongue.  By day's end, I had terminated three panels before he'd completed his first. 

I apprenticed under some seriously overweight guys who were keen to protect their investment in fast foods.  They had to make the same production as everybody else or they'd face layoffs.  Eliminating wasted motion was invariably crucial to their success.

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Rockstar, reminds me of a comment from one of my old bosses. He always used to say he would give the really hard jobs to the laziest guy in the hangar and he would work out the quickest and easiest way to do it. Funny now when I think of the number of jobs he used to send my way.

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