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I Forge Iron

First blacksmithig project ever


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What's up fellow smiths! My name is Caleb and I'm a beginning smith from South Carolina. I've only been hitting hot metal with a hammer for about 5 days now.  I finally finished my first project after coming home from work and immediately fireing up the forge everyday this week. I've always been interested in smithing and I finnaly got the chance to do it after lots of preparing. Here is a picture of my set up...


forge is the shell of an old hvac system

shop vac for air 

and a cheap harbor freight anvil.


so on to my first project.. but alittle back story first. Since my girlfriend has had to put up with my constant babbling on about blacksmithing and put up with binge watching forged in fire for the past couple months I decided to make her a gift a my first project. I decided to forge her initials out of some 1/4" round stock (from tractor supply) once I finished the forgeing i painted everything and decided to mount it on a wooden block. Here is what I came up with (its a little girly but she likes cute little things so it works out)


1/4" round bar from TSC


forging complete 


painted glossy white


cut a cube out of a 4x4 and drilled a hole for mounting letters


painted block


finished product!!


let me know what you guys think! Has anyone ever done any cursive? Or words out of a single puce with no welds if so I am very curious to hear about it because I couldn't don't any info on the subject so I just had to figure it out as I went along. 

Im hoping to start forging my first knife soon and get back into some more manly forge work lol


ps. Comment if you can read the letters lol I can easily see it but then again I already know what it says so any feedback would be great!!! 

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You got me ... I don't know what it says ... a, l, ? ... alice? 

 I like it anyway. never done any signs or lettering that way. Why don't you try knots? There is a guy here that does knots sculptures that look terrific. 


I got my boat from South Carolina


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Welcome to the forum!

Not bad for a first project. There will probably be a million and one people who will be along to say this in not too long,  but about forging knives...   

Please don't take this as discouragement or criticism, I am saying this out of the desire to keep you on as straight of a learning curve as possible. As fun as knife making is, it is a fairly advanced level of forge work. I would highly recommend starting out with simple projects in mild steel. learn the way the metal moves, and learn get your hammer smacking exactly where you want it. Then, start reading up on metallurgy and heat treating. KNOW at least the basics of steel structure and how steels respond to heat treating before you start thinking about knives. This will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run. Just as a point of reference, It took me about a years time smithing before I could forge a usable knife, and looking back at it I can barely call it a knife. Not that it takes everyone that long, but that is what it took me. 

Hope this helps


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Thanks for the input!! I have been doing lots of research on knife making and heat treating. I also fully understand that it is gonna be difficult and take some time to get the hang of. I'm just want to start forming things in the shape of knives atleast and see what I can do without investing too much money in good steel. I learn best by doing so I'm just gonna do it and see what happens hahaha

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Sure sounds like you are saying "I've only been driving a car for a week now and I'm going to drive it another week and then enter the NASCAR races..."

The fastest way to forging decent blades is to learn to forge first and once good then switch over to forging knife grade steels. (I suggest to my students that they take a good auto coil spring and cut down a diameter and have a dozen plus "(" pieces all of the same steel to learn the forging and heat treating of and then once they are good with that add in another alloy, USW)

As I teach a lot of College age guys; they seldom listen and I get to see them try to finish their first blades forged with no hammer control (I remember one fellow that spent 6 hours trying to file his first attempt smooth and when it finally was smooth it was too thin to make the blade he wanted. Those 6 hours would have been better spent working on hammer control!) and no heat control (burnt up sections and sections cracked because they worked it too cold) Learning the basics first on projects that are hard to mess up ia a whole lot less frustrating than making a pile of scrap---at least to me.

I like to use 1/4" round stock for cursive and then smash it flat with my screw press.  Having proper tongs and a postvise with some  steel shapes to bend around/against helps. Fokls I know that like to freehand it usually use a torch to localize heat.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Update:  I have since made my first 2 knives and this is what I came up with. The Tanto is rr spike with the head cut off and flattened and the smaller one is rebar. I quenched the rebar in water and tempered at 400 for an hour. The edge is hard and the spine is soft I tested with a file. The handles are pieces of pallet wood because that's what I had laying around and nails as pins. Next I want to do a knife out of good HC steel and nice handle material. I'm probly going to use 1095. Any suggestions or tips on heat treating or recommended handle material would be great. IMG_3271.thumb.JPG.68cdda052f856dbd55115aec6f956bca.JPGIMG_3268.thumb.JPG.3d24018357fc0f245e96c1625e0a2f65.JPGIMG_3274.thumb.JPG.e382653af8b8c358f12f923ca9d72488.JPG

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Kevin Cashen is the man as far as heat treating blades is concerned.  He has a great outline on heat treatment on his site, and specific info on heat treatment of 1095 here: http://www.cashenblades.com/steel/1095.html.

Most reasonable hardwoods will work for handles (avoid ebony though).  For a low cost alternative you can always get scrap from a heavy pallet (often oak) or cutoffs from a wooden flooring contractor.  Personally I've become kind of attracted to using cherry.  It not the most figured of woods, but it is a nice natural color and complements brass fittings well.

There is also a lot of info on knifemaking in this forum.  I strongly suggest you read through the stickies.  Looks like you have gotten off to a good start with your first two, but I suggest you do a little more reading on optimal knife crossections, profiles, materials of construction and heat treatment.

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I hear this argument a lot about knifemaking being a more advanced skill and that should be attempted after doing basic blacksmithing work. 

I think that bladesmithing is to blacksmithing like farrier work is to blacksmithing. Unrelated and specialised. 

Can someone learn to make knives without ever being able to make a scroll or a gate? I am sure. What percentage in the overall work in making a knife is forging? 20%? 30%? the rest seems to be grinding, shaping, making the handle, oops forgot heat treating, sharpening, engraving, and some other tasks I forgot. Bladesmith have an array of modern machinery from belt grinders to shapers, mills, lathes, heat treating oven, and many more sophisticated tools i couldn't even fit in my workshop.

I have been blacksmithing from age 15 and 50 years later i have never attempted to make a knife. I am not interested in the end product and If I want a knife I buy myself one. 

On the other hand for various different reasons people are interested in bladesmithing. Good for them! others like to make horseshoes and deal with horses. Now that is a skill I admire since I like horses, but don't ask me to shoe a horse. Maybe I can make a shoe if someone gives me the criteria to use, but I can't say I will feel any sense of accomplishment. 

And the reverse reasoning, ... would a very skilled bladesmith an artist in making those beautiful damascus knives that would have a place in an art museum be automatically able to make a renaissance grill for a period house? or a chandelier? Not necessarily. Clearly he wouldn't need to know how, even when he would probably figure it out if he puts his mind to it. 

So to my point ... bladesmithing is bladesmithing. Farrier is farrier, blacksmithing ... used to be everything a long time ago, and even then I bet your bottom dollar that centuries ago they had blacksmith that made knives and swords and masters in that. others made garden tools others grills gates and chandeliers. And if someone in the 16 century wanted to be the apprentice, he would probably chose his master according to what he wanted to become. I doubt the apprentice that wanted to make blades would go fist to the master that made street lamps. 

Reminds me when I was 3 and I started to play piano. You had to learn to play classical music. Had to. Today I know that is a fallacy. You play what you love to play and hear. I love Jazz, classical music is a total bore. 

Just a thought :)



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Well if your hammer control is not that great you can still produce salable product in the ornamental smithing; but will probably have to throw out any knives you are attempting. 

If your temperature control is not that great in ornamental smithing you can probably still produce salable product; but will probably have to throw out any knives you are attempting.

If your knowledge of alloys and heat treating is not that great you can still produce salable product in ornamental smithing; but will probably have to throw out any knives you are attempting.

So why not learn the basics making stuff that doesn't end on the scrap pile? And once you get past the basics then go onto the stuff where the basics have to be *right* to end up with something worth having?

I personally find it much less frustrating learning on items that turn out "usable" even with the beginners mistakes.  And I find my students are more apt to continue if they don't have to discard what they just spent hours on at the forge several times in a row.

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Sure ... basics are basics in forging, but if your thing is blades, the basics very quickly are totally different from the basics for blacksmithing, that is my point. The process of learning can take different routes. My point is that once you are past the very elementary skills, knife making is a skill in it's own. 

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