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Hi Everyone,

So I was listening to the Blacksmith's Pub podcast, I think it was Episode 20 (but I am not a 100%) and the guest said he was teaching a class. With one guy attending and he said within 10 mins of forging he could tell that this guy was never going to be able to go professional.

This made me think is this really possible, and thought I would ask what people thought about the idea.

Cheers,

 

Luke

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I'd want to know a lot more about what the guest meant by that and what criteria he used to make that judgment. Is that an assessment of their skill? Their ability to learn? Their hand-eye cordination? Their physical strength? Their artistic ability? Their determination to succeed? Their skills at salesmanship and marketing? Their bookkeeping ability? Their capitalization and accounting structure? Frankly, there's a lot more to being a professional than simply forging ability; witness @TechnicusJoe's recent decision to leave professional blacksmithing and to remain an (extremely skilled and highly talented) amateur.

Honestly, I find it hard to believe that anyone can objectively disqualify anyone else on the basis of ten minutes' observation, although you can certainly get a strong idea of where they are right now and what areas have the most obvious need for improvement. By way of comparison, my wife is a professional musician who has taught violin students at all ages and skill levels, from total beginner to graduate and post-graduate study. She'll tell you in a heartbeat that some kids pick things up immediately, but don't have the interest or the staying power to stick with music long-term. Others with less obvious talents, on the other hand, have the dedication to music, the commitment to practice, and the desire to take their study as far as possible, and these are the ones who end up turning pro.

 

 

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I completely agree. To be honest, that's always come across as a power trip; the "old master" that can size you up by the way you walk into the room has always seemed like so much processed bull feed. 

I'm willing to concede that it might be possible, after a few minutes of one-on-one forging, to assess a level of natural inclination.

But "never gonna go pro" is a pretty harsh assessment for a pretty broad skillset. 

Not to mention, the student's local market may not require high levels of finish. Rustic may be the ticket, and a smith who can deliver "good enough" for his local market might do very well ..

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Well this is what came to my mind when the statement was made, in this case it was based purely on forging ability.

I found it hard to believe that you could tell in such a short time that the ability of an indiviual had gone as far as it could go. The problem is it was something that got stuck in my head a bit like an ear worm, and started to make me doubt myself.

My end goal is I would like to do blacksmithing professionally, but what if I had reached the limit of my ability and I just thought this is a dangerous think to say publically.

 

 

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There are always those that will try to put your fire out. When you find them, walk away seek out those that want you to succeed, and are willing to help you reach your goal. 

The new guy see the old fellow as a craftsman with much skill and talent that has been practicing his craft for 20 years. 

The new guy should first take inventory of how much he really wants to become the craftsman.  If he the fire in his belly, puts everything else aside in order to reach that goal, then in 20 years he CAN become just as good as the old fellow, or even better. He can shorten the time frame by taking classes, seeking out the very best in the craft and learning from them. The key to the success is to practice. The more you practice, they better you get.

 

If only I had ....

If you say I could do that if only I had ... Then get that item and now you can. Problem solved.

If you say I can't (I can not) then it is game over because YOU gave up on yourself.

 

So do you want to or not. It will only take 20 years or less and you CAN be that good !!

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I've had a student of mine go pro---he's the one I had to basically teach him what end of the hammer to hold, his early blades truly fit the description "interesting"---you may have seen him on Forged in Fire.

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3 hours ago, Glenn said:

There are always those that will try to put your fire out. When you find them, walk away seek out those that want you to succeed, and are willing to help you reach your goal. 

I agree totally with this I have been really lucky in meeting a lot of really friendly and supportive smiths who give me really good advice.

3 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

I've had a student of mine go pro---he's the one I had to basically teach him what end of the hammer to hold, his early blades truly fit the description "interesting"---you may have seen him on Forged in Fire.

That is brilliant and really proves the point that it isn't possible to judge from a single lesson. Which episode was your student in.

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7 hours ago, Exo313 said:

Not to mention, the student's local market may not require high levels of finish. Rustic may be the ticket, and a smith who can deliver "good enough" for his local market might do very well ..

There are those that strive for technical perfection, art for art's sake, etc.  Slavish attention to historical accuracy, period methods and tooling, endless study and cataloging of examples. And go broke doing it, or just get frustrated because no one "recognizes their Genius" and quit.

There are those that take one or two classes, buy $20K of tools, convert their garage, copy someone else's stuff from a website, set up at one show, and wonder why they are not making six figures already because no one wants to buy their lifeless imitations of art.

And then there are the bozos that mutilate (way too heavy to be historically accurate) bar stock in a forge to give it that 'Old Timey' look,  MIG weld (poorly), plasma cut, drill all the holes with a drill press, and huckster $10K of dubious historical accuracy items at weekend shows. Every month. For twenty years. MIG welded squirrel cookers, anyone? ("Got a hunnert of em, jest like Johnny Reb used on th' march.")

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On 11/20/2017 at 11:19 AM, Zeroclick said:

the guest said he was teaching a class. With one guy attending and he said within 10 mins of forging he could tell that this guy was never going to be able to go professional.

To a large extent I think so for this reason. I can't remember the name of it but I saw some years ago a movie about Beethoven. In one scene he was giving a piano lesson to a student. After the student finished playing a piece Beethoven told him I think you need to find another occupation. Music is not for you. The student got angry and asked how he could say that especially being deaf and unable to even hear what he played? Beethoven then said what I thought the best line in the film. He said " I can't hear but i CAN see, and I see you have no passion"! "If you have no passion for what you do you'll never be good at it and you're wasting your time"!

I think this applies to the trade as well. You gotta love it. It's a lifestyle first and foremost. It's not what you do it's what you are.        If you don't have that connection or see it as a business with a buck to be made, definitely find something else. You won't last regardless of talent level.   

On 11/20/2017 at 7:49 PM, John McPherson said:

There are those that strive for technical perfection, art for art's sake, etc.  Slavish attention to historical accuracy, period methods and tooling, endless study and cataloging of examples. And go broke doing it, or just get frustrated because no one "recognizes their Genius" and quit.

There are those that take one or two classes, buy $20K of tools, convert their garage, copy someone else's stuff from a website, set up at one show, and wonder why they are not making six figures already because no one wants to buy their lifeless imitations of art.

And then there are the bozos that mutilate (way too heavy to be historically accurate) bar stock in a forge to give it that 'Old Timey' look,  MIG weld (poorly), plasma cut, drill all the holes with a drill press, and huckster $10K of dubious historical accuracy items at weekend shows. Every month. For twenty years. MIG welded squirrel cookers, anyone? ("Got a hunnert of em, jest like Johnny Reb used on th' march.")

LOL! Only in America!

George

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42 minutes ago, John McPherson said:

And then there are the bozos that mutilate (way too heavy to be historically accurate) bar stock in a forge to give it that 'Old Timey' look,  MIG weld (poorly), plasma cut, drill all the holes with a drill press, and huckster $10K of dubious historical accuracy items at weekend shows. Every month. For twenty years. MIG welded squirrel cookers, anyone? ("Got a hunnert of em, jest like Johnny Reb used on th' march.")

Hey, i'm standing right here you know. At least wait till I leave the room before you start talking about me. (Oh, yeah. I think you may be exaggerating the amount of money I make) ;)

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The short answer is no, you can't make that determination after ten minutes. Success or failure in any business is determined by way more than proficiency. I'm assuming we have the same understanding of the meaning of the word "professional". Going pro at anything just means you will be paid for your efforts, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be successful, just that you will be paid. The most successful people I know are the best self promoters. I have had a fair amount of success as a professional Blacksmith for the past five years. The way I define my success is by the fact that I pay my bills with money earned with hammer, fire and anvil. I'm a fair Blacksmith who loves to learn and strives to improve. I know several Blacksmiths who live in my area who have much more technical skill than I do, more experience and a deeper well of knowledge. Some of them have never sold anything they made by choice and some have tried and failed to forge full time. Blacksmithing for money is no different than being a carpenter or plumber or writer for money. Being technically proficient and artistic are part of it, but not the only part.

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12 hours ago, George Geist said:

To a large extent I think so for this reason. I can't remember the name of it but I saw some years ago a movie about Beethoven. In one scene he was giving a piano lesson to a student. After the student finished playing a piece Beethoven told him I think you need to find another occupation. Music is not for you. The student got angry and asked how he could say that especially being deaf and unable to even hear what he played? Beethoven then said what I thought the best line in the film. He said " I can't hear but i CAN see, and I see you have no passion"! "If you have no passion for what you do you'll never be good at it and you're wasting your time"!

I think this applies to the trade as well. You gotta love it. It's a lifestyle first and foremost. It's not what you do it's what you are.        If you don't have that connection or see it as a business with a buck to be made, definitely find something else. You won't last regardless of talent level.   

LOL! Only in America!

George

I wish!

i was in Cheltenham (U.K.) a couple of years back & saw some shyster selling badly fabricated, badly welded fire pokers & similar - using over heavy rebar as stock - as a 'blacksmith'! And charging ok money for his items too! 

Felt like I should've reported him to Trading Standards!

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This guy CAN say if someone will go professional. I know several experienced people who make such predictions and judgments about various thing. I myself can say at what age a man will die +/- 2 years.

Thing is, it will be many years till the first death I predicted, and no one will remember me. Also- if the man dies sooner, it's probably because of an external cause, like sickness. If later - He heard my warning and took care of himself.

Anyone can SAY something and be confident about it. It doesn"t mean he's right.

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Given that a person has decent physical and mental health, that person can learn many procedures and become good with time and practice. Geist brings up the subject of passion, which might also be termed "desire." I couldn't see desire in 10 minutes. Perhaps someone else could.

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" I can't hear but i CAN see, and I see you have no passion"!

The physical "ability" to perform any task is only a small part of the equation.

You can discern someone's underlying "attitude" in a matter of minutes.

 

.

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Sometimes, not always. Some people are very demonstrative and easy to read. Other people are much more guarded, and it's hard to discern what they are thinking or feeling. It's also very easy to measure what you think you perceive against how you think people should show attitude or ability; observer bias is a real problem.

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The difficulty presented in accurately assessing people based on first impressions is one of the reasons most employers have probationary periods. You do your best to make an assessment based on appearances in a very short time. But some of the best interviewees make some of the poorest employees. Vice versa, some of the people least willing to talk about themselves make the best workers. Many companies give themselves 3 months to make that determination... 

Even a very negative attitude may or may not be the person's usual demeanor...

How would those of you with children feel if their teacher, on day one of the first grade, sent a note home, saying "I've been a teacher for twenty-five years.  After observing Johnny for one day, it is apparent to me, as an expert in teaching, your child will never graduate high school."?

This is not that different. 

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54 minutes ago, Exo313 said:

How would those of you with children feel if their teacher, on day one of the first grade, sent a note home, saying "I've been a teacher for twenty-five years.  After observing Johnny for one day, it is apparent to me, as an expert in teaching, your child will never graduate high school."?

Considering how many "experienced" teachers had no idea how to deal with my ASD son, this rings very true with me. The head of Special Ed at his middle school had four decades of experience -- but she was trained in intellectual disability special ed and approached every student as if they were "retarded".

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The whole thing comes off like a power trip. I mean most people, regardless of skill level, can't just "go pro". Being a professional who smiths for a living is incredibly difficult and takes a lot of work and a deal of luck.

But coming from another hobby, disc golf, where really bad form is present in beginners: there's nothing you can't fix with practice and patience. I've seen people who couldn't drive a disc more than 50 feet and their form looked as bad as im sure this guy's hammer swinging form was. After some instruction they progress quickly. 

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It is a fact that only 10% of the population has the ability to focus well enough to be competent welders....I wonder if there is corresponding info about forging.

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It's actually pretty easy to see if someone has that "thing" that will allow them to proceed further down the path.

We've all see idiots, incompetents, fools and weirdos.....  right?  Surely I'm not the only one.

You can tell a lot about someone by how they carry themselves, dress, speak, etc.  Do they come to your class as well-read as possible?  Have they done a lot of research on their own?  Are their questions intelligent and well-formed?

Some folks are just plain dumb.  Some are lazy and want you to spoon-feed them everything, holding their hand the whole way.  Some are immature and think they should be able to knock out a perfect XYZ in just a few hours even though they've never swung a hammer before.

So, yea, I can see someone predicting that a student doesn't have what it takes.  Coaches and scouts do the same thing every single day, and they're usually right.  It's just a matter of knowing what you're looking at and building up some experience in judging.

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Forty plus years a Scoutmaster, and 10 as a Professor of Welding Technology, and yeah, I can size someone up to those standards fairly quickly. It is literally my job to evaluate shortcomings and educate on how to surpass them. I rarely get surprised, and much more rarely is it a pleasant surprise. Some folks get good at hiding their flaws in front of strangers, at least at first.

I have a personal theory, based on observations, that folks get into things at the same speed that they get out: hobbies, jobs, careers, vehicles, even relationships. Some folks are mercurial by nature, others plod and analyze every facet. Technological crutches don't help the understanding that only comes with experience AND reflection.

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