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I Forge Iron
Dabbsterinn

teaching my friend the basics and a bit more

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So at some point in the future, most likely soon, a friend of mine is getting himself a nice little forge and I thought I'd teach him a thing or two (actually 20 so far) and I thought I'd actually plan a little bit ahead for once and write down a list of the things I'll walk him through in order and I think sharing that list here might be a good idea so that others might either use it or help me add to it or modify it

Safety will be lesson 0, proper PPE, hearing protectors, gloves when appropriate, when gloves are appropriate, for example when punching or chiseling, and safety glasses at all times

  1. fire management, since we'll be using coke first we'll most likely sit down and have a chat about fire management, how to do it and why it's very important
  2. to manage the fire, he'll of course need a coal rake, I'll use that project to get him warmed up and give him a quick introduction into tapering, flattening and making an eye
  3. round to square and back again, maybe I'll incorporate that into the rake itself
  4. make a punch, punches are one of the most useful tools in my opinion and are relatively easy to make, this is also a good point to discuss the metallurgy of steel, why we need this steel for that and not for this and so forth
  5. how to punch, doesn't make much sense to teach him how to make a punch but not how to use it
  6. chisel. another simple project that leaves you with a really useful tool
  7. twisting. I might incorporate that with the chisel,  rake or something else
  8. drawing out. I'm leaving that as a specific lesson since I'll be teaching him to draw out over the edge of the anvil, the punch, chisel and rake are mostly done on the face of the anvil since the materials we'll be using are already pretty close to the final dimensions
  9. flattening. if he'll be having the same issues that I've been having with that drawing out technique, he'll have not exactly a flat finish, so next part would of course be teaching him to make it flat using the face of the hammer
  10. bending, that one describes itself, doesn't it? I'll show him how to use the edge,  the horn and a bending fork to do this, main focus will be on 90 degree bends, eyes and such
  11. scrolls will just be a continuation of the last lesson, both on the anvil and with scrolling tongs
  12. now to finally make something cute and give him a small break from the tool making and practices, a nice little J hook for him to hang his apron on or something, of course incorporating all the previous steps such as punching, twisting, tapering, flattening and all that
  13. upsetting, depending on how well the J hook goes, he already might be a bit upset but once he has a nice J hook, I'll teach him the other meaning of upset, both by dropping the stock on the anvil and hitting the end of the bar on the anvil
  14. forge welding? I'm not entirely sure about that one, It's still not a very easy task for me but I know I can do it with a fair amount of certainty
  15. rivet and nail header, If my friend is anything like me he'll want more tongs sooner than later, so I'll start off by teaching him how to make a rivet and nail header, he also has a use for nails and IMO they're a great warm up project
  16. how to make nails (read above)
  17. how to make rivets (read above)
  18. Lady knife, not entirely sure if there's another word for them but that's just a translation of what we call them in Iceland, I'm pretty sure the other nordic countries have a similar name for it, the handle is just a long taper that's bent back usually with a small scroll on the end
  19. Mjölnir pendant, we're both in the Viking re-enactment group and we're really fond of jewelry so that's a given project
  20. bolt jaw tongs, by the time we've reached this lesson he should hopefull have enough hammer control and an understanding of the craft to be able to make bolt jaw tongs with my guidance 

I'm estimating that this should be about one weekends worth of work, starting after lunch and quitting sometime just before 10 or so in the evening, but that's a very rough estimate 

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Put safety at the top of the list.  Then have him get the proper personal protection equipment for forging, the shop, and what he wants to do.

This PPE includes safety glasses at ALL times, hearing protection, cotton clothing, etc. If he is not wearing them, then serve him a nice glass of tea and talk about something else.

That is a long 10 hour day for the first time swinging  hammer or working at a forge. He will need time to process and absorb the information. As he gets fatigued the learning rate slows down.

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I found that tee-ing up a pupil with a problem but not giving them the answer or immediately showing them how you would sort it & instead making them think through the solutions got them to "think like a blacksmith" enabled them to become more self sufficient when problems cropped up. Eg unwanted bends/twists.

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I’d sprinkle in some more simple projects that can be executed fairly quickly. That was the philosophy of Vista Forge and their level one lessons. Leaf key fobs, trivets, hold-downs, etc. Each was in service of a lesson. There were tools in there but also fun stuff. 

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10 hours ago, Dabbsterinn said:
  • Lady knife, not entirely sure if there's another word for them but that's just a translation of what we call them in Iceland, I'm pretty sure the other nordic countries have a similar name for it, the handle is just a long taper that's bent back usually with a small scroll on the end

That was my first ever item (in mild steel)... a great beginner project as it gives you exposure to a good few techniques, doesn't take too long, and you can walk away with a positive feeling of accomplishment... it certainly fuelled my desire to continue... not sure I would have said the same if I started with a higher carbon steel and spent the first day making a punch.

I like your teaching ideas, and it certainly makes sense in terms of logical progression and learning, but perhaps start with a more 'decorative' project just to get a taster (as suggested above)

If this is your friends first try and blacksmithing, they will become tired quickly; which in itself can become dangerous.
I'd say if you managed to do one small project, that will be a successful day as they learn hammer control, judging temperature, and take everything on board.

The ladies knife is one of the most popular beginner projects at the group I go to. Tapering, rounding, twisting, curling... plenty of techniques... and out of everyone I have seen attempt it, very few get it done in under 3 hours. Just my opinion, but a bit more exciting than a rake :D

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I have been teaching for over 25 years, my best advise is a warning to avoid information over load, if you give too much at one time they wont remember much of it

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I'd break it down to a list of projects and what will be covered in each project with each project based on what they learned in the previous projects and LOTS of repetition of the skills and knowledge!  For instance my intro class has 3 projects and each project includes drawing a good taper.

I find safety lessons seem to stick better with a few demos---like blacksmith cold is not like general population cold---as a piece of scrap wood erupts in smoke and flames as "cold" steel is pressed against it. Or burning the hair off my forearm to demonstrate the "dragon's breath" of a propane forge.

Note  do not overload the student(s) physically; tired students make mistakes and blacksmithing mistakes HURT!  If it's one on one you can usually keep an eye on them and suggest a break if needed; or a come back tomorrow....

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When you see the signs of him getting tired, I'd suggest that's a good time to take a break, sit down and let him talk about what he's accomplished, what he thinks about moving metal, swinging a hammer, the fire, how it all went for him. Might help him review and retain the info.

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